Deport Dem! Trump Administration Imposes Quotas on Immigration Judges

Immigrants to the United States after a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals hearing at a Brooklyn, N.Y., court on Jan. 30, 2018. A federal judge heard arguments on a motion for a preliminary injunction to block President Donald Trump’s attempt to end DACA.
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

It’s so funny to me how those who hate to use quotas for something decent like leveling the playing field for the poor or working-class people of color (i.e., making sure there is enough diversity in schools, neighborhoods, buildings, etc.) are so quick to use them for criminal injustice (tickets, arrests and, now, deportations). Fun fact: I’m not really amused.

On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department, under Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, notified all U.S. immigration judges that their job-performance evaluations will be tied to how quickly they close cases, saying that the aim is to reduce a lengthy backlog of deportation decisions. Sessions says that the current backlog allows those facing charges to stay in the U.S. longer than they should, though most languish in substandard detention centers.


The stated reason for the new policy is to reduce backlog, yet the effect will surely be higher rates of deportations. Unlike judges in regular courts, immigration judges work for the executive branch and, in this case, the Justice Department.

Since he’s taken office, Donald Trump’s administration has also sought to expand “expedited removal orders,” which currently are used if individuals are arrested within 100 miles of U.S. borders and if they’ve been inside the U.S. two weeks or less. They do not see a judge.

USA Today reports that the Trump recommendation for expansion includes making expedited removal nationwide (that is, you can face it if you are caught anywhere within the U.S.), and used if persons have been in the U.S. less than two years.


The new standards for immigration judges will go into effect Oct. 1, according to the Wall Street Journal. It reports:

Under the new quotas, judges will be required to complete 700 cases a year and to see fewer than 15 percent of their decisions sent back by a higher court. Over the past five years, the average judge completed 678 cases in a year, said Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley. But there was a range, he said, with some judges completing as many as 1,500 cases in a year.

In addition, they will be required to meet other metrics, depending on their particular workload. One standard demands that 85 percent of removal cases for people who are detained be completed within three days of a hearing on the merits of the case. Another metric demands that 95 percent of all merits hearings be completed on the initial scheduled hearing date.


The union representing immigration judges countered by saying that the move constricts judges’ judicial independence by forcing them to resolve cases quickly.

“This is a recipe for disaster,” said A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges and an immigration judge in Los Angeles. “You are going to, at minimum, impact the perception of the integrity of the court.”


Also, the union argued that imposing quotas may ultimately have the opposite effect of what the government wants, by encouraging people to appeal decisions on the grounds that the judge didn’t give them adequate time to make their case because he or she was trying to reach a quota.

The last time a rash of judges had their judicial hands tied by the administration was with something called “mandatory minimums.” The damage from that disaster was something called “mass incarceration,” the effects of which are still being felt. Between this, the expansion of “expedited removals,” the so-called Muslim ban and the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, I sense a pattern here.


What do you think the effects of this latest move will be?

Still not laughing.

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About the author

Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.