AG Sessions Helping Immigration Courts End ‘Catch-and-Release’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is streamlining courtroom reviews of migrants’ asylum pleas, so helping reduce the “catch-and-release” inflow of Central American migrants.

The nation’s immigration courts are run by the AG, so Sessions has the legal authority to set precedents, procedures and rules for judges and for the Board of Immigration Appeals.

On March 5, Sessions formally vacated a 2014 immigration-court decision, dubbed “Matter of E-F-H-L,” and told the 350 immigration-court judges that they could rely on submitted written evidence to avoid full hearings in some deportation cases.

“It is a big decision … the judges can use a truncated procedure to dispose of a claim that isn’t legally valid or isn’t legally meritorious,” said Art Arthur, a former immigration judge and an expert at the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies. 

The faster process will help the judges whittle down the huge backlog of roughly 660,000 immigration-court cases, he said.

Once the backlog is minimized, all future asylum-seeking migrants can be held in detention until their cases are heard. That option will allow officials to end the “catch and release” policy which now allows many migrants through the border and into the U.S. jobs market.

The huge case backlog was created by officials working for former President Barack Obama, who encouraged a mass rush for the border by allowing hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to file request for asylum. The rush for asylum overwhelmed capacity at detention centers and forced border officials to catch-and-release hundreds of thousands of asylum-seeking migrants into the United States.

Once released, most of the migrants go underground, work jobs and skip courtroom asylum hearings.

Sessions followed up his March 5 decision with a March 7 statement saying he would review a November 2017 court decision, dubbed “Matter of A-B.,” which is based on a 2001 precedent which makes it easier for economic migrants to claim they are protected members of victimized groups.

This order represents a further attempt by the Attorney General to reduce the immigration-court backlog by providing bright-line rules for immigration judges and asylum officers to follow in adjudicating asylum claims,” Arthur told Breitbart News.

In January, Sessions launched a third review of immigration-court policies via his review of a case titled “Matter of Castro-Tum.”

The review will allow Sessions to approve or end the practice of “administrative closure,” in which judges officially forget about enforcing deportation orders and so effectively grant illegals the right to reside in the United States. Roughly 350,000 illegals have benefitted from this “administrative closure” policy, including roughly 175,000 migrants during Obama’s watch.

Sessions has also directed the roughly 350 immigration judges to focus their time resolving recent cases. That approach may shrink the backlog of new asylum requests — so helping end the catch-and-release policy for new arrivals.

Sessions is also hiring new judges to whittle down the long-term backlog of asylum requests.

According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse:

The county in the country with the fastest growing number of residents with pending cases before the Immigration Court was Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) in North Carolina. Pending cases there shot up by 34 percent between May and December 2017. Coming in second with a growth rate of 30 percent over this same period was Loudoun County (Leesburg), Virginia.

Nationally, the Immigration Court backlog over the same period increased by 11 percent, reaching a new all-time high of 667,839 at the end of December. These pending cases were spread across 2,559 separate counties.

Only two counties — Pinal County (Florence), Arizona and El Paso County, Texas — out of the top 100, experienced a reduction in the number of residents with pending court cases.

California was the state with the largest number of counties that ranked in the top 100 by the current size of their pending Immigration Court backlog. That state included 19 out of the top 100 counties. New Jersey, New York, and Texas each had ten counties in the top 100. A total of 25 states had at least one county that ranked among the top 100 in the nation in the concentration of residents with pending court cases.

The immigration courts are also rejecting more claims for asylum, says TRAC:

… asylum decisions were up sharply during FY 2017. A total of 30,179 cases were decided by judges last year, a marked increase from 22,312 cases in FY 2016. This is the largest number of asylum cases decided in any one year since FY 2005. While asylum grants increased, denials grew even faster. This pushed the percent who were denied asylum to 61.8 percent. This is the fifth year in a row that denial rates have risen. Five years ago the denial rate was just 44.5 percent.

Without representation, the deck is stacked against an asylum seeker. Statistically, only one out of every ten win their case. With representation, nearly half are successful.

During FY 2012 – FY 2017, Jamaica had the highest denial rate (91.4%), followed closely by Laos (89.9%), the Philippines, (89.7%) and Mexico (88.0%). At the other extreme, the Soviet Union had the lowest denial rate (9.5%), with Byelorussia and Egypt with almost as low denial rates at 11.1 percent each.

Meanwhile, law-enforcement officers are trying to whittle down the population of roughly 900,000 migrants living in the United States who have already gotten deportation order from judges.

Advocates for immigration angrily oppose the loss of prospective clients and migrants. For example, Session’s reform was denounced by legal professionals who guide migrants through the courts.

“This AG is working at a record pace to undo/undermine fundamental rights, and we have to keep noticing how each new thing fits into the larger picture,” according to Matt Cameron, an immigration lawyer in Massachusetts.

“I expect the AG to issue a lot more of these [review] decisions … so they can speed up the adjudications,” said Arthur. 




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