The Trump administration has reportedly taken steps to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) union that has been critical of the president and his policies in the past.
A spokesperson from the Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly said Friday that the department had filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) regarding if the NAIJ could have its certification withdrawn, the Hill reported on Sunday.
According to the report, the department said the group’s members are “management officials” who are not able to organize collectively.
The definition of a management official is “any individual employed by an agency in a position the duties and responsibilities of which require or authorize the individual to formulate, determine, or influence the policies of the agency,” according to a Fox News report.
“Such officials cannot be part of a bargaining unit like a union,” the report said, adding that if the move is successful, it could potentially give the administration more control regarding where judges are sent and how many cases they are expected to manage.
However, the vice president of the judges’ union, Judge Amiena Khan, called the move by the administration “a misguided effort to minimize our impact.”
“We serve as a check and balance on management prerogatives and that’s why they are doing this to us,” the judge said.
A report by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette said that even though sitting judges are not allowed to speak publicly about issues some consider political, representatives of the NAIJ are not prohibited from voicing their opinions regarding the policies of the DOJ on behalf of the union’s members.
The report also said that in 2018, the NAIJ criticized the DOJ’s quota system which required immigration judges to complete up to 700 cases a year.
“The focus on efficiency impedes judges’ ability to work through complicated cases and could affect the due process rights of immigrants in court,” the report noted.
However, in September of last year the DOJ announced the largest ever investiture of immigration judges, a total of 46 for the second month in a row.
“At this point in history your work is vitally important. The case backlog has reached more than 760,000. Great effort is surely needed,” said former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “This situation is unacceptable. It cannot continue. Our nation’s chief executive supports you and all who strive to make our immigration system work.”