AG Jeff Sessions Reforms Immigration Courts to End ‘Catch and Release’

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Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions is directing immigration judges to process more cases in less time, as part of a larger reform to end “catch and release” and shrink the growing backlog of 600,000-plus cases in the immigration courts.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new rules say:

… judges will be required to complete 700 cases a year and to see fewer than 15% 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% 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% of all merits hearings be completed on the initial scheduled hearing date.

The new rules are intended “to encourage efficient and effective case management while preserving immigration judge discretion and due process,” said a Friday email from James McHenry, who is the director of the office which oversees the department’s judges, dubbed the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Immigration lawyers derided the new rules, even though the faster process might resolve their clients’ cases in less time and at less cost. “Conveyer belt justice,” complained immigration lawyer Greg Siskind.

The new rules are part of an effort by Sessions to reform the immigration courts, which are part of his agency. For example:

Sessions is hiring more than 100 extra immigration judges in 2017 and 2018.

Sessions has directed the roughly 350 immigration judges to focus their time resolving the newsst cases, rather than the oldest cases in the backlog.

Sessions is rewriting prior immigration-court precedents decisions which slow adjudication. 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.

In January, Sessions undertook a review of a case titled “Matter of Castro-Tum” which 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.

These reforms may eventually help solve the “catch and release” problem, much of which is caused by the agencies’ failure to process asylum claims within 20 days.

Under current legal procedures, asylum seekers have to be released from detention if their cases cannot be heard in 20 days. The slow court system means that many new migrants know they will be released once they are caught, so allowing them to migrate northwards in search of jobs.

Sessions’ bureaucratic actions also may help offset the impact of Congress’ support for cheap-labor immigration.

This congressional support blocked President Donald Trump’s reforms in February and cut most of his funding priorities from the 2018 omnibus in March. Congress’ refusal to reform border laws, to fund the border wall, or trim legal immigration, floods the labor market.

That flood of labor reduces Americans’ wages and reduces corporate investment in labor-saving machinery. The freed-up cash then flows towards corporations, their investors, and their lawyers.

Migration lawyers and advocates are aghast at Sessions’ pro-American reforms: 



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