Attorney General Jeff Sessions limits immigration court powers, threatens due process for immigrants


Attorney General Jeff Sessions has severely restricted the longstanding immigration court practice of “administrative closure,” fulfilling one of the goals of the Trump administration and posing a major threat to due process for immigrants. AG Sessions’ decision strictly curtails the discretionary power immigration judges have to put certain cases on “pause” while related administrative processes are carried out. For instance, if an immigrant has a case before the court and also has an application to adjust status being processed, the judge in that case could choose to temporarily adjourn the case until the application is decided upon.

Administrative closure has been a standard, practical power of immigration judges for decades, one of the most effective ways courts managed the heavy caseloads weighing down our immigration system. But unlike other courts in the United States, immigration courts fall under the executive branch rather than the judicial branch. As head of the Department of Justice, AG Sessions has immense power over the system, and both unilaterally referred the case under review to himself and overruled judges’ authority over their own courts throughout the country.

Immigration courts already face a backlog of 700,000 cases, and there are currently roughly 350,000 cases in administrative closure. This decision will potentially see all 350,000 cases returned to court dockets, skyrocketing the total number to over 1,000,000. In addition to adding a crushing number of cases back into the system, Sessions’ Department of Justice has also begun setting daily quotas for cases immigration judges must complete.

It’s clear that AG Sessions’ decision, in line with the Trump administration’s war on immigrants, is meant to overwhelm immigration judges and rush cases, to the detriment of due process. Immigrants will have their day in court limited even further, and potentially hundreds of thousands with legitimate petitions in mid-process will nevertheless receive orders of removal. We believe this is a miscarriage of justice perpetrated by a man in the position most tasked with defending it.

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