America’s immigration courts are in a hole. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is digging them out.
But don’t take our word for it. The Obama Justice Department acknowledged the courts’ chronic problems in a 2016 report that showed pending immigration cases skyrocketing from less than 300,000 to 457,106.
And that was in the era when “catch and release” practices were at their zenith.
Now that the Trump administration is expanding enforcement, particularly in the nation’s interior, the court backlog has topped 650,000 cases. So the attorney general is ordering immigration judges to step up their game, as well.
Sessions is hiring more than 100 more judges – a 30 percent increase – and he’s applying long-overdue metrics aimed at improving court performance. Among them:
- 85 percent of removal cases for detainees shall be completed within three days of a hearing on the merits of the case.
- 95 percent of those merit hearings must be completed on the initial scheduled hearing date.
Despite reflexive caterwauling about an assault on judicial independence, such directives are not new to the federal court system. “Using metrics to evaluate performance is neither novel nor unique,” notes James McHenry, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Meantime, Sessions is reviewing the dubious practice of “administrative closure” where immigration judges fail to enforce deportation orders, effectively granting residency to illegal aliens. Some 350,000 illegals have benefitted from this policy.
The Justice Department reforms should alleviate the “catch and release” problem, some of which is caused by a failure to process asylum claims within 20 days. Under current procedures, detainees must be released if their cases are not heard in that time.
Justice delayed is justice denied.