According to Fox News, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (AIC) have filed a complaint against the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Department of Justice sub-agency that runs the U.S. Immigration Court. The 30-page complaint alleges that the Immigration Court in El Paso, Texas, is biased against aliens and that, “noncitizens appearing in the El Paso [detention center]Court face some of the highest obstacles in the nation to due process and fair adjudication of claims for relief.”
That sounds fairly ominous. However, even a casual reading of the complaint reveals what appears to be a lot of whining by pro-illegal alien, open borders advocates. In essence, the major grievances are as follows:
- AILA and AIC think that the El Paso Immigration Court hasn’t approved enough asylum cases.
- Immigration Judges have interpreted evidence differently than AILA and AIC would have.
- The Immigration Court in El Paso hasn’t allowed attorneys to appear via telephone at preliminary hearings.
Let’s take examine each of these allegations individually:
It’s not surprising that AILA and AIC think the El Paso Immigration Court should approve more asylum claims. AILA is the national trade association for immigration defense lawyers. AIC is an AILA-funded advocacy group whose main role is to sue the U.S. government in furtherance of AILA’s interests. Both organizations have a distinctly anti-immigration-enforcement agenda. Both also have habit of grossly overstating the due process obligations owed to immigration violators.
There’s also a completely valid reason why immigration judges may have denied asylum claims and interpreted evidence differently than the attorneys representing aliens – the asylum claims weren’t valid and the evidence offered in support of them wasn’t persuasive. The American public pays immigration judges to apply the law to the facts in complex cases and exercise their legal judgment – that’s why we call them judges. The mere fact that the judges disagree with lawyers for the immigration lawbreakers appearing in front of them doesn’t mean that their judicial decisions are invalid.
Immigration judges may permit preliminary hearings to be conducted by video or telephone. But they are not obligated to do so. Because telephone hearings can create grounds for the reversal of decisions (e.g., the alien wasn’t able to communicate privately with counsel, the telephone transmission wasn’t clear, the lawyer misunderstood the judge, etc.) many immigration judges find them counterproductive and require litigants to appear in person.
Aliens in deportation proceedings should be given whatever process they are due under the law. But AILA, AIC, the American Civil Liberties Union and other similarly-minded organizations have been pushing the narrative that immigration violators are constantly being denied due process because they don’t get a jury trial in front of a judicial court. But that’s nonsense.
The Supreme Court has already said that aliens in removal proceedings aren’t entitled to a full blown trial. As it stated in Fong Yue Ting v. United States, a deportation hearing “is in no proper sense a trial and sentence for a crime or offense.” Rather, “it is simply the ascertainment, by appropriate and lawful means” of whether a particular alien should be allowed to remain in the United States.
The Department of Justice has an obligation to take legitimate complaints about the operation of the Immigration Court seriously. However, it is under no obligation to cater to the whims of groups that advocate on behalf of lawbreakers in the midst of the biggest border crisis since the Mariel Boatlift.