WSJ: In Attempt To Speed Up Deportation Hearings, DOJ Gives Judges Quotas

ROWLAND HEIGHTS, CA. - MARCH 3: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from the Department of Homeland Security look into the window of an apartment while executing search warrants during an ongoing investigation of alleged birth tourism centers on March 3, 2015 in Rowland Heights, California. Agents from multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies executed search warrants in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

The Justice Department announced in a memo to immigration judges Friday that it is instituting quotas to “encourage efficient and effective case management” of deportation proceedings, the Wall Street Journal first reported Monday.

“The purpose of implementing these metrics is to encourage efficient and effective case management while preserving immigration judge discretion and due process,” James McHenry, director of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, wrote in an email to immigration judges obtained by the Journal.

The memo is part of a sustained effort by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to clear a huge backlog of immigration cases — which, contrary to criminal proceedings, are the responsibility of the executive branch, and specifically, of McHenry’s office — by speeding up each case and bringing in more judges.

Beginning on Oct. 1, the Journal reported, the quota will be set at 700 completed cases per year per judge.

That’s faster than the average judge’s current pace, a Justice Department spokesperson told the Journal. And, as several reports have highlighted in recent months, the current pace is already blazing fast. 

There will be other quotas for immigration judges, as well, the Journal reported — including one aimed at lowering the number of cases sent back by higher courts and others detailing speed and scheduling goals.

News organizations have reported in recent months that the Justice Department was planning on instituting a quota system, but the reports didn’t get into the specifics of how judges would be measured. 

“This is a recipe for disaster,” A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told the Journal. “You are going to, at minimum, impact the perception of the integrity of the court.”

Sessions has made immigration proceedings a priority as attorney general.

In January, he announced that he would review immigration judges’ practice of “administrative closure” — that is, closing cases without deciding them — a move that could affect hundreds of thousands of similar cases, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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