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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has an obligation to ensure due process of law in immigration proceedings. Due process rights and impartiality must be paramount in immigration court, where judges adjudicate asylum requests for individuals who fear life-threatening harm in their home countries and discretionary relief requests that determine whether American families will be subject to permanent separation.

Unlike other judicial bodies, the immigration courts lack meaningful independence from the Executive Branch: the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which manages the immigration court system, is a component of the DOJ.

Access to justice in the immigration court system, already crippled by backlogs and unacceptable disparities in decision making, is being further diminished by highly politicized DOJ policies. In particular, the DOJ has moved to establish case quotas as a metric for immigration judges’ success, rather than the fair administration of justice; instituted immigration judge “surge details” to detained border dockets which have worsened the case backlog; and curbed  judges’ discretion to grant hearing continuances to ensure fair adjudication and access to counsel.

NIJC and 13 other organizations detailed our concerns about these attacks on the immigration courts’ independence in November 2017 in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

Recommendations

NIJC calls on members of Congress to engage in robust oversight of the DOJ to preserve the foundational constitutional guarantee of due process of law.