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Imposing Quotas on Immigration Judges will turn the Justice System into a Factory.

On October 1, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began evaluating Immigration Judge’s job performance based on how quickly they close out their cases.  This new set of performance metrics were added to the existing Immigration Judge Performance Work Plan by DOJ Director James McHenry. The new performance goals set a quota of 700 cases per year, a remand rate (including BIA and Circuit Courts) of less than 15%, and establishment of the following benchmarks.  A Judge’s performance will be viewed as satisfactory when he or she meets at least half of the applicable benchmarks.

– In 85% of non-status detained removal cases, no more than three days elapse from merits hearing to immigration judge case completion.
– In 85% of non-status, non-detained removal cases, no more than 10 days elapse from merits hearing to immigration judges case completion, unless completion is prohibited by statute (i.e. a cap on grants of relief) or completion is delayed due to a need for completion of background checks.
– In 85% of motions matters, no more than 20 days elapse from an immigration judges’ receipt of the motion to adjudication of the motion.
– In 90% of custody redetermination cases, case is completed on the initial scheduled custody redetermination hearing date, unless DHS does not produce the immigrant on the hearing date.
– In 95% of all cases, individual merits hearing is completed on the initial scheduled hearing date, unless, if applicable, DHS does not produce the immigrant on the hearing date.
– In 100% of credible fear and reasonable fear reviews, case is completed on the initial hearing date unless DHS does not produce the immigrant on the hearing date.

A Judge’s performance is deemed unsatisfactory when case completions fall below 560 cases per year, or the Judge has a remand rate (including BIA and Circuit Courts) of greater than 20%, or the immigration judge’s performance includes one or more of the following unsatisfactory benchmarks.

– In greater than 35% of non-status detained removal cases, more than three days elapse from merits hearing to immigration judge case completion.
– In greater than 35% of non-status, non-detained removal cases, more than 10 days elapse from merits hearing to immigration judge case completion, excepting cases where completion is prohibited by statute (i.e. a cap on grants of relief) or completion is delayed due to a need for completion of background checks.
– In greater than 35% of motions matters, more than 20 days elapse from immigration judges’ receipt of the motion to adjudication of the motion.
– In greater than 30% of custody redetermination cases, case is not completed on the initial scheduled custody redetermination hearing date excluding cases where DHS does not produce the immigrant on the hearing date.
– In greater than 25% of all cases, individual merits hearing is not completed on the initial scheduled hearing date, excluding cases where DHS does not produce the immigrant on the hearing date.
– In greater than 20% of credible fear and reasonable reviews, case is not completed on the initial hearing date, excluding cases where DHS does not produce the immigrant on the hearing date.

What does all this information mean to the immigrant who steps into the Courtroom and stands in front of these judges?  It means that he or she has walked into a system that is supposed to be fair and impartial but is really just staring at the clock in an effort to ensure that the next paycheck is protected.  Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor, the current president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, and current sitting immigration judge, says the quotas are “an egregious example of the conflict of interests of having the immigration court in a law enforcement agency.” A quota system invites the possibility that judges will make decisions out of concern about keeping their jobs, she says, rather than making what they think is the legally correct decision. “To us, it means you have compromised the integrity of the court,” says Tabaddor. “…and you are introducing an external factor into what is supposed to be a sacred place.”

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/justice_department_imposes_quotas_on_immigration_judges_provoking_independe

Attorney Kelsi Cottle practices immigration law and international business in Wisconsin and throughout the United States.