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Sessions Prohibits Judges to Administratively Close Immigration Cases

Jeff Sessions
Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

Jeff Sessions, the United States Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Trump administration, has relentlessly worked to limit the power of immigration judges, taking away their discretion in their rulings.

We already raised the alarm here at Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund.

In the latest iteration of Sessions power takeover, he has ordered immigration judges to abandon the practice of administratively closing cases and removing the cases from the judge’s dockets.

With this and past orders, he is effectively curbing judges’ authority and discretion.

This is what happened.

Many immigrants in deportation proceedings, managed to have their immigration deportation case closed, thanks to the decision of the immigration judge handling their case if the individuals have not committed crimes and only have committed the civil infraction of been in the USA undocumented, at solicitation from their immigration lawyers.

There has been no example of situations in which the court has somehow abused its authority or somehow this has demonstrated to be an ineffective way of handling situations that come before the court

Additionally to the clean record consideration, judges may take into account the moral character of the individual, his or her good citizenry and strong ties to the USA such as family, work, community and/or business. This process put deportation on hold for many, allowing them to live a semi-normal life and pursue other venues for legalizing their status.

But under the Trump-Sessions administration that may be a practice of the past.

Sessions wants no case to be closed and seeks to expose every undocumented immigrant to deportation.

In an opinion issued Thursday, Sessions said: “the current practice of administrative closure lacks a valid legal foundation.”

There are profound implications to Sessions orders.

With Sessions’ orders to 1.- re-open previously closed immigration cases and 2.-prohibiting immigration judges to close new cases, it is expected that immigration courts around the country will be flooded with cases, overwhelming an already taxed system.

Another danger is the undercut of due process and the administration of immigration laws.

We know Jeff Sessions does not care about the correct application of the law. He has proven to be not an impartial actor but an ideological extremist, an anti-immigrant, who seeks at all cost to limit immigration (all immigration) into the USA.

Reuters reported previously that administrative closures increased under the Obama administration to more than 200,000 cases. There was already a backlog of more than 650,000 cases in immigration courts as of January 2018.

Immigration lawyers are angry about these moves. It takes away important tools to defend their clients and undermines immigration judges’ authority.

Immigration judges are in shock too. They recognize that plurality in the legal process is beneficiary to the application of the law.

“The Attorney General’s decision in one fell swoop is overturning decades of recognized authority and practice,” said Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, in an interview with NPR. This association had urged Sessions to preserve administrative closures.

“There has been no example of situations in which the court has somehow abused its authority or somehow this has demonstrated to be an ineffective way of handling situations that come before the court,” added Tabaddor. “To eliminate administrative closure from the judge’s toolkit for docket management is problematic.”