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FLRA Rejects DOJ’s Petition to Decertify the Immigration Judges Union

n August 2019, DOJ petitioned the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to strip immigration judges of their right to unionize, claiming that the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) is no longer a valid union. On Friday, July 31, 2020, the FLRA issued a decision rejecting DOJ’s petition to decertify NAIJ.

Some immigration judges were hired without any immigration law experience.

During the recent hearing in the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas pointed out that the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has been hiring immigration judges with no immigration experience. The immigration judge vacancy announcement does not list any immigration law experience as a requirement for the position. Out of 28 judges who were recently sworn in, 11 had no immigration law experience.

A judge has overturned the convictions of 4 border activists in Arizona

4 border aid activists were arrested and convicted after they left food and water in the desert that served as a wildlife refuge for undocumented immigrants. The 4 women faced up to 6 months in prison and a $500 fine. Last week, a U.S. District Judge overturned their convictions, ruling that the government was restricting the women’s religious beliefs when it arrested them for providing aid.

Immigration Judges Quit in Response to Administration Policies

CNN reports that over the past year, nearly double the number of immigration judges left their positions in comparison with fiscal years 2018 and 2017. While the reasons for individual judges moving on from their posts vary, interviews with judges who left in recent months reveal a common theme of frustration over a mounting number of policy changes that, they argue, have chipped away at their authority.

More immigration judges will be assigned to adjudicate asylum cases at the border.

More judges will conduct asylum hearings via teleconferencing. The newest expansion has judges assigned to an adjudication center in Fort Worth, Texas. Like the tent facilities, this is closed to the public, making lawyers concerned about the transparency of the process. Access to the tent courts is closed generally,  but CBP stated that it will be “assessed on a case-by-case basis when operationally feasible.”

Immigration judges have said court records are often incorrect or missing.

Last week, Syracuse University published findings that millions of records are missing from public reports, and that the objective data does not match DOJ reports. These inconsistencies include incorrectly formatted documents leading to unreadable data and millions of records disappearing between the EOIR’s own record releases. The immigration judges union supported the university’s claims, saying that the records do conflict with their experiences.

Government Shutdown Closes Immigration Courts Adding to Record-High 800,000 Case Backlog

CBS News reports that the partial federal government shutdown has closed most immigration courts. AILA Associate Director of Government Relations Kate Voigt said, “Holding the government hostage for a border wall isn’t going to do anything to make the country safer, but it will make the immigration courts worse.” The Washington PostEditorial Board noted the irony of “a president who conjures migrant no-shows in courts manag[ing] to close the courts entirely.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision in Matter of L‑A‑B‑R‑

AG again issues a decision to take power away from the Immigration Judges in order to try to expedite deportation and removals

Chasing Down the Rumors: EOIR IJ Benchbook No Longer In Use

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) confirmed that the Immigration Judge (IJ) Benchbook has been removed from EOIR’s webpage and is no longer being utilized. According to the agency, use of the IJ Benchbook was discontinued due to challenges in keeping the publication up to date with current case law

Court Rejects Pro Se Petitioner’s Argument That He Was Denied Representation by Counsel

The Seventh Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the petitioner was afforded due process, because the IJ fully complied with the statutory requirement of INA §240(b)(4) by informing the petitioner of his right to obtain counsel, and offered repeatedly to continue the case to allow him to secure representation.

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