Jeff Sessions, United States Attorney General, ordered on Thursday that judges overseeing immigration hearings cease the practice of suspending cases on their docket without issuing a judgment.
Advocates for the rights of immigrants are upset with the move on the part of Sessions as they view it as a way to unjustly influence immigration courts which are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. Advocates say the desired result is to expedite the deportation of more immigrants.
The practice that has been used by immigration judges is known as “administrative closures.” Judges would often close the cases of immigrants who are awaiting visas or green cards, a process that can sometimes take years, in order to avoid any deportation before their resident status can be upgraded.
Critics of the practice point out that in many cases immigrants have been allowed to remain in the U.S. longer than they legally should have.
Attorney General Sessions has been an ardent critic of administrative closures and even took the unprecedented step in January of having a case being heard by the Board of Immigration Appeals to be diverted to himself. The case involved a citizen of Guatemala who resided in America and had failed to show up for five immigration hearings. An immigration judge provided the respondent with an administrative closure ruling that attempts to deliver notice of hearings were inadequate.
In his Thursday order, Sessions acknowledged that the courts could not properly deal with the volume of cases that would need adjudication if prior administrative closures were to be reopened and ordered them to remain closed.
NAIJ President Ashley Tabaddor, says that Sessions’ decision effectively undermined years of efficient and effective operations and that there has been no evidence of any type of immigration abuse that would warrant the action that was taken.
The number of administrative closures greatly increased during the presidency of Barack Obama and reached 200,000 closures. The backlog for immigration hearings is presently well over 600,000 cases.