WASHINGTON (CN) – The Trump administration has taken steps to decertify the union that represents the federal immigration judges who work under the Department of Justice.
The administration filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority on Friday to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges and the union is currently working on its response, Executive Vice President Judge Amiena Khan said in an interview Monday.
The petition, which is not publicly available, argues the union should be decertified because the judges contribute to making policy for the Department of Justice, according to the Associated Press.
Khan said the move to decertify the union would imperil much of the work it has done, including bringing to a halt its efforts to push for independence for the country’s immigration judges. Immigration judges are appointed by the attorney general and are employees of the Justice Department, but the NAIJ has advocated for Congress to create an independent immigration court system.
Khan added that if the Justice Department is successful in decertifying the union, the judges would lose the ability to speak out on department rules that impact their working conditions or other policies.
This is especially true, she said, because judges cannot speak publicly but through the union.
“The action by the Department of Justice to decertify the union means that they will effectively take away our voice and the voice of our members in addressing issues that we have raised in the process going forward,” Khan said in an interview. “So any issues we have had with regard to encroachment on judicial independence or decisional independence, any issues we have had with the department micromanaging our docket and interfering with our ability to ensure that due process is provided in our courts will be silenced.”
The union has been critical of several of the Trump administration’s policies towards immigration judges, including by speaking out against a rule that required such judges to complete at least 700 cases per year or risk receiving a poor performance evaluation.
In a statement, a Justice Department spokesperson said the move is necessary because of changes in the role of immigration judges.
“The role and importance of immigration judges in meeting the department’s mission and determining or influencing its immigration policies have greatly evolved over the past several years,” the spokesperson said. “In recognition of that evaluation, including changes in the law, the Department of Justice believes appropriate action is necessary to update [the Executive Office of Immigration Review’s] workforce relations in conformity with the law and to continue to further the department’s mission.”