Immigration Judges Put Trump Policies in Hot Seat

A view of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington on Sept. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Triggering a federal investigation, a union representing more than 400 immigration judges brought formal complaints Friday over fundamental changes they’ve seen in the job under the Trump administration.

The complaints come a month after the Justice Department announced a petition to decertify the judges’ union, called the National Association of Immigration Judges, then sent out an email blast that linked to a third-party blog post about the union containing anti-Semitic language.

Apart from job culture, the judges have raised flags in recent years about ballooning dockets and case-completion quotas imposed by the Justice Department. Just last week, Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse reported that the backlog of active cases before the Immigration Court clocked in at 1.3 million.

The union filed its complaints this morning with the Federal Labor Relations Authority as the group’s president, Ashley Tabaddor, spoke at the National Press Club.

“In the last three years and particularly in the last few weeks, the Department of Justice has taken big, dramatic and revolutionary steps to dismantle the court and strike, honestly, at the very core of the principles that we as judges and Americans hold dear,” Tabaddor said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Tweeting from the event, Laura Lynch, a senior policy counsel member at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, quoted Tabaddor as saying the pressure from the Trump administration is hurting judicial independence.

“Judges have confided that they have made decisions out of fear of losing their jobs,” Tabaddor said, as quoted by Lynch.

Though the judges’ union has requested that immigration courts be given independence from the Justice Department, the department has opposed the request.

Last month the Justice Department did apologize for including the anti-Semitic post from the blog VDARE in a news briefing that the Executive Office for Immigration Review sends out to all of its employees, including judges.

Assistant Press Secretary Kathryn Mattingly said that a contractor compiles the daily morning news briefings, and that the VDARE post should not have been included.

“The Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms,” Mattingly said.

As for seeking to decertify the judges’ union, the Justice Department contends that judges qualify as managers with policy influence.

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