No matter your political opinions, the effects of the Trump Administration on the Immigration Court System and immigrants facing an immigration judge are undeniable. One important development which has the potential to negatively impact thousands of immigrants facing deportation is the new quota system. The quota system places a requirement on judges as to the number of cases they must decide each year. It places an enormous amount of pressure on immigration judges and has the potential to force their hand in deciding cases that may deserve more time and consideration than the quota system permits. Because each immigrant in immigration court has a Fifth Amendment right to a full and fair hearing when facing deportation, this new quota system is highly problematic. The current president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Judge Ashley Tabaddor, stated, “It’s something that would never, never be tolerated in any other court…It pits the judge’s personal interest against that of the parties before them. And that is in violation of every principle that we have when it comes to our court system and our American judicial system.”
In addition to the quota system, the U.S. Department of Justice has impacted the ability of immigrants to be victorious in their cases by failing to give adequate weight to decisions made by its own immigration appellate court. In 2018, the Attorney General directed several specific matters on appeal directly to himself and, in doing so, overturned precedential cases where rulings were in favor of immigrants. Former Attorney General Sessions, for example, single-handedly eviscerated case law which had held that many victims of domestic violence were eligible to seek asylum. Sessions essentially overturned the principal case upon which these victims relied to make valid legal arguments in court.
The case he overruled was Matter of A-R-C-G-. In this case, the female immigrant had been beaten constantly by her husband who had burned her breasts with paint thinner and repeatedly raped her. The police, when contacted, said they would not interfere in what they considered to be marital problems. The Board of Immigration Appeals, by and through a panel of three experienced appellate judges, ruled that the female, in that case, qualified for asylum and protection in the U.S.
However, Sessions took this law away on his own authority as Attorney General. In Matter of A-B-, he ruled that the female in the case described above should have never been awarded asylum. He writes in Matter of A-B-, “Nothing in the text of the [law] supports the suggestion that Congress intended ‘membership in a particular social group’ to be ‘some omnibus catch-all’ for solving every ‘heart-rending situation.’” The woman in Matter of A-B- was repeatedly abused emotionally, physically and sexually.
The impact of Matter of A-B- and other recent AG opinions from the Department of Justice as a whole have made the entire process of seeking protection in the U.S. more difficult both legally and procedurally. With the new quota system threatening to take away full and fair hearings for immigrants, and with the Attorney General of the U.S. now acting to usurp the power of the Board of Immigration Appeals to make binding legal decisions, times have become incredibly challenging for those who fear persecution and for those of us who represent immigrants in this vulnerable population.