On October 31, 2017, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) created a Strategic Caseload Reduction Plan which was approved by the Deputy Attorney General for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and proposed “to significantly reduce the case backlog by 2020. This new plan in conjunction to multiple precedent-setting opinions issued by the then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions have not only burdened the Immigration courts but have also increased the backlog of cases waiting to be heard by a Judge by 25 percent.
The Immigration Courts are not independent courts as they are part of the Executive Branch instead of the Judicial Branch. Therefore, Immigration Judges work for the U.S. President and are bound by policies put in place by the Attorney General (the chief prosecutor in immigration cases). For years, immigration courts have faced staff shortages and constant successive political and policy goals as the administration changes. The current administration has taken advantage of the immigration court’s structural flaws and with new policies and re-writing of certain immigration case law they have dramatically reshaped federal immigration law undermining due process in the immigration court proceedings.
For example, the 2017 caseload reduction plan discussed activating almost 350,000 low priority cases (low priority designated by the previous administration) or cases that were not ready to be adjudicated because other branches of the Department of Homeland Security were working on certain applications filed by these foreign nationals and DHS warned that the immigration courts were not capacitated to hear all of these cases due to staff shortages. Nonetheless, the then Attorney General ignored these concerns and issued a decision that essentially stripped immigration judges of their ability to manage their dockets and administratively close those cases that were low priority. In addition, the Attorney General has placed case quotas on immigration judges which limits their ability to allow foreign national time to obtain legal representation or to obtain necessary documents from other countries to corroborate their claims as required by law.