The Call for an Independent Immigration Court

July 30, 2022 § Leave a comment

Over the past several years, immigration experts have increasingly called for robust immigration court reform. Unlike other judicial bodies in the United States, immigration courts lack independence from the Executive Branch and therefore lack the impartiality that the United States court system prides itself upon.

Immigration courts in the United States are managed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Immigration court decisions are thus often affected by a highly politicized agenda depending on the given presidential administration. For example, immigration judges were pressured to make quick decisions on life-or-death cases under the Trump administration and were judged on how well they met particular quotas. This outside pressure forced judges to deviate from their proper and impartial duties of fairly adjudicating cases and affording due process in every case, regardless of the time it takes or whether certain quotas are met. The political influence on immigration courts is further evidenced by asylum denial rates, which were significantly higher under than Trump administration than during the Obama administration due to the conservative court-packing under the Trump administration.

As recently as February 2022, lawmakers introduced a bill known as the Real Courts, Rule of Law Act of 2022 (H.R. 6577). On May 11, 2022, the House Judiciary Committee voted 24-12 to advance this bill, which would remove immigration courts from the U.S. Department of Justice and make them independent of the executive branch under Article I of the U.S. Constitution. Proponents of this bill argue it would ensure more fair and efficient outcomes for immigrants and help depoliticize court procedures. As of May 2022, the establishment of an immigration court under Article I of the Constitution has been endorsed by two bipartisan commissions and more than 120 legal organizations.

This bill now awaits a vote by the democrat-controlled House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass along party lines. However, the bill would face an uphill battle in the Senate if it were to be put up for a vote since the bill would need to garner 60 votes in the affirmative due to the Senate filibuster rule.

To track the status of this bill, you can visit this website.


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