Politics

Justice Department eliminates Trump-era case quotas for immigration judges

CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 17: Asylum seekers cross an international bridge from Mexico into the United States on March 17, 2021 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The immigrants crossed officially into El Paso as part of the Biden administration's unwinding of the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols, (MPP), also known as the 'Remain in Mexico' immigration policy. Many of the immigrants, most from Central America, had been waiting in Mexico for more than a year. They are now free to travel to destinations within the United States pending asylum court hearings. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Justice Department is ending the use of case quotas for immigration judges that became a point of contention during the Trump administration for undercutting judges’ authority and discretion, according to an email obtained by CNN.

Immigration judges — employees of the Justice Department — are charged with following the policies set by each administration. They ultimately decide cases on whether an immigrant can remain in the United States or will be removed. Judges argued that the quotas valued expediency over due process and was not an appropriate metric to evaluate judges.

There is a 1.5 million-case backlog facing the immigration court system. The suspension of case quotas is unlikely to make a difference in the speed at which judges tackle that backlog.

In 2018, DOJ released new performance metrics for immigration judges that included completing 700 cases per year to be considered “satisfactory.” It also included other numeric benchmarks that had not been used on prior administrations.

The memo, sent to judges Tuesday, is part of a concerted effort by the Biden administration to distance itself from Trump-era immigration policies that drew criticism from immigration judges.

“The Agency is in the process of developing new performance measures, drawing from past successful measures and appropriate input, that will accurately reflect the workload of an immigration judge. These new performance measures will focus on balance and equity for the various types of docket assignments, and we look forward to sharing them with you shortly,” the Tuesday memo reads.

Under the Trump administration, dozens of immigration judges left or moved into new roles in the immigration court system over frustration of policy changes that, they argued, chipped away at their authority. That included case quotas.

“Suspension of the metrics is an excellent first step,” said Mimi Tsankov, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, the immigration judges’ union. “We now await the opportunity for management to recognize NAIJ and work with us to establish appropriate measures for the agency to assess its productivity and ensure due process for the parties before us and judges themselves.”

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