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By Miriam Raftery

Photo: immigration court, Creative Commons image by NC-ND

October 21, 2021 (San Diego) – The U.S. Justice Department, under the Biden administration, has ended case quotas for immigration judges imposed during the Trump administration, CNN reports. 

The Trump-era performance metrics had required judges to complete 700 cases a year to receive a satisfactory rating, among other benchmarks. But that policy led to complaints from judges who argued that the quotas valued haste over due process.  

The policy also sparked a lawsuit, Las Americas v. Biden, filed by the Las Americas Immigration Policy Center, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Innovation Law Lab, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Asylum Sekker Advocacy Project and Santa Fe Dreamers Program. 

A memo sent to immigration judges on Tuesday states, “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," CNN reports.

SPLC and Innovation Law Lab praised the elimination of case quotas in a joint press release.

Everyone in the United States, regardless of their immigration status, is entitled to a fair day in court. Today’s decision is a small but important step towards guaranteeing that fundamental right,” the release states, adding, ““U.S. immigration courts are vulnerable to political manipulation and subject to the whims of presidential administrations because they are housed within a law enforcement agency — the Department of Justice — and overseen by political appointees. While in office, the Trump administration took advantage of those structural weaknesses and used our nation’s immigration courts as a tool to promote its anti-immigrant agenda. The case completion quotas were a particularly damaging Trump administration policy that focused on deporting people at all costs rather than ensuring individualized case-by-case adjudication.”

The lawsuit sought to end the case quotas and also address the backlog of 1.5 million cases as well as perceived bias in the immigration court system.

“While SPLC and Law Lab applaud the decision to do away with the Trump-era performance metrics, it is long past time for these courts to be moved out from under the control of political actors,” the organizations’ press statement concludes.


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