On Friday, March 30, 2018, the U.S. Justice Department, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, notified all U.S. immigration judges that part of their annual job performance evaluations will be tied to how quickly they close cases.
Under these new standards for immigration judges, in order for an immigration judge to receive a “satisfactory performance” rating on his or her annual performance evaluation (for the fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2018 and ending on September 30, 2019, and to keep her job), the immigration judge will be required to:
- Case Completions: complete at least 700 cases a year; and
- Remand Rate: have fewer than 15 percent of their decisions overturned on appeal (including Board of Immigration Appeals and Circuit Courts; and
- The immigration judge must meet at least half of the following Benchmarks that are applicable to the judge’s work during the rating period, as long as the judge’s performance in each Benchmark is above the “Unsatisfactory” performance level. For a list of these benchmarks, click here to read the EOIR Performance Plan for Adjudicative Employees.
This quota approach is absolutely misguided and will have the opposite effect. The following are some potential issues that will arise as a result of this new system:
- The quota system will cause immigration judges to make decisions on cases based on what will be fastest and what decision will help them keep their jobs come annual performance review time rather than what the judge finds the legally correct decision to be. Even if the immigration judge doesn’t do this, respondents in immigration court may argue that they do and this could then become an appealable issue that invites legal challenges, thus extending the case process further.
- Creating a built-in appeal with each case will only increase litigation and increase the backlog of cases in the already overburdened systems.
- By introducing this external factor into the decision-making process, the integrity and impartiality of the immigration courts and the judges presiding over them may be called into question.
- No other courts/judges in America are subject to individual quotas and case completion deadlines as part of their performance review and evaluations.
- One can’t measure due process by time metrics. The quota system could potentially obscure due process and pervert the oath of office each judge takes to decide each case on its own merits in a fair and impartial way.
The Kuck | Baxter Immigration Blog will continue to provide our readers with timely updates as this issue develops and additional reports emerge concerning the effects of this case completion quota issue on the immigration court system.