Manuel Madrid

Manuel Madrid is a writing fellow at The American Prospect

Recent Articles

Law Professors Denounce Sessions’s Push for Case Quotas for Immigration Judges

In a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, more than 120 law professors denounced the Justice Department’s new performance metrics for immigration judges as a danger to due process and an infringement on judicial independence.

Administrative and immigration law professors from at least 30 states warned that, while the current backlog of immigration cases, many of which are asylum requests, awaiting adjudication (more than 700,000, at last count) warranted action by the Justice Department, case quotas would come at too great a cost.

“Instead of providing adequate resources or implementing other case management tactics, the Department of Justice has proposed the case completion quotas,” the letter reads. “We believe that these quotas show disregard for the importance of independence, including avoidance of a conflict of interest, in adjudication. The quotas seem to align with President Trump’s displeasure with the need for process in immigration cases.”

Following an Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) memo released in April, immigration judges are now expected to complete at least 700 cases per year and have fewer than 15 percent of their rulings overturned on appeal. Judges who fail to meet the quota will be deemed unsatisfactory or “needing improvement” and could face discipline.

The letter’s authors argue that the new quotas will pressure immigrant judges already stretched thin to rush complicated and weighty cases, thereby denying immigrants enough time to find a lawyer or collect evidence for their case. Instead of quotas, the law professors said the Justice Department should hire more judges, provide more support staff, and increase funding to the courts (solutions largely backed by Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as immigration judges themselves).

Immigrant advocates warn that the quotas could lead to an increase in erroneous deportations of immigrants, forcing many to return to the violence and persecution in their home countries that led them to apply for asylum in the first place.

“The purpose of implementing these metrics is to encourage efficient and effective case management while preserving immigration judge discretion and due process,” an EOIR spokesperson told the Prospect in response to the letter.

Immigration judges are technically considered attorney employees of the Justice Department and, as such, don’t have the same independence that other federal judges might have. This in-between status has left immigration courts particularly vulnerable to political pressure. And in the case of the Trump administration, Sessions has begun to repurpose the courts as an extension of his hardline anti-immigrant ideology.

In addition to the new quotas, the attorney general has also tied the hands of immigration judges by eliminating a tool used for organizing their case docket, known as administrative closure. Administrative closure, much like law enforcement’s prosecutorial discretion, allows judges to prioritize cases. It also provides immigrants stuck in a visa backlog or awaiting other legal relief a temporary reprieve from deportation.

Sessions, along with Trump, has signaled a clear distaste for the asylum system as a whole and a cynicism toward the majority of immigrants seeking refuge, saying they have taken advantage of the system and falsely claiming that 80 percent of asylum applications are without merit. Meanwhile, Trump has voiced a more fundamental issue with due process for non-citizens, even tweeting that undocumented immigrant should be deported “immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases.”

Faced with the pressure to meet strict quotas and stripped of the ability to handle their case dockets efficiently, judges may have little option but to cut corners or risk losing their jobs. The unprecedented structural changes pushed by Sessions amount to a greasing of the court system so as to create a slicker path to deportation for as many immigrants as possible.

Jeff Sessions and the Conservative Nostalgia for Harsh Sentencing

A new Republican bill would slap nonviolent criminals with 15-year mandatory minimum sentences. White-collar crimes, property crimes, and drug-related offenses would all count toward being considered a “career armed criminal.”

(AP Photo/John Amis)
(AP Photo/John Amis) Attorney General Jeff Sessions waits to take the stage to deliver remarks on efforts to combat violent crime in America during an appearance at the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Georgia on August 9, 2018, in Macon, Georgia. A ttorney General Jeff Sessions’s full-court press for more tough-on-crime policies has found a home in Congress. Speaking before a crowd of law enforcement officials and prosecutors on August 8 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sessions called for legislation to reinstate an aggressive Reagan-era sentencing law that targets repeat offenders. “I was a United States Attorney before the Armed Career Criminal Act—and I was United States Attorney afterward,” Sessions said. “I’ve seen its importance firsthand as we worked to reduce crime in America. ... We need Congress to fix the law so that we can keep violent career criminals off of our streets.” About an hour before the speech, Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Tom...

For Missouri Unions, the Battle Is Far from Over

Voters rejected “right to work,” but other new laws could curtail workers’ power.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) On August 7, 2018, Missouri voters rejected the state's "right to work" law by a margin of 2 to 1. trickle-downers.jpg M issouri unions will have little time to catch their breath after their decisive victory at the ballot box on Tuesday. By a 2-to-1 margin, voters in the Show Me State rejected a “right to work” law that would have allowed both public- and private-sector workers in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying dues to the unions that would still be required to bargain contracts for them and represent them in disputes with management. Similar “right to work” legislation has led to significant drops in union revenues and rolls in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. Missouri Republicans had for decades pushed for the law, and finally got their chance after the 2016 election of former Governor Eric Greitens, who was forced to resign in June amid a months-long scandal and felony charges. The ballot initiative would have made Missouri the...

Republicans’ ‘Tax Reform 2.0’ Would Be (Another) Giveaway to the Rich

By expanding the scope of 529 savings accounts, the GOP gives the wealthy another way to cut their taxes.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) House Speaker Paul Ryan closes the door before speaking at a news conference after a Republican caucus meeting on July 24, 2018. trickle-downers.jpg W ith midterm elections quickly approaching, House Republicans have bet on tax cuts as their ticket to remaining in power in November. Now, they’re doubling down on that bet. On Tuesday, GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee released a two-page policy outline for a second round of tax cuts to build on and draw attention to what they believe to be the still unnoticed virtues of their landmark tax act passed in December, which has lost popularity with voters in the past few months. The "tax reform 2.0" would make permanent various (mostly regressive) individual tax breaks included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that were set to expire in 2025 as well as offer a variety of retirement and family saving incentives. The value of one such incentive, the 529 College Savings Accounts, depends entirely on the...

“Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”: How ICE and Other Agencies Vilify Immigrant Youth

An interview with Immigration Law Professor Laila Hlass

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) Immigrant children walk in line outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Homestead, Florida, on June 20, 2018. “ Violent animals.” “Menace.” “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.” This is the language that President Donald Trump and members of his administration have used to describe immigrants both entering and already in the country. It’s a two-step process: First, intentionally employ imprecise speech to condemn undocumented youth as a whole and then, quietly, qualify the comments. It wasn’t all undocumented youth that they meant, you see—just the MS-13 gang members, just the bad guys. But this policy of ambiguity is far from harmless. Even before Trump, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other sub-agencies of the Department of Homeland Security tasked with the internal enforcement of immigration law had been known to use even the most baseless rumor of gang affiliation as a cudgel against immigrant youth, often resulting in...

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