The American Bar Association and three other national legal organizations have joined together in advocacy for the establishment of an independent immigration court system, requesting separation from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Joining the presidents of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Federal Bar Association and the National Association of Immigration Judges, ABA President Bob Carlson co-signed a letter urging Congress to move the immigration court system out from under the DOJ.
The letter says the current immigration court system cannot meet “the standards which justice demands,” noting immigration courts answer to the U.S. Attorney General, who also serves as the nation’s chief prosecutor.
“This inherent conflict of interest is made worse by the fact that immigration judges are considered merely government attorneys, a classification that fails to recognize the significance of their judicial duties and leaves them particularly vulnerable to political pressure and interference in case management,” the letter says.
In addition to the structural issues, the letter says problems in immigration court have “resulted in a severe lack of public confidence in the system’s capacity to deliver just and fair decisions in a timely manner.”
Citing a 2017 Government Accountability Office report, the four organizations’ letter to Congress says dysfunction has contributed to “monumental” caseloads and a “crisis-level” backlog of almost 900,000 cases.
The ABA previously called for an independent court system in its 2010 report, “Reforming the Immigration System,” and earlier this year in its 2019 report update, which conducted a comprehensive examination of the immigration removal system.