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Trump Administration Further Undermines Judicial Independence

WASHINGTON, DC – On August 16, the Attorney General of the United States issued a precedent-setting decision, Matter of L-A-B-R, that limits the discretion of immigration judges to grant continuances. By restricting the court’s use of a vital docketing tool, the decision further erodes judicial independence and will pressure judges to deny more continuances at the expense of due process.

AILA President Anastasia Tonello responded, “With yesterday’s decision, the Attorney General has tightened the vise on immigration judges even further by interfering with an important case management tool that judges use to ensure cases are resolved fairly and justly. Every day, people who are eligible for relief must come before the immigration court and request a continuance until U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is able to make a decision. People who are eligible for permanent residence based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, or for protection as cooperating victims of a serious crime, may be deported unjustly if the judge is blocked from granting them a continuance. Justice cannot be dispensed on an assembly line, but Matter of L-A-B-R- seeks to do just that by pressuring judges to deny continuances and move cases rapidly through the system without due regard for potential relief.”

AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson stated, “While playing the role of both prosecutor and judge, the Attorney General continues to perpetuate the false narrative that immigrants are to blame for the long-standing inefficiencies that plague the immigration court system while rewriting our nation’s immigration laws. This decision is especially troubling because it will penalize people for something they simply cannot control: the notoriously lengthy USCIS processing times. Matter of L-A-B-R- is yet another reason why Congress must pass legislation establishing the immigration court as an Article I court separate from the Justice Department. Until Congress acts, the Attorney General will continue to encroach upon the independence of the courts, forcing judges to order people removed without a fair process. Congress must stop the administration from turning immigration courts into yet another enforcement agency.”

For more information about the immigration court system, AILA’s page on the issue can be accessed at http://www.aila.org/immigrationcourts.

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

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