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July 30, 2018 open letter - "On Thursday, July 26, 2018, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), in a costly and inefficient use of the agency’s resources, sent an Assistant Chief Immigration Judge to the Philadelphia Immigration Court to conduct a single preliminary hearing [in the remand of Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I&N Dec. 271 (A.G. 2018)]. Although there was no indication of any legitimate basis for doing so, the case had been taken off of the calendar of an experienced Immigration Judge in Philadelphia, apparently for the sole reason that the judge had exercised independent judgment by asking for briefs on the issue of whether the respondent had in fact received notice of the hearing. The Assistant Chief Judge (a part of EOIR’s management) ordered the respondent removed in absentia without further inquiry into such question, fulfilling the purpose for which she was sent to Philadelphia.
An independent judiciary is imperative to democracy. Immigration Judges have always struggled to maintain independence while remaining in the employ of an enforcement agency, the Department of Justice, and serving at the pleasure of a political appointee, the Attorney General. Although not entitled to the same due process safeguards as criminal proceedings, the consequences of deportation can be as harsh as any criminal penalty. As their decisions often have life-or-death consequences, Immigration Judges must be afforded the independence to conduct fair, impartial hearings. For this reason, some important due process safeguards are required in deportation proceedings, and errors should be corrected through the appeals process, not through interference by managers.
Last Thursday’s case had been remanded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In the absence of another explanation, it would seem that EOIR’s management did not believe Sessions’ purpose in remanding the case was for an Immigration Judge to then exercise independent judgment to ensure due process. The agency therefore removed the case from the docket of a capable judge in order to ensure an outcome that would please its higher-ups. While as former Immigration Judges and BIA Members with many decades of combined experience, we appreciate the pressures on EOIR’s leadership, such interference with judicial independence is unacceptable. EOIR’s management exists to fulfill an administrative function, not to impede on the decision-making process of its judges. EOIR more than ever needs leadership with the courage to protect its judges from political pressures and to defend their independence. As a democracy, we expect our judges to reach results based on what is just, even where such results are not aligned with the desired outcomes of politicians.
Hon. Steven AbramsHon. Sarah M. BurrHon. Jeffrey S. ChaseHon. George T. ChewHon. Cecelia M. EspenozaHon. Noel FerrisHon. John F. Gossart, Jr.Hon. William P. JoyceHon. Carol KingHon. Margaret McManusHon. Charles PazarHon. Susan RoyHon. Lory D. RosenbergHon. Paul W. SchmidtHon. Polly A. Webber"
[More media coverage here, here and here.]