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Immigration Law

80 Unions and Scholars Ask Garland to Support NAIJ, Withdraw Decertification

Letter, June 7, 2021 - Department of Justice Should Support the National Association of Immigration Judges and Withdraw the Petition to Decertify its Union

"We, the undersigned unions, organizations, immigration law professors and scholars, and other immigration court stakeholders call your attention to the urgent need to preserve and protect the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) and support collective bargaining by Department of Justice (DOJ) career civil servants. We are heartened by President Biden’s announcements on January 22, 2021, that both overturned his predecessor’s policies limiting employee rights to collectively bargain and also implement a wide-ranging policy to protect, empower, and rebuild the career federal workforce. President Biden’s announcements specifically encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.

After four relentless years of union-busting, decisive leadership is needed to refortify the federal workforce. NAIJ and its 500+ bargaining unit members—immigration judges who are DOJ attorney employees—are in need of protection right now! NAIJ has been the collective bargaining representative for immigration judges since 1979. Yet, in 2019, the Trump
administration filed a petition to strip immigration judges of their statutory right to be represented by a union and decertify NAIJ.

The Trump administration targeted NAIJ in retaliation for NAIJ’s criticism of both the unreasonable working conditions that DOJ managers imposed on its members and the sweeping
curtailment of due process rights in immigration court.

While the decertification attempt was initially and thoroughly rejected in a decision by a career employee of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), the decision was abruptly reversed in a politically-motivated decision by the FLRA. That FLRA decision ignored the detailed fact-finding of the career employee and reversed long-standing FLRA precedent that 20 years earlier had found that immigration judges were not in a position to influence agency policy.

The FLRA decision is devoid of any reasoned analysis and creates an extremely dangerous precedent for professional workers throughout the federal government. Future administrations could wield this decision like a sword to preclude other professional employees such as physicians, scientists, engineers, and others from unionizing. Indeed, this ill-conceived anti-union precedent could have devastating repercussions for decades to come.

At this moment, a motion to reconsider is currently pending at the FLRA, and we call on the DOJ to withdraw its opposition to that motion, withdraw its decertification petition, and take all steps to restore collective bargaining rights for NAIJ members. President Biden has committed to restoring labor unions and fair working conditions for federal employees. We ask the DOJ to do its part in supporting that objective by taking all necessary actions to ensure that the NAIJ remains a union so that it can continue to represent its members in support of fair working conditions. Doing so will be a service to Immigration Court stakeholders and the public at large.

We seek your immediate review and leadership in this matter."