Immigration Law

It Was Her Dream to be an Immigration Judge...And Then it Wasn't

Hamed Aleaziz, Buzzfeed News, Feb. 13, 2019

"Rebecca Jamil was sitting in a nondescript hotel ballroom in suburban Virginia when she realized that her dream job — being an immigration judge — was no longer tenable. It was June 11, 2018, and then–attorney general Jeff Sessions, her boss, was speaking to a room packed with immigration judges, running through his list of usual complaints over what was, in his estimation, a broken asylum system.

Toward the end of the speech, Sessions let slip some big news: He had decided whether domestic abuse and gang victims could be granted asylum in the US. Advocates, attorneys, and judges had been waiting months to see what Sessions, who in his role as attorney general had the power to review cases, would do. After all, it would determine the fate of thousands of asylum-seekers, many fleeing dangerous situations in Central America.

Sessions didn’t reveal to the room the details of his ruling but Jamil, based in San Francisco since she was appointed in 2016, learned later that day that the attorney general had decided to dramatically restrict asylum protections for domestic abuse victims.

“I’d seen the faces of these families,” the 43-year-old judge said. “They weren’t abstractions to me.”

Jamil, a mother of two young daughters, had been shaken by the images and sounds that came as a result of the Trump administration’s policy to separate families at the border. As a judge who oversaw primarily cases of women and children fleeing abuse and dangers abroad, this was the last straw.

Soon after, she stepped down from the court.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she told friends. “I felt that I couldn’t be ‘Rebecca Jamil, representative of the attorney general’ while these things were going on.”

In many ways, her resignation underscores the tenuous position of immigration judges, who are overseen by the attorney general and susceptible to the shifting winds of each administration."