Immigration Law

Why I Resigned as an Immigration Judge

Ilyce Shugall, Aug. 4, 2019

"I have been an immigration lawyer dedicated to fairness and due process for immigrants my entire career. In 2015, convinced that my 18 years of experience as an advocate would make me a good immigration judge, I applied for the job.

Most immigration judges are former attorneys from the chief counsel’s office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, former assistant U.S. attorneys or former attorneys from other federal government agencies. Former advocates are appointed less frequently, but I believed in the importance of having judges from varied backgrounds on the bench and therefore applied.

I made it through the application and vetting process and was appointed to the bench in September 2017. I resigned this March because I could no longer in good conscience work as an immigration judge in the Trump administration.

I knew when I joined the bench that there would be frustrations, as immigration courts are governed by the Justice Department and lack the independence of other courts in the federal judicial system. But nothing prepared me for the unprecedented, unfair and unworkable policies the Trump administration imposed on the courts and the immigration process. ... "