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EOIR Leadership Muzzles Immigration Judges

March 05, 2024 (1 min read)

Elliot Spagat, Associated Press, Mar. 4, 2024

"A 53-year-old union of immigration judges has been ordered to get supervisor approval to speak publicly to anyone outside the Justice Department, potentially quieting a frequent critic of heavily backlogged immigration courts in an election year. The National Association of Immigration Judges has spoken regularly at public forums, in interviews with reporters and with congressional staff, often to criticize how courts are run. It has advocated for more independence and free legal representation. The National Press Club invited its leaders to a news conference about “the pressures of the migrant crisis on the federal immigration court system.” The Feb. 15 order* requires Justice Department approval “to participate in writing engagements (e.g., articles; blogs) and speaking engagements (e.g., speeches; panel discussions; interviews).” Sheila McNulty, the chief immigration judge, referred to a 2020 decision by the Federal Labor Relations Authority to strip the union of collective bargaining power and said its earlier rights were “not valid at present.” The order prohibits speaking to Congress, news media and professional forums without approval, said Matt Biggs, president of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, an umbrella organization that includes the judges’ union. He said the order contradicted President Joe Biden’s “union-friendly” position and vowed to fight it. “It’s outrageous, it’s un-American,” said Biggs. “Why are they trying to silence these judges?” "

[*Here is the text of the email: "Dear Judges Cole and Tsankov: From recent awareness of your public engagements, I understand you are of the impression that your positions in the group known as the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) permit you to participate in writing engagements (e.g., articles; blogs) and speaking engagements (e.g., speeches; panel discussions; interviews) without supervisory approval and any Speaking Engagement Team review your supervisor believes necessary. The agency understands this is a point of contention for you, but any bargaining agreement related to that point that may have existed previously is not valid at present. Please consider this email formal notice that you are subject to the same policies as every EOIR employee. To ensure consistency of application of agency policies—and prevent confusion among our staff—please review the SET policy and work with your supervisor to ensure your compliance with it, effective immediately. Thank you, Sheila McNulty Chief Immigration Judge"]