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Immigration Court Reform: Congress, Heed the Call

October 15, 2016 (1 min read)

Christine Lockhart Poarch, Oct. 2016- "The call for immigration court reform is an old refrain among immigration practitioners and judges, and Congress is beginning to add its voice to the chorus. In January 2016, in response to increasing and substantial immigration court backlogs, the House Judiciary Committee: Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate and report on the various proposals for immigration court reform. Those included the one proposed by the Federal Bar Association (FBA) in 2013. In response, the GAO arranged interviews with a number of FBA Immigration Law Section members and other stakeholders immediately following the Committee’s request. The GAO staff came to the discussion with experts in the field informed and educated about the current immigration court system, ready to mine the one-on-one discovery sessions with practitioners, judges, and academics for critical information about the immigration court reform proposals that began to emerge in the early 1980s when the U.S. Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy first recommended an Article I immigration court. Of the existing proposals on the proverbial immigration court reform table, the FBA proposal makes the most practical sense. In summary, it calls on Congress to establish an Article I court that would assume the adjudicatory responsibilities currently performed by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) in the Department of Justice (DOJ). The sections that follow outline not only the strongest support for Article I reform, but also the practical impact of an Article I immigration court on the practice of immigration law within the immigration court system. ..."

Christine Lockhart Poarch is principal of The Poarch Law Firm in Salem, Va., a firm devoted to practicing immigration law in Southwestern Virginia since 2003. She is a member of the FBA Immigration Law Section board of governors. Special thanks to Immigration Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, and Bruce Moyer, the FBA’s governmental affairs counsel, for their input and Poarch Law intern Ryan Carroll for his assistance with citations for this article.