Immigration judges union seeks recognition as top judge resigns

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FILE – Two migrant families from Brazil walk through a gap in the border wall to reach the United States after crossing from Mexico to Yuma, Arizona, to seek asylum on June 10, 2021. The National Association of Judges of the Immigration on Thursday, July 21, 2022, called on the federal government to restore its recognition after the Trump administration withdrew its official status and the system’s chief justice resigned after two years on the job. Both developments underscore political uncertainty at a critical time in the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, which runs the courts. (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia, File)

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The National Association of Immigration Judges on Thursday called on the federal government to restore its union recognition after the Trump administration stripped its official status and the system’s chief judge resigned after two years on the job.

Both developments come at a critical time for the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, which runs the courts.

The backlog of immigration judges has tripled to 1.8 million since 2017. Cases of people who are not detained take several years to resolve.

Tracy Short, who was appointed Chief Immigration Judge in June 2020 by then-Attorney General William Barr, said in a message to immigration judges that her decision to resign effective July 30 was “difficult and not what I imagined I would do”. .”

Short, a longtime government lawyer with extensive immigration experience, did not explain why he was leaving in the post, which was obtained by The Associated Press. Kathryn Mattingly, spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, confirmed that Short had resigned.

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republicans on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland last week about reports that “several” judges appointed under the Trump administration have recently been ousted.

They claimed that some departures were due “to the result of a coordinated effort between the Biden-Harris administration and far-left immigration advocates.” Mattingly did not immediately respond to questions about those allegations.

The National Association of Immigration Judges, which was founded in 1971 and has long sought more independence from the Justice Department, was a frequent target of Trump administration officials who said that judges were taking too long to decide cases.

His administration ordered each judge to handle 700 cases a year in return for satisfactory performance reviews, a goal that was abandoned under the Biden administration.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority has stripped the National Association of Immigration Judges of its official status, siding with the Trump administration that judges are akin to executive employees with no bargaining rights collective. But the union is hoping for a reversal after the three-member panel moved to Democratic control in May.

The union said a majority of some 550 immigration judges had signed a petition in the past two months to restore recognition to the union.

The Trump administration “has gone to extraordinary lengths to unjustly silence immigration judges,” said Mimi Tsankov, president of the union, which operates under the AFL-CIO.

Tsankov, who is also a New York immigration judge, said the lack of official status has ended the union’s influence over labor contracts and diminished its influence over court and other spending. operations.

“We have no way to raise concerns,” she said. “We need someone to say that’s what’s not working.”

Mattingly, the court spokeswoman, said the Justice Department “supports the right of employees to organize but is bound by orders issued by agencies and courts.”

While immigration judges wear black robes and chair in courtrooms, they are considered federal prosecutors with the Department of Justice and can be removed from office by the attorney general.

In contrast, federal judges who oversee criminal and civil cases are appointed for life and work for the independent judiciary.

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