Facing criticism by the outspoken immigration judges’ union, the Trump Administration now has moved to decertify the union. The Justice Department filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority to decide whether the National Association of Immigration Judges should have its certification revoked on the basis that its members fit the definition of “management officials.” Under federal labor relations law, management officials do not have the right to collectively organize.
Tensions have continued to rise between the judges’ union and the Trump Administration as judges continue to be overwhelmed by a horribly backlogged immigration court system. Meanwhile, the judges are facing constant pressures from the Justice Department to move cases through the system more quickly and efficiently. One such example is the quota system, which requires immigration judges to close 700 cases each year to receive a positive employment evaluation. The Trump administration also prohibited the judges’ use of an administrative tool to reduce their caseloads.
The Trump Administration has added 43 immigration judges to help with the large backlog of cases, However, the judges’ union indicates that there are not enough support staff members to meet the judges’ needs, which hampers their productivity.
Federal judges normally are part of the judicial branch of the federal government, but immigration judges are appointed by the Attorney General and are employed by the Justice Department. Although immigration judges cannot speak publicly on political issues, representatives of their union can speak about and criticize Justice Department policies that affect the judges.
The Clinton Administration also moved to decertify the same union years ago. The Federal Labor Relations Authority rejected that administration’s arguments for decertification.
The petition that the Justice Department has filed is likely to prompt an investigation by the Federal Labor Relations Authority. The judges’ union also will have a chance to respond to the petition.
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