With little fanfare, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has made significant changes to its hiring practices. The purpose of these changes is to populate the powerful Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) with immigration judges whom immigration advocates have accused repeatedly of bias in their decisions. These rule changes are indicative of many of the steadily growing political nature of the immigration court system, which some claim has led to unfair and biased court proceedings.
The DOJ changed its hiring practices to add six immigration judges to the 21-member BIA in August 2019. All six judges have among the highest asylum denial rates of immigration judges throughout the country. In 2017, some of these judges also had the highest numbers of decisions that the BIA sent back to them for reconsideration. Individuals have filed public complaints against at least three of the six judges, although the Director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review noted no negative information about any of the judges that would preclude their appointments.
Nonetheless, the DOJ appointed these six judges without subjecting them to the usual two-year probationary period. Instead, these six judges received a permanent position on the BIA, effective immediately. With no probationary period, it is virtually impossible to remove permanently appointed judges from office.
Furthermore, the DOJ paved the way for some candidates for the open BIA positions by no longer requiring that the judges work from a central location in Virginia. Instead, the BIA members can work remotely from any immigration court across the country. The new BIA members are also not limited to reviewing appellate cases, which is the typical function of the BIA. The new board members also may serve as trial immigration judges, as well as review appellate decisions. This dual appointment has never occurred before.
Traditionally, the BIA consists of board members from different backgrounds. Their job is to review judicial decisions from the immigration courts that parties have appealed. Three-member panels of the BIA can issue rulings that set binding precedents on various aspects of immigration law, including asylum and stays of deportation. As these decisions are binding, immigration judges and adjudicators must rely on these decisions in making rulings in future cases.
The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.