Midyear Meeting 2010

ABA Urges Congress to Fix 'Broken' Immigration System

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The ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates this afternoon voted to urge Congress to substantially remake the adjudication of immigration cases.

The measures included recommendations that, if adopted by Congress, would:

• Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act’s definition of “aggravated felony” to require that any such conviction must be of a felony and that a term of imprisonment of more than one year must be imposed.

• Allow more prosecutorial discretion by both Department of Homeland Security officers and attorneys to reduce the number of Notices to Appear served on noncitizens who are prima facie eligible for relief from removal.

• Increase the number of immigration judges by at least 100.

• Increase resources for the Board of Immigration Appeals, including increasing the number of members of the Board.

• Restore federal judicial review of immigration decisions.

• Create an Article I court, with both trial and appellate divisions, to adjudicate immigration cases, or in the alternative create of an independent agency for both trial and appellate functions.

The resolutions were based on a report, the executive summary (PDF) of which said “the pressures on the system have grown exponentially as the number of people trying to enter and stay in the United States has increased and as political forces and security concerns have resulted in heightened efforts to stem the flow and remove undocumented noncitizens from the country.”

The report was prepared pro bono by a team of more than 50 lawyers and staff members from the Washington, New York City, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco offices of Arnold & Porter. They spent more than a year researching and writing the report for the commission on a pro bono basis.

The measures passed by overwhelming voice votes. They include resolutions 114A (PDF), 114B (PDF), 114C (PDF), 114D (PDF), and 114F (PDF).

Resolution 114E (PDF), calling for lawyers to represent individuals where substantial legal issues are at play, was withdrawn for further study.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: ABA Commission Proposes Independent Court to Help Fix ‘Broken Immigration System’

New York Times: “Lawyers Back Creating New Immigration Courts”

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