Immigration Law

Sessions rules immigration judges have no authority to indefinitely suspend cases

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Jeff Sessions

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions mark reinstein /

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled on Thursday that immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals do not have the general authority to indefinitely suspend cases through administrative closures.

Sessions issued the decision late Thursday, report the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. He ruled in a case involving a boy who came to the United States in 2014 from Central America and then failed to show up at five immigration hearings.

Immigration judges use administrative closures to indefinitely pause lower-level deportation cases.

Sessions had directed the Board of Immigration Appeals in January to refer the case to him for review. Sessions asked the parties to address the immigration judges’ authority to issue such closure.

The ABA filed a brief arguing immigration judges have the authority to administratively close cases, and they needed that authority to manage their high caseloads.

In his Thursday opinion, Sessions said immigration judges could administratively close a case only where a previous regulation or a previous judicially approved settlement expressly authorizes such an action.

Sessions said the practice of administrative closures has “grown dramatically” since 2012 when the Board of Immigration Appeals allowed such closures even when one party objects.

“Cases that have been administratively closed absent a specific authorizing regulatory provision or judicially approved settlement shall be recalendared upon motion of either party,” Sessions wrote. “I overrule all board precedents inconsistent with this opinion.”

Hat tip to the Marshall Project.

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