Attorney general

Sessions to challenge immigration judges over closure of cases

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions/

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is challenging the authority of immigration judges to issue administrative closure -- the closing of cases without making a decision -- which allows immigrants to remain in the country without legal status, The Associated Press and Fox News report.

Immigration judges have increasingly relied on administrative closure in recent years, especially since the DOJ’s Board of Immigration Appeals ruled in 2012 that neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the immigrants themselves could stop a judge from closing a case.

Immigration courts have a backlog of about 650,000 cases, as well as 350,000 that were administrative closures – more than half in of which were closed in four years under the Obama Administration and exceeding the total in the previous 22 years.

Sessions, who has broad oversight of immigration judges, intervened Friday in one specific case involving that of a boy who came to the U.S. in 2014 from Central America. The attorney general sent a letter to the parties in the case and the Department of Homeland Security asking a number of questions including:

• By what authority do judges issue such closures and under what criteria?

• Should he revoke that authority?

• Is there another mechanism to address legitimate concerns?

• Should judges revisit the 350,000 closed cases if Sessions decides they don’t have authority to do administrative closures?

The AP says answers must be submitted by Feb. 9. Fox News reports the date as Feb. 2.

Previous attorneys general have also intervened in individual cases to set policy, though rarely and typically with narrow scope.

In a December memo to approximately 350 immigration judges, Sessions noted a need to adopt “additional procedures and techniques that will increase efficiencies, and ensure the timely and proper administration of justice.”

Responding to that memo, the American Immigration Lawyers Association said immigration judges should be independent of the DOJ and without “any undue influence or arbitrary case completion requirements.”

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