Should Congress move the immigration courts out of the Justice Department and create independent courts under Article I of the U.S. Constitution? The National Association of Immigration Judges thinks so. As the union representing many of the nation’s approximately 250 immigration judges, the NAIJ is the sole official means through which the public and policymakers hear from the front-line adjudicators who decide hundreds of thousands of cases every year.
Despite being critical components of the immigration law system, the immigration courts are notoriously understaffed. As anyone who has glimpsed at an immigration court docket sheet knows, caseloads are staggering. With more than 450,000 cases pending at the end of the 2015 fiscal year, for example, the 250 immigration judges averaged 1,800 cases (the number is actually higher because about 15 judges spend most of their time on administrative matters rather than hearing cases).
The NAIJ believes that the immigration courts “are still relegated to an afterthought.” Situated within the Justice Department, the federal government’s principal law-enforcement branch, the immigration courts are left to uncomfortably pursue their goal of deciding cases neutrally. Writing in the NAIJ’s official publication the Honorable Dana Leigh Marks, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges and an immigration judge since 1987, claimed that the current arrangement does not “provide the immigration courts with the independence we require.”
On Monday, September 12, 2016, Judge Marks will visit the University of Denver Sturm College of Law to discuss the NAIJ’s goal of motivating Congress to adopt what she described as “[t]he best solution to the myriad problems caused by the current structural flaw”: establish an Article I immigration court. According to Marks, “NAIJ recommends an Article I tribunal consisting of a trial level immigration court and an appellate immigration review court. An aggrieved party should have resort to the regional federal circuit courts of appeal following the conclusion of these proceedings.”
Judge Marks will provide more details about the NAIJ’s position during her remarks. The event is free and open to the public. It will take place in room 165 beginning at 5:30 p.m. MST. Judge Marks’s remarks will be streamed live online at crimmigration.com.