Organizations Call for Independent Immigration Courts

In a recent letter to Congress, several organizations, including the American Bar Association (ABA) and the National Association of Immigration Judges, called for the creation of immigration courts that are independent from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). These groups cited the conflict of interest the Attorney General faces in being responsible for both prosecuting and judging immigration cases as to why such an overhaul is needed. These organizations noted that the implementation of case completion quotas has pressured judges to expedite their decisions, compromising the integrity of the immigration system.

Independent Immigration System Will Help to Address Backlogs

Establishing independent immigration courts may also reduce the growing backlog of nearly one million immigration cases. In a 2019 report, Reforming the Immigration System, the ABA stated that political interference is one of the primary contributors to backlogs. Specifically, executive orders and policies “adjusting enforcement priorities” disrupt existing dockets and pending cases. Resolving these backlogs has bipartisan appeal, as backlogs subject asylum seekers and others to extensive waiting times and postpones the removal of unlawful immigrants.

Quota implementation was an attempt to limit mounting backlogs. However, the ABA explained that legal challenges to rushing cases actually could worsen delays. The ABA also advised that an analysis of judges’ applications of the law, their impartiality, and their communication skills should replace quotas in the interest of judicial fairness and independence.

Prevalence of Bias in Immigration Case Processing

Bias is another major issue that the creation of independent immigration courts may help to address. Bias is clearly demonstrated by the disparity in which asylum rates are granted. The Innovation Law Lab and the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report stating that asylum approval rates can range from 0% to 97%, depending on the judge. There are regional disparities in these rates, as well. Certain cities have gained notoriety for high rates of asylum application denials. Aside from establishing independent immigration courts, recommendations include screening judges for cultural sensitivity, punishing misconduct, and affording judges tenure to protect them from unjust political retaliation.


There is no all-inclusive solution that will eliminate backlogs and bias in the U.S. immigration system. Nevertheless, the creation of an independent immigration court system is a logical first step. This could save time and money and result in a more uniform system of decisions. Delays and denials by the Administration have already resulted in many more lawsuits adding to backlogs, as predicted by the ABA and other organizations. An endless supply of cases resulting from the Administration’s fixation on immigrants is crippling the immigration court system. The Administration will soon be forced to either take the advice of the ABA and other organizations, or to seek out some other solution.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.