Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Obama Stonewalled Immigration Processing

A great example of how the Obama administration opened the flood gates and then stonewalled, lollygagged and just kicked the immigration can down the road for Trump. The Trump administration inherited 1,022,000 open or pending cases in US immigration courts, a number that has doubled since 2012 and tripled since 2009.
James McHenry, who heads the office in the Department of Justice (DOJ) that oversees the nation’s immigration judges, said that the Trump administration has made much progress, most of it behind the scenes.
“We’re doing sort of a top-to-bottom review inside the agency. All of our policies, and all of our guidance, all of our regulations — everything that we do — every process that we have, has been subject to a strict review over the past six months to a year. We’re looking for ways to be able to be more efficient. Obviously, we safeguard due process, but the two are not mutually exclusive.”
His department remains far below the level needed to begin cutting through the backlog. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report last year faulted the agency for taking too long to hire judges and process cases. What’s more, the office remains one of the last in the federal government that still processes cases using paper files stored in blue paper binders. Productivity declined significantly during the Obama administration, based on raw statistics. In fiscal year 2006, immigration judges completed an average of 1,356 cases; that number had dropped nearly 50% to 807 by fiscal year 2015.
Among the most controversial steps undertaken has been to hold judges to a goal of resolving at least 700 cases per year. The directive, which will take effect in October, has drawn fire from the government employee union that represents immigration judges. Immigrant advocacy groups also have warned that focusing on efficiency could result in an erosion of quality. In other words, they want the backlog. It slows down deportation.
To address the old technology, McHenry said the agency plans to pilot an electronic filing system in five courts this summer, with an anticipated national rollout next year.
McHenry said the agency has hired 56 new immigration judges in the past year and a half and anticipates four new judges starting this month and 40 to 50 by the end of the fiscal year in September. The omnibus spending bill passed earlier this year by Congress authorizes the administration to hire an additional 150 judges, which would bring the total to 484.
At that level, McHenry said, judges would begin to complete cases faster than new ones get filed. He added that Trump proposed a budget last fall that would bring the total to 700 judges. He said there would be a “significant reduction” in the backlog at that level.
The GAO also report noted that it took Obama's administration an average of 742 days — more than two years — to complete the hiring of a new judge. McHenry said the administration has managed to drive that time down 50% to about a year. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April last year announced a streamlined hiring process.

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