- Immigration lawyers are overburdened as they deal with 1.3 million backlogged cases.
- Many are fighting for the ability to rule independently without political pressure, NBC News.
- Former AG Bill Barr worked to decertify the union that protected them.
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The country’s 500 immigration judges feel overburdened and under pressure to deport as more than 1.3 million cases have been backlogged at the end of the last administration and crossings into the country keep rising, NBC News reported.
While federal trial judges are appointed for life, making it easier to make independent decisions, immigration judges are appointed and answer to the attorney general.
The ability for the judges to rule independently on asylum cases has also been compromised by a move from former Attorney General Bill Barr to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges.
“We are in the legal fight for our life to ensure that our decisional independence is valued and maintained,” Judge Amiena Khan told NBC.
Sixty Democrats in the House and some on the Senate Judiciary Committee have also called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to recertified the union and allow judges to speak freely about immigration cases, The Hill reported.
As the union fights to be recertified, judges have said they are fighting to be able to make rulings independently.
“We should not be used as a tool of law enforcement,” Judge Dana Leigh Marks told NBC. “That is not how Congress envisioned the immigration courts should play a role in the immigration system.”
In a press release, the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the wait time for the backlogged cases was more than four years, including “cases that require urgent attention, such as those seeking asylum and humanitarian relief.”
Additionally, cases keep rising. In May alone, Customs and Border Protection reported more than 180,000 migrants at the Southern border, the largest number in a month in more than 20 years.
Marks told NBC quotes were imposed to get cases through faster but the measure threatens to ensure every case has due process and doesn’t allow migrants time to find a lawyer. Migrants aren’t given court-appointed lawyers and without a lawyer, they will most likely lose their case.