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Judge Tabaddor: "We're Past Band-aid Solutions and Short Term Measures"

NAIJ Pres. Judge Tabaddor (right) with ABA Pres. Martinez (center) and AILA 2nd VP McKinney (left).

Additional coverage of NAIJ and the DOJ's attacks on the Immigration Judges' union rights and judicial independence can be found here.

National Association of Immigration Judges(NAIJ)/Judicial Council 2 President Ashley Tabaddor, a Judge in the Los Angeles Immigration Court, briefed reporters today at the National Press Club in Washington about the numerous recent developments at the Immigration Court. In recent months, Immigration Judges have been besieged by the Department of Justice's (DOJ) actions -- which include filing to decertify the NAIJ and therefore silence the Immigration Judges, circulating a racist anti-union article attacking NAIJ leaders to all Immigration Court employees, and creating a new adjudication role for management that undermines the principle of an independent, non-political Immigration Court.

On Friday, September 27th, the NAIJ responded to some of DOJ's actions by filing of two unfair labor practice (ULP) charges and addressed why the Immigration Judges' call for reform is more pressing than ever.

The two ULPs charge the DOJ with bad-faith bargaining and disparagement, citing the DOJ's failure to respond to a request for information related to the Agency's decertification attempt, and also the DOJ's circulation of a racist and inflammatory article from a white supremacist website that singled out NAIJ leadership in late August. Judge Tabaddor noted that the DOJ has not apologized for circulating that article to all EOIR employees.

Joined by the American Bar Association (ABA) President Judy Perry Martinez and American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Second Vice President Jeremy McKinney, Judge Tabaddor described that the structural flaws that are inherent in the Immigration Court being placed under the Department of Justice (DOJ), a law enforcement agency, have only gotten worse in recent years. Both ABA and AILA have joined NAIJ in calling for the creation of an independent Article 1 court that protect and restore due process and judicial independence for the Immigration Judges be removing the Court from the DOJ. AILA, ABA, and NAIJ have also highlighted the need for support staff, legal and interpretation resources for those that appear in the courts, and that the absence of those resources fundamentally denies fairness and due process rights.

In recounting the long standing problems that NAIJ has warned about for decades, Judge Tabaddor told reporters that in the last few years, DOJ has taken existing conflicts of interest and "crossed every line" by imposing quotas and deadlines on Immigration Judges, implementing a rule giving adjudication authority to the director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR, the office in the DOJ that oversees the Immigration Court), docket shuffling practices which deny due process and lengthen the massive case backlog, and interfering "with every element of the Judges' role." "We're seeing the Court essentially being turned into a widget factory," said Tabaddor.

The DOJ's imposition of quotas and deadlines on Judges performance evaluations has "intentionally created a conflict of interest in each case, where the Judge's livelihood is now being pitted against his or her duty to remain an impartial adjudicator." Through quotas and deadlines, "DOJ is imposing it's law enforcement policy into each Judge's ruling by threatening the Judge's job."

The 2018 fiscal year is the first year in which Immigration Judges’ job performance will be measured on whether they meet an annual 700 case completion quota and have less than 15% of their cases appealed. Language in the DOJ funding bill (H.R. 3055) passed by the House included language addressing the unfair quotas by denying money for "case performance numeric metrics linked to performance evaluations for individual judges."

Watch Judge Ashley Tabaddor, NAIJ/JC 2 President, at Friday's National Press Club event here.

Additional coverage of NAIJ and the DOJ's attacks on the Immigration Judges' union rights and judicial independence can be found here.


Immigration Judges’ Union Lodges Labor Complaints Against Trump Administration (NY Times)

Immigration Judges Union Files ULP Against DOJ (Wall Street Journal)

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