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NAIJ/IFPTE Responds to DOJ Attempts to Remove Immigration Judges' Union and Strip Judicial Independence from Immigration Court

This page compiles the latest developments regarding our efforts to maintain Immigration Judges' union rights, call for accountability for the DOJ, and advocate for reforming the Immigration Court

Updated 01.30.2020

On January 7 and 8, 2020, the Department of Justice's (DOJ) petition to the decertify National Association of Immigration Judges/IFPTE Judicial Council 2 (NAIJ) as the Immigration Judges’ union was heard by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The DOJ's petition - filed on August 9, 2019 - would reclassify the Immigration Judges as managers and thus deny Immigration Judges their collective bargaining rights and decertify the NAIJ as a union. The DOJ's unionbusting of the NAIJ follows a previous attempt in 2000 in which the FLRA ruled that Immigration Judges do not act as managers. In the time since that ruling, Immigration Judges’ authority has only diminished.

The DOJ followed the poorly-reasoned petition to remove Immigration Judges' union rights by announcing an interim rule that took effect on announcement on August 26th, a rule which effectively abolishes the separation between DOJ’s enforcement role and the Immigration Court’s adjudicatory duties.

On September 27, at a press conference with the American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), NAIJ President Ashley Tabaddor announced the union's filing of two Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges that cite the DOJ's petition to decertify the union as well as the DOJ's circulation of a racist anti-union blog post from a white supremacist website that singled out NAIJ leadership in late August.

The DOJ's actions not only undermine transparency and judicial independence, but also seek to silence the collective voice of Immigration Judges who have spoken out about the structural flaws, the danger of a politicized Immigration Court, the need to protect due process, and enhance judicial efficiency.

Though the DOJ’s argument for getting rid of the Immigration Judges has less merit today than it did in 2000, the move comes after NAIJ has called for a properly resourced Immigration Court independent of the law enforcement functions of the Executive Branch. The NAIJ has effectively advocated its position that reforming the Immigration Court is critical for fair and impartial decisions that are made in a just and efficient manner and has gained support from various stakeholders and legislators from both parties.

The Trump Administration has demonstrated hostility toward federal employee unions through egregious anti-union Executive Orders that violate federal law, by directing agencies to engage in bad-faith bargaining, and by nominating political appointees openly hostile to unions, and the DOJ’s effort to remove the NAIJ as the Immigration Judges union is the latest in an ongoing attacks on federal employees and the civil service. Just as these actions have consequences for federal employees as well as the public and for the fundamental values of our accountable government and democratic society.


Talking Points, Issue Briefs, and General Information on the U.S. Immigration Court and Immigration Judges

Hearing: House Judiciary Committee - Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship -- Courts in Crisis: The State of Judicial Independence and Due Process in U.S. Immigration Courts -- NAIJ President Judge Ashley Tabaddor testified before the Subcommittee to describe how Administration policies, Attorney General actions, and a flawed Immigration Court structure have resulted in "assembly line justice" and "factory model management" that threatening due process and judicial independence while pushing the Immigration Court case backlog well past 1 million cases. Read Judge Tabaddor's written comments here [PDF] and the AFL-CIO's submitted statement here [PDF].

Video: The Immigration Courts: Nothing Like What You Have Imagined [YouTube] -- In this four-minute video, NAIJ President and Immigration Judge Ashley Tabaddor explains how the structure of the U.S. Immigration Court complicates and violates due process and judicial independence and what reforms are necessary to guarantee judicial Independence and fairness.

NAIJ Briefing Paper: The Immigration Court - In Crisis and in Need of Reform [PDF] -- The NAIJ has prepared this paper in response to numerous recent inquiries from members of Congress and congressional staff regarding the day-to-day operations of the immigration court and the policy and administrative decisions that hamper the ability of immigration judges to discharge their duties and responsibilities under the law.

Alliance for Justice: Stop the DOJ from Busting the Immigration Judges’ Union" -- Alliance for Justice, an association of 120 organizations united in advocating for a fair judicial system with equal access for all, issued a sharp and well-referenced statement calling DOJ's petition to decertify NAIJ as a "blatant union-busting move designed to suppress the voices of immigration judges, undermine the independence and integrity of the immigration court system, and erode the rights of immigrants."

Here They Go Again: DOJ Attacks Judges Union! [PDF]
-- This one-page NAIJ/IFPTE talking points memo outlines that the rationale the DOJ's uses in its petition to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to decertify the NAIJ was already settled by the FLRA in 2000 in a decision that reaffirmed the unions rights of Immigration Judges.

AILA Featured Issue: DOJ Moves to Decertify the Immigration Judges Union -- The American Immigration Lawyers Association webpage on the DOJ's effort to decertify the Immigration Judges' union features key documents and analysis.


Recent Letters and Press Release Regarding NAIJ/IFPTE Judicial Council 2 and the U.S. Immigration Court

11.7.2019 - Statement by Hon. Ashley Tabaddor, President of Judges' Union (NAIJ), on Revelation of "Gross Irregularities" in DOJ Immigration Data

10.31.2019 - IFPTE Requests Congressional Hearings on Immigration Court and DOJ Effort to Decertify Immigration Judges' Union

10.18.2019 - Members of Congress Tell Attorney General: Stop Attack on Immigration Judges Union

10.16.2019 - Rep. Sánchez to DOJ: Don’t Strip Bargaining Rights of Immigration Judges

09.27.2019 - Judge Tabaddor at National Press Club: "We're Past Band-aid Solutions and Short Term Measures"

08.29.2019 - FWA Unions Urge Congressional Appropriators to Block DOJ Unionbusting of NAIJ

08.23.2019 - Statement by Immigration Judges Union on Major Change Announced to Immigration Courts

08.22.2019 - IFPTE/NAIJ Calls for Immediate Action after Department of Justice Circulates Racist, Antisemitic Attacks Against U.S. Immigration Judges

08.12.2019 - Trump Administration Seeks to Silence Federal Immigration Judges' Union


NAIJ/IFPTE Judicial Council 2 in the News

01.19.2020 - AP visits immigration courts across US, finds nonstop chaos (Associated Press)

01.18.2020 - Trump has Attacked Federal Unions. Now, For the First Time, He’s Trying to Bust One. (Washington Post)

01.07.2020 - Trump Administration Makes Its Case to Break Up Immigration Judges' Union (GovExec)

01.06.2020 - Petition to Decertify Immigration Judges’ Union to Get Hearing (Bloomberg Law)

12.14.2019 - Immigration Tent Courts at Border Raise Due-Process Concerns (Wall Street Journal)

12.06.2019 - More Immigration Judges to be Assigned to Cases at Tent Facilities (CNN)

12.02.2019 - Here’s Why the Rejection Rate for Asylum Seekers Has Exploded in America’s Largest Immigration Court in NYC (Daily Beast)

11.30.2019 - Black Friday At Immigration Court: Migrants Mistakenly Show Up For 5-Year-Old Court Date (Texas Public Radio)

11.28.2019 - Judges Quietly Disrupt Trump Immigration Policy in San Diego (Wall Street Journal)

11.26.2019 - Researchers: U.S. Immigration Data Missing or Misleading -- Academics Accuse Trump’s Justice Department of Systematically Deleting Immigration Court Records (Capital and Main)

11.25.2019 - Immigration Court Backlog Has Nearly Doubled Under Trump (Columbus Dispatch)

11.22.2019 - The Trump Administration Was Ordered to Let These Migrants Seek Asylum. It Didn’t Tell the Judges Hearing Their Cases. (ProPublica)

10.24.2019 - Let Immigration Judges Speak: Trump is keeping immigration judges, asylum officers, and ICE attorneys from speaking out about what they’re seeing (Slate)

10.15.2019 - Dozens of Lawmakers to Ask DOJ to Reverse Course on Immigration Judge Union Decertification (GovExec)

10.01.2019 - Immigration Judges File 2 Complaints about Labor Practices (Associated Press)

09.30.2019 - Some Immigration Judges Say They Rule a Certain Way to Avoid Firing (Catholic

09.30.2019 - Trump Counterprogramming: New Immigration Crackdown While Ukraine Scandal Unfolds (Salon)

09.28.2019 - Legal Panel Says Changes to Immigration Courts Create Barriers to Justice and Due Process (National Press Club)

09.28.2019 - Judges, Lawyers Say Video Justice is Just Adding to the Mess within U.S. Immigration Courts (Dallas Morning News)

09.27.2019 - Immigration Judges Union Hits DOJ With Labor Charges (Law 360)

09.27.2019 - Immigration Judges Accuse Justice Department of Unfair Labor Practices (CNN)

09.27.2019 - Immigration Judges Union Files Labor Complaint Against Justice Department [PDF] (Wall Street Journal)

09.27.2019 - Immigration Judges’ Union Lodges Labor Complaints Against Trump Administration (NY Times)

09.27.2019 - Immigration Judge Case Backlog Up Despite Quotas, Union Says (Bloomberg Law)

09.24.2019 - Immigration Judge Slams ‘Remain in Mexico’ Tent Courts (Observer)

08.23.2019 - Shakeup of Immigration Court System Threatens Migrants’ Due Process (ThinkProgress)

08.23.2019 - DOJ Increases Power Of Agency Running Immigration Court System (NPR)

08.23.2019 - The Justice Department Sent Immigration Judges A White Nationalist Blog Post With Anti-Semitic Attacks (BuzzFeed)

08.12.2019 - Justice Department Moves To Decertify Union That Represents U.S. Immigration Judges (NPR)

08.12.2019 - Trump Administration Looks to Decertify Vocal Federal Employee Union (GovExec)


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