Immigration Judge Resigns, Citing White House's "Attack on Immigrants"

Within the last few years, the Justice Department and the Trump Administration have implemented many immigration policies and regulations. These changes have affected and continue to affect millions of migrants trying to get asylum. Immigration judge Ilyce Shugall resigned within less than two years after becoming a judge as a result of the repressive Trump administration's policies. Ilyce shares her story in a recent op-ed in The Los Angeles Times.

During her two years as a judge, Shugall realized that most immigration judges were former attorneys from the chief counsel’s office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, former assistant U.S. attorneys, or former attorneys from other federal agencies. As a former immigration attorney and advocate, she brought a unique perspective to the bench. However, Shugall was quickly overwhelmed by how the new policies from the Justice Department and the Trump Administration affected countless migrants. She had become a judge to help immigrants, but the new policies were so restraining that she knew she would be more helpful outside of the Justice Department.

Ilyce Shugall is now the director of the Immigration Legal Defense Program at the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Assn. of San Francisco.

Changes That Affected Thousands of Immigrants in Court

In 2018, Attorney General Jeff Session and the director of the Exclusive Office for Immigration Review began imposing quotas and performance metrics that affected the daily functions of judges. For example, immigration judges were expected to complete 700 cases a year. Judges were forced to schedule three cases every day through the end of 2021 to complete this requirement. This meant that judges were forced to schedule at least two cases in a one-time slot since there were only two slots a day. This resulted in shorter hearing times—preventing judges from making well-informed decisions in the court.

During this year, the Exclusive Office for Immigration Review also announced that they would be prohibiting grants of asylum for victims of domestic violence and persecution that weren’t committed by government officials. However, these weren’t the only significant changes that occurred. Shugall also stated that they weren’t able to schedule interpreters for two different languages in each of the morning or afternoon sessions. They needed to match languages in the same sessions without having the tools to do so. These policies and regulations prevented immigration judges from making well-reasoned decisions during immigration hearings, and it also negatively affected immigrants attending court hearings.

The Trump Administration also announced several new policies, including the right of noncitizens to apply for asylum. For example, the “Remain in Mexico” policy requires asylum applicants to stay in Mexico while awaiting their court hearings. The immigration court policies are driving the administration rather than providing the justice that immigration judges are meant to uphold.

“As more policies were issued, it became clear that this administration’s attack on immigrants and the independence and functioning of the immigration courts would only get worse,” said Shugall.

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