Immigration Court Seen by Lawyers as Trump `Deportation Machine'

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration’s new quotas for immigration judges who rule on deportations is straining an an already overloaded system and threatens its credibility, according to the unions representing those judges and the lawyers who appear before them.

The U.S. Justice Department notified the administrative judges under its purview on March 30 that their job performance will now be linked closely to how quickly they close cases, a plan aimed at speeding up deportations and reducing the backlog.

The plan will backfire, and instead undermine a system already fraught with imbalances that prevent many people subject to deportation from getting a fair hearing, said Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges and an immigration judge in Los Angeles.

“This decision is going to invite scrutiny of the court and undermine our credibility," she said. “Petitioners will wonder if a judge’s decision is based on merit or if they’re just trying to meet a quota or deadline.” It may provide grounds for an appeal for any immigrant who loses in court, she added.

President Donald Trump signed a budget in March that increases spending on immigration courts by $500 million while adding more than 100 judges to the system by 2020. Critics contend the administration is trying to speed up deportations at any cost, without considering due process rights.

”Everything this administration is doing is only exacerbating the backlog," Jeremy McKinney, national secretary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Everything’s about speed. They’re converting the court into a deportation machine.”

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