Justice Department is developing plans to temporarily reassign
immigration judges from around the country to 12 cities to speed up
deportations of illegal immigrants who have been charged with crimes,
according to two administration officials.
many judges will be reassigned and when they will be sent is still
under review, according to the officials, but the Justice Department has
begun soliciting volunteers for deployment.
targeted cities are New York; Los Angeles; Miami; New Orleans; San
Francisco; Baltimore, Bloomington, Minnesota; El Paso, Texas; Harlingen,
Texas; Imperial, California; Omaha, Nebraska and Phoenix, Arizona. They
were chosen because they are cities which have high populations of
illegal immigrants with criminal charges, the officials said.
spokeswoman for the Justice Department's Executive Office of
Immigration Review, which administers immigration courts, confirmed that
the cities have been identified as likely recipients of reassigned
immigration judges, but did not elaborate on the planning.
plan to intensify deportations is in line with a vow made frequently by
President Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year to deport more
illegal immigrants involved in crime.
Department of Homeland Security asked for the judges' reshuffle, an
unusual move given that immigration courts are administered by the
Department of Justice. A Homeland Security spokeswoman declined to
comment on any plan that has not yet been finalized.
an executive order signed by Trump in January, illegal immigrants with
pending criminal cases are regarded as priorities for deportation
whether they have been found guilty or not.
is a departure from former President Barack Obama's policy, which
prioritized deportations only of those convicted of serious crimes.
The policy shift has been criticized by
advocate groups who say it unfairly targets immigrants who might
ultimately be acquitted and do not pose a threat.
The cities slated to
receive more judges have more than half of the 18,013 pending
immigration cases that involve undocumented immigrants facing or
convicted of criminal charges, according to data provided by the Justice
Department's Executive Office of Immigration Review.
than 200 of those cases involve immigrants currently incarcerated,
meaning that the others have either not been convicted or have served
their sentence. The Justice Department did not provide a breakdown of
how many of the remainder have been convicted and how many are awaiting
As part of the Trump
administration crackdown on illegal immigrants, the Justice Department
is also sending immigration judges to detention centers along the
southwest border. Those temporary redeployments will begin Monday.
'AIMLESS DOCKET RESHUFFLING'
Former immigration judge and
chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Schmidt said the Trump
administration should not assume that all those charged with crimes
would not be allowed to stay in the United States legally.
seems they have an assumption that everyone who has committed a crime
should be removable, but that's not necessarily true. Even people who
have committed serious crimes can sometimes get asylum," Schmidt said.
also questioned the effectiveness of shuffling immigration judges from
one court to another, noting that this will mean cases the judges would
have handled in their usual courts will have to be rescheduled. He said
that when he was temporarily reassigned to handle cases on the southern
border in 2014 and 2015, cases he was slated to hear in his home court
in Arlington, Virginia had to be postponed, often for more than a year.