Wednesday, December 1

Keys for immigrants now that judges can return to “close cases” after decision of the prosecutor Merrick Garland

The “administrative closure” of court cases is good news for immigrants.

John Moore/Getty Images

During the government of the president Donald Trump, the Department of Justice, on which the immigration courts depend, withdrew judges from the ability to “close cases”, a process that allowed them to manage files to avoid accumulations.

That created a serious problem in the immigration courts, since Untreated cases tripled in less than four years to more than 1.3 million.

Now the attorney general Merrick Garland modified that decision of his predecessor Jeff Sessions, considered one of the most controversial decisions and criticized by immigration judges.

What is the change?

The Attorney General’s decision follows the Executive order of the president Joe Biden “Restore faith in our immigration legal systems and strengthen integration and inclusion efforts for new Americans,” which will allow judges to suspend cases or remove them from the active docket.

Now the judges can lay off for an indefinite period of time deportation proceedings, since immigrant cases can continue without immediate effect, while their attorneys pursue other processes.

“I hereby annul the Board’s decision of July 31, 2018 and return the case to the Board to proceed in accordance with this opinion,” Prosecutor Garland indicates about his decision involving the Board of Immigration Appeals ( BIA).

He defends that the administrative closure as “a file management tool that is used to
temporarily pause deportation proceedings “, which benefits thousands of people seeking asylum or other protection.

“It makes sense in immigration due to the fact that there are certain applications and benefits that people may qualify for that require a preliminary step on the part of [USCIS] or sometimes a state court and that action can determine if someone is eligible for a benefit in court, ”Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president emeritus of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told CNN.

It is important for an immigrant to have the advice of a lawyer to follow the procedure and seek that the judge apply this discretionary decision.

Why had it changed

The rule Sessions imposed was part of an order for judges to meet quotas for at least 700 cases per year, a virtually impossible challenge, resulting in backlog of cases.

In addition, the DOJ’s decision, through the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), criticized that there was an “exacerbated use of both the scope of the existing backlog of immigration court cases and the difficulty of addressing that backlog fairly and timely ”.

However, a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data analysis center at Syracuse University, revealed in September 2020 that the “administrative closure” of cases aided processes.

“Immigration judges have routinely used administrative closure to manage their growing number of cases,” said the report.

It also cites, based on data obtained by the Information Law, that the process helped open immigration processes in other agencies to continue their course, for example in the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

“Far from contributing to the delay, the administrative closure has helped reduce the delay (of cases)”, the report says.

The most remarkable part for immigrants that TRAC found is that non-citizens can stay in the US and find legal solutions to their cases.

“Immigration court data shows that immigrants who obtain administrative closure are likely to have followed legal requirements and obtained legal status,” he says.

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