On Wednesday, Andrew Arthur of the nonpartisan Center for Immigration Studies testified before the Subcommittee on Border Security of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which was conducting a hearing on the reform of federal immigration courts. According to CIS, the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which is responsible for the nation’s 58 immigration courts, has lacked resources and guidance for years. It has thus been difficult for EOIR to fulfill its mission – “to adjudicate immigration cases by fairly, expeditiously, and uniformly interpreting and administering the Nation’s immigration laws.”
Arthur is a former immigration judge and a current resident CIS fellow. He testified that “immigration judges now face a crushing caseload of more than 684,000 cases, not counting the 350,000 cases that are currently administratively closed . . . That the backlog has grown so large is bad for the parties, bad for the courts, and bad for immigration generally.”
He described implications of the backlog in cases, which include “lost evidence, problems with witness availability, massive time wasted by judges having to repeatedly review voluminous records of proceedings, and removable aliens remaining the in the U.S. for lengthy periods of time,” according to CIS. Removable aliens, according to CIS, frequently disappear while awaiting trial. Arthur expressed strong opposition to proposals to put immigration courts outside the executive branch, emphasizing how important he feels it is to have Attorney General involved due to the role foreign policy and the likelihood that Congress could cut resources in the future if they disagree with its opinions. Arthur recommended improvements for EOIR, which include providing judges more resources and bright-line rules.
When asked by Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) with a specific recommendation for improvement, Arthur said that having sufficient detention space to hold those in proceedings until their cases had been resolved is essential.