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Immigration judge retires because Trump is turning courts into ‘politburo rubber stamp’

Pressure on judges from Justice Department has reportedly resulted in excessive workloads and backlog of cases

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 03 March 2020 12:21 GMT
Trump's border chief quizzed on reported employment of undocumented workers

An immigration judge in Philadelphia has stepped down from the bench early citing pressure from the Trump administration, which he says is turning the Immigration Court into a “politburo rubber stamp”.

Speaking to the Philadephia Inquirer, Judge Charles Honeyman described how he left the bench earlier than he had planned after the government began taking a harder line on immigration and deportation cases.

“At some point I was just not comfortable,” he told the paper.

Judge Honeyman is now joining the immigration law firm of Solow, Isbell, & Palladino, which specialises in immigration cases. There, he will provide litigation advice to clients facing deportation.

Immigrants subject to removal cases often struggle to gain legal representation in the court system, with up to two thirds going into their cases without counsel — radically reducing their chances of remaining in the US.

The Immigration Court system sits outside the judiciary and is governed instead by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. That means it is subject to direct political pressure from the administration, including instructions from the attorney general, whose interpretation of the law immigration judges are meant to follow.

At the moment, there is a backlog of one million cases awaiting processing. The Trump administration has put immigration judges under a 700 cases-per-year quota, but immigration rights groups have said the backlog is caused not by the workings of the courts but by the government’s increasingly harsh policies.

The Trump administration has lately announced even tougher measures to crack down on undocumented immigrants already living in the US, including deploying tactical ICE teams to so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to assist the authorities in immigration enforcement.

Philadelphia is one such city, and recently won a case against the Department of Justice after it threatened to withhold millions of dollars in federal funds for law enforcement unless the city complied with new enforcement requirements.

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