Position Statement – 2020
Independent Immigration Courts
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) joins the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the National Association of Immigration Judges, in their support for the congressional creation of Article I immigration courts and the elimination of the current administrative structure for deciding immigration cases.
Currently, immigration courts are administrative bodies that are not part of the judicial branch; they are part of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) with judges that are appointed by and report to the President of the United States. The DOJ not only oversees immigration court judges but it also functions as the prosecutor in immigration court cases and handles appeals from immigration court decisions (the administrative appellate body is the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), also part of the DOJ). This structure creates, at worst, a blatant conflict of interest and at the very least creates the appearance of unfairness and bias in the administrative judicial process. This has an obvious effect on the ability of immigrant women, children and families to have a judge fairly and impartially determine whether to grant immigration benefits without political restraints from the Executive Branch.
WBASNY supports the congressional creation of Article I immigration courts which would function outside of the purview of the Executive Branch as tax and bankruptcy courts do, with appeals going to Article III federal courts rather than to the BIA. Given the current pressure from the Executive Branch for immigration judges to meet quotas and deadlines for speedily adjudicating immigration court cases and removing our immigrant brothers and sisters, it is extremely important that these Article I courts be created as soon as possible.
We also urge law-makers to find solutions to the other serious issues present in the current immigration court system including but not limited to the different outcomes for represented and unrepresented immigrants (highlighting the need for counsel to be appointed for indigent immigrants), the large backlog of cases, and the insufficient number of judges with increasing quota demands.
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) is dedicated to advocating for the protection of women’s and children’s rights and advancing the status of women in the legal profession and society. Our nearly 4,300 members include attorneys, judges, and law students working in all substantive areas of law at the local, state, federal, and international levels. With 20 chapters throughout New York State, WBASNY speaks as one voice to advocate for equal access to justice and gender equality. WBASNY is a non-governmental organization in association with the UN Department of Public Information and holds Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council, thus allowing WBASNY to substantially participate in work to support and advocate for the rights of women and children worldwide.