The Trump administration has introduced production quotas for immigration judges in an effort to reduce enormous court backlogs, raising concern among judges and attorneys that decisions may be unfairly rushed. The Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review said judges must complete 700 cases a year to earn a satisfactory grade. The standards, which take effect Oct. 1, include six other measures indicating how much time the department's approximately 350 judges should spend on different types of cases and court motions. The measures outlined in a performance plan seen by the AP are highly specific. A judge who completes more than 560 cases a year but fewer than 700 "needs improvement." Deciding fewer than 560 cases a year is deemed unsatisfactory.
The move, while significant, didn't come as a surprise. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oversees immigration courts, has sought major changes to the long-clogged courts as a sharp increase in deportation arrests under President Trump has pushed the backlog above 650,000 cases. In December, Sessions wrote judges that performance measures would aid in "the efficient and timely completion of cases and motions" while maintaining fairness. The National Immigration Judges Association strongly opposes the numerical targets and will explore options under federal labor law, says judge Dana Leigh Marks, a union spokeswoman. "We believe the imposition of numerical performance metrics is completely, utterly contrary to judicial independence," says Marks. "We believe assessing quality is fine, not quantity."