Immigration court isn’t like other courts in our country. They’ve long been criticized for the lack of due process, including the fact that defendants, even children, can’t get court-appointed lawyers. Perhaps the biggest difference is that immigration judges are actually employees of the Justice Department, not the judicial branch. And the Attorney General can overrule decisions made by immigration judges. David Hausman of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project writes about how Attorney General Jeff Sessions is using immigration court to deport more people more quickly and waging war on due process.
While some members of the Trump administration have denied that separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border is part of a bargaining strategy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the policy is being used as a deterrent. Sessions’ “zero-tolerance” policy that takes migrant children away from their parents is being criticized by a bipartisan group of more than 70 former US attorneys. Polls show two-thirds of Americans do not support the Trump administration policy.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he is taking away a vital lifeline to immigrant victims of severe domestic and gang violence. Sessions issued a decision unilaterally overruling important precedent recognizing that such individuals may qualify for asylum in the United States. Critics say Sessions’ decision to end asylum for most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence takes US “back to the Dark Ages,” according to The Washington Post. The American Immigration Council has also criticized the decision. The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “From its earliest days, the United States has opened its doors to individuals fleeing oppression and persecution. Today’s decision by the Attorney General is yet another attempt to close our doors. Through our work serving detained mothers and children in Dilley, Texas, we see firsthand the trauma of domestic and gang violence and the desperate need for protection. The Attorney General’s decision—if permitted to stand—will no doubt result in sending countless mothers and children back to their abusers and criminal gangs. Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration.” Sessions’ decision on asylum follows another controversial action that allows the separation of immigrant parents from their children.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ war on asylum cities and states continues, the Justice Department has begun to change the definition of who qualifies for asylum protection. Sessions is placing stricter limits on who can qualify for asylum in America. Immigration lawyers are warning that this could result in thousands of people fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries being turned away once they reach the US. NPR takes a look at how these changes could affect those seeking asylum.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to rescind 25 guidance documents issued by the Justice Department, including some which clarify the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to Disability Scoop. The revoked documents include guidance on several issues related to the disabled, including employment, service animals and access to buildings. Sessions said the affected documents are “improper or unnecessary,” and go beyond the scope of the law. The move by the Justice Department has created concern among some disability advocates. Read more about how the changes may affect disabled Americans here.
Is Attorney General Jeff Sessions contradicting his own earlier statements on immigration? Mark Dow, the author of American Gulag: Inside US Immigration Prisons, says Sessions has misrepresented immigration law. To support his argument, Dow points to Sessions’ time as a US Senator, when in 2012, he threatened to cut funding to ICE. Dow’s commentary is available here at AL.com.
In remarks made at the US-Mexico border on April 11, Attorney General Jeff Session announced the Justice Department’s renewed commitment to criminal immigration enforcement. There’s actually one area where Sessions and immigration advocates agree: more immigration judges are needed to handle a nearly 600,000 case backlog. More details are in this report from Politico. The text of Sessions’ complete remarks are available here from the Department of Justice website.