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20 Sep 2018 08:28 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Jeff Sessions (Image source: Public domain)

 

Jeff Sessions has been very vocal about what he would allow with regards to the laws of immigration. He has, as of late, also spread his desire to immigration courts. Still, Donald Trump continues to attack him, despite them both being on the same page.

 

While Trump continued to voice his displeasure with his attorney general with regards to immigration, Sessions stayed on track with the GOP's message to limit immigrants in the United States.  

The attorney general fought back against immigration judges showing leniency with regards to undocumented immigrants in one decision, while in another he showed that he might restrict immigrants who are waiting to be released from detention while also waiting for asylum hearings.

 

This is all being done as the attorney general works to prove his authority over immigration courts and how immigration is enforced in the United States. The immigration judges' union and national association for immigration attorneys feel his moves are threatening the due process rights of immigrants and judges' independence, yet immigration law enthusiasts feel he's restoring immigration laws the way they were meant to be. 

Trump has repeatedly attacked Sessions, despite having similar views with regards to immigration. He can't seem to get past his attorney general recusing himself from the Russian investigation.

 

"I don't have an attorney general. It's very sad," he said in an interview with Hill.TV. "I'm not happy at the border. I'm not happy with numerous things." 

Despite that, Sessions has been left as the face of the White House's aggressive moves with regards to immigration, especially with regards to his authority to overrule immigration courts. The country's immigration judges, numbering close to 400, are technically employees of Sessions and the Justice Department.

 

Sessions used his authority as attorney general to rule on more immigration cases this week. He also ruled that immigration judges aren't allowed to terminate or dismiss cases, unless the Department of Homeland Security decides it no longer wants the case, or it's proven that an immigrant earns the right to stay in the U.S.  

"The authority to dismiss or terminate proceedings is not a free-floating power an immigration judge may invoke whenever he or she believes that a case no longer merits space on the docket," according to a Sessions decision earlier this year.

 

Benjamin Johnson, the American Immigration Lawyers Association executive director, called Sessions' decision "part of a systematic effort to marginalize the role of immigration judges in their own courtrooms" in a statement. 

"Time and time again the attorney general's actions have shown us that an immigration court system housed under the Department of Justice cannot be one that guarantees due process," continued the statement.

 

Ashley, Tabaddor, National Association of Immigration Judges president, sees Sessions' efforts to reign in judges' discretion as "concerning." 

"It's just another way of putting more pressure and increasing the backlog and the pressure on judges to just do more cases and faster with limited resources and limited tools," said Tabaddor.

 

"It's another representation of the improper use of the court as an extension of the law enforcement policies of the executive branch." 

Sessions also showed he might possibly work to keep asylum seekers in detention while they wait for their hearings. He hasn't made a decision yet with regards to this, but referred a case to himself that would examine whether asylum seekers are entitled to bond hearings.

 

In a court ruling from 2005, it was decided that immigrants who pass the first interview and earn the right to stay in the U.S. under asylum law should be awarded a bond hearing and potentially be released from custody. 

If Sessions goes on to decide immigrants aren't eligible for these hearings, many would be kept in detention while their cases are being heard.

 

The Trump administration believes having more immigrants in detention prevents them from sneaking into the country, meaning more will be able to enter the U.S. legally. 

But advocates for immigration believe this undercuts immigrants' ability to fight for protections in the U.S. They believe it's harder to find legal representation if they're already being detained. They also believe that with immigration cases being rail-rodded through, it makes it more difficult for immigrants to build a case.

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