The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] issued a memo [text, PDF] Wednesday outlining policy changes to help combat the caseload backup throughout immigration courts over the past few years.
This memo seeks to address the former policies that added confusion and ambiguity to the immigration court process and according to DOJ spokesperson Devin O’Malley, “contribute[d] to a three-fold increase of the courts’ pending caseload.”
For example, the previous administration eliminated court-based benchmarks for non-detained cases and the subsequent caseload began to increase dramatically.
Other policy changes included prioritizing simpler cases that could be completed in a short period of time over those that needed more time and resources. O’Malley stated, this is “immigration court equivalent of fiddling while Rome burned.”
In addition, according to the DOJ’s memo, less than 10 percent of cases currently pending before the courts meet the standard definition of “priority.” This statistic implies a lack of priority in completing the other 600,000 cases currently before the court.
In order to reestablish efficiency, some of the performance measures in the memo include, 85 percent of non-status detained removal cases be completed within 60 days of initial filing, 85 percent of all motions should be heard within 40 days of filing and 90 percent of custody determinations be completed within 14 days of request.
Concerns over the importance of adjudicating immigration cases reiterates Attorney General Jeff Session’s larger plan from his memo [text, PDF] issued late last year addressing the importance to “serve the national interest by applying those laws as enacted, irrespective of our personal policy preferences.”