CNN reported today (Friday, December 27, 2019) that Immigration judges have left their positions in 2019 at nearly twice the rate of previous years with many citing the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies as a deciding factor.

Over the past year, in the heat of a border migration crisis, 45 judges have left, moved into new roles in the immigration court system — which is run by the Justice Department — or passed away, according to the department. That’s nearly double the number who departed their posts in fiscal years 2018 and 2017, when 24 and 21 judges left, respectively, according to data provided by the judges union.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the nation’s immigration system, specifically taking issue with the practice of releasing immigrants while they await their court dates. To remedy that, the administration has sought to hire more immigration judges.

In 2018, the Trump administration issued new performance guidelines for immigration judges that included quotas for hearing cases, with the goal of speeding up deportations and reducing the backlog of cases within the immigration system, the Wall Street Journal reported. The backlog of immigration cases has almost doubled since Trump took office, according to USA Today, from roughly half a million cases to over a million as of September 2019.

While the reasons for individual judges moving on from their posts vary, interviews to those who left in recent months reveal a common theme of frustration over a mounting number of policy changes that, they argue, have chipped away at their authority.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced 28 new immigration judges, bringing the number of such judges to more than 465, a record high. The majority come from government backgrounds.

It remains to be seen what changes, if any, are in store for the court system, but some of those who have already left their posts as judges carry guilt for departing, concerned about who may fill their jobs.

Background

Immigration judges are employees of the Department of Justice, not the federal court system, and therefore must follow the policies and regulations coming from the incumbent administration.