Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has recently referred some immigration cases to himself for review. A regulation exists that gives him the power to reconsider cases decided by the Board of Immigration Appeals, or “BIA.”
The cases he will be reviewing could both have a large impact on immigration case law. One case is Matter of Castro-Tum, a case regarding a concept known as administrative closure. Administrative closure is a tool that allows immigration judges to temporarily remove a case from their docket. This often is used when the individual in removal proceedings is eligible for a benefit through USCIS, such as a U-visa, or when certain applications are not available to individuals in removal proceedings, such as a provisional waiver for unlawful presence.
By referring this case to himself, Sessions acquires the ability to eliminate this tool altogether, and it is likely this is what he will decide to do. By eliminating the ability of immigration judges to administratively close removal proceedings, immigration court dockets will become even larger and many individuals who have had their cases administratively closed may see their cases being re-calendared for further removal proceedings. This would require immigration judges to either continually grant continuances while individuals await adjudication of their applications, or issue an order of deportation against someone who may be eligible for relief in the future. But the Department of Justice has already ordered immigration judges to limit the number of continuances they grant during removal proceedings, making it likely that many individuals could be ordered removed who are currently awaiting relief outside of their immigration proceedings.
Many immigration advocates have argued that Sessions is not fit to make a determination in this case because he cannot remain neutral in his decision-making. Sessions has been publicly anti-immigrant, and due process requires a neutral adjudicator, which Sessions is clearly not.
The other cases Sessions will review are related to asylum law: one case states that all asylum cases are entitled to a hearing before the claims are rejected; the other is a confidential case that Sessions has requested briefs on whether the threat of being a victim of a crime entitles an individual to asylum. Asylum is already a difficult form of relief to obtain and often requires the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney to be successful.
Sessions is using his authority over the Board of Immigration Appeals to reshape immigration law in ways that could affect thousands of individuals. While we cannot say for sure what decisions he will make in these cases, it is important to speak with an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions about your immigration case. Contact the Joseph Law Firm to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.
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