The first piece of news is a “fun” one. The immigration judges have sued the Department of Justice (DOJ). It seems that the judges want to overturn a rule that bans them from speaking publicly on law and policy. Judges are asserting their right to free speech at a time when the immigration system has come under intense scrutiny. Apparently, judges can be disciplined or even fired for talking about immigration-related issues.
It will be very interesting to see the outcome. Judges have increasingly been complaining that the Trump policies are effecting their jobs. The DOJ has limited their authority and taken away much of their Independence. Now, it looks like the judges are fighting back.
Another update is that most immigration courts will reopen July 20, 2020. Some are already open, but those are the courts with less traffic. I am not sure what will happen in Los Angeles courts given the COVID numbers in Los Angeles county. I would not be surprised if the reopening of the Los Angeles courts gets postponed further.
A smaller wins comes from the 7th Circuit. (Meza Morales v Barr). The case has few points but one thing that caught my attention dealt with the judge’s authority to administratively close cases. Administrative closure is a procedural device that temporarily takes a removal case off of an immigration judge’s calendar, preventing it from moving forward. Immigration judges used this procedure for a variety of reasons, including to permit a noncitizen to pursue alternative relief—such as a U visa or family petitions—from USCIS. In 2018, the Attorney General took it upon himself to get rid of this procedure and thereby put additional pressure on judges to “complete” cases, no matter the consequence.
The 7th Circuit disagreed with the Attorney General. The Court concluded that immigration regulations on its face give immigration judges broad authority. The regulations permit the discretionary exercise of “any action” that is “appropriate and necessary for the disposition of cases, and administrative closure is plainly
an action that may be “appropriate and necessary.”
While this case does not control in the 9th Circuit which has jurisdiction over California, it is one more step in giving the judges more independence. Hopefully, more circuits will follow the 7th Circuit’s lead.
Another piece of good news is that USCIS has announced that it began conducting limited naturalization ceremonies in May and began to fully resume ceremonies in early June, after temporarily pausing in-person services to due to the spread of COVID-19. USCIS naturalized approximately 65,000 people in June and anticipates completing nearly all postponed naturalization ceremonies by the end of July. So if you have been waiting a while, look like you may be in luck!!
In another victory, the DC District Court invalidated the Trump Administration rule that makes individuals seeking asylum at the southern border categorically ineligible for asylum unless they first applied for similar protection in a third country they transited through (other than the country they fled) and were rejected there. The Court concluded that the government did not comply with the “APA’s notice-and-comment requirements because neither the “good cause” nor the “foreign affairs function” exceptions are satisfied” This is good news for the time being, but the Administration can always try again.