When the White House issued its broad immigration reform proposal earlier this month, included was a provision that called for imposing numerical quotas on immigration judges. The Administration finds lengthy removal proceedings a constant source of frustration and is attempting to reduce the overall case processing times to speed up deportations. They are considering establishing a baseline number of cases that each immigration judge will be expected to meet, and performance evaluations will reflect a judge’s ability to meet the quota.
While no doubt that this initiative may actually speed up case proceedings, it comes at too high a cost. Establishing a quota undermines the independence federal judges enjoy to handle their cases as they see fit, and it also threatens to weaken due process. That is why the immigration judges union explicitly prevented the inclusion of quotas in their collective bargaining agreement. By imposing a quota judges will find their discretion to grant continuances, consider evidence, reschedule cases, extend hearings to allow witnesses, and perform other judicial activities will be curtailed as meeting the quota takes precedence. This proposal is extremely unwise and probably unconstitutional. The Justice Department, which would implement the quota, has not commented on or responded to questions about the quota proposal.