Systemic and crippling court backlogs are a source of frustration for all sides — ICE, immigrants, and immigration judges alike. Administrative closure is a key tool used by immigration judges to prioritize cases and manage their ever-growing case load. It allows a judge to use discretion and allows immigrants to pursue other forms of relief available to them outside of the courts.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken aim at administrative closures by referring a case from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the administrative appeals court, to himself, and has invited comments on four key questions: (1) Do immigration judges (IJs) have the authority to administratively close cases? (2) If so, should they? (3) Is another docket-management tool, such as a continuance, more appropriate? and (4) If the AG determines that the BIA and IJs don’t have the authority to order administrative closure, what should be done with cases that are already administratively closed?
Interestingly, the case Sessions referred to himself is of an unaccompanied minor who was not represented by an attorney. In this case, the IJ administratively closed proceedings instead of ordering the alien removed when the alien did not appear for his hearing. The judge questioned whether the government had provided his correct address and, concerned about the alien’s due process rights, chose not to order him removed. DHS appealed to the BIA. It is concerning that Sessions would pick such a case, of the many available, to review this important procedure. It does not bode well for the future of administrative closure.