Trump Admin Begins Effort to Decertify Union of Immigration Judges

Published on August 11, 2019 by Athena Pallas

The National Association of Immigration Judges has been sharply critical of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, which they see as the motivation behind the administration taking the initial steps to decertify this union of immigration judges. On Friday the Department of Justice filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority asking if the union could be decertified. The Trump administration’s attempted argument in filing the petition is that the members of this particular union are actually management and therefore not allowed to organize into a union. The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Judge Ashley Tabaddor, described the petition, according to The Hill, as an effort to “disband and destroy the union.”

Immigration judges are appointed by the Department of Justice and are also employees of the Department of Justice. While sitting immigration judges are prohibited from speaking publicly about DOJ policies that are seen as political, representatives of the immigration judges’ union are not so prohibited. And therein lies what the Trump administration does not like about the union. As described by the vice president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Judge Amiena Khan, according to The Hill, “This is a misguided effort to minimize our impact. We serve as a check and balance on management prerogatives and that’s why they are doing this to us.” According to The Hill:

The Trump administration has reportedly taken a step to decertify an immigration judges’ union that has been repeatedly critical of President Trump and the White House’s policy proposals. A Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson told The New York Times on Friday that the department filed a petition to the Federal Labor Relations Authority asking whether the National Association of Immigration Judges could have its certification revoked since its members are “management officials” and unable to collectively organize. Members of the union have denounced the move as misguided and as an attempt to dismantle the group. …Khan and Tabaddor have continued to publicly criticize the Trump administration’s policies throughout the president’s two-plus years in the White House. For example, the union in 2018 condemned an administration quota system that required judges to complete 700 cases annually. The judges’ union had reportedly said that the system hindered due process rights for immigrants in court. Tabbador had said at the time that the pressure to take on more cases was like “psychological warfare.”

At present there is reportedly a backlog of some 830,000 immigration cases, which the Trump administration apparently attempted in part to address by imposing the rather weighty quota of 700 cases annually for each immigration judge. However, representatives of the National Association of Immigration Judges indicate that this requirement could hinder due process rights for immigrants and also that there was insufficient support staff to help in moving the cases forward, so that attempting to meet the quota is both potentially infringing on immigrants’ rights and is unrealistic with the resources provided.

Of course the core issue with the Trump administration’s incipient attempt to disband this union is that since only representatives of the union, not the sitting immigration judges, are allowed to speak publicly about the politics of policy, if the union ceases to exist, their criticism of the Trump administration would also cease to exist. Silencing that criticism, rather than an interest in fair labor practices, seems to be the most likely actual motive for the Trump administration’s interest in decertifying the union.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.