White House Purge of Immigration Judges Must End


October 11, 2022

By Dale Wilcox

The Biden Administration, through Attorney General Merrick Garland, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other management officials in the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, continue to politicize and weaponize our governmental agencies to promote their partisan, anti-borders, progressive agenda. Their most recent targets have been immigration judges who they see as not supporting the administration’s political directives, case management objectives, and more lenient policies toward illegal aliens.  

This purging of the immigration bench is an abuse of power which oversteps the legal authority of the executive branch.

Immigration judges appointed by the Trump Administration have received special scrutiny and may be subjected to unfair performance evaluations, charges of misconduct, intimidation, and removal from their positions. The Chief Immigration Judge recently resigned in protest against the political agenda imposed on the court by Biden officials. Two other top court officials were reassigned and two others were pressured into resigning.

In addition, at least six immigration judges have been terminated. One of those Judges, Matthew O’Brien, had nearly thirty years of both public and private sector experience in immigration law, including service as the chief of the National Security Division at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate. He was dismissed after being deliberately targeted by progressive immigration lawyers who bragged about their smear campaign on social media.

Such personnel actions likely constitute violations of federal civil service law and should be investigated by inspector generals of these departments and Congressional oversight committees. At the very least, politically motivated purges of Immigration Judges on ideological grounds violate the spirit of America’s judicial tribunals. American judges apply the law and rule accordingly, they do not make policy and should not play politics.

The integrity of the Immigration Court is at stake and responsible officials should be held accountable for illegal actions or other management misconduct. Americans have a right to expect Executive Branch officials to obey the laws they were sworn to uphold and to discharge the duties of their office in an honest and upright fashion.

Immigration Judges preside in formal quasi-judicial removal hearings. They exercise discretionary powers as provided by law and are required to exercise independent judgment in reaching final decisions. These decisions are critical to immigration enforcement as they determine who should be admitted, who should be removed, and which aliens should be granted protection and relief from removal.

The politically-motivated actions of Attorney General Garland in this matter are of great concern, as they make it impossible for Immigration Judges to make independent judgements in conformity with the law and the requirements of their positions. To maintain the integrity and credibility of the court, immigration judges must be neutral arbiters of the law. They cannot perform this function if they must – like Soviet bureaucrats – ignore the law in order make politically sanctioned decisions in order to keep their jobs.

The Civil Service Reform Act and the Department of Justice’s hiring policies prohibit political affiliation bias discrimination in exercising personnel actions. The Department of Justice is an Equal Opportunity/Reasonable Accommodation Employer and, as such, no discrimination because of political affiliation is allowed. There will always be a certain amount of politics associated with the legal process. Cases are brought before a tribunal to resolve some type of controversy, that is the essential function of the courts.

The integrity of the Immigration Court is at stake and responsible officials should be held accountable for illegal actions or other management misconduct.

But under our system, we attempt to minimize the effect that politics exerts on legal decision-making, because we as a society view the law as representative of fundamental principles that should not be altered capriciously. The extent to which this administration has injected extreme political ideology into the immigration adjudication process is truly unprecedented.

As we know from current news, federal law prohibits intimidation of Supreme Court Justices by those who politically oppose their judicial opinions. The same restrictions must apply to other judges and to immigration court adjudicators. Immigration Judges should not be threatened or intimidated for resisting the administration’s political agenda or failing to support case management and enforcement policy directives which are not in conformity with the law.

The Biden Administration has blatantly politicized the immigration adjudication system and established a toxic and hostile work environment for Immigration Judges who are not allowed to perform their duties independently without retribution. Ousted judges complain that, although they received positive feedback from supervisors, they were terminated for unspecified “performance and/or misconduct” reasons. It is alleged that upon termination they were unceremoniously ushered out of the building without being allowed to collect their personal property.

The White House’s corrupt purging of immigration judges for their perceived failure to carry out the President’s agenda is particularly reprehensible considering this administration’s flagrant refusal to enforce the law as it presently exists. Normal inspection and admission procedures at the border no longer exist. Illegal aliens who are inadmissible are not denied entry, but are paroled into our country for later processing under current “catch and release” policies.

The Biden Administration gives no regard for the costs of illegal immigration. It continues to promote policies that serve as magnets to encourage the onslaught of even greater numbers of illegal aliens and to subsidize their presence in our country.

An impartial investigation of the personnel practices of the Executive Office of Immigration Review is necessary to restore the integrity and credibility of the immigration court system. It would be appropriate for the Department of Justice Inspector General to conduct that investigation. In addition, Senator Charles Grassley and Rep. Jim Jordan of Senate and House Judiciary Committees, respectively, have expressed concerns about the injection of politics in the immigration system and are likely to call for oversight hearings.

Attorney General Garland, as the chief enforcer of the nation’s laws, must ensure that he and all employees of his department set the standards and serve as models for complying with the rule of law.

Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration

Also published at American Thinker, October 10, 2022.

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