U.S. immigration judges will now have to meet an annual quota of clearing cases if they want a positive performance review, according to new guidelines spelled out by the Justice Department.
As first reported by The Wall Street Journal, the department sent out the guidelines to the nation’s federal immigration judges last Friday.
The newspaper says the order is aimed at ensuring “cases are completed in a timely, efficient, and effective manner.”
There is a backlog of more than 600,000 immigration cases before the federal courts and, under the new guidelines starting October 1, judges would have to clear at least 700 a year to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating.
Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley tells The Washington Post that most judges process 678 cases a year, so having to complete 700 is “not that big of a lift.”
O’Malley said the department understands some cases can be complex and that judges who fail to meet the quota can appeal.
But one prominent immigration judge calls the quota system a “recipe for disaster.”
Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, says “it could call into question the integrity and impartiality of the court if a judge’s decision is influenced by factors outside the facts of the case or if motions are denied out of a judge’s concern about keeping his or her job.”
Tabaddor warned that new guidelines could introduce what he calls an “appealable” issue that could lead to new legal challenges.