Im­mi­gra­tion court faulted; in­spec­tor notes ‘flawed’ process

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JERRY SEPER

The fed­eral court that hears im­mi­gra­tion cases and ad­min­is­ters the na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion laws is “flawed” and has failed to keep up with pend­ing cases de­spite an in­crease in the num­ber of judges, a re­port said Nov. 1.

Jus­tice Depart­ment In­spec­tor Gen­eral Michael E. Horowitz, in a 74-page re­port, said the Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice for Im­mi­gra­tion Re­view (EOIR), which de­cides whether il­le­gal aliens should be re­moved from the coun­try and ad­ju­di­cates cases in­volv­ing un­doc­u­mented work­ers, has failed to keep up with its caseload de­spite a $302.3 mil­lion bud­get and more than 1,500 per­son­nel, in­clud­ing 238 judges.

Mr. Horowitz’s of­fice found that EOIR’s per­for­mance re­port­ing for both the im­mi­gra­tion courts, where alien re­moval cases are heard, and the Board of Im­mi­gra­tion Ap­peals (BIA), which han­dles ap­peals from those de­ci­sions, was so flawed that Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials were un­able to de­ter­mine how well im­mi­gra­tion cases and ap­peals were be­ing pro­cessed or iden­ti­fy­ing needed im­prove­ments.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors also said some im­mi­gra­tion cases and ap­peals took long to com­plete; per­for­mance re­ports were in­com­plete and over­stated ac­tual ac­com­plish­ments; and EOIR did not ac­cu­rately re­port the time it took to com­plete cases.

The re­port con­cluded that the to­tal num­ber of cases re­solved by the im­mi­gra­tion courts each year and the to­tal time those cases re­mained in the court sys­tem over­all were not read­ily ap­par­ent in EOIR’s per­for­mance re­ports.

In ad­di­tion, the re­port said, in­ves­ti­ga­tors found that EOIR re­ported ad­min­is­tra­tive events, such as changes of venue and trans­fers, as case com­ple­tions even though no de­ci­sion had been reached yet on whether to re­move aliens from the United States. As a re­sult, it said, a case could be “com­pleted” mul­ti­ple times.

“Re­port­ing these ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tions as com­ple­tions over­states the ac­com­plish­ments of the im­mi­gra­tion courts,” the re­port said.

Mr. Horowitz said that while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion found no ev­i­dence to sug­gest EOIR in­tended for its re­port­ing to be mis­lead­ing, “sub­stan­tially com­plete and ac­cu­rate data re­port­ing is es­sen­tial for EOIR to bet­ter ad­min­is­ter the vol­ume of im­mi­gra­tion cases, and with­out an ac­cu­rate and com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of how the im­mi­gra­tion courts are per­form­ing, EOIR will be lim­ited in its abil­ity to iden­tify ar­eas that need im­prove­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, from fis­cal 2006 through fis­cal 2010, the over­all ef­fi­ciency of the courts did not im­prove even though there was an in­crease in the num­ber of judges. It said cases for non-de­tained il­le­gal aliens took on av­er­age 17½ months to ad­ju­di­cate, with some cases tak­ing more than five years.

The re­port also said that in ad­di­tion to new-case vol­ume, a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to pro­cess­ing times, es­pe­cially in cases with non-de­tained aliens, was the num­ber and length of con­tin­u­ances im­mi­gra­tion judges

The re­port also said that in ad­di­tion to new-case vol­ume, a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to pro­cess­ing times, es­pe­cially in cases with non-de­tained aliens, was the num­ber and length of con­tin­u­ances im­mi­gra­tion judges granted.

granted. In 1,785 closed cases ex­am­ined by the In­spec­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice, 953 cases — 53 per­cent — had one or more con­tin­u­ances. Each of the cases av­er­aged four con­tin­u­ances and the av­er­age amount of time granted for each con­tin­u­ance was 92 days.

From fis­cal 2006 to fis­cal 2010, the re­port said, the num­ber of new im­mi­gra­tion cases rose from 308,652 to 325,326. At the same time, the num­ber of pro­ceed­ings the im­mi­gra­tion courts com­pleted de­clined about 11 per­cent, from 324,040 in 2006 to 287,207 in 2010.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, ap­peals of im­mi­gra­tion judge de­ci­sions for non-de­tained aliens av­er­aged over 16 months — al­most five times longer than the 3½ month av­er­age for ap­peals in­volv­ing those who had been de­tained.

The re­port also said the BIA is un­der­re­port­ing the time it takes to process an ap­peal be­cause it does not al­ways start count­ing the pe­riod from when a notice of ap­peal is filed. In­stead, it said, in some cases EOIR be­gins track­ing the time pe­riod from when a staff mem­ber is as­signed to work on the ap­peal. The In­spec­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice said that as a re­sult, cases were pend­ing up to 636 days longer than re­ported by EOIR in its sam­ple.

Mr. Horowitz’s of­fice made nine rec­om­men­da­tions to help EOIR im­prove its pro­cess­ing and man­age­ment of im­mi­gra­tion cases and ap­peals. EOIR con­curred with six rec­om­men­da­tions and par­tially con­curred with three oth­ers.

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