Troubling Move By Trump Administration to Decertify Immigration Judge Union

Alexander J. Segal's picture

In what I find to be troubling news, Fox News reports that the Trump Administration is moving to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) [link].1

Although the move to decertify the immigration judge's union involves technical labor law issues, the administration's message is clear, and its effect would be deleterious for noncitizens in removal proceedings and the attorneys who represent them.

Over the last several years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has undertaken several moves which have curtailed the independence of the immigration bench to the detriment of noncitizens in immigration proceedings. Attorney General decisions have almost entirely ended the practice of administrative closure [see article], curtailed continuances [see article], and reversed prior precedent decisions making it possible for victims of private violence [see article] and violence based on family membership [see article] to be considered for asylum. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions established unreasonable case quotas for immigration judges and narrowed the cases in which they may exercise their proper discretion as judges [see blog], while former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein emphasized that immigration judges are members of the executive branch who must follow all lawful instructions from the Attorney General [see blog]. As an immigration attorney who practices before immigration courts across the country, I have experienced the negative effects that these precedents and new guidance documents from main DOJ have had on noncitizens' right to receive the full consideration they are due in immigration court.

With this context in mind, it is evident that the administration's move to decertify the NAIJ is yet another step in a troubling trend. Over the past several years, the NAIJ has not only looked out for its members' personal interests, but also their professional interests — in this case, having the independence and freedom to adjudicate each and every case fully and fairly. In this sense, the NAIJ has been an ally to noncitizens. While many decisions in immigration court will inevitably be unfavorable to noncitizen respondents, the NAIJ has worked to ensure that immigration judges will be at liberty to consider all the facts and decide the case in light of the facts, the law, and their own judicial judgment. Former immigration judges have also taken steps to defend the judicial independence of those currently on the immigration bench.

We will continue to watch and write about issues involving the independence of immigration judges in the weeks and months ahead.


  1. Shaw, Adam. Trump administration seeks to break up immigration judge's union.” Fox. News. Aug. 10, 2019.
Troubling Move By Trump Administration to Decertify Immigration Judge Union