‘There are going to be a lot of spousal abusers who get out there on the street…’
(John Wynne, Liberty Headlines) The effect of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on immigration judges is going to be “absolutely huge,” according to Andrew Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Arthur made the comment during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration on Wednesday.
The court decision, Sessions v. Dimaya, resulted in a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) being struck down, reported USA Today.
The provision made any alien convicted of a “crime of violence” subject to removal from the United States.
Neil Gorsuch, the nominee of President Trump, joined the Court’s liberals in a 5-4 decision striking down the provision due to concerns about vagueness.
Arthur testified that many illegal aliens who have committed violent crimes would now no longer be removable.
Among the crimes for which now they could potentially no longer be deported: manslaughter, assault, battery, burglary, and arson.
In addition, many individuals who have committed domestic violence will no longer be removable, because many of those cases involve crimes that do not have force as an element.
“Unfortunately, I think that one very deleterious effect of the Supreme Court’s decision is that there are going to be a lot of spousal abusers who get out there on the street,” Arthur stated.
He added that domestic violence, like drunk driving and child molestation, are crimes that are never committed just once.
“If you let them on the street,” Arthur said, “I’m afraid they’re going to reoffend.”
The focus of the hearing was the immense backlog of cases in the immigration court system and the resulting strain on immigration judges.
It was frequently noted during the hearing that there are only 334 immigration judges, with over 700,000 pending cases
James McHenry, Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), an agency within the Department of Justice, testified that they had been recently authorized to expand the number of judges to 484.
He appeared optimistic that this would have a positive impact on the backlog.
“Based on the current numbers, it would certainly go a long way to eliminating it,” he stated.
McHenry was grilled by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who strongly criticized the Trump administration’s plan to eliminate the Legal Orientation Program (LOP), which provides basic information and guidance to individuals with cases before the immigration courts.
With the program eliminated, these responsibilities would shift to the immigration judges themselves.
Durbin pointed to studies showing that the LOP made immigration proceedings more efficient, noting that it provides information to people “in a language they understand.”
“You’ve just increased the backlog by denying basic information,” Durbin scolded, adding that he hoped the decision wasn’t “driven by the feeling that immigrants don’t deserve information in America.”
The subcommittee also heard from Hilarie Bass, President of the American Bar Association (ABA), who along with Durbin opposes the elimination of the program.
She did not seem to accept McHenry’s explanation that the program was merely being suspended pending further review.
“There’s absolutely no reason why it should be suspended during that analysis,” she stated.
In addition, Bass noted the ABA’s support for a proposal that would remove the immigration courts from the purview of the Justice Department entirely, and into what she described as an “Independent Article I court.”
Among the benefits of such a court, Bass explained, is that it would be an independent agency and would attract the best candidates for judgeships.
Most attractively, judges could act without fear of reprisal or other political influences.
Bass also expressed serious concerns about the Department of Justice’s plan to reduce the backlog of cases through new performance standards for judges.
She suggested the standards would force judges to emphasize speed over due process and careful decision-making, resulting in a greater number of appeals and only adding to the backlog in the courts.
“Timeliness is important, but not at the expense of due process,” she asserted.
In response to Bass’s proposal to restructure the immigration courts under a new agency, Arthur noted there were significant arguments to the contrary, noting “serious constitutional implications” due to immigration being tied to the United States’ foreign policy, which belongs under the executive branch.
He added that immigration judges need more resources and “bright line rules” to help them determine cases, and that both resources and guidance have been lacking for years.
One point of agreement in the occasionally contentious hearing was that the backlog is a significant problem for immigration enforcement.
“Cases can now take years to be heard, during which time evidence is lost and witnesses become unavailable,” Arthur said. “Further, these delays … repeatedly allow removable aliens to remain in the United States indefinitely, during which time many of them simply disappear.”
The entire hearing can be viewed here.