FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr at the "2019 Prison Reform Summit" in the East Room of the White House in Washington

Source: Kevin Daley

The Trump administration asked a federal panel to revoke the exclusive right of a public sector union to represent immigration judges in collective bargaining Friday.

The union, the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), has been at odds with the administration over substantive policy directives and the independence of the immigration courts.

Federal law defines management officials as “any individual employed by an agency in a position the duties and responsibilities of which require or authorize the individual to formulate, determine, or influence the policies of the agency.” The Department of Justice told the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) that immigration judges qualify as management officials and therefore cannot be members of a bargaining unit.

“It appears that this is the same tactics that the department used many years ago unsuccessfully in an effort to destroy the effectiveness of the union,” the NAIJ president, Judge Ashley Tabaddor, told BuzzFeed News.

The immigration courts are housed in the Justice Department in the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) under the authority of the attorney general. The NAIJ has publicly objected to the government’s efforts to speed deportations and otherwise streamline the immigration system.

For example, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed immigration judges to process at least 700 cases per year to receive satisfactory performance evaluations. The former AG also noted that hiring new judges for the EOIR should reduce docket sizes and the relatively high burnout among immigration judges.