Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that there are more immigration court judges than ever, a number he intends to see even further increased by the end of the year.
Sessions delivered remarks before 44 new immigration judges assembled at the Virginia headquarters of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees the immigration court system. The group, Sessions noted, was the largest class of judges in immigration court history.
“I’m honored and excited to welcome the largest class of immigration judges in history—44 new immigration judges. Each of you will play a critical role in our legal system, and I have no doubt that you will be up to the task,” Sessions said.
The new class also means that there are more immigration judges active today than ever before. But there are still more to come, Sessions said Monday, promising a cumulative 50 percent increase in the number of immigration judges by the end of the year.
Immigration judges are not elected or appointed; they apply, like any other civil servant, to the relevant division of the Department of Justice. As civil servants, immigration judges are difficult to outright fire, even if their supervisor doesn’t approve of their decisions. And some judges hew closer to the any given president’s line than others. One judge in El Paso has denied 98.8 percent of the asylum cases he’s heard from 2012 to 2017; one in New York denied just 3 percent, according to government data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Since Trump took office, the number of noncitizens ordered deported by an immigration judge has steadily climbed, from just under 90,000 in 2016 to 116,000 in 2017 and a projected 141,000 in 2018, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse data. Under President Barack Obama, the trend was the opposite, with deportations steadily declining after 2009. That’s just one measure of the influence of an administration’s policies on immigration courts.