The National Association of Immigration Judges is calling for the addition of more judges to tackle a massive backlog of immigration cases. The call comes amid suggestions by President Trump that the legal process for asylum-seekers should be thrown out entirely.
Amid intense attention to the status of immigrants who cross into the U.S. illegally, a debate has arisen about whether to increase the number of judges to adjudicate their cases—and if so, by how much.
President Donald Trump has made the case repeatedly that there should be no due process for those who illegally cross the border, reflecting a recent hard-line stance that became a flashpoint as the administration faced criticism over a since-rescinded child-separation policy last week.
But in a recent interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish, Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, pushed back against the idea that the immigration courts themselves are the problem.
“We believe that the problem that we’ve been dealing with with the immigration court has been years and years of lack of adequate budgeting,” Tabaddor said. “We have had to deal with a ballooning budget for law enforcement agencies that deal with immigration that has not been matched by the immigration court.”
The immigration courts are facing a backlog of more than 700,000 cases, according to a recent New York Times report. Noting that there are 334 immigration judges today, Tabbador said the system needs “at least 1,000 or 1,200 judges to be able to combat” the backlog.
NAIJ has gained some support from Republican lawmakers. Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) introduced legislation that would provide funding to double the number of immigration judges to 750 and require expedited review, within 14 days, of asylum cases.
Meanwhile, a Justice Department plan announced in April that would implement case quotas for immigration judges would make matters worse, Tabbador told NPR.
“We have been functioning under less resources trying to do more with less for years and years. In Baltimore, I believe the last time I looked we had 31,000 cases for five judges,” Tabaddor said. “To try to even imply through imposition of these quotas and deadlines that somehow judges need to be incentivized to do more cases and do them faster is frankly insulting.”