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Immigration Advocates Applaud End of Performance Metrics for Immigration Judges

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Innovation Law Lab (Law Lab) released the following statement in response to the Department of Justice’s decision to end Trump-era case completion quotas for immigration judges. The elimination of the performance metrics was one of the key goals of Las Americas v. Biden, a pending lawsuit brought by these organizations, as well as Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, and Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which seeks to create a fairer immigration court system.
“Everyone in the United States, regardless of their immigration status, is entitled to a fair day in court. Today’s decision is a small but important step towards guaranteeing that fundamental right.
“U.S. immigration courts are vulnerable to political manipulation and subject to the whims of presidential administrations because they are housed within a law enforcement agency — the Department of Justice — and overseen by political appointees. While in office, the Trump administration took advantage of those structural weaknesses and used our nation’s immigration courts as a tool to promote its anti-immigrant agenda. The case completion quotas were a particularly damaging Trump administration policy that focused on deporting people at all costs rather than ensuring individualized case-by-case adjudication.
"While SPLC and Law Lab applaud the decision to do away with the Trump-era performance metrics, it is long past time for these courts to be moved out from under the control of political actors.
“We will be closely monitoring any new evaluation measures implemented by the administration to be sure they are not just a rebranding of Trump’s performance metrics, as was the case with Biden’s Dedicated Docket replacing Trump’s prior directive prioritizing cases of families in removal proceedings. We urge the Biden administration to use evaluation tools truly designed to measure and improve the quality of adjudication provided by our immigration courts and protect the rights of people in immigration court proceedings.”
Las Americas v. Biden, filed in December 2019, challenges the longstanding mismanagement of the federal immigration court system and its weaponization to serve the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. Among other things, the lawsuit seeks an end to the use of Trump-era performance metrics, which tied judges’ performance evaluations (and thus their job security) to their speed, incentivizing quick decisions and penalizing individualized due process. The suit also outlines other aspects of the pervasive dysfunction and bias within the immigration court system including the nationwide backlog of pending immigration cases, which has now reached nearly 1.5 million and the lack of impartial adjudication.