Barr making drastic changes to immigration courts, setting up handful of judges with total control


Attorney General William Barr is making drastic changes to the immigration courts, setting up a system in which a handful of appellate court immigration judges can issue sweeping rulings that limit the actions of every other judge in the system. And Barr is on a hiring spree to make sure that the immigration courts are packed with the people necessary to see that Donald Trump’s will is imposed.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the Trump White House is presenting these changes as “efficiency measures” to speed up the system. And they do appear to be designed to do just that—by making it possible for appellate judges to rule against asylum-seekers en masse, without ever giving them individual hearings.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump declared that “Congress has to ... get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn’t work. And frankly, we should get rid of judges.” Now it appears that Barr is going to do the next best thing. He’s not going to get rid of individual immigration judges. He’s simply going to neuter them, so that any decisions made by those judges might as well be written on water.

Barr’s proposal picks up an idea that was first raised, then dropped, under the George W. Bush administration. It would give a 21-judge appeals court the ability to not just review cases, but issue “cursory opinions” without the need to provide explanations that ground those opinions in existing law. It would also allow small numbers of those judges—even a single judge—to make changes to immigration policy without seeking any kind of congressional approval.

The changes being engineered by Barr do more than get rid of the existing judges; they create a set of Judges, capital J, with extraordinary powers to command the system and determine how immigration into the United States really works, no matter what Congress, or the law, has to say.

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