In an effort to reduce the growing backlog in immigration courts, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice introduced production quotas for immigration judges. As deportation arrests have sharply increased since President Trump took office, the backlog of cases in immigration cases has increased to over 650,000 pending cases.
To combat this, starting October 1, 2018, the roughly 350 immigration judges will have to complete 700 cases per year to earn a satisfactory grade. The current average number of cases completed is 678, so even the best-case success for this quota would still represent only a small dent in enormous backlog of immigration cases.
Not everyone is in favor of these new performance metrics. The National Immigration Judges Association has come out strongly against the new quotas, arguing that imposing such a quota is biases judgment toward quantity as opposed to quality. Further, some immigration attorneys have voiced concerns that cases will now be rushed through the process instead of receiving proper due process.
VERDICT: It is noble enough, at least at surface level, that the Trump administration wishes to reverse the growing immigration court backlog. However, these minimum quotas do not seem to be a useful approach. As noted earlier, the quota is only about 20 cases higher than the average number of cases immigration judges already see, so even if the average number of cases completed rises to 700 from 678, that would only reduce the current backlog by about one percent.
Additionally, there are valid fears that judges will rush through cases, potentially speeding through cases mostly at the end of the year when the deadline to meet the quota looms largest. Hopefully immigration judges continue to focus on quality over quantity, but a minimum quota may compromise that prioritization.