around the bar
January 26, 2010

ABA to Release Report on Problems in Immigration Adjudication System

Why is today’s immigration court system functioning so poorly? What are the greatest pressure points on its operation?  What should be the most urgent priorities for reform?  A new, comprehensive study of the immigration adjudication process has been prepared for the _, leading the association to consider a host of policy changes to fix the currently overwhelmed system.

The nearly 500-page report, prepared pro bono by the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP, is titled “Reforming the Immigration System: Proposals to Promote Independence, Fairness, Efficiency, and Professionalism in the Adjudication of Removal Cases.”  It examines each stage of the immigration removal adjudication system, makes some 60 recommendations for incremental and systemic reform, and is designed to be a tool for policymakers considering legislative and administrative changes to the immigration system.

WHO: ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm
Karen T. Grisez, chair, ABA Commission on Immigration
Andrew Schoenholtz, Georgetown Law professor; member, ABA Commission on Immigration
Lawrence Schneider, Arnold & Porter LLP
Michael Lee, Arnold & Porter LLP

WHAT: News Briefing Unveiling Comprehensive Immigration Adjudication Report

WHERE: National Press Club, First Amendment Lounge

WHEN: Feb. 2, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

The study’s recommendations focus on restructuring the court system, representation of noncitizens before the court, court resources, and professionalism of judges and other court officials.  The study’s recommendations would, according to the authors, make the American immigration adjudication system more independent, fair, efficient, and professional.

The report offers a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive and comparative review of federal adjudication systems that could serve as models for a restructuring, and recommends an independent Article I court system as the best vehicle for reform.  Additionally, the study calls for a right to representation in adversarial removal proceedings, the hiring of approximately 100 additional immigration judges, more written decisions, and limitations on videoconference hearings.

The report also proposes eliminating initial clogs in the system by enabling all eligible noncitizens to adjust status while in the United States or at least eliminating bars to reentry; allowing asylum officers to review asylum claims raised by noncitizens who are subject to expedited removal; and increasing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by Department of Homeland Security officers and lawyers.  The report also recommends amending the current overly broad definition of “aggravated felony;” and curtailing administrative removal and expedited removal processes and mandatory detention and increasing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by Department of Homeland Security officers and lawyers.

The ABA will take up a number of the recommendations days after the release of the report during its Midyear Meeting in Orlando, Fla.  The study represents the opinions of the authors and editors and should not be construed to be those of either the _ or the Commission on Immigration unless or until adopted pursuant to the bylaws of the association.

Arnold & Porter committed a 50-person legal team, led by partner Lawrence Schneider, to the project at the request of the ABA Commission on Immigration.

Learn More About:  Immigration