President Trump has signed an executive order that changes the way administrative law judges are hired. Trump’s executive order eliminates exams and competitive hiring processes for administrative law judges, and leaves hiring authority to agency heads, reports the ABA Journal. There are about 1,900 administrative law judges in the federal government, but the vast majority of them work for the Social Security administration, according to the Washington Post. According to a member of Trump’s staff, the only requirement to become an administrative law judge is an active bar license or a state judgeship.
A federal judge in California has denied the Trump administration’s request to hold migrant families in custody long-term, the Associated Press reports. US District Judge Dolly Gee called the administration’s request a “cynical attempt” to undermine a longstanding court settlement. The Justice Department had asked the judge to modify a 1997 settlement to allow the government to hold undocumented immigrant families for longer terms. Judge Gee rejected a similar request from the Obama administration three years ago. Her ruling then said that immigrant children couldn’t be held in custody for more than 20 days. The Justice Department says it’s reviewing the judge’s decision and hasn’t decided yet whether to appeal. More on the judge’s decision is also available at the Washington Post.
While the Trump administration scrambles to reunite immigrant children separated from their parents at the border, it is taking other measures to change the existing legal immigration system. In this podcast from NPR, New York immigration lawyer Cheryl David talks about how the immigration process has been changed by the Trump administration:
The president has signed numerous executive orders in the name of national security safety – the other notion of buy American, hire American. So everything is, you know, vetted more strongly than it was before, probably unnecessarily because we had some very good procedures in place. In October of 2017, the administration had indicated that we are now going to have to interview every applicant applying for a green card. So previously, employment-based cases, for the most part, weren’t interviewed. Now they’re in the queue for interviewing. So that’s set family-based immigration back tremendously.
The Trump administration’s plans around family separation and reunification of separated family members have been hidden from the public and Freedom of Information Act requests for information about their policies and procedures have gone unanswered. In response, the American Immigration Council filed a lawsuit today on behalf of a coalition of immigration groups demanding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) release policies, guidance, and data regarding the practice of family separation.
The lawsuit, filed by the Council and international law firm WilmerHale in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asks the court to compel the agencies to produce documents in response to FOIA requests submitted in April. The requests, filed by the Council, in collaboration with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, National Immigrant Justice Center, Kids in Need of Defense, Women’s Refugee Commission, and WilmerHale asked for information including but not limited to:
1. Records related to any past, current, or planned policy, guidance, or recommendations regarding the separation of families who arrive at the border, including ports of entry.
2. Systems for tracking children and adult family members who are separated.
3. Policies and protocols related to efforts to reunite separated family members.
4. Training of ICE and CBP officers regarding screening of adult family members for referral for criminal prosecution for immigration violations.
5. Training regarding treatment of family members and minor children in ICE or CBP custody who have been separated.
6. Practices and protocols for coordinating communication (telephonic, video, or in-person) between a detained adult family member and a related minor child, following separation.
7. Coordination among CBP, ICE, DHS, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice regarding the processing and handling of the separation of adult family members from related minor children.
8. Practices or protocols for verifying a family relationship prior to or after separation.
9. Data regarding the number of minor children separated from adult family members; the number of referrals of adult family members for criminal prosecution where families were separated; the number of referrals for credible fear interviews after separation; and the number of children and parents who departed the United States after separation.
10. Complaints received by the agencies regarding the separation of families.
“The government has taken thousands of immigrant children—including infants—from their parents yet there is no known system for how this vulnerable population is being managed and when the parents can expect to be reunited with their children—if ever,” said Emily Creighton, the Council’s deputy legal director. “This lawsuit intends to uncover documents supporting the policies that the government would rather remain hidden from view. Among them are justifications for family separation, communication among agencies detailing coordinated efforts to separate families, and comprehensive data showing the systemic implementation of family separation and removal.”
While some members of the Trump administration have denied that separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border is part of a bargaining strategy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the policy is being used as a deterrent. Sessions’ “zero-tolerance” policy that takes migrant children away from their parents is being criticized by a bipartisan group of more than 70 former US attorneys. Polls show two-thirds of Americans do not support the Trump administration policy.
A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration’s ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was “arbitrary and capricious,” and the program should be restarted. NPR reports that US District Judge John D. Bates gave the administration 90 days to “better explain its view” that the DACA program is illegal. You can read Judge Bates’ decision here.
The Trump administration says it will bring an end to the provisional residency status of about 200,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the US since at least 2001, according to the Washington Post. The move means the Salvadorans will now face deportation unless they meet a September 2019 deadline to either leave the country or find a way to obtain a green card. It’s the latest step by the Trump administration to limit the number of immigrants living in the US, either by limiting the number allowed to enter the country or by forcing those without legal status to leave. The Salvadorans affected by the move had been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) after earthquakes ravaged the South American country in 2001.