Merrick Garland restores immigration judges’ ability to pause deportation cases

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland departs after speaking during an event at the Justice Department on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Garland addressed domestic terrorism during his remarks. Pool Photo by Win McNamee/UPI

July 16 (UPI) — The Justice Department on Thursday reversed a Trump administration order barring immigration judges from closing cases they deemed low-priority and removing them from their docket.

Attorney General Merrick Garland ruled that past court cases have shown that “administrative closure is plainly within an immigration judge’s authority under Department of Justice regulations” and that the prior ruling by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions “departed from longstanding practice.”

Administrative closure allows judges to pause cases for people attempting to obtain a green card, seek asylum or otherwise regularize their status in the United States.

“It also has served to facilitate the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, allowing the government counsel to request that certain low-priority cases be removed from immigration judges’ active calendars or the board’s docket, thereby allowing adjudicators to focus on higher-priority cases,” Garland wrote.

Garland, however, reiterated that closing a case administratively does not permanently dismiss it.

Thursday’s ruling marked the third time Garland has exercised his power of certification, which allows him to review decisions made in the immigration court system.

Last month, the Justice Department overturned two other Trump-era rules barring victims of domestic and gang violence asylum in the United States.


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