Judges across the country rolled out the welcome mat for the Biden Administration’s decision to nix the quotas. The Department of Justice halted the unpopular quota system in its tracks to mitigate the untenable burden placed upon the caseloads of already overworked immigration judges. With more than 1 million cases going nowhere fast, including tens of thousands in California, incorporating quotas further exacerbated their plight.
Effects of the quotas
Immigration judges did not hide their frustrations with the previous administration’s quota system, arguing that its priority was misplaced. In its effort to alleviate the years-long backlog, its goal of expediency clashed head-on with that of due process. Under the weight of mass production, these judges did not have time to give their immigration cases the fair consideration that they deserved. Inherent in the hasty decision-making process was the potential for unfair outcomes due to the inability to thoroughly investigate the cases.
Pressing the reset button
Evaluating these judges’ performance based solely on numbers did not accurately measure their work output, and the DOJ has enacted changes to reverse this faulty benchmark. Although not fully disclosed, the new protocols are starkly different from those of its predecessors. While awaiting the big reveal, the hope is to implement initiatives that will balance judges’ real-life workloads with metrics that correspond to the depth of their workload requirements.
Moving forward cautiously
The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges is happy about bidding goodbye to quotas. She stated, “We now await the opportunity for management to recognize NAIJ and work with us to establish appropriate measures for the agency to assess its productivity and ensure due process for the parties before us and judges themselves.”
Although removing quotas from the equation is a step in the right direction, the path forward is laden with stumbling blocks. With so many cases to be decided and a relatively low number of immigration judges to do so, there is no quick fix to clearing the backlog. Forging ahead, however slow, is still a sign of progress.