Here's yet another way Trump made life hell for immigrants


Donald Trump-appointed judges deported people in a whopping 69% of immigration cases, according to a new report.

Immigration judges appointed by Donald Trump deported significantly more people when compared to judges appointed by presidents in the last three decades, according to a new Reuters analysis released on Monday.

The Trump-appointed judges issued deportation orders against immigrants in 69% of cases, the report found. That's an 11% difference from judges appointed by the five presidents who preceded Trump, who issued deportation orders in 58% of their cases.

That double-digit increase "translates to tens of thousands more people order deported each year," the report noted, citing the hundreds of thousands of immigration cases heard annually.

Some Trump appointees were harsher in their judgments than others. Judge Leon Francis, whom Trump appointed in 2018, issued deportation orders in 90% of cases during his two years in the position, Reuters reported.

Though immigrants can appeal their decisions to the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Trump administration installed judges on that panel with a history of issuing high rates of deportation, according to the analysis. The Trump-appointed judges on the board issued deportation orders in 87% of the cases, which is notably higher than the 58% cases decided by non-Trump appointees.

The immigration appeals board also overturned approximately 6,000 fewer deportations between 2017 to 2021 than it did the four years prior, the analysis showed.

The reason why the Trump administration was able to alter the immigration judgeships so drastically? As Reuters noted, the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review runs the immigration courts, putting it squarely under the purview of the executive branch and not the judicial branch.

The Trump administration gave James McHenry, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, "more control" over the hiring process, after allowing temporary appointments of judges whose background checks were not yet completed, according to the wire service. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed McHenry, who was his close ally.

The hiring process was sped up in such a way that it worried the American Bar Association, which warned in a 2019 report that "underqualified or potentially biased judges" were allowed to " be hired due to lack of thorough vetting."

Incidentally, the analysis found that 42% of the Trump-appointment immigration judges had no immigration experience, a rate two times lower than the judges previously appointed.

Former Bush administration immigration judge Susan Roy, an attorney who has represented clients before the Trump-appointed judges, told Reuters that there was a "significant lack of basic understanding of immigration law and policy," among many of them.

Trump's relationship with the immigration courts overall was a rocky one.

In 2017, he sent immigration judges on "short-term missions" to the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to speed up deportations — resulting in at least one judge reporting that she simply had nothing to do, according to Politico.

Other immigration judges criticized the former White House occupant after they were prohibited under a 2020 Justice Department policy from "speaking publicly" about policy or the law, according to the Texas Tribune — including specifically speaking about the pandemic's impact on immigration detention. The group filed a complaint in July that year, specifically naming McHenry in their grievances.

"Part of the job of an immigration judge is to educate the public about the immigration courts and the role they play in society," Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said in a statement at the time. "This policy prevents us from doing this critical work, undermining public understanding of and trust in the immigration courts in the process."

By contrast, President Joe Biden is working to reverse the Trump administration's actions, starting with the Executive Office of Immigration Review.

In late January, Biden replaced McHenry with Jean King, the office's chief administrative law judge, in an acting capacity. As Politico noted at the time, the announcement came amid "complaints from immigration advocates who were troubled to see McHenry’s name on the agency-wide list" of Justice Department holdovers staying on with the new administration.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.