William Barr wants to punish immigration judges who criticize Trump by busting their union


As part of his quest to help Donald Trump break the immigration system, Barr is trying a new approach: decertifying the union of the judges who handle immigration law cases.

It's no secret that Trump hates following any laws when it comes to immigration. He's jailed babies. He's ignored asylum laws. His slapdash border actions have jammed the immigration courts so full there's now a backlog of almost 877,000 cases.

Trump's proposed solution: to bust the union that protects immigration law judges who process those cases. Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) asking it to address whether the judges' labor union, the National Association of Immigration Judges, should be decertified.

That the immigration law judges are members of a union may seem surprising, since they are judges. However, they are actually employees of the DOJ, even though they sit as judges in immigration cases.

With that, it's odd that the DOJ's assertion is that the judges' union shouldn't exist because they are more properly considered management rather than employees. However, that's a peculiar stance for Attorney General William Barr to take, given how much he's been flexing his muscles to control those judges.

Barr has issued a series of rules designed to undercut the authority of immigration law judges. He rewrote rules about when people can seek asylum, closing the door on most asylum claims based on family relationships. He's also expanded his authority to issue decisions and bind immigration judges to his opinions, rather than allowing them to decide cases as they see fit. In short, he's been treating them like employees, not independent decision-makers.

But he's mad that the union members have been outspoken about how Trump and Barr's actions are destroying the immigration process. The union has condemned the administration's absurd demand that judges complete 700 cases annually. They pointed out that the backlog of cases and the persistent lack of resources for judges has the effect of trampling due process rights of immigrants.

Of course, Trump famously mocked the idea of due process and is irked that the United States has immigration judges in the first place.

The judges' union isn't taking this lying down. The head of the union fired back and said immigration judges are trial court judges who make decisions on individual cases and "we do not set policies, and we don't manage staff." The union has also argued that immigration judges need to be independent of the DOJ so they could be a genuinely independent court.

Barr's goal, on the other hand, is to destroy their independence utterly. However, that may be the very thing that saves the union. It's awful tough, when you're ruling your employees with an iron fist, to argue that they're really management.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.