Disputes over the quality and timeliness of decisions in federal deportation cases are leading members of Congress, judges, and legal reformers to push for changes in the way the top branch of the immigration system — the Board of Immigration Appeals — is doing its job, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The proposals range from increasing the size of the recently shrunken board to barring the perfunctory orders that have become the agency’s trademark in many asylum and deportation cases. In one case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco found that the board was so cavalier in reviewing an asylum plea that it signed off on “a literally incomprehensible opinion” by an immigration judge.
A Mercury News review found that the 9th Circuit has sent hundreds of cases back to the immigration courts because of errors and oversights by the appeals board. The board defends the thoroughness of its work and the success of the Bush administration’s decision three years ago to streamline the agency. Officials cut the size of the board from 23 members to 11 and ordered fast-track handling for many cases to reduce the board’s massive backlog and tighten immigration after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Federal judges have met repeatedly this year with immigration court leaders to address the flood of cases being appealed from the board. The No. 1 target is the perfunctory rulings. The board says it has eliminated its biggest problem: immigrants using frivolous appeals to postpone deportation, a priority given that legal and illegal immigration are on the rise.