Responding to pleas from immigration judges and lawyers who say U.S. immigration courts are faltering under a crushing caseload, the American Bar Association has called for Congress to scrap the current system and create a new, independent court for immigration cases, the New York Times reports. The ABA endorsed a recommendation for a separate immigration court system that would be similar to federal courts that decide tax cases.
Critics cited immigration courts besieged with new cases from an intensified federal crackdown on illegal immigration; they also doubt the courts' impartiality. The lawyers described the courts' condition in a report of more than 1,500 pages last week. The immigration courts are part of the Department of Justice, not the federal judiciary, and the judges, although they wear robes and sit in formal courtrooms, are employees of the attorney general. Congress has debated since 2006 an overhaul of the immigration system that would include measures to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, proposals for fixing the courts have been largely ignored. Last year, 231 immigration judges heard more than 300,000 cases, an average of more than 1,200 for each judge, three times the load of federal district judges.