The Trump administration has requested restarting of thousands of deportation cases that immigration judges previously had suspended, according to data from the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the immigration courts, BuzzFeed News reports. This fiscal year, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has sought the reactivation of nearly 8,000 deportation cases that had been administratively closed — meaning pushed off the court’s docket. The pace of such requests is nearly double that of the last two years of the Obama administration, when there were 3,551 and 4,847 such requests, respectively. Judges generally grant requests to restart cases.
The data were released just a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions restricted the ability of immigration judges to suspend deportation cases indefinitely, a practice he said “resulted in illegal aliens remaining indefinitely in the United States without any formal legal status.” The Obama administration had made a push to suspend cases that were deemed a low priority, like those of undocumented immigrants who had ties to the U.S. and had no serious criminal convictions, using prosecutorial discretion as the courts dealt with a major backlog. In all, more than 300,000 cases have been administratively closed. The move to revive suspended cases “is part of a broad, administration-wide effort to increase deportations,” said Sarah Pierce of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. She said the reactivation of cases that had been closed, many for years, was likely to have a psychological impact on tens of thousands of immigrants. “For the over 355,000 immigrants whose cases have been administratively closed, this is frightening. They have been living in relative peace knowing that they are not in active deportation proceedings,” she said. “Now, under the Trump administration, they face a renewed chance at being deported.”