×

The not-quite-independent U.S. immigration courts

(This accompanies a Special Report, They fled danger for a high-stakes bet on U.S. immigration courts - see microsite https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-immigration-asylum)

NEW YORK, Oct 17 (Reuters) - U.S. immigration courts are administrative courts within the Department of Justices Executive Office for Immigration Review. Unlike federal court judges, whose authority stems from the U.S. Constitutions establishment of an independent judicial branch, immigration judges fall under the executive branch and thus are hired, and can be fired, by the attorney general.

More than 300 judges are spread among 58 U.S. immigration courts in 27 states, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. Cases are assigned to an immigration court based on where the immigrant lives. Within each court, cases are assigned to judges on a random, rotational basis.

The courts handle cases to determine whether an individual should be deported. Possible outcomes include asylum; adjustments of status; stay of deportation; and deportation. Decisions can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, an administrative body within the Department of Justice. From there, cases can be appealed to federal appeals court.

The Federal Bar Association and the National Association of Immigration Judges have endorsed the idea of creating an immigration court system independent of the executive branch. The Government Accountability Office studied some proposals for reform in 2017, without endorsing any particular model. (Reporting by Reade Levinson)