By AMY TAXIN and COLLEEN LONG, WASHINGTON (AP): The nation’s immigration judges are alleging unfair labor practices after the Department of Justice included a blog post from a virulent anti-immigration website in a morning briefing and challenged the judges’ right to be represented by a labor union.
The union representing the country’s more than 400 immigration judges filed a pair of complaints on Friday with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. The complaints will trigger an investigation, which is what the judges, who are employees of the Department of Justice, are seeking.
Judge Ashley Tabaddor, who leads the judges’ union, said in a speech at the National Press Club on Friday that the judges’ jobs are becoming nearly impossible under unfair Trump administration policies, forcing some into making rulings out of fear of losing their jobs.
“In the last three years and particularly in the last few weeks, the Department of Justice has taken big, dramatic and revolutionary steps to dismantle the court and strike, honestly, at the very core of the principles that we as judges and Americans hold dear,” she said.
The judges have sparred with the Department of Justice for more than a year over case completion quotas and limits on their ability to manage ballooning dockets. Tabaddor said the case backlog had reached more than 1 million.
The filings follow a move by the Department of Justice to ask the Authority whether the union should be allowed to exist. The Department of Justice argued the judges are management officials, which the judges disputed, noting they don’t oversee anyone.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Justice agency that includes immigration courts, sent the judges in a daily morning briefing a post from the VDare website with links attacking the judges with racially tinged slurs.
Justice officials said the daily morning news briefings were compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included. Officials have said the Department of Justice condemns anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.
Tabaddor said the judges were never issued an apology for the morning briefing.
The department also has instituted quotas for judges and ended a tool judges used to manage cases, which added some 300,000 cases to the docket, and Tabaddor has said the judges have not been given tools to properly adjudicate cases, like clerks and interpreters, despite more judges being hired.
The judges’ union has asked for the courts to be made independent, a proposal opposed by the Justice Department. Judy Perry Martinez, head of the American Bar Association, which represents more than 300,000 attorneys, said she believes the system should be independent.