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PORTLAND, Ore. May 29, 2020 – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Innovation Law Lab (Law Lab), Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project and Santa Fe Dreamers Project released the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s latest effort to undermine the integrity of the U.S. immigration court system. In an attempt to gain complete control of the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Department of Justice reportedly offered financial incentives in exchange for the retirement or resignation of non-Trump appointees. 

“Since taking office, the Trump administration has been determined to turn our nation’s immigration courts into a tool to promote their anti-immigrant agenda. They are fixated on deporting people at all costs rather than ensuring people have a fair day in court,” said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “As is evidenced by this latest effort, they are not even attempting to create an appearance of independence.” 

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Last December, the organizations filed a federal lawsuit challenging the weaponization of the federal immigration court system to serve the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. 

The lawsuit outlines pervasive dysfunction and bias within the immigration court system, including:

  • Regions of the country that have become known as “asylum-free zones,” where virtually no asylum claims have been granted for the past several years.
  • The nationwide backlog of pending immigration cases, which has now surpassed 1 million — meaning that thousands of asylum seekers must wait three or four years for a court date.
  • The enforcement metrics policy, which ties judges’ performance evaluations to the number of cases they decide, which pushes them to deny more cases more quickly.
  • The “family unit” court docket, which stigmatizes the cases of recently arrived families and rushes their court dates, often giving families inadequate time to find an attorney and prepare for their hearings.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org and follow us on social media: Southern Poverty Law Center on Facebook and @splcenter on Twitter.

Innovation Law Lab, based in Portland, Oregon, with projects around the country and in Mexico, is a nonprofit organization that harnesses technology, lawyers, and activists to advance immigrant justice. For more information, visit www.innovationlawlab.org.