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Playing Politics With Immigration Law

The politicization of Justice Dept. hiring is not just an embarrassing Bush administration scandal– it’s affected asylum seekers and immigrants. So says a new report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse or TRAC. Using Justice Dept. hiring data, TRAC found that the number of immigration judges have slightly decreased while immigration cases have exponentially increased. This is despite Alberto Gonzales vowing in 2006 to hire 40 new immigration judges.

There are eight fewer national immigration review judges– 202 instead of 210– than there were in 2006. Consequently, one judge has to handle 1,520 immigration-related matters a year, many of which determine whether refugees and immigrants can stay in the country. Judges have complained that they lack time to give detailed opinions and review all the relevant documents.

TRAC says the lack of new hires is “certainly due in large part to political hiring.” By looking for GOP loyalists, Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review left judge positions unfilled for long periods of time. There was also a freeze in the hiring process last year as Justice attorneys internally investigated political bias in selecting judges.

Meanwhile, the number of border agents has almost doubled in the past 5 years. Strictly based on personnel numbers, the Bush administration has gotten tough on immigrants without doing more to ensure they’re getting justice.

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