Washington, DC — Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to virtually end the ability of immigration judges to temporarily close unaccompanied children’s cases that are being adjudicated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is another ill-intentioned effort to create additional barriers to these children’s ability to access U.S. protection, and to facilitate returning them to danger.
No longer allowing immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to administratively close cases, except in very limited circumstances, means that they will have to keep on their over-crowded dockets cases that are being decided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS has jurisdiction over the humanitarian protection claims for which most unaccompanied children are eligible, including asylum, special immigrant juvenile status, and trafficking visas.
Judges now cannot administratively close a case, and are required to meet case completion guidelines that ties their hands in allowing fair adjudications of applications for humanitarian protection. Judges will not be able to allow their government colleagues an opportunity to review a child’s case to determine if that child would be in danger if returned to their home country. Children may now be ordered deported even though they may have a valid claim for protection.
This decision is one of a number of cases that the Attorney General recently certified to himself for review. These referrals effectively allow the Attorney General to reconsider old decisions and make binding authority in cases previously decided by the BIA. In addition to administrative closure, the cases certified by the Attorney General address other issues of critical importance to the adjudication of children’s claims, including the ability of immigration judges to grant continuances, the availability of asylum to those seeking protection based on membership in a “particular social group,” and the ability of asylum applicants to provide oral testimony in support of their applications.
“It is clear that the Attorney General has taken on these cases to profoundly limit protections for children,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “The Trump Administration continues to target immigrant and refugee children and families in appalling ways. The impact on KIND’s young clients of all these actions continues to be devastating, but we will continue to do all we can to ensure the children we serve have fair access to protection and due process despite every effort by the Administration to destroy these basic rights.”
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990