Wednesday, November 1, 2017

CONYERS Statement For The Hearing On "Oversight Of The Executive Office For Immigration Review,: Before The Subcommittee On Immigration And Border Security

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representives
John Conyers, Jr.
Before we begin today’s hearing, I want to note the passing of Juan Osuna, who served as the Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and who testified before this Subcommittee in that capacity. 

Mr. Osuna was a model public servant who devoted the last 17 years of his extraordinary life to the Department of Justice.  He was a consummate professional known for his great leadership and ability to balance access to justice with court efficiency.  I am sure he is deeply missed by the Department and his colleagues.

Now, turning to the focus of today’s hearing, we have an important opportunity to consider the current challenges facing the Executive Office for Immigration Review, particularly under the current Administration.

To begin with, it appears that anti-immigrant ideology, rather than the rule of law, is guiding immigration court policies under the Trump Administration. 

After all, since the earliest days of his campaign, now-President Trump has shown troubling disregard for that rule.  He has attacked the judiciary; issued an unprecedented pardon of a sheriff convicted of criminal contempt of court; and fired the FBI Director during an ongoing investigation by that agency into his own campaign.

Unfortunately, the Executive Office for Immigration Review appears to have not escaped this broad erosion of rule of law principles based on the Administration’s policies that threaten judicial independence, due process, and fundamental fairness within our immigration courts.

First, media accounts report that the Trump Administration could impose numerical and time-based case quotas on Immigration Judges. 

All of us – Democratic and Republican alike – support commonsense measures for reducing immigration court backlogs.  But quotas are not the solution.  Their implementation would force already overstretched judges to hurry through lengthy dockets regardless of the circumstances of individual cases. 

Hearings would become lightning fast, fundamentally unfair, and devoid of due process. In short, a quota system would turn immigration courts into a forced march toward deportation.

Second, the Administration issued a memorandum effectively pressuring judges to deny motions for continuances, which often represent a vulnerable immigrant’s only chance for obtaining counsel essential to protecting his or her rights. 
Together with case quotas, this will force many respondents, even young children, to face Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutors without counsel, which all but ensures their unjust removal.

Third, the Executive Office for Immigration Review has moved to strip children in immigration proceedings of other vital protections. 
In a callous break with prior policy, the agency’s Office of General Counsel issued an opinion concluding that Immigration Judges may revoke minors’ “Unaccompanied Alien Child” status and associated legal safeguards.  As with the first two measures, this will substantially increase removals of minors.

The common denominators among these three measures are clear: far less due process and fairness, far more deportations, which is anything but the rule of law.

Instead, these policies undermine that rule in the service of the President’s anti-immigrant ideology intended to drive immigrants out of the United States. 

Our task today must be to gain a greater understanding of how this Administration’s  Executive Office for Immigration Review policies concretely advance that agenda and how they serve to further his mass deportation plan.

I thank Acting Director James McHenry for his appearance before the Subcommittee and look forward to a substantive dialogue with him on these critical matters.

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