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Sept. 11 and the War on Terror, like a steroid-enhanced version of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, dramatically altered the United States' immigration procedures, the New York Times reminds us again today.

Immigration cases, most involving asylum seekers, accounted for about 17 percent of all federal appeals cases last year, up from just 3 percent in 2001. In the courts in New York and California, nearly 40 percent of federal appeals involved immigration cases.

The point of the article is that the country's 215 immigration judges, who now handle an estimated 300,000 cases a year between them (as many as 10 a day in Texas, says one judge), are coming under increasing attack from appellate judges for (in Richard Posner's words) "fall[ing] below the minimum standards of legal justice," showing a "disturbing … lack of familiarity with relevant foreign cultures," and generally acting like jerks. The public-policy nugget:

Judges at the top and bottom of the system blame the administrative body between them, the Board of Immigration Appeals, for the surge in appeals and the mixed quality of the decisions reaching the federal appeals courts. The board is meant to act as a filter, correcting erroneous or intemperate decisions from the immigration judges and providing general guidance. The losing party can appeal the board's decision to the federal courts.

But the board largely stopped reviewing immigration cases in a meaningful way after it was restructured by Mr. Ashcroft in 2002, several judges said.

Mr. Ashcroft reduced the number of judges on the board to 11 from 23. "They just hacked off all the liberals is basically what they did," said Ms. Rosenberg, who served on the board from 1995 to 2002.

Mr. Ashcroft also expanded the number of appeals heard by a single board member and encouraged the use of one-word affirmances in appropriate cases.

The goal of the changes, Mr. Ashcroft said, was streamlining. The board had a backlog of more than 56,000 cases, which fell to 32,000 by September 2004.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Anyone familiar with the system is aware many appeals might simply be done semi-frivolously to buy time for the alien (some of whom had weak cases), which is why speeding up the process was fair game, also aliens with meritorious cases deserved faster hearing.

    But the way to do that is to expand the Bureau of Immigration Appeals. Expanding government is a bad thing but border control and judicial fairness (technically administrative as the Bureau is an executive branch thing) are legitimate areas for government activity.

    But one word decisions are disgraceful in matters that literally can be life and death.

    It is nice to know that Judge Posner realizes that government agencies can be abusively inept in design and performance, though it appears from recent writing that he doesnt apply that logic to, of all things, secret wiretaps.

  2. Why don’t we build a better Gitmo, maybe in the Marshall Islands, where all these persecuted asylum seekers can wait for their cases to be heard, rather than giving them five years to game the system as our present system does.

  3. Why don’t we build a better Gitmo, maybe in the Marshall Islands, where all these persecuted asylum seekers can wait for their cases to be heard, rather than giving them five years to game the system as our present system does

    Here’s my guess: because we are not yet ready to completely abandon the idea that our country is a worldwide beacon of justice and human rights.

  4. Here’s my guess: because we are not yet ready to completely abandon the idea that our country is a worldwide beacon of justice and human rights.

    Comment by: Jennifer at December 26, 2005 02:46 PM

    or, more likely, we’re still trying to put up the facade of being a beacon of justice and human rights by collective self-delusion, while in actuality doing whatever the hell we please to those nasty foreigners. see: Sami Al-Arian

  5. I continue to be disappointed that so many “libertarians” cannot see that borders are offensive: They limit freedom. They are mythical constructs. Etc.
    Let the World, outside the US of A continue to think of itself as “the box.” Let the US of A be “outside the box.” At least let H&R think outside the box.

    Refusing immigrants makes as much sense as putting on a show of refusing to stoop to pick up a lost dollar bill.
    People have value as embryos, but not as immigrants?

    Borders are inflatable Noam Chomsky sex toys.

  6. I continue to be disappointed that so many “libertarians” cannot see that borders are offensive

    I don’t think anarchists get to use scare-quotes when they are doing nothing more than complaining that minarchists are not anarchists.

    Or, well, they do get to, but people will laugh at them.

    Compare and contrast:

    I continue to be disappointed that so many “Christians” cannot see that the angel Moroni directed Joseph Smith to buried golden plates…

  7. Let’s see, I’m sure many of these would-be “asylum” seekers broke the law and entered the country illegally — AND are NOT presenting meritorious cases for remaining in America.

    So, that hardly puts them in a position to criticize the speed or fairness of the proceedings that will determine their fate.

    Those asylum seekers who have meritorious cases but who are being held up in line should blame those who entered the country illegally and who are applying for asylum despite not having any good-faith fear of persecution in their “homeland.”

  8. That’s exactly how due process works. If you’re guilty, you don’t need no steeking ‘due process.’

    Let me try that in some other contexts; all those divorced fathers who get screwed should blame the lousy fathers who appeal decisions, not the courts. Innocent people on death row whose cases get dismissed should blame the guilty people who clog up the appeals courts, not the courts. People who get bad treatement from the IRS…

  9. Even imperfect laws require judges who respect their own authority and the gravity of their decisions. That said, it does seem like bad laws attract bad cops and bad judges to them.

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