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Jeff Sessions Tells Immigration Judges: Don't Let 'Sympathy' Stop You From Kicking People Out of the Country

"Your job is to apply the law—even in tough cases," the attorney general said.

Curtis Compton/TNS/NewscomCurtis Compton/TNS/Newscom

Attorney General Jeff Sessions doesn't want America's immigration judges to let "sympathy" for undocumented immigrants affect their rulings.

"When we depart from the law and create nebulous legal standards out of a sense of sympathy for the personal circumstances of a respondent in our immigration courts, we do violence to the rule of law and constitutional fabric that bind this great nation," Sessions told the nation's 44 newest immigration judges yesterday, according to BuzzFeed News. "Your job is to apply the law—even in tough cases," he added.

Sessions warned that immigration lawyers will try to work around the law "like water seeping through an earthen dam" in order "to advance their clients' interests." But "theirs is not the duty to uphold the integrity of the [Immigration and Nationality Act]," he added. "That is our most serious duty."

Sessions' remarks were nothing more than a "political statement," says Dana Marks, an immigration judge and spokesperson for the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ). "It did appear to be a one-sided argument made by a prosecutor," she tells BuzzFeed.

Since the immigration court system is run by the Justice Department, Sessions has final say on who gets to be an immigration judge and how the judges approach their cases. In June, for instance, Sessions broke with precedent by making it harder for victims of gangs or domestic violence to qualify for asylum. Victims must now "show that the government condoned the private actions or demonstrated an inability to protect the victims," according to CNN.

That new policy is a "correct interpretation" of the law, Sessions said yesterday, claiming that immigrants would frequently abuse the system to in order to gain asylum. "We all know that a lot of those crossing our borders are leaving a difficult life," he said. "Asylum was never meant to provide escape from all the problems people face every day around the world."

NAIJ President Ashley Tabaddor tells BuzzFeed that the immigration court system should be independent of the Justice Department. "We cannot possibly be put in this bind of being accountable to someone who is so clearly committed to the prosecutorial role," she says. Immigration cases are currently prosecuted by Department of Homeland Security attorneys, meaning both the lawyers and the judges essentially answer to the Trump administration.

Tabaddor is right. Judges are supposed to be impartial, but the Justice Department just wants them to mirror the Trump administration's hardline stance.

And yes, obviously, it is judges' job to apply the law. Sessions isn't wrong about that. But the larger issue here is that America's immigration system is broken—and that's a problem Sessions shows little interest in fixing.

Photo Credit: Curtis Compton/TNS/Newscom

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  • damikesc||

    Do you want a good sob story to override the law?

    Don't like the law? CHANGE THE LAW.

    Don't just ignore it because "Well, this dude has to pay for his sick child".

  • Paloma||

    Or "the officer just worked a 14 hour shift and feared for his life".

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yup, same principle.

    Sessions is right, and I'm not eager to say that usually. But when he's right, he's right.

  • damikesc||

    NAIJ President Ashley Tabaddor tells BuzzFeed that the immigration court system should be independent of the Justice Department.

    Yes, we NEED unaccountable judges with zero oversight. That is EXACTLY what we need.

    Judges are supposed to be impartial, but the Justice Department just wants them to mirror the Trump administration's hardline stance.

    Was there more of the speech that you didn't quote here?

    Because all he said was "Abide by the law and don't provide nebulous exceptions to it". Which, you know, is what a JUDGE is supposed to do. The whole "not litigating from the bench" thing.

  • BYODB||

    Shit, abide by the law and don't provide nebulous exceptions to it is literally a libertarian position. Guess we're all progressives now since authors here will attack people espousing libertarian thought if they think they're otherwise icky people.

  • JesseAz||

    relying on empathy to change the outcome of cases is a non libertarian position; it is not equal and blind justice. Not sure why you're attacking people here.

  • rocks||

    Hey moron, sessions is telling judges to be impartial and follow the law.

    When judges let sob stories sway them to ignore the law and approve illegal aliens breaking the law, then it is they who are acting unaccountable and with zero oversight.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I disapprove of a judge that defies the law, but the law often has grey areas that a compassionate judge can rightly apply to the benefit of a worthy litigant.

  • JesseAz||

    Good OBL satire.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I case of new rubber stamps would have been cheaper.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Or a case, for you people who insist on speaking English.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    ENGLISH OR GTFO

  • Rat on a train||

    I thought it was English or GITMO.

  • Shirley Knott||

    I thought it was just a typo for Apple's foray into packaging — iCase.

  • Dillinger||

    this.

  • Dillinger||

    apple ruined the letter i

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    iKnow

  • loveconstitution1789||

    iTruth

  • Don't look at me.||

    iget it!

  • ||

    Aye!

  • Mickey Rat||

    Uh, yeah Joe, dispassionately applying the law is the definition of a judge's duty. Sessions is not wrong in saying that.

  • Just Say'n||

    Passionately applying the law sounds too Latin.

  • Rat on a train||

    The police also like to apply the law passionately.

  • JesseAz||

    When you're too passionate about the law you get judicial rape rape.

  • TGGeko||

    Wow, Jeff Session, who's not a legislator, is not interested in changing the law, which isn't his job. Who would have guessed?

  • SQRLSY One||

    Adolf Hitler

    "We have only one task, to stand firm and carry on the racial struggle without mercy."

    Emphasis on, w/o mercy... Meet Jeff Sessions, the reincarnation of Uncle Adolf!!!!

  • SQRLSY One||

    And don't bullshit me... This, too, ***IS*** about racial purity!

    Der TrumpfenFuher Himself has made comments along the lines of, we need more immigrants from the likes of Norway, and less darker-skinned untermenschen from the scheisen-holes of Der Welt...

  • Just Say'n||

    I bet you think giving priority to immigrants who speak English will only benefit people in the UK, too

  • JesseAz||

    You're dumb, bro.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    He's dashing and flamboyant. I quite like it.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Waiting for "Uncle Adolph's Gas and Grill" to comment on this one.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Well shit dudes and dudettes, the internet seems to have lied to me... This is actually a quote from...

    http://phdn.org/archives/www.e.....de/SS3.htm for example...

    Speech of the Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler
    at Kharkow April 1943

    I stand corrected, I think, according to the preponderance of the Internet... Not Hitler, but a big flunky of Hitler...

    Still fits!!! Sessions is a big flunky of Trumpster-to-the-dumpster!!!!

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Feature, not bug. Turns out to be tricky AF to use subjective language examined by subjective humans to deliver objective law under infinite potential circumstances. Who knew?

    http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj.....ythWeb.htm

  • Dillinger||

    >>>obviously, it is judges' job to apply the law

    dude have you *read* immigration law? un-apply-able.

  • Mickey Rat||

    And we have just noticed that immigration judges are part of the executive branch and not the judicial?

    Your complaint might be better addressed to the legislative, if you think that should not be how it works.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "Your job is to apply the law—even in tough cases," the attorney general said.

    Sessions just got a +1

    This should apply to judges declaring drug laws unconstitutional along with sex offender registries and living restrictions unconstitutional too.

    Nobody wants to be seen as fighting for druggies and sex offenders but these laws are no constitutional. The Prohibitionists knew they needed a Constitutional Amendment to ban alcohol and there is nothing in the Constitution that allows for requiring groups of Americans to register with the state or be sent to prison.

  • Tony||

    There's nothing in the constitution that allows for groups of people to register with the state or be deported either.

  • BYODB||

    Why would you care when you specifically don't believe in constitutions? I thought you'd be a lot more excited if Trump was a king since you generally advocate for strong centralized government concentrated into one individual. Odd that you suddenly change your tune when you say you got exactly what you wanted...

  • Tony||

    It's no wonder you're so confused in general.

  • JesseAz||

    Hi Kettle!

  • JesseAz||

    Not every law is directly in the constitution. What the constitution does outline is the series of powers the Federal Government can take upon itself and eventually apply through a federal register of laws and means created by Congress. But I guess under your interpretation there are no laws outside of the constitution.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    NAIJ President Ashley Tabaddor tells BuzzFeed that the immigration court system should be independent of the Justice Department. "We cannot possibly be put in this bind of being accountable to someone who is so clearly committed to the prosecutorial role," she says.

    Asking for a friend, but is this one of those things we believe now but won't believe in 4 - 8 years?

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Sure.

    Also, it's a new thing that's about two year old.

  • Cathy L||

    Does Reason have a secret history I'm not aware of of being in favor of administrative courts?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Taking your comment seriously, I've been skimming Reason for a long, long time and nominally, I'd say Reason would be against administrative courts because it's kind of unlibertarian to have a parallel justice system-- see the Canadian Human rights commission. My question was more for the NAIJ president. I don't have strong feelings about what she said (or believes) but what she said whiffs strongly of something that one believes temporarily depending entirely on who's in charge.

  • Eddy||

    "Since the immigration court system is run by the Justice Department, Sessions has final say on who gets to be an immigration judge and how the judges approach their cases."

    These "judges" aren't judges at all, if they're run by the Justice Department.

    Give them Article III status - don't change their salaries or benefits, just make them independent. Ideally, this could speed up these cases, since there wouldn't be as much need for judicial review if it's a judge you're reviewing.

    But of course I hesitate to press my idea too hard, because I'm sure Congress and the judges would &^%$ it up by prolonging, not shortening, immigration cases.

  • Jerryskids||

    But of course we're only talking about the independence of immigration law courts, it's not as if the whole administrative state and the administrative law system is rotten. Surely there's no violation of the separation of powers principle when you're charged with violating a rule the EPA wrote and enforced and interpreted and you're required to appear at an administrative hearing before a "judge" who is actually a "hearing officer" and an employee of the EPA. No sir, completely fair and impartial and transparent.

  • Eddy||

    Oh, sure, that's totally different because of something or other.

  • BYODB||

    Sheesh, Sessions is right for once. It's Congresses job to make the laws something else if what we have now isn't what they intend.


    I take this to mean that everyone here at Reason is finally on board with setting labor and environmental policy at about the same place as the 3rd world, right? Since that is effectively what they argue for, even while they lie a whole hell of a lot to get to their preferred outcomes. Possibly even more than Republicans and Democrats, and that's impressive.


    Or, could it be that American's are now so stupid that they really believe that they can have their cake and eat it too? I suspect that's what is actually going on here.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    By that standard, we should let our half-educated, unskilled, disaffected residents of left-behind communities deal with the natural consequences of their poor decisions and substandard conduct rather than impose tariffs, fund addiction programs, provide remedial job training, and generally subsidize their general backwater communities and lives.

    Trump fans, as usual, have not thought things through.

  • BYODB||


    we should let our half-educated, unskilled, disaffected residents of left-behind communities deal with the natural consequences of their poor decisions and substandard conduct

    Amusing that you think only American citizens should be treated that way, whereas all of South America should come to the U.S.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Does any statute excuse a president from responding to a subpoena, avoiding civil litigation, an indictment, a deposition, or any other standard incident of citizenship?

  • Eddy||

    It's almost as if you don't like President Trump.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I believe there are statutes that excuses a president from civil litigation. But I'm no lawyer.

  • Tony||

    Whether it's broken immigration or a broken president, the central problem is a Republican party unwilling to be responsible for anything.

  • BYODB||

    So where are the Democrat sponsored spending cuts again? Oh, right, they're simply taken as-read to be irresponsible in the extreme. Only Republicans are held to any real standard because they at least claim to be responsible, even when they aren't.

  • Tony||

    Some day I'll have to introduce you to America, where Democrats have to have "pay-fors" for everything, even saving the global economy, while Republicans promise magical unicorn revenues when they toss trillions of dollars into the black hole at the center of the galaxy.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Hope are those liabilities for Social Security and Medicare working out for you?

    HINT: A unicorn is the only thing that's gonna save them

  • AustinRoth||

    You cannot, by law, indict a sitting President.

    Civil litigation is a grey area. In Nixon v. Fitzgerald, the court ruled that presidents are not liable for damages in civil lawsuits if the litigation concerns their official acts as president. The decision only applied to civil suits in federal court, but legal experts said the ruling has been interpreted to apply to state courts as well.

    But the decision did not address whether current or former presidents are immune from civil litigation over private matters, either in federal or state court., but as a whole, no you cannot not.

    Subpoenas and depositions for actions while not in office have not (yet) been fully litigated, but both seem likely to be allowed if they reach the Supreme Court.

  • BYODB||

    In terms of civil litigation, RE: the Clinton impeachment. You're right about indicting a sitting President, which is why the shenanigans that Mueller pulled are so clearly a catch-22 to create a basis for impeachment.

    Have someone plead to something in court to avoid the issue of actual illegality, and then shrug and say 'but I can't indict, so the only option is impeachment'. It's savvy, but conniving.

  • BYODB||

    Oh, and it should be noted that it's not 'the law' that the President can't be indicted but rather it's the legal opinion of the Department of Justice. At least, that's been my impression thus far from listening to way too many lawyers pontificate on the subject. How it could be that the Department of Justice's opinion necessarily matters in this scenario given that they work for the President is anyone's guess.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yes, just a legal opinion, and not at all firmly grounded in the Constitution.

    Congress is explicitly granted much more limited immunity, and we're supposed to believe that Presidents are given much greater immunity by mere implication?

    The DOJ has a lot of opinions about the law and Constitution which are very poorly grounded, but very favorable to Presidents. Go figure.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    You cannot, by law, indict a sitting President.

    Is that assertion founded upon a statute, an Office of Legal Counsel memorandum, a Giuliani interview, or a tweet?

    Is this a Regent, Liberty, or Ave Maria legal education talking?

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Oh, please, hold tight to this rein of thought. Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    You seem remarkably excited by a question about authority underlying a legal assertion.

  • ||

    But the larger issue here is that America's immigration system is broken—and that's a problem Sessions shows little interest in fixing.

    Half of C. America is a murderous shithole but the larger issue is that we need a bigger boat.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Jeff Sessions Tells Immigration Judges: Don't Let 'Sympathy' Stop You From Kicking People Out of the Country"

    The world has always been awash in shitholes countries.

    In more recent history, some countries have managed to claw their way out of the shit. Some *people* managed to claw their way out of the shit. They managed that through principles and values the others did not have, through cultures that allowed them to claw their way out of the shit.

    The world has always been awash in shitholes countries. Cleaning off the shit is a cultural *achievement*.

    Invite the Shit World, become the Shit World.
    There is no magic dirt.
    Countries are people.

    Reality doesn't care about our feelings. Reality has no sympathy. Reality is ruthless.
    Invite the Shit World, become the Shit World. That's Reality.

    People can be assimilated. Slowly, in limited numbers. But your culture has to have the will to demand and arrange for that assimilation.

    The US did that between 1890 to 1920. It was a culture that despised and rejected hyphenated Americans as Not Americans.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyphenated_American

    A culture that hates itself doesn't do that. Today, hyphenated Americans are celebrated by all the organs of propaganda as more American than Americans.

    Sympathy says help that nice fellow.
    Reality says Invite the Shit World, become the Shit World.

  • vek||

    FACT

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Another stirring meeting of Libertarians For Bigoted, Cruel, Counterproductive, Authoritarian 'Papers, Please' Immigration Policies.

    Keep up the great work, clingers.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    The LFBCCAPPIP. Huh.You'd think we'd have worked a penis joke into there somewhere.

  • Eddy||

    Nope, he does sarcasm, which on the humor scale is below even knock-knock jokes.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    LAME. Pffft.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Keep up the straw men aimed at the wrong folks.

  • Jerry B.||

    "sure. He killed everyone in the bakery to steal a loaf of bread, but his daughter was hungry."

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    So why again are immigration courts not-really-courts but administrative bureaucracies pretending to be a court?

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Neurology + jobs.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Because they're not created via Article 3, with Presidential nomination, Senate confirmation, and life tenure contingent on good behavior?

    Or did you mean, why did they do it that way?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    So, America's immigration system is broken, and you object to Sessions telling judges, (Excuse me, 'judges', they aren't really judges in this case.) to put down the hammer and stop breaking it?

    Look, just because you want open borders doesn't mean that restrictive immigration policy is "broken".

  • sarcasmic||

    Good point. Because there are two and only two choices: current immigration policy and open borders.

  • sarcasmic||

    When the enforcement of the law requires a judge or other official to go against their conscience, then there is probably something wrong with the law.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "We should be ruled by the whimsy of the Deep State"

  • vek||

    I dunno about that buddy. Lots of people have shit morals, and believe in really stupid things.

    If a judge feels bad convicting a cop who shoots somebody unnecessarily, but his conscience tells him he should let him off because the guy he shot was a scum bag... Is the law being wrong there?

    A nation of laws is a nation of laws. Lots of people have mushy feelings about various things, some of which most people might agree with, others most people might not... The law should be soberly considered, and once passed should be applied as written. Lots of things that magic logical sense are NOT the kind of things that emotion should come into play on.

    Open Borders is an issue that tugs at a lot of peoples heart strings. Ohhh the poor children! They don't have iPads! It's so horrible!

    But if we let in anybody from anywhere in the world... Our nation would become a shit hole. That's why people who aren't bleeding heart pussies need to come up with the rules for some things. The nicest possible course of action is not always the BEST course of action.

  • David Axelrod||

    The mere fact that judges have to be told that "sympathy" should not play a role in their decision making tells you all you need to know about the sad shape of America's judicial system. Way too many liberal/leftist activist judges!!

  • vek||

    Good! The law should be followed. I am not a fan of Sessions much at all, but at least this is legit stuff. Most of the people trying to use asylum to get into the US are nothing more than economic refugees trying to game the system. For all the half illiterate ones, we don't want or need them any which way. The ones that actually have skills can hopefully get in through the normal immigration process. So there's no need to be skirting the law because of feelz.

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