A department of justice memo revealed that Pre-Trump administration Immigration Appeals board members were offered buyouts so that the administration can circumvent the immigration court system. The Trump administration’s efforts to stack the board with pro-trump officials who align with the President’s anti-immigrant policies are highlighted in the Department of Justices memos. James McHenry, the director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, offered large buyouts to career immigration board members in exchange for them resigning or leaving their position. The financial and “voluntary separation incentive payments” were offered to “individuals whose positions will help us strategically restructure EOIR in order to accommodate skills, technology, and labor markets,” according to the DOJ memo.
The EOIR is the DOJ agency that is in charge of the Board of Immigration appeals and its 23 member body. The body reviews appeal decisions from lower court judges and set the precedent for immigration policies and oversight. The buyout offers were sent to nine members, all who declined to accept it. The official who revealed the memo declined to offer their name as they fear retaliation from the Trump administration. Mr. McHenry declined to comment on the
matters saying that “the Department does not comment on personnel matters.” His statement continued with, “Any insinuation that politicized hiring has become ramped up is inconsistent with the facts,” the statement said.
Countless officials appointed under the Trump administration as judges, lawyers, and former EOIR members state that the administration has used the board to continue to strengthen immigration control and reduce the number of immigrants coming into the country. Some of the most recent hires have a long history of bias and prejudice. Some complaints against officials go as far as stating they were anti-immigrant. One former judge declined 96% of asylum claims for immigrants. “EOIR does not select board members based on prohibited criteria such as race or politics, and it does not discriminate against applicants based on any prohibited characteristics,” the Justice Department said in its statement. “All board members are selected through an open, competitive, merit-based process that begins with a public advertisement on the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) federal employment website.”
The American Immigration Lawyers Association criticized the Trump administration’s efforts to tap the neutrality of the board members and the buyouts represent a blatant attempt to limit immigration. “The administration is trying to further politicize the immigration court system by packing the appellate bench and is seeking to make room for more handpicked judges with this buyout,” Benjamin Johnson, AILA’s executive director stated. “These latest actions reveal the severe impact of our nation’s immigration system being housed under the Attorney General and only underscore the real need to create an independent immigration court,” he said.
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