Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a new class of immigration judges Monday they are the country’s defense against open borders policies and activist lawyers trying to twist the law in favor of migrants.
The new class contains 44 new immigration judges — the largest group in history — to bolster the ranks, at a time when the judges are increasingly the front lines of the immigration debate.
They rule on asylum requests and deportation cases, and massive backlogs in both of those streams of cases have led to chaos and, Mr. Sessions said, abuse by crafty immigration lawyers.
“Good lawyers, using all of their talents and skill, work every day — like water seeping through an earthen dam — to get around the plain words of the [Immigration and Nationality Act] to advance their clients’ interests. Theirs is not the duty to uphold the integrity of the act. That is our most serious duty,” Mr. Sessions said.
He said that doesn’t mean short-changing migrants their rights, but it does mean being vigilant against bogus claims.
“No great and prosperous nation can have both a generous welfare system and open borders. Such a policy is both radical and dangerous. It must be rejected out of hand,” Mr. Sessions said. “Open borders is directly contrary to the INA, which governs our work. The INA is not perfect, but it plainly lays out a rational scheme for immigration that tells our officers and judges who is to be admitted, how many and under what circumstances.”
While border and interior immigration enforcement gets most of the attention in the immigration debate, the judges are a critical part.
The backlog means that migrants who reach the U.S. are usually released into the interior while their cases proceed through the system, sometimes taking years. Many of the migrants use that chance to gain a foothold in the U.S. and disappear into the shadows, joining the ranks of 11 million illegal immigrants.
Mr. Sessions said one example of that is the asylum system, where in 2009 just 5,000 initial claims were processed. By 2016, that number was 94,000.
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