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Lawsuit labels U.S. immigration courts as deportation machines

A lawsuit claims that the Trump administration has upended the tradition of judicial independence in the U.S. immigration system.

The suit, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Innovation Law Lab, targets President Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who the groups say exerts undue influence over immigration judges.

Suit contends courts are no longer fair and impartial

The lawsuit says immigration judges answer to Barr and are pushed to deny applications for asylum by immigrants. The SPLC says some parts of the U.S. have become “immigration-free zones,” as courts in 23 cities have rejected 85% of all asylum applications. In El Paso, the denial rate is 96.6%.

Quota system encourages judges to deny requests

Under Barr’s direction, immigration judges must rule on roughly three cases per day and issue decisions within 10 days of a final hearing to receive a satisfactory performance rating, according to the SPLC. The judges can be fired If they fail to meet those goals.

The Center says the system encourages judges to deny asylum requests to meet those performance goals instead of taking the time to understand the facts of the case as well as the complicated laws involved. As a result, many long-time impartial judges have left the immigration court system.

Lawsuit aims to restore fairness for asylum seekers

Both groups say they want to restore an impartial system for asylum applicants and others targeted by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric. The suit asks the federal court to require the attorney general to correct the deficiencies in the system.

The lawsuit also asks the court to issue an injunction that prohibits the Trump administration from overturning impartial rulings on asylum claims. The complaint also seeks to end the quota system for immigration judges on deciding cases.

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