US Immigration Judges Clash With Biden Over Union Rights | american immigration

U.S. immigration judges are embroiled in a tense dispute with Joe Biden over their battle to restore union rights taken away from them under the Trump administration.

Federal Immigration Judges Union chief accused Biden administration of ‘doubling down’ on predecessor’s efforts to freeze their association even as they grapple with nearly 1.5 million backlogs court cases and staff shortages, exacerbating due process problems. in their courts.

Mimi Tsankov, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), said she was “mystified” that Biden’s Justice Department would not negotiate with its members despite the US president having verbally bragged about and frequently its support for worker representation.

“This administration has really doubled the maintenance of [Trump] position that we are not a valid union, ”Tsankov said.

Tsankov was appointed an immigration judge in 2006 and is based in New York City, where she also teaches at Fordham University Law School. She only spoke to the Guardian in her union role.

After what she described as “decades” of relatively fluid relations between the NAIJ and the Justice Department, Donald Trump capped four years of right-wing immigration policy by successfully calling for hundreds of judges to be removed. of immigration their right to organize.

The hostile movement was decided by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), a independent federal administrative agency which controls the labor relations between the federal government and its employees, on November 2, 2020, the day before the presidential election.

Despite a Democratic victory and Joe Biden taking over the White House pledging to repair the damage done by Trump, the union remains excluded and silenced with no date set to hear his case restoration attempt its official status.

“I can’t understand it… Working together, as the president said, working with federal employees, working with unions, results in better results,” Tsankov said.

The Department of Justice made clear the way in June for the judges’ union to at least demand their rights back when the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) – the seat of the country’s immigration courts – withdrew its opposition to the NAIJ request for reconsideration.

However, Tsankov said the administration still refused to negotiate. A hearing on Tuesday will pit the union against EOIR as the dispute escalates.

The complaint in question accuses the EOIR of “obstructing, restricting and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights” to organize and “refusing to negotiate in good faith”.

In a formal response to the complaint, EOIR said that “in essence the NAIJ is gone”.

Administration officials went so far as to file a petition to dismiss the NAIJ’s grievances over unfair labor practices, though the petition was dismissed.

Tsankov said in a telephone interview last week: “In good faith, in my mind, would have said that if we really cared about this union, this administration would have started negotiating with us. But they didn’t, so we’re really puzzled as to why.

“I don’t think there is any other way to put it… They just doubled down on this policy, and it’s counterintuitive given the positions the president has laid out,” she said.

EOIR does not comment on pending litigation.

The conflict continues as the country’s immigration courts tackle overwhelming workloads with severe shortages of essential staff such as paralegals and translators.

Tsankov said one of New York’s immigration courts only had about 30% of the staff it needed, and other courts in cities as geographically diverse as Memphis, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia had been understaffed for years.

Lack of staff makes it more difficult to prepare judges for hearings and can even affect whether people in court, often including migrants on the US-Mexico border, receive adequate notification of significant changes to their cases.

She suggested that the shift in political priorities between jurisdictions could have focused resources on law enforcement instead of hiring more staff to make immigration courts more efficient.

“This has a very real impact on the ability of those questioned who seek justice … to ensure that they get a fair hearing,” Tsankov said.

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