September 14, 2018

Wyden Raises Concerns over ICE Plans to Reopen Closed Deportation Cases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden expressed concerns about reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intends to re-open 350,000 deportation cases that are currently closed, in a letter with 17 other senators released today.

In the past, immigration judges and the BIA have used administrative closure for a number of reasons,” the senators wrote in their letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “Administrative closure helped overburdened immigration judges control their caseloads by allowing them to temporarily take a case off of their docket and prioritize cases that were ready for adjudication.  Many respondents whose cases are administratively closed have pending applications for some type of relief, such as a pending application with USCIS.  These cases include those of unaccompanied children that judges have found to have been abused, abandoned, or neglected; and whose deportation would be against their best interest.

The senators continued, “Any plan to reopen and recalendar all of the currently administratively closed cases will undeniably overwhelm the already flooded immigration court backlog. Currently, there are over 730,000 pending cases in the court. The addition of all administratively closed cases – currently estimated at over 355,000 – would increase the backlog by nearly fifty percent, to over one million cases ... Given the population of individuals whose cases were subject to administrative closure, this waste of resources cannot be justified.”

This follows a decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to strip immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) of their general authority to administratively close cases, and will potentially further exacerbate the immigration court backlog.

Wyden was joined by the following senators in sending the letter: Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Tom Udall, D-N.M., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

The full letter can be found here.