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Union calls on Biden DOJ to investigate Trump immigration judges’ firings

A gavel. (Dreamstime/TNS)
June 27, 2022

The union for immigration judges has called on the Department of Justice to investigate the recent firings of three judges hired during former President Donald Trump’s administration. The union believes the judges’ treatment may have been illegal, or at the very least inappropriate.

According to a letter obtained by The Washington Times on Monday, the National Association of Immigration Judges explained to Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) Director David Neal that the EOIR decided to fire the judges rather than convert them to permanent statuses despite all three judges receiving satisfactory evaluations during a two-year probationary period.

The judges were also ordered to leave without being given the opportunity to collect their things in a move the union described as “unprofessional and unbefitting.”

“They deserved better,” wrote Mimi Tsankov and Samuel B. Cole, the union’s president and executive vice president, who called on Mr. Neal to ensure the terminations were “in full compliance with the law.”

The union leaders said the judges’ removals had “a substantial and negative effect on judge morale” nationwide.

The Times reported that Biden’s team at EOIR – which manages immigration courts – has forced out more than a half dozen judges in total, including Matthew O’Brien, who told the outlet that his termination letter was vague, asserting that “performance and/or conduct” was the reason he was fired.   

A source at Biden’s Justice Department said Mr. O’Brien’s supervisor – who recommended the judge be fired – worked for an immigrant-rights group prior to being hired at EOIR. Mr. O’Brien, on the other hand, had worked for Homeland Security and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which works in support of harsher immigration control.

“There was both a clear political motivation and a conflict of interest for her action, and the agency ignored it,” the department official said.

Ms. Tsankov told the Times in a statement that “politics have no place in the immigration courts” and “reports that judges were removed for political reasons should concern all of us.”

Mr. O’Brien told the outlet that his removal was part of a Biden administration effort to pack the courts by removing judges it doesn’t like. He called it “court packing on steroids” facilitated by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

“Not only is AILA deliberately attempting to shape the immigration bar in its image, it’s succeeded in doing it,” Mr. O’Brien told the Times earlier this month. “If the court becomes a handmaiden to AILA, all of a sudden the court’s interests become not the interests of the American people, it becomes protecting the interests of foreign nationals in the United States.”