It's been claimed that

The U.S. immigration court system suffers from profound structural problems that have severely eroded both its capacity to deliver just and fair decisions in a timely manner and public confidence in the system itself. At a time when funding has skyrocketed for immigration enforcement agencies, chronic underfunding of the court system has left it without the resources to effectively manage its ballooning caseload. Most troubling of all, the immigration court has an inherent structural conflict of interest, the Attorney General is responsible for overseeing both the judges who decide immigration cases and the Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys that prosecute immigration cases at the federal level.


This inherent conflict of interest is made worse by the fact that immigration judges are considered merely government attorneys, a classification that fails to recognize the significance of their judicial duties and puts them at the whim of the Attorney General. The judges do not enjoy many of the protections of Article III federal judges, such as life-tenure. In fact, immigration judges have no fixed term of office and can be fired by the Attorney General or be relocated to another court.


Beginning Monday, October 1, 2018, Attorney General Sessions will subject all immigration judges to individual case completion quotas and time-based deadlines as a basis for their performance reviews. This unprecedented policy requires judges to adjudicate a certain number of cases or face discipline which may result in termination of employment. The policy was described by NAIJ [National Association of Immigration Judges] as a “death knell for judicial independence” and will undoubtedly pressure judges to rush through decisions to protect their own jobs.

Assuming this info about the US immigration judges is correct, is it common in other parts the West (e.g. Canada or Europe) for immigration judges to have their work evaluated by the Attorney General (or equivalent) and for them to be fireable by the Attorney General as well?

  • Decisions by immigration judges can be appealed to and reviewed by Article III courts (i.e., by "normal" judges in the judicial branch). The US immigration courts are an example of administrative law, which exists in many jurisdictions. Also see Wikipedia on administrative law judge. I do not know whether any other countries have created administrative courts for adjudication of immigration matters, however. – phoog Apr 26 '19 at 16:28

In Germany judges cannot be fired by the Attorney General (Justizminister).

In the German immigration system an employee of the Bundesamt für Migration (Federal Office for Migration) decides whether a person is eligible for asylum (here). If the person is regected, he or she can go to court over that decision. In Germany the matter is dealt with by the administrative court (Verwaltungsgericht) (§52 Nr. 2 VwG)O.

The judges in these courts are ordinary judges, which are in general appointed for life. They can only be fired by a judge prosecution (Richteranklage), meaning by an ordinary court in very specific circumstances (§21 Nr. 3 DRiG). These can be initiated by a 2/3 majority in parliament (either federal or state).

Judges are under supervision (Dienstaufsicht) according to §26 DRiG, but only so far as their independence is not touched upon. The supervision cannot fire a judge.

In 2015 parliament approved the Asylverfahrensbeschleunigungsgesetz (law for the acceleration of the procedure for granting the right of asylum). This makes it possible to appoint judges for a limited amount of time to support the administrative court in dealing with asylum cases. These judges are still neutral and independent. The constitutional court approved the law.

  • Just as a person with some knowledge of the German language, is the really long word in your last paragraph literally translated and if not, could you provide a literal translation. Also if you could break the long word into it's component words, I would appreciate that. – hszmv Apr 26 '19 at 13:45
  • 1
    I'm not sure what you are asking. The long word (Asylverfahrensbeschleunigungsgesetz) is the name of the German law that was passed, therefore it is one word and does not have individual component words. The english in parentheses after it is a fairly literal translation of that german word. – redleo85 Apr 26 '19 at 13:50
  • 1
    Literally translated it would be: asylum procedure acceleration law – redleo85 Apr 26 '19 at 14:06
  • 1
    @hszmv Asylverfahrensbeschleunigungsgesetz is composed of the words Asyl, Verfahrens, Beschleunigungs, and Gesetz. The second and third components are in the genitive case. The first component means "asylum"; the second means "of procedure"; the third means "of acceleration"; and the last means "law" (or "act"). So a more literal translation might be "law for the acceleration of asylum procedure" or indeed "asylum procedure acceleration act," which has the advantage of being both literal and idiomatic, though I suspect the UK might punctuate it as "Asylum Procedure (Acceleration) Act." – phoog Apr 26 '19 at 16:18
  • 1
    @phoog While a case (pun intended) can be made for Verfahrens to be in the genitive case, Beschleunigung is feminine and the genitive would be Beschleunigung as well. Indeed, some might have made the noun Asylverfahrenbeschleunigunggesetz. And you cannot make a clear case for Asyl to be inherently different: compare Gutsverfahrensbeschleunigungsgesetz. In reality, the s’s are Fugen-s which may have originally derived from some sort of genitive in some cases but nowadays mostly don’t. – Jan May 1 '19 at 16:40

Canada has ten "citizenship judges", but they don't seem to be judges in the usual legal sense. Unlike justices of the peace, for example, they are not judicial officers.

As far as I can tell, they are not subordinates of the Attorney General of Canada.

It may be of interest that, as of the start of 2019, there was a backlog of over seventy thousand refugee protection claims -- but these cases do not seem to be within the purview of citizenship judges.

  • 1
    The citizenship judges have nothing to do with refugee claims, as far as I can tell. Is that correct? – phoog Apr 26 '19 at 16:22
  • The US has like 800,000 backlogged immigration cases! – Fizz Apr 27 '19 at 9:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .