Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that neither immigration judges nor the Board of Appeals has the authority to grant administrative closure. The following explains the American Bar Association’s view on administrative closure:
“The Supreme Court has explained—in the context of Article III courts—that ‘the power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court,’” the ABA brief said. “The same is true for the BIA and immigration courts.”
In addition, the ABA argued, administrative closure is an important tool for docket management. Administrative closure essentially suspends a case, creating a pause in cases that are not yet ready to be heard so that the court can focus its efforts on those cases that are priorities. Withdrawing that authority would exacerbate the immigration courts’ backlog, and could also force immigrants into court before proceedings elsewhere (such as a state-court case or a visa application) are finished, effectively denying them relief they’re entitled to.
“An increased reliance on continuances would be highly detrimental to the effective operation of the courts, forcing IJs and the parties to expend valuable time and resources on cases that do not need to be adjudicated,” the brief said. “And entering final orders of removal when an immigrant has a fair likelihood of obtaining immigration relief … is arbitrary and contrary to the Immigration and Nationality Act’s recognition that certain classes of individuals are deserving of relief.”
Nonetheless, Sessions has eliminated this tool, creating a less efficient and less just system.