Adios, Senor Sessions!
In my third year of law school, I had a small bit part in a talent show skit that parodied the lyrics of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” The gist of the skit was that Professor Lucy Williams’s Federal Courts course was the most difficult class on the schedule. So brutally rigorous that it reduced the 2L and 3L students into feeling “like a first year.”
Why this trip into Romben’s law school past? Although the course had a textbook, the not-so-secret-supplemental-hornbook-that-you-had-to-read-if-you-wanted-any-chance-of-passing was “Federal Jurisdiction” written by one Professor Erwin Chemerinsky . . . who is now Dean Chemerinsky at UC Berkeley School of Law.
Dean Chemerinsky recently wrote an op-ed praising now-former Attorney General Jefferson Sessions’ upholding the rule of law by recusing himself from the Mueller investigation and allowing it to continue.
Dean Chemerinsky stated “I have found much of Sessions’ conduct as attorney general to be loathsome. He initiated and defended the illegal and morally bankrupt policy of separating children from their parents at the border. He has threatened cities with loss of federal funds if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities, a policy that several federal courts have declared unconstitutional. Sessions has mandated that those arrested for federal crimes, including drug offenses, be charged to the maximum. He made clear that the Justice Department would no longer bring actions against police departments for having a pattern and practice of violating civil rights.”
Many immigration attorneys have a great number of items that they would add to this list of grievances.
For starters, Mr. Sessions also called us “dirty immigration lawyers.” While it takes a lot more than name-calling to draw the ire of seasoned attorneys, Mr. Sessions’ attempts to “speed up” deportations by imposing onerous requirements on immigration judges were maddening in their intent and ineffective in their result.
Because all of the immigration judges are part of the Department of Justice, they are led by the Attorney General. While he was head of the DOJ, Mr. Sessions sought to curtail the independence of the immigration judge corps by instituting “case completion goals,” which increased the pressure upon judges to make life-and-death decisions at a faster clip. Mr. Sessions also narrowed the ability of judge to manage their own dockets by eliminating administrative closure and restricting the use of continuances. Rather than producing fair decisions at an efficient pace, Mr. Sessions’ micromanagement of the immigration judge corps created longer delays and more backlog.
Mr. Sessions also sought to single-handedly upend years of asylum law development by stating that domestic violence or gang violence claims will not qualify for relief. While I expect that the Matter of A-B- decision will be reviewed (and overturned or limited) by the courts, the immediate effect is that some immigration judges may use the decision as cover for rapidly disposing of asylum claims.
Dean Chemerinsky concluded his piece by stating “I never imagined I would say this, but we might come to find we miss Jeff Sessions as attorney general.” If the next Attorney General is even more antagonistic towards immigrants, I might be inclined to agree, but let’s wait and see.
In the meantime, if you want to meet with an attorney who isn’t afraid to get a little dirty, please contact us.