The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on August 9 that it is petitioning the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ)—the federal labor union representing immigration judges.
Immigration judges are a type of federal administrative adjudicator employed by the DOJ to preside over special classes of administrative adjudication proceedings pertaining to immigration, including removal proceedings. The department employed 424 immigration judges as of May 2019. Though IJs and other types of administrative judges have the word judge in their job title, they are part of the executive rather than the judicial branch. They are not judges as described in Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
DOJ claims that immigration judges are management officials and, therefore, cannot legally participate in collective bargaining activities. Federal law defines management officials as “any individual employed by an agency in a position the duties and responsibilities of which require or authorize the individual to formulate, determine, or influence the policies of the agency.”
Decertification of the NAIJ could give DOJ officials more control over the work schedules and caseloads of immigration judges.
The department instituted a quota of 700 cases per year for immigration judges in March 2018. DOJ officials called for increased funding to hire an additional 100 immigration judges and support staff in its 2020 budget request. Immigration judges faced a backlog of 892,000 cases as of May 2019.