Department of Justice seeks to decertify union representing immigration judges
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced August 9 that it was 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 proceedings pertaining to immigration, including removal proceedings. The department employed 424 judges as of May 2019 and requested funding to hire up to an additional 100 judges in 2020.
Although immigration judges 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.
The Department of Justice 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.
Immigration Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the NAIJ, said in a statement, “We are trial court judges who make decisions on the basis of case specific facts and the nation’s immigration laws. We do not set policies, and we don’t manage staff.”
In March 2018, the Department of Justice instituted a quota of 700 cases per year for immigration judges. As of May 2019, there was a backlog of 892,000 immigration cases.
The FLRA rejected a similar application by the Department of Justice during the Clinton Administration to decertify the NAIJ in 2000.