I was inspired to comment on the recent article, “Bad conduct, leering ‘jokes’ — immigration judges stay on bench,” put out by the San Francisco Chronicle. In it, they provide detailed accounts of serious misconduct in the immigration court. I’ve witnessed it, and an Atlanta judge was even discussed by name. In interviews with dozens of attorneys, including our firm’s partner Carolina Antonini, they uncovered sexual harassment in the form of crude jokes, inappropriate and sexual questions, and comments about the physical appearance of female candidates for removal. In many instances, these judges either stayed on the bench or were promoted.
Badly Behaved Judges Face Few Consequences.
The problem with the immigration court is that when the judges exhibit bad behavior, complaints about it go nowhere. Despite numerous accusations made against judges named in the article, few reprimands were handed out. Sometimes the only consequence was attending a training on how judges should conduct themselves.
Immigration Courts Should Operate Independently of the Executive Branch.
The reason for the inaction is because they are Department of Justice (DOJ) employees, and the DOJ is part of the executive branch. This makes the immigration court system politicized. I’m hopeful that the Biden administration will break out the judges and let them be independent, away from the executive branch of the federal government. This is already the case with bankruptcy judges
Removing Bad Judges Helps Secure Justice.
I think this would allow for a lot more oversight in the system and result in getting bad immigration judges off the bench. They make life-and-death decisions, and there’s no reason that someone fighting for their life should feel like they’re not getting a fair chance in immigration court.
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Marshall Cohen is one of the founding principals of Antonini & Cohen. Admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1989, he has practiced immigration law exclusively for over 30 years. Mr. Cohen practices all areas of immigration law including family and employment cases, temporary and permanent visas, naturalization, deportation defense, and federal litigation.