Sessions earns swift rebuke for telling new immigration judges to show less sympathy

TYSONS, VA - JUNE 11: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks at the Justice Department's Executive Officer for Immigration Review (EOIR) Annual Legal Training Program June 11, 2018 at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel in Tysons, Virginia. Sessions spoke on his intention to limit reasons for people to claim asylum in the U.S.. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Numerous immigration judges blasted Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for his remarks to dozens of new judges earlier this week, where he not only complained about immigration courts that show too much “sympathy” in decisions, but also claimed that immigration attorneys are “like water seeping through an earthen dam—to get around the plain words of the [Immigration and Nationality Act] to advance their clients’ interests.”

“We possess brains and hearts, not just one or the other,” said one former immigration judge and current immigration attorney, Jeffrey Chase. “Sessions is characterizing decisions he personally disagrees with as being based on sympathy alone, when in fact, those decisions were driven by sympathy but based on solid legal reasoning.” The frightening reality is that the attorney general has vast power over immigration courts, and as the latest occupant of that office, Sessions has made it his mission to have the courts and immigration policy match his nativist radicalism.

As attorney general, Sessions has taken steps to stomp on asylum claims from those fleeing domestic violence—which could send thousands back to their deaths—established a quota system for immigration judges, and helped implement the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy that kidnapped nearly 3,000 migrant children from the arms of parents, including asylum seekers.

In April, one former immigration judge called Sessions’s quota plan “an affront to judicial independence and the due process of law,” which was again echoed by other immigration judges following the speech to the new judges this week. “The reality is that it is a political statement which does not articulate a legal concept that judges are required to be aware of and follow,” said immigration judge Dana Marks. “It did appear to be a one-sided argument made by a prosecutor.”

This may be the one of the primary reasons, plenty of immigrant rights advocates have speculated, why Sessions continues to stay put in his job despite ongoing humiliation and other abuse from Donald Trump (not that anyone feels sorry for America’s most racist Keebler elf). His vast power gives him the chance to deport both undocumented immigrants with deep roots here and more recent asylum seekers who are fleeing danger in areas like Central America. In other words, he’ll have to be dragged out of the DOJ building by the ankles.

“While other Attorneys General have been careful not to abuse their broad authority over the immigration courts,” DHS Watch reported, “Sessions is turning back the clock. He is using welcoming speeches to encourage a hard line approach. His selective cites to the Immigration and Nationality Act are aimed at scaring new judges into submission without recognizing a history, practice, and statutes and regulations that offer immigration judges a measure of independence.”

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