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US Justice Department Introduces Quota for Immigration Judges to Clear Cases

FILE - Protesters march through downtown Phoenix, May 1, 2017. Immigrant and union groups marched in cities across the United States on Monday to mark May Day and protest against President Donald Trump's efforts to boost deportations.

The U.S. Justice Department is demanding that federal immigration judges clear more cases as part of their annual performance review.

The judges will be required to process at least 700 cases a year, or three cases a day, in order to receive a "satisfactory" performance rating, according to new Justice Department guidelines.

On average, federal judges process 678 cases a year, according to a Justice Department official.

The new policy comes after the union representing nearly 330 immigration judges dropped its opposition to the inclusion of individual performance metrics, the official said.

"One of the metrics is the completion of 700 cases," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The new guidelines, which were sent to federal judges on Friday, go into effect October 1.

As of the end of February, there was a backlog of nearly 700,000 cases pending in U.S. immigration courts, according to data compiled by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

To tackle the backlog, the Justice Department requested nearly $40 million in Fiscal Year 2019 for 75 new immigration judges and support staff.

Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, called the new quota system a "recipe for disaster."

Tabaddor told The Wall Street Journal that "it could call into question the integrity and impartiality of the court if a judge's decision is influenced by factors outside the facts of the case or if motions are denied out of a judge's concern about keeping his or her job."

"In response to criticisms that this limits judicial independence, I would point out that (the Executive Office of Immigration Review is required) to give an immigration judge the opportunity to provide input regarding his or her performance prior to rating the judge below satisfactory in any element," the official said.