Attorney General Limits When Immigration Judges Grant Continuances

Credit: Chris Ryan

(Español) U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions looks to limit the circumstances under which immigration judges grant continuances. As a part of the Department of Justice, the Attorney General can intervene in the practices of the immigration court. This latest move comes as the administration continues their “zero tolerance” approach to crack down on illegal immigrants in the country. Previously, immigration judges were free to grant continuances, or postponements, on cases for a variety of reasons. Under this new order, judges are limited to granting continuances for “good-cause shown” in an attempt to limit “the discretion of immigration judges and prohibit them from granting continuances for any reason or no reason at all.”

The administration claims the policy directive is meant to keep people from abusing a system where delaying upcoming hearings can grant them more time in the country and help alleviate the current backlog of cases in the immigration courts. However, critics argue this order is troubling and a move to restrict the due process rights of those in removal proceedings. Immigration litigation is a long and complicated process, where a skilled attorney is required to safeguard the due process rights of those in removal proceedings. Continuances have been used in order to ensure those rights are protected by granting people the time and opportunity to hire counsel. Despite hiring more immigration judges over the course of the last 18 months, the administration contends more needs to be done in order to enforce the immigration laws of the country.