Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee’s oversight hearing on the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Chairman Goodlatte: The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is charged with the administration of the U.S. Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). As a component of the Department of Justice, EOIR has the task of adjudicating immigration cases and ultimately, interpreting the immigration laws enacted by Congress. I am pleased that today we can conduct our critical oversight role and hear more about the future of our immigration court system.
Just as in any other court matter or appeal, the onus is on the trier of fact to ensure that the law is applied correctly and that justice ultimately prevails. Over the past several years, this Committee has engaged in review, both in an oversight capacity and in the form of legislative action, of the Obama Administration’s failed immigration policies.
The politicization of the immigration courts and the clear bias by former individuals in top Administration jobs, have led to a degradation of the courts. The U.S. immigration courts, and to a lesser extent the BIA, are often thought of as a policy mechanism of whatever administration is in office. This was, unfortunately, illustrated by guidance aimed at ensuring that immigration judges were playing their role in carrying out the Obama DACA initiative.
While politics certainly played a role, mismanagement of the agency and the apparent lack of any meaningful guidance on docket control has resulted in an explosion of pending cases, some with merits hearing dates more than 5 years from now. The allocation of resources to so-called priority dockets, have left the typical non-detained alien without resolution but with the almost certain ability to receive work authorization in the United States. Rampant continuances, or postponements, of both initial and merits hearings have further escalated this backlog which has reached epic proportions.
As we know, the GAO identified several sources for the backlog. I am eager to hear about EOIR plans to hire additional immigration judges, to implement best-management practices, and to potentially set some metrics for case-completion.
Make no mistake, immigration judges must be autonomous and without bias while hearing cases and rendering decisions, but they must also be mindful of all components of the administration of justice. Needless changes of venue or continuances made in bad faith, for the purpose of delay, are detrimental to our system and should not be tolerated. It may turn out that legislative action is the best recourse to ensure that, no matter what administration is in charge and what their principles may be, EOIR will have clear statutory parameters under which to function. I look forward to hearing from our witness on that issue today.
There is no question that Congress must take action to reform many facets of immigration law in an attempt to ensure national security and streamline the process. But those actions will mean little if EOIR continues to lag behind the rest of the system. Resource allocation must be prioritized to ensure that detailed judges have full dockets and incoming judges have courtrooms waiting. EOIR plays a vital role within the U.S. immigration system and the time has long past to make necessary reforms.
I am encouraged by the steps taken in the past ten months to address some of the issues already raised. I look forward to hearing more legislative ideas so that this Committee, and this Congress, can better support the crucial work being done at EOIR and continue to ensure that our immigration courts get back on track. I want to thank Acting Director McHenry for being with us today and I yield back the balance of my time.