Biden's DOJ imposed a gag order on immigration judges to silence criticism about massive backlog of immigration cases

 March 12, 2024

Under President Joe Biden's policies, illegal immigration has exploded and immigration courts are overwhelmed with a massive backlog of cases to adjudicate, though you won't hear further complaints about that significant problem from the union that represents federal immigration judges.

That is because the National Association of Immigration Judges was recently subjected to an unprecedented gag order from Biden's Justice Department that silences that union from saying anything publicly without prior DOJ approval, ABC News reported.

The gag order was imposed on NAIJ leadership on Feb. 15 in a letter from Chief Immigration Judge Sheila McNulty on behalf of the DOJ's Executive Office for Immigration Review, as revealed by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, an umbrella organization of various unions of which the NAIJ is a part.

DOJ gag order on immigration judges "an outrageous act of censure"

It was on March 5 that the IFPTE first revealed the gag order imposed on the NAIJ by President Biden's DOJ that requires union leadership to first obtain DOJ approval before speaking publicly about anything related to their jobs as federal immigration judges, including the massive backlog of cases those judges face.

The Feb. 15 letter from Chief Immigration Judge McNulty was sent to NAIJ President Judge Mimi Tsankov and Vice President Samuel Cole, immigration judges in New York City and Chicago, respectively, and informed them that they and others were no longer permitted "to participate in writing engagements (e.g., articles; blogs) and speaking engagements (e.g., speeches; panel discussions; interviews) without supervisory approval and any Speaking Engagement Team review your supervisor believes necessary."

In a statement, IFPTE President Matt Biggs said the DOJ's move was "an outrageous act of censure and an attack on freedom of the press and transparency," and further noted that silencing the immigration judges' union was "an embarrassment to the pro-labor Biden administration, to Attorney General Garland and to Vice President Harris, who have called for empowering federal workers and their unions."

"We believe that this order [is] an un-American, anti-union act of censorship by McNulty [that] will lead to Congressional hearings," he added. "Until this matter is resolved, the judges’ national union, IFPTE, will act as the voice for the immigration judges. McNulty may try, but the nation’s immigration judges won’t be silenced."

Biden "wants a compliant immigration judge workforce"

Biggs also spoke about the gag order to the New York Post and said of the NAIJ, "They’ve never been muzzled before," and further observed, "They speak on behalf of the nation’s immigration judges, and they have a very, very critical and important perspective to share with the public with the press and with the Congress."

"Now, all of a sudden, out of the blue, their management at the Executive Office of Immigration Review put a muzzle on them," he added.

That criticism was echoed by former Immigration Judge Matt O'Brien, now a top official with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, who told the Post, "The NAIJ has long advocated judicial independence for the immigration bench," but added, "However, this administration wants a compliant immigration judge workforce that will find a reason to approve any cases assigned to it. As a result, the Department of Justice has a vested interest in prohibiting the NAIJ from drawing public attention to flaws in that approach."

Biden DOJ prohibiting immigration judges from speaking about massive backlog of cases

The apparent problem that President Biden's DOJ wants to silence immigration judges from speaking about is the historically unprecedented backlog of immigration cases, which according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse now stands at more than 3 million cases, or more than 4,500 cases per each of the nation's 682 immigration judges.

That is a substantial increase from the approximate backlog of roughly 550,000 cases when former President Donald Trump first took office, which equated to around 1,850 cases for each of the 278 immigration judges at that time, who completed about an average of 750 cases per year at that time, a closure rate that has increased to an average of 975 per year now.

ABC News requested comment from both of the NAIJ's leaders, but President Tsankov said she was prohibited from doing so unless she stuck to pre-approved DOJ "talking points" while VP Cole replied that the gag order "bars me from speaking to you about this" unless he first obtained DOJ approval.

A spokesman for House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) told the outlet, however, that Biden's DOJ "is now censoring immigration judges because the Biden Administration doesn’t want the American people to know about its gross mismanagement of the U.S. immigration court system," and added that rather than address the backlog or underlying illegal immigration problems, the Biden administration "chose to try to restrict the free speech of immigration judges."

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