Attorney General Likely to Order Immigration Judges to Reopen Administratively Closed Deportation Cases

For many years, Immigration Judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) have relied on a tool called “administrative closure” to manage their heavy case load and to ensure just and fair outcomes in the cases before them.  When a case is administratively closed, it is temporarily removed from the active court docket.  Administrative closure does not provide the noncitizen with any kind of permanent or temporary status.  It simply removes the case from the active calendar, effectively pausing the case until either party asks for the case to be “re-calendared.”

When will an Immigration Judge or the BIA administratively close a case?  Perhaps an individual is waiting for the USCIS to adjudicate a petition (like a U visa petition, or a family-based Immigrant Visa petition by a US citizen). Or a case could be closed for an applicant with approved Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) petition who, because of backlogs, faced long waiting periods to receive her green card.  In some cases a Judge or the BIA may grant administrative closure based on humanitarian circumstances alone.

During the Obama administration, administrative closure was frequently used to remove cases from the Court’s active calendar when it did not fall within the administration’s enforcement priorities.  The Trump administration has pursued a steady course of reversing the policies of the prior administration, and immigration is no exception.  The Trump administration considers virtually every case an enforcement priority.  Over the past year ICE attorneys have routinely opposed administrative closure in cases that would have been easily granted in prior years, have appealed Judge’s orders to close a case over ICE objection, and have moved to re-calendar cases that were closed.

On January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions exercised his authority to refer a case regarding administrative closure to himself.  (https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1022366/download)

Mr. Sessions announced that he will review the authority of Judges and the BIA to administratively close a case.  In light of Mr. Sessions’ past statements and positions regarding immigration, it seems likely he will decide that there is no such authority or that such authority should be withdrawn from immigration judges.  If he takes this hard line view, the impact of his decision will be widely felt.

Most likely, there are well over 100,000 individuals with closed cases at either the BIA or the Immigration Court level.  Since the Attorney General appears likely to decide these cases should be re-calendared, individuals with closed cases need to keep the following important information in mind:

  1. Make sure to update the Immigration Court or the BIA within 5 days of any address move. If you do not update the Court or the BIA with your new address, and a hearing notice is sent to an old address, you will be ordered removed in absentia (without being present in Court). Inabsentia removal orders have even harsher consequences than standard removal orders and are very difficult to reverse.
  2. Periodically check the Court’s toll free case status number to see if you have any future hearing set in your case. That number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 1-800-898-7180. It is an automated system; you punch in your A# only, you do not have to speak to anyone about your case.
  3. And perhaps most importantly, consult with an immigration attorney or legal aid provider NOW to determine what your options would be if your case is re-calendared (put back on the court’s schedule for a removal hearing), and whether you should take any actions now.

If you’re interested in speaking with an attorney about your legal status and options that may be available to you, schedule your case evaluation appointment today:  https://www.sggimmigration.com/contact-us/

It’s time to get started. Call us: (213) 627-8997