I recently wrote about how the Trump Administration’s immigration policies are drawing pushback from both Article III and immigration judges on the grounds that they violate due process (including failing to give migrants proper notice of the grounds on which they could fight their cases). But disrespect for migrants’ due process rights are not limited to the current administration. Texas Public Radio reports that back in 2014, the Obama Administration decided to fast-track immigration cases involving unaccompanied minors. That decision forced the immigration courts to delay thousands of other pending cases, which the Obama Administration arbitrarily rescheduled for November 29, 2019 — five years into the future. When the day arrived this past Friday, more than 100 migrants showed up for their hearings, only to learn that they had been postponed again — until 2021.
Delaying cases is a due process violation every bit as tragic as failure to give proper notice, and both the Trump and Obama administrations are guilty of using immigration courts to score political points.
Responding to President Trump’s characterization of a federal district judge who had ruled against the administration’s asylum policy as “an Obama judge,” Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement rejecting the notion entirely.
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
In a tweet, the President later responded, “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”
The situation is a bit more nuanced than either side’s statements suggest, of course. The Chief Justice is correct that the federal judiciary is composed of extraordinary individuals who try to do their best, irrespective of the parties or issues in a case. But each judge also cannot help but apply the law in a manner informed by personal experience and beliefs. It is far too crass for the President to assert that his legal setback was due to an “Obama judge,” but he is not entirely wrong that the judge in question might have viewed the issue differently than some of his peers on the district court bench.
Still, three cheers for the Chief Justice, trying to maintain the legitimacy of the judiciary in the face of ongoing populist attacks.