U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions welcomed 44 new immigration judges, the largest class of immigration judges in U.S. history according to the Justice Department.
The event took place as the Trump administration struggles to reunite families separated at the border after its “zero tolerance policy” resulted in unprecedented numbers of immigration cases waiting to be heard.
The decision to detain children separately as their parents await trial has left about 400 children still separated from their families, according to a court filing — 45 days after a court-mandated deadline for the government to reunite them.
There are more than 700,000 immigration cases in the backlog, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data gathering research organization at Syracuse University.
During a welcoming ceremony Monday in Virginia, Sessions said, “Counting you, along with our existing judges, we currently have the most active immigration judges in history.”
“But we will not stop there,” he continued. “We will add even more by the end of this calendar year, with a goal of seeing a 50 percent increase in the number of judges since the beginning of the Trump administration.”
Though Sessions lauded the large number of incoming immigration judges, he warned them of the intense workload they would bear.
“I do not apologize for expecting you to perform at a high level, efficiently and effectively,” he said. “Many of the cases present complex legal issues, but like anyone acting as a judge, you must manage your docket and support staff well. Cases must be moved to conclusion.”
The Department of Justice received funding for 100 new immigration judges and their teams during the 2018 fiscal year. With the new class, there are currently 351 immigration judges in the department, still less than the 384 allocated in the current budget. The Justice Department has requested funding for 150 new attorneys for the fiscal year beginning October 1.