Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to review a docket practice that has been utilized by immigration judges to postpone pending cases indefinitely.
Known as “administrative closure,” the practice has the effect of giving the subjects of those cases permission to remain in the U.S. and allows them to retain any benefits they have been granted, such as a work authorization.
A senior Justice Department official told Fox News that Sessions has certified one such case for his personal review, allowing him to consider the aspects of the case and “render a decision that is binding on immigration courts, and everyone across the federal government writ large.”
Utilizing such a strategy, Sessions could potentially end the practice of administrative closures.
Sessions is granted the authority to review the practice by a statute of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a privilege that has been used many times by previous attorneys general, including Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Michael Mukasey, Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft.
Currently, 350,000 immigration cases are administratively closed. In just four years, the Obama administration closed more than 180,000 pending immigration cases without a final decision — more than were closed in the previous 22 years combined.
Sessions has sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the parties associated with the case under review, posing questions whose answers will be used to inform his decision on the matter.
One of the questions addresses whether judges “have the authority, under any statute, or regulation, or delegation of authority from the Attorney General, to order administrative closure in a case?”
Sessions is seeking to determine what actions should be taken regarding administratively closed cases if he were to determine that judges and the appeals board do not have the authority to make such a decision.
The parties are required to respond by Feb. 2.
There are currently approximately 650,000 pending immigration cases. Should Sessions choose to end the practice of administrative closure, 350,000 additional cases would be added to that backlog.