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Opinion

Administrative closure is back

IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel - The Philippine Star

On July 15, 2021, Attorney General Garland brought back “administrative closure” to immigration courts by overruling a previous decision made during the Trump era, which “concluded that the immigration courts’ use of the tool of administrative closure was not authorized.” This is great news, as now administrative closure is again authorized, and there could be hope for people in deportation proceedings to have their case temporarily closed, rather than proceeding to trial.

What is administrative closure?  Administrative closure is a “docket management tool that is used to temporarily pause removal proceedings… It does not terminate or dismiss the case, but rather removes a case from an immigration judge’s active calendar or from the Board (BIA)’s docket… Immigration judges have employed administrative closure for many decades.” It also “has served to facilitate the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, allowing government counsel to request that certain low-priority cases be removed from immigration judges’ active calendars or the Board’s docket, thereby allowing adjudicators to focus on higher-priority cases.”

Administrative closure is a calendar management tool used by the immigration courts, enabling them to prioritize higher priority cases, by putting on hold (or on the back burner) lower priority cases. At present, immigration courts are backlogged with hundreds of thousands of cases. There are just not enough judges or courtrooms to efficiently manage the caseload. But some deportation cases are more serious than others, and should be tried the soonest. With administrative closure, courts can “close” certain low-priority cases and put them back on the shelves, which also clears up the court’s calendar, allowing courts to handle the more serious cases.

Administrative closure has been used to pause cases while USCIS adjudicates a pending petition. For example, a person is in removal or deportation proceedings, and their spouse or child has filed a petition for him but the petition has not yet been approved. If it is approved, the person would have a form of relief, or way to get a green card. In such a situation, administrative closure would be a great benefit, rather than having the judge proceed with the removal proceedings and order the person to be removed. Administrative closure has also been used to allow a person to pursue a provisional waiver, if they were not eligible to adjust status in the US. Or, in some cases, the case is simply a low-priority case and the judge could decide to close it for now, taking away the threat and fear of a deportation hanging over the person’s head.

If you are in removal proceedings, but could be considered a “low-priority” case, you should consult with an attorney, who can evaluate your situation and determine whether you might be eligible for administrative closure, if it would benefit your case, and help you package and present the request to the court or prosecutors.

I want to be clear that not every case could be eligible for prosecutorial discretion or administrative closure, but this is great news, as now the Biden administration is further reversing the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies. Before this recent decision, the policy was to proceed with every single deportation case until conclusion, do not continue or postpone and do not administratively close any case. Now, at least, there is renewed hope and promise.

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Website: www.gurfinkel.com

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