AG Garland Restores Access to Administrative Closure in Immigration Courts, Reversing a Trump Era Decision

(San Francisco, CA)—The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) applauded today’s decision by Attorney General Merrick Garland to restore access to administrative closure in immigration courts nationwide, reversing a Trump era decision that had halted this longstanding practice. 

In May 2018, then Attorney General Sessions upended the immigration courts’ and Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) longstanding practice of using administrative closure to manage dockets by unilaterally overruling BIA precedent. Sessions said that immigration judges and the BIA did not have the authority to administratively close most cases, greatly limiting the courts’ ability to manage their dockets, exacerbating an already backlogged court system and foreclosing pathways to relief for eligible noncitizens. Sessions had said that immigration judges and the BIA could only close cases in the very limited circumstances authorized by a regulation or settlement agreement. 

Administrative closure is an important tool long-used by immigration judges and the BIA to temporarily pause removal proceedings in appropriate circumstances. When a case is administratively closed, the case is removed from the active docket, and the respondent has no future hearing dates scheduled. Removal proceedings remain suspended unless one party (either the noncitizen or DHS) successfully moves to re-calendar it. 

“Denying immigration judges the authority to administratively close a case was just another tool the Trump administration used to attack immigrants and strip away due process rights,” said Anita Gupta, Staff Attorney at the ILRC. “While today’s decision is a move in the right direction, there are many more egregious policies and regulations still in place from the Trump administration that also must be reversed. We hope the Biden-Harris administration continues its review of these anti-immigrant policies and reverses those as well.” 

The ILRC is a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the regulation that sought to foreclose use of administrative closure. This rule has been enjoined, and AG Garland's decision states the rule is under review.