Independent Immigration Courts Needed, Legal Groups Say

Amid a growing crisis, legal associations have called on Congress to pass laws that would remove immigration courts from Justice Department control, emphasizing the inherent conflict of interest.
Four major legal groups are calling on Congress to make changes to the backlogged immigration courts that have buckled under the control of the Justice Department.

The American Bar Association (ABA), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Federal Bar Association (FBA), and the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) reached out to Congress last week calling on the body to create an independent immigration court system that isn’t managed by the part of the executive branch responsible for prosecuting immigrants.

“As a result, the Attorney General is charged with being both lead prosecutor and lead judge in immigration cases,” the letter, addressed to members of the House and Senate, says. “This inherent conflict of interest is made worse by the fact that immigration judges are considered merely government attorneys, a classification that fails to recognize the significance of their judicial duties and leaves them particularly vulnerable to political pressure and interference in case management.”

The groups, speaking together on this issue for the first time, noted the significant backlog, which stands at nearly 900,000 cases, and said Justice Department policies limited opportunities for fair hearings and made the backlog worse.

“What exacerbates that is that the Department of Justice has implemented policies that are making it more difficult for the courts to operate efficiently and are increasing that backlog, so those factors are coming together in the confluence of pressure that I believe is being felt more seriously on the Hill than it has in past years,” AILA Director of Government Relations Greg Chen said in comments reported by Business Insider.

The group added that using quotas for immigration judges and tying them to performance reviews meant that they often had “to decide cases under strict deadlines or face potential discipline.”

The associations called for the immigration court to be taken away from the Justice Department’s control and established outside of the executive branch.

The issues raised by the legal groups aren’t new—ABA made a similar call in a report it released in March, and other such recommendations have been made since the 1990s—but the issue is coming to a head during the current immigration crisis, which has also suffered from a shortage of immigration judges.

Recently, the Justice Department announced it would cut the number of in-person translators at court hearings and replace them with videos informing migrants of their rights. This issue further highlighted the concerns of the groups, including NAIJ President Emerita Denise Noonan Slavin, a former immigration judge.

“Court funds should be used to ensure the court operates efficiently and fairly,” Slavin said, according to Business Insider.

The groups emphasized that independent control would make the system more efficient while providing better access to justice.

“In its current state, the immigration court system requires a structural overhaul to solve its foundational problems,” the groups stated in their letter.

By: Ernie Smith


Secretary Perdue issues a statement on the Department of Labor’s Proposed H2A Modernized Rule

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a statement soon after the release of the Department of Labor’s proposed rule to modernize the H-2A program to reflect stakeholder concerns and improve access to a legal source of agricultural labor.  “The proposed rule will increase access to a reliable legal agricultural workforce, easing unnecessary burdens on farmers, increase enforcement against fraud and abuse, all while maintaining protections for America’s workers. When this rule goes into effect, our farmers will be released from unnecessary and burdensome regulations allowing them to do what they do best.”

The Department of Labor (the Department), Employment and Training Administration and Wage and Hour Division today posted online a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to solicit public comments on proposed changes to improve the H-2A temporary agricultural labor certification program. These proposed changes would modernize the Department's H-2A regulations in a way that is responsive to stakeholder concerns and enhances employer access to a legal source of agricultural labor, while maintaining the program's protections for the U.S. workforce and enhancing enforcement against fraud and abuse.

The NPRM includes several major proposals that would streamline and simplify the H-2A application process, strengthen protections for U.S. and foreign workers, and ease unnecessary burdens on employers. For example, the NPRM would streamline the H-2A application process by mandating electronic filing of job orders and applications, promoting the use of digital signatures, and providing employers with the option of staggering the entry of H-2A workers on a single application.
The NPRM also proposes to strengthen protections for U.S. and foreign workers by enhancing standards applicable to rental housing and public accommodations, strengthening surety bond requirements, expanding the Department's authority to use enforcement tools like program debarment for substantial violations of program rules, and updating the methodologies used to determine the Adverse Effect Wage Rates and prevailing wages to ensure U.S. workers similarly employed are not adversely impacted.

Finally, the NPRM would expand access to the H-2A program by revising the definition of agricultural labor or services to include employers engaged in reforestation and pine straw activities, as workers performing these services share many of the same characteristics as traditional agricultural crews. The proposal would also codify and update procedures governing the certification for job opportunities in animal shearing, custom combining, beekeeping, and reforestation.
The Department is posting a copy of the NPRM in advance of its publication in the Federal Register. A copy of the NPRM can be found by clicking here.


ELD Rules Release Delayed

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has contacted us about the proposed revisions to the Hours of Service elements of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule.  FMCSA now projects that the proposed rules will be released by July 31, 2019. However, this date is not binding and could change again, so we will continue to monitor the progress.

This is the second delay with this particular release - - the first was delayed from June 7th to June 30th

The White House Office of Management and Budget is still in review of the rules and must approve them before publication.  Once the proposed rules are published, we will communicate the details to you along with the link to public comments which will follow the proposed change release.   By law the FMCSA must offer a timeframe to accept public comments before any steps are taken to pursue a final rule change.    We will keep you posted as new developments arise. 


The National Watermelon Association, Inc (NWA) is pleased to announce that we have been selected as the official 2018 Association business - Music City Brand Champion, for the 2018 National Watermelon Association Convention that was held in Nashville Tennessee at the Sheraton Music City Hotel. This prestigious honor is awarded annually to meetings and event planners who incorporate the Music City brand into their promotional and marketing materials and efforts.

“Numerous meeting planners embraced the Brand Champion program in 2018 by successfully integrating the Music City Brand into their convention and event materials and programming. The 2018 finalists all utilized the brand in clever ways. The National Watermelon Association, however, raised the bar and created a multi-layer program that stood out above the competition.” said Butch Spyridon, President of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation.

For the 2018 National Watermelon Association Convention we expanded our efforts by creating an event specific website, mobile app and Nashville unique events for our attendees. The convention website and app provided a place for attendees to register for convention, learn about events, review the schedule, and more. The unique events included the Opening Night reception and event at the Wildhorse Saloon with performances by Darryl Worley and Trick Pony, Executive Committee Spouse event at the Listening Room with Nashville singer-songwriters, Country Music Hall of Fame tour, Shotgun Tournament at the Nashville Gun Club, and a special evening at the Grand Ole Opry.

The National Watermelon Association is thankful and proud to be honored as the 2018 Music City Brand Champion. We strive to make a positive difference in the business and livelihoods of our members every day.

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