April 2 (UPI) -- The Justice Department issued a directive to U.S. immigration judges to clear at least 700 cases per year to get a "satisfactory" rating, according to reports.
The Trump administration said it wants to speed up immigration cases, many of which end up backlogged for years. But the judges' union said issuing a quota to obtain a satisfactory rating is an "unprecedented" attack of judicial independence.
In addition to clearing a minimum of 700 cases per year, the memo says judges will be expected to have a remand rate in Board of Immigration Appeals and Circuit Courts of less than 15 percent and meeting a series of benchmarks based on speed, including completing cases on their initial hearing date.
Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley told the Washington Post that immigration judges clear an average of 678 cases per year, so issuing a minimum of 700 isn't "that big of a lift."
"The big takeaway is that this is the equivalent of completing three cases a day," O'Malley said.
Laura Lynch, a senior policy counsel with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said speeding up immigration cases adds another burden to an already complicated process for immigrants who often can't speak English and have trouble finding representation.
"Creating an environment where the courts care more about the speed than the accuracy, and where judges are evaluated and even rewarded based on quantity rather than quality is unacceptable and a violation of due process," Lynch said, according to CNN.
Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told the Washington Post that the Justice Department's quota could be challenged.
"It could call into question the integrity and impartiality of the court if a judge's decision is influenced by factors outside the facts of the case, or if motions are denied out of a judge's concern about keeping his or her job," Tabaddor said."We don't know of any other court whose judges are subject to individual quotas and deadlines as part of performance reviews and evaluations."