On July 15, 2021 Attorney General Merrick Garland restored the authority of immigration judges nationwide to pause and remove low priority immigration cases from the backlog of immigration court cases. There are now more than 1.3 million cases pending in Immigration Courts – a backlog that doubled under Trump.
This decision issued in Matter of Cruz-Valdez overturned actions taken by Trump’s first A.G., Jeff Sessions. The new decision reinstates “administrative closure,” which allows an immigration judge to pause cases for individuals who are in the process of obtaining a green card or other form of immigration relief such as asylum. For example, the decision will allow non-citizens in removal proceedings to seek administrative closure while they apply for an I-601A provisional unlawful presence waiver if they intend to pursue consular processing. Garland’s action overturns a decision called Matter of Castro-Tum.
Attorney General Garland said, “[Administrative closure] 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.”
Last month President Biden also issued a memo to prosecutors allowing them more discretion to drop certain cases. The memo encouraged prosecutors to pause cases against green card holders and individuals who were elderly, pregnant, have a serious health issues, or who have been in the United States from a young age.