Is the open borders crowd getting tired of losing?
Immigration Judge Charles Honeyman was nearing retirement, but he vowed not to leave while Donald Trump was president and risk being replaced by an ideologue with an anti-immigration agenda.
He pushed back against the administration the best he could. He continued to grant asylum to victims of domestic violence even after the Justice Department said that was not a valid reason to. And he tried to ignore demands to speed through cases without giving them the consideration he believed the law required.
But as the pressure from Washington increased, Honeyman started having stomach pains and thinking, “There are a lot of cases I’m going to have to deny that I’ll feel sick over.”
This month, after 24 years on the bench, the 70-year-old judge called it quits.
Here’s what we’re losing with his retirement.
He granted asylum more often than many other judges. Between 2014 and 2019, immigration judges across the country denied about 60% of asylum claims, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Honeyman denied 35% of claims in his courtroom.
Getting it to 60% is a good start. It means American lives and millions of dollars saved.
Dozens of other judges concerned about their independence have done the same, according to the union that represents them and interviews with several who left.
The precise number of judges who have quit under duress is unclear. Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for the courts, said a total of 45 left their positions in the fiscal year that ended last September, but she declined to provide a breakdown of how many of those were deaths, planned retirements or promotions to the immigration appeals board.
The Trump administration has been adding new judges faster than old ones are leaving. Between 2016 and last year, the total number of judges climbed from 289 to 442.
Which means that the house is being cleaned. And the swamp is being drained.
“There are many of us who just feel we can’t be part of a system that’s just so fundamentally unfair,” Shugall, who quit her job as an immigration judge in San Francisco last March and now directs the Immigrant Legal Defense Program at the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Assn. of San Francisco. “I took an oath to uphold the Constitution.”
Considering her new job, it’s pretty obvious where her actual allegiance lay.
But if we have this much trouble finding judges, replace them with justices of the peace. This is not complicated. You’re either fleeing political or religious persecution. Or you’re not. If you’re not, then there’s no case. Period.
Everything else is just noise.