The Department of Justice is asking for a determination on whether or not federal immigration judges can legally be part of a union in a petition filed to a federal employment board on Friday.
Under federal law, federal employees can form and join bargaining units — i.e., unions — but not if they are “management officials” who are by definition “employed by an agency in a position the duties and responsibilities of which require or authorize the individual to formulate, determine, or influence the policies of the agency,” a DOJ fact sheet says.
A DOJ spokesman told Blaze Media Friday afternoon that the department is asking the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) whether the bargaining certification for the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) “as the exclusive representative for the bargaining unit of immigration judges, should be revoked because the bargaining unit members are management officials under the statutory definition.”
U.S. immigration courts and judges are under the authority of the Department of Justice, rather than the judicial branch, through the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). NAIJ is the union that represents 420 of America’s federal immigration judges.
Previously, the NAIJ has pushed back on a 2018 plan to impose quotas and deadlines on judges in response to the courts’ case backlog amid a massive backlog of immigration cases. More recently, the union has lobbied Congress to break its members away from the DOJ oversight.
The DOJ says that the move was to ensure that the department’s employment practices are in line with federal law
“The role and importance of immigration judges in meeting the Department’s mission and determining or influencing its immigration policies have greatly evolved over the past several years,” the DOJ spokesman told Blaze Media via email. “In recognition of that evolution, including changes in the law, the Department of Justice believes appropriate action is necessary to update EOIR’s workforce relations in conformity with the law and to continue to further the Department’s mission.”
From here, the FRLA is expected to open an investigation into the matter with input from both parties, the spokesman added.
This news follows months after the Department of Justice issued a different regulation aimed at streamlining the immigration courts. The rule cemented and codified the attorney general’s power to make binding rulings on immigration cases, in order to make the courts “as efficient or as effective through the process as possible,” a DOJ official said in July.