In a letter sent yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee leaders urged Attorney General Merrick Garland “to reverse the prior Administration’s attacks on the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) and the independence of immigration judges more broadly.” Among the attacks cited is a Trump-era policy that prohibits immigration judges from speaking publicly, in their private capacities, about immigration issues. The letter describes the policy as “part of a deliberate attempt to muzzle immigration judges and stifle opposition to the Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.”
The Knight Institute represents NAIJ in its legal challenge to the policy, and in our legal briefs, we’ve explained why the policy violates the First and Fifth Amendments. In April, the parties in the case agreed to stay the challenge pending the Biden administration’s review of the policy, which is ongoing. The Senate letter asks the Attorney General to provide information about that review, and to explain how he intends “to alter [the] policy to ensure that immigration judges are able to engage in protected First Amendment speech.” It seeks a response by June 14, 2021.
The letter will add pressure on the Biden administration to abandon the policy and replace it with one that is consistent with the First Amendment. We’re hopeful the administration will announce its intention to do so in the coming weeks.
Ramya Krishnan is a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute.