During the Trump administration, the immigration courts have been decried as more politicized enforcement weapon than impartial tribunal. Yet few people are aware of a fundamental flaw in the system that long pre-dates the current administration: The immigration courts are not really “courts” at all but an office of the Department of Justice—the nation’s law enforcement agency.
The Accidental History of the U.S. Immigration Courts uses narrative history, focusing on previously unstudied decisions in the Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush administrations, to help readers understand both the human tragedy of our immigration court system today and the human crises that led to its creation. Moving the reader from understanding to action, Alison Peck offers a lens through which to evaluate contemporary bills and proposals to reform our immigration court system. Peck provides an accessible legal analysis of recent events to make the case for independent immigration courts, proposing that the courts be moved from the Department of Justice into an independent, Article I court system. As long as the immigration courts remain under the authority of the attorney general, the administration of immigration justice will remain a game of political football—with people’s very lives on the line.