Immigration Judges Admit Trump Is The Reason They're Quitting

by Christina Marfice
Suwannar Kawila/EyeEm/Getty

Immigration judges are reaching their breaking point with this administration’s racist policies

This is a perilous time for a fair and passionate judge to leave the bench. By doing so, they risk having Donald Trump appoint their replacement, and considering Trump’s policies and beliefs, that new appointee is pretty likely to have a harsh anti-immigration stance.

But dozens of immigration judges have reported that despite their efforts to stick out the presidency, they’ve just reached their breaking points. The Los Angeles Times spoke with dozens of judges who are quitting or taking early retirement because they simply cannot stomach having to enforce Trump administration policies on immigrants.

Immigration Judge Charles Honeyman served for 24 years on the bench, and thought he still had more time in him. But this month he quit. He told the paper he pushed back against Trump as best he could, doing things like granting asylum for domestic violence victims from other countries, even after the administration released an order saying domestic violence isn’t a valid reason for asylum.

“There are a lot of cases I’m going to have to deny that I’ll feel sick over,” Honeyman said as he reached his breaking point and quit.

A. Ashley Tabaddor, a Los Angeles judge and president of the National Association of Immigration Judges union, called working under the Trump administration “unbearable.”

“Judges are going to other federal agencies and retiring as soon as possible,” Tabaddor said. “They just don’t want to deal with it.”

Jeffrey Chase, a former immigration judge from New York, has formed a group for all the judges nationwide who have quit under this administration’s rules. He said he now has 40 members.

“They say they would have gladly worked another five or 10 years, but they just reached a point under this administration where they can’t,” he said. “It used to be there were pressures, but you were an independent judge left to decide the cases.”

It’s hard to track exactly how many judges have quit, and even harder to track how many have quit because of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies specifically. But in a system where we should all value fairness and justice, even one should be too many.

According to former San Francisco immigration judge Ilyce Shugall, Trump is “using the court as a weapon against immigrants,” and her post became a “nearly impossible job.”

“There are many of us who just feel we can’t be part of a system that’s just so fundamentally unfair,” she told the Times about why she quit her job as a judge last March. “I took an oath to uphold the Constitution.”