On May 17, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, issued an order to prevent immigration judges from administratively closing immigration court cases in most circumstances. The Attorney General’s decision will have a major impact on many immigration courts, as well as many immigration cases.
Administrative closure is a procedure regularly used by immigration judges to temporarily halt immigration proceedings. When a case is administratively closed, an immigration judge removes the case from the active docket. Cases are usually administratively closed so that an immigrant can obtain an immigration benefit that is not available while an immigration case is active. Examples of this include adjusting status to a lawful permanent resident (Form I-485), or filing an I-601A waiver. Generally, either the immigrant or the Government may move to administratively close a case. Once a case is administratively closed, the case can be re-opened by a motion of either the Government or the immigrant.
On January 4, 2018, the Attorney General directed the Board of Immigration Appeals to refer Matter of Castro-Tum (27 I&N Dec. 271 (A.G.2018)) to the Attorney General, so that he could review and rule on the decision. In Mater of Catro-Trum, an immigration judge ordered a case administratively closed over the objection of DHS. In his decision, the Attorney General held that immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals, do not “have the general authority to suspend indefinitely immigration proceedings by administrative closure”. Id. at 271. Instead, the Attorney General found that a case may only be administratively closed where either: (1) a previous regulation; or (2) a court settlement allows. Id.