Department of Justice Memo
Issued on March 30, 2017

Policy Summary

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would take steps to ‘expand and modernize’ the Department’s Institutional Hearing Program (IHP). The IHP is the mechanism by which immigration judges determine whether noncitizens in American prisons are deportable during the term of their sentence through in-person and teleconference immigration removal proceedings. In its 35 years, over 200,000 people have been processed by this program. The changes that AG Sessions announced would bring immigration to correctional facilities rather than having the individual taken to ICE detention facilities for hearings, increase teleconferencing capabilities and other infrastructure to help conduct proceedings, and improve coordination between the different DOJ offices involved. LEARN MORE 


In the press release announcing the changes, AG Sessions claims that these improvements will “speed the process of deporting incarcerated criminal aliens and will reduce costs.” Attempting to quickly expand and hasten the pace at which a justice-related program operates threatens the ability of individuals to receive a fair trial. Virginia immigration lawyer Paul Wickham Schmidt has noted a few concerning points on this note. Schmidt claims from personal experience that the IHP has had issues getting attorneys to represent individuals, getting televideo equipment to work, and scheduling hearings based on priority in a logical way. All of these problems are likely to worsen if the rate of hearings is hastened without appropriate attention to detail. Perhaps most importantly, Schmidt also notes that this announced change is just the latest in a long string of “new priorities” in immigration enforcement – suggesting that the DOJ is more concerned with appearing to act on the President’s mandate on immigration than with making key decisions on how to enforce immigration law. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

  • Local Options for Protecting Immigrants – This document hosted by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights notes what steps local governments can take to protect immigrants against federal government actions.
  • Support a Local Solidarity Network in Your Area – Organizations are rapidly forming on a local level across the country to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants and to ensure that law enforcement agencies are acting legally and justly as they seek to enforce these new executive orders. Examples include the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network and Mi Casa es Su Casa (San Diego).
  • Resistance Manual – Crisis Resources – If you know someone who is facing immigration troubles, please share this compendium of legal resources and relevant nonprofit organizations with them.

This brief was compiled by Oliver Bjornsson. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact



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