John Sandweg, who served as the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Obama administration, hit back at President Donald Trump’s proposal to do away with immigration judges, advocating for more to be hired instead.
During a CNN appearance Monday, Sandweg called Trump’s suggestion “the single dumbest idea I have ever heard in terms of dealing with this current crisis.”
“What we need to do is the exact opposite of what the president is saying,” he added. “Flood the zone with the rule of law, surge the number of immigration judges and process these cases quickly.”
At a press conference Friday, Trump appeared to suggest that the adjudication process end altogether. “We should get rid of judges,” he said, arguing that “you can’t have a court case every time somebody steps their foot on our ground.”
But as Sandweg pointed out, that’s exactly what’s guaranteed to people seeking asylum under the current law.
“The problem we are facing is we don’t have enough immigration judges to process the cases quickly,” he explained, stressing that the backlog of cases is growing.
According to data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the average processing time for immigration cases nationwide has reached 736 days this fiscal year. That number fluctuates by state, city and hearing location. One of the most staggering wait times is in the San Diego Federal Building, where cases currently sit for more than 7,400 days.
As it stands, there are only 400 judges to handle the influx, and Sandweg fears the situation will worsen.
“Unless and until we start sending people back home ― you know, unless and until we fix this situation where when they come up here, they can stay for five years, waiting for their asylum hearing ― this crisis is likely to continue,” he said.
Sandweg has also criticized Trump’s threat to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border, telling CNN last week it would do “absolutely nothing” to stem illegal immigration.
Watch his remarks in the video below.