Kristin Bohman


In early 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decided Matter of Avetisyan, overturning precedent that prohibited immigration judges from administratively closing an immigrant's case over the objection of either party. Avetisyan enables immigration judges to administratively close a case and remove it from their active dockets, subject to later re-calendaring by either party for final resolution. By giving judges the authority to administratively close cases, Avetisyan reaffirms the independent decision-making authority of immigration judges and allows them to reallocate some of their limited time to more pressing cases. But Avetisyan's break from precedent cannot reach the roots of the unfairness and injustice that plague the overwhelmed immigration court system. Avetisyan falls short for two reasons: First, although the BIA expanded immigration judge authority to grant administrative closure over a party's objection, it simultaneously limited that authority to discreet situations, which, when coupled with entrenched enforcement-leaning attitudes of judges, will do little to change the overall composition of cases currently on immigration court dockets. Second, Avetisyan cannot reach the source of the immigration court case overload: the filing of cases in immigration court by the Department of Homeland Security through its own immigration enforcement actions or those of local and state law enforcement agencies. Ultimately, Avetisyan will serve as no more than a Band-Aid on the deeply wounded immigration court system.