Gallagher Introduces Bill to Empower Immigration Courts

January 30, 2020
Press Release

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) yesterday introduced the H.R. 5708, the Empowering Immigration Courts Act. This bill would give immigration judges the authority to impose criminal fines on anyone in contempt of their court. Existing law allows for the Attorney General to define regulations to impose fines, but none have been put in place since the law’s enactment 22 years ago. Click HERE for bill text.

Our immigration courts lack accountability, and as a result, their courtrooms face rapidly increasing workloads with no way to quickly resolve the cases,” said Rep. Gallagher.Past Congressional efforts have tried – and failed – to give immigration judges the authorities they need to punish those who try to manipulate the system, and it’s time we introduce a simple fix. I urge my colleagues to quickly take up this commonsense bill to restore fairness and authority in immigration courtrooms.


The inability to impose fines on those in contempt has been cited as a leading reason why immigration judges face an ever-increasing caseload. The American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2019 report titled, “Reforming the Immigration System” noted that absent the authority to hold litigants in contempt of court, “immigration judges are again rendered powerless to control their own courtrooms and enforce compliance with potential time saving programs.” The Heritage Foundation also published a study indicating that this lack of authority means those that come before the court “cannot be held accountable to the judge with respect to matters such as timelines, docketing dates, or even court orders.”

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