CHICAGO, IL — Samuel Cole is an Immigration Judge out of Chicago.
He said he and other Immigration Judges have had it with a rule they contend, restricts what they can say publicly.
"It requires several layers of approval in order to speak in a public way on pretty much anything."
Cole is a member of the national Association of Immigration Judges.
"That is why I'm allowed to speak with you in my capacity as a union official but not in my capacity as an Immigration Judge."
He said until recently, they've long had the right to speak, as Immigration Judges, freely and publicly on any issue.
"Starting in 2017 there was a new process that was put in place that really sharply limited Immigration Judges in how they could speak."
Cole said it's important that judges with diverse opinions and beliefs on immigration be allowed to say, openly, how they feel.
"There was just a regulation published within the past couple of weeks, a proposed regulation that really places some very strict limits on asylum."
Opinions about issues like new laws and regulations, Cole said, they aren't allowed to talk about now.
He said they can't even discuss their feelings about precautions, or lack of, for Court staff and the public in courts around the country during the pandemic.
"These are all attempts to keep us quiet," Cole said.
"To keep our perspective out of the public dialogue and it's really important right now, given everything that's going on in immigration, that people hear what we have to say about this."
While he can speak freely, as a member of his union, he said his colleagues could be risking everything if they did the same.
"Immigration Judges could be disciplined and could be terminated if they violate the policy against speaking publicly."
The Department of Justice told KGUN9 it, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, does not comment on pending litigation.
The EOIR is the office that manages Immigration Courts across the country.
"It's an unconstitutional, prior restraint, on our speech. It violates the First Amendment, it violates the Fifth Amendment."
Cole said the judges union will wait for a trial date to be set for their lawsuit.