Following the publication of an investigation into the harebrained antics of Houston immigration judge Mimi Schooley Yam, the Houston Press learned that Yam is gone from Houston's immigration court.
"She's no longer employed with [the Executive Office for Immigration Review]," says EOIR spokesperson Kathryn Mattingly, who wouldn't say whether Yam was fired or resigned, only that Yam's employment with EOIR was no longer effective as of March 18. At the time of writing, Yam's name was still listed on EOIR's website.
Only weeks ago, EOIR's LaFondra Lynch told the Press that Yam, who had been on a mysterious leave of absence for more than a year, was a United States Department of Justice employee. "EOIR does not comment on personnel matters or the leave status of agency personnel," said Lynch, who Mattingly says is also no longer employed with the tight-lipped EOIR.
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Mattingly says there's a general plan for the hiring of additional judges, but a specific, immediate blueprint for Houston, which is staffed with only five sitting judges, doesn't currently exist. "We're constantly monitoring caseloads," says Mattingly of the Falls Church, Virginia, organization. "There's no specific time frame [for Houston]."
Yam had been an immigration judge in the federal courts since 1995, first in San Francisco, then in Houston. In both cities, the judge claimed that she suffered from debilitating allergies — if a lawyer's outfit hadn't been dry-cleaned or if someone wore perfume, she would sometimes clear her courtroom.
As a result of Yam's alleged allergic reactions, her long absences from the bench and what her critics said were questionable decisions, Houston's pending caseload has hit an all-time high. Local attorneys say that until another judge is brought on board, there will be no end to the crippling backlog.