The Department of Justice deals with cases of all kinds, but the attorney general can shape policy through his or her selection of cases and crimes to address, said Lenni Benson, a professor at New York Law School.

Attorneys general can also influence the implementation of immigration law by hiring immigration judges who agree with them, and firing those who don’t. Unlike federal judges, who have lifetime appointments, immigration judges are mere agency employees. “There are real risks to decisional independence here,” said Jill Family, director, Law and Government Institute at the Widener University Commonwealth Law School. “[Judges] operate in an atmosphere where displeasing the boss can lead to real consequences.”

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