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WVU College of Law professor takes on immigration courts in new book

WVU Law Professor Alison Peck

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The fundamental flaw of the U.S. immigration courts is that they are part of the nation’s top law enforcement department.

That is the argument made by Alison Peck, a West Virginia University College of Law professor, in a new book that's out in May.

In The Accidental History of the U.S. Immigration Courts: War, Fear, and the Roots of Dysfunction (University of California Press, 2021), Peck discusses how immigration courts became part of the U.S. Department of Justice, which is in the executive branch of government.

WVU Law Alison Peck 2021 book

To create a more impartial system, Peck proposes that immigration courts become independent. She uses unstudied legal decisions from the Franklin Roosevelt and George W. Bush administrations to outline humanitarian crises that led to the modern immigration court system. She also offers a perspective on how to evaluate reform efforts.  

“The intrusion of politics into decisions of courts is inconsistent with basic notions of due process and separation of powers. It’s time to move the immigration courts out of the executive branch to ensure that everyone gets a fair hearing in the courts of the United States,” said Peck, who directs the WVU Immigration Law Clinic. “My students, colleagues and I have seen many of our clients harmed by the aggressive decisions of attorneys general in recent years re-deciding cases pending before the immigration courts.”

The Accidental History of the U.S. Immigration Courts is available on Amazon at



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