NICHOLAS KULISH IN THE NYT: TORTURED IN VENEZUELA, HANDCUFFED BY ICE @ THE MIAMI ASYLUM OFFICE! — DHS Continues To Abuse Legal Authority, Clog Backlogged U.S. Immigration Courts! My Quote: “Why clog an already clogged court docket with a case that looks like a slam dunk?”

Nicholas reports:

“Marco Coello, then a skinny 18-year-old high school student, was grabbed by plainclothes agents of the Venezuelan security services as he joined a 2014 demonstration against the government in Caracas.

They put a gun to his head. They attacked him with their feet, a golf club, a fire extinguisher. They tortured him with electric shocks. Then Mr. Coello was jailed for several months, and shortly after his release, he fled to the United States.

Human Rights Watch extensively documented his case in a report that year. The State Department included him in its own human rights report on Venezuela in 2015. With such an extensive paper trail of mistreatment in his home country, his lawyer, Elizabeth Blandon, expected a straightforward asylum interview when Mr. Coello appeared at an immigration office this April in Miami.

“I had this very naïve idea that we were going to walk in there and the officer was going to say, ‘It’s an honor to meet you,’” said Ms. Blandon, an immigration law expert in Weston, Fla.

Instead, he was arrested and taken to a detention facility on the edge of the Everglades. He was now a candidate for deportation. “Every time they would move me around, I would fear that they were going to take me to deport me,” said Mr. Coello, now 22.

Mr. Coello’s case drew extensive media coverage in both Miami and Caracas and, eventually, the intervention of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The senator helped secure Mr. Coello’s release, though he could still be deported.

The case may have been a sign of just how far the government is willing to go to carry out President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

“It’s very unusual — almost unprecedented — that ICE would arrest an asylum applicant who is at a U.S.C.I.S. office waiting for their asylum interview,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School.”


Just because arresting individuals believed to be in the U.S. without authorization is legal doesn’t mean that it’s not stupid or wasteful in many cases. Cases like this belong in the Asylum Office.

In a well-functioning system, Mr. Coello likely would have been granted asylum following his interview. Instead, he’s on an already overcrowded U.S. Immigration Court docket with a merits hearing scheduled for approximately one year from now.

What does the U.S. gain from these types of wasteful enforcement actions? What message are we sending to Mr. Coello and others who will eventually become full members of our society? What kind of messages are we sending to Venezuela and those attempting to escape from some of the world’s most brutal governments?

Read Nicholas’s complete report, which contains more quotations from me and others, at the above link.



2 thoughts on “NICHOLAS KULISH IN THE NYT: TORTURED IN VENEZUELA, HANDCUFFED BY ICE @ THE MIAMI ASYLUM OFFICE! — DHS Continues To Abuse Legal Authority, Clog Backlogged U.S. Immigration Courts! My Quote: “Why clog an already clogged court docket with a case that looks like a slam dunk?””

  1. This is the kind of wasteful, “for optics only”, misuse of resources that has, unfortunately, only ballooned out of control under the Trump administration. As a former Immigration Judge, I am sickened knowing that my former colleagues are being sent all over the country, at great taxpayer expense, for the optics of looking “tough” on immigration, while their caseloads at home – already horribly backed up due to management neglect and failure to provide needed resources – back up even further. These hard-working and courageous judges face stories of torture and repression and pride themselves on providing due process and a forum where refugees and immigrants from other countries get to see, sometimes for the first time, what justice looks like.

    Nobody should be arrested at the asylum office, just for asking this country to provide the protections it has offered through our asylum laws. In what twisted and mangled view is this appropriate?

    1. Thanks for commenting and sharing, Carol!
      I couldn’t have said it better myself! As I mentioned to Nicholas, I only had a few cases out of thousands where the respondent’s persecution was specifically corroborated by the Country Report. I don’t believe that the DHS ever opposed a grant or even requested a “full block” hearing. These would be “joint motion for expedited short block” cases. Moreover, the whole rationale for creating the Asylum Office was to keep these cases out of the adversary system for the benefit of all parties, including the Immigration Courts. In a “normal” court system, the Judge could terminate the case without prejudice and send it back to the Asylum Office. But, in the Immigration Court that would be considered interference with the DHS’s exclusive right to exercise “prosecutorial discretion.” So, the judge lacks “leverage.”

      For those of you who don’t know her, Judge Carol King is a distinguished member of the San Francisco Immigration Court who retired at the beginning of this year. Judge King also served as “temporary” Appellate Immigration Judge at the BIA on a number of occasions and began her career representing respondents in private practice.

      Welcome to, Judge King. Pleased to have you involved and look forward to more insights from you.

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