U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS APEAR STACKED AGAINST CENTRAL AMERICAN ASYLUM APPLICANTS — Charlotte, NC Approval Rates Far Below Those Elsewhere In 4th Circuit — Is Precedent Being Misapplied?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/migrants-in-surge-fare-worse-in-immigration-court-than-other-groups/2017/07/30/e29eeacc-6e51-11e7-9c15-177740635e83_story.html?utm_term=.5d2ca3c80278

 

Julia Preston of The Marshall Project reports in the Washington Post:

— Toward the end of a recent morning hearing in immigration court, Judge V. Stuart Couch looked out from his bench on a nearly empty chamber. On one side sat the prosecutor. But at the table for the immigrants, the chairs were vacant.

From a stack of case files, Couch called out names of asylum seekers: Dina Marciela Baires from El Salvador and her three children. No answer. Lesley Carolina Cardoza from Honduras and her young daughter. Silence. After identifying 17 people who had failed to appear for their hearings, the judge ordered all of them to be deported.

The scene is replaying across the country as immigration courts resolve the asylum cases of families who streamed across the Southwest border since 2014. Tens of thousands of families from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and some from Mexico, came here citing their need for protection from predatory gangs and criminal violence. Now, they face the prospect of being sent back to countries they fear have not become any less dangerous.

Of nearly 100,000 parents and children who have come before the courts since 2014, most asking for refuge, judges have issued rulings in at least 32,500 cases, court records show. The majority — 70 percent — ended with deportation orders in absentia, pronounced by judges to empty courtrooms.

Their cases are failing just as President Trump is rapidly expanding deportations.

Immigration courts have long had high rates of in absentia rulings, with one-quarter of all cases resolved by such decisions last year. But the rate for families who came in the border surge stands out as far higher, according to the Justice Department office that runs the immigration courts and tracked the cases of those families over the past three years.

Many immigrants did not understand what they were supposed to do to pursue their claims and could not connect with lawyers to guide them. Some just stayed away, fearing they could be deported directly from courthouses and choosing instead to take their chances in the immigration underground.

New cohort of fugitives

As a result, migrants from the surge are faring worse in the courts than other groups. By late January, the courts had granted asylum or otherwise allowed migrants to remain legally in this country in 3,792, or 11 percent, of those cases involving families, the figures show. By contrast, in all asylum cases last year, 43 percent ended in approvals.

The large-scale failure of the families’ claims is the final unraveling of President Barack Obama’s strategy to deal with the asylum seekers.

Unlike most illegal border crossers, who can generally be swiftly deported, many recent migrants from Central America asserted that they had strong reasons for seeking protection in the United States. Rather than dodging the Border Patrol, they turned themselves in, saying they were afraid to return home. Under U.S. law, that starts an asylum proceeding in which courts evaluate claims that migrants faced dangerous persecution.

When the surge began in 2014, Obama administration officials, worried they could spur an even greater flow if they accepted the migrants as refugees, tried to detain them near the border and deport them. But federal courts curtailed the detention of children and their parents, and so the Obama administration funneled them into immigration courts to ask for asylum. Families and unaccompanied minors who passed a first stage of screening at the border were released to pursue their cases in courts around the country.

In many of those cases, judges in the overburdened courts are only now rendering their decisions — and families from the Central American surge are becoming a new cohort of immigrant fugitives.

In the past, an order of removal — the immigration equivalent of an arrest warrant — did not necessarily lead to swift expulsion. But the Trump administration has made it clear that anyone on the wrong side of immigration law can be tracked down and deported, whether or not they committed a serious crime.


María Arita and her children, Amilcar, left, and Allison, at their home in Charlotte. Arita came to the United States from Honduras in 2013 with her then-3-year-old son to escape a gang that was targeting her family. (Logan Cyrus/For The Washington Post)
‘Don’t stop in Charlotte!’

The fates of the asylum-seeking families are particularly stark in Charlotte. Three immigration judges, appointed by the U.S. attorney general, labor under a backlog of nearly 8,000 cases. The court, which covers both Carolinas, has an amply earned reputation as one of the toughest in which to win an asylum case.

María Arita discovered these realities only after she left Honduras in 2013, forded the Rio Grande in south Texas with her 3-year-old son, turned herself in to border authorities and was sent to Charlotte to join her husband, who had found work here after coming illegally a year earlier. She said a mara — a criminal gang — had taken a dislike to her husband, for reasons the family still does not fully understand. But the gang made its animus very clear.

“First they killed my brother-in-law,” Arita said, trying to remember the attacks in the correct order. “Then they killed my father-in-law. Then . . . they shot another brother-in-law. That’s when my husband realized he had to get out, and he left for the United States. Then they broke down the door of my house. I wasn’t home, but they left a message saying they were going to kidnap my son to make my husband come back.”

Unlike many asylum seekers in this region, Arita found a lawyer. But after she paid several thousand dollars in legal fees, she said, he dropped her case. Despite her family’s trail of death in Honduras, he told her, she wasn’t going to win in Charlotte.


A photo of María Arita from when she was living in Honduras, next to a school photo of her son, Amilcar. (Logan Cyrus/For The Washington Post)

Terrified of going back, she went by herself to a hearing this spring. Before it was over, the judge had denied her claim and given her a few weeks to pack up, take her son and leave the United States. Results like that are among many reasons immigrants nationwide have been failing to appear in court.

Some migrants came to this country more to escape poverty than violence, and they may have avoided court because they knew their asylum claims were likely to be rejected. But more than 85 percent of the families passed the first legal test for asylum, in which they had to show they had a “credible fear” of returning home, according to Department of Homeland Security figures.

For many of them, the law itself presents a problem. Migrants running from gangs do not easily fit into the classic categories for asylum, which offers protection to people fearing persecution based on race, religion, nationality or politics. Yet in some courts, artful lawyers have won for people from Central America by crafting cases to fit a fifth, more loosely defined category of persecution in the law, against members of a “particular social group.” In recent years, migrant women have also won if they were escaping extreme domestic violence.

But not in Charlotte. Couch and Judge  — two out of three judges on the bench — have made it clear they view asylum as a narrow opportunity, and they regard claims stemming from gang violence as inconsistent with the letter of the law. Couch has scolded lawyers for trying to bend the statute like “silly putty” to make it work for Central American migrants.

Couch grants asylum in 18 percent of the cases he hears, while Pettinato grants 15 percent, both less than half the national rate, according to an analysis of court records by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data research group at Syracuse University. As sitting judges, Couch and Pettinato were not able to comment on their rulings.

“We should set up billboards on the highway for people coming from the border. Keep going, don’t stop in Charlotte!” said Viridiana Martínez, who works with Alerta Migratoria, a group in Durham, N.C., that helps immigrants fight deportation.”

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Read Julia’s complete article at the link.

According to the FY 216 Statistics Yearbook, elsewhere in the Fourth Circuit the Baltimore Immigration Court granted 63% of asylum application while the Arlington Immigration Court was nearly identical with 62%. The Charlotte Immigration Court, on the other hand, was 17%.

The Supreme Court in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987) and the BIA in Matter of Mogharrabi, 19 I&N Dec. 439 (BIA 1987) both commanded that the “well-founded fear” standard for asylum be generously applied in favor of applicants! Although the BIA has not been as generous as it could and should have been in cases involving Central Americans needing protection from targeted gang violence, they have gone out of their way to reject notions that there should be any “presumption” against asylum grants from Central America. For example, in Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 227, 251 (BIA 2014), the BIA cautioned their decisions “should not be read as a blanket rejection of all factual scenarios involving gangs. . . . . Social group determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.”

Moreover, established BIA precedents giving favorable treatment to LGBT individuals and those seeking protection from domestic violence frequently apply to cases of those fleeing Central America. See e.g., Matter of Tobaso-Alfonso, 20 I&N Dec. 819 (BIA 1990) (gays); Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014)  (domestic violence). Additionally, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has generally been protective of the substantive and procedural rights of asylum  seekers. See, e.g., Crespin-Valladares v. Holder, 632 F.3d 117  (4th Cir. 2011) (family members).

Something is seriously wrong in the Charlotte Immigration Court. Due process is not being fully protected. More seriously, nobody in “the system” — DOJ & EOIR — appears to care or be doing anything to correct the problems in Charlotte.

This is symptomatic of deeper problems in our U.S. Immigration Court system: 1) a weak BIA that fails to protect asylum seekers and require IJs to follow precedents favorable to asylum seekers; 2) lack of proper training compounded by the departure of experienced judges, hiring of new judges, and an inexplicable decision by the DOJ to cancel IJ training this year; and 3) a biased selection system that has systematically excluded private sector asylum expertise developed in representing applicants over this and the past three Administrations. Overall, it is what happens when a system lacks judicial independence and has not developed a merit selection system for judges.

The Immigration Judges in Charlotte can and should do better in providing fairness and due process for asylum seekers. Given the systemic failures, at present it appears to be up to those representing asylum seekers and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to see that asylum seekers in the Charlotte Immigration Court receive the Constitutional due process to which they are entitled.

PWS

07-31-17

 

 

CNN: American Families Are The Human Wreckage Of Trump’s Deportation Policies!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/27/politics/connecticut-family-deportations/index.html

Mallory Simon and Alex Marquardt report on CNN:

“New Fairfield, Connecticut (CNN)Six-year-old Preston Colindres runs up the driveway and front steps and jumps into his father’s arms.

“Hey buddy! How are you? Oh, I love you!” Joel Colindres says as he kisses his son’s cheek. He picks up his 2-year-old daughter, Lila, hugs her and tells her he loves her.
Colindres’ children don’t know their father’s heart is breaking.
Colindres, 33, fled from Guatemala more than a decade ago. He and his American wife, Samantha, can’t quite figure out how to tell their young children that in less than a month he may no longer greet them on the steps of their New Fairfield home.
How do you explain to a 6-year-old why their father is going to be deported? The couple is unsure — especially when they can’t figure it out themselves.
“I can’t seem to summon the courage to look them in the face and say all that,” Samantha Colindres said. “How can you say it before bed, how’s he going to sleep? How do you say it in the morning before school and ruin his day? When’s the right time?”
Colindres must produce an airline ticket to Guatemala on Thursday as proof that on August 17 he intends to comply with a deportation order.
Stopping illegal immigration and kicking out “bad hombres” was a central theme of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In the days after his inauguration, he vowed to rid the country of violent criminals who enter the country illegally.
Trump administration widens net on deportation
Trump administration widens net on deportation 01:53
Since he came into office, the number of undocumented immigrant arrests has risen by roughly one-third, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement statistics. That was largely driven by an increase in the number of non-criminals arrested.
But the Colindres family never thought Joel would be a target for deportation. They, along with family, friends, and their lawyer Larry Delgado, maintain his case is typical of a change in the face of those targeted for deportation.
“This is one of the most compelling cases that we have ever seen in terms of the positives versus the negatives,” Delgado said.
Delgado counts off the positives rapidly: Colindres is married to a US citizen; has two children who are citizens; pays his taxes; owns his own home and is a skilled worker who has been with the same company for 12 years. Most importantly, Delgado said, Colindres has no criminal record.
Delgado believed Colindres’ case would be a “slam dunk” to at least get a stay of deportation. But a growing number of undocumented immigrants have found themselves expecting one outcome and getting another, Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.
“These individuals relied on the good word and promise of the American government. They were permitted to stay here, they reported periodically, they made no effort to hide, they violated no laws, they raised children here, US citizens, and contributed and worked hard,” Blumenthal said.

Unfairness should ‘strike the hearts of Americans’

Nury Chavarria, also a Guatemala native, sought sanctuary from deportation inside a church.

The Colindres family is not alone.
“There are hundreds and maybe thousands in Connecticut and many, many more around the country that find themselves in this trauma and tragedy,” Blumenthal said.
Similar cases include that of single mother Nury Chavarria, also a Guatemala native, who had taken sanctuary with her four children inside a New Haven, Connecticut, church last week to avoid deportation. Her eldest son, who is 21 years old, has cerebral palsy. Chavarria was granted a stay of deportation in her case on Wednesday night, according to her lawyer.
Sen. Blumenthal believes immigration laws should be enforced, but with discretion.
“We should be deporting people who are dangerous and who pose a threat to society, not people like Nury and Joel and others who have lived here, worked, paid taxes, raised families, and have people depending on them at work and in their homes,” Blumenthal said.
“That is a betrayal of American values, it’s also against our interest because our economy depends on the talents and energy of these people, and we should be providing some pathway to earned citizenship for them.”
But the Trump administration has made clear anyone here illegally can be subject to deportation.
“The fact that you are not a priority does not exempt you from potential enforcement,” a Department of Homeland Security official said. People with crimes like DUIs and status violations, or noncriminal histories but a final order of removal could be subject to deportation, the official added.
Blumenthal believes those like Colindres and Chavarria should get a chance to further present their cases to remain in America.
“The fundamental unfairness of it ought to strike the hearts of Americans,” he said.”
****************************************************
Read the complete story at the link.
“Gonzo” enforcement in action. Diminishing America one arbitrary enforcement action at a time. Why do we deport them? “Because we can!”
PWS
07-31-17

EOIR, PRO BONO REPRESENTATION: U.S. District Judge Richard M. Jones Rips EOIR’s Violation Of 1st Amendment, Common Sense — NWIRP v. Sessions, WD WA

Key excerpt from Judge Jones’s order granting the plaintiffs request for a preliminary injunction:

“NWIRP is a non-profit organization that provides education to the community, advances its cause through systemic advocacy, and provides legal assistance to immigrants navigating the legal system, often in the context of removal proceedings. Dkt. ## 1 (Complaint) at ¶¶ 1.1, 3.1-3.3; 37 at 12. NWIRP is the primary non-profit legal services provider in Washington State, making it essential to low-income and indigent immigrants. Dkt. # 37 at 12. The Government agrees that the work done by NWIRP and similar non-profit organizations is crucial and admirable. Dkt. ## 36 (Transcript of TRO Hearing) at 37-38, 45; 47 at 11-13 (explaining EOIR’s commitment to ensuring that immigrants have available quality representation). Moreover, the Government does not dispute NWIRP’s contention that the Regulation would deprive this “vulnerable population” of representation, essentially leading to an increase in avoidable deportations. Dkt. ## 47 at 11; 39-35 (Murray Decl.) at ¶ 4. The dichotomy between the Government’s recognition of the importance of legal representation and acknowledgment that the Regulation will result in decreased services lays bare an uncomfortable reality. The effect of the Regulation as interpreted by the Government will be the inevitable chipping away at attorneys’ fundamental rights. Under the circumstances of this case, EOIR is blindly seeking to impose its rules and regulations and spin precedent in a manner inconsistent with fairness. As W.E.B. DuBois once wrote, “[r]ule-following, legal precedence, and political consistency are not more important than right, justice and plain common-sense.”

*****************************

EOIR and their handlers at the DOJ often “talk” due process, but act otherwise (although these days the Sessions’ DOJ doesn’t even make a pretense of being concerned about Constitutional Due Process — it’s a “removal factory.”) Almost every day brings cogent examples of why the U.S. Immigration Courts must be removed from the highly politicized USDOJ and reconstituted as a truly independent judiciary committed to “guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.”

The case is NWIRP v. Sessions, 2017 WL 3189032 (WD WA 07-27-17).

PWS

07-28-17

THE GUARDIAN: HUMAN TRAFFICKERS LOVE TRUMP & “GONZO APOCALYPTO” SESSIONS — HERE’S WHY! –Trump’s crackdown “a gift to human traffickers!”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/28/trump-immigration-immigrant-deaths-people-smuggling

Tom Dart reports from Houston:

“Donald Trump’s immigration policies are likely to encourage migrants to risk more dangerous routes into the US, like the journey which this week ended with the death of ten people in a sweltering truck, border security experts have warned.

Dozens of people from Mexico and Central America were found packed into a non-air-conditioned cargo container in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio at about 12.30am last Sunday.

The deaths are thought to have been caused by heat exposure, dehydration and suffocation. About 30 people were hospitalised.

Days later, at least four people – including two children – drowned trying to cross the swollen Rio Grande near El Paso.

As part of its campaign to crackdown on undocumented migration, the Trump administration wants to force so-called “sanctuary cities” to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, beef up frontier security and surveillance, and – eventually – build a wall along the border with Mexico.

But Alonzo Peña, a former deputy director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), said simplistic strategies would not deter people desperate to join family or seek a better life. Instead, closing off simpler routes would prompt migrants to attempt more dangerous crossings.

“I call it an unfortunate collateral consequence,” he said. “They will put themselves in the hands of unscrupulous criminals that see them as just a commodity.”

Asked if a wall would help, Peña, now a consultant in San Antonio, said: “Absolutely not – it probably will contribute to more tragedies.”

He said building better binational relationships, encouraging information-sharing and more use of informants were key to breaking up networks of smugglers and traffickers.

In recent years, stepped-up frontier security has meant that smuggling activities once orchestrated by small, loosely organised enterprises are being run by bigger, more ruthless and profit-oriented criminal gangs with indirect links to drug cartels.

Packing many people into a truck is a profitable strategy for such smugglers. A large vehicle is a better hiding place than smaller alternatives and reduces the number of trips, making evading detection more likely at busy interior US Border Patrol checkpoints placed along highways near the frontier.

“The policies to enforce the border have the unintended consequence of strengthening transnational smuggling networks and the connection of business with transnational criminal organisations. There’s money there,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who studies migration and trafficking. “You are increasing the incentives for corruption on both sides of the border.”

. . . .

Texas this year passed a law banning so-called sanctuary cities – places that offer little or no cooperation with federal immigration agents. “Border security will help prevent this Texas tragedy,” John Cornyn, a US senator from Texas, wrote on Twitter.

But critics say that such enforcement does nothing to remove the “push factors” behind migration from Mexico and Central America, such as the lack of economic opportunity and violence by street gangs, security forces and crime groups.

A report published in March by the risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft termed Trump’s crackdown “a gift to human traffickers” by driving undocumented workers in the US deeper into the shadows, while a wall “would increase criminal trafficking fees, leaving migrants more deeply mired in debt and vulnerable to exploitation”.

But even this week’s deaths would not curtail demand, Correa-Cabrera said.

“They will still take trucks. They have been taking the journey and nothing has stopped them,” she said. “How many women are willing to take the journey even though they know there is a very high possibility of being raped?”

***************************************************

Folks are going to keep coming and keep dying until we make the needed, realistic changes to our legal immigration system. The smugglers will up their profits and expand their operations, making and taking more money than ever from already stressed individuals seeking to come. And the bodies will continue to pile up as a testament to the failed White Nationalist agenda of Trump and Sessions.

What “gonzo enforcement” has done, however, is to cut or eliminate the incentive for folks to use the legal system by coming to the border and presenting themselves for protection or by turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. Knowing that their rights under the law and as human beings will not be respected by the likes of Trump, Sessions, and Kelly’s replacement will merely put more individuals at the mercy of the smugglers. The smugglers are likely to get so good that we won’t have the faintest idea anymore how many forks are coming without documents until they wind up dead in a parking lot or a field. And, I suppose that CBP will come up with some formula like “for every dead body we figure there are 1,000 who made it into the interior.”

PWS

07-28-17

MS-13 GANG MEMBERS HEARTENED, ENCOURAGED BY TRUMP-SESSIONS “GONZO” TACTICS — “They [MS-13] feel like they can do whatever they want, ’cause Trump himself has made everybody fear,” Alex said. “He’s helping them.”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/28/us/ms-13-gang-long-island-trump/index.html

CNN reports:

“Long Island, New York (CNN)The first time members of the MS-13 street gang attacked Margarita’s teenage son in suburban New York, they beat him with a baseball bat.

The young man had immigrated from El Salvador three months earlier to join his mother in Nassau County, Long Island. The gang had harassed him in El Salvador because he refused to join them. Now, in his new home, they were upping the stakes.
The second time, they attacked the 19-year-old as he was on his way to work. They slashed him in the stomach with a machete, the gang’s weapon of choice. He survived and has been in hiding for the last few weeks, but his mother is terrified.
“I think it’s worse (in the US) because over there they hadn’t tried to kill him. But here they have,” said the woman, who is undocumented and asked to be called only “Margarita” for her safety. She witnessed the first attack on her son, on the street outside their home, and says she’s too afraid to go to the police for fear of deportation.
The violent gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, originated decades ago among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles and has since built a criminal network that extends across the US, with thriving pockets in the Washington, D.C. suburbs and here on Long Island, just an hour or so east of New York City. It’s estimated to have 10,000 members nationwide.
President Trump has vowed to wipe them out and will visit Long Island Friday to discuss his plans. But the FBI says the gang is growing.

Investigators comb woods where the mutilated bodies of four young men were discovered in late April in Central Islip. Authorities believe MS-13 was behind the killings.

And several people familiar with MS-13, including two gang members themselves, told CNN they think Trump’s crackdown on immigrants is actually making MS-13 stronger because witnesses are more reluctant to come forward for fear of being deported.
“It’s not like before, where … they (the gang) were more hidden,” said Margarita, adding that a decade after fleeing violence in El Salvador she has never felt more afraid. “People can get deported, so they don’t call the police. So they (MS-13) feel more free.”
“I think it’s emboldening them, because this gives them the opportunity to tell immigrants, ‘What are you gonna do? Are you going to report us? They’re deporting other innocent people … (so) they’re going to associate you with us by you coming forward,'” said Walter Barrientos, Long Island coordinator with Make the Road, an immigrant advocacy group.
“‘So what are you going to do? Who’s going to protect you?’ And that’s what really strikes many of us.”
But a senior Trump administration official disputed that thinking.”
************************************************************
Read the complete article at the link.
REALITY CHECK: Ever since the 1920’s, the U.S. has made major efforts to deport organized crime figures. Indeed many “line” Mafiosi and dozens of leaders have been deported over the years. Has it stopped or inhibited the growth of organized crime? The answer is pretty obvious. No way!
In fact, deportations merely forced some adjustments in organizational structure and actually internationalized, “professionalized,” and increased the power of the organized crime families. I suspect that these gangs suffered far more damage from their internal wars than they ever did from the Feds (“Untouchables” myths notwithstanding).
Likewise, deportations merely force some MS-13 (and rival) gang members to assume positions in “overseas operations.” Imprisonment in countries of the Northern Triangle gives them a chance to run the gang operations that control the prisons and to develop new criminal skills.
After all, there was no MS-13 in El Salvador until a waive of deportations from the U.S. (primarily the L.A. area) got it off to a running start in the 1980s and 1990s. And gang members won’t have too much difficulty coming back into the U.S. when they choose. The idea that they are going to be stopped by a wall, or by denying due process to their victims at the border is a joke. How dumb do we think these guys are?  I’m sure somewhere down in the Northern Triangle, the leaders are laughing at the Trump-Sessions idle threats and literally licking their chops right now.
I’m certainly not saying gang members who commit crimes shouldn’t be deported. Unlike most of the other participants in the debate, and certainly unlike Trump and Sessions, I’ve actually sent detained gang members, associates, and even wannabes back to whence they came. I also know that some of them have ended up back in the U.S. So, the idea that deportations are a “durable solution” to gang problems is little short of preposterous.
Combatting gang problems in the U.S. will take a nuanced strategy that deals more constructively with the instability, lack of honest government, and other societal problems in the sending countries (for example, U.S. inspired “zero tolerance,” “iron fist,” and “peace treaty” programs in Central America have been dismal and proven failures). In the U.S., it’s going to take a combined approach of social workers, teachers, law enforcement, counselors, local political figures, and families to make inroads. All this takes building trust, confidence, and sound relationships with migrant communities, the very thing that the “gonzo” enforcement programs of Trump and Sessions, and their unwarranted attacks on so-called sanctuary cities (actually cities that are constructively trying to solve these problems and undoubtedly making more progress than the Trumpsters and ICE) are mindlessly destroying. Since bilingual members of the communities have the best chance of getting to the bottom of these problems, many of those recent arrivals fleeing gang violence that Trump, Sessions, & Kelly are so intent on removing are exactly the folks that we will need to solve these problems here and in the sending countries.
The problems are real. But, Trump’s solutions are bogus. The results won’t be pretty for anyone except the gangs, who will take us to the cleaners, chuckling all the way (perhaps with their checks for civil damages for police brutality inspired by Trump in hand).
PWS
07-28-17

 

WONDER WHY FOLKS DON’T TRUST US LAW ENFORCEMENT? — THE PROBLEMS START AT THE TOP — TRUMP URGES POLICE BRUTALITY — THEY CHEER! — PREZ THROWS IN BOGUS STATS ON GANGS FOR A GOOD MEASURE!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/adolfoflores/trump-tells-ice-agents-to-be-rough-with-suspected-immigrant?utm_term=.ly1xKOAjZ#.yePNvEMgx

Adolfo Flores reports for BuzzFeed News:

“President Donald Trump on Friday encouraged authorities to rough up undocumented immigrants suspected of committing crimes as part of a speech to highlight his administration’s efforts to crack down on gang members and illegal immigration.

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,'” Trump said to cheers and applause. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head — you know, the way you put their hand over — like, ‘Don’t hit their head’ and they’ve just killed somebody. ‘Don’t hit their head.’ I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?'”

Trump made the comments while speaking in Long Island to law enforcement officials. He and his administration have been pointing to a streak of violence at the hands of MS-13 gang members as justification for cracking down on illegal immigration — even though federal data show the link is tenuous, at best.

In a tweet the Suffolk County Police Department, which covers the area where Trump gave his speech, also said they do not tolerate “roughing up of prisoners.”

Jeffery Robinson, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, said Trump sent police officers the wrong message by telling them he will back them 100% if they gratuitously hurt suspected criminals.

“By encouraging police to dole out extra pain at will, the president is urging a kind of lawlessness that already imperils the health and lives of people of color at shameful rates,” Robinson said in a statement. “We know what happened to Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and too many others who lost their lives only because they were under suspicion. We must increase the trust between police and civilians, not decimate it.”

Janai Nelson, associate director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the remarks rise to a new level of danger.

“No person, especially those who have only been accused of a crime, should be abused by those entrusted to uphold the law,” Nelson said in a statement. “The President’s mocking of the treatment of arrestees as they are escorted into a police vehicle is particularly reprehensible in light of the police in-custody death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.”

. . . .

He also made a connection between unaccompanied minors from Central America and MS-13, saying the increase in the kids coming to the US lead to an increase in the gang’s ranks.

“New arrivals came in, and they were all made recruits of each other. And they fought with each other. And then they fought outside of each other, and it got worse and worse,” Trump said. “In the three years before I took office, more than 150,000 unaccompanied alien minors arrived at the border and were released all throughout our country into United States communities.”

However, an analysis by the Washington Office on Latin America found that MS-13’s membership makes up less than 1% of all criminally active gang members in the US and Puerto Rico. The organization also said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ claim that MS-13 gang membership has increased to 10,000 members is the same estimate the FBI has been using since 2006.”

**********************************************************

Trump is taking full advantage of the fact that as President, he can’t be held legally or personally responsible for the consequences of his actions. But, moral responsibility is another thing. And, all of his inappropriate behavior is being well-documented for the historians.

Also, we should remember that while Trump disingenuously claims concern about the folks being harmed by gangs, every day his Administration sends innocent women and children back to countries of the Northern Triangle to be preyed upon by gangs, most without receiving anything resembling due process. Trump has never had any genuine concern for anyone in life except himself.

PWS

07-28-17

 

THE HUMAN COST OF GONZO POLICIES!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trumps-travel-ban-is-leaving-these-orphans-stuck-in-refugee-camps/2017/07/28/58195d24-6d52-11e7-8fb5-d101fa38cebd_story.html?utm_term=.c1979f167906&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

Justin Wm. Moyer reports in the Washington Post:

“The tranquil home of James Isaacs, an Episcopal priest, and wife Maggie Brewinski Isaacs, a pediatrician, sits on a hill above a creek on 5½ wooded acres in suburban Maryland. Inside, an unoccupied bedroom awaits a refu­gee ready to join the family.

But the 16-year-old girl, blocked by the Trump administration’s travel ban, is stuck in an Ethio­pian refu­gee camp and might never see the room.

“The children ask us when their big sister is going to arrive,” James Isaacs said of his sons, ages 4 and 2, one of whom was adopted from South Africa. “We are left in this time of uncertainty because of the administration and the Supreme Court decision.”

The girl, from the East African nation of Eritrea and identified to The Washington Post only by her initials “M.T.” to protect her privacy, is an “unaccompanied minor refu­gee” — a young, displaced person without a parent or guardian who is seeking refuge in the United States.

Jimmy Isaacs, 4, left, and his brother, Joseph, 2, play on the bed inside the room that the family prepared to foster an “unaccompanied minor refugee” from Africa. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

A painting is seen inside the room that Irene Stevenson prepared to foster an “unaccompanied minor refugee” from Africa. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

On July 19, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s travel ban to stand, leaving about 100 unaccompanied minor refugees stranded overseas. The decision comes after months of judicial back-and-forth over the ban, casting doubt on the children’s plans to live in the United States.

“They are youth that are on their own,” said Autumn Orme, a director at Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, which works with unaccompanied minor refugees. “I find it pretty extraordinary that they are managing this all on their own. These are children that don’t have parents to care for them.”

The result: M.T., an orphan who fled child labor in Eritrea two years ago and was approved by the State Department to live in the United States, remains in legal limbo.

“Not only is she missing out now, we’re missing out,” Isaacs said.

The Isaacs family is not the only one with an empty bedroom after the ban.”

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Read the rest of the stories at the link.

So what kind of country bars vulnerable kids in need while letting the real threats to our national security — Trump, his family, and his cronies — have free rein at the seat of Government? Trump, his family, and some of his advisers probably wouldn’t be able to pass the type of security screening to which overseas refugees are subjected.

PWS

07-28-17

BREAKING: GOP’s WAR ON AMERICANS’ HEALTH CARE DEFEATED, AGAIN — SENS COLLINS, MURKOWSKI, McCAIN STAND TALL FOR AMERICA — MISOGYNIST GOP, CHURLISH PREZ HURL INSULTS, THREATS! — Also Give Dems Credit For Hanging Together To Save Lives, At Least For Now!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-gop-leaders-work-to-round-up-votes-for-modest-health-care-overhaul/2017/07/27/ac08fc40-72b7-11e7-8839-ec48ec4cae25_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_healthcare-140a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.60f100ad6021

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/female-senators-are-increasingly-on-receiving-end-of-insults-from-male-officials/2017/07/27/6b0b6078-72d7-11e7-9eac-d56bd5568db8_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_gopmen-817pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.7aab9ead18ac

Excerpts from two reports from the Washington Post:

“Senate Republicans suffered a dramatic failure early Friday in their bid to advance a scaled-back plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, throwing into question whether they can actually repeal the 2010 health law.

Their latest effort to redraw the ACA failed after Sen. John McCain’s decision to side with two other Republicans against President Trump and GOP leaders. The Arizona Republican, diagnosed with brain cancer last week, returned to Washington on Tuesday and delivered a stirring address calling for a bipartisan approach to overhauling the ACA, while criticizing the process that produced the current legislation.

It was a speech that laid the groundwork for Friday’s dramatic vote.

The vote was 49 to 51 — all 48 members of the Democratic caucus joined with McCain and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to block the legislation.”

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“Republican female senators whose disapproval of the GOP health-care effort has at times endangered its progress are facing an increasingly pointed backlash from men in their party, including a handful of comments that invoked physical retaliation.

In the past week, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) has been challenged by a male lawmaker to a duel. She and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) were told that they and others deserve a physical reprimand for their decisions not to support Republican health-care proposals. Murkowski, who voted with Collins against starting the health-care debate this week, was specifically called out by President Trump on Twitter and told by a Cabinet official that Alaska could suffer for her choice, according to a colleague.

The language of retribution increasingly adopted by Republican men reflects Trump’s influence and underscores the challenges GOP women can face when opposing the consensus of their party, which remains dominated by men, outside experts said. A videotape of Trump surfaced during the campaign revealing him bragging in vulgar terms about groping women, and some believed that opened the gates for further insults and degrading behavior toward women.

“Masculine dominance in the Republican Party is not only in numbers but in culture,” said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and the author of “Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns.”

“When the person who is supposed to be the leader of the party shows it’s okay to use those sorts of attacks, whether they are specifically gendered or not, that is something that catches on at other levels,” Dittmar said. “We see it in the [elected officials] who feel it’s okay to say things like this.”

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Gee, are there only three adults in the “romper room” that passes for the Senate GOP? According to NBC’s Chuck Todd on Today, at least a dozen GOP Senators were “secretly relieved” that McCain vetoed the bill. What happened to their backbones? Whatever happened to governing for the good of the country, rather than trying to make good on boneheaded campaign promises? How much taxpayer money has the GOP wasted with its endless bogus votes to repeal Obamacare and the ongoing legislative circus they have been staging? Probably enough to pay for health care in all the rural counties in America.

Oh, and the threats to let Obamacare tank (that’s the latest version of Trump(we don’t)care)? Those hurt most would be the poor and struggling folks out there in Trumpland. Interesting that Democrats were willing to stand up for them, even though the folks in Trumpland were not willing to stand up for the rest of us Americans. Yeah, and no amount of Kris Kobach, Mike Pence obfuscation and outright lying can change the fact that the majority of Americans voted against the Trump Circus in the first place.

I’ve read lots of articles about how the rest of us need to be kind, compassionate, and understanding of the needs and situations of those who voted for Trump. Generally, I agree with that. It’s one country, and we should take care of everyone, including those who have differing ideas and those who can’t take care of themselves. But, as the GOP would say, at some point there has to be at least a little sense of personal responsibility. Don’t the folks who irresponsibly voted for a supremely (and obviously) unqualified individual to occupy the highest office in the land, and compounded the problem by putting a party that can’t (and never really has been) able to govern in power, bear any accountability for the disaster that has followed?

And one more thing. Could we please have a moratorium on articles about the “legislative genius” of Mitch McConnell?

PWS

07-28-17

 

HISTORY: In January 1972, A.G. John Mitchell Sat In His Paneled Office At The DOJ, Puffed On His Pipe, And Listened To Plans For A Whacko Criminal Conspiracy (Which Sent Him To Jail) — Since Then The Vaunted “Independence” Of The DOJ Has Been More Myth Than Reality — Trump Wants To Make The DOJ Part Of His Corrupt Political Empire — GOP Pols Talk Big But Do Little When It Comes To Standing Up To America’s Corruptor In Chief!

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/07/27/jeff-sessions-is-the-canary-in-the-coal-mine-215424?cid=apn

Joshua Zeitz writes in Politico:

“President Trump’s condemnation of his own attorney general may seem bizarre and unprecedented, but here’s something many in America’s gobsmacked chattering class are forgetting: The vaunted independence of the Justice Department took over a century to build, and it’s a far more fragile institution than we realize.

The spectacle of Trump attacking Jeff Sessions, one of his earliest and most stalwart supporters, as “beleaguered” and “unfair” is certainly jarring. The president seemingly cannot help but vent his frustration over the attorney general’s decision to step aside in the Department of Justice’s probe into Russian election interference—a step that led indirectly to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. If Sessions “would have recused himself before the job,” Trump told the (“failing”) New YorkTimes. “I would have said ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’”

The prospect that the president might fire Sessions, whose immigration policies and draconian approach to law enforcement are anathema to the left, places Democrats in an unusual position. They despise the attorney general but find themselves bound to protect the independence of his office. But the real test lies with Republicans, who have largely looked the other way as Trump has laid waste to one political norm after another. Will they draw a sharp line in the sand, or bury their heads in it?

It took well over a century for the office of the attorney general to accrue the very power and independence that Trump now stands poised to blow up. Originally a minor position with little authority or autonomy, over the years the AG emerged as the nation’s top law enforcement official and a key adviser to the president. The office withstood considerable strain in the latter quarter of the 20th century. But like so many civic institutions today, it is imperiled precisely because it is largely the product of traditions, and administrative rules that capture those traditions, rather than permanent statutes or laws. Once broken, it may not be so easily reassembled.”

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Read the complete article, which contains a fascinating short history of the DOJ, at the link.

Washington was, in fact, built on swampland with Tiber Creek running through it. I’m sort of expecting that the old swamp will just open up again some day and swallow Trump and the whole corrupt mess surrounding him.

PWS

07-27-17

 

 

ILYA SOMIN IN WASHPOST: Sessions’s Gonzo Attack On America’s Cities Is Unconstitutional!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/07/27/jeff-sessions-attack-on-sanctuary-cities-is-also-an-assault-on-federalism-and-separation-of-powers/?utm_term=.dadc10264ba1

Somin, a Professor of Law at George Mason, writes:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a new Justice Department policy seeking to pull federal grants from “sanctuary cities” – jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with some federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. Much like President Trump’s earlier executive order targeting sanctuary cities, which was blocked by a federal court decision, the Justice Department’s new policy is unconstitutional. If allowed to proceed, it would create a dangerous precedent for both federalism and separation of powers.

. . . .

The major constitutional problem with all three requirements is exactly the same as the main flaw in the earlier order: Longstanding Supreme Court precedent indicates that only Congress can impose conditions on grants given to states and localities, and that those conditions must be “unambiguously” stated in the text of the law “so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds.” Neither compliance with Section 1373 nor the other two conditions the DOJ seeks to impose are included in the authorizing legislation for the Byrne grants. Sessions and Trump may be at odds on other issues right now. But they are united in their desire to make up new grant conditions and impose them on states and localities after the fact.”

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Read the entire article at the link.

Sessions is a “Constitutional relativist.” One day he’s for states’s rights to deny minorities the vote or to shoot or beat them to a pulp in law enforcement operations. The next day, he’s for the Feds interfering with local law enforcement’s ability to work with the entire community (not just the white guys) to enforce local laws. The only consistency in Sessions’s positions: the White Nationalist agenda. Look for the worst outcome for folks of color or non-Christians and that’s where you will find Sessions and his minions. Every time.

PWS

07-27-17

FLASH: AILA WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FOR MORE U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES & EOIR FUNDING! — UNDER TRUMP/SESSIONS REGIME “increased judges will not necessarily promote due process and fairness for those appearing in proceedings!”

“From: Greg Chen [mailto:GChen@aila.org]
Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2017 10:06 AM
To: AILA Interior Enforcement List
Cc: AILA Interior Enforcement List; Kate Voigt; Laura Lynch; Kerri Talbot
Subject: [interiorenforcement] AILA shifted position on IJ funding – CJS approps

Everyone,

AILA’s board just voted to change our position on the funding of immigration judges: in brief, AILA will no longer be supporting increased funding for IJs.  The change in position was motivated by two principal concerns: 1) additional funding for judges will enable this administration to deport more people more rapidly; and 2) increased judges will not necessarily promote due process and fairness for those appearing in proceedings, esp under the current administration.

We will convey this to key friends on the Hill, but we haven’t decided how actively we plan to push this.

Here’s what the House FY18 CJS bill includes, according to the summary posted by House approps:

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) – Funding for the EOIR is increased by $64.5 million, for a total of $505 million. This increase will provide for 65 additional immigration judge teams to process immigration reviews more quickly, and reduce the backlog of pending cases.

Gregory Z. Chen, Esq.
Director of Government Relations
Direct: 202-507-7615 I Cell: 202.716-5818 I Email: gchen@aila.org American Immigration Lawyers Association
Main: 202.507.7600 I Fax: 202.783.7853 I www.aila.org<http://www.aila.org/>
1331 G Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005″

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I can understand the sentiment that brought this about. I’m not sure, however, that this isn’t an exercise in “kicking the cat.” The real problem here is lack of independence and the highly inappropriate, facially unethical, role of the DOJ, which Congress created, allowed to fester, and failed to date to fix. And the type of misguided GOP agenda behind an atrocity like H.R. 391 also doesn’t help.

Interesting that the last several Administrations have mismanaged the Immigration Courts to the point where they appear to be doing exactly the opposite of their single mission: guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!

With this particular Congress and Administration, AILA’s change in position probably won’t mean much. Only White Nationalist and restrictionist groups seem to have any influence.

Sadly, years of hard-won progress in establishing due process in the Immigration Court system have now been squandered. EOIR and the Immigration Courts have returned to the mess that they were before EOIR was created.

Bad time to be seeking justice in America! Thanks to my former Georgetown Law Refugee Law & Policy student Shaw Drake for sending me this item!

PWS

07-27-17

 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS FROM CNN’S TAL KOPAN — TRUMP’S WALL DELAYED BY BID PROTESTS!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/27/politics/border-wall-delay/index.html

Tal reports:

“Washington (CNN)Construction on prototypes for President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall has been delayed until winter at the earliest after bidders who were passed over filed protests about the decision, according to an update obtained by CNN.

The delay pushes back construction of the potential wall designs months beyond when the administration had hoped to break ground. The plan had originally been to build in June, and in recent weeks the Department of Homeland Security has insisted it was still on track to begin work on prototypes this summer.
But according to a memo sent out by the Customs and Border Protection legislative affairs office, obtained by CNN, two companies that were not selected to be finalists — who then were asked to submit more detailed proposals — filed a total of four protests of the process. While two of the protests, from WNIS, were dismissed, two from Penna Group are still under review and won’t be decided until October, the update said.
That sets the earliest that prototype construction could begin for November, to be completed by early December. That’s if no further protests are filed and if the original protests are dismissed, the update notes, and acknowledges that protests are a common part of government contracting.
CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The news comes as the House is set to vote Thursday night on a security funding package that would include money to build new border wall next fiscal year, though Democrats in the Senate have signaled they will oppose any such effort.
Since Congress has yet to appropriate any money for Trump’s signature campaign pledge, the prototypes have been the only step the administration has been able to take in executing Trump’s vision.”
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Gee whiz, this Government contracting process seems to be more complicated than Trump thought. Maybe he should just have Jared build the wall.
Many thanks to the always wonderful Tal Kopan for the “early scoop” on this.
PWS
07-27-17

 

UNDER STRESS, A.G. JEFF “GONZO APOCALYPTO” SESSIONS REACTS AS USUAL — BY ASSAULTING THE RIGHTS AND DIGNITY OF MINORITIES — Orders DOJ To Deny That LGBT Community Gets Civil Rights Protections! — We Shouldn’t Let Trump’s Improper Attack Turn Sessions Into A Constitutional Hero — He’s Not!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/justice-gay-civil-rights-act_us_5979422de4b02a4ebb72e45d

Nick Visser reports in HuffPost:

“The Department of Justice argued in a legal brief on Wednesday that the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers no protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, a position advocacy groups condemned as “shameful” and “politically driven.”

DOJ lawyers, arguing under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in which they said the department did not believe the law ― which bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin ― applied to lesbian and gay people. The brief was filed as part of a lawsuit filed by a now-deceased skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, who said he was fired for his sexual orientation. His lawyers contend the dismissal violated of the act’s Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination.

“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” the Justice Department brief says. “It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.” It adds: “The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect.”

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Read the full report at the link.

One of many unfortunate aspects of Trump’s churlish, unprovoked, dumb, and downright nasty attack on Sessions is that it makes the A.G. look like a hero for merely doing what any other public servant would be required to do under the circumstances.

This should not deflect attention from Sessions’s truly reprehensible record as AG. In a short time in office, he has undermined civil rights, voting rights, minority protections, protections from unconstitutional policing, due process and rationality in immigration enforcement, LGBT rights, community law enforcement efforts, forensic science, prosecutorial discretion, private property rights in civil forfeitures, and prison reform. I’m probably leaving some out. And, while doing it he has advanced a false White Nationalist agenda about immigrants and migrants (indeed, his agenda targets just about all Americans except straight, white, GOP males).

Sessions’s tenure at the U.S. Justice Department has been an unmitigated disaster from a Constitutional, due process, and institutional standpoint. That he is now being bullied and publicly shamed and humiliated by the totally unqualified President whom he supported and helped put in Office should not in any way detract from his abysmal record as a public servant. And, let’s not forget that despite his supposed recusal, Sessions could barely wait to help give Trump some cover for the firing of James Comey.  Just happened to blow up in his face when Trump himself made it clear that Sessions and his Deputy Rod Rosenstein had tried to take a dive for the “team.” (Something folks should also keep in mind before falsely idolizing  Rosenstein. What kind of guy would sign on to being “Gonzo Apocalypto’s” Deputy in the first place.)

Indeed, in most ways, Sessions is merely receiving the type of boorish cowardly treatment at Trump’s own hands that he (Sessions) was and still is happy to abet and assist by implementing Trump’s gonzo White Nationalist agenda of destroying our Constitutuonal system and the rule of law. Sessions’s own cowardly attacks on the transgender and LGBT communities are illustrated by his latest actions. Not an ounce of  humanity or decency in the man. For that, and all of the other ways he has tried to undermine the American system during his many years in Washington, he deserves to be charged with full responsibility in the pages of history.

PWS

07-27-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOP ATTACK ON DUE PROCESS: HOUSE GOP ADVANCES BILL TO EVISCERATE U.S. ASYLUM SYSTEM — WOULD RETURN CHILDREN, WOMEN & FAMILIES TO LIFE THREATENING SITUATIONS WITHOUT DUE PROCESS! — STOP H.R. 391!

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/house-bill-would-return-persecuted-refugees-danger

Human Rights First reports:

HOME / PRESS RELEASE / HOUSE BILL WOULD RETURN PERSECUTED REFUGEES TO DANGER
July 26, 2017
House Bill Would Return Persecuted Refugees to Danger

 

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Immigration Detention, Refugee Protection
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged members of the House Judiciary Committee to reject the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act when it marks up the legislation today. The bill would severely undermine access to protection for genuine refugees.

“The proposed legislation does nothing to enhance the integrity of our asylum system, but instead puts individuals, particularly women and children, at grave risk of return to persecution, trafficking, and death in their home or third countries,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Instead, this bill is a disgraceful attempt to evade U.S. refugee protection responsibilities and foist them on to other countries. Not only would this effort undermine U.S. global leadership, but it would set a poor example for the countries hosting the vast majority of the world’s refugees. The bill would make it even more difficult for refugees to receive asylum in our already rigorous asylum system and leave vulnerable children, families, and other individuals at risk of severe harm or death.”

The bill seeks to make it harder for those fleeing persecution and torture to file for asylum in the United States, a process already fraught with obstacles. Several groups of particularly vulnerable individuals—including children, women, and LGBTQ asylum seekers—would be disproportionately impacted by certain provisions, which essentially eliminate protection for refugees who have been victims of crimes in their home countries. The bill attempts to eliminate the statutory basis for release on parole, which would leave asylum seekers detained in violation of U.S. treaty obligations, and held in jails and facilities with conditions similar to jails despite the existence of more cost-effective and humane alternative measures that result in compliance and appearance at hearings. The bill also seeks to ban federal government-funded counsel, including for unaccompanied children, some of whom are toddlers or even younger.

Human Rights First, along with 73 other rights and immigration groups, sent a letter to members of the committee today urging them to reject the legislation. Among many changes to law, the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2017 would:

Raise the expedited removal screening standard to an unduly high level. The bill would require that an asylum seeker—in order to even be allowed to apply for asylum—not only show a “significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum” but also prove it is more likely than not that his or her statements are true—the standard for a full adjudication, not a summary screening interview.
Appear to prevent arriving asylum seekers who have passed the credible fear screening process from being paroled from immigration detention, instead leaving them in jails and jail-like facilities for months or longer, even though there are more fiscally-prudent and humane alternatives that have been proven effective.
Deny asylum to large numbers of refugees based on transit or stays in countries where they had no legal status, or no lasting legal status, and to which they cannot be returned in most cases. This provision would seek to deny asylum to many refugees who have passed through Mexico, despite the risks and severe protection deficiencies there. In addition, refugees—who may have languished in a refugee camp for decades without the ability to legally work, access education or secure legal permanency—with valid claims would be left in a state of uncertainty, with no prospects for a durable solution and no secure future for themselves and their children.
Allow asylum applicants and unaccompanied children to be bounced to third countries (such as Mexico) despite the dangers and lack of protection from return to persecution there, and in the absence of any agreement between the United States and the countries in question for the reception of asylum seekers.
Categorically deny asylum and withholding of removal to refugees targeted for criminal harm—including rape and killing—based on their membership in a particular social group in their countries of origin. This extraordinarily broad provision would deny protection to asylum seekers who have been beaten for being gay, who have suffered horrific domestic abuse, or who have been treated as property by virtue of their status as women, to name but a few examples. It would also effectively eliminate asylum eligibility or withholding of removal for asylum seekers who have been victims of or who fear persecution related to gang violence in their home country.
State that the government not bear expense for counsel. The bill also states that in no instance will the federal government bear expense for counsel for anyone in removal or appellate proceedings. Children – including toddlers – the mentally disabled, and other vulnerable people cannot represent themselves in our complex immigration system.
Last week Human Rights First released a new report assessing the dangers facing refugees in Mexico in the wake of proposals from the Trump Administration and Congress to block refugees passing through Mexico from seeking protection in the United States. The analysis, “Dangerous Territory: Mexico Still Not Safe for Refugees” finds that migrants and refugees in Mexico face risks of kidnapping, disappearance, sexual assault, and trafficking, and that Mexican authorities routinely deport individuals to their home countries regardless of whether they fear return to persecution and the country’s human rights obligations.

Human Rights First notes that when Congress—with strong bipartisan support—passed the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States codified its commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol. Under those treaties, states can’t return refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened or reject potential refugees at the border. The United States is also a party to the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits governments from sending people to places where they would be in danger of being tortured, and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and migrants. Instead of turning away those seeking protection, the United States should be doing more to ensure their protection claims are properly assessed and due process is safeguarded.

“At a time when the world faces the largest refugee crisis in history, this bill sends a dangerous message to other nations, including those who host the overwhelming majority refugees: that the United States intends to shirk its responsibility to those fleeing violence and persecution,” added Acer.

For more information or to speak with Acer, contact Corinne Duffy at 202-370-3319 or DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org.

PRESS CONTACT

Corinne Duffy
202-370-3319
Email Corinne
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Eleanor-Acer-HRF-2006.jpg

Eleanor Acer
Senior Director, Refugee Protection
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I also highly recommend this “spot on” analysis by David Bier of the Cato Institute of this warped and misguided attempt by GOP restrictionists in the House to destroy Due Process in the U.S. Asylum system without in any way addressing the real issues — conditions in foreign countries and our outdated and unuduy restrictive legal immigration system.

I Bier writes:

NOTE: The charts and formatting are much better if you go to,the link than on the reprinted version below.

https://www.cato.org/publications/public-comments/statement-hr-391-asylum-reform-border-protection-act

Statement for the Record of David Bier of the Cato Institute* Submitted to House Committee on the Judiciary Markup of “H.R. 391 – Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act” July 26, 2017

The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act (H.R. 391) would undermine the individual rights of people fleeing persecution and violence to seek asylum in the United States. The bill would obliterate the current asylum standards and now require asylum seekers to prove their claims to an impossible degree immediately upon their arrival at the border—without access to the documents or witnesses that they would need to do so. The government would then promptly deport without a hearing before an immigration judge those who fail this unattainable requirement, possibly to endure violence or persecution. The authors claim that this radical change is necessary due to an unprecedented surge of asylum applicants. In the 1990s, however, a similar surge of asylum seekers arrived in the United States, and Congress adopted much less severe reforms than those proposed in this bill. Even assuming that the applicants are submitting asylum applications for the sole purpose of gaining entrance to the United States, the bill does nothing to address the underlying cause of the problem: the lack of a legal alternative to migrate. As long as legal immigration remains impossible for lesser- skilled workers and their family members, unauthorized immigration of various kinds will continue to present a challenge. Asylum rule change will result in denials of legitimate claims Current law requires that asylum seekers at the border assert a “credible fear” of persecution.1 Asylum officers determine credibility based on whether there is a “significant possibility” that, if they allow the person to apply, an immigration judge would find that the fear is “well-founded,” a higher standard of proof. The credible fear interview screens out only the claims that obviously have “no possibility, or only a minimal or mere possibility, of success,” as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) puts it.2 If the USCIS asylum officer rejects the claim as not credible, the applicant may ask an immigration judge to review the determination the next day but is not granted a full hearing. Customs and Border Protection removes those who fail to assert or fail to articulate a credible fear. H.R. 391 would impose a much higher standard simply to apply for asylum in the United States. In addition to demonstrating that they had significant possibility of successfully proving their claim to an immigration judge, it would require applicants to prove that it is “more probable than

* The Cato Institute is a libertarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit think tank founded in 1977 and located in Washington D.C.

not” that their claims are true—a preponderance of the evidence standard.3 This standard eviscerates the lower bar that Congress established. The committee simply cannot expect that asylum seekers who may have had to sneak out of their country of origin in the dead of night or swim across rivers to escape persecution will have sufficient evidence the moment they arrive in the United States to meet this burden. In 2016, a group of Syrian Christians who traveled thousands of miles across multiple continents and then up through Mexico to get to the United States arrived at the border to apply for asylum.4 Thankfully, they met the credible fear standard and were not deported, which enabled them to hire an attorney to help them lay out their claim, but this new standard could endanger anyone who follows their path. An inability to provide sufficient evidence of their religion, nationality, residence, or fear would result in deportation immediately after presenting themselves at the border. The authors imply that requiring them to prove their statements are true is not the same as requiring them to prove their entire asylum case, but this is a distinction without a difference.5 Asylum applicants must state a “credible fear” of persecution. Those statements would then be subject to the much more stringent standard. Of course the government should demand the truth from all applicants, but this is a question of the standard by which asylum officers should use to weed truth from falsehood. It is virtually impossible that, by words alone, asylum seekers could prove that it is “more probable than not” that their statements are true. The committee should consider this fact: in 2016, immigration judges reversed nearly 30 percent of all denials of credible fear that came to them on appeal.6 This means that even under the current law, asylum officers make errors that would reject people with credible claims of persecution. If Congress requires an even greater burden, many more such errors will occur, but faced with the higher evidentiary requirement, immigration judges will have little choice but to ratify them. Here is another sign that the truth is not enough: asylum applicants with attorneys were half as likely to have their asylum denied by immigration judges in 2016 as those without attorneys. Indeed, 90 percent of all applicants without counsel lose their case, while a majority with counsel win theirs.7 This demonstrates that people need more than just honesty—they also need to understand what evidence is relevant to their case and need help to gather documents, witnesses, and other evidence to support their claim. For these reasons, Congress never intended the credible fear interview as a rigorous adversarial process because it wanted to give people who could credibly articulate a fear of persecution an opportunity to apply. It knew that while some people without legitimate claims would be able to apply, the lower standard of proof would protect vulnerable people from exclusion. As Senator Alan Simpson, the sponsor of the 1996 bill that created the credible fear process, “it is a significantly lesser fear standard than we use for any other provision.”8 Indeed, during the debate over the compromise version of the bill, proponents of the legislation touted that the fact that they had dropped “the more probable than not” language in the original version.9

Asylum surge is not unprecedented People can either apply for asylum “affirmatively” to USCIS on their own or they can apply “defensively” after they come into the custody of the U.S. government somehow, such as at the border or airport, to an immigration judge, which would include the credible fear process. If USCIS denies an “affirmative” applicant who is in the country illegally, the government places them in removal proceedings before an immigration judge where they can present their claim again. Reviewing the data on asylum claims, two facts become clear: total asylum claims peaked in the 1990s, and a substantial majority of claims are affirmative—that is, done voluntarily, not through the credible fear process or through removal proceedings. Although credible fear claims—a process that was first created in 1997—have increased dramatically, the overall number of asylum claims has still not reached the highs of the early 1990s. Unfortunately, the immigration courts have not published the number of cases that they received before 1996, but as Figure 1 shows, the United States has experienced similar surges of asylum seekers to 2016.10

Figure 1 Asylum Applications Received and Credible Fear Claims Approved, 1985-2016 160,000 140,000 120,000 100,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0 USCIS Asylum Cases Immigration Judge Asylum Cases Credible Fear Approvals Sources: Department of Justice; Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services It is noteworthy that in the midst of the surge in the 1990s, Congress did not adopt the draconian approach that this bill would require. Rather, it created the credible fear process that the bill would essentially eliminate. The authors of the legislation, however, argue that the Obama administration turned the credible fear process into a rubber stamp, allowing applicants to enter regardless of the credibility of their claims. But again a look at the numbers undermines this 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

It is noteworthy that in the midst of the surge in the 1990s, Congress did not adopt the draconian approach that this bill would require. Rather, it created the credible fear process that the bill would essentially eliminate. The authors of the legislation, however, argue that the Obama administration turned the credible fear process into a rubber stamp, allowing applicants to enter regardless of the credibility of their claims. But again a look at the numbers undermines this

narrative. As Figure 2 highlights, the Obama administration denied an average of about 25 percent of all asylum seekers from 2009 to 2016.11

Figure 2 Credible Fear of Persecution Claims, FY 1997 to 2017 120,000 100,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0 Completed Cases (left) Approval Share (Rate) Sources: Rempell (1997-2008); USCIS (2009-2016)

Despite fluctuations of up to 35 percentage points during this time, there is simply no relationship at all between the rate of approval and the number of claims being made. Factors other than the approval rate must be driving the number of applications. Some of these claims are undoubtedly invalid or even fraudulent, but given that a majority of claims by individuals with representation in immigration court win their asylum claims, it is obvious that the credible fear process has protected many people from deportation to persecution abroad.12 If fraudulent claims are a concern, Congress can best address it in the same way that it has successfully addressed other aspects of illegal immigration from Mexico: through an expansion of legal immigration. During the 1950s and again recently in the 2000s, Congress expanded the availability of low-skilled guest worker visas, which led to a great reduction in the rate of illegal immigration. Figure 3 presents the number of guest workers entering each year and the number of people each border agent apprehended each year—the best available measure of illegal immigration. It shows that the period of high illegal immigration occurred almost exclusively during the period of restrictive immigration.13 Most guest workers today are Mexicans.14 This is largely due to the fact that the current guest worker programs are limited to seasonal temporary jobs and Mexico is closer to the United

States, which makes trips to and from the United States easier. By comparison, most asylum seekers are from Central America. Assuming that a significant portion of these asylum seekers are either reuniting with illegal residents already in the United States or are seeking illegal residence themselves, these seasonal programs are unavailable to them.

Figure 3 Guest Worker Entries and Apprehensions of Illegal Aliens per Border Patrol Agent, 1946-2015 1,200 500,000 1,000 800 600 400 200 400,000 300,000 200,000 100,000 00 Apprehensions Per Agent (left) Guest Workers (Right) Sources: Border Patrol; Immigration and Naturalization Service; Department of Homeland Security 1946 1948 1950 1952 1954 1956 1958 1960 1962 1964 1966 1968 1970 1972 1974 1976 1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014

Congress should create a temporary work visa program for low-skilled workers in year-round jobs, similar to the H-1B visa for high-skilled workers.15 This would cut down on asylum fraud and illegal immigration without the downsides that this bill presents.

1 8 U.S. Code § 1225 2 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Lesson Plan Overview – Credible Fear,” February 28, 2014, http://cmsny.org/wp-content/uploads/credible-fear-of-persecution-and-torture.pdf. 3 P. 2 Justia, “Evidentiary Standards and Burdens of Proof,” https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/evidentiary-standards- burdens-proof/ 4 Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Who were the Syrians who showed up at the Texas border? Some are Christians,” Los Angeles Times, December 7, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-syrian-texas-christians-20151207- story.html 5 “Markup of H.R. 1153, The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act,” House Judiciary Committee, March 4, 2015, https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/03.04.15-Markup-Transcript.pdf. 6 U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, “FY 2016 Statistics Yearbook,” March 2017, https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/fysb16/download. 7 TracImmigration, “Continued Rise in Asylum Denial Rates,” Syracuse University, December 13, 2016, http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/448/. 8 142 Cong. Rec. S4492 (1996) https://www.congress.gov/crec/1996/05/01/CREC-1996-05-01-pt1-PgS4457.pdf 9 142 Cong. Rec. H11081 (1996) https://www.congress.gov/crec/1996/09/25/CREC-1996-09-25-pt1-PgH11071- 2.pdfhttps://www.congress.gov/crec/1996/09/25/CREC-1996-09-25-pt1-PgH11071-2.pdf 10 U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, “Statistics Yearbook,” https://www.justice.gov/eoir/statistical-year-book Department of Homeland Security, “Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2004,” https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Yearbook_Immigration_Statistics_2004.pdf U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Asylum Division Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting,” https://search.uscis.gov/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=uscis_gov&query=Asylum+Division+Quarterly+Stak eholder+Meeting&commit= 11 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Asylum Division, “Credible Fear Data,” https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Outreach/PED- Credible_Fear_Workload_Report_Summary_POE_and_Inland_Caseload_through_2015-09.pdf https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Outreach/Upcoming%20National%20Engagements/PED_CredibleF earReasonableFearStatisticsNationalityReport.pdf https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Outreach/PED- Credible_Fear_Workload_Report_Summary_POE_and_Inland_Caseload_through_2015-09.pdf https://www.chapman.edu/law/_files/publications/clr-18-rempell.pdf https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Outreach/PED- _Credible_Fear_and_Reasonable_Fear_Statistics_and_Nationality_Report.pdf 12 http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/448/ 13 Alex Nowrasteh, “Guest Worker Visas Can Halt Illegal Immigration,” Cato Institute, May 5, 2014, https://www.cato.org/blog/guest-worker-visas-can-halt-illegal-immigration. 14 Alex Nowrasteh, “H-2B Expansion Doubles Down on Successful Border Control Strategy,” Cato Institute, December 23, 2015, https://www.cato.org/blog/h-2b-expansion-doubles-down-successful-border-control-strategy. 15 Alex Nowrasteh, “How to Make Guest Worker Visas Work,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis 719, January 31, 2013, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/how-make-guest-worker-visas-work.

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Bier’s report notes that U.S. Immigration Judges overruled approximately 30% of credible fear denials by the DHS Asylum Office. Although I did a modest number of credible/fear reasonable fear reviews, including some in temporary assignments to “detained courts” on the Southern Border, I found the number of erroneous credible/reasonable fear denials to be in the 80% to 90% range, including a number of cases that were “clear grants” under Fourth Circuit case law. The idea that Border Patrol Officer could fairly make these determinations is beyond preposterous!

Chairman Goodlatte and his GOP buddies seek nothing less than the end of a fair asylum adjudication system that fulfills our international mandates. H.R. 391 also makes a mockery of due process. In other words, the Goodlatte GOP crowd seeks to turn the U.S. into a “Third World” imitation of a democracy. These types of legislative tactics are exactly what I saw for 21 years of adjuducating claims from countries where the rule of law had broken down.

Whether immigration/refugee advocates or not, every American Citizen who cares about our Constitution and the rule of law should be fighting measures like this tooth and nail. If Goodlatte & Co. win, we all lose, and America will be well on its way to becoming just another third world facade of a democratic republic.

Rather than the totally bogus restrictionist agenda being pushed by Goodlatte and the GOP, here’s what REALLY should concern us as a nation, taken from one of my recent speeches:

“Our Government is going to remove those who lose their cases to countries where some of them undoubtedly will suffer extortion, rape, torture, forced induction into gangs, and even death. Before we return individuals to such possible fates, it is critical that they have a chance to be fully and fairly heard on their claims for protection and that they fully understand and have explained to them the reasons why our country is unwilling and unable to protect them. Neither of those things is going to happen without effective representation.

We should always keep in mind that contrary to the false impression given by some pundits and immigration “hard liners,” losing an asylum case means neither that the person is committing fraud nor that he or she does not have a legitimate fear of return. In most cases, it merely means that the dangers the person will face upon return do not fall within our somewhat convoluted asylum system. And, as a country, we have chosen not to exercise our discretion to grant temporary shelter to such individuals through Temporary Protected Status, Deferred Enforced Departure, or prosecutorial discretion (“PD”). In other words, we are returning them knowing that the effect might well be life threatening or even fatal in many cases.”

Picking on the already vulnerable, disposed, and endangered is what the Goodlatte/GOP restrictionist program is really about.

PWS

07-27-17