WASHINGTON POST: “DEATH PENALTY IN TRAFFIC COURT” — BIG STAKES, LITTLE COURTS, FLAWED PROCEDURES, IMPROPER POLITICAL INFLUENCE, SOME JUDGES WHO FAIL TO PROTECT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS LEAD TO LIFE-THREATENING ERRORS ON A DAILY BASIS IN OVERWHELMED U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS. — What If YOU or YOUR Loved Were On Trial In This Godforsaken Corner Of Our Justice System Controlled By Jeff “Gonzo Aocalypto” Sessions!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-mexican-journalists-life-hangs-in-the-balance/2017/12/11/9783ab1a-deac-11e7-8679-a9728984779c_story.html

The WashPost Editorial Board writes:

“As he awaits his fate in a remote Texas jail, Mr. Gutierrez, 54, remains convinced of the peril he faces if deported to his native country. “My life depends on this [appeal],” he said by telephone in a news conference organized Monday by the National Press Club. “I’m terrified to set foot in Mexico.”

The judge who denied asylum in the case, Robert S. Hough, pointed to an absence of documentary and testimonial corroboration of Mr. Gutierrez’s claim. The woman who relayed word of the alleged death threat did not come forward; neither did Mr. Gutierrez’s former boss at the newspaper for which he worked in Chihuahua. Much of Mr. Gutierrez’s case comes down to his word.

Nonetheless, the judge’s cut-and-dried application of the law fails to take into account conditions in Mexico generally and the peril faced there by journalists in particular. It’s not surprising that Mr. Gutierrez cannot recover copies of his articles, written more than a decade ago for a regional newspaper. Nor is it unusual that witnesses are reluctant to come forward, given the fear with which many Mexicans regard the security forces.

As a U.N. report published this month concluded, citing the deaths, disappearances and attacks on dozens of journalists tallied by Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, “The data . . . presents a picture for the situation of journalists in Mexico that cannot be described as other than catastrophic.” Against that background, it seems cavalier to dismiss the threat Mr. Gutierrez faces should he be deported to Mexico. He should be granted asylum.”

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Read the complete Editorial at the link.

Unfortunately, a “cut and dried application of the law” without proper regard to the facts or reality is a disturbingly accurate snapshot of what all too often happens daily in our Immigration Courts, a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the US Department of Justice and part of the “Trump Conglomerate” (formerly known as the US Government).

Our failing US Immigration Court system and its aggravation by AG “Gonzo Apocalypto’s” oft-expressed hostility to immigrants, asylum, the rule of law (except his 1950s “Jim Crow” views on the law and how it should be a tool for injustice and advancing White Nationalism), lawyers, Latinos, Mexicans, and the press has become an almost daily topic for major editorial boards. At least someone (other than me) is watching and documenting as this mockery of American justice unfolds before us.

In particular, too many U.S. Immigration Judges are tone-deaf to Mexican asylum claims, not wanting to be accused of “opening the floodgates” ( a concept that is nowhere to be found in the actual law) and knowing that “Gonzo” wants lots of  “quick removals” rather than asylum grants.  Additionally, the only administrative check on the Immigration Judges’ authority is a weak Appeals Board that never “calls out” overly restrictive Immigration Judges by name and seldom publishes precedents granting asylum. Truly, a prescription for a “Due Process Disaster!”

Judge Hough seems to have forgotten that under the law:

  • ”Corroborating evidence” can only be required if it is “reasonably available;”
  • Testimony may be corroborated by country condition information describing the same abuses that the applicant claims;
  • The standard for granting asylum is a  generous “well-founded fear” or “reasonable likelihood” of future harm which can be “significantly less than probable — as little as a 10% chance can suffice;
  • Asylum applicants are supposed to be given the “benefit of the doubt” in recognition of the evidentiary challenges of providing proof of persecution and the difficulties of relating traumatic events in the past.

It remain to be seen whether the Board of Immigration Appeals, EOIR’s “Appellate Court,” will correct Judge Hough’s life-threatening errors and, further, issue a strong precedent on asylum for foreign journalists (traditionally one of the most vulnerable and persecuted groups) to prevent further miscarriages of Justice such as this. Such a precedent would also discourage the DHS from continuing to abuse our system by pushing for removal (and needless detention) in cases such as this where a grant of asylum at the DHS  Asylum Office or at the hearing following the testimony would be the correct result.

Or, will the next major editorial describe and decry Mr. Gutierrez’s death in Mexico!

In a well-functioning justice system, this case should have been a “Short-docket, No-brainer Grant.” But, Gonzo Apocalypto seeks to use the US Immigration Courts as an extension of DHS enforcement rather than, as they were intended, as Courts guaranteeing fairness, Due Process, and equal justice for all! We need change. Lots of it!

[NOTE: For those interested, Judge Hough apparently has not decided enough asylum cases on the merits in El Paso to be listed on the statistical profile of asylum outcomes maintained by TRAC Immigration.]

PWS

12-12-17

 

FOURTH CIRCUIT JOINS 9TH, 2d, & 6TH IN REVERSING BIA’S OVERLY RESTRICTIVE READING OF ASYLUM ELIGIBILITY – ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE OF A PRE-EXISTING CLAIM CAN BE A “CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCE” JUSTIFYING “LATE” ASYLUM FILING! — ZAMBRANO V. SESSIONS (PUBLISHED)!

4th Cir on changed circumstances-1yr

Zambrano v. Sessions, 4th Cir., 12-05-17 (published)

PANEL: KEENAN and WYNN, Circuit Judges, and John A. GIBNEY, Jr., United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

OPINION BY: Judge Gibney

KEY QUOTE:

“This Court agrees with the logic of the Ninth, Second, and Sixth circuits. New facts that provide additional support for a pre-existing asylum claim can constitute a changed circumstance. These facts may include circumstances that show an intensification of a preexisting threat of persecution or new instances of persecution of the same kind suffered in the past. The Court remands to the BIA and leaves the determination of whether the facts on record constitute changed circumstances which materially affect the petitioner’s eligibility for asylum to the BIA’s sound discretion.

III.
The BIA erred when it categorically held that additional proof of an existing claim

does not establish changed circumstances. Accordingly, we grant the petition for review, vacate the BIA’s order, and remand the case to the BIA for further consideration in light of this opinion.”

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This is a very important decision for asylum applicants in the Fourth Circuit, as this situation arises frequently in Immigration Court.

With three well-reasoned Circuit decisions already in the books, why is the BIA holding out for a discredited rationale? How many individuals who weren’t fortunate enough to have Ben Winograd or an equally talented lawyer argue for them in the Court of Appeals have already been wrongfully removed under the BIA’s discredited rationale? Where’s the BIA precedent adopting this rationale and making it binding on IJ’s nationwide before more individuals are wrongfully removed? How is this “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunal guaranteeing fairness and due process for all?”

The answer to the latter question is sadly obvious. While the BIA’s problems predated his tenure, the attitude of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as demonstrated in his recent pronouncement on so-called “Immigration Court efficiency” elevates “false efficiency,” speed, and cranking out removals above fundamental fairness and Due Process. Why have an elaborate administrative court system that doesn’t put Due Process first and foremost as “real” (non-captive) courts generally do? Why not just send all removal cases to U.S. District Judges and Magistrate Judges who make Due Process and fairness “job one” and aren’t preoccupied with “jacking up” removal statistics to please political bosses?

And, I’d like to see how far the DHS/Sessions’s (they are pretty much the same these days) boneheaded, arrogant, unrealistic, and wasteful “no PD” policy would get in a “real” court system where widespread, reasonable, and prudent use of PD by prosecutors is understood and accepted as an essential part of fairness, efficiency, and responsible use of publicly-funded judicial resources. Indeed, in some of my past “off the record” conversations with Article III Judges, they were absolutely flabbergasted to discover the unwillingness of DHS to meaningfully exercise “PD” in the pre-Obama era and to learn that at DHS the “cops,” rather than the prosecutors were responsible for setting PD policies!

PWS

12-08-17

 

THE HILL: N. RAPPAPORT ASKS A GREAT QUESTION: “WHY NOT GO AFTER EMPLOYERS?”

http://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/358892-to-tackle-illegal-immigration-go-after-the-employers

Nolan writes:

“The job magnet is making it impossible to secure the Southwest border. The availability of jobs in the United States attracts immigrants who need work and are willing to do whatever they have to do to cross the border.

Congress tried to eliminate the job magnet by establishing employer sanctions with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). The theory was that if employers were sanctioned for hiring aliens who do not have work authorization, they would stop hiring them.

This was expected to prevent a new group of undocumented aliens from taking the place of the ones IRCA was going to legalize.

It didn’t work. Approximately 2.7 million undocumented aliens were legalized, but by the beginning of 1997, they had been replaced entirely by a new group of undocumented aliens.

It failed because the sanctions were not applied on a large-scale, nationwide basis. This is necessary to make employers throughout the United States afraid that they will be sanctioned if they hire undocumented workers. And it has continued to fail for the same reason. According to the Pew Research Center, there were 8 million unauthorized immigrants working or looking for work in the United States in FY2014.

The government has had more than 30 years to make the sanctions work, and it hasn’t happened. It is unrealistic at this point to expect it ever to happen. A new approach should be considered. But first, let’s look at what employer sanctions do.

. . . .

Shift attention to “the other magnet.”

Unscrupulous employers are drawn to undocumented immigrant workers because they can be exploited easily and are not in a position to complain about the way they are treated. I call this “the exploitation magnet.”

The Department of Labor (DOL) sanctions employers for exploiting employees without regard to their immigration status. Consequently, DOL enforcement officers do not have to determine whether an exploited employee is an alien, and if so, whether he has work authorization. For instance, DOL enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires a minimum wage and overtime pay.

Low wage industries tend to employ substantial numbers of undocumented immigrants.

DOL prosecutes employers for violating labor laws much more aggressively than DHS prosecutes employers for hiring unauthorized immigrants.

In FY2014, for instance, DHS issued only 643 final fine orders, imposing fines totaling $16.28 million, and DOL collected $79.1 million in back wages for overtime and minimum wage violations involving 109,261 employees.

With additional funding, DOL could mount a large-scale, nationwide campaign to stop the exploitation of employees in industries known to hire large numbers of undocumented immigrants, which would go a long way towards eliminating the job magnet.”

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Go on over to The Hill at the link to read Nolan’s complete article. I highly recommend his succinct summary of the current employer sanctions program and “E-Verify.”

I think Nolan is “right on” in his recommendation for more aggressive enforcement of wage and hour laws. No matter where you stand on the overall immigration policy issue, I think that we can all agree that U.S. employers should not be gaining a competitive advantage by exploiting migrant labor, whether documented or undocumented.

PWS

11-06-17

WashPost LEAD EDITORIAL BLASTS SESSIONS’S ATTACK ON INDEPENDENCE OF U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES — Time For Congressional Action To Preserve Due Process!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sessionss-plan-for-immigration-courts-would-undermine-their-integrity/2017/10/22/ce000df6-b2aa-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.2ee43b5a7979

October 22 at 6:39 PM

ATTORNEY GENERAL Jeff Sessions decried the state of the immigration courts in remarks Oct. 12 before the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, lamenting “rampant abuse and fraud” in asylum applications. As part of Mr. Sessions’s push for an overhaul of the immigration system, the department also plans to begin evaluating immigration judges on the basis of how many cases they resolve. This proposal would do little to fix the United States’ backlogged immigration courts and much to undermine their integrity.

The Trump administration hinted at the plan in a wish list of immigration policies, alongside commitments to constructing President Trump’s promised border wall and withholding federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities. According to reporting by The Post, government documents show that the Justice Department “intends to implement numeric performance standards to evaluate Judge performance.” Such a metric would probably involve assessing judges based on how many cases they complete or how quickly they decide them — a plan that the National Association of Immigration Judges has called a “death knell for judicial independence.”

Unlike other federal judges, immigration judges are technically Justice Department employees. Currently, the collective bargaining agreement between Justice and the judges’ association forbids evaluating judges based on quotas. But the association says the Executive Office of Immigration Review is working now to remove that language from the contract.”

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

Read the complete editorial at the link.

Note the “progression” by the DOJ: From “performance evaluations would interfere with judicial independence,” to “performance evaluations won’t involve production quotas,” to “judges are just ‘oyster shuckers in robes!'”

Performance evaluations by the DOJ are just as inappropriate and unnecessary for U.S. Immigration Judges now as they were back in 1983 when EOIR was established. The only difference is the plan by Sessions and his politico cronies to co-opt the U.S. Immigration Courts and use them as an enforcement tool in his xenophobic crusade against immigrants, asylum seekers, due process, and the American justice system.

I actually was part of the NAIJ “negotiating team” that negotiated the current procedures and standards for judicial performance evaluations. We were assured over and over by “EOIR Management” that “case quotas” were not part of the plan and that “management recognized” the need for decisional independence in the Immigration Judge corps.

PWS

10-23-17

 

AMERICA’S KANGAROO COURT SYSTEM: EOIR HELPING DHS COME UP WITH WAYS TO DUMP ON UNACCOMPANIED KIDS! — THE “THE FACADE OF JUSTICE AT JUSTICE” CONTINUES WHILE CONGRESS AND ARTICLE III COURTS ABDICATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR A SYSTEM THAT MOCKS DUE PROCESS AND THE CONSTITUTION! — CNN’S Tal Kopan With The Scoop!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/11/politics/trump-administration-dhs-immigration-policies/index.html

Tal reports:

“Washington (CNN)Even as the Trump administration is asking Congress to approve a tough overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, the Department of Homeland Security is also quietly exploring ways it could transform the US immigration system on its own.

The department has been examining a range of subtle modifications to immigration policies that could have major consequences, including limiting protections for unaccompanied minors who come to the US illegally, expanding the use of speedy deportation proceedings, and tightening visa programs in ways that could limit legal immigration to the US, according to multiple sources familiar with the plans.
None of the policies being explored are finalized, according to the sources, and are in various stages of development. Any of them could change or fall by the wayside. Some of them are also included at least in part in the wish list of immigration priorities that President Donald Trump sent to Congress this week, and it’s unclear whether the administration will wait to see the results of negotiations over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that President Donald Trump has chosen to end.

Still, the proposals under consideration illustrate the extent to which the administration could attempt to dramatically change immigration in the US through unilateral executive action.
“Do you think Obama did a lot? That’s my answer,” said one former DHS official when asked how transformative the change could be. “They could do quite a bit.”
DACA itself was an example of how former President Barack Obama, frustrated with congressional inaction, sought to use executive authority to take action on immigration, putting in place the program to protect young undocumented immigrations brought to the US as children from deportation in 2012.
But the administration is now exploring rolling back more Obama-era policies, and changing even older systems.
DHS did not respond to a request for comment about the policies being explored or its process.
Targeting protections for unaccompanied minors
One effort underway is exploring what can be done about unaccompanied children (UACs), a category of undocumented immigrants who are caught illegally crossing the border into the US, are under age 18, and are not accompanied or met by a parent or guardian in the US. Those UACs, by law and legal settlement, are handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services for settling in the US, given protections from expedited removal proceedings and given special opportunities to pursue asylum cases in the US.
DHS and the Department of Justice have been exploring options to tighten the protections for UACs, including no longer considering them UACs if they’re reunited with parents or guardians in the US by HHS or once they turn 18.

In a previously unreported memo, obtained by CNN, the general counsel of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which manages the nation’s immigration courts, wrote in a legal opinion that the administration would be able to decide a UAC was no longer eligible for protections — a sea change in the way the 2008 law granting those protections has been interpreted.
The Trump administration has portrayed the UAC protections as a loophole in the law that can be exploited by gangs, though experts have testified before Congress that the minors under the program are more likely to be victimized by gangs in the US due to a lack of a support network than to be gang members. The administration also has sought to crack down on parents who pay smugglers to bring their children into the US illegally, even to escape dangerous situations in Central America.
The White House also asked Congress to amend the 2008 law to restrict UAC protections.
In previously unreported comments made last month at a security conference in Washington, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan said that ICE is actively looking at the adults HHS places UACs with, and if they are in the US illegally, they will be processed for deportation — and if a smuggler was paid, they could be prosecuted for human trafficking.
DOJ touts effects of surge of immigration judges sent to border
DOJ touts effects of surge of immigration judges sent to border
“You cannot hide in the shadows, you can’t be an illegal alien in the United States, have your undocumented child smuggled at the hands of a criminal organization, and stay in the shadows,” Homan said. “We’re going to put the parents in proceedings, immigration proceedings, at a minimum. … Is that cruel? I don’t think so. Because if that child is really escaping fear and persecution, he’s going to stand in front of an immigration judge to plead his case, his parents should be standing shoulder to shoulder with him. I call that parenting.”
DHS is also continuing to weigh its options to expand the use of expedited removal more generally — a speedier process of deportation that bypasses a lengthy court process in particular cases — as authorized by Trump’s January executive order on immigration.
Legal immigration tightening
Other efforts in the works include ways to tighten legal avenues to come to the US.
Two policies being looked at are the subject of litigation in the DC Circuit court — work authorizations for spouses of high-skilled visa holders and an expansion of a program that allows STEM students to stay in the US an extra two years for training.
Both policies were challenged in the courts, and now the administration is considering whether to roll them back.
On the spousal authorizations, DHS told the court as much in a filing last month, asking for extra time for the DHS review to finish.
That filing points to a DHS review of “all” of the agency’s immigration policies, citing the President’s Executive Order to “buy American and hire American.”
“Executive Order 13,788 is an intervening event necessitating careful, considered review of all of DHS’s immigration policies to ensure that the interests of US workers are being protected,” the attorneys wrote, citing the order’s instructions to create new rules, if necessary, “to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system.”
Trump admin quietly made asylum more difficult in the US
Trump admin quietly made asylum more difficult in the US
DHS has also moved to tighten asylum claim credibility thresholds, and is exploring asking Congress for more authority to do so. Another target is reportedly cultural exchange visas, which according to The Wall Street Journal are also under scrutiny after the “hire American” order.
Further unilateral moves wouldn’t even require policy changes, immigration attorneys fear. Attorneys who represent immigration clients fear that simply by slowing down the visa process, DHS could substantially decrease the number of immigrants admitted to the United States. US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced this summer it would begin requiring interviews for all green card applicants on employment and refugee grounds, and that it would roll out required interviews for other categories over time, adding a substantial and potentially lengthy hurdle to achieving legal permanent residency.
“If the wait time for naturalizations increases by three months, USCIS can naturalize 25% fewer people per year, which would mean millions of people over a four-year period,” said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney and former Obama administration DOJ official. “Even without a policy change, the administration (can accomplish) dramatic reductions to legal immigration through increases in processing times and taking a hawkish approach to finding reasons for denials of immigration applications.”
DHS pointed CNN to statistics showing no increase in the rate of denials of immigration applications, though the backlog of pending applications has grown steadily over the past two years.
Internal jockeying
One-quarter of DACA renewals not in on deadline day
One-quarter of DACA renewals not in on deadline day
Sources familiar with the inner workings of DHS describe an environment where political appointees and policy staff with strongly held opinions circulate ideas that sometimes reach the press before front office and secretarial staff are even aware of the discussions.
While political appointees and career officials are not described as butting heads, some of policy ideas do end up moderated by career employees on practical grounds. One source also described some employees of USCIS, which administers DACA, as getting emotional when the plan was made to end the program.
“Once it gets to a senior level, there are pretty robust discussions,” another source familiar said. “And once it gets to that level there are folks with ideas, and then folks who have been around for a while who say, ‘That won’t work.'”
Those competing ideas are then ultimately decided on by the secretary and high-level decision makers, though sources say political appointees are sometimes in a position to have influence over what information flows to the front office and top officials.
“The secretary and the decision makers end up with that (dynamic),” the source said.”

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

Immigration “Courts” run and controlled by Political Enforcement Officials and actively engaged in looking for ways to diminish the rights of individuals coming before them are not “real courts” and are not capable for delivering fair, unbiased, and impartial justice in accordance with the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This kangaroo court system, operating under false premises, is unconstitutional (in addition to be incompetently administered)! 

Will the Article III Courts ever do their duty, put this corrupt and unlawful system out of its misery, and restore at least some semblance of due process and justice for immigrants? Or, will they “go along to get along” and thus make themselves part of one of the most shameful charades of justice In American Legal History?

HON. JEFFREY S. CHASE: Alimbaev v. Att’y Gen (3rd Cir.) Shows How BIA Is Willing To Overlook Rules To Avoid Political Threat to Existence — No Wonder Due Process Is No Longer The Vision Or Goal Of The Immigraton Courts! — Read My Latest “Mini-Essay:” TIME TO END THE “CHARADE OF QUASI-JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE” AT THE BIA (With Credit to Peter Levinson)

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/10/5/3d-cir-rebukes-bia-for-troubling-erroneous-overreach

Here’s Jeffrey’s Blog:

“Oct 5 3d Cir. Rebukes BIA for Troubling, Erroneous Overreach

Alimbaev v. Att’y Gen. of U.S., No. 16-4313 (3d Cir. Sept. 25, 2017) opens with unusual language: “This disconcerting case, before our court for the second time, has a lengthy procedural history marked by confiict between the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the Immigration Judge (IJ)…” The court observed that the case involved “troubling allegations that the Petitioner…relished watching terroristic videos, while apparently harboring anti-American sympathies.” But the court noted that the question before it was whether the BIA applied the correct legal standard for reviewing the IJ’s factual findings, which the court found necessary for “preserving the rule of law, safeguarding the impartiality of our adjudicatory processes, and ensuring that fairness and objectivity are not usurped by emotion, regardless of the nature of the allegations.”

There is some history behind the correct legal standard mentioned by the circuit court. Prior to 2002, the BIA could review factual findings de novo, meaning it could substitute its own judgment as to whether the respondent was truthful or not for that of the immigration judge. In 2002, then attorney general John Ashcroft enacted procedural reforms which limited the scope of the Board’s review of factual findings to “clear error.” The new review standard meant that even if the Board strongly disagreed with the immigration judge’s fact finding, it could only reverse if it was left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake had been made. The stated reason for the change was that the overwhelming majority of immigration decisions were correct. The actual motive for the change was more likely that the Board was seen as too liberal by Ashcroft; the new standard would therefore make it more difficult for the Board to reverse deportation orders based on the immigration judges’ finding that the respondent lacked credibility.

The following year, Ashcroft purged the Board of all of its more liberal members. The resulting conservative lean has not been offset by subsequent appointments, in spite of the fact that several of those appointments were made under the Obama administration. The Board regularly uses boilerplate language to affirm adverse credibility findings on the grounds that they do not meet the “clearly erroneous” standard. Furthermore, 2005 legislation provided immigration judges with a broader range of bases for credibility determinations, which again made it more difficult for the Board and the circuit courts to reverse on credibility grounds.

The provisions safeguarding an IJ’s credibility finding should apply equally to cases in which relief was granted, making it difficult for a conservative panel of the Board to reverse a grant of relief where the IJ found the respondent credible. Alimbaev was decided by an outstanding immigration judge, who rendered a fair, detailed, thoughtfully considered decision. Factoring in the REAL ID Act standards and the limited scope of review allowed, the Board should have affirmed the IJ’s decision, even if its members would have reached a different factual finding themselves. Instead, the Board panel ignored all of the above to wrongly reverse the IJ not once but three times.

The immigration judge heard the case twice, granting the respondent’s applications for relief each time. In his second decision, the IJ found the respondent’s testimony to be “candid, internally consistent, generally believable, and sufficiently detailed.” In reversing, the BIA turned to nitpicking, citing two small inconsistencies that the Third Circuit termed so “insignificant…that they would probably not, standing alone, justify an IJ making a general adverse credibility finding, much less justify the BIA in rejecting a positive credibility finding under a clear error standard.” The Court therefore concluded that the BIA substituted its own view for the permissible view of the IJ, which is exactly what the “clear error” standard of review is meant to prevent.

The Board cited two other dubious reasons for reversing. One, which the circuit court described as “also troubling,” involved a false insinuation by the Board that a computer containing evidence corroborating the claim that the respondent had viewed “terrorist activity” was found in his residence. In fact, the evidence established that the computer in question was not the respondents, but one located in a communal area of an apartment in which the respondent lived; according to the record, the respondent used the communal computer only on occasion to watch the news. In a footnote, the court noted that none of the videos found on the communal computer were training materials; several originated from the recognized news source Al Jazeera, and “that on the whole, the computer did not produce any direct or causal link suggesting that [they] espoused violence, such as email messages of a questionable nature.” The circuit court therefore remanded the record back to the BIA, with clear instructions to reconsider the discretionary factors “with due deference to the IJ’s factfinding before weighing the various positive and negative factors…”

The question remains as to why the BIA got this so wrong. One possibility is that as the case involved allegations that the respondent might have harbored terrorist sympathies, the Board members let emotion and prejudice take over (apparently three separate times, over a period of several years). If that’s the case, it demonstrates that 15 years after the Ashcroft purge, the one-sided composition of the Board’s members (with no more liberal viewpoints to provide balance) has resulted in a lack of objectivity and impartiality in its decision making. Unfortunately, the appointment of more diverse Board members seems extremely unlikely to happen under the present administration.

But I believe there is another possibility as well. 15 years later, the Board remains very cognizant of the purge and its causes. It is plausible that the Board made a determination that as a matter of self-preservation, it is preferable to be legally wrong than to be perceived as being “soft on terrorism.” If that is the case, there is no stronger argument of the need for an independent immigration court that would not be subject to the type of political pressures that would impact impartiality and fairness.

It also bears mention that unlike the Board, the immigration judge in this case faced the same pressures, yet did not let them prevent him from issuing an impartial, fair, and ultimately correct decision (in spite of having his first decision vacated and remanded by the Board). Unlike the BIA, whose members review decisions that have been drafted for them in a suburban office tower, immigration judges are on the front lines, addressing crippling case loads, being sent on short notice to remote border locations, and dealing with DHS attorneys who now, on orders from Washington, cannot exercise prosecutorial discretion, must raise unnecessary objections, reserve appeal on grants of relief, and oppose termination in deserving cases. Yet many of these judges continue to issue their decisions with impartiality and fairness. Their higher-ups in the Department of Justice should learn from their performance the true meaning of the “rule of law.”

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.”

Reprinted With Permisison

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

Here’s a link to my previously-published analysis of Alimbaev: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-1tX

 

TIME TO END THE “CHARADE OF QUASI-JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE” AT THE BIA (With Credit to Peter Levinson)

By Paul Wickham Schmidt

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

The “grand experiment” of trying to have the BIA operate as an independent appellate court along the lines of a U.S. Court of Appeals ended with the advent of the Bush II Administration in 2001 and Ashcroft’s not too subtle suggestion that he wanted me out as BIA Chairman (presumably, the ”implied threat” was to transfer me to an SES “Hallwalker” position elsewhere in the DOJ if I didn’t cooperate. I cooperated and became a Board Member until he bounced me out of that job in 2003).

Since then, and particularly since the “final purge” in 2003, the BIA has operated as a “captive court” exhibiting a keen awareness of the “political climate” at the DOJ. Don’t rock the boat, avoid dissent, don’t focus too much on fairness or due process for immigrants, particularly if it might cause controversy, interfere with Administration Enforcement programs, or show up in a published precedent.

I agree with everything Jeffrey says. It’s totally demoralizing for U.S. Immigration Judges who are willing to “do the right thing” and stand up for due process and fairness for respondents when the BIA comes back with a disingenuous reversal, sometimes using canned language that doesn’t even have much to do with the actual case.

You should have seen the reaction of some of our former Judicial Law Clerks in Arlington (a bright bunch, without exception, who hadn’t been steeped in the “EOIR mystique”) when a specious reversal of an asylum, withholding, or CAT grant came back from the BIA, often “blowing away” a meticulously detailed well-analyzed written grant with shallow platitudes. One of them told me that once you figured out what panel it had gone to, you could pretty much predict the result. It had more to do with the personal philosophies of the Appellate Judges than it did with the law or due process or even the actual facts of the case. And, of course, nobody was left on the BIA to dissent.

And, as I have pointed out before, both the Bush and Obama Administrations went to great lengths to insure that no “boat rockers,” “independent thinkers” or “outside experts” were appointed to appellate judgeships at the BIA for the past 17 years. Just another obvious reason why the promise of impartiality, fairness, and due process from the U.S. Immigration Courts has been abandoned and replaced with a “mission oriented” emphasis on fulfilling Administration Enforcement objectives. In other words, insuring that a party in interest, the DHS, won’t have its credibility or policies unduly hampered by a truly independent Board and that the Office of Immigration Litigation will get the positions that it wants to defend in the Circuit Courts.

When is the last time you saw the BIA prefer the respondent’s interpretation to the DHS’s in interpreting an allegedly “ambiguous” statutory provision under the Chevron doctrine? Even in cases where the respondent invokes “heavy duty assistance” on its side, like for example the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in an asylum case, the BIA basically “blows them off” without meaningful consideration and finds the DHS position to be the “most reasonable.” For one of the most egregious examples in modern BIA history, see the insulting “short shrift” that the BIA gave to the well-articulated views of the UNHCR (who also had some Circuit Court law on its side) in Matter of  M-E-V-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 207, 248-49 (BIA 2014) (“We believe that our interpretation in Matter of S-E-G- and Matter of E-A-G-, as clarified, more accurately captures the concepts underlying the United States’ obligations under the Protocol and will ensure greater consistency in the interpretation of asylum claims under the Act.”)

The whole Chevron/Brand X concept is a joke, particularly as applied to the BIA. It’s high time for the Supremes to abandon it (something in which Justice Gorsuch showed some interest when he was on the 10th Circuit). If we’re going to have a politicized interpretation, better have it be from life-tenured, Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Article III Judges, who notwithstanding politics actually possess decisional independence, than from an administrative judge who is an employee of the Attorney General (as the DOJ always likes to remind Immigration Judges).

It’s also a powerful argument why the current “expensive charade” of an independent Immigration Court needs to be replaced by a truly independent Article I Court. Until that happens, the Article III Courts will be faced with more and more “life or death” decisions based on the prevailing political winds and institutional preservation rather than on Due Process and the rule of law.

PWS

10-05-17

Tex. Gov. Declares War On Local Police — Inks Bill Banning “Sanctuary Cities” — Critics Call Facebook Ceremony “Cowardly!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/05/08/texas-gov-abbott-springs-surprise-on-critics-signing-sanctuary-cities-ban-unannounced-on-facebook-live/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_sanctuary-920pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.cbc2f01134b8

The Washington Post reports:

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made an unannounced appearance on Facebook live Sunday evening to sign a tough bill banning “sanctuary cities” in the state, thereby avoiding demonstrations opponents planned for later in the week when they thought he was going to put his signature on the legislation.

While Abbott’s spokesman said he was just trying to reach a wide audience, critics called Abbott “cowardly” for springing the signing without notice.

Though the bill, which cleared the Republican-controlled legislature last week, was opposed by most major police chiefs in Texas, Abbott said in a statement that the law was a blow against “those that seek to promote lawlessness in Texas.”

Abbott also blasted the one law enforcement officer in Texas who appears to have adopted any sort of policy resembling the amorphous concept of a sanctuary city, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who said she would not cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold immigrants while federal authorities investigate their status.

“This law cracks down on policies like the Travis County sheriff who declared she would not detain known criminals accused of violent crimes,” Abbott said.

In fact, Hernandez does honor detainer requests from federal immigration authorities for inmates accused of serious offenses.”

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The lies just keep on flowing from folks like Abbott who are working tirelessly to make our cities and our nation less safe!

But my question is: Where is Jeff Sessions, that staunch defender of the right of local police to do anything they want, when we need him? Surely, he will come to the aid of local police who are trying to resist overreach by the Feds (in this case, the DHS)!

PWS

05-08-17

What Are The Odds Of The US Immigration Courts’ Surviving The Next Four Years?

What Are The Odds Of The U.S. Immigration Courts’ Survival?

by Paul Wickham Schmidt

Despite the campaign promises to make things great for the American working person, the Trump Administration so far has benefitted comedians, lawyers, reporters, and not many others. But there is another group out there reaping the benefits — oddsmakers. For example, Trump himself is 11-10 on finishing his term, and Press Secretary Sean “Spicey” Spicer is 4-7 to still be in office come New Year’s Day 2018.

So, what are the odds that the U.S. Immigration Courts will survive the next four years. Not very good, I’m afraid.

Already pushed to the brink of disaster, the Immigration Courts are likely to be totally overwhelmed by the the Trump Administration’s mindless “enforcement to the max” program which will potentially unleash a tidal waive of ill-advised new enforcement actions, detained hearings, bond hearings, credible fear reviews, and demands to move Immigration Judges to newly established detention centers along the Southern Border where due process is likely to take a back seat to expediency.

While Trump’s Executive Order promised at least another 15,000 DHS immigration enforcement officers, there was no such commitment to provide comparable staffing increases to the U.S. Immigration Courts. Indeed, we don’t even know at this point whether the Immigration Courts will be exempted from the hiring freeze.

At the same time, DHS Assistant Chief Counsel are likely to be stripped of their authority to offer prosecutorial discretion (“PD”), stipulate to grants of relief in well-documented cases, close cases for USCIS processing, and waive appeals.

Moreover, according to recent articles from the Wall Street Journal posted over on LexisNexis, individual respondents are likely to reciprocate by demanding their rights to full hearings, declining offers of “voluntary departure” without hearing, and appealing, rather than waiving appeal of, most orders of removal. Additionally, the Mexican government could start “slow walking” requests for documentation necessary to effect orders of removal.

Waiting in the wings, as I have mentioned in previous posts, are efforts to eliminate the so-called “Chevron doctrine” giving deference to certain BIA decisions, and constitutional challenges that could bring down the entire Federal Administrative Judiciary “house of cards.”

The sensible way of heading off disaster would be to establish an independent Article I Court outside the Executive Branch and then staff it to do its job. Sadly, however, sensibility so far has played little role in the Trump Administration. Solving the problem (or not) is likely to fall to the Article III Courts.

So, right now, I’m giving the U.S. Immigration Courts about 2-3 odds of making it through 2020. That’s a little better chance than “Spicey,” but worse than Trump himself.

To read the WSJ articles on the “clogging the courts” strategy, take this link over to LexisNexis:

https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/immigration/b/outsidenews/archive/2017/02/13/will-strong-defensive-tactics-jam-immigration-jails-clog-immigration-courts-wsj.aspx?Redirected=true

PWS

02/14/17

 

 

BREAKING: President Trump Nominates 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch To Supremes — Read My Short Article “Judge Gorsuch Understands — Why It’s High Time For Chevron ‘Judicial Task Avoidance’ To Go”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/neil-gorsuch-supreme-court_us_5890c0e8e4b0522c7d3d592a?ua16n5hws8p6xswcdi&

HuffPost writes:

“Against that backdrop, questions about the court’s independence and role as a check on the executive branch are sure to dominate Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, which will find Democrats on the offensive and under increasing pressure to block or deny the nomination outright ― much like Republicans obstructed the nomination of Merrick Garland, the highly respected appeals court judge President Barack Obama chose to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

If confirmed, Gorsuch, 49, would bring to the bench a conservative record that will be forever measured against that of Scalia, a towering firebrand of legal conservatism whose death last year forced Trump to issue not one but two lists of potential nominees he’d choose if elected. The lists ― largely assembled with the help of conservative brain trusts ― helped assuage supporters’ fears that Trump might not nominate judges who are conservative enough.

Conservatives need not worry. Gorsuch is an intellectual rising star ― a well-spoken and eloquent writer who enraptures Republican and Libertarian lawyers and law students who come to see him at conferences organized by the Federalist Society, a group that helped Trump put together his Supreme Court wish list.

. . . .

“One key concurring [sic] opinion that earned Gorsuch high praise from conservative commentators was in an immigration case decided last year in which Gorsuch staked out a strong position against the administrative state ― and the way the Supreme Court has made it easier for agencies to interpret laws that judges are better suited to interpret.

“That’s a problem for the judiciary,” Gorsuch wrote in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch. “And it is a problem for the people whose liberties may now be impaired not by an independent decisionmaker seeking to declare the law’s meaning as fairly as possible — the decisionmaker promised to them by law — but by an avowedly politicized administrative agent seeking to pursue whatever policy whim may rule the day.”

Administrative law isn’t exactly an area activists will rally around, but the high court hears a number of cases in which agencies are front and center ― whether the controversy is about transgender rights, health care, the environment or immigration. In that regard, Gorsuch could be skeptical of how the Trump administration ― and future administrations ― reads the law as it exists on the books.” [emphasis added]

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Judge Gorsuch Understands — Why It’s High Time For Chevron “Judicial Task Avoidance” To Go

by Paul Wickham Schmidt 

I haven’t studied Judge Gorsuch’s opinions enough to make any definitive judgement.  But, I really enjoyed his opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 1142 (10th Cir. 2016). He “gets it” about the current problems of “deferring to administrative courts like the BIA and the U.S. Immigration Court which are subject to interference and pressure from the Executive, which “owns” them, to implement certain pro-government policies at the expense of fairness and due process for the individual.

Contrary to the HuffPost report above, Judge Gorsuch wrote the unanimous opinion of the court, not a “concurring” opinion.  In it, he exposed the illogic of the Supreme Court’s so-called “Chevron doctrine.”

Chevron is a masterful piece of of Article III “judicial task avoidance” by the Supreme Court. It requires Federal Courts to “defer” to “captive” Executive Branch administrative judges, like the BIA, on important questions of law.  It also allows life-tenured Article III judges to avoid deciding difficult or potentially controversial issues.

In other words, as recognized by Judge Gorsuch, Chevron provides “cover” for Article III judges to avoid their sole constitutional responsibility of independently resolving legal questions. Judge Gorsuch and his colleagues found that Chevron did not apply in the particular circumstance before them.  The BIA had ignored both common sense and due process in trying to reach a result favorable to the Government.  The 10th Circuit reversed the BIA (for the third time in the same case).

Whatever the merits or demerits of the rest of his jurisprudence, I am encouraged that Judge Gorsuch recognizes the critical role of an independent Article III judiciary.  He is also “on to” the problems of over-relying on administrative judges, like the BIA and U.S. Immigration Judges, who work for the Executive and therefore can be subject to Executive rules and pressures that can, and sometimes do, unfairly skew results against individuals seeking justice in administrative courts.

Consequently, Judge Gorsuch should resist attempts by the Trump Administration to short-cut due process in the Immigration Courts and, hopefully, will encourage his colleagues to look closely to insure that individuals are being treated fairly in accordance with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. If at some point Chevron and it’s even more pernicious progeny  known as “Brand X” — which incredibly encourages administrative courts to “overrule” Article III courts on questions of law — go down the drain, the country and the cause of justice will be well-served.  And, Article III judges will be required to once again fully earn the salaries to which their life-tenure entitles them.

Read Judge Gorsuch’s full opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch below.

http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/14/14-9585.pd

PWS

01/31/17

CBS News: “Overloaded U.S. immigration courts a ‘recipe for disaster'”

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-us-immigration-courts-deportations/

AIMEE PICCHI/MONEYWATCH writes:

“President Donald Trump is taking what he portrays as a hard-nosed approach to undocumented immigrants, issuing an order this week to boost the number of U.S. border patrol agents and to build detention centers.

But what happens when a federal push to ramp up arrests and deportations hits a severely backlogged federal court system?

“It’s a recipe for a due process disaster,” said Omar Jadwat, an attorney and director of the Immigrant Rights Project at the ACLU. Already, he pointed out, there are “large, large numbers of caseloads” in immigration court, and Mr. Trump’s directives threaten to greatly increase the number of people caught in the system, he said.

Just how backlogged is the system for adjudicating deportations and related legal matters? America’s immigration courts are now handling a record-breaking level of cases, with more than 533,000 cases currently pending, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC, a data gathering site that tracks the federal government’s enforcement activities. That figure is more than double the number when Mr. Obama took office in 2009.

As a result, immigrants awaiting their day in court face an average wait time of 678 days, or close to two years.
Immigrant rights advocates say the backlog is likely to worsen, citing Mr. Trump’s order on Wednesday to hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents while also enacting a freeze on government hiring. Whether the U.S. Justice Department, which oversees the immigration courts, will be able to add judges given the hiring freeze isn’t clear.

A spokeswoman from the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review said the agency is awaiting “further guidance” regarding the hiring freeze from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management. In the meantime, she said, the agency “will continue, without pause, to protect the nation with the available resources it has today.”

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There is video to go with the complete story at the link.

The situation is likely to get much worse in the U.S. Immigration Courts.  Obviously, due process is not going to be a high priority for this Administration.  And, while the Executive Orders can be read to give Attorney General Jeff Sessions authority to continue hiring Immigration Judges, filling the 75 or so currently vacant positions won’t begin to address the Immigration Courts’ workload problems.

Then, there are the questions of space and support staff. One of the reasons more vacancies haven’t been filled to date is that many Immigration Courts (for example, the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, VA) have simply run out of space for additional judges and staff.

The parent agency of the Immigration Courts, “EOIR,” is counting on being allowed to continue with expansion plans currently underway.  But, even if Attorney General Sessions goes forward with those plans, that space won’t be ready until later in 2017, and that’s highly optimistic.

This does not seem like an Administration that will be willing to wait for the current lengthy highly bureaucratic hiring system to operate or for new Immigration Judges to be trained and “brought up to speed.”  So various “gimmicks” to speed hiring, truncate training, and push the Administration’s “priority cases” — likely to be hundreds of thousands of additional cases — through the Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals at breakneck speed.

Consequently, the whole “due process mess” eventually is likely to be thrown into the U.S. Courts of Appeals where “final orders of removal” are reviewed by Article III Judges with lifetime tenure, rather than by administrative judges appointed and supervised by the Attorney General.

PWS

01/28/17

 

 

 

Rivkin & Grossman In WSJ: Why Captive Administrative Courts Are “Built To Fail” In Delivering Due Process!

http://www.wsj.com/articles/when-is-a-judge-not-really-a-judge-1485215998

David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman write in the WSJ:

“Administrative law judges are agency employees. The proceedings they oversee provide fewer protections than court cases. They also tend to set stern deadlines and limit the right to factual investigation, often leaving defendants to rely on the SEC’s evidence. According to a 2015 Wall Street Journal analysis, the agency’s shift paid off: Through the beginning of that year, it won 90% of cases in its in-house court, compared with 69% of regular court cases. Administrative decisions can be appealed to court but are rarely reversed. That’s because the judges apply a deferential “clear error” standard to the agency’s factual findings.

The due-process problems inherent in this arrangement are apparent. Less obvious, at least to the SEC, is that it also violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause, which requires Senate hearings and confirmation votes for department heads and other senior officials. To promote political accountability, the Constitution also requires that “inferior officers” with significant responsibility be appointed by the president or senior officials who are confirmed by the Senate.”

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Although Rivkin and Grossman were writing about Administrative Law Judges within the SEC, most of the same arguments could be made about U.S. Immigration Judges within the Department of Justice.

The article suggests that if successful, challenges to the existing administrative judiciary in the Article III Courts might bring down the entire 80-year largely failed experiment with specialized administrative courts attempting to mete out justice within the enforcement arm of the Executive Branch.  That, in turn, would require the creation of more truly independent specialized courts, such as the Tax Court and the Bankruptcy Court, and/or the transfer of many additional cases to the Article III Courts, where they perhaps could be handled by appointing more U.S. Magistrate Judges.

PWS

01/24/17