THE HUMAN TOLL OF IMMIGRATION DETENTION: Mother Attempts Suicide After 6 Months In Texas “Family Detention Centers!”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mother-family-detention-suicide-attempt_us_59271267e4b062f96a34da5c?45b

Roque Planas reports in HuffPost:

“AUSTIN, Texas ― A woman locked at a family immigrant detention center tried to take her own life this month in what legal advocates described as a desperate effort to free her two kids.

Samira Hakimi, an Afghan national, has spent the last six months detained with her two young children despite a federal ruling that dictates they should have been released within three weeks. The case reinforces the longstanding concerns of immigrant rights groups that say asylum-seeking families should not be forced into prolonged detention.

“They told us you will only be a couple of days in there,” Hakimi told HuffPost. “I never thought that I would be detained here for such a long time. That I’m detained here because I’m from Afghanistan and that’s all. But I’m human.”

In Afghanistan, the Hakimi family had established a high school and multi-branch private university that used Western curricula, taught in both English and Dari and offered more than half its scholarships to women, according to lawyers representing Hakimi and her husband.

Since 2013, the Taliban repeatedly threatened the family for its work. To avoid the danger of commuting, the family moved onto the university campus and contracted private security guards that year.

It wasn’t enough for them to feel safe. “We could not go outside,” Hakimi said. “My children could not go to school. We thought they might be kidnapped. This was always in our minds…. They have their lives to live. They should live happy and free from every small thing, going to school and enjoying their lives.”

Last year, they fled Afghanistan with Hakimi’s brother-in-law and his pregnant wife, who were facing similar threats.

In December, the two families crossed into the United States from Mexico through a legal port of entry, where they all asked for asylum. The men were separated and sent to all-male immigrant detention centers, where they remain. Hakimi and her kids, as well as her sister-in-law and her newborn baby, were sent to the South Texas Family Detention Center in the town of Dilley and later transferred to the Karnes County Residential Center outside San Antonio.

Hakimi passed her “credible fear” interview ― the first step toward applying for asylum. It’s common practice for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to free people who pass these interviews so they can pursue their cases in immigration court, but ICE declined to release her and her children. The agency did not respond to a request for comment explaining why it refuses to release them. Hakimi’s sister-in-law is also still at Karnes with her 10-month-old baby.
DREW ANTHONY SMITH VIA GETTY IMAGES
The Karnes County Residential Center houses mothers who enter the United States with their children. Most of them seek asylum or other forms of humanitarian exemption from deportation.
Hakimi told HuffPost she had suffered from bouts of clinical depression before being detained. Advocates with RAICES, a nonprofit that provides legal services to detained families, say she had attempted suicide in the past and told medical workers at Karnes that her condition had worsened as her case appeared to stall. Neither medicine nor therapy would alleviate the problem, she argued. Her depression stemmed from remaining locked up in the detention center with her children.

As the months dragged on, she lost hope. “Here, no one talks to us,” Hakimi said. “They don’t give us the reason why I’m detained in here. I never thought that I would be detained here for such a long time.”

Her son came to her one day asking her why other families were allowed to leave but not them. “That was really triggering her,” Amy Fisher, RAICES’s policy director, told HuffPost. “She was crying and really depressed. And she went into this thought process, when she was really low, thinking, ‘Well, if I’m no longer here, maybe my children can be free.’” Kids cannot be held without their parents or guardians in family detention.

After she made an effort to take her own life, she woke up in the medical unit of the detention center and was taken to a nearby hospital, where two members of the detention center staff sat with her continuously.

“I told them, ‘I’m just crying for my children, please,’” she said in a recording with one of her legal providers. “I’m not sick. But they gave me medicine. And they told me take this every four hours, but I didn’t take it anymore.”

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

Read the full story at the link.

Don’t think that a few (or even many) attempted suicides or preventable deaths in immigration detention are going to change the Administration’s plans to establish an “American Gulag.” After all, what better “deterrent” than death to put a dent in migration.

No, the only thing that might get in the way is if Democrats start winning elections and wielding some political power in Washington. (Not that Democrats have been particularly enlightened when it comes to immigration detention, either. After all, Dilley, Karnes, Berks County, and other “family residential prisons” were Obama initiatives. But, that’s another story.)

But, as I just pointed out in an earlier blog, Dems appear lost in the political wilderness with no path out.

PWS

05-26-16

 

Here’s My Keynote Address From Today’s FBA Immigration Law Conference In Denver, CO!

LIFE AT EOIR – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

By

Paul Wickham Schmidt

Retired U.S. Immigration Judge

Keynote Address

2017 Immigration Law Conference

Denver, CO

May 12, 2017

INTRODUCTION

Good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me. Its an honor to appear before you.

Funny thing happened to me on the way to this conference. When I arrived at the airport yesterday afternoon, my good friend Judge Lory Rosenberg rushed up to me at baggage claim and said “Oh, I see we’re having you for lunch!” I said “What?” She said “You’re our keynote speaker at lunch tomorrow.” I scoffed at the idea, saying I might be on the after lunch panel with her, but that was it. However, when I actually took the time to look at the program I saw that certainly not for the first time, Lory was right. Unbeknownst to me I was, in fact, listed as the keynote speaker.

I’ve composed this speech on my I-pad, which I’m using as a teleprompter. As you know, those of us who worked at EOIR aren’t used to this new-fangled technology. So, please bear with me.

As we get started, I’d like all of you to join me in recognizing my friend and former colleague Judge Larry Burman for his tireless efforts to make the ILS the best section in the FBA. In the later years, I tried very hard to avoid being at court at nights, weekends, and holidays. But, occasionally I had to go pick up my cellphone or something else I had inadvertently left in my office. And, who should be there but Larry. And he was always working on a FBA project, the Green Card, Conference Planning, recruiting new members, etc. So, please join me in a round of applause for Judge Burman for all he has done for promoting productive dialogue and improving the practice of immigration law.

Now, this is when I used to give my comprehensive disclaimer providing plausible deniabilityfor everyone in the Immigration Court System if I happened to say anything inconvenient or controversial. But, now that Im retired, we can skip that part.

My speech is entitled: Life At EOIR, Past Present, and Future.I will start by introducing myself to you and telling you a bit about how my life and career have been intertwined with EOIR. Then I will briefly address five things: the court systems vision, the judges role, my judicial philosophy, what needs to be done to reclaim the due process vision of the Immigration Courts, and how you can get involved.

CAREER SUMMARY

I graduated in 1970 from Lawrence University a small liberal arts college in Appleton, Wisconsin, where I majored in history. My broad liberal arts education and the intensive writing and intellectual dialogue involved were the best possible preparation for all that followed.

I then attended the University of Wisconsin School of Law in Madison, Wisconsin, graduating in 1973. Go Badgers!

I began my legal career in 1973 as an Attorney Advisor at the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) at the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) under the Attorney Generals Honors Program. Admittedly, however, the BIAs Executive Assistant culled my resume from the Honors Program reject pile.One of my staff colleagues at that time, now retired U.S Immigration Judge Joan Churchill, is right here in the audience.

At that time, before the creation of the Executive Office for Immigration Review – “EOIR” for you Winnie the Pooh fans — the Board had only five members and nine staff attorneys, as compared to todays cast of thousands. Among other things, I worked on the famous, or infamous, John Lennon case, which eventually was reversed by the Second Circuit in an opinion by the late Chief Judge Irving Kaufman.[1] As an interesting historical footnote, that case was argued in the Circuit by then Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Maguire Dunne, who went on to become a distinguished Member of the BIA and one of my Vice Chairs during my tenure as Chairman.

I also shared an office with my good friend, the late Lauri Steven Filppu, who later became a Deputy Director of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) in the DOJs Civil Division and subsequently served with me on the BIA. The Chairman of the BIA at that time was the legendary immigration guru” Maurice A. “Maury” Roberts. Chairman Roberts took Lauri and me under this wing and shared with us his love of immigration law, his focus on sound scholarship, his affinity for clear, effective legal writing, and his humane sense of fairness and justice for the individuals coming before the BIA.

In 1976, I moved to the Office of General Counsel at the “Legacy” Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”). There, I worked for another legendary figure in immigration law, then General Counsel Sam Bernsen. Sam was a naturalized citizen who started his career as a 17-year-old messenger at Ellis Island and worked his way to the top of the Civil Service ranks. Perhaps not incidentally, he was also a good friend of Chairman Roberts.

At that time, the Office of General Counsel was very small, with a staff of only three attorneys in addition to the General Counsel and his Deputy, another mentor and immigration guru, Ralph Farb. At one time, all three of us on the staff sat in the same office! In 1978, Ralph was appointed to the BIA, and I succeeded him as Deputy General Counsel.   I also served as the Acting General Counsel for several very lengthy periods in both the Carter and Reagan Administrations.

Not long after I arrived, the General Counsel position became political. The incoming Administration encouraged Sam to retire, and he went on to become a name and Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C. office of the powerhouse immigration boutique Fragomen, Del Rey, and Bernsen. He was replaced by my good friend and colleague David Crosland, now an Immigration Judge in Baltimore, who selected me as his Deputy. Dave was also the Acting Commissioner of Immigration during the second half of the Carter Administration, one of the periods when I was the Acting General Counsel.

The third General Counsel that I served under was one of my most unforgettable characters:the late, great Maurice C. “Mike” Inman, Jr. He was known, not always affectionately, as Iron Mike.His management style was something of a cross between the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, and the fictional Mafia chieftain, Don Corleone. As my one of my colleagues said of Iron Mike:” “He consistently and unreasonably demanded that we do the impossible, and most of the time we succeeded.Although we were totally different personalities, Mike and I made a good team, and we accomplished amazing things. It was more or less a good cop, bad coproutine, and Ill let you guess who played which role. You can check the “Inman era” out with retired Immigration Judge William P. Joyce, who is sitting in the audience and shared the experience with me.

Among other things, I worked on the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Cuban Boatlift, the Refugee Act of 1980, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), the creation of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL), and establishing what has evolved into the modern Chief Counsel system at Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

I also worked on the creation of EOIR, which combined the Immigration Courts, which had previously been part of the INS, with the BIA to improve judicial independence. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, the leadership and impetus for getting the Immigration Judges into a separate organization came from Mike and the late Al Nelson, who was then the Commissioner of Immigration. Prosecutors by position and litigators by trade, they saw the inherent conflicts and overall undesirability, from a due process and credibility standpoint, of having immigration enforcement and impartial court adjudication in the same division. I find it troubling that officials at todays DOJ arent able to understand and act appropriately on the glaring conflict of interest currently staring them in their collective faces.

By the time I left in 1987, the General Counsels Office, largely as a result of the enactment of IRCA and new employer sanctions provisions, had dozens of attorneys, organized into divisions, and approximately 600 attorneys in the field program, the vast majority of whom had been hired during my tenure.

In 1987, I left INS and joined Jones Days DC Office, a job that I got largely because of my wife Cathy and her old girl network.I eventually became a partner specializing in business immigration, multinational executives, and religious workers. Among my major legislative projects on behalf of our clients were the special religious worker provisions added to the law by the Immigration Act of 1990 and the “Special Immigrant Juvenile” provisions of the INA with which some of you might be familiar.

Following my time at Jones Day, I succeeded my former boss and mentor Sam Bernsen as the Managing Partner of the DC Office of Fragomen, Del Rey & Bernsen, the leading national immigration boutique, where I continued to concentrate on business immigration. You will note that immigration is a small community; you need to be nice to everyone because you keep running into the same folks over and over again in your career. While at Fragomen, I also assisted the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) on a number of projects and was an adviser to the LawyersCommittee, now known as Human Rights First.

In 1995, then Attorney General Janet Reno appointed me Chairman of the BIA. Not surprisingly, Janet Reno, who recently died, was my favorite among all of the Attorneys General I worked under. I felt that she supported me personally, and she supported the concept of an independent judiciary, even though she didnt always agree with our decisions and vice versa.

She was the only Attorney General who consistently came to our Investitures and Immigration Judge Conferences in person and mixed and mingled with the group. She was also kind to our clerical staff and invited them downtown to meet personally with her. She had a saying equal justice for allthat she worked into almost all of her speeches, and which I found quite inspirational. She was also hands down the funniest former Attorney General to appear on Saturday Night Live,doing her famous Janet Reno Dance Partyroutine with Will Farrell immediately following the end of her lengthy tenure at the DOJ.

Among other things, I oversaw an expansion of the Board from the historical five members to more than 20 members, a more open selection system that gave some outside experts a chance to serve as appellate judges on the Board, the creation of a supervisory structure for the expanding staff, the establishment of a unified Clerks Office to process appeals, implementation of a true judicial format for published opinions, institution of bar coding for the tens of thousands of files, the establishment of a pro bono program to assist unrepresented respondents on appeal, the founding of the Virtual Law Library, electronic en banc voting and e-distribution of decisions to Immigration Judges, and the publication of the first BIA Practice Manual, which actually won a Plain Language Awardfrom then Vice President Gore.

I also wrote the majority opinion in my favorite case, Matter of Kasinga, establishing for the first time that the practice of female genital mutilation (“FGM”) is persecution” for asylum purposes.[2] As another historical footnote, the losingattorney in that case was none other than my good friend, then INS General Counsel David A. Martin, a famous immigration professor at the University of Virginia Law who personally argued before the Board.

In reality, however, by nominally losingthe case, David actually won the war for both of us, and more important, for the cause of suffering women throughout the world. We really were on the same side in Kasinga. Without Davids help, who knows if I would have been able to get an almost-united Board to make such a strong statement on protection of vulnerable women.

During my tenure as Chairman, then Chief Immigration Judge (now BIA Member) Michael J. Creppy and I were founding members of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (“IARLJ”). This organization, today headquartered in The Hague, promotes open dialogue and exchange of information among judges from many different countries adjudicating claims under the Geneva Convention on Refugees. Since my retirement, I have rejoined the IARLJ as a Vice President for the Americas.

In 2001, at the beginning of the Bush Administration, I stepped down as BIA Chairman, but remained as a Board Member until April 2003. At that time, then Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was not a fan of my opinions, invited me to vacate the Board and finish my career at the Arlington Immigration Court, where I remained until my retirement on June 30 of last year. So, Im one of the few ever to become an Immigration Judge without applying for the job. Or, maybe my opinions, particularly the dissents, were my application and I just didnt recognize it at the time. But, it turned out to be a great fit, and I truly enjoyed my time at the Arlington Court.

I have also taught Immigration Law at George Mason School of Law in 1989 and Refugee Law and Policyat Georgetown Law from 2012 through 2014. Ive just agreed to resume my Adjunct position with Georgetown Law for a compressed summer course” in “Immigration Law & Policy.

Please keep in mind that if everyone agreed with me, my career wouldnt have turned out the way it did. On the other hand, if nobody agreed with me, my career wouldnt have turned out the way it did. In bureaucratic terms, I was a “survivor.” I have also, at some point in my career, probably been on both sides of many of the important issues in U.S. immigration law.

One of the challenges that lawyers will face in Immigration Court is that different judges have distinct styles, philosophies, and preferences.   I always felt that although we might differ in personality and approach, at least in Arlington we all shared a commitment to achieving fairness and justice.

As a sitting judge, I encouraged meticulous preparation and advance consultation with the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel to stipulate or otherwise narrow issues. In Arlington, for example, even with a new high of 10 Immigration Judges, the average docket is still 3,000 cases per judge. There currently are more than 30,000 pending cases at the Arlington Court. Because of this overwhelming workload, efficiency and focusing on the disputed issues in court are particularly critical. 

THE DUE PROCESS VISION

Now, lets move on to the other topics: First, vision.   The “EOIR Vision” is: “Through teamwork and innovation, be the worlds best administrative tribunals, guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.In one of my prior incarnations, I was part of the group that developed that vision statement. Perhaps not surprisingly given the timing, that vision echoed the late Janet Reno’s “equal justice for alltheme.

Sadly, the Immigration Court System is moving further away from that due process vision. Instead, years of neglect, misunderstanding, mismanagement, and misguided priorities imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice have created judicial chaos with an expanding backlog now approaching an astounding 600,000 cases and no clear plan for resolving them in the foreseeable future.   There are now more pending cases in Immigration Court than in the entire U.S. District Court System, including both Civil and Criminal dockets, with fewer than half as many U.S. Immigration Judges currently on board as U.S. District Judges.

And, the new Administration promises to add hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new cases to the Immigration Court docket, again without any transparent plan for completing the half million already pending cases consistent with due process and fairness. In fact, notably, and most troubling, concern for fairness and due process in the immigration hearing process has not appeared anywhere in the Administrations many pronouncements on immigration.

Nobody has been hit harder by this preventable disaster than asylum seekers, particularly scared women and children fleeing for their lives from the Northern Triangle of Central America. In Immigration Court, notwithstanding the life or death issues at stake, unlike criminal court there is no right to an appointed lawyer. Individuals who cant afford a lawyer must rely on practicing lawyers who donate their time or on nonprofit community organizations to find free or low cost legal representation. Although the Government stubbornly resists the notion that all asylum seekers should be represented, studies show that represented asylum seekers are at least five times more likely to succeed than those who must represent themselves. For recently arrived women with children, the success differential is an astounding fourteen times![3]

You might have read about the unfortunate statement of an Assistant Chief Judge for Training who claimed that he could teach immigration law to unrepresented toddlers appearing in Immigration Court. Issues concerning representation of so-called vulnerable populationscontinue to challenge our Court System. Even with Clinics and Non-Governmental Organizations pitching in, there simply are not enough free or low cost lawyers available to handle the overwhelming need. In fact, soon to be former EOIR Director Juan Osuna once declared in an officially-sanctioned TV interview that the current system is “broken.”[4]

Notwithstanding the admitted problems, I still believe in the EOIR vision. Later in this speech Im going to share with you some of my ideas for reclaiming this noble due process vision.

THE ROLE OF THE IMMIGRATION JUDGE

Changing subjects, to the role of the Immigration Judge: Whats it like to be an Immigration Judge? As an Immigration Judge, I was an administrative judge. I was not part of the Judicial Branch established under Article III of the Constitution. The Attorney General, part of the Executive Branch, appointed me, and my authority was subject to her regulations.

We should all be concerned that the U.S. Immigration Court system is now totally under the control of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has consistently taken a negative view of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, and has failed to recognize the many essential, positive contributions that immigrants make to our country.  

Perhaps ironically, the late Judge Terence T. Evans of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals offered one of the best descriptions of what its like to be an Immigration Judge. Judge Evans was not one of us, but saw plenty of our work during his lifetime. Judge Evans said:

“Because 100 percent of asylum petitioners want to stay in this country, but less than 100 percent are entitled to asylum, an immigration judge must be alert to the fact that some petitioners will embellish their claims to increase their chances of success. On the other hand, an immigration judge must be sensitive to the suffering and fears of petitioners who are genuinely entitled to asylum in this country. A healthy balance of sympathy and skepticism is a job requirement for a good immigration judge. Attaining that balance is what makes the job of an immigration judge, in my view, excruciatingly difficult.”[5]

My Arlington Immigration Court colleague Judge Thomas G. Snow also gives a very moving and accurate glimpse of an Immigration Judges life in a recent article from USA Today:

” Immigration judges make these decisions alone. Many are made following distraught or shame-filled testimony covering almost unimaginable acts of inhumanity. And we make them several times a day, day after day, year after year.

We take every decision we make very seriously. We do our best to be fair to every person who comes before us. We judge each case on its own merits, no matter how many times weve seen similar fact patterns before.

We are not policymakers. We are not legislators. We are judges. Although we are employees of the U.S. Department of Justice who act under the delegated authority of the attorney general, no one tells us how to decide a case. I have been an immigration judge for more than 11 years, and nobody has ever tried to influence a single one of my thousands of decisions

And finally, because we are judges, we do our best to follow the law and apply it impartially to the people who appear before us. I know I do so, even when it breaks my heart.[6]

My good friend and colleague, Judge Dana Leigh Marks of the San Francisco Immigration Court, who is the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, offers a somewhat pithier description: [I]mmigration judges often feel asylum hearings are like holding death penalty cases in traffic court.’”[7]

Another historical footnote: as a young lawyer, then known as Dana Marks Keener, Judge Marks successfully argued the landmark Supreme Court case INS v. Cardoza Fonseca, establishing the generous well-founded fearstandard for asylum, while I helped the Solicitor Generals office develop the unsuccessful opposing arguments for INS.[8] Therefore, I sometimes refer to Judge Marks as one of the founding mothers” of U.S. asylum law.

From my perspective, as an Immigration Judge I was half scholar, half performing artist. An Immigration Judge is always on public display, particularly in this age of the Internet.His or her words, actions, attitudes, and even body language, send powerful messages, positive or negative, about our court system and our national values. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of those who fail at the job do so because they do not recognize and master the performing artistaspect, rather than from a lack of pertinent legal knowledge.

One of the keys to the Immigration Judges job is issuing scholarly, practical, well-written opinions in the most difficult cases. That ties directly into the job of the Immigration Courts amazing Judicial Law Clerks (“JLCs”) assisted by all-star legal interns from local law schools. The JLC’s job is, of course, to make the judge look smart,no matter how difficult or challenging that might be in a particular case.  

MY JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY

Next, I’ll say a few words about my philosophy. In all aspects of my career, I have found five essential elements for success: fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect, and teamwork.

Obviously, fairness to the parties is an essential element of judging. Scholarship in the law is what allows us to fairly apply the rules in particular cases. However, sometimes attempts to be fair or scholarly can be ineffective unless timely. In some cases, untimeliness can amount to unfairness no matter how smart or knowledgeable you are.

Respect for the parties, the public, colleagues, and appellate courts is absolutely necessary for our system to function. Finally, I view the whole judging process as a team exercise that involves a coordinated and cooperative effort among judges, respondents, counsel, interpreters, court clerks, security officers, administrators, law clerks and interns working behind the scenes, to get the job done correctly. Notwithstanding different roles, we all share a common interest in seeing that our justice system works.

Are the five elements that I just mentioned limited to Immigration Court? They are not only essential legal skills, they are also necessary life skills, whether you are running a courtroom, a law firm, a family, a PTA meeting, a book club, or a soccer team. As you might imagine, I am a huge fan of clinical experience as an essential part of the law school curriculum. Not only do clinical programs make important actual contributions to our justice system due process in action but they teach exactly the type of intellectual and practical values and skills that I have just described.

RECLAIMING THE VISION

Our Immigration Courts are going through an existential crisis that threatens the very foundations of our American Justice System. Earlier, I told you about my dismay that the noble due process vision of our Immigration Courts has been derailed. What can be done to get it back on track?

First, and foremost, the Immigration Courts must return to the focus on due process as the one and only mission. The improper use of our due process court system by political officials to advance enforcement priorities and/or send “don’t comemessages to asylum seekers, which are highly ineffective in any event, must end. Thats unlikely to happen under the DOJ as proved by over three decades of history, particularly recent history. It will take some type of independent court. I think that an Article I Immigration Court, which has been supported by groups such as the ABA and the FBA, would be best.

Clearly, the due process focus was lost during the last Administration when officials outside EOIR forced ill-advised prioritizationand attempts to “expedite” the cases of frightened women and children from the Northern Triangle who require lawyers to gain the protection that most of them need and deserve. Putting these cases in front of other pending cases was not only unfair to all, but has created what I call aimless docket reshuffling— “ADR” — that has thrown the Immigration Court system into chaos and dramatically increased the backlogs.  

Although those misguided Obama Administration priorities have been rescinded, the reprieve is only fleeting. The Trump Administration has announced plans to greatly expand the prioritytargets for removal to include even those who were merely accused of committing any crime. The Administration also plans a new and greatly expanded immigration detention empire,likely to be situated in remote locations near the Southern Border, relying largely on discredited private for profitprisons. The Administration also wants to make it more difficult for individuals to get full Immigration Court hearings on asylum claims and to expand the use of so-called expedited removal,thereby seeking to completely avoid the Immigration Court process.

Evidently, the idea, similar to that of the Obama Administration, is to remove most of those recently crossing the border to seek protection, thereby sending a “don’t come, we dont want youmessage to asylum seekers.

Second, there must be structural changes so that the Immigration Courts are organized and run like a real court system, not a highly bureaucratic agency. This means that sitting Immigration Judges, like in all other court systems, must control their dockets. The practice of having administrators in Falls Church and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., none of whom are sitting judges responsible for daily court hearings, manipulate and rearrange local dockets in a vain attempt to achieve policy goals unrelated to fairness and due process for individuals coming before the Immigration Courts must end.  

If there are to be nationwide policies and practices, they should be developed by an Immigration Judicial Conference,patterned along the lines of the Federal Judicial Conference. That would be composed of sitting Immigration Judges representing a cross-section of the country, several Appellate Immigration Judges from the BIA, and probably some U.S. Circuit Judges, since the Circuits are one of the primary consumersof the court’s “product.”

Third, there must be a new administrative organization to serve the courts, much like the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. This office would naturally be subordinate to the Immigration Judicial Conference. Currently, the glacial hiring process, inadequate courtroom space planning and acquisition, and unreliable, often-outdated technology are simply not up to the needs of a rapidly expanding court system.  

In particular, the judicial hiring process over the past 16 years has failed to produce the necessary balance because judicial selectees from private sector backgrounds particularly those with expertise in asylum and refugee law have been so few and far between. Indeed, during the last Administration nearly 90% of the judicial appointments were from Government backgrounds. And, there is no reason to believe that pattern will change under the current Administration. In fact, only one of the seven most recent appointments by Attorney Generals Sessions came from a private sector background.

Fourth, I would repeal all of the so-called Ashcroft reformsat the BIA and put the BIA back on track to being a real appellate court.   A properly comprised and well-functioning BIA should transparently debate and decide important, potentially controversial, issues, publishing dissenting opinions when appropriate. All BIA Appellate Judges should be required to vote and take a public position on all important precedent decisions. The BIA must also “rein in” those Immigration Courts with asylum grant rates so incredibly low as to make it clear that the generous dictates of the Supreme Court in Cardoza-Fonseca[9] and the BIA itself in Mogharrabi[10] are not being followed.

Nearly a decade has passed since Professors Andy Schoenholtz, Phil Shrag, and Jaya Ramji-Nogales published their seminal work Refugee Roulette, documenting the large disparities among Immigration Judges in asylum grant rates.[11] While there has been some improvement, the BIA, the only body that can effectively establish and enforce due process within the Immigration Court system, has not adequately addressed this situation.

For example, let’s take a brief “asylum magical mystery tour” down the East Coast.[12] In New York, 84% of the asylum applications are granted. Cross the Hudson River to Newark and that rate sinks to 48%, still respectable in light of the 47% national average but inexplicably 36% lower than New York. Move over to the Elizabeth Detention Center Court, where you might expect a further reduction, and the grant rate rises again to 59%. Get to Baltimore, and the grant rate drops to 43%. But, move down the BW Parkway a few miles to Arlington, still within the Fourth Circuit like Baltimore, and it rises again to 63%. Then, cross the border into North Carolina, still in the Fourth Circuit, and it drops remarkably to 13%. But, things could be worse. Travel a little further south to Atlanta and the grant rate bottoms out at an astounding 2%.

In other words, by lunchtime some days the Immigration Judges sitting in New York granted more than the five asylum cases granted in Atlanta during the entire Fiscal Year 2015!   An 84% to 2% differential in fewer than 900 miles! Three other major non-detained Immigration Courts, Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas, have asylum grants rates at or below 10%.

Indeed a recent 2017 study of the Atlanta Immigration Court by Emory Law and the Southern Poverty Law Center found:

[S]ome of the Immigration Judges do not respect rule of law principles and maintain practices that undermine the fair administration of justice. During the course of our observations, we witnessed the following [issue, among others]. Immigration Judges made prejudicial statements and expressed significant disinterest or even hostility towards respondents in their courts. In at least one instance, an Immigration Judge actively refused to listen to an attorney’s legal arguments. In another instance, an Immigration Judge failed to apply the correct standard of law in an asylum case. [13]

This is hardly “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!” These unusually low asylum grant rates are impossible to justify in light of the generous standard for well-founded fear established by the Supreme Court in Cardoza-Fonseca and the BIA in Mogharrabi, and the regulatory presumption of future fear arising out of past persecution that applies in many asylum cases.[14] Yet, the BIA has only recently and fairly timidly addressed the manifest lack of respect for asylum seekers and failure to guarantee fairness and due process for such vulnerable individuals in some cases arising in Atlanta and other courts with unrealistically low grant rates.[15]    

Over the past 16 years, the BIA’s inability or unwillingness to aggressively stand up for the due process rights of asylum seekers and to enforce the fair and generous standards required by American law have robbed our Immigration Court System of credibility and public support, as well as ruined the lives of many who were denied protection that should have been granted.   We need a BIA which functions like a Federal Appellate Court and whose overriding mission is to ensure that the due process vision of the Immigration Courts becomes a reality rather than an unfulfilled promise.

Fifth, and finally, the Immigration Courts need e-filing NOW! Without it, the courts are condemned to files in the aisles,misplaced filings, lost exhibits, and exorbitant courier charges. Also, because of the absence of e-filing, the public receives a level of service disturbingly below that of any other major court system. That gives the Immigration Courts an amateur nightaura totally inconsistent with the dignity of the process, the critical importance of the mission, and the expertise, hard work, and dedication of the judges and court staff who make up our court. 

GETTING INVOLVED 

Keep these thoughts in mind. Sadly, based on actions to date, I have little hope that Attorney General Sessions will support due process reforms or an independent U.S. Immigration Court, although it would be in his best interests as well as those of our country if he did. However, eventually our opportunity will come. When it does, those of us who believe in the primary importance of constitutional due process must be ready with concrete reforms.

So, do we abandon all hope? No, of course not!   Because there are hundreds of newer lawyers out there who are former Arlington JLCs, interns, my former student, and those who have practiced before the Arlington Immigration Court.       

They form what I call the New Due Process Army!And, while my time on the battlefield is winding down, they are just beginning the fight! They will keep at it for years, decades, or generations — whatever it takes to force the U.S. immigration judicial system to live up to its promise of guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!        

What can you do to get involved now? The overriding due process need is for competent representation of individuals claiming asylum and/or facing removal from the United States. Currently, there are not nearly enough pro bono lawyers to insure that everyone in Immigration Court gets represented.     

And the situation is getting worse. With the Administrations expansion of so-called expedited removal,lawyers are needed at earlier points in the process to insure that those with defenses or plausible claims for relief even get into the Immigration Court process, rather than being summarily removed with little, if any, recourse.

Additionally, given the pressure that the Administration is likely to exert through the Department of Justice to movecases quickly through the Immigration Court system with little regard for due process and fundamental fairness, resort to the Article III Courts to require fair proceedings and an unbiased application of the laws becomes even more essential. Litigation in the U.S. District and Appellate Courts has turned out to be effective in forcing systemic change. However, virtually no unrepresented individual is going to be capable of getting to the Court of Appeals, let alone prevailing on a claim.

I have been working with groups looking for ways to expand the accredited representativeprogram, which allows properly trained and certified individuals who are not lawyers to handle cases before the DHS and the Immigration Courts while working for certain nonprofit community organizations, on either a staff or volunteer basis. Notwithstanding some recently publicized problems with policing the system, which I wrote about on my blog immigrationrcourtside.com, this is a critically important program for expanding representation in Immigration Courts. The accredited representativeprogram is also an outstanding opportunity for retired individuals, like professors, who are not lawyers to qualify to provide pro bono representation in Immigration Court to needy migrants thorough properly recognized religious and community organizations.        

Even if you are not practicing or do not intend to practice immigration law, there are many outstanding opportunities to contribute by taking pro bono cases. Indeed, in my experience in Arlington, big lawfirms were some of the major contributors to highly effective pro bono representation. It was also great hands onexperience for those seeking to hone their litigation skills.

Those of you with language and teaching skills can help out in English Language Learning programs for migrants.   I have observed first hand that the better that individuals understand the language and culture of the US, the more successful they are in navigating our Immigration Court system and both assisting, and when necessary, challenging their representatives to perform at the highest levels. In other words, they are in a better position to be informed consumersof legal services.        

Another critical area for focus is funding of nonprofit community-based organizations and religious groups that assist migrants for little or no charge. Never has the need for such services been greater.

But, many of these organizations receive at least some government funding for outreach efforts. We have already seen how the President has directed the DHS to “defund” outreach efforts and use the money instead for a program to assist victims of crimes committed by undocumented individuals.

Undoubtedly, with the huge emphases on military expansion and immigration enforcement, to the exclusion of other important programs, virtually all forms of funding for outreach efforts to migrants are likely to disappear in the very near future. Those who care about helping others will have to make up the deficit. So, at giving time, remember your community nonprofit organizations that are assisting foreign nationals. 

Finally, as an informed voter and participant in our political process, you can advance the cause of Immigration Court reform and due process. For the last 16 years politicians of both parties have largely stood by and watched the unfolding due process disaster in the U.S. Immigration Courts without doing anything about it, and in some cases actually making it worse.

The notion that Immigration Court reform must be part of so-called comprehensive immigration reformis simply wrong. The Immigration Courts can and must be fixed sooner rather than later, regardless of what happens with overall immigration reform. Its time to let your Senators and Representatives know that we need due process reforms in the Immigration Courts as one of our highest national priorities.

Folks, the U.S Immigration Court system is on the verge of collapse. And, there is every reason to believe that the misguided enforce and detain to the maxpolicies being pursued by this Administration will drive the Immigration Courts over the edge. When that happens, a large chunk of the entire American justice system and the due process guarantees that make American great and different from most of the rest of the world will go down with it.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I have introduced you to one of Americas largest and most important, yet least understood and appreciated, court systems: the United States Immigration Court. I have shared with you the Courts noble due process vision and my view that it is not currently being fulfilled. I have also shared with you my ideas for effective court reform that would achieve the due process vision and how you can become involved in improving the process. Now is the time to take a stand for fundamental fairness’! Join the New Due Process Army! Due process forever!        

Thanks again for inviting me and for listening. Have a great conference!

 

 

(05/12/17)

        

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Matter of Lennon, 15 I&N Dec. 9 (BIA 1974), rev’d Lennon v. INS, 527 F.2d 187 (2d Cir. 1975).

[2] Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996).

[3] TRAC Immigration, “Representation is Key in Immigration Proceedings Involving Women with Children,” Feb. 18, 2015, available online at http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/377/.

[4] “Immigration Director Calls for Overhaul of Broken System,” NBC Bay Area News, May 27, 2015, available online.

[5] Guchshenkov v. Ashcroft, 366 F.3d 554 (7th Cir. 2004) (Evans, J., concurring).
[6] Hon. Thomas G. Snow, “The gut-wrenching life of an immigration judge,” USA Today, Dec. 12, 2106, available online at http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/12/12/immigration-judge-gut-wrenching-decisions-column/95308118/

[7] Julia Preston, “Lawyers Back Creating New Immigration Courts,” NY Times, Feb. 6, 2010.

[8] INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

[9] INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

[10] Matter of Mogharrabi, 19 I&N Dec. 4379(BIA 1987).

[11] Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Andrew I. Schoenholtz, and Philip G. Schrag, Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, 60 Stan. L. Rev. 295 (2007);

[12] All statistics are from the EOIR FY 2015 Statistics Yearbook, available online at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/fysb15/download,

[13] See Emory Law/SPLC Observation Study Rips Due Process Violations At Atlanta Immigration Court — Why Is The BIA “Asleep At The Switch” In Enforcing Due Process? What Happened To The EOIR’s “Due Process Vision?” in immigrationcourtside.com, available online at http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/03/02/emory-lawsplc-observation-study-rips-due-process-violations-at-atlanta-immigration-court-why-is-the-bia-asleep-at-the-switch-in-enforcing-due-process-what-happened-to-the-eoirs-due-proces/

[14] See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1).

[15] See, e.g., Matter of Y-S-L-C-, 26 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2015) (denial of due process where IJ tried to bar the testimony of minor respondent by disqualifying him as an expert witness under the Federal Rules of Evidence). While the BIA finally stepped in with this precedent, the behavior of this Judge shows a system where some Judges have abandoned any discernable concept of “guaranteeing fairness and due process.” The BIA’s “permissive” attitude toward Judges who consistently deny nearly all asylum applications has allowed this to happen. Indeed the Washington Post recently carried a poignant story of a young immigration lawyer who was driven out of the practice by the negative attitudes and treatment by the Immigration Judges at the Atlanta Immigration Court. Harlan, Chico, “In an Immigration Court that nearly always says no, a lawyer’s spirit is broken,” Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2016, available online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-an-immigration-court-that-nearly-always-says-no-a-lawyers-spirit-is-broken/2016/10/11/05f43a8e-8eee-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

How does this live up to the EOIR Vision of “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all?”   Does this represent the best that American justice has to offer?

Two New Pieces From N. Rappaport: Perhaps “Lost In The Shuffle” — Trump’s Plans For An Expanded Travel Ban & “Super Expedited” Removals!

Nolan is one of the “hardest working op-ed writers”in the field! Here’s the intro to what he had to say in HuffPost about an expanded “travel ban.”

https://www.linkedin.com/redir/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ehuffingtonpost%2Ecom%2Fentry%2F5894ed61e4b061551b3dfe64&urlhash=nmYz&_t=tracking_anet

“Too much attention is being paid to a 90-day travel ban in President Donald Trump’s Executive Order Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States (Order). While it is a serious matter, the temporary suspension of admitting aliens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen into the United States is just the tip of the iceberg. Other provisions in the Order may cause much more serious consequences.

Section 3(a) of the Order directs the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Secretary of the Department of State (DOS) and the Director of National Intelligence, to determine what information is needed “from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.” This applies to all countries, not just the seven that are subject to the 90-day suspension.

Those officials have 30 days from the date of the Order to report their “determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information (emphasis supplied).”

Section 3(d) directs the Secretary of State to “request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.” Section 3(e) explains the consequences of failing to comply with this request. Note that this also applies to all countries, not just the seven that are subject to the 90-day delay.

(e) After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, …) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs (emphasis supplied).

This is far more serious than the 90-day ban on immigration from the seven designated countries. With some exceptions, President Trump is going to stop immigration from every country in the world that refuses to provide the requested information. And this ban will continue until compliance occurs.

Does the President have the authority to do this? Yes, he does. The main source of the president’s authority to declare such suspensions can been found in section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the pertinent part of which reads as follows:

(f) Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

The Order permits the Secretaries of DOS and DHS to waive the restrictions on a case-by-case basis when it is in the national interest.

DHS Secretary John Kelly has applied this waiver to the entry of lawful permanent residents. In a statement released on January 29, 2017, he says, “absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations.”

The ACLU Executive Director, Anthony D. Romero, claims that the Order is “a Muslim ban wrapped in a paper-thin national security rationale.”

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

I understand Nolan’s point that President Trump could be within his rights to invoke the travel ban.  Nevertheless, in a recent blog on this site, former State Department visa officer Jeff Gorsky pointed out that historically the section 212(f) sanction of suspension of visa issuance has been used in a very narrow and focused manner. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Hr

The prospect of large-scale visa suspensions in the current context also seems like unusual policy to me. Let’s take the most obvious example: Iran, a country with which we have famously strained relations.

Why would Iran want to provide us with any useful information about its nationals? And, if they did, why would we trust it?

For example, if there is a real “Iranian spy” out there I’m sure the Iranian Government will give him or her a “clean bill of health.” On the flip side, if there are some Iranian democracy advocates who are annoying to the Iranian Government but want to travel to the U.S., Iran would likely plant false information to make us believe they were “terrorists.

Hopefully, in Iranian visa cases we are getting our “vetting” information largely from sources other than the Iranian Government. Consequently, like so many of the Trump Administration’s actions, it is hard to take a threat to ban visa issuance as a serious effort to protect national security. It’s likely that national security is just a “smokescreen” for other possible motives. Who knows?

I’m incurred to think that if Trump decides to “go big” with 212(f) visa suspensions, at least some lower Federal Courts are likely to adopt the “Gorsky view” that “he can’t do that.”

You should read Nolan’s complete article in HuffPost at the above link!

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

Next, Nolan writes about the Administration’s “expedited removal campaign” in The Hill:

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/332110-on-illegal-immigration-trump-puts-an-end-to-obamas-home-free

As of the end of January 2017, the immigrant court’s backlog was 542,411 cases.  Even if no additional cases are filed, it would take the court two-and-a-half years to catch up with its backlog.

President Trump finessed his way around this problem by expanding the use of expedited removal proceedings with his Executive Order, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.

In expedited removal proceedings, which are conducted by immigration officers, an alien who lacks proper documentation or has committed fraud or a willful misrepresentation to enter the country, will be deported without a hearing before an immigration judge, unless he requests an asylum hearing.

 

Asylum hearings, which are conducted by immigration judges, are available to aliens who establish a credible fear of persecution.  An asylum officer determines whether the alien has a credible fear of persecution.

The alien cannot have assistance from an attorney in these proceedings, and, because detention is mandatory, his ability to gather evidence in support of his case is severely restricted.

Moreover, Section 208(a)(2)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) limits asylum to aliens who have been in the United States for less than a year (with some exceptions).

If the asylum officer rejects the credible fear claim, the alien can request an expedited review of his credible fear case by an immigration judge, which usually is held within 24 hours but in no case later than seven days after the adverse credible fear determination.

Federal court review is available, but it is restricted to cases in which the alien makes a sufficient claim to being a United States citizen, to having lawful permanent resident status, or to having been admitted previously as a refugee or an asylee.

A federal judge recently held that asylum denials in expedited removal proceedings are not reviewable in federal court and the Supreme Court let the decision stand.

Previous administrations limited expedited removal proceedings to aliens at the border and aliens who had entered without inspection but were apprehended no more than 100 miles from the border after spending less than 14 days in the country.

The Executive Order expands expedited removal proceedings to the full extent of the law. Section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(ll) of the INA authorizes expedited removal proceedings for aliens who have been physically present in the United States for up to two years.

It is likely to be very difficult for aliens to establish physical presence of more than two years, and if they do, they will be faced with the one year deadline for asylum applications, which in many cases is the only form of relief available to an undocumented alien.

President Trump will be able to use expedited removal proceedings to deport millions of undocumented aliens without hearings before an immigration judge.

The only way to stop him is to find a way to work with him on a comprehensive immigration reform bill that meets the political needs of both parties, and time is running out.”

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

I’m all for comprehensive immigration reform. But, if it doesn’t happen, I’m not so sure that Trump, Sessions & Co. won’t “push the envelope” on expedited removal to the point where  the Supremes “just say no.” After all, even noted conservative chief Justice John Roberts seemed unenthusiastic about giving the DHS total prosecutorial discretion in a recent citizenship case. See this earlier blog: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Lv.

PWS

05-076-17

New From 9th Circuit: Ayala v. Sessions — Reaffirming “economic extortion on the basis of a protected characteristic can constitute persecution!” — Judicial Review of Credible Fear/Reinstatement — “Extortion Plus” Reaffirmed!

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/05/01/13-72250.pdf

“The IJ abused his discretion in concluding that there was no legal error in his previous opinion affirming the negative reasonable fear determination.5 Contrary to the IJ’s holding, our precedents make clear that economic extortion on the basis of a protected characteristic can constitute persecution.

5 We review the legal error de novo and conclude that the IJ abused his discretion in reaching the result he did. See Popa v. Holder, 571 F.3d 890, 894 (9th Cir. 2009) (“An IJ abuses his discretion when he acts arbitrarily, irrationally, or contrary to law.”) (citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 405 (1990) (“A district court would necessarily abuse its discretion if it based its ruling on an erroneous view of the law or on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence.”).

AYALA V. SESSIONS 17

Borja, 175 F.3d at 736; Barajas-Romero, 846 F.3d at 357 & n.5 (“A person seeking withholding of removal must prove not only that his life or freedom will be threatened in his home country, but also that the threat is ‘because of’ one of the five listed reasons:” race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion) (citing 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3)(A); 8 C.F.R. § 208.16(b)). In Borja, for example, the petitioner suffered past persecution on account of her political opinion when she was extorted partly for economic reasons and partly on the basis of her political statements. 175 F.3d at 736. We described this type of persecution as “extortion plus”—that is, extortion, with the threat of violence, on the basis of a protected characteristic. Id.

Here, Ayala testified that she suffered this type of persecution by stating that she faced extortion, and threats of violence, not only for economic reasons, but also because of her family ties. Rios v. Lynch, 807 F.3d 1123, 1128 (9th Cir. 2015) (“[T]he family remains the quintessential particular social group.”). Whatever the merits of her claim, it was legal error for the IJ to hold that extortion could not constitute persecution for the purposes of withholding of removal: where the petitioner’s membership in a particular social group (in this case, a family) is at least “a reason” for the extortion, it is sufficient to meet the nexus requirement for withholding of removal. See Barajas-Romero, 846 F.3d at 360 (Post REAL-ID withholding claims are not governed by the “one central reason” test that applies to asylum claims, but instead require only that a protected ground was “a reason” for persecution, which “is a less demanding standard.”).

18 AYALA V. SESSIONS

Therefore, we grant Ayala’s petition for review, and remand for the IJ to address whether Ayala has established a reasonable fear based on her extortion-plus claim of persecution.

CONCLUSION

We have jurisdiction to review the IJ’s negative reasonable fear determination relating to the reinstatement of Ayala’s expedited removal order. The BIA’s dismissal of Ayala’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction was the final order of removal; therefore, Ayala’s petition for review is timely because it was filed less than 30 days after that order.

We hold that the IJ abused his discretion in concluding that extortion could not constitute past persecution, and in failing to consider the question of Ayala’s family ties. Therefore, we GRANT Ayala’s petition for review and REMAND for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

PANEL:

Stephen Reinhardt and Kim McLane Wardlaw, Circuit Judges, and Edward R. Korman,* District Judge. (*The Honorable Edward R. Korman, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, sitting by designation.)

OPINION BY:  Judge Reinhardt

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

In my experience, U.S. Immigration Judges, the BIA, and some Courts of Appeals make the mistake highlighted by the 9th Circuit in far too many instances by summarily disregarding credible claims of persecution based on extortion. That’s why the Trump Administration’s effort to “heighten” the standards for “credible fear” and “reasonable fear” of persecution will almost certainly compromise due process and fairness.

PWS

05-01-17

“Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money . . . .” — But, Bipartisan Legalization Is What Undocumented Residents REALLY Need, Says N. Rappaport in THE HILL!

Quote from “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” by Warren Zevon, check it out here: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/w/warren_zevon/lawyers_guns_and_money.html

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http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/329310-noncriminal-immigrants-facing-deportation-need-legalization

Nolan writes in a recent op-ed from The Hill:

“The absence of due process protections is permissible because IIRIA “clarified” that aliens who are in the United States without inspection are deemed to be “arriving.” In other words, they are not entitled to the rights enjoyed by aliens who have been admitted to the United States because, technically, they are not in the United States. This legal fiction has been accepted now for more than 20 years.

Previous administrations arbitrarily have limited expedited removal proceedings to aliens at the border and aliens who entered without inspection and were apprehended no more than 100 miles from the border after spending less than 14 days in the country.

But Section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(ll) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes expedited removal proceedings for any alien “who has not been admitted or paroled into the United States, and who has not affirmatively shown, to the satisfaction of an immigration officer, that the alien has been physically present in the United States continuously for the 2-year period immediately prior to the date of the determination of inadmissibility.”

President Trump can use expedited removal proceedings to deport millions of noncriminal aliens without hearings before an immigration judge or the right to appeal removal orders to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

The only way to stop him is to find a way to work with him on a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a legalization program. And time is running out.

The Trump administration is quickly identifying ways to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail.

Preparations are being made for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire 5,000 new officers and for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hire an additional 10,000. Also, ICE has identified 27 potential locations that could increase its detention space by 21,000 beds, and CBP plans to expand its detention capacity by 12,500 spaces.

But it is not too late to work on a deal that would meet the essential political needs of both parties … yet.”

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

Go over to The Hill at the link to read Nolan’s complete op-ed.

I agree with Nolan that given the huge backlogs in the U.S. Immigration Courts, the Administration will use every device at its disposal to avoid the Immigration Courts and completely eliminate due process protections for as many individuals as possible. Moreover, as I have pointed out in a recent blog, to date the Article III Courts have been willing to turn a blind eye to the rather obvious due process and statutory issues involved in expedited removal. See http://wp.me/p8eeJm-IG.

To state the obvious: “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum” is meaningless without a fair opportunity to be heard on the asylum application before an impartial adjudicator, with a meaningful opportunity to present evidence, and represented by counsel of one’s choice. And, the idea that individuals who have spent months in detention in the U.S. aren’t entitled to “due process” in connection with their asylum applications (which are “life or death” applications) is facially absurd.

Yeah, I know that the Third Circuit in Castro v. DHS spent the whole decision on a turgidly opaque discussion of jurisdiction and and “suspension of habeas.” Surprising how folks living in the “ivory tower” with lifetime job security can sometimes drain all of the humanity out of “real life” tragedies.

But, frankly, in four decades of being a “highly interested observer” of immigration litigation, I’ve never seen an Article III Court, including the Supremes, be deterred from running over supposed statutory limitations on judicial review when motivated to do so. Perhaps it will take some Federal Judge’s nanny, maid, gardener, driver, handyman, neighbor, fellow church member, student, or in-law being swept up in the new “DHS dragnet” to “motivate” the courts here.

In the meantime, as pointed out to me by Nolan in a different conversation, there is some hope for due process in the Third Circuit’s dictum in Castro. In “footnote 13,” the court actually indicates that there might be a “constitutional break point” for review of expedited removal:

“Of course, even though our construction of § 1252 means that courts in the future will almost certainly lack statutory jurisdiction to review claims that the government has committed even more egregious violations of the expedited removal statute than those alleged by Petitioners, this does not necessarily mean that all aliens wishing to raise such claims will be without a remedy. For instance, consider the case of an alien who has been living continuously for several years in the United States before being ordered removed under § 1225(b)(1). Even though the statute would prevent him from seeking judicial review of a claim, say, that he was never granted a credible fear interview, under our analysis of the Suspension Clause below, the statute could very well be unconstitutional as applied to him (though we by no means undertake to so hold in this opinion). Suffice it to say, at least some of the arguably troubling implications of our reading of § 1252 may be tempered by the Constitution’s requirement that habeas review be available in some circumstances and for some people.”

I suspect that the Administration eventually will push expedited removal and credible fear denials to the point where there will be some meaningful judicial review. But, lots of folks rights are likely to be trampled upon before we reach that point.

Nolan’s suggestion for a bipartisan legislative solution certainly seems reasonable and highly appropriate from the viewpoint of both sides. The Administration is about to invest lots of resources and credibility in a “war to deport or intimidate just about everybody” that it is likely to lose in the long run. But, advocates are likely to be bleeding resources and losing individual battles for some time before the tide eventually turns, if it ever does. Anything that depends on litigation as the solution has many risks and unpredictable outcomes that might leave both sides unsatisfied with the results.

Sadly, nobody in the Administration seems interested in solving this issue. The policy appears to be driven by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a lifelong opponent of immigration reform who seldom if ever has a kind word to say about any immigrant, legal or undocumented.

Secretary Kelly has become “Sessions’s Parrot,” apparently devoid of any original or constructive thoughts on the subject of immigration. In particular, his recent “put up or shut up” outburst directed at Congressional Democrats who sought some meaningful oversight and clarification of his enforcement policies did not seem to be an entree for better dialogue.

Although there almost certainly is a majority of Democrats and Republicans in favor of reasonable immigration reform, which the majority of the country would also like to see, leadership of both parties seems fairly discombobulated. There seems to be “zero interest” in putting together a legislative coalition consisting of Democrats and a minority of Republicans to get anything done. And, even if such a coalition were to coalesce, President Trump likely would veto any constructive result in the area of immigration.

As I’ve pointed out before, there are a number of reasons why folks don’t always act in their best interests or the best interests of the country. But, I appreciate Nolan’s efforts to promote “thinking beyond conflict.” I want to think that it can come to fruition.

PWS

04-20-17

 

DEPORTATION EXPRESS: U.S. Courts Appear Ready To “Green Light” Summary Removal Of Asylum Seekers Without Regard To Due Process — Advocates Striking Out In Attempts To Get Meaningful Judicial Review Of Expedited Removal — Trump Administration’s Plans To Expand Expedited Removal Likely To Deny Thousands Day In Court!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/17/politics/supreme-court-castro-expedited-removal/index.html

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter  writes:

“(CNN)The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a lower court opinion rejecting claims by undocumented Central American women and children — who were apprehended immediately after arriving in the country without authorization — seeking asylum.

Lawyers for the families sought to challenge their expedited removal proceedings in federal court arguing they face gender-based violence at home, but a Philadelphia-based federal appeals court held that they have no right to judicial review of such claims.
The court’s action means the government can continue to deny asylum seekers placed in expedited removal a chance to have their cases heard by federal court.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who has his first full week on the court starting Monday, did not participate in the decision.
The case, initially brought under the Obama administration, comes as the Trump administration has vowed to more strictly enforce immigration laws.
Originally, 28 mothers and their children entered the US border in Texas in late 2015. They were immediately placed in expedited removal proceedings. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, they argue they suffered “gender-based violence, including sexual assault, by men from whom they could not escape” and that they were targeted by gangs because “they are single women residing without a male household member to protect them.” They sought to challenge their removal proceedings in federal court, arguing that they did not receive substantive procedural rights to which they were entitled.
A federal appeals court ruled against the petitioners, arguing that Congress could deny review for those who have been denied initial entry into the country who were apprehended close to the border. The court essentially treated the petitioners as equal to those who arrived at the border but had not yet entered.
“We conclude that Congress may, consonant with the Constitution, deny habeas review in federal court of claims relating to an alien’s application for admission to the country, at least as to aliens who have been denied initial entry or who, like Petitioners, were apprehended very near the border and, essentially, immediately after surreptitious entry into the country,” wrote the majority of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
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Here’s a link to the Third Circuit’s decision in Castro v. DHShttp://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/161339p.pdf
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This could be the real “sleeper” in the Trump Administration’s “get tough” immigration enforcement plan. Given the 540,000+ backlog in the U.S. Immigration Courts, the Administration appears to be looking for ways to circumvent the court process entirely wherever possible.
DHS could easily change the existing regulations to “max out” so called “Expedited Removal” by DHS enforcement officers by applying it to everyone unable to establish at least two years’ continuous residence in the U.S. (Currently, the cutoff is 14 days if apprehended within 100 miles of the border.)
Even individuals who meet the two-year requirement could be subsumed in the Expedited Removal regime. Without a right to be represented by counsel, to have a full hearing before an impartial decision maker, and to appeal to the Article III Federal Courts, an individual wrongly placed in the expedited process would have little chance of avoiding summary removal without a chance to apply for relief that might be available before the Immigration Court.
While the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant certiorari in Castro is not a decision on the merits, to date no circuit has ruled in favor of the claimants. Unless and until that happens, it is unlikely that the Supremes will even consider the advocates’ arguments for at least some degree of judicial review of Expedited Removal.
PWS
04-17-17

REUTERS: U.S. Immigration Court’s “Night Court” Plan Shows Why Due Process Is A Mirage In A “Captive” Court System — Will EOIR Cave To Administration’s Move To Put “Due Process Veneer” On Assembly Line Removals!

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN16H030

Julia Edwards Ainsley reports:

“The Department of Justice is deploying 50 judges to immigration detention facilities across the United States, according to two sources and a letter seen by Reuters and sent to judges on Thursday.

The department is also considering asking judges to sit from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., split between two rotating shifts, to adjudicate more cases, the sources said. A notice about shift times was not included in the letter.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.”

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Thanks much to Zoe Tillman over at BuzzFeed News for bringing this article to my attention.

“Judges” working “shifts” on the “removal assembly line!” “Come on, man!” A “real” court would be strongly resisting this mockery of justice and due process.

But, because the U.S. Immigration Court is a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the Administration, EOIR leadership will likely “go along to get along” with a transparent scheme to railroad human beings in real danger back to the “death zone” of the Northern Triangle with “rubber stamp” justice. In other words, the Immigration Courts are considered by the Administration and the DOJ to be part of the “enforcement team,” rather than an independent due-process focused judiciary.

Scheduling early in the AM and late at night is likely to make it more difficult to get pro bono lawyers, witnesses, interpreters, etc. It isn’t just judges.

Also, some folks don’t function very well at those hours. Sounds sort of “gulag like” to me.

And, what about court clerks and other support staff? Additionally, by putting courts in out of the way detention locations and scheduling hearings at odd times, DOJ limits transparency. It’s harder for the press and other “outsiders” to observe.

Moreover, what happens to existing dockets of those IJs who “volunteer?” Reassigning 50 currently sitting Immigration Judges to the Southern Border on a rotating basis for one year would require the rescheduling of nearly 40,000 cases from their “home” dockets. Those cases, many already years old, are likely to be sent to the end of the docket, several years out.  This is classic “aimless docket reshuffling” which increases backlogs and inhibits fairness and due process.

Finally, what’s going to happen to a “volunteer” Immigration Judge who takes due process seriously, slows down the cases so individuals can get lawyers, takes time for full presentation of the cases by both sides, and writes carefully reasoned decisions granting asylum or alternative forms of protection.  Chances are they will be considered “unproductive,” “not with the program,” “not carrying their weight,” or “not committed to carrying out the Attorney General’s priorities” (yes, folks, Immigration Judges actually are given “performance ratings,” and one of the elements has to do with supporting “agency priorities”)?  That’s likely to be “career limiting.”

Final question:  How would you like to have your life determined by a judge working (for the “chief prosecutor”) under these conditions?

PWS

03/10/17

 

 

 

TIME: Deportation Can Be a Death Sentence — We Should Be Concerned About “Quick Removal Schemes” By The Administration & Continued Deterioration of Due Process And Fairness For Asylum Seekers – Particularly Those Unrepresented — In U.S. Immigration Court!

http://time.com/4696017/deportation-death-refugees-asylum/

Conchita Cruz and Swapna Reddy, co-founders of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project at the Urban Justice Center, write:

“For one immigrant group—asylum seekers already living in the United States—the fear is especially intense: deportation is a death sentence.
While thousands showed up to support refugee families at airports in response to the refugee ban, many Americans do not realize that a different group of refugee families stands to be picked up in raids, detained and wrongfully deported from the United States. These refugees are called “asylum seekers” because they are seeking refugee status from inside the United States instead of abroad.
For many asylum seekers, there is no mechanism to apply for refugee status abroad, which causes them to come to the U.S.-Mexico border and turn themselves in, seeking refuge. Like their counterparts in airports, they have experienced incredible violence in their countries of origin. They have been brutally raped, threatened by gunpoint to join gangs, or witnessed the murder of loved ones.
In response, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) holds asylum seekers in detention centers for weeks or months until they pass a preliminary interview with an asylum officer. If they secure release, they move in with relatives or friends while remaining in deportation proceedings pending a full asylum trial.
Asylum seekers do not have a right to government-appointed counsel though their lives hang in the balance. Instead, families are forced to navigate the complex immigration system alone in a language they do not understand. Many also suffer from trauma-based disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder due to the persecution they experienced in the countries they fled.”

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Perhaps contrary to popular perception, we often return individuals to dangerous and life-threatening situations.  That’s because of the somewhat arcane “nexus” requirement for asylum that only covers persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

By manipulating these definitions, U.S. Government authorities often can deny protection even to individuals who clearly face life-threatening danger upon return.  The Government has worked particularly hard to develop technical legal criteria to disqualify those fleeing danger in the Northern Triangle.

Given the complexity and the highly legalistic nature of the system, competent representation by an attorney is a requirement for due process. For example, according to TRAC, for a sample population of Northern Triangle “women with children,” slightly more than 26% of those with lawyers got favorable decisions from the Immigration Court. Without lawyers, only 1.5% succeeded.

And, if the law were interpreted more reasonably and generously, in accordance with the spirit of asylum protection, I think that a substantial majority of those applying  for asylum from the Northern Triangle would be granted relief. Pressure for more favorable interpretations will not come from unrepresented individuals who can’t speak English, let alone articulate, document, and support sophisticated legal arguments for better interpretations of protection laws.

PWS

03/09/17

 

IMMIGRATION IMPACT: Katie Shepard Explains How New USCIS Lesson Plans Are Likely To Harm Asylum Seekers!

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/02/28/changes-may-keep-asylum-seekers-getting-day-court/

“Effective February 27, 2017, new changes to the asylum screening process could lead to an increased number of deportations of asylum-seekers who fear persecution upon return to their home country.

On February 13, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised its Asylum Division Officer Training Course (ADOTC) lesson plans on how to assess an asylum seeker’s credible and reasonable fear of persecution or torture. The lesson plans were revised to be consistent with the January 25, 2017 Executive Order on border security and immigration enforcement and provide guidelines to the asylum officers when conducting credible fear interviews (for those at the border or port of entry who were never previously deported) and reasonable fear interviews (for those who were previously order deported but who later seek asylum).

The changes to the lesson plans are significant and may cause the denial rate to skyrocket, in which case thousands of asylum seekers would be wrongfully denied a meaningful day in court . Not only does the new guidance provide asylum officers with greater discretion to deny an applicant for reasons which may be out of the applicant’s control, but the applicant will essentially be forced to undergo a full asylum hearing with none of the safeguards in place to ensure a meaningful opportunity to present a claim for relief.”

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Read Katie’s complete analysis at the link. You should also look at Dree Collopy’s short video on the changes which I previously posted.

http://wp.me/p8eeJm-qx

If this carries over into Immigration Court where unsuccessful applicants can seek “expedited review,” it would mean that “credible fear reviews” could become more time consuming.

I was usually able to complete them in a few minutes using the Asylum Officer’s notes and asking a few questions. I found that the overwhelming number of those denied had “credible fear,” and probably at least half of those cases eventually resulted in relief. However, over the last year of my career I was primarily on the non-detained docket, so I only did “credible fears” when I was on detail to a detention center or the system was backed up.

As an Immigration Judge, I did not use the USCIS lesson plans. But, I did rely on the Asylum Officer’s notes for a basic understanding of the claim. I then usually asked a few questions to verify that the notes accurately reflected the claim and that nothing relevant had been omitted.

 

PWS

03/03/17