The Impact of Returning Children on Well-Founded Fear
I received a request to discuss the following hypothetical: an asylum-seeking couple has a U.S. citizen child. Because of the need for both parents to work, they send the child to their country of origin. The question is what impact the asylum seekers’ decision to send the child to the country of feared persecution has on their well-founded fear of persecution. If the asylum claim is based on past persecution, does the decision in any way rebut the presumption of a future fear of persecution? In claims based solely on prospective persecution, does the decision impact whether the parents have a genuine subjective fear of persecution?
- Applicants who suffered past persecution
Where the parents suffered past persecution, the sending of the child to the parents’ country of origin does not rebut the presumption of future fear as a matter of law. 8 C.F.R. § 1208.16(b)(1)(i) provides two ways in which the presumption may be rebutted: through a showing (by a preponderance of evidence) of (1) “a fundamental change in circumstances such that the applicant’s life or freedom would not be threatened,” or (2) the applicant’s ability to avoid the threat of future harm by relocating to another part of the country. I am not aware of binding case law addressing children sent to the country of origin. However, circuit case law has considered the return of the asylum seekers themselves. In Kone v. Holder, 596 F.3d 141 (2d Cir. 2010), an immigration judge had ruled that the asylum seeker’s own return to the country of origin rebutted the presumption of well-founded fear arising from the past persecution. The circuit court reversed, noting that the IJ’s “cursory analysis” failed to make a finding of either a fundamental change in circumstances or the possibility of internal relocation as required for a rebuttal finding by 8 C.F.R. §1208.16(b)(1)(i). The circuit court thus concluded that the IJ’s finding “suggests the erroneous belief that voluntary return trips are sufficient, as a matter of law, to rebut the presumption of future persecution to which [the asylum seeker] is entitled.” The court referenced the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Boer-Sedano v. Gonzales, 418 F.3d 1082. In that case, the Ninth Circuit held that “the existence of return trips standing alone” could not rebut the presumption; such return trips could be considered “as one factor, among others, to rebut the presumption.”
If the presumption of well-founded fear is not rebutted by the return of the asylum seeker, it certainly is not rebutted by the return of the child. The decision to send the child, and the manner in which the child was treated, could be considered as a possible factor in determining whether a fundamental change in circumstances occurred or the possibility of internal relocation exists. However, it is a factor that must be considered in the context of the feared harm. For example, where the feared persecution is specific to the asylum applicant alone, or of a type that could not be visited on the child (i.e. the return of a male child where the feared harm is female genital cutting or forcible abortion), the return is not likely to have much significance. But the factfinder may find greater meaning where the claimant fears widespread attacks on members of her race, tribe, or religion, yet sends a child possessing the same trait to stay with family members similarly at risk.
However, even then, the courts have looked at the specific circumstances involved. In Mukamusoni v. Ashcroft, 390 F.3d 125-26 (1st Cir. 2004), a rape victim returned to Rwanda to pursue the free education available to her in that country; after departing, she returned one more time to obtain her transcript to allow her to continue her studies in the U.S. The court concluded that under the circumstances, the returns did not undermine the applicant’s claimed fear of future persecution, noting that “[f]aced with no viable means of support otherwise, people take risks in the face of their fears.”
2. Applicants whose fear is prospective only
The USCIS Asylum Officer Training materials on “well-founded fear” do not mention the return of children. However, they do address two related topics: the impact of the return of the asylum seeker him/herself to the country of feared persecution; and the persecution (or lack thereof) of individuals closely related to the applicant. Regarding the former, the USCIS materials rely on circuit court decisions to conclude that whether the applicant’s own return indicates a lack of subjective fear of persecution or alternatively “does not necessarily defeat the claim” is circumstance-specific, and depends on why the applicant returned, and what occurred when they did. See USCIS, RAIO Combined Training Course, Well-Founded Fear Training Module (June 15, 2014) Section 9, pp.22-24. The USCIS training materials note that the Ninth Circuit has held that the return of an asylum seeker “did not undercut the genuineness of her fear” where the purpose of the return was to retrieve her child after the death of the child’s custodian, or, in another case, to aid his uncle and sister who had been arrested. Id. at 22. The USCIS materials also look to what happened upon the asylum seeker’s return. The materials reference yet another Ninth Circuit case, Karouni v. Gonzales, 399 F.3d 1163 (9th Cir. 2005), in which an asylum applicant returned once to his country to attend to his dying father, but cut his trip short because of his fear of persecution, leaving before the father’s funeral. The applicant returned a second time to attend to his dying mother, but had to delay the trip due to a fear of persecution so that he did not return until the mother had already passed away. The court concluded that these visits did not undermine the applicant’s fear.
Regarding the treatment of relatives, the USCIS training materials provide a hypothetical in which an asylum applicant’s sister is arrested based on her political opinion. The materials state that such arrest should be considered in determining the applicant’s own fear where, e.g. the sister lived in the same city and was active in the same political party as the applicant. However, the sister’s arrest need not be considered if the two were not close, lived in different regions, and were not members of the same party. See Id. section 6, pp. 18-19.
In transposing this approach to the example of children sent to the country of feared persecution, the inquiry would be into whether a connection exists between the child and the applicant’s reason for fearing persecution. When I was an immigration judge, ICE trial attorneys would sometimes comment in such cases that “no refugees sent their children back to Nazi Germany.” Of course, if the asylum applicant based his or her fear on a comparably extreme situation, i.e. that anyone who was a member of their race, nationality/ethnicity/tribe, or religion would be at grave risk, and that family remaining in the country were hiding in fear of discovery, then sending one’s child back to that country to stay with those relatives could open an inquiry into whether the applicant possessed a genuine subjective fear of persecution. However, where that is not the basis of the fear, the question would be what, if any, risk extends to the child? Furthermore, even if such risk was found to exist, as noted above, the reason for sending the child would be weighed against the risk. Whether the feared persecutors were aware of the children’s return, and if so, what their reaction was might also be considered, depending on the specific circumstances.
Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.
A new in-depth study by the National Immigrant Justice Center (“NIJC”) shows how the Administration is intentionally using detention to deny Constitutional Due Process of Law to some of the most vulnerable:
When Donald Trump was elected president, the immigration detention system was already mired in such dysfunction that it routinely threatened the lives of those trapped inside. More than a year later, the administration intentionally uses its broken network of hundreds of immigration jails to advance an agenda that prioritizes mass deportation above respect for basic rights. This report focuses on the Cibola County Correctional Center, a prison complex in rural New Mexico owned and operated by the private prison giant CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America)1 with the capacity to jail 1,100 immigrants facing deportation. Located far from any major urban center in a state with no immigration court, the prison has become a black hole of due process rights.
The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is particularly alarmed by the lack of meaningful access to counsel at the Cibola prison. Federal immigration law allows immigrants the right to counsel in deportation proceedings, but immigrants must locate and pay for it themselves. Immigrants detained in Cibola and many other immigration jails nationally are unable to avail themselves of this right because the capacity of nearby legal service organizations to provide representation is dwarfed by the need. An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time — six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017. The due process violations occurring at Cibola and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prisons are the latest consequences of the Trump administration’s scheme to jail so many immigrants, and in such remote locations, that their right to representation is rendered meaningless.
An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time – six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017.
In light of DHS’s systematic and willful rights violations, NIJC calls on the agency to close detention facilities like Cibola, where due process is non-existent given individuals’ lack of access to counsel, and demands that Congress immediately cut funding for DHS’s enforcement and detention operations. (See Recommendations.)
U.S. Immigration Detention National Average Daily Population From 1994 To 20172
. . . .
The Future Of Immigration Detention: Why Cibola Matters
DHS paid little heed to the dearth of affordable legal services near Cibola when it entered its agreement with Cibola County and CoreCivic. Such a lapse is by no means new or unique. DHS has grown and maintained the immigration detention system in a manner incompatible with civil rights and due process protections.
In many ways, the Trump administration inherited an immigration detention system already riddled with abuse and neglect. Detained individuals, advocacy organizations including NIJC, and DHS’s Office of Inspector General have reported for decades on the profoundly inhumane conditions pervasive throughout the detention system, including: the excessive and arbitrary use of solitary confinement;22 inadequate, unsafe and spoiled food service;23 abuse of force by officers;24 and deaths attributable to medical negligence.25 Rather than assess possible reforms to address these problems—as the non-partisan Homeland Security Advisory Council advised in late 201626—the Trump administration quickly implemented changes that exacerbated existing harms. Today, DHS jails approximately 40,000 immigrants daily —more than any administration in recent history27— and holds them longer.28 The administration has publicly embraced the use of prolonged detention for asylum seekers29 and moved to weaken the standards governing conditions of detention.30
The administration seems poised to duplicate Cibola throughout the country. Its goal is clear: by undermining detained immigrants’ access to counsel, the administration ratchets up its removal rates.
Immigrants in detention centers throughout the country face the same frustrations as those jailed at Cibola when they try to find a lawyer. Nationally, fewer than one in every five immigrants in detention is able to find a lawyer.31 The Los Angeles Times recently reported that about 30 percent of detained immigrants are jailed more than 100 miles from the nearest government-listed legal service provider,32 with a median distance between the facility and the service provider of 56 miles.33
Access to counsel is important. Unrepresented, a detained immigrant, who often does not speak English, must develop her own legal arguments for relief eligibility, gather evidence that is often only available from within her country of origin (where she may fear for her own or her family’s safety), complete an application in English, and present a coherent presentation of her case to an immigration judge, all while a government-funded DHS prosecutor argues for her deportation.34 Faced with such a daunting task, immigrants enduring the isolation of detention are far less likely than those living in the community to defend against deportation and less likely to win their cases when they do so. The psychological harms caused by detention, especially for those with previous histories of torture or trauma,35 are so debilitating that even those with the strongest claims to legal protection in the United States often abandon the process and choose deportation instead.36 Detained immigrants with lawyers are 11 times more likely to pursue relief and are at least twice as likely to obtain relief as detained immigrants without counsel.37 A study analyzing the impact of appointed counsel for detained immigrants in New York City found a 1,100 percent increase in successful outcomes when universal representation became available..38
There is no doubt that DHS knows what it is doing. NIJC’s 2010 report Isolated in Detention documented the due process crisis already unfolding in the immigration detention system. At that time, NIJC found that 80 percent of detained immigrants were held in facilities that were severely underserved by legal aid organizations, with more than 100 immigrants for every full-time nonprofit attorney providing legal services.”40 The report presented eight recommendations to DHS and the Department of Justice to improve access to legal counsel for detained immigrants.41 Not one of the recommendations has been adopted or implemented by either agency.
Recently, DHS announced its interest in building new prisons in or near southern Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Salt Lake City, Utah. The agency stated its goal was to increase the system’s capacity by up to 4,000 more beds.42Legal aid organizations in these regions sent a letter to DHS explaining that they would have little or no capacity to provide meaningful access to counsel if the government carries out this expansion.43 As of publication of this report, DHS has not responded to this letter nor contacted any of the organizations to assess access to legal counsel.
The administration seems poised to duplicate Cibola throughout the country. Its goal is clear: by undermining detained immigrants’ access to counsel, the administration ratchets up its removal rates.
When the administration flaunts its record rates of deportations, it is telling a story of what happens to immigrants like Christopher and hundreds of others at Cibola who face insurmountable barriers to justice, not describing a legitimate outcome of enforcement of United States law. Jailing immigrants during their deportation proceedings makes it significantly more likely they will be deported, regardless of the merits or strength of their defense to deportation. At Cibola and prisons like it throughout the United States, incarceration has become another weapon in the administration’s arsenal, intended to facilitate mass removals no matter the cost to due process or civil rights.
DHS must close detention facilities like Cibola, where due process is non-existent given individuals’ lack of access to counsel.
Congress must cut appropriated funds for immigration detention, in light of the civil rights and due process crisis within the system.
Specifically, Congress must:
- Cease funding to detain individuals where there is no evidence of flight or security risk.
- Engage in robust oversight to ensure that when DHS does utilize detention, funding is only available for facilities where there is sufficient access to legal counsel (an established immigration bar) and adequate health care for individuals in detention.
A Note On Methodology
For the survey cited in this report, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) undertook a census of all the attorneys we could identify who regularly practice immigration law in New Mexico and Texas. The intent was to determine 1) the number of attorneys available to take immigration cases out of the Cibola County Correctional Center and 2) the maximum number of cases each attorney could take at a given time. NIJC staff identified all attorneys in New Mexico who, as of July 2017, were members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the primary membership association for immigration attorneys in the United States (identified using the membership directory at http://www.aila.org/member-directory). Through informal conversations with AILA members and legal aid organizations, NIJC staff added other New Mexico- and Texas-based attorneys to the list who were identified as providing even minimal legal representation at Cibola. NIJC staff and interns reached out to each of these attorneys via email and telephone. NIJC communicated directly via phone or email with an attorney or authorized staff person at all but nine of the 60 offices on the final list. Each attorney was asked whether they were able and willing to provide legal representation to individuals detained at Cibola, for a fee or on a low-cost or pro bono basis, and if so approximately how many cases they could take at maximum capacity. The detailed results of this census are on record with NIJC.
In addition to these census questions, NIJC staff held more extensive interviews with staff members at the following nonprofit legal service providers: Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico (Las Cruces, NM); Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (El Paso, TX); Instituto Legal (Albuquerque, NM); Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center (El Paso, TX); the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (Albuquerque, NM); and Santa Fe Dreamers Project (Santa Fe, NM). Additionally, in June 2017 NIJC staff members visited the Cibola prison, where they spoke with 12 individuals detained at the facility whose insights inspired and contributed to this report. Notes from these conversations are on record with NIJC. Notes from all of these conversations are on record with NIJC.
The principal authors of this report are NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman and NIJC Director of Communications Tara Tidwell Cullen, with research and editing contributions from NIJC colleagues Keren Zwick, Diane Eikenberry, Mary Meg McCarthy, Claudia Valenzuela, Julia Toepfer, and Isabel Dieppa. NIJC interns Linda Song and Anya Martin also contributed to this report. Sincere thanks for insights and support from Jessica Martin and Rebekah Wolf of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Allegra Love of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Yazmin Ruiz of United We Dream, and the detained immigrants whose experiences are described in this report.
All photos credit the National Immigrant Justice Center.”
Read the complete report at the link.
NIJC confirms what most of us involved in the immigration justice system already know — that the Trump Administration has “doubled down” on the Obama Administration’s misguided detention policies to create an “American Gulag.” A key feature of the Gulag is using captive so-called “U.S. Immigration Courts” in prisons. Such “captive prison courts” actually are parodies of real independent courts empowered to require Due Process for migrants and adherence to the rule of law. Immigration detention is a national disgrace for which all of us should be ashamed.
But, don’t expect any improvement from the Trump Administration unless the Article III Courts require it or we get a different Congress at some point. (I note that a few Democrats have honed in on this issue and introduced the “Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act” which unfortunately is DOA in this Congress.) Given the performance of the Article IIIs to date in this area, and the Trump Administration’s “quietly successful” program to stock the Article IIIs with right-wing ideologues, I wouldn’t count on that either. On the other hand, I’ve seen even very committed conservative jurists reach their “breaking point” on Government immigration abuses once they become life-tenured Federal Judges and are no longer directly accountable to their right-wing “political rabbis.” Denial of statutory, Constitutional, and Human Rights sometimes crosses over ideological fault lines.
Kudos to my good friends and dedicated defenders of Due Process and Human Rights Heidi Altman and Diane Eikenberry of the DC Office of the of the NIJC/Heartland Alliance for their leadership role in exposing these continuing abuses and making a record for future generations to understand and hopefully act on our current failure to make “equal justice for all” a reality in America and the related failure of our U.S. Immigration Courts to live up to their commitment to use “best practices” to “guarantee fairness and due process for all.”
THE TRUMP administration likes to justify its multi-front crusade against immigration and immigrants as a revival of the rule of law, or a recalibration of the rules to favor disadvantaged American workers. In fact, it is largely a resurrection of xenophobia that coincides with a spike, nearly 50 years in the making, in the number of foreign-born residents living in the United States.
“For decades,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech in October, “the American people have been begging and pleading . . . for an immigration system that’s lawful and serves the national interest. Now we have a president who supports that.”
Mr. Sessions’s claims are specious. An embrace of legality is not the driving force behind the president’s decision to slash the admission of refugees to levels unseen in nearly 40 years. It is not what compelled Mr. Trump to endorse Republican legislation that would cut the annual allotment of green cards by a half-million, mainly by barring relatives of existing legal permanent residents of the United States. It is not why the Pentagon has considered ending a recruitment program that put skilled foreigners on a fast track for citizenship if they served in this country’s armed forces. And it is not why the administration favors ending the so-called diversity visa lottery program, under which immigrants are admitted from nations underrepresented in other programs.
Those programs were all legally enacted and, by and large, carried out in compliance with the law. The animating force in targeting them, as the administration is now doing, is an effort to turn back the tide of foreigners in our midst and exorcise what the president evidently sees as the demon of diversity.
The administration’s goal is not to reshape America’s immigration policy but to prune immigration itself. While Mr. Trump backs a GOP plan that would give preference to immigrants with skills rather than family connections in the United States, the effect would be not simply to shift the mix while maintaining the current level of legal immigration but to drastically reduce overall numbers of admissions.”
. . . .
Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has poisoned the debate on immigration so thoroughly that he has twisted the frame through which many Americans see the issue. His slurs — labeling Mexican immigrants as rapists and Muslim immigrants as terrorists — form the context from which the administration’s policies arise. They are affronts to U.S. tradition and values.
They’re also an assault on what Mr. Sessions refers to as “the national interest” and specifically the United States’ economic well-being. Legions of employers dependent on immigrant workers, especially to fill low-skilled jobs for which native-born Americans are too well educated and in short supply, will be harmed by choking off the flow of immigrant labor. With unemployment at a 16-year low and approaching levels unseen in a half-century, the Trump policies threaten to sap the economy by depriving it of the energy of striving newcomers who have fueled this nation’s ambitions since its founding.
It is within the president’s discretion to intensify efforts at deportation, though the humanitarian price — in shattered communities and families, including those whose children, born in this country, are Americans — is high. It is reasonable to take steps to tighten border security, though with illegal crossings already at a 40-year low and the Border Patrol’s staffing having already been doubled since the George W. Bush administration, a significant new investment along those lines faces the risk of diminishing returns. The administration may arguably have had a valid legal basis for ending the Obama-era program granting deportation protection for “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children, often brought by their parents — though only a smallish minority of Americans believes they should be removed from this country.
But what value, other than sheer bigotry, is served by reducing the resettlement of refugees in the United States at a time when the number of displaced people worldwide has soared to staggering levels? In a country founded and in many respects shaped by refugees — a country that has resettled some 3 million refugees since 1980, more than any other nation — why does the Trump administration insist on turning its back on them now, when some 17 million people have been displaced from their homes across international borders around the world due to conflict or persecution, the highest number in a quarter-century?
It is clearly jarring to some Americans that the foreign-born portion of the overall population has nearly tripled since 1970. Many communities, towns and cities have been transformed culturally and socially by that surge, about a third of which was driven by illegal immigrants.
In some places, local government budgets have strained to provide services for immigrants, particularly public education, and the economic dislocation felt by many working-class Americans is a fact. But that dislocation is not mostly caused by immigrants. The United States is a more prosperous place today than it was before the surge in immigration, and immigrants have fed that prosperity — by helping to harvest America’s crops, build its cities, care for its young and elderly, and found some of its most buoyant companies.
. . . .The Trump administration’s crusade against immigration and immigrants is not just a quest to diminish the influence of the “other”; it is an assault on the nation’s future and prospects.”
Read the complete editorial at the link.
This is largely (not entirely — I believe that there is a sound legal basis for continuing DACA, for example) what I’ve been saying all along:
- Jeff Sessions is a bigoted, xenophobic, anti-American scofflaw whose disingenuous, self-righteous claims to be restoring the “Rule of Law” (that would be the “Jim Crow laws” of Sessions’s Alabama past) are totally outrageous;
- The real purpose of the Administration’s xenophobic program is to divide and weaken America by stirring up racial, religious, and ethnic animosities;
- The “Gonzo,” arbitrary interior enforcement program serves no useful purpose other than playing to the “biases of the base” and the wishes of some (not all) disgruntled immigration enforcement agents for unbridled authority;
- Our xenophobic anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies are costing us leadership and respect on the world scene (just this weekend, the Administration withdrew from the UN Global Migration Pact);
- Our past strength as a nation and our future success and prosperity is based on immigration (and, the US clearly has benefitted from BOTH legal and “extra-legal” migration);
- The Trump Administrations’s rhetoric and actions are preventing us from having the serious discussion we need: how we can better regulate (not cut off, diminish, or eliminate) future legal migration of all types to serve our national interest (and to be more “in tune” with “market realities” that drive much immigration), reflect our humanitarian values and the legitimate needs of current and future migrants, and encourage use of our legal immigration system, thereby diminishing the incentives for extra-legal migration.
As long as U.S. immigration policy remains in the hands of White Nationalist xenophobes like Trump, Sessions, Miller, and Bannon (yes, Stevie “Vlad the Lenin” has vacated his perch in the West Wing, but he continues to pull strings through his White Nationalist disciples Sessions and Miller and to stir the pot through his alt-right “news” apparatus Breitbart News) we won’t get the constructive dialogue and the humane, realistic “immigration reform” that we really need. In other words, under current leadership, the real “Rule of Law” will continue to be diminished.
Ruthie Epstein reports for ACLU online:
“They just can’t win.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have been trying illegally to strong-arm law enforcement agencies across the country into colluding with the Department of Homeland Security’s mass deportation agenda. But the courts have blocked them every step of the way.
President Trump took his first shot across the bow just a few days after inauguration. A single provision buried in Executive Order 13768 threatened to cut off all federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities. The provision was broad and undefined. It appeared to target jurisdictions that have adopted a range of lawful and sensible law-enforcement policies.
A federal court in California quickly put the executive order’s provision on hold. And last Monday, after months of hearings, the court permanently blocked the unconstitutional provision, ruling that it violated separation of powers, the Constitution’s Spending Clause, and the Tenth Amendment. The court also ruled that the provision was unconstitutionally vague. The judge in the case wrote that “[f]ederal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.” The government has appealed this case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but for the time being, the president cannot carry out his threat.
Attorney General Sessions tried another way to coerce local governments into adopting anti-immigrant policies. His strategy was to attach new conditions to existing federal law enforcement grants. In July, he announced that recipients of Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds, which support a wide range of local programs including indigent defense, crime prevention, and drug treatment, would henceforth be required to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to enter jails to interrogate inmates and provide 48 hours’ notice of an inmate’s release date if ICE requests it.In September, a federal court in Chicago blocked these conditions nationwide, ruling that the Justice Department had no authority to impose new requirements on the grant money – that’s the job of Congress. Again, the Trump administration has appealed to the Seventh Circuit. Earlier this month, a federal court in Philadelphia also ruled that these new conditions are illegal.Not to be discouraged, Sessions tried the same tactic with a different pot of Justice Department money. In September, he announced that applicants for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office grants would receive preferential consideration if they cooperated with ICE’s interrogation and notification demands. Last week, the Justice Department announced more than $98 million in COPS grants to hire 802 new full-time law enforcement officers across the country — and claimed that 80 percent of the grantees had agreed to cooperate with the feds on immigration enforcement. COPS funds are intended to help build trust between communities and law enforcement. Instead, Sessions is trying to incentivize police departments to do the exact opposite – discouraging immigrants from contacting the police if they are victims or witnesses to a crime, for fear that they or their family members might be detained and deported.
And sometimes Sessions resorts to naked threats. Since August, the Justice Department has sent at least two rounds of letters to states and local jurisdictions it deems to have insufficient immigration policies. The letters are impressive in their desperation, proposing a new and expansive interpretation of federal law that would strip Byrne JAG funds from almost any local law enforcement agency that limits entanglement with federal immigration enforcement. They are meant to frighten cities and states into agreeing to dedicate government personnel and taxpayer dollars to help the federal government advance its harsh vision of immigration enforcement — but, as its repeated losses in courts confirm, the Justice Department’s legal footing is weak.
With these letters, the administration continues its campaign to harass cities and states that support immigrant communities and advance public safety by focusing their efforts locally and leaving federal immigration enforcement to the feds. The law, however, is clear: Trump and Sessions cannot force state and local governments to do their bidding, no matter how hard they try.”
ALANNA DURKIN RICHER REPORTS FOR ASSOCIATED PRESS ON ABC NEWS:
“Dozens of Indonesians fighting deportation from the United States won another reprieve Monday when a judge ruled that a federal court has the authority to take up their case.
U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris in Boston rejected the government’s argument that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction in the matter and that immigration officials should be allowed to immediately deport the Indonesians.
An attorney for roughly 50 Christian Indonesians, who fear persecution if returned home, called the judge’s decision “enormously significant.”
“It reaffirms the central role of the federal courts in ensuring that there is a fair process when someone’s life may be at stake,” said Lee Gelernt, of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The court soundly rejected the government’s position that the federal courts lack authority to ensure that individuals have an opportunity to present their case before an immigration judge before they’re removed.”
The judge is blocking immigration officials from removing the Indonesians until the court considers their request for a preliminary injunction. She had initially put their deportation on hold until she could decide whether the court had authority to take up the matter.
The government already appealed the judge’s earlier decision to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and is likely to challenge her latest ruling.
Many of the Indonesians went to seacoast communities in New Hampshire, where they found jobs and raised families. In a deal brokered by Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire, in 2009, they were allowed to stay as long as they regularly reported to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.
But in recent months, they were told during their visits to the immigration office that they should buy plane tickets and prepare to leave the country. Some said they fear returning to Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, due to an uptick in intolerance and violence against Christians and other minorities.
Shaheen said she’s “very encouraged” by the ruling.
“New Hampshire should continue to be a sanctuary to the Indonesian community that fled religious persecution,” Shaheen said in a statement. “Deporting these individuals will needlessly split families and communities, and put lives in danger. I’ll continue to make every effort to prevent these deportations so that the Indonesian community can continue to live peacefully in New Hampshire.”
A federal judge in Michigan ruled in July that a U.S. district court has jurisdiction in a similar immigration case. The government is challenging that ruling, which halted the deportation of 1,400 Iraqi nationals, including many Christians fearing persecution.”
Yet another setback for the Trumpsters in their quest to deny legal and human rights to the most vulnerable among us. This one also appears on its face to be politically motivated. When will Christian Evangelicals finally wake up to the threat that this Administration poses to everyone in America?
Expedited Removal is Not the Answer to the Backlog
With the immigration court backlog at over 600,000 cases and rising, immigration law commentator (and fellow BIA alum) Nolan Rappaport recently suggested that the present administration might view the increased use of expedited removal as “the only viable alternative” to shrink the swelling tide of cases. My fellow blogger Paul Schmidt has opposed such approach; I wish to join him in adding my arguments as to why the expansion of expedited removal would be unacceptable.
If the criminal court system were to be flooded to the breaking point, the solution could not be to let supervisory police officers decide which defendants might have a reasonable enough chance of being found innocent and get to go to court, and just find the rest guilty without the right to a trial. However, that is pretty much the premise of expedited removal. An overwhelming volume of cases cannot be used to justify the stripping away of due process protections.
Our immigration courts have evolved significantly over the decades. Deportation hearings were once conducted by “special inquiry officers,” who were attorneys working for the INS. Beginning in 1973, immigration judges began presiding over hearings. In 1983, those judges were separated from the INS into a separate adjudicatory agency, EOIR. In 2002, INS was moved into three components within the newly-created DHS, while EOIR remained in the Department of Justice. The strong motive behind these developments was that the agency charged with enforcement was not suited to serve as a neutral factfinder and decision maker. Increasing the scale of expedited removal would undo the above progress and return decision-making into the hands of the enforcement branch – the legal equivalent of having the fox guard the hen house.
Immigration judges render decisions independently, with no pressure or influence from their higher-ups. This is not true of asylum officers. I had one case years ago in which the asylum officer’s supervisor so adamantly opposed the grant of asylum that the officer had to wait until the supervisor went on vacation, and then had the acting supervisor sign off approving the grant. I have also heard of an asylum office director pressuring the staff to grant fewer cases in order to bring the office’s grant rate closer to the lower grant rate of another asylum office. Furthermore, to the extent that those seeking expedited removal are able to obtain counsel in the short time frame provided (and while detained, sometimes in remote settings), asylum officers allow attorneys a greatly reduced role in the process. In immigration court, the attorney makes legal arguments and objections, questions the respondent, and lays the foundation for documents to be offered into evidence. Even in full asylum office interviews, attorneys are relegated to sitting in the back row and taking notes. As the government’s own statistics show that represented asylum seekers are twice as likely to be granted relief, the asylum office’s minimizing of the attorney’s role clearly lessens the asylum seeker’s chance of success.
Expedited removal has really never worked well. In opposing its implementation in the mid-1990s, myself and other advocates argued that the legal threshold – the newly-created “credible fear” standard – was problematic. When the 1980 Refugee Act adopted the legal standard of “well-founded fear” for asylum claims, INS interpreted the term to mean “more likely than not;” it took seven years of litigation and a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to correctly define the standard as requiring only a 10 percent chance of persecution. But expedited removal asked us to trust the same INS to properly interpret the vague new “credible fear” standard, and this time without the right to seek judicial review. Not surprisingly, so many mistakes were made after the standard was implemented that by mid-1997, the then INS director of asylum instructed asylum officers to simply find all applicants professing a fear of persecution to have met the credible fear standard. Those who claimed no fear in their countries were summarily removed; INS claimed that the majority of arrivees were in this latter group.
But where they really? A person arriving in this country only gets a credible fear interview if they indicate to the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer who first encounters them that they fear return to their country. Two studies conducted over a decade apart by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government entity, found serious problems with the screening process of those arriving but not found admissible to the U.S. According to USCIRF, some arrivees were never asked whether they feared return; others who were asked and responded in the affirmative had “no” recorded in their statements, which were often not read back to them. The USCIRF report cited instances in which those wishing to seek asylum were pressured into signing inaccurate statements, or even into retracting their fear claims and withdrawing their applications for admission.
The answer to the immigration court backlog is clearly not to subject more people to the flawed and biased expedited removal system in lieu of removal hearings. To my knowledge, every other high volume court employs prosecutorial discretion and stipulated settlements to lessen the case load. Plea bargains are employed in everything from murder to traffic court cases. Under the Obama administration, prosecutorial discretion was employed in immigration court and significantly helped prosecutors and judges deal with the caseload. For unknown reasons, the present administration has ended this useful practice. DHS attorneys are also being instructed to oppose requests to terminate proceedings made by those wishing to leave the U.S. to attend immigrant visas abroad. These intending immigrants want to leave the country, and will only be allowed to return legally if they are found by a U.S. consular officer to be qualified and admissible to this country; under the prior administration, termination under these circumstances was readily agreed to by DHS. At the same time DHS is forcing so many immigrants to unnecessarily remain in removal proceedings, the agency will not put into proceedings those who want to be there in order to apply for certain types of relief that may only be granted by an immigration judge, such as cancellation of removal. Preventing immigrants from obtaining legal status to which they might be entitled seems suspiciously consistent with the present administration’s desire to stem the pace of naturalization in order to preserve the voting bloc that brought them to office last year.
Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.
James Braxton Peterson reports for NBC News:
“The Russia investigation may be undercutting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ credibility, but it has not undermined his efforts to take the U.S. Justice Department back in time.
The time Sessions wants to go back to features an unforgiving system of mass incarceration that disproportionately targets people of color in a legal structure too often stacked against them.
To do this, the attorney general has issued a slew of policy rollbacks — unfortunate for a Justice Department that was only incrementally making progress toward equal justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
In this sense, Sessions’ Justice Department might be the most effective unit of the Trump administration. If Trumpism’s goal is, at least in, part to destroy the progress achieved under the Obama administration, Sessions’ scorecard so far outstrips his GOP colleagues in the Cabinet and former colleagues in the Senate.
In March, for example, the nation’s top law enforcement officer visited St. Louis, next-door to Ferguson, ground zero for the Black Lives Matter movement. Sessions was in St. Louis talking about crime initiatives but also seeming to criticize one of the most useful tools for documenting police brutality: civilian cell phone videos. The choice of venue could not have been a coincidence. By focusing on “targeted police killings,” he deflected attention from the challenges now confronting law enforcement.
In fact, Sessions has had little to say on how the Justice Department might address matters of police brutality, much less on the matter of Black Lives Mattering. Instead, he has mostly showcased President Donald Trump’s belief that strong policing and incarceration are key to maintaining law and civil order.
. . . .
It is as if Sessions’ Justice Department is operating on a set of alternative facts. Because the statistics are well known: Whites and blacks use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates, and African Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population. Yet law enforcement records are remarkably different for each demographic. According to Human Rights Watch: “Black adults are more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white adults to be arrested for drug possession. In 2014, Black adults accounted for just 14 percent of those who used drugs in the previous year but close to a third of those arrested for drug possession.” In many states, a felony conviction also means losing the right to vote.
It is as if Sessions’ Justice Department is operating on a set of alternative facts.
Sessions looks eager to re-open the “war on drugs” — or, more appropriately, the war on poor people who use drugs. No available metric on this decades-long war shows any significant success in limiting access to drugs in the United States or in reducing addiction to controlled substances.
What the “war on drugs” has been good at is: stigmatizing poor people afflicted with the disease of addiction; profiling black and brown folks and arresting them at rates exponentially greater than their white counterparts; and creating revenue streams for the Prison Industrial Complex.
. . . .
Sessions’ success will be key if Trump wants to make good on his law-and-order promises.
Sadly, it is working. The Justice Department is slowly transforming into an injustice department right before our eyes.
Mass incarceration, its impact on families and communities and the often racially biased ways in which its policies operate is still one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. It’s a shame that, in the era of Trump, we are unable to effectively address the challenges we face.
James Braxton Peterson is the author of three books, including “Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners.”
Read Peterson’s full article at the link.
Peterson doesn’t even get into Gonzo’s brazen attacks on justice for Latinos, immigrants, Dreamers, refugees, LGBTQ individuals, so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” lawyers, reporters, Federal Judges, critics of the Administration, forensic science, private property, or users of legalized marijuana. And, he only mentions in passing Gonzo’s disingenuous statements on Russia and his lackadaisical handling of the real threats Russia poses to our national security. Grim as Peterson’s article is, it actually substantially understates the true carnage that Gonzo is inflicting on our Constitution and our system of justice. It could turn out to be irreparable!
Senator Liz Warren was right!
Romero v. Evans, ___ F. Supp. 3d ___, 2017 WL 5560659 (EDVA 11-17-17) (published)
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema
ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENTS: Ivan Yacub, Yacub Law Office, Woodbridge, VA, Nicholas Cooper Marritz, Legal Aid Justice Center, Falls Church, VA, Simon Yehuda Sandoval–Moshenberg, Simon Sandoval Moshenburg, Falls Church, VA, Rachel Colleen McFarland, Legal Aid Justice Center, Charlottesville, VA, Mark Alastair Stevens, Murray Osorio PLLC, Fairfax, VA, for Cristian Flores Romero, et al., Petitioners
KEY QUOTES (From Westlaw Version):
“Moreover, Congress clearly intended to have § 1231 govern only the final logistical period, in which the government has actual authority to remove the alien and need only schedule and execute the deportation. Congress has specifically limited the normal “removal period” to 90 days, a limitation that makes sense if the removal period is only meant to govern the final logistical steps of physically removing an alien. Based on the length of petitioners’ detentions to date, it is obvious that withholding-only proceedings take substantially longer than 90 days. As such, it would be contrary to congressional intent to shoehorn a class of aliens whose proceedings will typically far exceed 90 days into the “removal period” for which Congress has specifically intended a 90–day limit.”
. . . .
All told, this petition presents a difficult question of statutory interpretation. Although respondents’ arguments have some merit, petitioners’ position, which attempts to harmonize § 1226 and § 1231 by locating the dividing line between the two sections as the moment when the government has final legal authority to remove the alien, better accords with the text, structure, and intent of the relevant provisions. Accordingly, the Court concludes that petitioners are detained under § 1226(a), not § 1231, and therefore are entitled to individualized bond hearings. For the reasons stated above, respondents’ Motion to Dismiss in Part will be granted, petitioners’ Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, and respondents’ Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied by an appropriate Order to be issued with this Memorandum Opinion.”
Those with full Westlaw and/or PACER access can get Judge Brinkema’s full opinion at those sites.
There were quite a few of these “Withholding Only” cases on the Detained Docket when I was at the Arlington Immigration Court. I imagine there are even more now. So, this decision could have a major impact.
Judge Brinkema noted quite correctly that “withholding-only proceedings take substantially longer than 90 days.” In other words, “real due process” can’t be rolled off the “judicial assembly line” like it is in some Border Detention Courts where most of the respondents are unrepresented and many are essentially “duressed” by prolonged detention in poor conditions, intentional lack of access to legal assistance, and orchestrated inaccessibility of material evidence into giving up viable claims for protection under our laws.
Nice work by the NDPA “Legal Team!” I know each of the attorneys personally from their work in my courtroom, my classroom, or my “CLE outreach” since retirement. This just continues to demonstrate how “good lawyering” from “outstanding attorneys” can turn potential losers into “winners.”
That’s why the “Sessions Proposals” to “speed up” the U.S. Immigration Judges and put more roadblocks in the way of pro bono legal representation and full due process hearings are so invidious. We need an independent Article I Immigration Court fully committed to Constitutional Due Process! And, we need it now!
“The United States is not alone in trying to help UACs.
For example, Mexico’s Southern Border Plan has produced a sharp increase in Mexico’s apprehension and deportation of migrants from Central America, which prevents many UACs from reaching the United States.
And UNHCR convened a “Roundtable on Protection Needs in the Northern Triangle of Central America” last year in Costa Rica to formulate a regional framework for addressing the humanitarian challenges that the aliens fleeing from those countries present.
The Governments of Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and the United States vowed to work together to strengthen protections for refugees fleeing Central America.
I suggested a way to use international cooperation before the CAM program was established, but it will not be possible until congress limits the TVPRA’s UAC mandates to trafficking victims.
Move UACs who reach America to temporary locations outside of the United States where they would be screened by UNHCR to determine which ones are eligible for refugee status. UNHCR would try to resettle the ones determined to be refugees in countries throughout the region and elsewhere, including the United States.
UNHCR has a 10-Point Plan of Action for refugee protection which includes help for aliens who cannot establish eligibility for refugee status, such as assistance in obtaining temporary migration options.
This approach would help more UACs than letting them apply for asylum in the United States under the current administration, and parents of UACs would stop sending them on the perilous journey to the United States if they knew they would just be returned to Central America to be screened by UNHCR.
Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.”
Go on over to The Hill to read Nolan’s complete article, with maps and stats, at the link!
While I don’t think Congress should limit TPRVA’s UAC provisions, I think that otherwise Nolan is on the right track here. Working with the UNHCR and other countries in the region, as well as the sending countries in the Northern Triangle, to solve the problems closer to the “point of origin” and to provide a number of realistic options for temporary refuge, shared among affected countries, seems more promising and practical than expecting the Trump Administration to provide any real form of protection in the US for most of these children.
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Greetings. Very recent data from the Immigration Courts, current through September 2017, reveals that the outcome for asylum seekers continues to depend on the identity of the immigration judge assigned to hear the case. In the San Francisco as well as the Newark Immigration Courts, for example, the odds of being granted asylum during FY 2012 – FY 2017 ranged between a high of 90 percent down to a low of only 3 percent depending upon which immigration judge the asylum seeker was assigned.
The two courts with the largest number of asylum cases, New York and Los Angeles, also had sizable judge-to-judge differences in asylum outcomes. In the New York Immigration Court judge denial rates ranged from a low of 3.0 percent up to a high of 58.5 percent. The disparity in asylum denial rates among the judges on the Los Angeles court ranged from a low of 29.4 percent denied to a high of 97.5 percent.
Immigration judge-to-judge decision disparities have long existed and are well documented. Despite widespread concern about this problem, between 2010 and 2016 judge-to-judge decision disparities actually increased. This year’s report, updated through FY 2017, shows that disparity levels had become more extreme on both the Newark and San Francisco courts. Judge-to-judge differences for the Chicago Immigration Court also increased. The Los Angeles and San Diego courts saw modest improvement.
To view results for the complete list of courts see the full report at:
To view a particular judge’s report, go to:
In addition, many of TRAC’s free query tools – which track the court’s overall backlog, new DHS filings, court dispositions and much more – have now been updated through October 2017. For an index to the full list of TRAC’s immigration tools go to:
If you want to be sure to receive notifications whenever updated data become available, sign up at:
or follow us on Twitter @tracreports or like us on Facebook:
TRAC is self-supporting and depends on foundation grants, individual contributions and subscription fees for the funding needed to obtain, analyze and publish the data we collect on the activities of the U.S. federal government. To help support TRAC’s ongoing efforts, go to:
David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Suite 360, Newhouse II
Syracuse, NY 13244-2100
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is a nonpartisan joint research center of the Whitman School of Management (http://whitman.syr.edu) and the Newhouse School of Public Communications (http://newhouse.syr.edu) at Syracuse University. If you know someone who would like to sign up to receive occasional email announcements and press releases, they may go to http://trac.syr.edu and click on the E-mail Alerts link at the bottom of the page. If you do not wish to receive future email announcements and wish to be removed from our list, please send an email to email@example.com with REMOVE as the subject.
More than a decade ago, three universally respected “scholar litigators,” my good friends and Georgetown Law colleagues Professors Andy Schoenholtz, Phil Schrag, and Jaya Ramirez-Nogales (now at Temple Law) exposed this problem. While there have been some attempts to address it, and results actually appeared to be improving for a time, the problem persists.
Whatever the solution is, I’m sure of what it isn’t: running more cases through the Immigration Court System faster, hiring more Immigration Judges without giving them sufficient training, a weak Appellate Board that won’t speak up for the rights of asylum seekers, and putting “production quotas” on Immigration Judges.
“Haste makes waste” so-called “solutions” only make things worse. Promoting quality decision-making is a more nuanced and painstaking process.
I have no doubt that this system still denies asylum and other forms of legal protection in far too many cases. A more realistic and appropriately generous approach to asylum would force the DHS to grant more of these cases at the Asylum Office and would shorten hearing times for certain types of “clearly grantable” cases.
Eric Levitz writes in NY Maggie:
“Jeff Sessions’s memory works in mysterious ways. He has “no clear recollection” of the March 2016 meeting where George Papadopoulos offered to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — but the attorney general does remember shooting down the campaign aide’s unseemly suggestion.
Or, so Sessions tells the House Judiciary Committee.
In October, Sessions testified to the Senate that he did not have any “continuing exchange of information” with Russian operatives — and that he wasn’t “aware of anyone else [on the Trump campaign] that did.” Weeks later, Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed
“Papadopoulos’s confession to the crime of lying to the FBI. In that written statement, the former Trump campaign national security adviser claimed that he had told Sessions about “connections” he had that “could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin” in March of last year. In his testimony before Congress Tuesday, Sessions tried to account for this apparent discrepancy.
“I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at Trump Hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting,” Sessions explained. “After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter.”
Later, Sessions said more firmly, “At the meeting, I pushed back.”
So, the attorney general has no clear memory of the meeting, but has a vivid recollection of behaving admirably during it.
This isn’t the first time that Sessions’s memories of last year have failed him. In January, the attorney general testified to the Senate that he had not “been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.” Months later, the Washington Post revealed that Sessions had met with the Russian ambassador to the United States multiple times during the 2016 campaign. Sessions responded to these revelations by insisting that he’d met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in his capacity as U.S. senator (not as a Trump surrogate), and that they did not discuss the 2016 election. Sessions later conceded that it was “possible” that Trump’s positions on U.S.-Russia relations came up in his discussions with Kislyak.
Some Democrats have suggested that Sessions’s multiple false statements to Congress this year were conscious lies. The former senator responded to such charges with indignation Tuesday.
“My answers have not changed,” Sessions said. “I have always told the truth, and I have answered every question as I understood them and to the best of my recollection, as I will continue to do today … I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie.”
Meanwhile, speaking to a friendly audience over at the Heritage Foundation, Gonzo treated the Russia investigation as a joke. Mary Papenfuss reports for HuffPost:
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions had lawyers rolling in the aisles with a surprising string of Russian quips at the start of a speech he gave Friday.
Sessions was the keynote speaker at the National Lawyers Convention at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel hosted by the conservative Federalist Society.
He thanked the applauding crowd for welcoming him. Then, smiling mischievously, he added: “But I just was thinking, you know, I should ― I want to ask you. Is Ambassador Kislyak in the room? Before I get started ― any Russians?” As the laughs grew louder, he continued: “Anybody been to Russia? Got a cousin in Russia?” The audience roared.
The jarring jokes came just three days after Sessions was pressed in Congress on apparent discrepancies in his previous testimony about Trump associates’ meetings with Russians during the 2016 campaign.
Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., met with several members of Donald Trump’s campaign during the Republican National Convention, Kislyak and some Trump associates have revealed. Kislyak was widely believed a top spy recruiter.
Kislyak has said he discussed Trump’s policy positions during the campaign with Sessions, an early Trump supporter who was an Alabama senator at the time, The Washington Post reported.
But during his confirmation hearings to become attorney general ― before the Post report ― Sessions said he “never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election.”
Sessions later recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.
Critics were stunned by Sessions’ attitude in the lawyers’ speech.
Sessions “still doesn’t get it” — he’s “in trouble,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) told Wolf Blitzer later on CNN.
“He’s not in trouble where he happened to be in places where there are Russians,” said Lieu, a member of the House Judiciary Committee who grilled Sessions this week. “He is in trouble because he had a nearly hour-long meeting with Ambassador Kislyak — also a spy — and then he failed to disclose the existence of that meeting under oath to the U.S. Senate. That’s why Jeff Sessions is in trouble.”
Blitzer noted that Kislyak “now says he spoke with so many Trump officials it would take him more than 20 minutes to name them all.”
Jessica Schulberg reports for HuffPost:
“WASHINGTON ― The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Sunday she wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify again before the panel to clarify past claims that he was unaware of any communication between members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials.
Sessions has already testified before the committee twice under oath ― during his confirmation hearing in January and during a routine oversight hearing last month ― that he was unaware of communications between the Trump team and Russia. But according to recently unsealed court documents, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos spoke multiple times with Russians about setting up a meeting between then-presidential candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Papadopoulos, according to the documents. described his efforts during a meeting on March 31, 2016, that included Trump and Sessions.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on CNN she plans to discuss summoning Sessions back before the Judiciary Committee with the panel’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). She declined to say whether she believed Sessions intentionally misled the committee in the past ― but said the attorney general should focus on getting his facts straight.
“Maybe he has a faulty memory. So, there are a lot of excuses one can make.” Feinstein said. “But at this stage, he’s got to narrow his recollections. When he comes before the committee again, he has to be precise, and it has to be accurate,” she said.
. . . .
“I don’t think he told me the truth,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told ABC late last week. “I think that on different occasions he either has a terrible memory or he is deliberately not telling me the truth.”
Lawmakers’ frustration with Sessions may be gaining bipartisan traction.
“This is getting a bit old with Jeff Sessions,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday. “He probably should come back and answer the question, yet again, ‘Did you know anything about an effort by the Trump campaign to meet with Russia?’”
Read the complete article at the link.
Wow, the irony is rich! Gonzo never misses a chance to “pop off” with some misleading story being spread by White Nationalist/restrictionist groups about how vulnerable immigrants struggling to vindicate their legal rights (and often to save their lives) and the lawyers trying to represent them are “abusing the system.” But, he abuses the time and processes of the U.S. Senate, where he used to sit. He’s obviously disdainful of his former colleagues, since he doesn’t even bother to check the accuracy of what he says under oath. Like many “arrogant overprivileged White Guys,” he just doesn’t believe that the rules actually apply to him. Just like his “Supreme Leader,” Trump!
Maria Sacchetti reports in the Washington Post:
“The Department of Justice said Friday it is aiming to slash the massive immigration court backlog in half by 2020 by adding judges, upgrading technology and refusing to tolerate repeated delays in deportation cases.
Officials, who briefed reporters on condition that they not be identified by name, said the effort is part of the Trump administration’s broad plan to more efficiently handle cases of undocumented immigrants, who number 11 million nationwide.
The administration has reversed Obama-era policies that allowed prosecutors to indefinitely postpone low-priority cases, which the Justice Department officials said allowed some immigrants to delay “inevitable” deportations. In other cases, they said, immigrants who deserved to win their cases were delayed for years because of the backlog.
The immigration court backlog has tripled since 2009, the year former president Obama took office, to more than 630,000 cases in October.
“That is what this administration is committed to, getting this done right, ensuring that we’re never in this place again,” a Justice Department official said. “Really and truly, when you look at the numbers . . . it reflects the fact that the last administration likely wasn’t as committed to ensuring that the system worked the way that Congress intended it to.”
The agency, which oversees the administrative immigration courts, said it plans to hire new immigration judges, use technology such as videoconferencing, and increase judges’ productivity by setting case-completion guidelines, though officials would not give details.
The department also will have a “no dark courtrooms” policy, the officials said, explaining that there are at least 100 courtrooms nationwide that are empty every Friday because of judges’ alternate work schedules. The Justice Department is tapping retired judges to fill those courts.
The immigration court overhaul comes as the Trump administration is carrying out policies that could generate even more cases in coming months. Arrests and deportations from the interior of the United States are rising sharply, and the Trump administration has ended Obama-era protections for some undocumented immigrants, including 690,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
By Monday, the Trump administration is also expected to say if it will renew temporary protected status for thousands of longtime immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua whose permits expire next year.
The Justice Department officials said they are no longer widely using certain protections for undocumented immigrants, including a tool known as prosecutorial discretion that allowed the government to set aside low-priority deportation cases.
DOJ officials criticized immigration lawyers, saying they “have purposely used tactics designed to delay” immigration cases. As of 2012, the officials said, there were an average of four continuances for each case before the court.
Gregory Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the administration’s plan to cut the backlog would “undermine judicial independence” in the immigration courts.
“This administration has been extremely hostile toward the judiciary and the independence of immigration judges, as well as other judges,” Chen said.
Speeding up cases depends partly on congressional funding. It also rests partly on the actions of immigration judges, who have expressed concerns about due process for immigrants, many of whom are facing deportation to some of the world’s most violent countries. Immigrants are not entitled to a government-appointed lawyer in these courts and often handle cases on their own.
The Justice officials would not comment on reports that they will impose case-completion quotas on judges, which raised an outcry from the judges’ union. But the officials said they would give judges clear standards to complete cases and add more supervisors.
Officials say they are already seeing results from efforts this year to improve efficiency. From February to September, judges ordered 78,767 people to leave the country, a 33 percent jump over the same period in 2016. The total number of final decisions, which includes some immigrants who won their cases, is 100,921.”
- Using retired U.S. Immigration Judges to fill in while Immigration Judges are on leave or otherwise scheduled to be out of court is a good idea. Indeed, the National Association of Immigration Judges (“NAIJ”) has been pushing this idea since the Clinton Administration with no results until now. Additionally, finally taking advantage of the available “Phased Retirement Options” for the the many Immigration Judges nearing retirement could also be helpful.
- Over time, hiring additional Immigration Judges could be helpful, at least in theory. But, that depends on whether the hiring is done on a merit basis, the new judges are properly trained, and they have the space, equipment, and support staff to function. The DOJ/EOIR’s past record on accomplishing such initiatives has been beyond abysmal. So, it’s just as likely that additional hiring will harm the Immigraton Courts’ functioning as it is that it will help.
- “Productivity standards” are totally inappropriate for an independent judiciary. They are almost certain to infringe on due process by turning judges into “assembly line workers.” Moreover, if hiring is done properly, judges should be self-motivated professionals who don’t need “Micky Mouse performance evaluations” to function. While it might be helpful to have some “periodic peer review” involving input from those appearing before the courts and judges of courts reviewing the judges’ work, such as takes place in some other independent judicial systems, that clearly isn’t they type of system this Administration has in mind.
- More use of Televideo is problematic. In person hearings are definitely better for delivering due process. The EOIR Televideo equipment tends to be marginal from a technology standpoint. “Pushing the envelope” on Televideo could well force the Article IIIs to finally face up and hold at least some applications of this process unconstitutional.
- More “Supervisory Judges” are totally unnecessary and a waste of resources. In the “EOIR World,” Supervisory Judges often don’t hear cases. Moreover, as noted previously, professional judges need little, if any, real “supervision.” The system might benefit from having local Chief Judges (“first among equals”), like in other independent judicial systems, who can address administrative issues with the Court Administrator and the public, But, judges don’t need supervision unless the wrong individuals are being selected as judges. And, as in the U.S. District Courts, local Chief Judges should carry meaningful case loads.
- Every other court system in the U.S., particularly the U.S. District Courts, rely on heavy doses of “Prosecutorial Discretion” (“PD”) by government prosecutors to operate. By eliminating PD from the DHS Chief Counsels, then touting their misguided actions, this Administration has guaranteed the ultimate failure of any backlog reduction plan. Moreover, this stupid action reduces the status of the DHS Assistant Chief Counsels. There is no other system I’m aware of where the enforcement officials (“the cops”) rather than professional prosecutors make the decisions as to which cases to prosecute. PD and sensible use of always limited docket time is part of the solution, not the problem, in the Immigration Courts.
- The DOJ and EOIR continue to perpetuate the myth that private attorneys are responsible for the backlogs. No, the backlogs are primarily the result of Congressional negligence multiplied by improper politically motived docket manipulation and reschuffling to meet DHS enforcement priorities by the last three Administrations, including this one! This Administration was responsible for unnecessarily “Dark Courtrooms” earlier this year in New York and other heavily backlogged Immigration Courts.
- Although not highlighted in this article, EOIR Acting Director James McHenry recently admitted during Congressional testimony that EOIR has been working on e-filing for 16 years without achieving any results! Thats incredible! McHenry promised a “Pilot Program” in 2018 with no telling when the system will actually be operational. And DOJ/EOIR has a well-established record of problematic and highly disruptive “technology rollouts.”
- As usual, the DOJ/EOIR “numbers” don’t add up. EOIR “touts” compleating approximately 100,000 cases in the 7-month period ending on August 31, 2017. That’s on a pace to complete fewer than 200,000 cases for a fiscal year. But, EOIR receives an average of at least 300,000 new cases each year (even without some of the “Gonzo” Enforcement by the Trump DHS). So, EOIR would have to “pick up the pace” considerably just to keep the backlogs from growing (something EOIR hasn’t done since before 2012). Not surprisingly, TRAC and others show continually increasing backlogs despite having more judges on board. To cut the backlog from 640,000 to 320,000 (50%) by 2020, the courts would have to produce an additional 160,000 annual completions in 2018 and 2019! That, in turn, would require completing a total of at least 460,000 cases in each of those years. That’s an increase of 230% over the rate touted by DOJ/EOIR in the Post article. Not going to happen, particularly since we’re already more than one month into FY 2018 and Congress has yet to authorize or appropriate the additional resources the DOJ wants!
- The DOJ hocus pocus, fake numbers, unrealistic plans, political scheming, cover-ups, blame shifting, and gross mismanagement of the U.S. Immigration Courts must end!
- Unless and until Congress creates an independent, professionally managed Article I Immigration Court, any additional resources thrown into the current Circus being presided over by Jeff Sessions’s DOJ would be wasted.
Matter of J-A-B- & I-J-V-A-, 27 I&N Dec. 168 (BIA 2017)
“An Immigration Judge does not have authority to terminate removal proceedings to give an arriving alien an opportunity to present an asylum claim to the Department of Homeland Security in the first instance.”
PANEL: Appellate Immigration Judge MALPHRUS, MULLANE, and CREPPY
OPINION BY: Judge Malphrus
Most “real” courts reserve to themselves some authority to return, remand, or otherwise force action on the part of parties. For example, when the Obama Administration announced an expanded “Prosecutorial Discretion” (“PD”) program, at least one Court of Appeals required that the Government review each case on their Petition for Review docket and state in advance whether or not it intended to exercise “PD.” Those PD cases were then “un-docketed” by the Article III Court.
Given the huge backlogs for new non-detained asylum cases in most U.S. Immigration Courts, allowing Immigration Judges on a case-by-case basis to require the DHS to decide whether or not they would grant asylum before proceeding to place a case on an overcrowded “Individual Hearing” docket makes lots of sense to me. Perhaps one reason that the Immigration Court docket is in such bad shape is that DOJ and EOIR routinely allow themselves to be “pushed around” by DHS in ways that few other courts would tolerate from a Government party.
If any independent party ever did a detailed analysis of the “Immigration Court Backlog,” I’m betting that they would find a significant number of cases being “warehoused” by EOIR for the DHS. These are cases that could and should have been resolved favorably to the Respondent by the DHS without a trip to Immigration court. But, a rational approach to the backlog is not going to happen with the current Administration’s “Gonzo” enforcement policies and a “captive” Immigration Court system .
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered remarks to the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) on Oct. 12, arguing that the U.S. asylum system is overburdened with fraud and abuse. Sessions misrepresented the system, relying on virtually no data to reach his, frankly, ignorant conclusions.
. . . .
Fifth, Sessions suggests that because some individuals who pass credible fear interviews fail to apply for asylum, they are fraudulently seeking asylum. This fails to recognize that individuals who pass a credible fear interview have been released with very little orientation as to what to expect next.
For example, asylum law requires that an official application be filed in immigration court within one year of the asylum seeker’s last entry into the United States. U.S. officials, however, fail to tell individuals who pass a credible fear interview about this deadline.
Having just articulated in detail, to a U.S. official, why they are afraid to return to their home country, many asylum seekers believe they have “applied” for asylum, and some even believe they have been granted upon release.
Several groups filed suit against DHS last June based on the lack of notice of the one year filing deadline given to asylum seekers and also the impossibility of filing because the immigration courts are so backlogged that an applicant often cannot file in open court within a year.
Sessions also neglects to mention that asylum seekers face a crisis in legal representation. According to a national study of cases from 2007-2012, only 37 percent of immigrants were represented in immigration court. Representation can make all the difference. Without representation, asylum seekers lack an understanding of what is happening in their case and may be too fearful to appear without an attorney. Their number one priority, remember, is to avoid being sent back to a place where they face persecution and/or torture or death.
Finally, the asylum process itself is complicated and the I-589 form to apply is only available in English. This is overwhelming for a pro se applicant who lacks the ability to read and write in English.
Attorney General Sessions’ remarks should not be surprising, certainly not to any who are familiar with his anti-immigrant track record. It remains disappointing, however, that the nation’s top law enforcement official should politicize and attempt to skew our vision of the asylum-seeking process. As a nation founded by immigrants fleeing religious persecution, it is profoundly disturbing that the current Attorney General sees fit to an attack on asylum seekers and to undermine America’s history of compassionate protection of refugees.
Professor Lindsay M. Harris is co-director of the Immigration & Human Rights Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.”
Go on over to The Hill at the above link and read the rest of Lindsay’s article (containing her points 1-4, which I omitted in this excerpt).
I can confirm that those who have passed the “credible fear” process often mistakenly believe that they “applied for asylum” before the Asylum Office. I also found that few unrepresented respondents understood the difference between required reporting to the DHS Detention Office and reporting to Immigration Court.
Moreover, given the “haste makes waste” procedures applied to recent border arrivals, the addresses reported to EOIR by DHS or entered into the EOIR system were often inaccurate. Sometimes, I could tell they were inaccurate just from my own knowledge of the spelling and location of various streets and jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. Another time, one of the Arlington Immigration court’s “eagle eyed” Court Clerks spotted that a number of supposed “in absentias” charged to Arlington were really located in the state of “PA” rather than “VA” which had incorrectly been entered into our system. No wonder these were coming back as “undeliverable!”
Therefore, I would consider Sessions’s claim of a high “no show” rate to be largely bogus until proven otherwise. My experience was that recently arrived women, children, and families from the Northern Triangle appeared well over 90% of the time if they 1) actually understood the reporting requirements, and 2) actually got the Notice of Hearing. Those who were able to obtain lawyers appeared nearly 100% of the time.
This strongly suggests to me that if Sessions really wanted to address problems in Immigration Court he would ditch the knowingly false anti-asylum narratives and instead concentrate on: 1) insuring that everyone who “clears” the credible fear process has his or her Immigration Court hearing scheduled in a location and a manner that gives them the maximum possible access to pro bono legal representation; 2) insuring that appropriate explanations and warnings regarding failure to appear are given in English and Spanish, and 3) a “quality control initiative” with respect to entering addresses at both DHS and EOIR and serving Notices to Appear.
Jeff Sessions also acted totally inappropriately in delivering this highly biased, enforcement-oriented, political address to the EOIR. Although housed within the DOJ, EOIR’s only functions are quasi-judicial — fairly adjudicating cases. In the words of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a recent case the function of the Immigration Judiciary is “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.” Alimbaev v. Att’y Gen. of U.S., 872 F.3d 188, 190 (3rd Cir. 2017).
Consequently, the only appropriate remarks for an Attorney General to make to EOIR and the Immigration Judiciary would be to acknowledge the difficulty of their judicial jobs; thank them for their service; encourage them to continue to render fair, impartial, objective, scholarly, and timely decisions; and explain how he plans to support them by providing more resources for them to do their important jobs. That’s it!!
What is totally inappropriate and probably unethical is for the Attorney General to deliver a “pep talk” to judges spouting the “party line” of one of the parties in interest (the DHS), setting forth inaccurate and unsupported statements of the law, and demeaning the other party to the judicial proceedings — the immigrant respondents and their attorneys.
Although I personally question their ultimate constitutionality under the Due Process Clause, the Attorney General does have two established channels for conveying his views on the law to the EOIR: 1) by incorporating them in regulations issued by the DOJ after public notice and comment; and 2) by “certifying” BIA decisions to himself and thereby establishing his own case precedents which the BIA and Immigration Judges must follow.
Troublesome as these two procedures might be, they do have some glaring differences from “AG speeches and memos.” First, public parties have a right to participate in both the regulatory and the precedent adjudication process, thus insuring that views opposed to those being advanced by the DHS and the Attorney General must be considered and addressed. Second, in both cases, private parties may challenge the results in the independent Article III Courts if they are dissatisfied with the Attorney General’s interpretations. By contrast, the “opposing views” to Session’s anti-asylum screed did not receive “equal time and access” to the judicial audience.
Sessions’s recent disingenuous speech to EOIR was a highly inappropriate effort to improperly influence and bias supposedly impartial quasi-judicial officials by setting forth a “party line” and not very subtilely implying that those who might disagree with him could soon find themselves “out of favor.” That is particularly true when the speech was combined with outrageous discussions of how “performance evaluations” for judges could be revised to contain numerical performance quotes which have little or nothing to do with fairness and due process.
Jeff Sessions quite obviously does not see the U.S. Immigration Courts as an independent judiciary charged with delivering fair and impartial justice to immigrants consistent with the Due Process clause of our Constitution. Rather, he sees Immigration Judges and BIA Appellate Judges as “adjuncts” to DHS enforcement — there primarily to insure that those apprehended by DHS agents or who turn themselves in to the DHS to apply for statutory relief are quickly and unceremoniously removed from the U.S. with the mere veneer, but not the substance, of Due Process.
Due process will not be realized in the U.S. Immigration Courts until they are removed from the DOJ and established as a truly independent Article I court.