LA TIMES: NEW DHS ENFORCEMENT POLICIES SEEK TO PUNISH CHILDREN AND PARENTS SEEKING ASYLUM – Really, Is This What We’ve Become As a Nation In The “Age of Trump?”

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=371cd9b8-56d5-4cca-a96c-53e177ee2201

Molly Hennessy-Fiske reports for the LA Times

EL PASO — Thousands of parents who crossed illegally into the U.S. in recent years have been held with their children at immigration detention centers. But the case of a Brazilian woman and her son illustrates what migrant advocates call a harsher approach to immigration enforcement that aims to separate parents and children.

She’s being held in Texas, while her son was taken to a shelter in Illinois. The unspoken goal, advocates say, is to discourage parents from crossing illegally or attempting to request asylum.

The Brazilian mother — who asked to be identified only as Jocelyn because she was fleeing domestic violence — entered the U.S. in August with her 14-year-old son, who she said was being threatened by gangs. They hoped to apply for asylum.

Migrant families like Jocelyn’s are usually processed by immigration courts, an administrative process. Such families are detained together or released with notices to appear at later court proceedings. President Trump promised to end the practice, dismissing it as “catch and release.”

Historically, most border crossers were sent back to their home countries, but the Trump administration has threatened to prosecute some migrant parents because entering the country illegally is a federal crime. The first offense is a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months. Those caught a second time face a felony charge with a maximum sentence of up to 20 years, depending on their criminal record. Once a case becomes a criminal matter, parents and children are separated.

According to public defenders and immigrant advocates, more and more immigrant families who come to the southern border seeking asylum are being charged in federal criminal courts from El Paso to Arizona. Jocelyn was charged with a misdemeanor, and her son was sent to a shelter in Chicago. Comprehensive statistics do not exist, but activists and attorneys say anecdotal evidence suggests the practice is spreading.

“There’s not supposed to be blanket detention of people seeking asylum, but in reality, that’s what’s happening” in El Paso, said Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute, a nonprofit social justice group. “We’re still in this limbo in our sector and across the border: What’s going on? What are the new policies?”

Last week, 75 congressional Democrats led by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) sent a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security expressing outrage at increased family separations and demanding officials clarify their policies within two weeks.

“We are gravely concerned that these practices are expanding and worsening, further traumatizing families and impeding access to a fair process for seeking asylum,” they wrote.

Homeland Security won’t say it is targeting families but does say it is making procedural and policy changes to deter illegal immigration.

“The administration is committed to using all legal tools at its disposal to secure our nation’s borders,” said Tyler Houlton, a Homeland Security spokesman.

Jocelyn said she fled Brazil to escape an abusive husband. During a recent meeting at the El Paso detention center where she is being held, she lifted the sleeve of her white uniform to show scars on her arm that she said came from beatings by her husband, an armed security guard who refused to grant her a divorce.

She and her son flew to Mexico on Aug. 24, crossed the border two days later, turned themselves in to Border Patrol near El Paso and were told they would be separated.

“I didn’t know where they were taking him,” she said of her son. “They didn’t tell me. I asked many times. They just said ‘Don’t worry.’ ”

Elsewhere on the border, including Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to the east where most migrants cross illegally, many parents and children are still released together with notices to appear in immigration court.

To opponents of illegal immigration, the practice of charging migrants with criminal offenses is a good thing. Andrew Arthur, a former immigration judge now serving as a resident fellow at the conservative Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said criminal charges are a deterrent.

“The reason the children are there to begin with is this belief [among immigrants] that a parent with a child will not be detained,” Arthur said. He added that exposing children to smugglers who could abuse and kidnap them “borders frankly on child abuse.”

Last April, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions issued guidance to U.S. attorneys urging more aggressive prosecution of those illegally reentering the country. As the number of migrant families crossing illegally increased last summer, parents were detained by U.S. marshals, but their children were reclassified as unaccompanied minors and placed at shelters across the country by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Migrant advocates sued in federal court, arguing that when asylum seekers declare a fear of returning to their home country, federal law dictates that they be referred to an asylum officer, even if they crossed the border illegally, and their cases considered by immigration judges.

In October, El Paso immigrant advocates asked Border Patrol officials whether they were separating migrant parents from their children.

“They volunteered yes, we’re doing family separation,” Corbett recalled, adding that one agent “said it was standard practice locally here in the sector to separate all children 10 years and older from their family. We were all shocked.”

Afterward, Border Patrol attorney Lisa Donaldson emailed those who had attended the meeting, insisting that the “Border Patrol does not have a blanket policy requiring the separation of family units” and that any increase in separations “is due primarily to the increase in prosecutions of immigration-related crimes.”

Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in western Texas, which files federal criminal charges, said each case is considered individually and that “we do not target individuals for prosecution based on their parental status.”

Federal public defenders said that criminally charging asylum seekers not only violates international treaties, it encourages migrants to plead guilty so they can end their case quickly, get deported and try to reunite with their children.

“It impacts the lawfulness or constitutionality of their guilty plea,” said Maureen Franco, the federal public defender for the western district of Texas. “They’re under the misconception ‘The quicker I get my case over with, the quicker I’ll get my children back.’ Any lawyer worth their salt will tell them it’s not like that.”

Franco’s office has asked a federal court to dismiss improper entry charges against four Central American parents and a grandmother whose children were removed after the adults were detained. A judge ruled in favor of the government Jan. 5. Federal public defenders are appealing.

Immigration attorney Bridget Cambria has handled 15 family separation cases, including several mothers charged and separated from their children in El Paso.

“There’s huge questions about whether it’s legal when they’re seeking asylum. They’re using the federal statutes as a reason to take their child,” Cambria said.

It’s not clear how many migrant parents like Jocelyn have been charged and separated from their children. Federal public defenders and U.S. district courts do not track them. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported just five migrant family members referred for prosecution in federal criminal court this year fiscal year, which started in October. It reported seven last fiscal year and 21 the year before that.

Estimates from migrant advocacy groups are much higher.

In Arizona, the Tucson-based Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project saw 213 such cases last year, an increase from the 190 cases the year before. Legal director Laura St. John said the group has already served 23 separated families this year.

A dozen cases of family separation were reported by Washington-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Hope Border Institute surveyed attorneys representing 90 asylum seekers in the El Paso area between June and November 2017 and found 94% had clients separated from their children.

In December, a host of immigrant advocacy groups filed a complaint with Homeland Security alleging that parents have been charged and separated from their children, “without a clear or reasonable justification, as a means of punishment and/or deterrence, and with few mechanisms to locate, contact, or reunite with family members.” The complaint is pending.

As for Jocelyn, a federal judge in Las Cruces found her guilty of crossing the border illegally, a misdemeanor, on Sept. 22. She received a suspended sentence and was transferred to immigration detention in El Paso. Instead of self-deporting, Jocelyn stayed to pursue her asylum claim.

She learned through the Brazilian Consulate that her son was at a Chicago shelter and she has since spoken to him by phone four times.

She said her son told her that other children of migrants in the shelter tried to run away because they missed their parents. Jocelyn urged her son to stay put. He promised he would.

She worries, but is hopeful. Immigration officials recently found she has a credible fear of returning home, the first step toward obtaining asylum, and a pro bono attorney is trying to get her released on bond.

She tried to reassure her son during a recent phone call. “As soon as I get out,” she said, “I will come get you.”

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Wow! What a great way to spend U.S. Government funds! Picking on refugees —  abused women and kids who have the audacity to seek to exercise their legal rights under our laws and International Conventions.

Let’s get down to the truth here. “Jocelyn” in the above article appears to be a legitimate refugee. Assuming she’s telling the truth — and she has the scars to prove it, she should be a “slam dunk” asylum grant under Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014) (domestic violence can be a basis for asylum).

The logical way of proceeding would be to release her while making sure she gets linked up with a good pro bono organization who can assign a lawyer to investigate, confirm, and document her case and then file the asylum application with the Immigration Court. In my experience, a well-documented case like this could go on an “accelerated short docket.” There it could be granted, basically by stipulation of the parties, after short testimony to confirm key events and double-check for any criminal or security grounds. With adequate preparation, and cooperation between the pro bono lawyer and the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel, this case should take no more than 30 minutes, one hour “tops,” of precious hearing time.

No need for detention, clogging the Immigration Courts’ Individual Hearing dockets, or any other form of “Aimless Docket reshuffling.” Best of all, we’re in compliance with the laws and our Constitutional guarantees of Due Process. Sounds like a “winner” to me for all concerned.

I have no doubt that there are many “Jocelyns” out there among recent border arrivals. Even those who don’t technically have “grantable” asylum claims under the overly restrictive precedents, should, if credible, be able to document strong cases for relief under the Convention Against Torture given the breakdown in government authority and de facto control by gangs in most parts of the Northern Triangle, the source of most of today’s Southern Border asylum  applicants.

So, why are we wasting money on detention and criminal prosecution to keep folks who seldom if ever present any threats to the United States from getting the protection to which our laws entitle them? Why are we trying to send (usually ineffective in any event) “don’t come” messages to people who have a right to seek protection under our laws? Why would we make it difficult for individuals to exercise their statutory right to be represented by counsel and to have adequate time to prepare their cases?

Sounds to me like DHS and the Administration are abusing our laws and our Constitutional guarantees and wasting lots of time and money in the process. Ultimately, that’s something of which we should be ashamed.

PWS

02-20-18

MAKING GONZO PROUD: BIA TRASHES DUE PROCESS FOR PSG ASYLUM SEEKERS IN NEW PRECEDENT Matter of W-Y-C-& H-O-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA Jan. 19, 2018) — Read Hon. Jeffrey’s Chase’s Commentary Here!

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Matter of W-Y-C-& H-O-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA Jan. 19, 2018)

BIA HEADNOTE:

“(1) An applicant seeking asylum or withholding of removal based on membership in a particular social group must clearly indicate on the record before the Immigration Judge the exact delineation of any proposed particular social group.

(2) The Board of Immigration Appeals generally will not address a newly articulated particular social group that was not advanced before the Immigration Judge.”

PANEL: BIA Appellate Immigraton Judges MALPHRUS, MULLANE, and LIEBOWITZ

OPINION BY: Judge Garry D. Malphrus

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The Impact of the BIA’s Decision in Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B-

In Matter of W-Y-C-& H-O-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA Jan. 19, 2018), the Board of Immigration Appeals held that “an applicant seeking asylum…based on membership in a particular social group must clearly indicate on the record before the Immigration Judge the exact delineation of any proposed particular social group.”  My question is: “why?”

Delineating a particular social group is very complicated, even for experienced immigration lawyers.  When I put together the advanced asylum panel for the 2016 Immigration Judges’ legal training conference, an asylum specialist from the Department of Justice’s Office for Immigration Litigation (“OIL”) chose to lecture the immigration judges on a common error in the crafting of proposed social groups.  It is worth noting that OIL (which defends immigration judge decisions when they are appealed to the U.S. circuit courts) felt that immigration judges needed such instruction.   Prior to this decision, the BIA had issued 8 precedent decisions defining particular social groups since 2006.  Two of those decisions (issued in 2014) were required in order to clear up confusion caused by the language of the previous four decisions on the topic.

When describing the concept of asylum to non-attorney clients, I have completely given up on trying to explain to them what a particular social group is.  I’ve noticed that during asylum interviews, the DHS asylum officers have reached the same conclusion; they simply ask the asylum applicants if they were a member of “a group,” with no attempt to explain the unique properties of particular social groups.  Let’s also remember that there are many unaccompanied children applying for asylum, and that some are not represented because EOIR has opposed efforts to require the agency to assign them counsel.

The impact of requiring asylum applicants to clearly delineate such a complex term of art is significant.  Many of the “surge” cases filed by individuals fleeing violence in Central America are asylum claims based on membership in a particular social group.  With some 660,000 cases presently overwhelming the immigration court system, the decision in W-Y-C- & H-O-B- should help speed adjudication by allowing immigration judges and the BIA to issue boilerplate denials where social groups are not clearly delineated, and further prevent time-consuming remands where better defined groups are proposed on appeal (perhaps after a pro se respondent was able to obtain counsel).  But at what cost is this efficiency achieved?

Our adversarial system presents court decisions as entailing a winner and loser.  However, there are no winners when someone entitled to asylum is nevertheless denied and ordered deported.  This point was underscored by a recent article in The New Yorker, documenting that for many, deportation is truly a death sentence (Sarah Stillman, “When Deportation is a Death Sentence,” Jan.18,2018 https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/when-deportation-is-a-death-sentence).

In a recent blog post concerning the treatment of children in immigration court, I referenced Matter of S-M-J-, a BIA precedent decision from 1997 (21 I&N Dec. 722).  The decision contains the following words of wisdom:  “Although we recognize that the burden of proof in asylum and withholding of removal cases is on the applicant, we do have certain obligations under international law to extend refuge to those who qualify for such relief.”  Noting the shift from the non-adversarial nature of affirmative Asylum Office  interviews (then a part of the INS, now within DHS) to the adversarial immigration court proceedings, the Board concluded that “a cooperative approach in Immigration Court is particularly appropriate.”

This approach underscores a major difference between asylum and other types of legal status.  A person applying for lawful permanent status through, for example, cancellation of removal or via an immigrant visa is not an LPR until they are granted such status by an immigration judge or DHS.  However, as the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status states at paragraph 28, “A person is a refugee within the meaning of the 1951 Convention as soon as he fulfills the criteria contained in the definition…Recognition of his refugee status does not therefore make him a refugee but declares him to be one.  He does not become a refugee because of recognition, but is recognized because he is a refugee.”

Paragraph 205 of the UNHCR Handbook delineates the duties of the asylum applicant and the adjudicator.  While the applicant’s duties involve truthfully providing detailed facts, supporting evidence where available, and “a coherent explanation of all of the reasons invoked” in his asylum application, the adjudicator, in addition to ensuring that the applicant presents his or her claim as fully as possible and then assessing credibility and evaluating the evidence, must also “relate these elements to the relevant criteria of the 1951 Convention, in order to arrive at the correct conclusion as to the applicant’s refugee status.”

It is this last requirement upon the adjudicator that is at odds with the Board’s decision in W-Y-C- & H-O-B-.  Under the decision, an asylum applicant may already have satisfied all of the refugee requirements (which of course includes establishing a well-founded fear of suffering persecution if returned to their country of nationality), yet be denied asylum and ordered deported to suffer serious harm simply because they lacked the legal sophistication to articulate a very complicated formula for delineating a particular social group.  Why wouldn’t the present Board invoke a cooperative approach as required by the nature of asylum and its international law obligations, as an earlier BIA did in Matter of S-M-J-?  Why shouldn’t the immigration judge (perhaps with assistance from the DHS attorney) step in where the applicant is not able and analyze the facts presented pursuant to the relevant case law to help formulate a particular social group (as some IJs do at present)?

In summary, the Board’s recent decision will allow immigration judges to deny asylum to credible applicants who clearly meet the refugee criteria.  By setting a nearly impossible standard for non-attorneys (including children) to meet, it can result in those deserving of protection being sent to countries where they may face rape, torture, or death.

Why?

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

 

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Jeffrey S. Chase is an immigration lawyer in New York City.  Jeffrey is a former Immigration Judge, senior legal advisor at the Board of Immigration Appeals, and volunteer staff attorney at Human Rights First.  He is a past recipient of AILA’s annual Pro Bono Award, and previously chaired AILA’s Asylum Reform Task Force.

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION

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OK. Let’s make this real simple. As opposed to asylum, which is discretionary, withholding of removal based on fear on account of a “particular social group” is mandatory relief under the Act.  The BIA is saying that even if the Respondent were entitled to mandatory withholding of removal based on a “particular social group,” they will refuse that mandatory protection if the respondent failed to articulate each and every specific element of the “PSG” before the Immigration Judge!

And, just how would unrepresented children and other unrepresented individuals, many in detention, be able to articulate all of the complex elements of a PSG? (And that’s even before the Trump/Gonzo/White Nationalist proposal to illegally strip undocumented children of any Due Process rights and let them be deported at will by CBP!)

Clearly, in Matter of W-Y-C-& H-O-B-, the BIA has abandoned any pretense its essential mission of “guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.” I’m sure that becoming “Conductors on Gonzo’s Deportation Railroad” will be career enhancing for the BIA Judges. But, in actuality, they should be ashamed!

And, what are the views of the other dozen or so BIA Appellate Judges who weren’t on this panel. Do they all agree with this travesty of justice? Is there nobody in this “Gang of 15” willing to stand up for Due Process and fairness for vulnerable asylum seekers? It raises the question of “Why have a BIA at all if it can’t and won’t protect fairness and due process for asylum seekers?”

I dissent!

PWS

01-26-18

 

 

MANUEL MADRID @ AMERICAN PROSPECT: Sessions Relishes Chance To Turn U.S. Immigration Courts Into “Whistle Stops On His Deportation Railway!” – Administrative Closing Likely Just To Be The First Casualty – I’m Quoted!

http://theprosp.ec/2E3a315

Manuel writes:

“Jeff Sessions Is Just Getting Started on Deporting More Immigrants

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department

This could be Jeff Sessions’s year.

Not that he wasn’t busy in 2017, a year marked by his rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), attacking sanctuary cities, reinstating debtors’ prisons, and cracking down on recreational marijuana. Indeed, over these last few months Sessions appears to have been working with the single-minded focus of a man who reportedly came within inches of losing his job in July after falling into President Trump’s bad graces for recusing himself from the Mueller probe.

But 2018 will provide him his best chance yet at Trumpian redemption.

Sessions has long railed against the United States’ “broken” asylum system and the massive backlog of immigration court cases, which has forced immigrants to suffer unprecedented wait times and has put a significant strain on court resources. But the attorney general’s appetite for reform has now grown beyond pushing for more judges and a bigger budget, both largely bipartisan solutions. The past few months have seen Sessions begin to attempt to assert his influence over the work of immigration courts (which, unlike other federal courts, are part of the Executive Branch) and on diminishing the legal protections commonly used by hundreds of thousands of immigrants—developments that have alarmed immigration judges, attorneys, and immigrant advocacy groups alike.

Earlier this month, Sessions announced that he would be reviewing a decades-old practice used by immigration judges and the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals to shelve cases without making a final ruling. Described by judges as a procedural tool for prioritizing cases and organizing their case dockets, the practice—“administrative closure”—also provides immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation while their cases remain in removal proceedings. Critics argue that administrative closure, which became far more frequent in the later years of the Obama administration, creates a quasi-legal status for immigrants who might otherwise be deported.

There are currently around 350,000 administratively closed cases, according to according to the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal.

Should Sessions decide to eliminate administrative closures—a decision many observers describe as imminent—those cases could be thrown into flux. The move would be in line with previous statements from various figures in the Trump administration and executive orders signed by the president himself—namely, that no immigrant is safe from deportation; no population is off the table.

Beyond creating chaos for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the premature recalendaring of cases could also lead to erroneous deportations. For instance, in the case of unaccompanied minors applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a humanitarian protection granted by Citizenship and Immigration Services, an untimely return to court could be the difference between remaining or being ordered to leave the country. Even if a minor has already been approved by a state judge to apply for a green card, there is currently a two-year visa backlog for special visa applicants from Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras and more than a one-year backlog for those from from Mexico. Administrative closures allow these children to avoid deportation while they wait in line for a visa to become available.

But if judges can no longer close a case, they will either have to grant a string of continuances, a time-consuming act that requires all parties (the judge, defendant, and government attorney) to show up to court repeatedly, or simply issue an order of removal—even if the immigrant has a winning application sitting on a desk in Citizenship and Immigration Services. Under the Trump administration, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has been actively filing to recalendar cases of non-criminals that had been administratively closed for months, including those of children whose applications had already been approved. Now Sessions, who as a senator zealously opposed immigration reforms that would benefit undocumented immigrants, could recalendar them all.

Unshelving hundreds of thousands of cases would also further bog down an already towering backlog of approximately 650,000 immigration court cases, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse—a policy result that at first seems antithetical to Sessions’s rhetoric about cutting the backlog and raising efficiency. That is unless, as some suggest, the backlog and efficiency were never really his primary concerns to begin with.

“When [Sessions] says he wants to decrease the court backlog and hire more immigration judges, what he really means is he wants more deportation orders, whatever the cost,” says Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

 Removing a judge’s ability to close a case would be the second in a one-two punch aimed at knocking down avenues of relief for cases that remain in the system for long periods of time.

Sessions’s decision to review administrative closure surprised few who had been following his rhetoric over the past few weeks. In a December memo detailing plans to slash the backlog, the attorney general said that he anticipated “clarifying certain legal matters in the near future that will remove recurring impediments to judicial economy and the timely administration of justice.” The Justice Department had already largely done away with allowing prosecutors to join in motions to administratively close a case that didn’t fall within its enforcement priorities. Removing a judge’s ability to close a case would be the second in a one-two punch aimed at knocking down avenues of relief for cases that remain in the system for long periods of time.

And it’s unlikely that Sessions will stop there. As attorney general, he is free to review legal precedents for lower immigration courts. In changing precedential rulings, he could do away with a multitude of other legal lifelines essential to immigrants and their attorneys.

. . . .

“Administrative closure makes a good starting point for Sessions, because the courts likely won’t be able stop it,” says Paul Schmidt, a former immigration judge and former head of the Board of Immigration Appeals. “Administrative closure was a tool created by the Justice Department and therefore it can be dismantled by the Justice Department.”

“After all, the bad thing about the immigration courts is that they belong to the attorney general,” Schmidt adds.

Unlike other federal judges, immigration judges are technically considered Justice Department employees. This unique status as a judicial wing of the executive branch has left them open to threats of politicization. In October, it was revealed that the White House was planning on adding metrics on the duration and quantity of cases adjudicated by immigration judges to their performance reviews, effectively creating decision quotas. A spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges described the proposal as a worrying encroachment on judicial independence. “Immigration judge morale is at an all time low,” says Dana Marks, former president of the association and a judge for more than 30 years. Other federal judges are not subject to any such performance evaluations.

It’s no coincidence that a review of administrative closure was announced just a few months after it was discovered that the Justice Department was considering imposing quotas on judges. Streamlining deportations has proven an elusive goal, even for Sessions: Deportations in 2017 were down from the previous year, according to DHS numbers. Meanwhile, arrests surged—up 42 percent from the same period in 2016. Flooding already overwhelmed immigration courts with even more cases would certainly cause chaos in the short-term, but wouldn’t necessarily lead to deportations by itself. If an end to administrative closures is paired with decision quotas on immigration judges, however, a surge in deportations seems inevitable.”

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Read Manuel’s complete article at the above link.

As I’ve noted before, Due Process clearly is “on the run” at the U.S. Immigration Courts. It will be up to the “New Due Process Army” and other advocates to take a stand against Sessions’s plans to erode Constitutional Due Process and legal protections for immigrants of all types. And don’t think that some U.S. citizens, particularly Blacks, Latinos, and Gays, aren’t also “in his sights for denial of rights.” An affront to the rights of the most vulnerable in America should be taken seriously for what it is — an attack on the rights of all of us as Americans! Stand up for Due Process before it’s too late!

PWS

01-23-18

MICHELLE BRANE @ WOMEN’S REFUGEE COMMISSION — “Why I March!”

“Dear Paul,

Today, my daughter Marisa and I joined thousands of women, men, and children in Washington, DC and other cities around the country to march for equality and for justice.

First and foremost on my mind while I marched with my daughter were the migrant and refugee women, children, and families for whom I advocate every day. With each step, I thought about the brave mothers who escape danger in their home countries because, like all mothers, they want a bright future for their children. Expecting to find safety at our border, these women and children are instead met by the Trump administration’s policies of ripping families apart.

I decided to march today in honor of the women and children who reach for safety but are instead betrayed.

The Women’s Refugee Commission will march forward with our important work supporting women and children seeking safety at our border. We will continue to utilize the court systems, inform the press and public, and hold the Trump administration accountable until asylum seekers have the protection and services they need to be safe, healthy, and to rebuild their lives. But there is strength in numbers.

In the spirit of the Women’s March, and the women for whom we march, please join us by donating today.

We can accomplish so much more together than we can alone.

In solidarity,

Michelle Brané
Director, Migrant Rights and Justice Program

DONATE

© 2017 Women’s Refugee Commission. All rights reserved.
The Women’s Refugee Commission is a 501(c)(3) organization.
Donations are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations.
15 West 37th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10018 • Tel. (212) 551-3115”

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Like me, my friend Michelle began her career as an Attorney Advisor at the BIA. She is also a distinguished alum of Georgetown Law where I am an Adjunct Professor.

The Women’s Refugee Commission does some fantastic work in behalf of vulnerable women and children who arrive at our border seeking refuge and justice, only to be detained and railroaded back to life-threatening conditions by the anti-refugee, anti-Due-Process, White Nationalist regime of Trump, Sessions, Miller, Nielsen, and their complicit minions.

Michelle was named one of the “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s e-News.

Imagine what a great country this could be if our Government and our justice system were led by smart, courageous, principled, values-driven, humane leaders like Michelle and her colleagues, rather than by a cabal of morally bankrupt White Nationalist men and their sycophantic subordinates.

PWS

01-22-18

 

JULIA PRESTON: CHAOS IN COURT! – TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S MAL-ADMINISTRATION OF IMMIGRATION COURTS RUINS LIVES, FRUSTRATES JUDGES!

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/01/19/lost-in-court

Julia writes for The Marshall Project:

“. . . .

And so in this gateway city on the Rio Grande [Laredo], inside a building rimmed with barbed wire, past security guards and locked doors, immigration judges on short details started hearing cases in a cramped courtroom that was hastily arranged in March.

But seven months later, the case of Oscar Arnulfo Ramírez, an immigrant from El Salvador, was not going quickly. He was sitting in detention, waiting for a hearing on his asylum claim. And waiting some more.

The court files, his lawyer discovered, showed that Ramírez’s case had been completed and closed two months earlier. Since the case was closed, the court clerk couldn’t schedule a new hearing to get it moving again. In fact, the clerk didn’t even have a record that he was still detained.

“It’s as if he’s non-existent,” his lawyer,, said. “He’s still in a detention center. He’s still costing the government and the American people tax dollars. But there’s no proceeding going on. He’s just sitting there doing completely nothing.”

Ramírez’s case was one of many signs of disarray in the improvised court in Laredo, which emerged during a weeklong visit in late October by a reporter from The Marshall Project and a radio producer from This American Life. Instead of the efficiency the Trump administration sought, the proceedings were often chaotic. Hearing schedules were erratic, case files went missing. Judges were exasperated by confusion and delays. Like Ramírez, detainees were lost in the system for months on end.


For a view of the border crossing in Laredo and the grinding process migrants begin there, check out Kirsten Luce’s photosfrom the gateway on the Rio Grande.


With the intense pressure on the court to finish cases, immigrants who had run from frightening threats in their home countries were deported without having a chance to tell the stories that might have persuaded a judge to let them stay.

. . . .

For Paola Tostado, the lawyer, Ramírez was not the first client to fall through the cracks in Laredo. Even though she is based in Brownsville, three hours away, Tostado was making the pre-dawn drive up the highway as many as three times a week, to appear next to her clients in court in Laredo whenever she could.

Another Salvadoran asylum-seeker she represented, whose case was similarly mislaid, had gone for four months with no hearing and no prospect of having one. Eventually he despaired. When ICE officers presented him with a document agreeing to deportation, without consulting Tostado he had signed it.

“I’ve had situations where we come to an individual client who has been detained over six months and the file is missing,” she said. “It’s not in San Antonio. It’s not in Laredo. So where is it? Is it on the highway?”

In her attempts to free Ramírez, Tostado consulted with the court clerk in San Antonio, with the ICE prosecutors and officers detaining him, but no one could say how to get the case started again.

Then, one day after reporters sat in the courtroom and spoke with Tostado about the case, ICE released him to pursue his case in another court, without explanation.

But by December Tostado had two other asylum-seekers who had been stalled in the system for more than seven months. She finally got the court to schedule hearings for them in the last days of the year.

“I think the bottom line is, there’s no organization in this Laredo court,” Tostado said. “It’s complete chaos and at the end of the day it’s not fair. Because you have clients who say, I just want to go to court. If it’s a no, it’s a no. If it’s a yes, it’s a yes.”

Unlike criminal court, in immigration court people have no right to a lawyer paid by the government. But there was no reliable channel in Laredo for immigrants confined behind walls to connect with low-cost lawyers. Most lawyers worked near the regular courts in the region, at least two hours’ drive away.

Sandra Berrios, another Salvadoran seeking asylum, learned the difference a lawyer could make. She found one only by the sheerest luck. After five months in detention, she was days away from deportation when she was cleaning a hallway in the center, doing a job she had taken to keep busy. A lawyer walked by. Berrios blurted a plea for help.

The lawyer was from a corporate law firm, Jones Day, which happened to be offering free services. Two of its lawyers, Christopher Maynard and Adria Villar, took on her case. They learned that Berrios had been a victim of vicious domestic abuse. A Salvadoran boyfriend who had brought her to the United States in 2009 had turned on her a few years later when he wanted to date other women.

Once he had punched her in the face in a Walmart parking lot, prompting bystanders to call the police. He had choked her, burned her legs with cigarettes, broken her fingers and cut her hands with knives. Berrios had scars to show the judge. She had a phone video she had made when the boyfriend was attacking her and records of calls to the Laredo police.

The lawyers also learned that the boyfriend had returned to El Salvador to avoid arrest, threatening to kill Berrios if he ever saw her there.

She had started a new relationship in Texas with an American citizen who wanted to marry her. But she’d been arrested by the Border Patrol at a highway checkpoint when the two of them were driving back to Laredo from an outing at a Gulf Coast beach.

After Berrios been detained for nine months, at a hearing in July with Maynard arguing her case, a judge canceled her deportation and let her stay. In a later interview, Berrios gave equal parts credit to God and the lawyers. “I would be in El Salvador by this time, already dead,” she said. “The judges before that just wanted to deport me.”

. . . .

We have heard frustration across the board,” said Ashley Tabaddor, a judge from Los Angeles who is the association [NAIJ] president. She and other union officials clarified that their statements did not represent the views of the Justice Department. “We’ve definitely heard from our members,” she said, “where they’ve had to reset hundreds of cases from their home docket to go to detention facilities where the docket was haphazardly scheduled, where the case might not have been ready, where the file has not reached the facility yet.”

Another association official, Lawrence Burman, a judge who normally sits in Arlington, Va., volunteered for a stint in a detention center in the rural Louisiana town of Jena, 220 miles northwest of New Orleans. Four judges were sent, Burman said, but there was only enough work for two.

“So I had a lot of free time, which was pretty useless in Jena, Louisiana,” Burman said. “All of us in that situation felt very bad that we have cases back home that need to be done. But in Jena I didn’t have any of my files.” Once he had studied the cases before him in Jena, Burman said, he was left to “read the newspaper or my email.”

The impact on Burman’s case docket back in Arlington was severe. Dozens of cases he was due to hear during the weeks he was away had to be rescheduled, including some that had been winding through the court and were ready for a final decision. But with the enormous backlog in Arlington, Burman had no openings on his calendar before November 2020.

Immigrants who had already waited years to know whether they could stay in the country now would wait three years more. Such disruptions were reported in other courts, including some of the nation’s largest in Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.

“Many judges came back feeling that their time was not wisely used,” Judge Tabaddor, the association president, said, “and it was to the detriment of their own docket.”

Justice Department officials say they are pleased with the results of the surge. A department spokesman, Devin O’Malley, did not comment for this story but pointed to congressional testimony by James McHenry, the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. “Viewed holistically, the immigration judge mobilization has been a success,” he said, arguing it had a “positive net effect on nationwide caseloads.”

Justice Department officials calculated that judges on border details completed 2700 more cases than they would have if they had remained in home courts. Officials acknowledge that the nationwide caseload continued to rise during last year, reaching 657,000 cases by December. But they noted that the rate of growth had slowed, to .39 percent monthly increase at the end of the year from 3.39 percent monthly when Trump took office.

Judge Tabaddor, the association president, said the comparison was misleading: cases of immigrants in detention, like the ones the surge judges heard, always take priority and go faster than cases of people out on release, she said. Meanwhile, according to records obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center, as many as 22,000 hearings in judges’ home courts had to be rescheduled in the first three months of the surge alone, compounding backlogs.

. . . .”

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Read Julia’s complete article at the above link. Always enjoy getting quotes from my former Arlington colleague Judge Lawrence O. (“The Burmanator”) Burman. He tends to “tell it like it is” in the fine and time-honored Arlington tradition of my now retired Arlington colleague Judge Wayne R. Iskra. And, Judge Iskra didn’t even have the “cover” of being an officer of the NAIJ. Certainly beats the “pabulum” served up by the PIO at the “Sessionized” EOIR!

Also, kudos to one of my “former firms” Jones Day, its National Managing Partner Steve Brogan, and the Global Pro Bono Counsel Laura Tuell for opening the Laredo Office exclusively for pro bono immigration representation, As firms like jones Day take the “immigration litigation field,” and give asylum applicants the “A+ representation” they need and deserve, I predict that it’s going to become harder for the Article III U.S. Courts to ignore the legal shortcomings of the Immigration Courts under Sessions.

A brief aside. My friend Laura Tuell was  a “Guest Professor” during a session of my Immigration Law & Policy class at Georgetown Law last June. On the final exam, one of my students wrote that Laura had inspired him or her to want a career embodying values like hers! Wow! Talk about making a difference on many levels!And talk about the difference in representing real values as opposed to the legal obfuscation and use of the legal system to inflict wanton cruelty represented by Sessions and his restrictionist ilk.

We also should recognize the amazing dedication and efforts of pro bono and “low bono” lawyers like Paola Tostado, mentioned in Julia’s report. “Even though she is based in Brownsville, three hours away, Tostado was making the pre-dawn drive up the highway as many as three times a week, to appear next to her clients in court in Laredo whenever she could.” What do you think that does to her law practice? As I’ve said before, folks like Paola Tostado, Christopher Maynard, Adria Villar, and Laura Tuell are the “real heroes” of Due Process in the Immigraton Court system. 

Compare the real stories of desperate, bona fide asylum seekers and their hard-working dedicated lawyers being “stiffed” and mistreated in the Immigration Court with Sessions’s recent false narrative to EOIR about an asylum system rife with fraud promoted by “dirty attorneys.” Sessions’s obvious biases against migrants, both documented and undocumented, and particularly against Latino asylum seekers on the Southern Border, make him glaringly unqualified to be either our Attorney General or in charge of our U.S. Immigration Court system.

No amount of “creative book-cooking” by EOIR and the DOJ can disguise the human and due process disaster unfolding here. This is exactly what I mean when I refer to “”Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”), and it’s continuing to increase the Immigration Court backlogs (now at a stunning 660,000) notwithstanding that there are now more Immigration Judges on duty than there were at the end of the last Administration.

I’ll admit upfront to not being very good at statistics and to being skeptical about what they show us. But, let’s leave the “Wonderful World of EOIR” for a minute and go on over to TRAC for a “reality check” on how “Trumpism” is really working in the Immigration Courts. http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/apprep_backlog.php

On September 30, 2016, near the end of the Obama Administration, the Immigration Court backlog stood at a whopping 516,000! Not good!

But, now let go to Nov. 30, 2017, a period of 14 months later, 10 of these full months under the policies of the Trump Administration. The backlog has mushroomed to a stunning 659,000 cases — a gain of 153,000 in less than two years! And, let’s not forget, that’s with more Immigration Judges on board!

By contrast, during the last two full years of the Obama Administration — September 30, 2014 to September 30, 2016 —  the backlog rose from 408,000 to 516,000. Nothing to write home about — 108,000 — but not nearly as bad as the “Trump era” has been to date!

Those who know me, know that I’m no “fan” of the Obama Administration’s stewardship over the U.S. Immigration Courts. Wrongful and highly politicized “prioritization” of recently arrived children, women, and families from the Northern Triangle resulted in “primo ADR” that sent the system into a tailspin that has only gotten worse. And, the glacial two-year cycle for the hiring of new Immigration Judges was totally inexcusable.

But, the incompetence and disdain for true Due Process by the Trump Administration under Sessions is at a whole new level. It’s clearly “Amateur Night at the Bijou” in what is perhaps the nation’s largest Federal Court system. And, disturbingly, nobody except a few of us “Immigration Court Groupies” seems to care.

So, it looks like we’re going to have to stand by and watch while Sessions “implodes” or “explodes” the system. Then, folks might take notice. Because the collapse of the U.S. Immigration Courts is going to take a big chunk of the Article III Federal Judiciary with it.

Why? Because approximately 80% of the administrative review petitions in the U.S. Courts of Appeals are generated by the BIA. That’s over 10% of the total caseload. And, in Circuits like the 9th Circuit, it’s a much higher percentage.

The U.S. Immigration Judges will continue to be treated like “assembly line workers” and due process will be further short-shrifted in the “pedal faster” atmosphere intentionally created by Sessions and McHenry.  The BIA, in turn, will be pressured to further “rubber stamp” the results as long as they are removal orders. The U.S. Courts of Appeals, and in some cases the U.S. District Courts, are going to be left to clean up the mess created by Sessions & co.

We need an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court with competent, unbiased judicial administration focused on insuring individuals’ Due Process now! We’re ignoring the obvious at our country’s peril!

PWS

01-20-18

 

 

GONZO’S WORLD: HIS HIGHLY DISINGENUOUS “TRIBUTE” TO DR. KING WHILE ACTIVELY UNDERMINING MLK’S VISION OF RACIAL EQUALITY IN AMERICA OUTRAGES CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATES! — Hollow Words From An Empty Man!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-in-remarks-criticized-as-beyond-ironic-praises-martin-luther-king-jr/2018/01/16/cb3a8bd8-fae3-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html

 

Sari Horwitz reports for the Washington Post:

“All he had were his words and the power of truth,” Sessions said. “ . . . His message, his life and his death changed hearts and minds. Those changed souls then changed the laws of this land.”

But civil rights leaders criticized Sessions’s remarks, made at a time, they said, when the Justice Department is rolling back efforts to promote civil and voting rights.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Tuesday for Justice Department employees to “remember, celebrate and act” in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

“It is beyond ironic for Jeff Sessions to celebrate the architecture of civil rights protections inspired by Dr. King and other leaders as he works to tear down these very protections,” said Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama and now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“Make no mistake,” Gupta said. “If Dr. King were alive today, he would be protesting outside of Jeff Sessions’s office.”

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said that in the past year, the Justice Department under Sessions has taken action to “obstruct and reverse civil rights enforcement.”

She and others point to a new policy that calls for federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory-minimum penalties. Sessions has defended President Trump’s travel ban and threatened to take away funding from cities with policies he considers too lenient toward undocumented immigrants. The department’s new guidance and stances on voting rights and LGBT issues also might disenfranchise minorities and poor people, civil rights advocates say.

Justice officials say that Sessions’s actions reflect an aggressive, by-the-book interpretation of federal law and that his policies are geared toward fighting violent crime and drug trafficking.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

Absurd and insulting! Actions speak louder than words, Gonzo! Every day that you spend in office mocks our Constitution, the rule of law, human decency, and the legacy of MLK and others who fought for racial and social equality and social justice under the law.

I have no doubt that if Dr. King were alive today, he and his followers would be on your and Trump’s  “hit list.” Indeed, peacefully but forcefully standing up to and shaming tone-deaf, White Nationalist, racially challenged politicos like you, who lived in the past and inhibited America’s future with their racism, was one of the defining marks of MLK’s life!

How do things like increasing civil immigration detention, building the “New American Gulag,” stripping unaccompanied children of their rights to an Immigration Court hearing, mindlessly attacking so-called “sanctuary cities,” mocking hard-working pro bono immigration attorneys and their efforts, reducing the number of refugees, excluding Muslims, building a wall, stripping protections from Dreamers, reducing legal immigration, favoring White immigrants, and spreading false narratives about Latino migrants and crime “honor” the legacy of Dr. King?

Indeed, the “Sanctuary Cities Movement” appears to have a direct historical connection to King’s non-violent civil disobedience aimed at the enforcement of “Jim Crow” laws. Much as today, those on the “wrong side of history” wrapped themselves in hypocritical bogus “rule of law” arguments as they mocked and violated the civil rights of African Americans. 

At some point, America needs and deserves a real Attorney General, one who recognizes and fights for the rights of everyone in America, including minorities, the poor, the most vulnerable, and the so-called undocumented population, who, contrary to your actions and rhetoric, are entitled to full Due Process of law under our Constitution. Imagine how a real Attorney General, one like say Vanita Gupta, might act. Now that would truly honor Dr. King’s memory.

PWS

01-17-18

 

DEPORTATION TO DEATH — HOW AMERICA FAILS TO LIVE UP TO ITS HUMANITARIAN OBLIGATIONS!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/01/15/lgbt-el-salvador/

Josefina Salomon reports from Mexico fro the Washington Post:

“MEXICO CITY — Cristel woke up on the freezing floor of a tiny room in a detention center in San Diego. She was alone, dirty, hungry and exhausted. It was April. Eight days earlier, she had been arrested on the American side of the border crossing at Tijuana, where she planned to claim asylum. She had been in solitary confinement since then. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers had given her no reason for her detention.

Five years on the run had left her drained. From the floor of that San Diego cell, it seemed like she was out of options. She could not bear the thought of being forced by ICE to return to El Salvador. That would be a death sentence.

Death threats from violent gangs had chased Cristel from her native El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, up to the U.S. border. They kept her awake at night, echoing in the back of her head. In El Salvador and on her journey north, she had been bullied, threatened, robbed, beaten and raped. At one point, she had turned to sex work. She had been kidnapped and abused. She had escaped, but she still didn’t feel safe.

Cristel is not her real name. She is 25 and grew up in San Salvador. As a transgender woman, she has faced discrimination and violence nearly her entire life. My colleagues and I met Cristel half a dozen times over the last 18 months, first in San Salvador, and later at different points along her journey, as she moved toward what she hoped was salvation in the U.S.

Over time, Cristel lost weight and dark circles appeared under her eyes as fear, exhaustion and frustration took hold. Sometimes while we were talking, there would be seemingly unstoppable bursts of tears. Weeks might go by before we heard from her. Had she been hurt, or worse? The question, “What is going to happen to me?”, which she asked at every one of our meetings, became more and more urgent.\

. . . .

Starting in the 1990s, the U.S. was one of the first countries to begin admitting asylum seekers and refugees who were persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation. While the Trump administration has not sought to change U.S. asylum law, it has made it clear that it aims to decrease the overall number of refugees admitted into the country and to raise the threshold for asylum seekers’ “credible fear” of persecution as a basis for their asylum.

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of asylum claims by people from El Salvador has been increasing dramatically in the past few years. There were nearly 18,000 claims in 2016 alone. While the number of people who have secured asylum in the U.S. increased in that period, so did the number of claims that were denied, abandoned or withdrawn. Many prospective asylum seekers and analysts have said this is because of the arduous process and the harsh detention conditions asylum seekers are forced to endure. The most vulnerable, like Cristel, often have few options but return to the danger they were desperately trying to escape in the first place.

In San Diego, after first being confined to solitary, Cristel was transferred to a cell that she shared with eight men. She was kept there for a month and a half. At her hearing, when it eventually came, she was appointed a pro bono lawyer, but her claim for asylum was denied. She was transferred to another detention center in Arizona, where she was handcuffed, put on a plane and sent back to a nightmare.

. . . .

She had gone back to live at her mother’s house, but the gang found her anyway. The extortion had resumed. Every time she is late with her payments, even by a day or two, gang members beat her. “I’m exhausted of being forced to pay to live. I want to leave but there’s nowhere to go.”

Sobbing, she said, “They are going to kill me.”

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Read the complete story at the link.

This is what “Trumpism” and “GOP restrictionism” are really about — turning our backs on those in the most need of protection.

One of the most disturbing things about this story is that, as noted by Solomon, the U.S. actually has been fairly routinely granting gender-based cases like this since at least the mid-1990s. See, e.g., Matter of Tobaso-Alfonso,20 I&N Dec. 819 (BIA 1990). In many U.S. Immigration Courts cases like this would routinely be granted, often with the DHS’s concurrence.

So, “Cristel” was unlucky.  She got the got the wrong Court, the wrong Judge, the wrong time, and perhaps the wrong pro bono attorney — and it’s likely to cost her life! That’s not justice, and that’s not a properly functioning U.S. Immigration Court that “guarantees fairness and due process to all.” Instead, the “captive” U.S. Immigration Court is turning into a “whistle-stop on the Trump/Sessions Deportation Railroad!” That’s something of which every true American should be ashamed. We need an independent, Due Process focused U.S. Immigration Court now!

PWS

01-16-18

MLK DAY 2018 — DR. KING’S DREAM OF AN AMERICA CELEBRATING EQUALITY & RACIAL HARMONY IS UNDER VICIOUS ATTACK BY TRUMP, PENCE, SESSIONS, AND A HOST OF OTHERS IN TODAY’S WHITE NATIONALIST ENABLING GOP — Who Is Going To Fight To Reclaim The Dream, & Who Is Going To “Go Along To Get Along” With The 21st Century Version Of Jim Crow?

Folks, as we take a few minutes today to remember Dr. King, his vision for a better America, and his inspiring “I Have A Dream Speech,” we have to face the fact that everything Dr. King stood for is under a vicious and concerted attack, the likes of which we haven’t seen in America for approximately 50 years, by individuals elected to govern by a minority of voters in our country.

So, today, I’m offering you a “potpourri”  of how and why Dr.King’s Dream has “gone south,” so to speak, and how those of us who care about social justice and due process in America can nevertheless resurrect it and move forward together for a greater and more tolerant American that celebrates the talents, contributions, and humanity of all who live here!.

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From the LA Times Editorial Board:

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=186bb118-702e-49a2-a52d-b8dac8aa0cc8

“50 years on, what would King think?

On Martin Luther King’s birthday, a look back at some disquieting events in race relations in 2017.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went to the mountaintop and looked out over the promised land. In a powerful and prophetic speech on April 3, 1968, he told a crowd at the Mason Temple in Memphis that while there would certainly be difficult days ahead, he had no doubt that the struggle for racial justice would be successful.

“I may not get there with you,” he said. “But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I am happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything.”

The following day, he was assassinated.

The intervening years have been full of steps forward and steps backward, of extraordinary changes as well as awful reminders of what has not changed. What would King have made of our first black president? What would he have thought had he seen neo-Nazis marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Va., so many years after his death? How would he have viewed the shooting by police of unarmed black men in cities around the country — or the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement? He would surely have heard the assertions that we have become a “post-racial” society because we elected (and reelected) Barack Obama. But would he have believed it?

This past year was not terribly heartening on the civil rights front. It was appalling enough that racist white nationalists marched in Charlottesville in August. But it was even more shocking that President Trump seemed incapable of making the most basic moral judgment about that march; instead, he said that there were some “very fine people” at the rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Racial injustices that bedeviled the country in King’s day — voter suppression, segregated schools, hate crimes — have not gone away. A report released last week by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on inequities in the funding of public schools concludes — and this should surprise no one — that students of color living in poor, segregated neighborhoods are often relegated to low-quality schools simply due to where they live. States continued in 2017 to pass laws that make it harder, rather than easier, for people of color to vote.

The Trump administration also seems determined to undo two decades of Justice Department civil rights work, cutting back on investigations into the excessive use of force and racial bias by police departments. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions in March ordered a review of all existing federal consent decrees with local police departments with the possibility of dismantling them — a move that could set back police reform by many years.

Here in Los Angeles County, this statistic is telling: 40% of the estimated 57,000 homeless people — the most desperate and destitute residents of the county — are black. Yet black residents make up only 9% of the L.A. County population.

But despite bad news on several fronts, what have been heartening over the last year are the objections raised by so many people across the country.

Consider the statues of Confederate generals and slave owners that were brought down across the country. Schools and other institutions rebranded buildings that were formerly named after racists.

The Black Lives Matter movement has grown from a small street and cyber-protest group into a more potent civil rights organization focusing on changing institutions that have traditionally marginalized black people.

When football quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest, as he said, a country that oppresses black people, he was denounced by many (including Trump) but emulated by others. Kaepernick has been effectively banished from professional football but he started a movement.

Roy Moore was defeated for a Senate seat in Alabama by a surge of black voters, particularly black women. (But no sooner did he lose than Joe Arpaio — the disgraced, vehemently anti-immigrant former Arizona sheriff — announced that he is running for Senate there.)

So on what would have been King’s 89th birthday, it is clear that the United States is not yet the promised land he envisioned in the last great speech of his life. But we agree with him that it’s still possible to get there.”

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See this short HuffPost video on “Why MLK’s Message Still Matters Today!”

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/martin-luther-king-jr-assassination-legacy_us_58e3ea89e4b03a26a366dd77

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Read about how the Arizona GOP has resurrected, and in some instances actually welcomed, “Racist Joe” Arpaio, an unapologetic anti-Hispanic bigot and convicted scofflaw. “Racist Joe” was pardoned by Trump and is now running for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Arizona GOP Senator Jeff Flake, who often has been a critic of Trump. One thing “Racist Joe’s” candidacy is doing is energizing the Latino community that successfully fought to remove him from the office of Sheriff and to have him brought to justice for his racist policies. 

Kurtis Lee reports for the LA Times:

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-arpaio-latino-voters-20180114-story.html

“Yenni Sanchez had thought her work was finished.

Spared from the threat of deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, she campaigned to oust Joe Arpaio when he unsuccessfully ran for reelection as Maricopa County sheriff in 2016. She knocked on hundreds of doors in south Phoenix’s predominantly Latino neighborhoods to register voters. She made phone calls, walked on college campuses. Her message was direct, like the name of the group she worked with, Bazta Arpaio, a take on the Spanish word basta — enough Arpaio.

But now, the 85-year-old former sheriff is back and running for Senate. Sanchez, who had planned to step away from politics to focus on her studies at Grand Canyon University, is back as well, organizing once more.

“If he thinks he can come back and terrorize the entire state like he did Maricopa County, it’s not going to happen,” Sanchez, 20, said. “I’m not going to let it happen.”

Arpaio enters a crowded Republican primary and may not emerge as the party’s nominee, but his bid has already galvanized Arizona’s Latino electorate — one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing voter blocs.

Organizers like Sanchez, who thought they might sit out the midterm elections, rushed back into offices and started making calls. Social media groups that had gone dormant have resurrected with posts reminding voters that Arpaio was criminally convicted of violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

“We’ve been hearing, ‘Is it true Arpaio is back? OK, what can we do to help?’” said Montserrat Arredondo, director of One Arizona, a Phoenix nonprofit group focused on increasing Latino voter turnout. “People were living in terror when Arpaio was in office. They haven’t forgotten.”

In 2008, 796,000 Latinos were eligible to vote in the state, according to One Arizona. By 2016, that potential voting pool jumped to 1.1 million. (California tops the nation with the most Latinos eligible to vote, almost 6.9 million.)

In 2016, Latinos accounted for almost 20% of all registered voters in Arizona. Latinos make up about 30% of Arizona’s population.

. . . .

Last year, President Trump pardoned Arpaio of a criminal conviction for violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. When announcing his candidacy Tuesday, Arpaio pledged his full support to the president and his policies.

On Saturday, Arpaio made his first public appearance since announcing his candidacy, attending a gathering of Maricopa County Republicans. He was unmoved when asked about the enthusiasm his candidacy has created among Latinos.

“Many of them hate me for enforcing the law,” he said. “I can’t change that. … All I know is that I have my supporters, they’re going to support who they want. I’m in this to win it though.”

Arpaio, gripping about a dozen red cardboard signs that read “We need Sheriff Joe Arpaio in DC,” walked through the crowd where he mingled with, among others, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who also are seeking the GOP Senate nomination. Overall, Arpaio was widely met with enthusiasm from attendees.

“So glad you’re back,” said a man wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat.

“It’s great to be back,” Arpaio replied.

Arpaio, who handed out business cards touting his once self-proclaimed status as “America’s toughest sheriff,” said he had no regrets from his more than two decades in office.

“Not a single one,” he said. “I spoke my mind and did what needed to be done and would do it the same in a minute.”

In an interview, Arpaio, who still insists he has “evidence” that former President Obama’s birth certificate is forged, a rumor repeatedly shown to be false, did not lay out specific policy platforms, only insisting he’ll get things done in Washington.

During his tenure as sheriff, repeated court rulings against his office for civil rights violations cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.”

Read the complete story at the link.

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Professor George Yancy of Emory University writing in the NY Times asks “Will America Choose King’s Dream Or Trump’s Nightmare?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/opinion/martin-luther-king-trump-racism.html

Yancy writes:

“Let’s come clean: President Trump is a white racist! Over the past few days, many have written, spoken and shouted this fact, but it needs repeating: President Trump is a white racist! Why repeat it? Because many have been under the grand illusion that America is a “post-racial” nation, a beautiful melting pot where racism is only sporadic, infrequent and expressed by those on the margins of an otherwise mainstream and “decent” America. That’s a lie; a blatant one at that. We must face a very horrible truth. And America is so cowardly when it comes to facing awful truths about itself.

So, as we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we must face the fact that we are at a moral crossroad. Will America courageously live out Dr. King’s dream or will it go down the road of bigotry and racist vitriol, preferring to live out Mr. Trump’s nightmare instead? In his autobiography, reflecting on the nonviolent uprising of the people of India, Dr. King wrote, “The way of acquiesce leads to moral and spiritual suicide.” Those of us who defiantly desire to live, and to live out Dr. King’s dream, to make it a reality, must not acquiesce now, precisely when his direst prophetic warning faces us head on.

On the night before he was murdered by a white man on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., Dr. King wrote: “America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” Our current president, full of hatred and contempt for those children, is the terrifying embodiment of this prophecy.

We desperately need each other at this moment of moral crisis and malicious racist divisiveness. Will we raise our collective voices against Mr. Trump’s white racism and those who make excuses for it or submit and thereby self-destructively kill any chance of fully becoming our better selves? Dr. King also warned us that “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” To honor Dr. King, we must not remain silent, we must not betray his legacy.

So many Americans suffer from the obsessive need to claim “innocence,” that is, to lie to ourselves. Yet such a lie is part of our moral undoing. While many will deny, continue to lie and claim our national “innocence,” I come bearing deeply troubling, but not surprising, news: White racism is now comfortably located within the Oval Office, right there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, embodied in our 45th president, one who is, and I think many would agree, must agree, without any hesitation, a white racist. There are many who will resist this characterization, but Mr. Trump has desecrated the symbolic aspirations of America, exhumed forms of white supremacist discourse that so many would assume is spewed only by Ku Klux Klan.”

Read the rest of Professor Yancy’s op-ed at the link.

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From lead columnist David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick at the NY Times we get “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List.”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/15/opinion/leonhardt-trump-racist.html

Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya. He then launched his campaign with a speech describing Mexicans as rapists.

The media often falls back on euphemisms when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. And Trump himself has claimed that he is “the least racist person.” But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.

Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.

The New York Years

Trump’s real-estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-Americans in the 1970s and gave preferential treatment to whites, according to the federal government.

Trump treated black employees at his casinos differently from whites, according to multiple sources. A former hotel executive said Trump criticized a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks.”

In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he argued they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.

In 1989, on NBC, Trump said: “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage.”

An Obsession With
Dark-Skinned Immigrants

He began his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech disparaging Mexican immigrants as criminals and “rapists.”

He uses the gang MS-13 to disparage all immigrants. Among many other statements, he has suggested that Obama’s protection of the Dreamers — otherwise law-abiding immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children — contributed to the spread of MS-13.

In December 2015, Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” including refusing to readmit Muslim-American citizens who were outside of the country at the time.

Trump said a federal judge hearing a case about Trump University was biased because of the judge’s Mexican heritage.

In June 2017, Trump said 15,000 recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and that 40,000 Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

At the White House on Jan. 11, Trump vulgarly called forless immigration from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.”

The disgusting list goes on and on. Go to the link to get it all!

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Also at the NY Times, Charles M. Blow states what by now should have become obvious to the rest of us: “Trump Is A Racist. Period.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/14/opinion/trump-racist-shithole.html

Blow writes:

“I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence. It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.

The debates themselves, I believe, render a simple concept impossibly complex, making the very meaning of “racism” frustratingly murky.

So, let’s strip that away here. Let’s be honest and forthright.

Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices.

The history of America is one in which white people used racism and white supremacy to develop a racial caste system that advantaged them and disadvantaged others.

Understanding this, it is not a stretch to understand that Donald Trump’s words and deeds over the course of his life have demonstrated a pattern of expressing racial prejudices that demean people who are black and brown and that play to the racial hostilities of other white people.

It is not a stretch to say that Trump is racist. It’s not a stretch to say that he is a white supremacist. It’s not a stretch to say that Trump is a bigot.

Those are just facts, supported by the proof of the words that keep coming directly from him. And, when he is called out for his racism, his response is never to ameliorate his rhetoric, but to double down on it.

I know of no point during his entire life where he has apologized for, repented of, or sought absolution for any of his racist actions or comments.

Instead, he either denies, deflects or amps up the attack.

Trump is a racist. We can put that baby to bed.

“Racism” and “racist” are simply words that have definitions, and Trump comfortably and unambiguously meets those definitions.

We have unfortunately moved away from the simple definition of racism, to the point where the only people to whom the appellation can be safely applied are the vocal, violent racial archetypes.

Racism doesn’t require hatred, constant expression, or even conscious awareness. We want racism to be fringe rather than foundational. But, wishing isn’t an effective method of eradication.

We have to face this thing, stare it down and fight it back.

The simple acknowledgment that Trump is a racist is the easy part. The harder, more substantive part is this: What are we going to do about it?

First and foremost, although Trump is not the first president to be a racist, we must make him the last. If by some miracle he should serve out his first term, he mustn’t be allowed a second. Voters of good conscience must swarm the polls in 2020.

But before that, those voters must do so later this year, to rid the House and the Senate of as many of Trump’s defenders, apologists and accomplices as possible. Should the time come where impeachment is inevitable, there must be enough votes in the House and Senate to ensure it.

We have to stop thinking that we can somehow separate what racists believe from how they will behave. We must stop believing that any of Trump’s actions are clear of the venom coursing through his convictions. Everything he does is an articulation of who he is and what he believes. Therefore, all policies he supports, positions he takes and appointments he makes are suspect.

And finally, we have to stop giving a pass to the people — whether elected official or average voter — who support and defend his racism. If you defend racism you are part of the racism. It doesn’t matter how much you say that you’re an egalitarian, how much you say that you are race blind, how much you say that you are only interested in people’s policies and not their racist polemics.

As the brilliant James Baldwin once put it: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” When I see that in poll after poll a portion of Trump’s base continues to support his behavior, including on race, I can only conclude that there is no real daylight between Trump and his base. They are part of his racism.

When I see the extraordinary hypocrisy of elected officials who either remain silent in the wake of Trump’s continued racist outbursts or who obliquely condemn him, only to in short order return to defending and praising him and supporting his agenda, I see that there is no real daylight between Trump and them either. They too are part of his racism.

When you see it this way, you understand the enormity and the profundity of what we are facing. There were enough Americans who were willing to accept Trump’s racism to elect him. There are enough people in Washington willing to accept Trump’s racism to defend him. Not only is Trump racist, the entire architecture of his support is suffused with that racism. Racism is a fundamental component of the Trump presidency.

 

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Back over at the Washington Post, op-ed writer E.J. Dionne, Jr., tells us the depressing news that “We could be a much better country. Trump makes it impossible.” 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/we-could-be-a-much-better-country-trump-makes-it-impossible/2018/01/14/84bff6dc-f7d4-11e7-b34a-b85626af34ef_story.html?utm_term=.c2151ab89a3c

Dionne concludes his piece with the following observations about our current “Dreamer” debate:

“Our current debate is frustrating, and not only because Trump doesn’t understand what “mutual toleration” and “forbearance” even mean. By persistently making himself, his personality, his needs, his prejudices and his stability the central topics of our political conversation, Trump is blocking the public conversation we ought to be having about how to move forward.

And while Trump’s enablers in the Republican Party will do all they can to avoid the issue, there should now be no doubt (even if this was clear long ago) that we have a blatant racist as our president. His reference to immigrants from “sh–hole countries” and his expressed preference for Norwegians over Haitians, Salvadorans and new arrivals from Africa make this abundantly clear. Racist leaders do not help us reach mutual toleration. His semi-denial 15 hours after his comment was first reported lacked credibility, especially because he called around first to see how his original words would play with his base.

But notice also what Trump’s outburst did to our capacity to govern ourselves and make progress. Democrats and Republicans sympathetic to the plight of the “dreamers” worked out an immigration compromise designed carefully to give Trump what he had said he needed.

There were many concessions by Democrats on border security, “chain migration” based on family reunification, and the diversity visa lottery that Trump had criticized. GOP senators such as Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) bargained in good faith and were given ample reason by Trump to think they had hit his sweet spot.

Trump blew them away with a torrent of bigotry. In the process, he shifted the onus for avoiding a government shutdown squarely on his own shoulders and those of Republican leaders who were shamefully slow in condemning the president’s racism.

There are so many issues both more important and more interesting than the psyche of a deeply damaged man. We are capable of being a far better nation. But we need leaders who call us to our obligations to each other as free citizens. Instead, we have a president who knows only how to foster division and hatred.”

Read the rest of the op-ed at the link.

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Our “Liar-in-Chief:” This short video from CNN, featuring the Washington Post’s “Chief Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler deals with the amazing 2000+ false or misleading claims that Trump has made even before the first anniversary of his Presidency: “Trump averages 5-6 false claims a day.”

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/01/15/president-trump-false-claims-first-year-washington-post.cnn

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Also on video, even immigration restrictionists sometimes wax eloquent about the exceptional generosity of U.S. immigration and refugee laws (even as they engage in an unending battle to undermine that claimed generosity). But, the reality, as set forth in this short HuffPost video is that on a regular basis our Government knowingly and intentionally returns individuals, mostly Hispanics, to countries where they are likely to be harmed or killed because we are unable to fit them within often hyper-technical and overly restrictive readings of various protection laws or because we are unwilling to exercise humanitarian discretion to save them..

I know first-hand because in my former position as a U.S. Immigration Judge, I sometimes had to tell individuals (and their families) in person that I had to order them returned to a country where I had concluded that they would likely be severely harmed or killed because I could not fit them into any of the categories of protection available under U.S. law. I daresay that very few of the restrictionists who glory in the idea of even harsher and more restrictive immigration laws have had this experience. 

And clearly, Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Steven Miller, Bob Goodlatte and others in the GOP would like to increase the number of humans we return to harm or death by stripping defenseless juveniles and other vulnerable asylum seekers of some of the limited rights they now possess in the false name of “border security.” Indeed, Sessions even invented a false narrative of a fraud-ridden, “attorney-gamed” (how do folks who often don’t even have a chance to get an attorney use attorneys to “game” the system?) asylum system in an attempt to justify his totally indefensible and morally bankrupt position.

Check out this video from HuffPost, entitled “This Is The Violent And Tragic Reality Of Deportation”  to see the shocking truth about how our removal system really works (or not)!

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/this-is-the-violent-and-tragic-reality-of-deportation_us_5a58eeade4b03c41896545f2

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Thinking of MLK’S “I have a dream,” next, I’ll take you over to The Guardian, where Washington Correspondent Sabrina Siddiqui tells us how “Immigration policy progress and setbacks have become pattern for Dreamers.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/15/dreamers-policy-progress-and-disaster-has-become-a-pattern-trump

Sabrina writes:

“Greisa Martínez Rosas has seen it before: a rare bipartisan breakthrough on immigration policy, offering a glimmer of hope to advocates like herself. Then a swift unraveling.

Martínez is a Dreamer, one of about 700,000 young undocumented migrants, brought to the US as children, who secured temporary protections through Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or Daca.

She considers herself “one of the lucky ones”. Last year, she was able to renew her legal status until 2020, even as Donald Trump threw the Dreamers into limbo by rescinding Daca and declaring a deadline of 5 March for Congress to act to replace it.

Martínez is an activist with United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigration advocacy group in the US. She has fought on the front lines.

In 2010 and 2013, she saw efforts for immigration reform, and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, culminate in disappointment. She rode a familiar rollercoaster this week, as a bipartisan Daca fix was undermined by Trump’s reported – if contested – reference to African and Central American nations as “shithole countries”.

“It feels like a sequel,” Martínez told the Guardian, adding that Trump’s adversarial views underscored the need to hash out a deal. “This same man is responsible for running a Department of Homeland Security that seeks to hunt and deport people of color.”

Negotiations over immigration have always been precarious. Trump has complicated the picture. After launching his candidacy for president with a speech that called Mexican migrants “rapists” and “killers”, Trump campaigned on deporting nearly 11 million undocumented migrants and building a wall on the Mexico border.

He has, however, shown a more flexible attitude towards Dreamers – despite his move to end their protective status. Last Tuesday, the president sat in the White House, flanked by members of both parties. In a 45-minute negotiating session, televised for full effect, Trump ignited fury among his hardcore supporters by signaling he was open to protection for Dreamers in exchange for modest border security measures.

Then, less than 48 hours later, Trump’s reported comments about countries like Haiti and El Salvador prompted a fierce backlash.

“People are picking their jaws up from the table and they’re trying to recover from feelings of deep hurt and anger,” said Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice, a group which advocates for immigration reform.

“We always knew we were climbing a mountain … but it’s improbable to imagine a positive breakthrough for immigrants with the most nativist president in modern America in charge.”

As the uproar continued, it was nearly forgotten that on Thursday, hours before Trump’s remarks became public, a group of senators announced a bipartisan deal.

Under it, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers would be able to gain provisional legal status and eventually apply for green cards. They would not be able to sponsor their parents for citizenship – an effort to appease Trump’s stance against so-called “chain migration” – but parents would be able to obtain a form of renewable legal status.

There would be other concessions to earn Trump’s signature, such as $2bn for border security including physical barriers, if not by definition a wall.

The compromise would also do away with the diversity visa lottery and reallocate those visas to migrants from underrepresented countries and those who stand to lose Temporary Protected Status. That would help those affected by the Trump administration’s recent decision to terminate such status for some nationals of El Salvador, effectively forcing nearly 200,000 out of the country.

The bill would be far less comprehensive than the one put forward in 2013, when a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” proposed a bill that would have given nearly 11 million undocumented migrants a path to citizenship.

The bill passed the Senate with rare bipartisan support. In the Republican-led House it never received a vote.

Proponents of reform now believe momentum has shifted in their favor, despite Trump’s ascent. The Arizona senator Jeff Flake, part of the 2013 effort and also in the reform group today, said there was a clear deadline of 5 March to help Dreamers.

“I do think there is a broader consensus to do this than we had before,” Flake told the Guardian. “We’re going have 700,000 kids subject to deportation. That’s the biggest difference.”

Read the rest of the story at the link.

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Finally, John Blake at CNN tells us “Three ways [you might not know] MLK speaks to our time.”

http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/12/us/mlk-relevance-today/index.html

“(CNN)“Every hero becomes a bore at last.”

That’s a famous line from the 19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it could also apply to a modern American hero: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
As the nation celebrates King’s national holiday Monday, it’s easy to freeze-frame him as the benevolent dreamer carved in stone on the Washington Mall. Yet the platitudes that frame many King holiday events often fail to mention the most radical aspects of his legacy, says Jeanne Theoharis, a political science professor at Brooklyn College and author of several books on the civil rights movement.
“We turn him into a Thanksgiving parade float, he’s jolly, larger than life and he makes us feel good,” Theoharis says. “We’ve turned him into a mascot.”
Many people vaguely know that King opposed the Vietnam War and talked more about poverty in his later years. But King also had a lot to say about issues not normally associated with civil rights that still resonate today, historians and activists say.

If you’re concerned about inequality, health care, climate change or even the nastiness of our political disagreements, then King has plenty to say to you. To see that version of King, though, we have to dust off the cliches and look at him anew.
If you’re more familiar with your smartphone than your history, try this: Think of King not just as a civil rights hero, but also as an app — his legacy has to be updated to remain relevant.
Here are three ways we can update our MLK app to see how he spoke not only to his time, but to our time as well:
. . . .
The country is still divided by many of the same issues that consumed him.
On the last night of his life, King told a shouting congregation of black churchgoers that “we as a people” would get to “the Promised Land.” That kind of optimism, though, sounds like it belongs to another era.
What we have now is a leader in the White House who denies widespread reports that he complained about Latino and African immigrants coming to America from “shithole” countries; a white supremacist who murders worshippers in church; a social media landscape that pulsates with anger and accusations.
King’s Promised Land doesn’t sound boring when compared to today’s headlines. And maybe that’s what’s so sad about reliving his life every January for some people.
Fifty years after he died, King’s vision for America still sounds so far away.”
Read the complete article at the link.
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There you have it. A brief but representative sample of some of the many ways in which Dr. King’s dream of a “post racist America” is still relevant and why there’s still much more work still to be done than many of us might have thought several years ago.  
So, the next time you hear bandied about terms like “merit-based” (means: exclude Brown and Black immigrants); “extreme vetting” (means: using bureaucracy to keep Muslims and other perceived “undesirables” out); “tax cuts” (means: handouts to the rich at the expense of the poor); “entitlement reform” (means: cutting benefits for the most vulnerable); “health care reform” (means: kicking the most needy out of the health care system); “voter fraud” (means: suppressing the Black, Hispanic, and Democratic vote); “rule of law” (means: perverting the role of Government agencies and the courts to harm Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, women, the poor, and other minorities); “job creation” (means: destroying our precious natural resources and the environment for the benefit of big corporations), “border security” (means: slashing rights for children and asylum seekers, and more money for building a wall and expanding prisons for non-criminal migrants, a/k/a/ “The New American Gulag”), “ending chain migration” (means keeping non-White and/or non-Christian immigrants from bringing family members) and other deceptively harmless sounding euphemisms, know what the politicos are really up to and consider them in the terms that Dr. King might have.
What’s really behind the rhetoric and how will it help create the type of more fair, just, equal, and value-driven society that majority of us in American seek to be part of and leave to succeeding generations. If it isn’t moving us as a nation toward those goals, “Just Say NO” as Dr. King would have done! 
PWS
01-15-18

SUCCESS: GW ASYLUM CLINIC SAVES A LIFE AT ARLINGTON IMMIGRATION COURT!

“Friends,

Please join me in congratulating Immigration Clinic student-attorney Gisela Camba, and her clients M-A and K-C, from Honduras.  This afternoon, after a three-hour hearing, Immigration Judge Robert P. Owens granted the clients’ asylum application.

K-C, then fourteen years of age, was accosted and threatened three times by a gang member while walking to school.  The gang member threatened to kidnap her, if she didn’t go with him voluntarily, and then kill her and her family.  After the third threat, her Mom, M-A, fled with her to the USA.  K-C, now sixteen, testified that around that time a girl in her neighborhood had been kidnapped by gang members and never heard from again.

Congratulations also to Sameen Ahmadnia, Dalia Varela, Sarah DeLong, Jonathan Bialosky, and Rachael Petterson, who previously worked on this case.

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Alberto Manuel Benitez
Professor of Clinical Law
Director, Immigration Clinic
The George Washington University Law School
650 20th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052
(202) 994-7463
(202) 994-4946 fax
abenitez@law.gwu.edu
THE WORLD IS YOURS…”
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Congrats, Professor, to you and your students! You are true members of the New Due Process Army!
PWS😎😎😎
01-11-18

GONZO’S WORLD: Sessions Gives Congress The “Scarface Treatment” Again — Then He Jokes About Russia — Will Mueller Eventually Wipe The Smirk Off Gonzo’s Face?

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/11/jeff-sessions-has-a-strangely-selective-memory.html

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.”

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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.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sessions-russian-lawyers_us_5a0fb5dee4b045cf43718e96?ncid=APPLENEWS00001

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PWS
11-19-17

US IMMIGRATION COURTS MAKE DEADLY MISTAKES: 6th CIRCUIT STOPS BIA, IJ, DHS FROM APPLYING WRONG STANDARDS TO SEND JORDANIAN WOMAN BACK TO TORTURE AND HONOR KILLING! — KAMAR V. SESSIONS, 6th CIR., PUBLISHED — While Sessions Babbles On With False Anti-Asylum Narrative & Bogus Need To Deport Law-Abiding Long-Time US Residents, He Administers a “Court System” That Denies Constitutional Due Process & Ignores Correct Legal Standards In Life Or Death Cases!

17a0260p-06

Kamar v. Sessions, 11-17-17, published

PANEL: MERRITT, MOORE, ROGERS, CIRCUIT JUDGES

OPINION: JUDGE MERRITT

KEY QUOTES:

“We now address, under the substantial evidence standard, the question of whether Kamar will be persecuted by threat of death if she returns to Jordan, which is relevant to both withholding under the Act and relief under the Convention. Kamar testified at the merits hearing that her cousins, specifically Alias, want to restore their family’s honor by killing her, and her sister confirmed this. She knows this because of letters she received and communications with family and friends. The Board expressly found Kamar to be credible. On remand, the IJ concluded the letter from Alias was not credible and did not facially threaten Kamar. The IJ reasoned that even if it was credible, there was no indication that Alias knew that Kamar had gotten married and might not want to kill her anymore. The IJ found that the intent to kill Kamar was expressed only through an “ambiguous” comment in the letter from Kamar’s mother. The Board agreed that Kamar did not establish that her fear of persecution was objectively reasonable. The probability of harm occurring in these cases is an inference based on facts in the record. Considering the evidence, it is hard to reconcile these findings with the Board’s conclusion that even if Kamar had a subjective fear of persecution, this fear was not objectively reasonable. There is nothing to cast doubt on Kamar’s testimony. Even if the letter from Alias is not considered, the letter from Kamar’s mother states that Alias wishes to kill Kamar even if it is his last act on earth, and credible testimony confirms this. Nothing indicates that Alias does not still intend to carry out the honor killing. Both Kamar and her sister testified that it did not matter that Kamar married her second husband because Alias knows that she had sexual relations outside of marriage and believes that she committed adultery. The record overwhelming supports the finding that she will be persecuted if she returns.

Finally, we consider whether the Jordanian government would be “unwilling or unable” to protect Kamar from harm. In the country reports in the record, it has been established that governors in Jordan routinely abuse the law and use imprisonment to protect potential victims of honor crimes. These victims are not released from imprisonment unless the local governor consents, the victim’s family guarantees the victim’s safety, and the victim consents. One non-governmental organization has provided a temporary, unofficial shelter as an alternative.

On the other hand, successful perpetrators of honor killings typically get their sentences greatly reduced. Additionally, if the victim’s family, who is usually the family of the alleged perpetrator as well, does not bring the charges, the government dismisses the case. See also Sarhan, 658 F.3d at 657 (“After reviewing the evidence of the Jordanian government’s treatment of honor crimes, we conclude that . . . the government is ineffective when it comes to providing protection to women whose behavior places them in the group who are threatened with honor killings.”).

The Board’s decision outlined the Jordanian government’s efforts to combat honor crimes, including placing potential victims in “protective custody.” As the Ninth Circuit concluded in an analogous case, “This observation omits the fact that such protective custody is involuntary, and often involves extended incarceration in jail.” Suradi v. Sessions, No. 14-71463, 2017 WL 2992234, at *2 (9th Cir. July 14, 2017). While victim protection is necessary, incarceration is an insufficient solution. This practice is akin to persecuting the victim as she “must choose between death and an indefinite prison term.” Sarhan, 658 F.3d at 659. Further, nothing in the record suggests that the country conditions in Jordan have changed such that the government will be able to adequately protect Kamar from being killed. This showing satisfies both of the standards for finding governmental action for purposes of withholding of removal under the Act and also those for protection under the Convention, as it amounts to “pain or suffering” that is inflicted with the acquiescence of a public official or a person acting in an official capacity.

We do not address whether Kamar can safely relocate to escape persecution, which is also relevant to withholding of removal and protection under the Convention. The Board did not mention relocation, and the parties’ briefs do not address the issue. Like the particular social group inquiry, the issue of safe relocation must be addressed in the first instance by the Board. Gonzales v. Thomas, supra.

Substantial evidence does not support the Board’s refusal to find that Kamar will probably be persecuted if she is returned to Jordan, due to her membership in the particular social group we discussed, or that the Jordanian government can or will do nothing to help her. The Board’s decision with regard to those issues is reversed.

. . . .

The Seventh Circuit has found that the Jordanian government’s “solution” to protect honor killing victims is actually a form of punishing the victims of these crimes amounting to mental “pain or suffering,” which is “inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” 8 C.F.R. § 208.18(a)(1); see Sarhan, 658 F.3d at 659. Taking into account our reasoning and findings above on the factors relating to both withholding of removal under the Act and protection under the Convention, we agree that “[d]espite the contrary conclusion of the Immigration Judge and the Board, the record here also compels the conclusion that the government of Jordan acquiesces to honor killings.” Suradi, 2017 WL 2992234, at *1.

Given the likelihood that Kamar would be subject to involuntary imprisonment at the hands of the Jordanian authorities, resulting in mental pain and suffering, the Board erred in concluding that Kamar failed to establish that it was more likely than not that she would be tortured upon removal to Jordan. We grant the petition with respect to the Board’s reasoning under the Convention.“

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

This should have been an easy withholding grant by the Immigration Judge. Indeed, the 6th Circuit characterized the evidence of persecution as “overwhelming.”

Instead the BIA and the Immigration Judge spent literally years passing the case back and forth and still got it wrong! No wonder the system is backlogged when judges at both the trial and appellate levels get the law requiring protection wrong time after time! How would an unrepresented individual have any chance of vindicating her rights in a system this complicated and screwed up! Skewing the system as this Administration has done to make it more difficult for individuals to get effective representation is a direct attack on due process.

Instead of making a conscientious effort to fix this system to provide due process, Sessions’s clear xenophobia and his anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rants encourage  Immigration Judges and BIA Appellate Judges to treat asylum applicants unfairly and misapply the law to deny protection.

There will be no true due process and justice for migrants until the politicized DOJ and this highly biased Attorney General are removed from control of our US Immigration Court system! How would YOU like to be on trial for your life in a court system controlled by Jeff Sessions?

PWS

11-18-17

GONZO’S WORLD: THE HILL: Professor Lindsay Muir Harris — Using REAL Data & Facts — Rips Apart Sessions’s “Ignorant” (& TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE) Anti-Asylum Speech To EOIR!

http://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/355734-sessions-fundamentally-misses-the-mark-on-the-asylum-system

Lindsay writes:

“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.

PWS

10-31-17

 

 

 

 

“TERRIFIC TRIO” INSPIRES STUDENTS, FIGHTS FOR IMMIGRANT JUSTICE AT UVA LAW IMMIGRATION CLINIC — PLUS EXTRA BONUS: Go Back To School This Fall — Take My “One-Lecture” Class “Basic Asylum Law for Litigators” Right Here!

HERE THEY ARE!

INTRODUCING THE “TERRIFIC TRIO” – DEENA N. SHARUK, TANISHKA V. CRUZ, & RACHEL C. McFARLAND:

FACULTY

Email

dsharuk@law.virginia.edu

Deena N. Sharuk

  • Lecturer
  • Biography
  • Courses

Deena N. Sharuk teaches Immigration Law at the Law School.

Sharuk is currently practicing as an immigration attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she manages the Virginia Special Immigrant Juvenile Project. She received her B.A. in international relations with a specialization in human rights from Wellesley College. Sharuk received her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law.

After graduation, she worked as a fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and later practiced immigration law in Massachusetts and Virginia. Sharuk was recently appointed as a task force core team member to foster a welcoming environment for immigrants and minorities in Charlottesville and Albemarle county. She often presents to the community about changes in immigration law.

EDUCATION

  • JD.


Northeastern University School of Law 


2012





  • BA.


Wellesley College 


2007






 FACULTY

Email

tanishka@justice4all.org

Cell Phone

(434) 529-1811

Tanishka V. Cruz

  • Lecturer
  • Biography
  • Courses

Tanishka V. Cruz is an attorney in solo practice at Cruz Law, a Charlottesville-based immigration and family law firm. She is also an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center, where for the past two years she has focused on the management of the Virginia Special Immigrant Juvenile Project, an award-winning collaboration between LAJC and pro bono attorneys across the state. The project has saved more than 150 refugee children from likely deportation.

Cruz earned her B.A. from Temple University and her J.D. from the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law.

She currently supervises students in the Immigration Law Clinic, which LAJC runs in conjunction with the Law School

EDUCATION

  • JD.


Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law


 2012





  • BA.


Temple University 


2004






FACULTY

Email

rmcfarland@justice4all.org

Rachel C. McFarland

  • Lecturer
  • Biography
  • Courses

Rachel C. McFarland is an attorney at Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville. She focuses on cases in public and subsidized housing, unpaid wages for migrant workers and immigration.

McFarland earned her B.A. from the University of Richmond in 2009, where she majored in Latin American and Iberian studies, and rhetoric and communication studies. She received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2015.

While at Georgetown, McFarland participated in the asylum clinic and received a certificate in refugees and humanitarian emergencies.

EDUCATION

  • JD.


Georgetown University Law Center 


2015





  • BA.


University of Richmond


 2009






 

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

Wow, what a totally impressive and multi-talented team! All three of these amazing lawyers also work at the Legal Aid and Justice Center in Charlottesville, VA. They tirelessly pursue justice for our most vulnerable! They teach their clinical students “real life” client interview, case preparation, organization, time management, negotiation, and litigation skills while giving them a solid background in probably the most important and dynamic area in current American Law: U.S. Immigration Law.

 

They do it all with energy, enthusiasm, good humor, and inspiring teamwork that will help their students be successful in all areas of life and law while contributing to the American Justice system.

 

I am of course particularly proud of Rachel McFarland who was one of my wonderful Refugee Law and Policy students at Georgetown Law and has gone on to “do great things” and help others as a “charter member” of the “New Due Process Army.” Way to use that “RLP” training and experience, Rachel! I know that my good friend and colleague Professor Andy Schoenholtz who runs the Georgetown Law Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies program is also delighted at how Rachel has chosen to use her specialized training!

Thanks again, Rachel, for “making your professors proud” of your dedication and achievements. I hope that your students will do the same for you (and your terrific colleagues)!

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

For those of you who want to replicate the class experience in Charlottesville last Wednesday, here is the complete text of my class presentation: “BASIC ASYLUM LAW FOR LITIGATORS!”

BASIC ASYLUM LAW FOR LITIGATORS-2SPACE

BASIC ASYLUM LAW FOR LITIGATORS

By Paul Wickham Schmidt

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

UVA LAW IMMIGRATON CLINIC

Charlottesville, VA

October 25, 2017

 

 

BASIC ASYLUM LAW FOR LITIGATORS

 

OUTLINE

 

I. INTRODUCTION

II. WHO IS A REFUGEE?

Refugee Definition

Standard of Proof

What Is Persecution?

Nexus

III. PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUP

The Three Requirements

Success Stories

The Usual Losers

What Can Go Wrong?

A Few Practical Tips on PSG

IV. PRACTICAL TIPS FOR PRESENTNG AN ASYLUM CASE IN IMMIGRATION COURT

V. CONCLUSION

 

 

 

 

 

I. INTRODUCTION

 

Good afternoon, and thanks for attending. As a former U.S. Immigration Judge at both the trial and appellate levels, and someone who has spent over four decades working in the field of immigration at all levels, I want to personally thank you for what you are doing.

 

Welcome to the “New Due Process Army” and our critical mission of forcing the U.S. Immigration Court system to live up to its unfulfilled promise of “guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.” Nothing is more important to achieving that mission than providing effective representation to individuals at the “retail level” of the system – the U.S. Immigration Courts.

 

There is a due process crisis going on in our U.S. Immigration Court system that threatens the integrity and the functioning of our entire U.S. justice system. And, the biggest need in the Immigration Courts is for effective legal representation of individuals seeking, expecting, and deserving justice in Immigration Court. Never has the need for pro bono attorneys been greater than it is now!

 

I’m truly delighted to be reunited with my friend and former student from Refugee Law & Policy at Georgetown Law, the wonderful Rachel McFarland. I am absolutely thrilled that Rachel has chosen to use her amazing talents to help those most in need and to be a teacher and an inspirational role model for others in the New Due Process Army. In addition to being brilliant and dedicated, Rachel exudes that most important quality for success in law and life: she is just one heck of a nice person! The same, of course, is true for your amazing Clinical Professor Deena Sharuk and her colleague Tanishka Cruz Thank you Deena, Tanishka, and Rachel, for all you are doing! All of you in this room truly represent “Due Process In Action.”

 

As all of you realize, our justice system is only as strong as its weakest link. If we fail in our responsibility to deliver fairness and due process to the most vulnerable individuals at the “retail level” of our system, then eventually our entire system will fail.

 

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

 

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

 

I also predict that you will make a positive difference in the development of the law. The well-prepared and articulate arguments that you make in behalf of migrants are going to get attention and consideration from judges at all levels far beyond those presented by unrepresented individuals who can’t even speak English. It’s simply a fact of life. And, if you can win these cases, everything else you do in the law will be a “piece of cake.” I guarantee it.

 

Obviously, in representing your clients it is important to be polite, professional, and to let the excellence of your preparation, research, and arguments speak for you. In an overwhelmed system, judges are particularly grateful for all the help they can get. However, they are also under excruciating pressure to complete cases, particularly detained cases. So it is important to clearly identify your issues, focus your examination, and make sure that your “phone books” of evidence are properly organized and that there is a “road map” to direct the Immigration Judge and the Assistant Chief Counsel to the key points. You want to help the judge, and your opponent, get to a “comfort zone” where he or she can feel comfortable granting, or not opposing or appealing, relief.

 

I do want to offer one additional important piece of advice up front. That is to make sure to ask your client if her or his parents or grandparents, whether living or dead, are or were U.S. citizens. Citizenship is jurisdictional in Immigration Court, and occasionally we do come across individuals with valid but previously undeveloped claims for U.S. citizenship. You definitely want to find out about that sooner, rather than later, in the process.

My presentation today will be divided into three sections. First, we will go over the basic refugee definition and some of its ramifications. Second, I will provide some basic information about particular social group or “PSG” claims. Third, I will give you fourteen practical pointers for effectively presenting asylum cases in Immigration Court.

 

Please feel free to ask questions as we go along, or save them until the end.

 

II.        WHO IS A REFUGEE?

 

In this section, I will first discuss the INA’s definition of “refugee.” Second, I will talk about the standard of proof. Third, we will discuss the meaning of the undefined term “persecution.” I will conclude this section with a discussion of the key concept of “nexus.”

A.        Refugee Definition

 

An “asylee” under U.S. law is basically an individual who satisfies the “refugee” definition, but who is in the U.S. or at our border in a different status, or with no status at all. Most of your clients will fall in the latter category.

The definition of “refugee” is set forth in section 101(a)(42) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42). There are four basic elements:

  1. Generally, outside the country of nationality (not usually an issue in border cases);
  2. Unwilling or unable to return (failure of state protection);
  3. Because of persecution (undefined) or a well founded fear of persecution;
  4. On account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion (“nexus”).

 

There are some important exclusions to the refugee definition, the most frequent ones being the one-year filing deadline for asylum, those who have committed serious nonpolitical crimes outside the U.S. or particularly serious crimes in the U.S., persecutors of others, those who have rendered material support to a terrorist organizations, and those who are firmly resettled in another country. I won’t be going into these in detail today, but you should know that they are there, and I’d be happy to take questions on them. The ground most likely to come up in your cases is the one relating to individuals who have committed crimes.

Some individuals who are ineligible for asylum might still be eligible to receive withholding of removal under section 243(b) of the INA, 8 U.S.C., § 1253(b) or withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). And, everyone can potentially seek so-called “deferral of removal” under the CAT.

Also, please note that because of the requirement of a “nexus” to a “protected ground” not all types of harm trigger protection. In particular, crimes, wars, random violence, natural disasters, and personal vengeance or retribution do not automatically qualify individuals for refugee status, although “persecution“ within the meaning of the INA and the Convention certainly can sometimes occur in these contexts. However, some of these circumstances that fail to result in refugee protection because of the “nexus” requirement might be covered by the CAT, which has no nexus requirement.

The source of the “refugee” definition is he Refugee Act of 1980 which codified and implemented the U.N Convention and Protocol on the Status of Refugees to which the U.S. adhered in 1968. There are, however, some differences between the U.S. definition and the Convention definition, which I won’t go into today. But, again, you should be aware they exist, since some international or U.N. interpretations of the definition might be inapplicable under U.S. law.

B.        Standard of Proof

 

The standard of proof in asylum cases was established by the Supreme Court in 1987 in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987). In asylum cases, a “well-founded” fear is something far less than a probability. It is an “objectively reasonable fear” or the type of fear that a “reasonable person” would have under the circumstances. Most courts and authorities have adopted the “10% chance” example set forth in Justice Stevens’s plurality opinion in Cardoza.

The BIA’s implementation of Cardoza, the 1987 precedent Matter of Mogharrabi, 19 I&N Dec. 439 (BIA 1987), makes the point that the persecution can be “significantly less than probable.” Your challenge as lawyers will be to get judges at all levels of our system to actually apply the generous Cardoza-Mogharrabi standard rather than just mouthing it. Sadly, the latter still happens too often, in my opinion.

A different and higher “more likely than not” standard applies to withholding of removal under the INA and to withholding and deferral of removal under the CAT. One great tool for satisfying the standard of proof for asylum or withholding under the Act is the rebuttable regulatory presumption of future persecution arising out of past persecution set forth in 8 C.F.R. 1208.13. This is a really important regulation that you should basically learn “by heart.” I will reference it again in the “practical tips” section of this presentation.

Withholding and CAT are more limited forms of relief than asylum. While they usually provide work authorization, they do not lead to green card status, allow the applicants to bring relatives, or travel abroad. They are also easier to revoke if conditions change. Nevertheless, there is one major advantage to withholding and CAT: they save your client’s life. Sometimes, that’s the best you can do. And, fundamentally, saving lives is really what this business is all about.

C.        What Is Persecution?

 

Remarkably, neither the Convention nor the INA defines the term “persecution.” Consequently, U.S. Immigration Judges, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), and the U.S. Courts of Appeals are constantly referring to certain types of harm as “mere discrimination or harassment” not “rising to the level” of “persecution.” Often these highly subjective conclusions seem to be more in the mind of the judicial beholder than in the record or the law.

In the absence of a firm definition, I have found the most useful practical guidance to be in an opinion by the famous, or infamous, Judge Richard Posner, who recently retired from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2011 case Stanojkova v. Holder, 645 F.3d 943, 947-48 (7th Cir. 2011). Judge Posner gave three examples.

“The three forms are discrimination, harassment, and persecution. The first [discrimination] refers to unequal treatment, and is illustrated historically by India’s caste system and the Jim Crow laws in the southern U.S. states. Discrimination normally does not involve the application of physical force, except as punishment for violation of the discriminatory laws.”

Second: “Harassment involves targeting members of a specified group for adverse treatment, but without the application of significant physical force. Had [police] furious at [the respondent’s] being soft on Albanians followed his taxi (he was a taxicab driver in Macedonia) and ticketed him whenever he exceeded the speed limit by one mile per hour, that would be an example of harassment. A common form of sexual harassment is pestering a subordinate for a date or making lewd comments on her appearance, or perhaps hugging her, which is physical but generally not violent.”

Third: “Persecution involves, we suggest, the use of significant physical force against a person’s body, or the infliction of comparable physical harm without direct application of force (locking a person in a cell and starving him would be an example), or nonphysical harm of equal gravity—that last qualification is important because refusing to allow a person to practice his religion is a common form of persecution even though the only harm it causes is psychological. Another example of persecution that does not involve actual physical contact is a credible threat to inflict grave physical harm, as in pointing a gun at a person’s head and pulling the trigger but unbeknownst to the victim the gun is not loaded.”

These definitions are, of course, not binding outside the Seventh Circuit. But, I find them to be practical, usable definitions that I certainly found helpful in making asylum decisions in the Fourth and other circuits.

D.        Nexus

 

The concept of “nexus” or “on account of” has become critical in asylum adjudication. Indeed, that is where many of your upcoming battles will be focused. In many cases these days the DHS will concede the “particular social group” (“PSG”) and just argue that the harm has no “nexus” to that PSG or any other protected ground.

The REAL ID Act amended the INA to require that for an asylum applicant to prove ”nexus” or “on account” of any protected ground, he or she must show that the protected ground is “at least one central reason” for the feared persecution. INA § 208(b)(1)(B)(i), 8 U.S.C. § 1208(b)(1)(B)(i) While this did not eliminate the frequently encountered “mixed motive” situation, it was intended to “tighten up” prior case law that had referred to the persecution as stemming “in whole or in part” from a protected ground.

The BIA ruled in Matter of C-T-L-, 25 I & N Dec. 341 (BIA 2010) that the “one central reason” test also applies to nexus in the withholding of removal context. However, the Ninth Circuit rejected the BIA’s interpretation in Barajas-Romero v. Lynch, 846 F.3d 351 (BIA 2014), maintaining that the more generous “in whole or in part” test should continue to apply to withholding cases under the INA. To my knowledge, the Fourth Circuit has not directly addressed the issue. So, I believe that C-T-L- would apply in the Immigration Courts in the Fourth Circuit at present.

Unfortunately, the BIA has given a very narrow reading to the “one central reason” test. In a recent precedent, Matter of L-E-A-, 27 I &N Dec. 40 (BIA 2017), the respondent was a member of a family social group. He clearly was targeted by a cartel in Mexico because he was a member of a family that owned a grocery store. In other words, “but for” the respondent’s family membership, he would not have been targeted by the gang.

Nevertheless, instead of granting the case, the BIA looked beyond the initial causation. The BIA found that “the respondent was targeted only as a means to achieve the cartel’s objective to increase its profits by selling drugs in the store owned by his father. Therefore the cartel’s motive to increase its profits by selling contraband in the store was one central reason for its actions against the respondent. Any motive to harm the respondent because he was a member of his family was, at most, incidental.” 27 I&N Dec. at 46 (citations omitted). Accordingly, the BIA denied the case.

Unfortunately, the BIA cited and relied upon an analysis of nexus in a similar case by the Fifth Circuit in Ramirez-Mejia v. Lynch, 794 F.3d 485n (5th Cir. 2015). The BIA, and to some extent the Fifth Circuit, have essentially used the “nexus” requirement to “squeeze the life” out of the family PSG. We can see that the normal rules of legal causation have been suspended. The respondent would not have been targeted by the cartel had he not belonged to this particular family. Yet, the BIA searched for and found an “overriding motive” that did not relate to a protected ground and determined that to be the “central reason” and the family PSG to be “tangential.”

What kind of case could succeed under L-E-A-? Well, perhaps not wanting to give anyone any practical ideas on how to qualify, the BIA searched history and came up with the execution of the Romanov family by the Bolsheviks as an example of a where family was a “central reason” for the persecution. So, maybe if the respondent’s father were a major donor to a political party that opposed cartels, a member of a religion that opposed drugs, or a member of a hated minority group, the respondent’s family membership could have been “at least one central reason.”

But the Romanov family case would have been grantable on actual or imputed political opinion grounds. The other examples I gave would have been more easily grantable on actual or implied political opinion, religion, or nationality grounds. So the BIA appears designed to make the family PSG ground largely superfluous.

This leaves you as litigators in a tricky situation. The IJ will be bound by L-E-A,

and the BIA is unlikely to retreat from L-E-A-. On the other hand, the Fourth Circuit might not go along with the L-E-A- view, although Judge Wilkins appeared anxious to endorse L-E-A- in his separate concurring opinion in Valasquez v. Sessions, 866 F.3d 188 (4th Cir. 2017).

 

To my knowledge, L-E-A- has not actually been considered and endorsed by any circuit to date. To me, it appears to be inconsistent with some of the existing family-based nexus case law in the Fourth and Ninth Circuits. See, e.g., Zavaleta-Policiano v. Sessions, 873 F.3d 241 (4th Cir. 2017) (slamming BIA for misapplying concept of “mixed motive”). So, I wouldn’t be shocked if a “circuit split” eventually develops and the issue finally wends its way to the Supreme Court. Who knows, maybe one of you will be arguing it.

 

In any event, in my view, it is too early for you to “waive” strong nexus arguments even if they will be rejected under L-E-A-. On the other hand, that’s not likely to solve your client’s currentproblems.

So, what can you do? First, look for legitimate ways to distinguish L-E-A-. Assume that the DHS will “pull out the stops” in arguing that everything but family was the central reason –greed, lust, crime, random violence, personal vengeance, envy, resentment, etc. Look for evidence in the record that the dispute really was, to a major extent, about family, rather than one of the non-qualifying grounds.

Second, look for some qualifying non-family PSG or a “more conventional” religious, nationality, racial, or political motive.

Third, consider the possibility of CAT protection. The advocacy community probably underutilizes CAT. CAT doesn’t have a specific nexus requirement and often can be proved by extensive documentary or expert evidence, both UVA Clinic specialties. Sure, the standard of proof is high and CAT is a lesser form of relief than asylum. But, it saves your client’s life! And, if the nexus law changes in your favor, you can always file a motion to reopen to re-apply for asylum under the changed law.

This is an area of the law where creativity, preparation, and persistence often pay off in the long run. So, don’t give up. Keep on fighting for a reasonable and proper application of the “refugee” definition and for the rights of your clients.

III.      PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUP

 

In this section I will talk about the three basic requirements for a PSG, the success stories, the usual failures, things that can go wrong, and offer you a few practice pointers directly related to PSG claims.

A.        The Three Requirements

 

The BIA has established three requirements for a PSG.

  1. Immutability or fundamental to identity;
  2. Particularity; and
  3. Social distinction.

 

These three requirements are usually used to deny rather than grant protection. Indeed, most of the BIA’s recent precedents on PSG are rendered in a decidedly negative context.

There was a time about two decades ago when many of us, including a number of BIA Members, thought that immutability or fundamental to identity was the sole factor. But, following our departure, the BIA attached the additional requirements of “particularity” and “social visibility” now renamed “social distinction” to narrow the definition and facilitate denials, particularly of gang-based PSG claims.

The particularity and social distinction requirements basically work like a “scissors” to cut off claims. As you make your definition more specific to meet the “particularity” requirement it often will become so narrow and restrictive that it fails to satisfy “social distinction.” On the other hand, as your proposed PSG becomes more socially distinct, it’s likely that it will become more expansive and generic so that the BIA will find a lack of “particularity.”

While the UNHCR and many advocacy groups have argued for a return of immutability as the basic requirement with “social distinction” as an alternative, not an additional requirement, the BIA recently reaffirmed its “three criteria” approach. These cases, Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I &N Dec. 227 (BIA 2014) and its companion case Matter of W-E-G-, 26 I &N Dec. 208 (BIA 2014), are “must reads” for anyone doing PSG work.

About the only bright spot for advocates was that the BIA in M-E-V-G– rejected the commonly held view that no gang-based case could ever succeed. The BIA said that its decisions “should not be read as a blanket rejection of all factual scenarios involving gangs. Social group determinations are made on a case-by-case basis. For example, a factual scenario in which gangs are targeting homosexuals may support a particular social group claim. While persecution on account of a protected ground cannot be inferred merely from acts of random violence and the existence of civil strife, it is clear that persecution on account of a protected ground may occur during periods of civil strife if the victim is targeted on account of a protected ground.” 26 I&N Dec. at 251 (citations omitted).

In other words, the Board is asking for evidence intensive case-by-case adjudications of various proposed PSGs. Leaving aside the fairness of doing this in a context where we know that most applicants will be detained and unrepresented, I cannot think of an organization better suited to give the BIA what it asked for than the UVA Clinic – you guys!

B. Success Stories

There are four basic groups that have been relatively successful in establishing PSG claims.

  1. LGBT individuals under Matter of Toboso-Alfonso, 20 I&N Dec. 819 (BIA 1990);
  2. Women who fear or suffered female genital mutilation (“FGM”) under my decision in Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996);
  3. Victims of domestic violence under Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014); and
  4. Family under the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Crespin-Valladares v. Holder, 632 F.3d 117 (4th 2011), a case in which I was the Immigration Judge and Jones Day was pro bono counsel.

You should note that the first three of these success stories had something in common: strong support across a wide spectrum of the political universe. In fact, in LGBT, FGM, and domestic violence cases the DHS eventually changed its position so as to not oppose the recognition of the PSG. This, in turn, either facilitated or perhaps effectively forced the BIA to recognize the PSG in a precedent.

Family, on the other hand, has generally not developed the same type of political consensus as a PSG for asylum purposes. I have already discussed in detail how notwithstanding the clear logic of family as a PSG, the BIA uses a highly restrictive reading of the “nexus” requirement that prevents many family groups from qualifying for protection.

There are two additional important points established by Kasinga. First, the respondent does not have to establish that the persecutor acted or will act with “malevolent intent.” Persecution may be established even where the persecutor was inflicting the harm with the intent to “help” or “treat” the respondent. This comes up frequently in connection with LGBT claims.

Second, Kasinga holds that to justify a discretionary denial of asylum for a respondent who otherwise meets all of the statutory requirements, the adverse factors must be “egregious” so as to outweigh the likely danger of persecution.

You are likely to find a number of cases involving LGBT individuals, domestic violence, and family. In the Arlington Immigration Court during my tenure these cases succeeded at an extremely high rate, so much so that many of them went on my “short docket.” However, that was then and this is now.  As they say, “There’s a new sheriff in town and, unfortunately in my view, he looks a lot like the infamous “Sheriff Joe.”

Finally, there are some “up and comer” PSG’s that have had success in some of the circuits and might eventually gain widespread acceptance. Among these are witnesses, landowners, and women subjected to forced marriages. The latter often can more successfully be presented under the domestic violence category. The Fourth Circuit actually has recognized “former gang members” as a potential PSG, although many such individuals will have difficulties under the criminal exclusions from the refugee definition. Martinez v. Holder, 740 F.3d 902 (4th Cir. 2014).

C. The Usual Losers

PSGs that don’t fit any of the categories I just mentioned are usually “losers.” Chief among the “usual losers” are victims of crime other than domestic violence, informants, extortion victims, and those resisting gang recruitment. You’ll probably see a fair number of such cases. Your challenge will be how to present them in a way that overcomes the negative connotations normally associated with such claims.

D. What Can Go Wrong?

Lots of things can go wrong with a PSG case. First, there is the issue of “circularity.” Generally, a PSG cannot be defined in terms of itself. For example “victims of crime” would generally be a “circular” social group.

An easy test is to use your proposed PSG in a simple sentence: “This respondent was harmed to overcome the characteristic of being _________. If you can’t say with a straight face in open court, don’t use it. For example, “this respondent was raped to overcome her characteristic of being a victim of rape” isn’t going to make it as a PSG.

We’ve already talked about how PSG claims can be attacked by denying the nexus. There are also the old favorites of lack of credibility or corroboration. Then, there is failure to meet the one-year filing deadline, no failure of state protection, reasonably available internal relocation, and fundamentally changed country conditions.

That’s why if you’re considering a PSG claim, it’s always wise to have “Plan B.” The problem today, however, is that the Administration has restricted or limited many of the “Plans B.” For example, until recently, the number one “Plan B” was to request prosecutorial discretion (“PD”) from the Assistant Chief Counsel if the respondent had sympathetic humanitarian factors, a clean criminal record, and strong ties to the U.S. However, for all practical purposes, this Administration has eliminated PD.

Nevertheless, its always worthwhile to think about whether things like Wilberforce Act treatment for certain unaccompanied juveniles, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, “T” visas for trafficking victims, “U” visas for victims of crime, or benefits under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) might be realistic possibilities for your client.

E. A Few Practical Tips on PSG

I’m going to close this section by offering you a few practical tips on presenting PSG cases that will also tie into my next major section.

First, think “25 words or fewer.” Just like the old boxtop contests from my youth. There are few, if any, known examples of success using lengthy, convoluted social group definitions.

 

Second, remember folks, it isn’t “making sausages.” The definition that goes in must be the same one that comes out the other end. Social groups that “morph” during the hearing just have no chance.

 

Third, be prepared to explain how your proposed particular social group meets the current BIA criteria of immutability, particularity, and social distinction, formerly known as “social visibility.”

 

Fourth, make sure that your respondent is actually a member of the particular social group you propose. You would be surprised at the number of counsel who propose a particular social group definition and then fail to offer proof that their client actually fits within that group.

 

Fifth, as I just mentioned, check your particular social group for “circularity.”

Sixth, and finally, be prepared for an onslaught of other arguments against your case, the chief of which probably will be “no nexus.” Normally, the DHS will “pull out all the stops” to prevent the recognition of a new PSG.

IV. PRACTICAL TIPS FOR PRESENTING AN ASYLUM CASE IN IMMIGRATION COURT

You should all have received a copy of my comprehensive three-page treatise on asylum law entitled “Practical Tips For Presenting an Asylum Case In Immigration Court,” Feb. 2017 Revised Edition. I’m going to quickly take you through the fourteen practical tips outlined there.

My first tip is, “Read a Good Book.” My strong recommendation is the one that has always been at the top of the Immigration Court Best Seller List: Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, 2017 edition.

 

Specifically, I invite your attention to Chapter 1208, which contains the seeds of all winning theories of asylum law, past, present, and future. It will also give you gems like how to shift the burden of proof to the DHS and how to win your case even if your client does not presently have a well-founded fear of persecution.

 

Second, “Get Real.” The REAL ID Act, P.L. 109-13, 119 Stat. 231 (2005), deals with credibility and burden of proof issues in asylum and other cases and applies to applications “made” on or after May 11, 2005, which will be all of your cases. Read it and decide how it can help you and how you can respond to DHS arguments.

 

Third, “Know One When You See One.” The one-year filing requirement of section 208(a)(2)(B) of the INA bars asylum in some cases. Your burden of proof on the one-year filing issue is very high: “clear and convincing evidence.” Judicial review might be limited. But, there are exceptions. Read the statute and the regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 1208.4 to find out how the filing requirement works and what arguments might be made to preserve a late asylum application. Remember that the one-year requirement does not apply to withholding of removal under the INA or to CAT applications.

 

At the beginning of each asylum case, I asked the parties to identify the issues. Respondents’ attorneys invariably told me about past persecution, future persecution, nexus, gender-based persecution, exceptions to the one year filing deadline, weird social groups, and so forth. The issue they sometimes fail to identify is the one that’s always first on my list. What is it?

 

 

That’s right, credibility, is the key issue in almost all asylum litigation. So, my fourth rule is “Play To Tell the Truth.” You must understand what goes into making credibility determinations and why the role of the Immigration Judge is so critical. Often, adverse credibility determinations are difficult to overturn on appeal. It’s all about deference.

 

But, credible testimony might not be enough to win your case. That’s why my fifth rule is “Don’t Believe Everything You Read.” Both appellate and trial court decisions often recite rote quotations about asylum being granted solely on the basis of credible testimony.

However, to give your client the best chance of winning his or her asylum case in immigration Court, under the law applicable in most circuits, you’re likely to need a combination of credible testimony and reasonably available corroborating evidence. Read Matter of S-M-J-, 21 I&N Dec. 722 (BIA 1997), largely codified by REAL ID, and find out what it really takes to win an asylum case in most Immigration Court.

 

In this respect, you should remember my corollary sixth rule “Paper Your Case.” According to Fourth Circuit precedent, even a proper adverse credibility ruling against your client might not be enough for an Immigration Judge to deny the asylum claim. The Judge must still examine the record as a whole, including all of the documentation supporting the claim, to determine whether independent documentary evidence establishes eligibility for asylum. Read Camara v. Ashcroft, 378 F.3d 361 (4th Cir. 2004) and discover how the power of independent documentary evidence can overcome even a sustainable adverse credibility finding. Also, remember that the REAL ID Act directs Immigration Judges to consider “the totality of the circumstances, and all relevant factors.”

 

“Read Your Paper” is my seventh important rule. You and your client are responsible for all the documentation you present in your case. Nothing will give you nightmares faster than having a client present false or fraudulent documentation to the Immigration Court. In my experience, I’ve had very few attorneys able to dig out of that hole. So, don’t let this happen to you.

 

My eighth rule is “Pile it On.” Sometimes, as demonstrated in one of my very favorite cases Matter of O-Z- & I-Z-, 22 I&N Dec. 23 (BIA 1998), reaffirmed in Matter of L-K-, 23 I&N Dec. 677, 683 (BIA 2004), you will be able to take a series of events happening to your respondent, his or her family, or close associates, none of which individually perhaps rises to the level of persecution, and combine them to win for your client.

 

My ninth rule is “Don’t Get Caught by the Devil.” The devil is in the details. If you don’t find that devil, the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel almost certainly will, and you will burn. Also, make sure to put your client at ease by carefully explaining the process and by going over the direct and cross-examinations in advance. Remember the cultural and language barriers that can sometimes interfere with effective presentation of your case.

 

I found the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel in Arlington were all very nice folks. They were also smart, knowledgeable, well prepared, and ready to vigorously litigate their client’s positions. They handled more trials in a year than most litigators do in a lifetime. So, beware and be prepared. You would also be wise to contact the Assistant Chief Counsel in advance of any merits hearing to discuss ways of narrowing the issues and possible “Plans B.”

 

My tenth rule is “Know Your Geography.” Not all Immigration Courts and Circuit Courts of Appeals are located on the West Coast. The BIA certainly is not. You must know and deal with the law in the jurisdiction where your case actually is located, not in the one you might wish it were located.

 

For example, the Arlington Immigration Court is in Crystal City. That is in Virginia, which is not presently part of the Ninth Circuit.

 

This is something that I once had trouble with, coming to the Arlington Court from a job where the majority of asylum cases arose in the Ninth Circuit. But, I got over it, and so can you.

 

My eleventh rule is to “Get Physical.”   In defining persecution, some Circuits have emphasized “the infliction or threat of death, torture, or injury to one’s person or freedom.” See, e.g., Niang v. Gonzales, 492 F.3d 505 (4th Cir. 2007). While the Circuits and the BIA have also recognized non-physical threats and harm, your strongest case probably will be to emphasize the physical aspects of the harm where they exist. Mirisawo v. Holder, 599 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2010); Matter of T-Z-, 24 I & N Dec. 163 (BIA 2007).

 

I particularly recommend the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Crespin-Valladares v. Holder, 632 F.3d 117 (4th Cir. 2011), which found that the BIA erred in rejecting my conclusion that “unrebutted evidence of death threats against [the respondent] and his family members, combined with the MS-13’s penchant for extracting vengeance against cooperating witnesses, gave rise to a reasonable fear of future persecution.” In other words, I was right, and the BIA was wrong. But, who’s keeping track?

 

My twelfth rule is “Practice, Practice, Practice.” The Immigration Court Practice Manual, available online at the EOIR web site http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/vll/OCIJPracManual/ocij_page1.htmwas effective July 1, 2008, and replaced all prior local rules. All filings with the Immigration Court must comply with the deadlines and formats established in this Practice Manual. The Practice Manual has a very helpful index, and it covers just about everything you will ever want to know about practice before the Immigration Courts. It contains useful appendices that give you contact information and tell you how to format and cite documents for filing in Immigration Court. Best of all, it’s applicable nationwide, so you can use what you learn in all Immigration Courts.

 

My thirteenth, rule is “It’s Always Wise to Have ‘Plan B.’” As I have pointed out, asylum litigation has many variables and opportunities for a claim to “go south.” Therefore, it is prudent to have a “Plan B” (alternative) in mind.

 

Among the “Plans B” that regularly came up in Arlington were: prosecutorial discretion (“PD”), Special Rule Cancellation of Removal (“NACARA”), Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”), non-Lawful Permanent Resident Cancellation of Removal (“EOIR 42-B”), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”), Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) status, I-130 petition with a “stateside waiver” (“I-601A”), “Wilberforce Act” special processing for unaccompanied children (“UACs”), T nonimmigrant status (for certain human trafficking victims), and U nonimmigrant status (for certain victims of crime). In my experience, many, perhaps the majority, of the “happy outcome” asylum cases coming before me were resolved on a basis “OTA,” that is “other than asylum.”

 

But, unfortunately in my view, the “Plan B” world is rapidly changing. So, please listen very carefully to the caveat that comes next.

 

Fourteenth, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. As some have said “there’s a new Sheriff in town,” and he’s announced a “maximum immigration enforcement” program targeting anyonewho has had any run-in with the law, whether convicted or not. He also intends to detain all undocumented border crossers or applicants for admission at the border. So, you can expect morearrests, more detention (particularly in far-away, inconvenient locations like, for instance, Farmville, VA), more bond hearings, more credible and reasonable fear reviews, more pressure to move cases even faster, and an even higher stress level in Immigration Court.

 

The “Plans B” involving discretion on the part of the Assistant Chief Counsel, like PD, DACA, and stateside processing, and even waiving appeal from grants of relief, are likely to disappear in the near future, if they have not already. In many cases, litigating up through the BIA and into the Article III Federal Courts (where the judges are, of course, bound to follow the law but not necessarily to accept the President’s or the Attorney General’s interpretation of it) might become your best, and perhaps only, “Plan B.”

V. CONCLUSION

 

In conclusion, I have told you about the basic elements of the refugee definition and how it is used in adjudicating asylum cases. I have also discussed the requirements and the pros and cons of the PSG protected ground. And, I have shared with you some of my practical tips for presenting an asylum case in U.S. Immigration Court.

 

Obviously, I can’t make you an immigration litigation expert in in afternoon. But, I trust that I have given you the basic tools to effectively represent your clients in Immigration Court. I have also given you some sources that you can consult for relevant information in developing your litigation strategy and your case.

 

I encourage you to read my blog, immigrationcourtside.com, which covers many recent developments in the U.S. Immigration Courts. As you come up with victories, defeats, good ideas, appalling situations, or anything else you think should be made more widely available, please feel free to submit them to me for publication. I also welcome first-hand accounts of how the system is, or isn’t, working at the “retail level.”

 

Thanks again for joining the New Due Process Army and undertaking this critical mission on behalf of the U.S. Constitution and all it stands for! Thanks for what you are doing for America, our system of justice, and the most vulnerable individuals who depend on that system for due process and justice.

 

Thanks for listening, good luck, do great things, and Due Process Forever! I’d be pleased to answer any additional questions.

 

 

(10-30-17)

© Paul Wickham Schmidt 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

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PWS

10-30-17

 

 

 

 

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Asylum Experts Michelle Mendez & Swapna Reddy Challenge Gonzo’s Bogus Apocalyptic Smear Of U.S. Asylum Applicants!

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-asylum-sessions-immigration-1024-20171023-story.html

Michelle and Swapna write:

“What would you do if your brother was murdered, and your child had received death threats? How would you respond if you had been repeatedly raped, and your government did nothing to protect you?

These are the situations our clients have faced. They have traveled hundreds of miles to the United States to save their families’ lives. And they have done so legally, seeking asylum through our nation’s immigration courts.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called these families liars. He bemoaned the role of “dirty immigration lawyers” and described the U.S. asylum system as an “easy ticket” to entry.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When these families arrive in the United States they are held in private prisons. Young children and their mothers live in cells with strangers. Fathers and children over 18 are detained on their own. Few receive adequate medical care, and any legal help they obtain is largely provided by overworked nonprofit agency staff.

Despite these conditions, the families persevere. Children celebrate their first birthdays and take their first steps in detention. Spouses write love letters from their respective cells.

And for families who secure their release from detention — after establishing a “credible fear” of return — they want nothing more than to comply with our laws to avoid family separation once more.

Sessions claimed the federal government found a credible fear in 88 percent of cases, and said that any system with such a high passage rate means the system is “inherently flawed.”

But this reasoning is false. Each year, more than 90 percent of medical students pass their board exams. They do not pass because they cheat, or because the exams are inherently flawed. They pass because they are self-selected, having excelled despite years of challenges and setbacks.

The same is true of asylum seekers. Few would be willing to endure family separation and the incarceration of their child unless the stakes were life and death. Those who make it through the credible fear process are self-selected, with genuine fear of return.

Unfortunately, a credible fear interview is just the first stage in seeking asylum. And the government does little to explain to asylum seekers what they must do next.

. . . .

Asylum seekers have every incentive to comply with our laws. If they cannot win their asylum cases, they must live in the shadows, with no pathway to citizenship and little guarantee of avoiding deportation back to the danger they fled. They simply cannot navigate our dense, complex, and at times contradictory, immigration system on their own.

Michelle Mendez is Training and Legal Support Senior Attorney and Defending Vulnerable Populations Project Manager of Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. Swapna Reddy is Director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project at the Urban Justice Center, an Echoing Green Fellow and an Equal Justice Works Emerson Fellow.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

Folks like Michelle and Swapna are the “real American heroes” of our justice system, working tirelessly and for modest compensation to preserve the rights of vulnerable asylum seekers. We need more of them and less of Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and his malicious and ignorant attacks on asylum seekers and their already-limited due process and statutory rights.

PWS

10-22-17

 

READ ABOUT EL SALVADOR, ONE OF THE PLACES WHERE “GONZO & HIS GANG” WOULD LIKE TO SEND REFUGEES WITHOUT GIVING THEM DUE PROCESS AND A FAIR CHANCE TO PLEAD FOR THEIR LIVES!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/world/2016/10/28/el-salvadors-conflict-with-gangs-is-beginning-to-look-like-a-war/?tid=a_classic-iphone&utm_term=.66bd90942a8d

Fred Ramos reports for the Washington Post:

‘We see the police as terrorists’

In the next few weeks, four young men 16 to 24 years old were fatally shot by police during two incidents. Police on both occasions reported an “enfrentamiento,” or confrontation, in which gangsters fired on them. Relatives of the dead said that the officers killed the young men unprovoked.

As with much of the violence here, getting to the truth is difficult. Investigations are often cursory. Some residents said they are too afraid of the police to provide testimony. What is clear is many residents’ deep resentment of the security forces.

“We see the police as terrorists,” said an aunt of one of the four victims, 16-year-old Bryan Rodrigo Santos Arevalo.

The aunt, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing a fear of authorities, said that a witness who escaped told her that police had executed the teenager. The right side of Santos Arevalo’s face was blown off, morgue photos show.

If police were using lethal force, so were the gangs. On July 3, 2015, four local police officers were returning from a call when “they attacked us from both sides,” recalled a police supervisor who was present, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Gang members positioned on earthen mounds overlooking the road sprayed gunfire at the officers’ truck, he said. The police sped off, firing frantically, but the driver was hit in his left side. The supervisor was shot in the right knee.

“It’s a miracle that I am alive to tell this story,” the supervisor said.

Three days later, local police along with members of a San Salvador-based SWAT team shot and killed two members of the Tiny Malditos outside a farmhouse in Santa Teresa. The police reported taking gunfire on arrival. Morena Leiva de Silva, the mother of one of the dead, said a farmworker who was present told her that the officers shot the two gang members as they fled.

“They ran from the police because they were terrified,” she said. “They panicked.”

A truce ends

President Salvador Sánchez Cerén was a Marxist guerrilla in the 1980s. Now he is the one defending the state.

“Although some say we are at war, there is no other road,” Sánchez Cerén said in March.

The government of Sánchez Cerén’s predecessor, Mauricio Funes, had engineered a truce between major gangs, transferring their leaders into more lax prisons where they could coordinate with their followers. The homicide rate fell, although critics argued that the respite allowed the gangs to grow stronger.

On taking office in June 2014, Sánchez Cerén brought a swift end to the truce. His government transferred the leaders back to maximum-security lockups, banned visits and cut off cellphone access. He called up military reservists to join the fight against the gangs. The director of the national police announced that officers should feel free to use their weapons to protect themselves. New legislation made it harder to investigate police when they alleged self-defense.

Homicides shot up. Last year, police were responsible for an estimated 1,000 of the country’s 6,600 killings, a steep increase, experts say.

The gangs began targeting police, soldiers, prosecutors and their families in a way unseen. Gang members killed more than 60 police officers last year, nearly doubling the total the year before. Police have confiscated an increasing number of military-style assault rifles from gang members. The attorney general’s office recently accused one of the biggest gangs, Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, of planning to assemble a 500-man unit of trained gang members to attack security forces. Last fall, a car rigged with explosives detonated outside the Finance Ministry.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights warned in June that allegations of assassinations by El Salvador’s security forces are “intolerable and are likely to fuel even greater violence.”

The national human rights prosecutor’s office, an independent agency, has compiled a registry of nearly 100 cases of alleged assassinations by security forces or shadowy “extermination groups,” which often include off-duty police, since mid-2013. But the agency acknowledges that there may be many more.

Walter Gerardo Alegria, a deputy head of the office, said it wasn’t clear whether such killings were ordered by authorities. “However, from the quantity of cases that we have, one can assume that this is a systematic practice,” he said.

The director of the national police, Howard Cotto, said he couldn’t rule out that some officers may have taken part in summary executions, but he denied that such behavior was permitted.

“We are not willing to tolerate that under the guise of solving security problems we cover up for people who commit crimes or summary executions,” he said.

The campaign against gangs has been popular among many Salvadorans. But it may come at a terrible cost to this young democracy, said Hector Silva Avalos, who has written a book on the Salvadoran police.

“If between death squads, citizen squads, rough police officers, they kill enough gang members to actually diminish the territorial control of the gangs — then who’s going to be in charge?” he asked. “Police commanders with no respect for human rights?”

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This is only a small part of a lengthy article which is available at the above link.
This, not Gonzo’s bogus “Blame DACA Narrative” or his fabricated fraud narrative, is why women and children are fleeing from the Northern Triangle and are likely to continue to do so regardless of how much “deterrence” Gonzo & Gang throw at them. And, these folks have potentially legitimate claims that should be fully and impartially heard in Immigration Court with the assistance of counsel and full appeal rights. Even those who do not fit the “technical requirements” for legal protection under U.S. law might well have strong humanitarian claims for temporary refuge under Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) (which the last tow Administration ministrations have stubbornly refused to acknowledge) or prosecutorial discretion. We are hardly a “disinterested party” in the rampant violence that is now gripping Central America.
PWS
10-20-17