Has Retired U.S. Immigration Judge Wayne Iskra’s Famous “Two Taco Rule” For Material Support Scored A Comeback? — Recent Unpublished BIA Seems To Be “Channeling Iskra” — And, That’s A Good Thing!

My good friend and esteemed retired colleague Judge Wayne Iskra of the Arlington Immigration Court used to apply a basic common sense rule: handing over your lunch bag with a couple of tacos (or a ham sandwich) or the equivalent would not be considered “material” support. I don’t remember him ever getting reversed on it; perhaps nobody wanted to appeal. I also used it with success during my time in Arlington.

Now, it seems like a BIA panel is thinking along the same lines in an unpublished opinion written by Appellate Immigration Judge John Guendelsberger for a panel that also included Chairman/Chief Appellate Immigration Judge David Neal and Appellate Immigration Judge Molly Kendall Clark.

Read the entire, relatively short, opinion here.

BIA Dec. 5-18-17_Redacted

Seems that this is just the type of important issue on which the BIA should issue a precedent decision. I’m not sure that all BIA panels are handling this issue the same way.

Thanks to Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr at Cornell Law and Dan Kowalski over at LexisNexis for sending this my way.

PWS

05-30-17

 

NEW PRECEDENT: Applicant Bears Burden Of Showing Mandatory Denial Inapplicable: MATTER OF M-B-C-, 27 I&N Dec. 31 (BIA 2017)

https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/967306/download#31

BIA HEADNOTE:

“Where the record contains some evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could conclude that one or more grounds for mandatory denial of an application for relief may apply, the alien bears the burden under 8 C.F.R. § 1240.8(d) (2016) to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that such grounds do not apply.”

PANEL:  Appellate Immigration Judges Malphrus, Mullane, Liebowitz

OPINION BY:  Judge Mullane

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This was an unusual case, with lots of competing evidence on both sides. But, normally, this issue came up in routine NACARA or even TPS cases.

Here’s a more “normal”scenario.”  The respondent was a private in the El Salvaoran Army during the Civil War in the 1980s. The DHS introduces old country reports and excerpts from the “El Rescate Database” showing that the respondent’s unit was in the department where human rights abuses took place. That’s sufficient to shift the burden to the respondent. to prove he did not engage in persecution.

The respondent testifies that he performed routine duties around the base and was never involved on combat, never harmed any civilian, and never witnessed any civilian being harmed.

That’s the case! Now the Immigration Judge has to make a decision on that skimpy evidence.

Things to keep in mind:

!) The U.S. Government was supporting the Salvadoran military during the Civil War. Indeed, a number of the individuals that DHS now claims were “persecutors of others” received military training in the U.S. or from U.S. officers.

2) The INS and the Immigration Courts summarily rejected asylum claims from individuals who suffered severe human rights violations amounting to persecution inflicted by the Salvadoran Government, the Armed Forces, the Civil Patrol, and entities aligned with them, such as so-called “death squads.”

Victim or persecutor,

Friend or foe,

The U.S. system,

Is a tough go.

PWS

05-19-17

 

 

REUTERS: Mica Rosenberg Reports On Trump’s “Under The Radar” Plan To Bar “Freedom Fighters” & “Victims Of Terrorism” From The U.S.!

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-terrorism-exceptions-idUSKBN17N13C

Mica and Yegenah Torbati report:

“Now the Trump administration is debating whether to rescind the waivers that have allowed Raj, and tens of thousands of others, to immigrate to the United States in the past decade (See graphic on waivers: tmsnrt.rs/2oPssIo). Some immigration hardliners are concerned the exemptions could allow terrorists to slip into the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump directed the secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the attorney general, to consider abolishing the waivers in an executive order in March. That directive was overshadowed by the same order’s temporary ban on all refugees and on travelers from six mostly Muslim nations.

The bans on refugees and travel were challenged in lawsuits, and their implementation has been suspended pending full hearings in court. But the waiver review was not included in the court rulings, so that part of the order remains in effect.

Rules governing the waivers have been hammered out over the last decade with both Democratic and Republican support. But in recent years they have drawn fire from some conservative lawmakers, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was a senator.

A State Department official said this week the department is working with DHS to review the waivers and is “looking at actually pulling them back in accordance with the executive order.”

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to give details on the timing of the review or its likely outcome. The Department of Justice declined to comment.

KURDS, KAREN, HMONG

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Congress expanded the definition of who could be considered a terrorist and what constituted “material support” to terrorism in rules now known as the Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds.

Those changes ensnared people like Raj who were coerced or inadvertently provided support to terrorists, as well as members of persecuted ethnic groups that supported rebel organizations, and even U.S.-allied groups fighting against authoritarian regimes.

Without an exemption, members of Kurdish groups that battled Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq, Hmong groups who fought alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam, or some Cubans who fought Fidel Castro’s regime would not be allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Under the exemptions, U.S. authorities have the discretion to grant people residency in the United States after they have passed background checks and are found to pose no threat to national security.

Congress initially passed waivers to the terrorism bars in 2007 with bipartisan support, and in the years that followed both the Bush and Obama administrations added additional groups and circumstances to the exemptions.

“PHANTOM PROBLEM”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has granted nearly 22,000 TRIG exemptions in total over the last decade, according to the latest data available, which goes through September 2016. The State Department also grants TRIG exemptions, but a spokesman could not provide data on how many.

Refugees from Myanmar are the largest single group of beneficiaries to date of TRIG exemptions granted by USCIS, with more than 6,700 waivers.

The wave of Myanmar refugees dates to 2006, when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled that thousands of members of the Karen ethnic group, then living in a camp in Thailand, could resettle in the United States, even if they had supported the political wing of an armed group that had fought the country’s military regime.

One high-profile supporter of scrapping the waivers is House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia whose staffers were instrumental in drafting Trump’s travel ban. Goodlatte told Reuters he was “pleased that the Trump Administration is reviewing the dangerous policy.”

Groups favoring stricter immigration laws have also applauded the review. Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations at NumbersUSA, called the waivers “a potential security risk.”

“I personally don’t think that a bureaucrat should be deciding how much support for terrorism is enough to be barred,” she said.

A USCIS spokeswoman, when asked if a recipient of an exemption had ever been involved in a terrorism-related case after arriving in the United States, referred Reuters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said it was a question for the State Department to answer.

“I don’t know of any cases where beneficiaries of exemptions have gotten into trouble after arriving,” the State Department official said, noting that the department does not typically track people after they arrive in the United States.

Trump’s order to review the waivers “is another example of an attempt to address a non-existent phantom problem,” said Eric Schwartz, who served in the State Department during the Obama administration.

Schwartz and immigration advocates say the waivers are granted after lengthy review and are extremely difficult to get.

“These are case-by-case exemptions for people who represent no threat to the United States but rather have been caught in the most unfortunate of circumstances,” said Schwartz.

For Raj, the initial ruling that his ransom payment supported a terrorist group led to more than two years in U.S. immigration detention, followed by more years of electronic monitoring. His waiver allowed him to bring his wife to the United States after nine years apart. She now studies nursing.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington; Additional reporting by Julia Edwards in Washington and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Editing by Sue Horton and Ross Colvin)”

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

Just to illustrate the lunacy of the already over-broad definition of “terrorist,” all of our “founding fathers” would be “terrorists” under this definition.

I heard a number of so-called”terrorist cases” over my time as a trial judge at the Arlington Immigration Court. A few of the folks on the detained docket (during the years I was assigned to that docket) might have potentially been dangerous.

But, most so-called “terrorists” were basically harmless individuals who actually appeared on my non-detained docket even during the “last years” when I was handling the “non-priority docket” (which was actually the overwhelming majority of cases at Arlington).

Most were folks who had supposedly provided “material support” like giving a ride to a rebel who commandeered the respondent’s car at gun point, carrying supply bags a few miles for guerrillas under threat of death, allowing rebels to ransack the family kitchen at gunpoint (sometimes called the “taco rule”), or giving money to a dissident group that was actually being supported by the U.S. in a battle against an oppressive government” (otherwise referred to as “freedom fighters”).

Most of them had lived in the U.S. for years without incident and were stunned to find out that being a victim of terrorism or helping a dissident group that the U.S. supported could be a bar to immigration. For example, anyone assisting rebels in the fight against the Assad Government or against ISIS would be considered a “terrorist” by our definition. And, ask yourself, why would any “real” terrorist have appeared on my non-detained, non-priority docket?

Of course, as a mere Immigration Judge I could not grant the “waiver” discussed in Mica’s article. But, I was required to make essentially an “advisory holding” that “but for” the “terrorist bar” I would have granted the respondent’s application.

I am aware that some of the cases I handled were referred to USCIS by the Office of Chief Counsel (the respondent can’t initiate the waiver process on her or his own) and eventually granted. Thereafter, I “vacated” on “joint motion” the removal order I had previously entered against the respondent. The whole process seemed convoluted.

Just another example of how the xenophobes in the Trump Administration are wasting time and taxpayer money making an already bad situation even worse.

A further example of how pointless the “terrorist bar” is in it’s current form: many of the individuals covered by the bar would also be entitled to “Deferral of Removal” under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The “terrorist bar” can’t be applied to “CAT deferral.” Therefore, individuals who are denied asylum but qualify for CAT deferral can’t be removed from the country. In effect, all that the terrorist bar does in such cases is keep individuals who are no threat to the U.S. in “limbo,” rather than allowing them to regularize their immigration status.

PWS

04-21-17