THE HILL: N. RAPPAPORT SAYS THAT EXPEDITED REMOVAL IS THE ANSWER TO IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOGS – I DISAGREE!

http://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/360139-our-immigration-courts-are-drowning-expedited-removal-can-bring-relief

Nolan writes:

“Trump has acknowledged that the immigration court’s enormous backlog cripples his ability to remove illegal immigrants in a timely manner, but his plan to deal with the backlog isn’t going to work.

This chart from the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) FY2016 Statistics Yearbook shows that the immigration judges (IJs) have not been making any progress on reducing the backlog.

At a recent Center for Immigration Studies panel discussion on the backlog, Judge Larry Burman said, “I cannot give you a merits hearing on my docket unless I take another case off. My docket is full through 2020, and I was instructed by my assistant chief immigration judge not to set any cases past 2020.”

By the end of September 2016, the backlog was up to 516,031 cases. A year later, it had grown to 629,051.

. . . .

If Trump relies on hiring more IJs to deal with the backlog crisis, his enforcement program will be a dismal failure.

His only viable alternative is to reduce the size of the immigration court’s docket, which he can do by promulgating regulations making IJ hearings unavailable to aliens whose cases can be handled in expedited removal proceedings.

He seems to have had this in mind when he directed DHS to use expedited removal proceedings to the full extent authorized by law, which would include most of the undocumented aliens in the United States who were not lawfully admitted, unless they can establish that they have been here for two years.

In expedited removal proceedings, which are conducted by immigration officers, aliens can be deported without IJ hearings unless they have a credible fear of persecution. If they establish a credible fear of persecution, they are entitled to an asylum hearing before an IJ.

But would the courts stop him?”

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Go on over to The Hill at the link to read Nolan’s complete article.

Expedited removal is the wrong solution to the Immigration Court backlog!

  • As I have noted in recent blogs, recent studies show that Immigration Court hearings area already falling substantially short of providing real due process because of lack of available counsel and overuse of immigration detention. Expedited removal would aggravate that problem tenfold.
  • Expedited removal couldn’t begin to solve the current backlog problems because the vast majority of the estimated 11 million individuals already here have been here for more than two years and can prove it, most from Government records. Indeed, I’d wager that the vast majority of individuals in Removal Proceedings in U.S. Immigration Court have had their cases pending for two or more years.
  • The problems in Immigration Court were caused by “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” by the last three Administrations emanating from undue political influence from the Department of Justice, DHS, and the White House. Only an independent Immigration Court that places control of the dockets in individual Immigration Judges, where it belongs, can address those problems.
  • The answer to hiring problems resulting from poor management and political hiring from the DOJ is certainly not to “get rid of” any existing U.S. Immigration Judges. Whether the hiring was done properly or not, there is no reason to believe that any of the currently sitting local U.S. Immigration Judges did anything wrong or participated in the hiring process other than by applying for the jobs. The system needs all the experienced judges it currently has.
  • The problem of inconsistency will only be solved by having an independent BIA that acts in the manner of an independent appellate court, cracking down on those judges who are not correctly applying legal standards. That’s how all other court systems address consistency issues — through precedent and independent appellate review. Numerous examples have been documented of Immigration Judges in courts like Atlanta, Stewart, and Charlotte, to name three of the most notorious ones, improperly denying asylum claims and mistreating asylum applicants. The BIA has failed to function in a proper, independent manner ever since the “Ashcroft Purge.” The only way to get it doing its job is by creating true judicial independence.
  • “Haste makes waste” is never the right solution! It’s been done in the past and each time has resulted in increased backlogs and, more importantly, serious lapses in due process.
  • The docket does need to be trimmed. The Obama Administration was at least starting the process by a more widespread use of prosecutorial discretion or “PD” as in all other major law enforcement prosecutorial offices. Most of the individuals currently in the country without status are assets to the country, who have built up substantial equities, and do not belong in removal proceedings. No system can function with the type of unregulated, irrational, “gonzo” enforcement this Administration is pursuing.
  • The reasonable solution is to do what is necessary to build a well-functioning system that provides due process efficiently, as it is supposed to do. The elements are reasonable access to lawyers for everyone in proceedings, reducing expensive, wasteful, and fundamentally unfair use of detention, better merit hiring and training procedures for Immigration Judges, modern technology, better use of prosecutorial discretion by the DHS, legislation to grant legal status to law-abiding productive individuals currently present in the US without status, and a truly independent judicial system that can develop in the way judicial systems are supposed to — without political meddling and without more “haste makes waste” schemes like “expedited removal!”

PWS

11-14-17

SURPRISE: TO DATE, JEFF SESSIONS IS APPOINTING A MORE DIVERSE AND BALANCED IMMIGRATION JUDICIARY!

https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/pages/attachments/2017/11/06/ijinvestitures_11062017.pdf

In what I would consider a pleasant surprise, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to be appointing a more diverse and balanced group of U.S. Immigration Judges than his immediate predecessors.

As shown at the above link to the latest official announcement of judicial appointments, five of the seven newly appointed U.S. Immigration Judges reflect expertise developed outside the prosecutorial role. This is at least the second group of Sessions’s appointees to reflect such a diversity of backgrounds.

By contract, the Obama Administration drew nearly 90% of its appointees to the Immigration Bench from government prosecutorial backgrounds. Prosecutors of course should be a significant source of judicial appointments. But, they should not be the “sole source” as was the case prior to the creation of EOIR and a situation EOIR was returning to during the Bush and Obama Administrations.

A well-qualified, well-balanced, diverse Immigration Bench can only help the Immigration Courts in achieving Due Process. It also creates a positive and intellectually stimulating environment for the individual judges. I always learned something from my colleagues whose experiences and approaches differed from mine. Sometimes it spurred me to rethink an approach or position. Other times my reexamination convinced me I was on the right track. Either way, looking at other ways of analyzing common problems is good for sitting judges.

Congrats to all of the new Immigration Judges! And, congrats to Attorney General Sessions for looking beyond “the usual suspects” for folks who bring a variety of professional  backgrounds and experiences to the Immigration Bench!

PWS

11-08-17

 

DOJ PLANS TO CUT U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOG IN HALF BY 2020 — CONTINUES TO PRESS BOGUS CLAIM THAT BACKLOGS DRIVEN BY PRIVATE ATTORNEYS — THE TRUTH: BACKLOGS DRIVEN PRIMARILY BY POOR DECISIONS BY CONGRESS (E.G., USG SHUTDOWN) & “AIMLESS DOCKET RESHUFFLING” BY THE DOJ OVER THE PAST THREE ADMINISTRATIONS, INCLUDING THIS ONE!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/doj-details-plan-to-slash-immigration-court-backlog/2017/11/03/03fcef34-c0a0-11e7-959c-fe2b598d8c00_story.html

Maria Sacchetti reports in the Washington Post:

“The Department of Justice said Friday it is aiming to slash the massive immigration court backlog in half by 2020 by adding judges, upgrading technology and refusing to tolerate repeated delays in deportation cases.

Officials, who briefed reporters on condition that they not be identified by name, said the effort is part of the Trump administration’s broad plan to more efficiently handle cases of undocumented immigrants, who number 11 million nationwide.

The administration has reversed Obama-era policies that allowed prosecutors to indefinitely postpone low-priority cases, which the Justice Department officials said allowed some immigrants to delay “inevitable” deportations. In other cases, they said, immigrants who deserved to win their cases were delayed for years because of the backlog.

The immigration court backlog has tripled since 2009, the year former president Obama took office, to more than 630,000 cases in October.

“That is what this administration is committed to, getting this done right, ensuring that we’re never in this place again,” a Justice Department official said. “Really and truly, when you look at the numbers . . . it reflects the fact that the last administration likely wasn’t as committed to ensuring that the system worked the way that Congress intended it to.”

The agency, which oversees the administrative immigration courts, said it plans to hire new immigration judges, use technology such as videoconferencing, and increase judges’ productivity by setting case-completion guidelines, though officials would not give details.

The department also will have a “no dark courtrooms” policy, the officials said, explaining that there are at least 100 courtrooms nationwide that are empty every Friday because of judges’ alternate work schedules. The Justice Department is tapping retired judges to fill those courts.

The immigration court overhaul comes as the Trump administration is carrying out policies that could generate even more cases in coming months. Arrests and deportations from the interior of the United States are rising sharply, and the Trump administration has ended Obama-era protections for some undocumented immigrants, including 690,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

By Monday, the Trump administration is also expected to say if it will renew temporary protected status for thousands of longtime immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua whose permits expire next year.

The Justice Department officials said they are no longer widely using certain protections for undocumented immigrants, including a tool known as prosecutorial discretion that allowed the government to set aside low-priority deportation cases.

DOJ officials criticized immigration lawyers, saying they “have purposely used tactics designed to delay” immigration cases. As of 2012, the officials said, there were an average of four continuances for each case before the court.

Gregory Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the administration’s plan to cut the backlog would “undermine judicial independence” in the immigration courts.

“This administration has been extremely hostile toward the judiciary and the independence of immigration judges, as well as other judges,” Chen said.

Speeding up cases depends partly on congressional funding. It also rests partly on the actions of immigration judges, who have expressed concerns about due process for immigrants, many of whom are facing deportation to some of the world’s most violent countries. Immigrants are not entitled to a government-appointed lawyer in these courts and often handle cases on their own.

The Justice officials would not comment on reports that they will impose case-completion quotas on judges, which raised an outcry from the judges’ union. But the officials said they would give judges clear standards to complete cases and add more supervisors.

Officials say they are already seeing results from efforts this year to improve efficiency. From February to September, judges ordered 78,767 people to leave the country, a 33 percent jump over the same period in 2016. The total number of final decisions, which includes some immigrants who won their cases, is 100,921.”

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THE GOOD:

  • Using retired U.S. Immigration Judges to fill in while Immigration Judges are on leave or otherwise scheduled to be out of court is a good idea. Indeed, the National Association of Immigration Judges (“NAIJ”) has been pushing this idea since the Clinton Administration with no results until now. Additionally, finally taking advantage of the available “Phased Retirement Options” for the the many Immigration Judges nearing retirement could also be helpful.
  • Over time, hiring additional Immigration Judges could be helpful, at least in theory. But, that depends on whether the hiring is done on a merit basis, the new judges are properly trained, and they have the space, equipment, and support staff to function. The DOJ/EOIR’s past record on accomplishing such initiatives has been beyond abysmal. So, it’s just as likely that additional hiring will harm the Immigraton Courts’ functioning as it is that it will help.

THE BAD:

  • “Productivity standards” are totally inappropriate for an independent judiciary. They are almost certain to infringe on due process by turning judges into “assembly line workers.”  Moreover, if hiring is done properly, judges should be self-motivated professionals who don’t need “Micky Mouse performance evaluations” to function. While it might be helpful to have some “periodic peer review” involving input from those appearing before the courts and judges of courts reviewing the judges’ work, such as takes place in some other independent judicial systems, that clearly isn’t they type of system this Administration has in mind.
  • More use of Televideo is problematic. In person hearings are definitely better for delivering due process. The EOIR Televideo equipment tends to be marginal from a technology standpoint. “Pushing the envelope” on Televideo could well force the Article IIIs to finally face up and hold at least some applications of this process unconstitutional.
  • More “Supervisory Judges” are totally unnecessary and a waste of resources. In the “EOIR World,” Supervisory Judges often don’t hear cases. Moreover, as noted previously, professional judges need little, if any, real “supervision.” The system might benefit from having local Chief Judges (“first among equals”), like in other independent judicial systems, who can address administrative issues with the Court Administrator and the public, But, judges don’t need supervision unless the wrong individuals are being selected as judges. And, as in the U.S. District Courts, local Chief Judges should carry meaningful case loads.
  • Every other court system in the U.S., particularly the U.S. District Courts, rely on heavy doses of “Prosecutorial Discretion” (“PD”) by government prosecutors to operate. By eliminating PD from the DHS Chief Counsels, then touting their misguided actions, this Administration has  guaranteed the ultimate failure of any backlog reduction plan. Moreover, this stupid action reduces the status of the DHS Assistant Chief Counsels. There is no other system I’m aware of where the enforcement officials (“the cops”) rather than professional prosecutors make the decisions as to which cases to prosecute. PD and sensible use of always limited docket time is part of the solution, not the problem, in the Immigration Courts.

THE UGLY:

  • The DOJ and EOIR continue to perpetuate the myth that private attorneys are responsible for the backlogs. No, the backlogs are primarily the result of Congressional negligence multiplied by improper politically motived docket manipulation and reschuffling to meet DHS enforcement priorities by the last three Administrations, including this one! This Administration was responsible for unnecessarily “Dark Courtrooms” earlier this year in New York and other heavily backlogged Immigration Courts.
  • Although not highlighted in this article, EOIR Acting Director James McHenry recently admitted during Congressional testimony that EOIR has been working on e-filing for 16 years without achieving any results! Thats incredible! McHenry promised a “Pilot Program” in 2018 with no telling when the system will actually be operational. And DOJ/EOIR has a well-established record of problematic and highly disruptive “technology rollouts.”

THE INCREDIBLE:

  • As usual, the DOJ/EOIR “numbers” don’t add up. EOIR “touts” compleating approximately 100,000 cases in the 7-month period ending on August 31, 2017. That’s on a pace to complete fewer than 200,000 cases for a fiscal year. But, EOIR receives an average of at least 300,000 new cases each year (even without some of the “Gonzo” Enforcement by the Trump DHS).  So, EOIR would have to “pick up the pace” considerably just to keep the backlogs from growing (something EOIR hasn’t done since before 2012). Not surprisingly, TRAC and others show continually increasing backlogs despite having more judges on board. To cut the backlog from 640,000 to 320,000 (50%) by 2020, the courts would have to produce an additional 160,000 annual completions in 2018 and 2019! That, in turn, would require completing a total of at least 460,000 cases in each of those years. That’s an increase of 230% over the rate touted by DOJ/EOIR in the Post article. Not going to happen, particularly since we’re already more than one month into FY 2018 and Congress has yet to authorize or appropriate the additional resources the DOJ wants!

WHAT’S CLEAR:

  • The DOJ hocus pocus, fake numbers, unrealistic plans, political scheming, cover-ups, blame shifting, and gross mismanagement of the U.S. Immigration Courts must end!
  • Unless and until Congress creates an independent, professionally managed Article I Immigration Court, any additional resources thrown into the current Circus being presided over by Jeff Sessions’s DOJ would be wasted.

PWS

11-04-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WASHPOST: TRUMP’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT WHITE NATIONALIST HYSTERIA & UNJUSTIFIED ATTACKS ON OTHERS DIMINISHES OUR COUNTRY AND MAKES US LESS SAFE!

Three Editorials in today’s Washington Post emphasize the extremely counterproductive nature of Trump’s response to the NY terrorist attack.

First, on his inappropriate attempt to blame immigrants for the incident:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-response-to-the-new-york-attack-was-downright-dispiriting/2017/11/01/00558930-bf43-11e7-8444-a0d4f04b89eb_story.html?utm_term=.133a8ef49c1b

“IN LOWER MANHATTAN on Tuesday, not far from the memorial to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, eight people were killed and 12 injured when a man espousing fidelity to the Islamic State drove a rented pickup down a busy bike path along the Hudson River. “It was gruesome. It was grisly. It was surreal,” one witness said of bicyclists and pedestrians being mowed down. The attack on innocent people enjoying a fine autumn day was a chilling reminder of the persistent threat posed to the United States by Islamist extremists — and their ingenuity in finding ways to commit murder.

Some small comfort can be taken in the fact that in the 16 years since the fall of the twin towers, improvements in protecting the homeland and fighting terrorism abroad have lessened the terrorists’ strength to strike and improved our ability to respond. The quick actions of police and other first responders during Tuesday’s tragedy should be applauded. So must the resilience and strength of the people of New York City, who made clear they will not be cowed by fear.

Far less inspiring — indeed, downright dispiriting — was the reaction of President Trump. In a series of tweets that apparently were informed (a word we use loosely) by his viewing of “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump went on a harangue about immigration and attacked Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). On Wednesday, Mr. Trump signaled he might upend the judicial process by declaring the suspected attacker an enemy combatant to be shipped off to the Guantanamo Bay prison; federal terrorism charges filed against him later in the day likely would foreclose that from happening. Note that the White House wouldn’t discuss gun control after last month’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, on the grounds that it would politicize a tragedy, but it had no problem launching partisan attacks following a terrorist strike that ought to unify all Americans. Note also, as The Post’s Philip Bump pointed out, that Mr. Trump is quick to jump to conclusions when there are incidents involving immigrants but is far more circumspect when nonimmigrants are involved.

What’s really needed from the Trump administration is not blame-shifting but a serious attempt to investigate and learn from this latest attack. Were others involved or aware of the alleged plans dating back a year that went into the attack? Are authorities right in their initial assessment that the suspect became “radicalized domestically” while living in the United States? Were signals missed when he appeared on the radar of law enforcement in connection with the investigations of other suspects? The 29-year-old, authorities said, allegedly “followed almost exactly to a T” instructions that the Islamic State has put out on its social-media channels on how to carry out attacks. So what can be done to detect and deter other would-be followers?

Among those killed Tuesday were five Argentines who were part of a group of school friends who traveled to New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. It was their dream trip to a city known for being open and generous and diverse. Those are the traits that make America great; to undermine them in response to Tuesday’s attack only plays into the hands of terrorists.”

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

Second, the Editorial Board responds to Trump’s attempt to blame Senator Chuck Schumer of New York for the attack:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/for-trump-new-yorks-tragedy-means-a-new-attack-on-immigration/2017/11/01/8ffa0940-bf38-11e7-97d9-bdab5a0ab381_story.html?utm_term=.ead2a22ecd7d

“PRESIDENT TRUMP, ever prone to seek out scapegoats, fastened on a new target in the wake of the terrorist attack in New York: the state’s senior Democratic senator, along with a 27-year-old visa program that offers applicants from dozens of countries a shot at immigrating to the United States.

Mr. Trump singled out Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who, in 1990, sponsored the diversity visa program, through which the alleged attacker in New York, Sayfullo Saipov, is reported to have immigrated to the United States from his native Uzbekistan. In a tweet, the president derided the program as “a Chuck Schumer beauty.”

Never mind that Mr. Schumer’s legislation establishing the program attracted bipartisan support; or that it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican; or even that Mr. Schumer himself unsuccessfully bargained to end the program, in 2013, in return for a bill granting legal residence to millions of undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Neither the facts nor the normal political imperative to avoid partisanship in the wake of a terrorist attack appeared to move Mr. Trump.

His tweet made it appear that his overriding interest in an assault allegedly backed by the Islamic State is to use it to assail immigration — in this instance, a legal program whose beneficiaries represent a speck in the overall number of immigrants. Managed by the State Department since 1995, the program now grants up to 50,000 visas annually, via a random lottery, to citizens of dozens of countries who would otherwise be mostly overlooked in the annual influx of green-card recipients. In recent years, many of the winners have been from Africa and Eastern Europe.

Having reaped political advantage as a candidate in vilifying illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has set his sights in office on legal migrants, including refugees, from a handful of mostly Muslim countries, whom he’d like Americans to see as an undifferentiated mass of potentially violent interlopers. Gradually, he is chipping away at what was once a national consensus that immigrants are a critical source of vitality, invention and international appeal.

Like almost any immigration program, the diversity visa lottery is imperfect and susceptible to abuse. The fortunate winners, who represent less than 1 percent of those who have applied annually in recent years, are not uniformly equipped to thrive in this country; many lack an education beyond high school. As Mr. Saipov may turn out to prove, even the extensive vetting required of all who immigrate through the program does not provide an ironclad guarantee that it is impervious to applicants who might seek to harm the United States.

The lottery program might be improved. Still, the fact that more than 11 million people applied for it in fiscal 2016 reflects the magnetic appeal the United States continues to exert around the world. Satisfying a small fraction of that demand, through the lottery or some other legal means, is a powerful tool of public diplomacy in countries whose citizens might otherwise have no hope of coming here.”

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Third, Jennifer Rubin (“JRUBE”) comments on Trump’s “mindless,” totally inappropriate, attack on our justice system (in other words, on our Constitution):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/11/02/trumps-mindless-insult-to-the-american-judicial-system/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.6be7fbcdabb0

“Asked about the suspect Wednesday, President Trump called him an “animal.” Prompted to say whether he thought Saipov should be sent to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Trump said, sure, he’d consider it. Later, at Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said flatly that the White House considered the suspect an “enemy combatant.”

The president also said yesterday that the American justice system (presumably including his own Justice Department) is a “joke” and a “laughingstock.” He further opined, “We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” Trump said. (Terrorists are subject to the death penalty, so it’s unclear what he had in mind.) “They’ll go through court for years … We need quick justice, and we need strong justice,” he said.

Thankfully, the Justice Department, like the Pentagon, has learned when to ignore Trump. On Wednesday, Saipov was charged in federal court. By Thursday morning, Trump was backing off his support for sending Saipov to Guantanamo. Once again, the ignorant president shot from the hip and had to creep back to reality.

Just how harmful were Trump’s statements? It is reprehensible for the president to defame our justice system, which is not a “joke” nor a “laughingstock” but the envy of the world. Moreover, in the terrorist context, it has proved remarkably efficient in trying and convicting terrorists, and then handing out maximum punishments. The surviving Boston Marathon bombing defendant was convicted in just this way and sentenced to death.

. . . .

Based on today’s tweet, we were right to assume that neither Trump nor Sanders had any idea what he/she was talking about (always a good assumption). We will watch with pride as American justice takes its course — and with horror as Trump continues to wreck havoc from the Oval Office.”

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Having spent a professional lifetime working on immigration and refugee issues, I can confirm that Trump and his GOP “restrictionist cronies” like Sessions, Miller, and Bannon have managed to transform what used to be “a national consensus that immigrants [and particularly refugees] are a critical source of vitality, invention and international appeal” into a highly partisan and racially-charged attack on the national origins and futures of some of our most productive citizens and residents — those who far more than Trump or his cronies are likely to help us in building a better, safer future for all Americans.

Having worked on all sides of our U.S. Justice System, served as an administrative judge on the trial and appellate levels for more than 21 years, listened to and/or read thousands of accounts of what made people leave their “home countries,” and studied in detail the reasons why some failing countries are “senders” of talented migrants and others, like the U.S., are fortunate enough to be on the “receiving” end, I can say unequivocally that the fairness of our justice system and the overall honsety and integrity of civil servants in the U.S. Government are the primary differences between the “sending” and “receiving” countries, like ours.

As I have observed before, Trump and his cronies are launching what is basically a “Third-World autocratic attack” on our Constitution and our democratic institutions. If they succeed, the immigration “problem” might eventually be “solved” because nobody will want to come here any more. How many people risked their lives trying to get into the former Soviet Union?
Donald Trump, his cronies, and his enablers are and will remain a much greater threat to our safety and Constitutional institutions than any foreign terrorist could ever be. We ignore his dangerous and fundamentally un-American rants at our own peril!
PWS
11-02-17

 

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

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

October 22 at 6:39 PM

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

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

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

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Read the complete editorial at the link.

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

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

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

PWS

10-23-17

 

MIMI SWARTZ IN THE NY TIMES: Anti-Latino Racism Drives Texas To Pull Up The Welcome Mat For Some Of Its Most Productive Residents!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/opinion/texas-immigration-policy.html

Swartz writes:

“A decline in emergency room visits and calls to the police isn’t good news; people are just afraid to ask for help. A domestic abuser will threaten to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement if his spouse threatens to call the cops. A social worker at Las Americas, a public high school for immigrants in Houston, told me despair has set in. Instead of helping families cope with living in the nation’s fourth-largest city, she helps them plan for “when you are deported how can you stay alive the longest.” The students tell her: “Nobody wants me. I have no home.”

They are not wrong; the point of the federal and state legislation is to make Texas so uncomfortable for the undocumented that they move on. I suppose this makes sense if, say, you are constantly faced with competition from the far right, which every Republican, including Gov. Greg Abbott, is. Or if you have seen the growing Latino majority in Texas and know that it isn’t securely nestled in the Republican fold.

But it doesn’t make sense if you are looking at a state whose work force was shrinking even before the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. The people who came to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina aren’t feeling the love here. Why should they?

“There are 47 other states that would love to see Texans fall on their butts,” Stan Marek, who has been in construction for years here, told me. Unless we have fair and sane immigration reform, like the “ID and Tax” plan many business leaders here support because it offers fair wages and work-visa status, our immigrants will vote with their feet, and businesses will follow.

That’s the price for trading a welcome mat for an ankle bracelet.

Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, is a contributing opinion writer.”

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Get the full story at the link.

A microcosm of the bias-driven stupidity of the whole Trump-GOP Restrictionist “gonzo” immigration enforcement program. What would really be fitting is if the loss of immigrant population and the businesses that depend on them eventually cost Texas some of those extra Congressional seats that they swiped from the Northeast as a result of undocumented residents and then proceeded to gerrymander to “lock out” Latinos from getting their “fair share of the pie.” Not to mention that the anti-Latino bias in the Texas GOP is in derogation of Supreme Court precedent, which holds that even those state residents without legal status or otherwise ineligible to vote, are entitled to have their interests represented by their legislators (hence the rationale for allowing extra representatives for undocumented population). “Fat chance” in Texas!  The Texas GOP routinely ignores the interests its Latino U.S. citizens as well as its Latino non-citizen residents.

PWS

10-22-17

U.S. IMMIGRATON JUDGES: QUOTAS WILL SPELL THE END OF DUE PROCESS IN IMMIGRATION COURT!

HERE ARE TWO POSITION PAPERS PREPARED BY THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF IMMIGRATION JUDGES (“NAIJ”) THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING ORGANIZATION THAT REPRESENTS ALL U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES  (FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a Retired Member of the NAIJ)

NAIJ HAS GRAVE CONCERNS REGARDING IMPLEMENTATION OF QUOTAS ON IMMIGRATION JUDGE PERFORMANCE REVIEWS, October 18, 2017

“The imposition of quotas or deadlines on judges can impede justice and due process. For example, a respondent must be given a “reasonable opportunity” to examine and present evidence. Section 240(b) (4) (B) of the Act. Given that most respondents do not speak English as their primary language and much evidence has to be obtained from other countries, imposing a time frame for completion of cases interferes with a judge’s ability to assure that a respondent’s rights are respected.

Not only will individuals who appear in removal proceedings potentially suffer adverse consequences, but also the public’s interest in a fair, impartial and transparent tribunal will be jeopardized by implementation of such standards.

THE SOLUTION

While it cannot be denied that additional resources are desperately needed immediately, resources alone cannot solve the persistent problems facing our Immigration Courts. The problems highlighted by the response to the recent “surge” underscores the need to remove the Immigration Court from the political sphere of a law enforcement agency and assure its judicial independence. Structural reform can no longer be put on the back burner. Since the 1981 Select Commission on Immigration, the idea of creating an Article I court, similar to the U.S. Tax Court, has been advanced.xvi In the intervening years, a strong consensus has formed supporting this structural change.xvii For years experts debated the wisdom of far-reaching restructuring of the Immigration Court system. Now “[m]ost immigration judges and attorneys agree the long term solution to the problem is to restructure the immigration court

system….” xviii

The time has come to undertake structural reform of the Immigration Courts. It is apparent that until far-reaching changes are made, the problems which have plagued our tribunals for decades will persist. For years NAIJ has advocated establishment of an Article I court. We cannot expect a different outcome unless we change our approach to the persistent problems facing our court system. Acting now will be cost effective and will improve the speed, efficiency and fairness of the process we afford to the public we serve. Our tribunals are often the only face of the United States justice system that these foreign born individuals experience, and it must properly reflect the principles upon which our country was founded. Action is needed now on this urgent priority for the Immigration Courts. It is time to stop the cycle of overlooking this important component of the immigration enforcement system – it will be a positive step for enforcement, due process and humanitarian treatment of all respondents in our proceedings.

6

NAIJ CONCERNS RE QUOTAS

AILA Doc. No 17102062.  (Posted 10/20/17)

We realize that immediate action is needed, and that a structural overhaul and creation of an Article I Court, while the best and only durable solution, may not be feasible right now. However, Congress can act easily and swiftly resolve this problem through a simple amendment to the civil service statute on performance reviews. . Recognizing that performance evaluations are antithetical to judicial independence, Congress exempted Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from performance appraisals and ratings by including them in the list of occupations exempt from performance reviews in 5 U.S.C. § 4301(2)(D). This provision lists ALJs as one of eight categories (A through H) of employees who are excluded from the requirement of performance appraisals and ratings.xix To provide that same exemption to Immigration Judges, all that would be needed is an amendment to 5 U.S.C. § 4301(2) which would add a new paragraph (I) listing Immigration Judges in that list of exempt employees.

We urge you to take this important step to protect judicial independence at the Immigration Courts by enacting legislation as described above.

Thank you.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, CONTACT

THE HONORABLE A. ASHLEY TABADDOR, PRESIDENT NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF IMMIGRATION JUDGES C/o Immigration Court
606 S. Olive Street, 15th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90014 (310)709-3580 ashleytabaddor@gmail.com www.naij-usa.org

Read the complete memo at this link:

NAIJ2

 

Threat to Due Process and Judicial Independence Caused by Performance Quotas on Immigration Judges

“15) If EOIR is successful in tying case completion quotas to judge performance evaluations, it could be the death knell for judicial independence in the Immigration Courts. Judges can face potential termination for good faith legal decisions of which their supervisors do not approve.

16) In addition, Circuit Courts will be severely adversely impacted and we will simply be repeating history which has proven to be disastrous. One need only remember the lasting impact of Attorney General Ashcroft’s “streamlining” initiative at the Board of Immigration Appeals.

17) The United States Government Accountability Office issued its report entitled “IMMIGRATION COURTS-Actions Needed to Reduce Case Backlog and Address Long-Standing Management and Operational Challenges Report to Congressional Requesters” in June 2017, GAO-17-438, (GAO Report). This GAO Report contains a section entitled, “Comprehensive Performance Assessment Could Help EOIR Identify Effective Management Approaches to Address the Case Backlog;” however, nowhere is the suggestion made that numerical or time based criteria be added to performance evaluations for immigration judges. AILA Doc. No 17102061. (Posted 10/20/17)

18) There is no reason for the agency to have production and quantity based measures tied to judge performance reviews. The current court backlog cannot be attributed to a lack of Immigration Judge productivity. In fact, the GAO report shows that Immigration Judge related continuances have decreased (down 2 percent) in the last ten years. GAO Report at 124. The same report shows that continuances due to “operational factors” and details of Immigration Judges were up 149% and 112%, respectively. GAO Report at 131, 133. These continuances, where Judges were forced to reset cases that were near completion in order to address cases that were priorities of various administrations, have a much greater impact on case completion rates. 19) The imposition of quotas or deadlines on judges can impede justice and due process. For example, a respondent must be given a “reasonable opportunity” to examine and present evidence. Section 240(b) (4) (B) of the Act. Given that most respondents do not speak English as their primary language and much evidence has to be obtained from other countries, imposing a time frame for completion of cases interferes with a judge’s ability to assure that a respondent’s rights are respected.”

Read this entire memorandum at the following link:

NAIJ1

 

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Folks, Due Process is “on the run” at the U.S. Immigration Courts. If Congress doesn’t take at least some corrective action to protect quasi-judicial independence, our U.S. Immigration Courts will no longer be able to provide fair and impartial adjudication in accordance with Constitutional requirements. Today, the statutory and Constitutional rights of immigrants are under attack. Tomorrow it could be YOUR Constitutional rights. Who is going to speak up for YOUR RIGHTS if YOU are indifferent to the rights of others?

PWS

10-21-17

GONZO’S WORLD: DEHUMANIZING IMMIGRANTS BRINGS BACK DREDD SCOTT!

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/10/the_justice_department_s_radical_new_anti_abortion_stance_echoes_dred_scott.html

Mark Joseph Stern and Perry Grossman report for Slate:

“JURISPRUDENCE
THE LAW, LAWYERS, AND THE COURT.OCT. 19 2017 6:32 PM
Trump’s Dred Scott
In a case about the abortion rights of undocumented minors, the Department of Justice evokes the worst Supreme Court decision of all time.

By Perry Grossman and Mark Joseph Stern
Jeff Sessions and Roger B. Taney
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, left, and Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
Saul Loeb/Getty Images and Library of Congress

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump maligned undocumented immigrants as violent criminals and sexual predators who deserved to be rounded up and deported. Once in office, Trump transformed this rhetoric into policy, implementing a nationwide crackdown on immigrant communities. Now, the president’s dehumanizing disparagement of undocumented people has now seeped into his administration’s legal positions. This week, the Department of Justice is arguing in court that undocumented, unaccompanied minors have no right to abortions—and that undocumented immigrants may have no constitutional rights at all. This argument does not only contravene Supreme Court precedent. It also draws upon an inhuman notion of constitutional liberty most notoriously espoused in Dred Scott v. Sandford.

The Justice Department’s radical new theory arose out of a disturbing case in Texas that revolves around a 17-year-old referred to as Jane Doe in court filings. Doe arrived in the United States several months ago, unaccompanied by her parents and lacking documentation. She was placed in a federally funded Texas shelter, at which point she learned she was pregnant. Doe requested an abortion, but under state law, minors cannot receive the procedure without either parental consent or judicial approval. So Doe obtained what’s known as a judicial bypass and asked permission to attend a state-mandated counseling session before undergoing the procedure.

Her shelter refused to allow her to attend that counseling session, citing federal regulations promulgated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a wing of the Department of Health and Human Services. In March, ORR announced that federally funded shelters could not take “any action that facilitates” abortion for unaccompanied minors, including “scheduling appointments, transportation, or other arrangement,” without “direction and approval” from Scott Lloyd, the agency’s director. A Trump appointee and longtime anti-abortion activist, Lloyd has refused to allow minors to access abortion services. Instead, he has directed shelters to take these women to “crisis pregnancy centers,” which “counsel” them not to get abortions. At least once, Lloyd himself called a pregnant minor to talk her out of terminating her pregnancy. If a minor still wants to get an abortion after navigating these obstacles, ORR instructs its shelters to block her from attending her appointment.

Doe’s shelter followed these guidelines, taking her to a crisis pregnancy center and calling her mother to tell her Doe was pregnant. But Doe persisted, and in October, her court-appointed attorneys filed suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal district court in Washington, where ORR is headquartered. Doe argues that ORR’s rules violate her constitutional rights by placing an undue burden on her access to abortion.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan held a hearing in the case. While defending the government, Department of Justice attorney Scott Stewart strongly implied that undocumented women do not have a right to abortion. Here, Stewart was echoing an amicus brief filed by the Texas attorney general’s office, which proclaimed that “unlawfully present aliens” living in the United States have no constitutional right to abortion access. Chutkan then asked Stewart whether Doe has any constitutional rights; Stewart declined to make that “concession.”

Chutkan ruled against the government and issued a temporary restraining order guaranteeing Doe the ability to terminate her pregnancy. (She is currently 15 weeks pregnant, and abortion is illegal after 20 weeks in Texas.) The DOJ appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will hear arguments in the case on Friday morning. In its motion, the agency argued that the government’s “interest in promoting fetal life and childbirth over abortion” justified its refusal to let a minor go to an abortion clinic. It also claimed that, even if undocumented minors have a constitutional right to abortion care, the administration was not unduly burdening that right, because minors who want to terminate their pregnancies can leave the country. This argument is merely another way of stating that women like Doe have no right to an abortion in the United States.

By excluding undocumented immigrants from the protections of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Trump administration is essentially asserting that they do not qualify as “person[s]” under the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and 14th Amendments. The Supreme Court has ruled that the liberty component of the Due Process Clause protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy without a substantial obstacle. If arbitrary regulations that severely burden clinics qualify as such an unconstitutional obstacle, as the Supreme Court has held, then surely self-deportation does as well. Thus, the sole plausible interpretation of the DOJ’s posture is that the Due Process Clause does not protect undocumented women like Doe. Put simply, undocumented women are not people for constitutional purposes.

If the government can force Doe to carry her pregnancy to term, what can’t it do?
This theory parallels the Supreme Court’s most infamous ruling. Dred Scott was a black man born into slavery who moved with his “master” from a slave state to a free state. Upon his master’s death, Scott sued for his freedom. In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney—a virulent racist whose statue was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House in August—wrote an opinion dismissing Scott’s suit. Taney held that black people were not “persons” based on the language of the Constitution and that Scott, as a black man, therefore had no right to sue in the federal courts. Black men, Taney wrote, were “so far inferior” to whites that they had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Following the Civil War, Dred Scott was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments. These amendments ensured that everyone born in the United States would be a citizen. They also granted all “person[s]”—not just citizens—due process and equal protection under the law. Trump has already raised the specter of Dred Scott through his call to end birthright citizenship, the constitutional command that lay at the heart of the Civil War amendments. Now his administration is invoking the decision again in its attempt to deprive undocumented immigrants of their personhood under the Constitution.

The government has rarely alleged that undocumented immigrants may be deprived of rights protected by the liberty component of due process, what’s also known as “substantive” due process. Its few attempts have been unsuccessful. In 2003, the Bush administration argued that substantive due process does not apply to immigrants who reside in the country illegally. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, emphatically rejected this claim, explaining

If excludable aliens were not protected by even the substantive component of constitutional due process, as the government appears to argue, we do not see why the United States government could not torture or summarily execute them. … [W]e do not believe that our Constitution could permit persons living in the United States—whether they can be admitted for permanent residence or not—to be subjected to any government action without limit.
Perhaps recognizing the extremism of its argument, the Trump administration has left open the possibility that undocumented immigrants are entitled to some unspecified “minimal standards” of constitutional protection. But if those minimal standards don’t include the basic right to bodily autonomy, then the 6th Circuit’s query still stands. If the government can force Doe to carry her pregnancy to term against her will, what can’t it do? The administration’s attempt to exert complete control over Doe’s reproductive system is a straightforward deprivation of constitutional liberty that opens the door to equally egregious future abuses.

On Friday morning, the Justice Department will return to court once more to argue, in effect, that Jane Doe is not a “person” worthy of due process protections. It might as well cite Dred Scott for the proposition that the government may strip undocumented immigrants of their constitutionally protected liberty. The 14th Amendment was designed to end such capricious discrimination against individuals living in the United States. But to the Trump administration, immigrants like Doe aren’t even people—just possessions of the state, awaiting deportation.”

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Just when you think that Gonzo Apocalypto can’t sink any lower, he manages to achieve new depths!

Sen. Liz Warren was right!

PWS

10-19-17

IN TIMES OF DISASTER, AS USUAL, AMERICA WILL RELY ON HER UNDOCUMENTED POPULATION TO REBUILD! — “Gonzo Enforcement” Is Just Plain Dumb (In Addition To Wasteful And Inhumane)!

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=46301428-7f08-4ddd-9a61-ba495f303a3f

Saket Soni reports for the LA Times:

“In Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, mammoth hurricanes have left behind a colossal amount of work. The cleanup and reconstruction efforts are going to take years. That means a severe demand for salvage and demolition crews, roofers, carpenters, IMMIGRANT workers at a makeshift camp in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press) drywall installers, painters, plumbers and workers in all manner of other trades and skills. And if recent history tells us anything, much of this demand will be met by immigrants — migrant laborers, many of them highly skilled, and many of them lacking legal status.

. . . .

This wasn’t a problem only for immigrants. As long as labor was exploitable and cheap, American-born workers and local businesses suffered too, as conditions and wages slid toward rock bottom.

If we had a federal government sensitive to these issues, the solution would be a moratorium on immigration enforcement in disaster zones. This would ensure that the rebuilders could keep working, and that those depending on them could return home as soon as possible. Given the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on immigrants, there’s little hope for this sensible fix. In the absence of such a moratorium, governors and mayors should insist that federal labor laws be enforced in these areas while reconstruction is underway. Labor laws guarantee workers payment, safe working conditions and the ability to report mistreatment, among other things.

When workers are vulnerable and afraid, aware that their immigration status can be used against them, they are easy targets for abuse. They know that one complaint could mean a quick call to immigration. Their fear of being deported and losing everything shackles them to bad employers.

. . . .

Diaz and the other workers organized, protesting the discrimination and illegal treatment. In retaliation, the employer evicted them without compensation. When they demanded their pay, the employer called local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which arrested the workers immediately. After spending 78 days in jail, Diaz convinced the district attorney that the workers had been the victim of employer retaliation. The D.A. withdrew the charges, but ICE still detained the workers and sought to deport them.

These abuses, and the exploitation that took place after Katrina, occurred during the George W. Bush administration, which supported comprehensive immigration reform. The climate of fear is far worse today, with agents and officers from ICE and the Border Patrol running roughshod over immigrant communities, goaded by President Trump’s toxic rhetoric.

Nevertheless, immigrants will still risk their lives to come here. Their need is that dire — and our demand is that urgent. The credit rating company Moody’s estimates that the damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could total $150 billion to $200 billion — considerably more than the $108 billion or so in damage left by Katrina. Irma destroyed an estimated 25% of homes in the Florida Keys. In Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, more than 136,000 homes and other structures were flooded by Harvey. In the aftermath of these disasters, there has been talk of rebuilding homes and cities with greater attention to long-term sustainability and resilience.

Some have even called for a “green New Deal” that marries these goals with stronger social safety nets for storm victims. This worthy vision can and should take into account the people who are doing the rebuilding, making sure they are safe, secure and paid a fair wage. And that means starting with meaningful protections for the immigrant workers who help storm victims return home.

Saket Soni is executive director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and the National Guestworker Alliance

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Read the entire report at the above link.

Just another example of how White Nationalist inspired “Gonzo Enforcement” is not only wasteful, impractical, and inhumane, but also just plain dumb! The Trump Administration degrades America and our values with each day it is in office. When your “worldview” is driven by prejudice, bias, and political pandering, you’re bound to make lots of bad decisions!

PWs

10/12/17

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

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

Here’s Jeffrey’s Blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted With Permisison

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

 

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

By Paul Wickham Schmidt

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

10-05-17

NO MORE BUREAUCRATIC BS – AMERICA NEEDS AN INDEPENDENT ARTICLE I IMMIGRATION COURT NOW — A RESPONSE TO THE DOJ’S ATTEMPT TO “COVER UP” THE SCANDALOUS, SELF-CREATED, DUE-PROCESS DENYING IMMIGRATON COURT BACKLOG EXPOSED BY NBC 4 DC’S I-TEAM — By Paul Wickham Schmidt, United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

  • NO MORE BUREAUCRATIC BS – AMERICA NEEDS AN INDEPENDENT ARTICLE I IMMIGRATION COURT NOW
  • A RESPONSE TO THE DOJ’S ATTEMPT TO “COVER UP” THE SCANDALOUS, SELF-CREATED, DUE-PROCESS DENYING IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOG EXPOSED BY NBC 4 DC’S I-TEAM
  •  
  • By Paul Wickham Schmidt
  • United States Immigration Judge (Retired
  • Let’s look at a few pieces of the EOIR “response” to the I-Team’s Recent Expose. You can read that full exercise in bureaucratese in a separate blog right here:  http://wp.me/p8eeJm-1tn

First, the EOIR bureaucracy has no coherent plan to address the backlog that now has risen to more than 628,000 pending cases (even more than at the time Jodie interviewed me) notwithstanding more U.S. Immigration Judges on board! The agency is “studying” the matter. Usually that means that politicos at the DOJ are looking for ways to further truncate Due Process and fairness for respondents in the Immigration Courts.

 

“Studying” the matter. Oh, please! Let’s look at the most glaring failure highlighted by Jodie, the failure to have even a rudimentary e-filing system. Back in 2001, a group of us, including computer wonks, field personnel, and Senior Executives were assigned to an e-filing project. We submitted a detailed report, complete with plans for a pilot program to the EOIR Executive Group, where it promptly was buried. More than 15 year later, and following several more waste of time studies, there still is no e-filing system in the U.S. Immigration Courts! Not even a viable pilot program! In the meantime, almost every other court system in America has implemented e-filing. For heaven’s sake, even the local courts in Wisconsin have e-filing capability!

 

Second, EOIR makes the totally disingenuous statement that: “Although multiple factors may have contributed to this caseload, immigration judges must ensure that lower productivity and adjudicatory inefficiency do not further exacerbate this situation. To this end, EOIR recently issued Operating Policies and Procedures Memorandum 17-01: Continuances (available at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/oppm-log), which provides guidance on the fair and efficient handling of motions for continuance.”

 

This is a blatant misrepresentation of what caused the real problem and a grotesque failure to accept responsibility! The current crisis has little, if anything, to do with Immigration Judge productivity (at an average of 750 completions per judge, U.S. Immigration Judges are already working 50% above the recommended maximum level for their positions — if anything, as shown by some of the recent gross errors exposed by U.S. Circuit Courts, both the Immigration Judges and the BIA Judges should be slowing down to get things right — “haste makes waste”).

 

No the real problem here is quite simple: bureaucrats at EOIR, the politicos at DOJ, and Congress. Let’s start with Congress. While Congress has belatedly provided some extra positions and funding for the Immigration Courts, for years Congress has been responsible for overfunding DHS enforcement while underfunding the Immigration Court system.

 

Moreover, the idiotic Government shutdown during the Obama Administration hurt immeasurably. During at least one such shutdown, the vast majority of Immigration Judges, those assigned to the non-detained dockets, were determined by the DOJ to be “nonessential,” sent home on “furlough,” and our dockets were cancelled. When we finally returned to court, there was docket chaos. The system really never has recovered from that man-made disaster. Moreover, both Congress’s failure to fund and DOJ’s idiotic designation of us as “nonessential” sent strong messages that the entire Immigration Court is a “who cares” operation from both a Congressional and an Administration standpoint. And mindless hiring freezes resulting from incompetence in Congress and the Executive Branch didn’t help either.

 

Then, years of “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” at the behest of DOJ politicos carrying out improper enforcement initiatives through the courts turned chaos into absolute bedlam! Senior Immigration Judges were reassigned from “Merits Dockets” to “meet and greets” for Unaccompanied Minors who really belonged before the DHS Asylum Office. Other judges were taken off of “ready for trial” merits dockets and assigned to hear cases of recently arrived “Adults With Children,” many of whom had not received sufficient time to find lawyers and whose cases were often “Not Quite Ready For Prime Time.” Judges were detailed from full “home” dockets to the Southern Border where they often weren’t needed or didn’t have enough work to keep busy. Then, the Trump Administration took judges off of Merits Dockets that had been pending for years and reassigned them to obscure detention courts, where they often were not fully occupied or were taking over dockets from other judges who were left with nothing to do.

 

The DOJ/EOIR bureaucracy long ago deprived sitting Immigration Judges of any meaningful control over their local dockets. To now insinuate that Immigration Judge “productivity” or “continuances granted by local Immigration Judges” are significant causes of the problem is an outrageous attempt to cover up the sad truth. Additionally, over the past four Administrations, the DOJ has refused to implement Congress’s statutory grant of contempt authority to U.S. Immigration Judges. This deprives Immigration Judges of even the most rudimentary tools possessed by judges of comparable authority for maintaining order and control of their courts.

 

Then there are continuances. As Hon. Jeffrey Chase and I have both pointed out in our separate blogs, the attempt to blame judges and overwhelmed private counsel, particularly those serving for NGSs or pro bono, for requesting too many continuances is totally bogus. The majority of the lengthy continuances in Immigration Court are the result of Aimless Docket Reshuffling imposed by the politicos at DOJ and carried out by compliant administrators at EOIR who have lost sight of their due process mission but not of the need to save their jobs by cooperating with the politicos.

 

As Jodie pointed out, there are lots of folks out there, many with potentially winning cases, who are ready and would like their “day in court.” But, the system is too busy shuffling things around to satisfy the President’s Executive Orders and trying to fulfill the Attorney General’s enforcement priorities to deliver justice in a reasonable, predictable, and orderly manner.

 

The private bar and NGO attorneys, many of whom serve pro bono or low bono, are the unsung heroes of this system. They are the only reason the system hasn’t completely collapsed yet! Their intentional mistreatment and the disrespect showered on them by spineless bureaucrats at EOIR and the cowardly politicos at DOJ is nothing short of a national disgrace!

 

Then, let’s take a closer look at the DOJ/EOIR hiring fiasco! According to a recent GAO study recommending improvements at the Immigration Courts, Immigration Judge hiring has taken an astounding average of two years! That’s longer than it takes for a Senate-confirmed political appointment or than it took the Roosevelt Administration to build the Pentagon during the New Deal! But, the results of this glacial, “Rube-Goldberg” process are disturbingly predictable and pedestrian. Nearly 90% of the Immigration Judges hired over this and the past Administration came from prosecutorial or other government backgrounds. With due respect, one could probably have produced similar results by “blind drawing” applications from senior government attorneys from a box. Neither EOIR nor DOJ has put forth an efficient, transparent, merit-based program to replace this mess, although many worthy models exist — such as the merit hiring procedures for U.S. Bankruptcy Judges and Magistrates which usually involve widespread input from leading practitioners in the areas they will be serving.

 

Notwithstanding the current “crisis,” EOIR and DOJ are sitting on an Immigration Judge vacancy rate of 15%! There are currently 55 judicial vacancies! EOIR was only able to hire and bring on 64 new Immigration Judges during the entire past year. That will barely be enough to fill the currently vacant positions and any retirements or other departures. So, the idea that a DOJ plan to budget for more judges is going to solve this crisis any time in the foreseeable future is nonsense.

 

 

Let’s take a quick look at the numbers in the DOJ “never-never land.” They project 449 Immigration Judges by the end of FY 2018, which is September 30, 2018, one year from now. Let’s also assume the highly unlikely: that Congress grants the request, the money is appropriated, additional courtrooms are built, additional staff is hired, all the judicial positions are filled, and the additional Immigration Judges are all on board and up to speed by September 30, 2018.

 

449 Immigration Judges could at most, complete approximately 337,000 cases without impeding due process. Therefore, using the DOJ’s own figures, and giving the most optimistic outlook possible, it would take nearly two years, practically to the end of this Administration, just to complete all of the cases currently on docket if no additional cases were filed! The idea that 449 Immigration Judges could do that plus handle incoming cases without creating a new backlog is facially absurd. DOJ’s own numbers refute it. What is clear is that neither the politicos at DOJ nor the bureaucrats at EOIR have any idea of how to actually solve the backlog problem and reestablish order in the Immigration Courts.

 

So, what really needs to be done!

 

First and foremost, we need an independent U.S. Immigration Court outside the DOJ. And that means a return to Due Process as the sole function and guiding light of the Immigration Court just like it is for all other independent courts. DHS Enforcement priorities should be considered and accommodated where possible without compromising due process. But, they are just one of many factors that go into running an efficient due process court system. DHS Enforcement should not be “driving the train.”

Given that approximately half of the individuals now in Immigration Court appear to be entitled to some form of relief, independent U.S. Immigration Judges could develop ways to force the DHS to identify these cases and either resolve them outside of court or move them up to “short dockets” for quick resolutions based largely on stipulations and focused testimony or legal arguments.

 

Moreover, I know from hard experience that even though independent Article III judges were technically not supposed to review “prosecutorial discretion“ they had many creative ways to basically tell the INS (now DHS) to get certain low priority or extreme humanitarian cases off the docket — or else. The current Administration’s abusive removal of prosecutorial discretion from local DHS prosecutors is a major contributing factor in the current docket mess. An independent court would be able to stand up to this kind of nonsense, rather than “going along to get along.” No court system in American operates without a heavy dose of PD from the prosecutors.

 

Additionally, implementation of contempt authority, extending to both private attorneys and Government prosecutors, would give Immigration Judges real clout in stopping abuses of the court’s docket and moving cases along in a failure and reasonable manner.

 

Second, the EOIR bureaucracy needs to be replaced with a real court structure patterned on other Federal Courts. I’d hazard to say that no other functioning court system in America has as Byzantine and as bloated a bureaucracy as EOIR. Far too many of the positions and resources are in “Headquarters” in Falls Church rather than in the local courts where they belong. Docket control needs to be returned to sitting Immigration Judges who are in the best position to work with the local bar, pro bono providers, the DHS Office of Chief Counsel, and the Court Administrator to establish the most efficient and fair ways of scheduling cases and moving along dockets given local conditions and limitations.

 

And “Job One” at the local Immigration Court level should be to work with all parties to insure that Immigration Court cases are docketed and scheduled in a manner that insures, to the maximum extent humanly possible, that no individual who wants a lawyer is required to appear without one. Representation by competent counsel is the single most important ingredient of achieving due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts.

 

Third, the U.S. Immigration Courts need a new professional Administrative Office patterned on the Administrative Office for U.S. Courts and responsible to a Judicial Council, not politicos at the DOJ. Courtroom planning, technology, security, files management, training, planning for the future, and hiring are all not up to professional court management standards in the current system. In particular, the outdated, often unreliable technology and inadequate space are glaring issues in a high volume system like the Immigration Courts.

 

Also, the current judicial selection system is a bad joke. It is neither transparent nor timely, and it totally lacks credibility in the “real world” of immigration practice. The Immigration Courts need a non-partisan, merit-based, efficient hiring system that gives local practitioners and judges as well as government counsel some meaningful input while producing results in a timely fashion. There are many merit-based models out there like those for hiring U.S. Bankruptcy Judges, U.S. Magistrates, and Judges for the Superior Court of DC.

 

Fourth, the system needs an Appellate Court that acts like an independent appellate court not a service center catering to the politicos at the DOJ. The current BIA’s lack of diverse backgrounds among its Appellate Immigration Judges and glaring lack of Immigration Court or asylum expertise has resulted in a weak body of asylum law and insufficient control over wayward judges who are unwilling to grant relief in appropriate situations. There are many asylum cases out there in the backlog that should and could be rapidly granted. Moreover, many of them probably should have been granted at the DHS Asylum Office. The current Board has failed to take appropriate corrective action in those courts where hostility to or misinterpretation of laws favorable to respondents has resulted in indefensibly low rates of granting relief. This, in turn, encourages the DHS to keep cases on the court docket that properly should be settled out of court, returned to the Asylum Office, or sent to the USCIS.

 

The current Board “is what it is,” It can’t really help itself, as a result of questionable choices outside of its control made by the politicos at the DOJ over several Administrations. I’m not suggesting that current BIA Judges should not be “grandfathered” into an independent Appellate Division of the Immigration Court. But future Appellate Judge appointments should be strictly merit-based and should be focused on recognizing proven expertise and fairness in applying asylum laws and expertise gained in activities beyond just government service, particularly those in clinical academic practices or serving the pro bono community through NGOs.

 

Fifth, and finally, the U.S. Immigration Courts need e-filing now! The time for “study” is long over! Existing systems in other courts can be tailored for U.S. Immigration Court use. It’s no longer “rocket science.” It’s “Basic Professional Court Management 101.” It’s time for action, not more studies, unfulfilled promises, and bureaucratic smokescreens! If nothing else, the failure of the DOJ over a number of Administrations to accomplish this very basic ministerial task demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt its incompetence and inability to administer the U.S. Immigration Courts in anything approaching a minimally professional manner.

 

Yup, I’ve set forth an ambitious agenda. But, unlike the “DOJ/EOIR BS,” it’s based on real life experience and decades of observation at all levels inside and outside this broken system. If Congress and the Administration can’t get their collective acts together and establish an Independent Article Immigration Court now, there will be a “lock-up” point at which almost everything will stop functioning. There is no way that the current EOIR technology and inadequate planning can keep on absorbing even more cases and even more positions.

 

And if, as I predict, rather than doing the right thing, this Administration responds with mindless hurry up denials of due process, the cases will start piling up in the Article III Courts and being returned to the Immigration Courts for “do-overs” in droves. I’ve actually seen it happen before in the Bush Administration. But, this is much worse because there are many more cases and this Administration is even more clueless about how to deal with immigration enforcement and the Immigration Court system. In the end, it’s the folks who depend on the Immigration Court system for justice and the overall concept of our courts being able to deliver even-handed justice in a fair and reasonable manner that will be hurt. And, folks, that’s going to affect all of us at some point in the future.

 

Don’t accept more ridiculous shameful bureaucratic, “do nothing” BS from the DOJ! It’s time to hold DOJ and EOIR fully accountable for their failure to provide basic Due Process in the U.S. Immigration Courts and for Congress to accept their fair share of the blame!

 

Tell your Senators and Representatives that you’ve had enough of this nonsense and gross waste and mismanagement of government resources! Fixing the U.S. Immigration Courts now must be one of our highest national priorities! Those who would continue to sweep this problem under the rug deserve to be voted out of office! No more BS and excuses; Article I now! Due Process Now!

Other than the above, of course, I think the current system is great!

PWS

09-26-17

 

AWARD-WINNING NBC INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER JODIE FLEISCHER & THE “I-TEAM” TACKLE THE MAN-MADE DISASTER IN OUR UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION COURTS — Including A Clip Of Her Interview With Me — MUST SEE TV, MONDAY, SEPT. 25, ON THE 6 PM SEGMENT OF NBC4 NEWS!

Those of you who have seen Jodie in action know that she is a brilliant, hard-hitting, no holds barred investigative journalist who always gets to the bottom of her story — no matter how little some public officials want the truth to come out! She and her all-star investigative team, including Senior Investigative Platform Manager Rick Yarborough and Photojournalist Editor Stephen Jones, are relentless.

Using her contacts throughout the nation, Jodie shows you what our Government has been trying to hide for years — the ridiculous backlogs and impending failure of one of our nation’s largest, perhaps the largest, Federal Court system! I was stunned and amazed by the amount of technical knowledge and feeling about the human side of this needless national tragedy that Jodie brought to her interview with me.

The judges and staff of the Immigration Court work hard. That’s always been true. But, that has not helped many of the vulnerable individuals caught up in the morass and not always finding the justice that our laws promise them. Similarly, it does not serve the true needs of DHS enforcement to have results determined by the number of pending cases in a particular court, many of which should have long ago been settled by the responsible exercise of prosecutorial discretion as they would have been in almost any other high volume court system in America.

What has happened to the United States Immigration Courts under the control of the U.S.Department of Justice is a sad tale of bureaucratic incompetence, intransigence, inbreeding, improper influence by enforcement authorities, and inability to provide the independent judiciary that can deliver on the court’s forgotten promise of “guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.” This has combined with a disturbing lack of Congressional oversight and reform. How can we clean up this tragic “train wreck” that threatens to topple the entire Federal Court System and to undermine our nation’s Constitution and our ideals?

Over three quarters of U.S counties now have residents in the Immigration Court system! But, even if you aren’t one of them, or a relative, friend, neighbor, employer, teacher, student, employee, patient, customer, or fellow parishioner of one of them, this mess affects you as an American. If this is the way we treat the most vulnerable among us, what’s going to save you when your precious rights are challenged in a U.S. justice system that has lost sight of justice?

Tune in Monday night to find out more about one of “America’s Most Underreported Crises.” Those interested should be able to “live stream” NBC4 News at 6 with the NBC4 app. I assume it will also be available online in the NBC4 app archives under “Investigative Reporting” once the piece has aired.

PWS

09-23-17

UPDATE:

Part II Of Jodie’s Report, which specifically examines the Baltimore and Arlington Immigration Courts, will air at 11:15 PM tonight.

MUST SEE TV FROM PBS: Judge Dana Leigh Marks Explains The Dire Backlogs In U.S. Immigration Courts & Why They Are Becoming Worse Every Day!

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/dire-immigration-court-backlog-affects-lives/

Click the above link to see John Yang of PBS interview United States Immigration Judge Dana Leigh Marks of the U.S. Immigration Court in San Francisco, speaking in her capacity as President of the National Association of Immigration Judges (“NAIJ”).

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a “retiree member” of the NAIJ.

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

As this interview shows, this problem has been building steadily under the past three Administrations. However, the “gonzo enforcement” policies of the Trump Administration, combined with “ADR” (“Aimless Docket Reschuffling”) caused by poorly planned, and in many cases unneeded, details of Immigration Judges from backlogged “home dockets” to obscure detention centers along the Southern Border in response to Trump’s Executive Orders on enforcement, made worse by constant threats to mindlessly throw DACA individuals and TPS holders into the already overwhelmed system have greatly and unnecessarily aggravated an already bad situation.

Judge Marks points out that nearly 40% of the current U.S. Immigration Judiciary, including all of the most experienced judges, are eligible or nearly eligible to retire. That would mean a whopping 140 new Immigration Judge hires in a short period of time in addition to filling the current approximately 50 vacancies and any other positions that might become available. That adds up to approximately 200 new judicial vacancies, not counting any additional positions that Congress might provide.

No Administration has been able to competently hire that many new judges using a proper merit selection process. Indeed, the last Administration, using a system that could hardly be viewed as ”merit based,” took an astounding average of nearly two years to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Immigration Court! That’s amazing considering that these are administrative judges who do not require Senate confirmation.

The total unsuitability of the U.S. Justice Department to be administering the U.S. Immigration Courts has been demonstrated not only in terns of misuse of the courts for politicized law enforcement objectives, but also in terms of poor planning and stunningly incompetent judicial administration.

We need an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court, and we need it now!

PWS

09-20-17

 

 

FORMER DHS SEC MIKE CHERTOFF TELLS HOW CUTTING REFUGEE ADMISSIONS HURTS AMERICA AND ENDANGERS NATIONAL SECURITY!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cutting-refugee-admissions-hurts-americans-heres-how/2017/09/14/c7c8b5e6-9987-11e7-b569-3360011663b4_story.html?utm_term=.268b590d8b01

Chertoff writes in the Washington Post:

“President Trump will make another decision this month that will affect thousands of people: How many refugees will the United States admit in fiscal year 2018?

The president already cut refugee admissions by more than half this year, from more than 100,000 down to 50,000. By way of comparison, the highest ceiling under President Ronald Reagan was 140,000. The president has also signaled, through his executive orders and in his budget proposal, that these cuts will carry over to next year. And in fact, some in his administration are trying to convince him to cut even further.

This would be a mistake. Cutting refugee admittances would not only be a moral failure but also damage our national interest abroad and our economy.

Of course, security is an imperative, and the refugee resettlement program is secure. U.S. security and intelligence agencies conduct multiple reviews on every refugee admitted, and only those approved for admission by the Department of Homeland Security are granted refuge in the United States.

 

There is also the humanitarian imperative: We are in the midst of the greatest refugee crisis on record, with more than 22 million people seeking safety from violence, conflict and persecution all over the world. The vast majority of refugees — nearly 90 percent — are hosted by poor and middle-income countries. Only the most vulnerable — those whose safety cannot be assured in their countries of first refuge — are selected for resettlement. For these refugees — widowed women; orphaned children; survivors of rape, torture and brutal religious persecution — refugee resettlement is a lifeline.

But what’s in it for the United States?

Strategic allies located near crises host the largest refugee populations in the world. Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Kenya are among the top refugee-hosting states. Their willingness to host millions of refugees contributes greatly to regional stability and security, all in regions where U.S. troops are deployed. As our military works to contain terrorist insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and the Horn of Africa, forcing refugees to return to unsafe and unstable countries would make countering terrorism more difficult.

 

That’s why in 2016, when the Kenyan government threatened to close the Dadaab refugee camp and forcibly return more than 250,000 Somalis to an unstable Somalia, then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry got on a plane to Kenya. It’s also why the United States should be concerned that more than 700,000 Afghan registered and unregistered refugees have been returned to Afghanistan since 2016 — a threefold increase from 2015 — at a time when growing instability in Afghanistan and terrorist gains are forcing an increase in U.S. troop levels.

If we’re not willing to do our fair share, how can we ask front-line allies to do more?

Maintaining resettlement commitments is also critical to our military, diplomatic and intelligence operations abroad. Tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan nationals have put their lives on the line to support intelligence-gathering, operations planning and other essential services. Terrorist groups openly target these individuals because of their cooperation with Americans. Resettlement is instrumental to ensuring their safety — a testament to the U.S. military’s commitment to leave no one behind on the battlefield.

And in a proud American tradition, Republican and Democratic presidents have used refugee admissions to signal support for those who reject ideologies antithetical to U.S. values. In the past few decades, we have raised our admissions ceilings to take in those fleeing communist uprisings, religious persecution and tyranny.

 

Today, the United States must provide unwavering support for Muslims who put their lives at risk to reject terrorist ideologies, many of whom refused to join or be conscripted into terrorist groups, militias and state security forces persecuting their fellow citizens. The Islamic State considers all those who flee its rule as heretics subject to execution. Those who risk their lives — and their children’s lives — to reject terrorism must know, as a matter of our fight against extremism, that the United States supports and welcomes them.

Even in the wake of 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our country’s history, President George W. Bush deliberately and explicitly maintained a refugee admissions ceiling of 70,000 annually, affirming the United States’ great humanitarian tradition.

Finally, refugees enrich and are deeply supported by our communities. Hundreds of mayors, faith leaders and business leaders have attested to the contributions refugees make. Thousands of Americans donate volunteer hours, in-kind goods and services, and private dollars to support refugees. One study estimates only 39 percent of the costs of resettlement are covered by federal dollars.

 

Despite being among the most vulnerable and destitute when they arrive, refugees thrive. Entrepreneurship among refugees is nearly 50 percent higher than among U.S.-born populations, creating jobs for Americans. More than 57 percent of them are homeowners.

Our values and our national security interests argue for raising our refugee ceiling, not lowering it. The president should seize the mantle of Reagan and fortify U.S. leadership on refugees.”

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

I’ll admit to not always being a Chertoff fan. In particular, his failure to support internal efforts to institute a strong prosecutorial discretion program at ICE that would have empowered the Chief Counsel to control the Immigration Courts’ growing docket was unfortunate, given his legal and judicial background.

But, I agree with what Chertoff says here. Just compare the power, logic, and moral authority of his statement with the mealy-mouthed, cowardly, morally vapid lies flowing from the mourths of xenophobic, disingenuous, fear mongers like Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Rep. Steve King, and the rest of the White Nationalist crowd!

Refugeees make America great! White Nationalist xenophobes, not so much!

PWS

09-15-17

HON. JEFFREY CHASE: Stripped By Ashcroft Of The Appellate Judges Who Understood Asylum Law & Stood Up For The Rights Of Refugees, An Emasculated BIA (With No Meaningful Deliberation Or Dissent) Intentionally Misconstrued The “Particular Social Group” Category To Screw Asylum Seekers! — READ MY LATEST “MINI-ESSAY” –“ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS”  — How The BIA Intentionally Misconstrued Asylum Law To Deny Particular Social Group Protection, While The Obama Administration Turned Its Back On Due Process For Refugees!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/9/14/particular-social-group-errors-in-the-bias-post-acosta-analysis

Jeffrey writes:

Particular Social Group: Errors in the BIA’s Post-Acosta Analysis

In 2006, the Board of Immigration Appeals published its decision in Matter of C-A-, the first in a line of cases creating significant restrictions on what constitutes a cognizable particular social group in claims for asylum. It is worth noting that three years earlier, then Attorney General John Ashcroft purged the BIA of its five most liberal members; two other Board members who clearly would have been removed as well left just prior to the purge. Therefore, the ensuing line of BIA precedents addressing particular social group issues were something of a one-sided affair, with no liberal voices to temper or dissent from the majority.

 

Back in 1985, the Board decided Matter of Acosta, in which it set forth the applicable standard for particular social group determinations.  Not surprisingly, particular social group has proven more difficult for courts to interpret than the other four grounds of race, religion, nationality, and political opinion.  This is because one doesn’t start out asking the question “what is a race?” or “what is a religion?”  Those terms are generally understood.  Not so with particular social group, which as I learned it, was a last-minute creation designed to cover those clearly in need of refugee protection who aren’t covered by the other four grounds.  In Acosta, the Board had to decide how broadly the “PSG” category should be interpreted.  In response to evidence that the drafters of the 1951 Convention considered the ground of particular social group “to be of broader application than the combined notions of racial, ethnic, and religious group,” the Board applied the doctrine of ejusdem generis to conclude that a particular social group, like the four other categories it is grouped with, should be defined by characteristics that are immutable either because its members are unable to change them (like race and nationality), or because they should not, as a matter of conscience, be required to change them (like religion or political opinion).

The Acosta formulation was fair, and worked perfectly well for 21 years.  It was consistent with the way particular social group was being interpreted and applied internationally, and was in no need of modification.  Yet, the post-purge Board added two additional hurdles to particular social group determination: social distinction (previously called social visibility) and particularity.  As discussed below, the result-oriented line of decisions are legally flawed.

Matter of C-A-’s “social visibility” analysis contains at least three errors.   First, as Prof. Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) at the University of California – Hastings Law School in San Francisco has pointed out, although the Board in Matter of C-A- cited to the 2002 UNHCR Guidelines on Particular Social Groups as a basis for adding the social distinction requirement, there is a significant difference between the Board’s holding and the UNHCR Guidelines.  The Guidelines at para. 11 define particular social group as “a group of persons who share a common characteristic other than their risk of being persecuted OR  who are perceived as a group by society.”  Note the use of “or.”  “Or” was intended to expand the group of those who satisfy for PSG status, by including both those who share a common characteristic  OR possess what the Board now calls social distinction.  However, the Board changed the “or” to an “and,” which has the opposite effect of significantly narrowing those who can establish a cognizable PSG by requiring both a shared characteristic and social distinction.

Secondly, the Board found that the proposed group of confidential informants lacked social “visibility” (as it then called social distinction) because informants, by the nature of their conduct, are “generally out of the public view,” and “in the normal course of events…remain unknown and undiscovered.”  However, this is irrelevant to whether the group itself is perceived by society to be distinct.  For example, “Russian spies” by the nature of their conduct, seek to remain unknown, undiscovered, and out of the public eye.  However, the group is often in the news, and is the subject of a popular TV show. It has served as the basis for characters in countless novels and films for decades, and has inspired the passage of anti-espionage laws.  The Board thus erred in apparently confusing the “singled out” requirement of the individual asylum applicant with the “social distinction” requirement of the proposed group.

Thirdly, the Board in C-A- stated that visibility of a group of confidential informants “is limited to those informants who are discovered because they appear as witnesses or otherwise come to the attention of cartel members.”  In that case, the cartel members were the persecutors.  However, the Board has claimed that it is the perception of society, and not the persecutors, that determines social distinction.

The particularity requirement is also problematic.  The element requires the social group to be defined by characteristics that provide a clear benchmark for determining inclusion.  The Board requires the terms used to define the group to have “commonly accepted definitions in the society in which the group is a part;” and “[t]he group must also be discrete, and have definable boundaries–it must not be amorphous, overbroad, diffuse, or subjective.”  See Matter of W-G-R-, 26 I&N Dec. 208, 214 (BIA 2014); Matter of A-M-E- & J-G-U-, 24 I&N Dec. 69, 76 (BIA 2007) (rejecting the proposed group as “too amorphous…to provide an adequate benchmark for determining group membership”).

However, in applying the new requirement of particularity to particular social group determinations only, the Board violated the doctrine of ejusdem generis that it had invoked in Acosta.  This is significant, as determinations under the other four protected categories would not necessarily stand up to the particularity determination.  In finding the proposed group of “former members of the MS-13 gang in El Salvador who have renounced their gang membership” to lack particularity, the Board stated that the proposed group “could include persons of any age, sex, or background.”  Matter of W-G-R-, 26 I&N Dec. 208, 221 (BIA 2014).  Of course, race, religion, and nationality will always include persons of any age, sex, or background; and political opinion could also draw from as wide a range of the population.

In a claim of persecution on account of religion, would the Jewish religion, for example, withstand the particularity requirement?  There is a strong chance that such group would be found too amorphous to provide an adequate benchmark for inclusion.  For example, a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that 14 percent of American Jews stated that they were raising their children “partially Jewish.”  Do “partially Jewish” claimants merit inclusion in the group?  What about those who only attend synagogue once a year, on Yom Kippur?  Or those who consider themselves culturally Jewish, but don’t observe the religion?  Or those with only a Jewish father (who would therefore not be considered Jewish under traditional Jewish law, but would be considered Jewish in the more liberal Reform branch of the religion)?  Where is the benchmark for inclusion?

Looking to the other asylum categories, is one said to possess a political opinion because she votes once every four years for candidates of a particular party, or because she has canvassed for a party’s candidates, given speeches at rallies, or run for office herself?  In this time of multiculturalism, where individuals of mixed race or ethnicity may choose to identify with a particular race or nationality from among two or more choices, would those categories also be found too amorphous?

In addition to the above shortcomings, attorneys have pointed out that particularity and social distinction often work at odds with each other.  Groups that rank high on society’s radar are usually not defined with the type of specific parameters for inclusion, and would therefore be dismissed as too “amorphous.”  Conversely, groups defined with the exacting precision demanded of the particularity requirement tend to be too cumbersome to register in the zeitgeist.  As an example, the term “soccer moms” became popular in American society several presidential elections ago, when “winning the soccer mom vote” was deemed a significant goal.  So while the term “soccer moms” clearly possessed social distinction, it would undoubtedly be found too amorphous to satisfy the particularity requirement.  However, “married middle-class suburban women between the ages of 32 and 47, who spend a significant amount of time driving their school-aged children to multiple after-school activities, which may or may not include soccer” might be particular enough, but will not grab public attention to the degree required to qualify as social distinction.

In spite of the above shortcomings, the federal circuit courts have largely accorded deference to the Board’s flawed interpretation.  Although immigration judges are bound by the Board’s holdings, practitioners may raise the above issues in order to create a record for eventual review by the circuit courts.  The Seventh and Third Circuits have rejected the particularity requirement for different reasons than those stated above.  As I am not aware of any circuit court addressing the issue of whether religion or any other protected ground would stand up to the particularity requirement, I present it as an argument worth pursuing.

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

Republished with permission.

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“ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS”  — How The BIA Intentionally Misconstrued Asylum Law To Deny Particular Social Group Protection, While The Obama Administration Turned Its Back On Due Process For Refugees!

By Paul Wickham Schmidt

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

The original Acosta decision was also wrongly decided on the merits. Of course most “occupational groups” have characteristics that are fundamental to their identity and are, therefore, properly classified as PSGs for asylum and withholding of removal purposes under the INA!

Taxi drivers in San Salvador were clearly a well-recognized tightly-knit group who were identified as such by the public, the Government, and the guerrillas and weren’t lightly going to switch occupations. That’s why they were targeted by both sides!

The result in Acosta was also completely nonsensical from a policy standpoint. The BIA’s “bottom line” was that taxi drivers in San Salvador who feared the guerrillas could either quit their jobs en masse or participate in a transportation strike called by the guerrillas. But, either of those actions would have crippled the Salvadoran Government which the U.S. was supporting during the guerrilla war! How stupid can you get! But, when categorically denying asylum to large groups of Central American refugees, there’s no limit to what captive adjudicators who want to hang on to their jobs will do to avoid granting protection!

Would you tell a New York cabbie that his or her occupation isn’t “fundamental” to his or her identity? I certainly wouldn’t do it while sitting in his or her back seat. How many yarns, stories, and jokes have you heard with the phrase “like a New York cabbie?” There are even movies glorifying or vilifying the occupation!

How about American truck drivers? They have their own culture, lingo, and even restaurants, gas stations, and stores. Next time you walk into a Pilot Truck Stop along the Interstate, see if you can tell the “pros” from the “amateur divers” like me. Then go up to one of those “pros” and tell him or her that he or she could just as well make a living  as a checkout clerk or a computer programmer! Or, walk into the “Reserved for Professional Drivers” section, take a seat, and see how long you last. I really wouldn’t try either of the foregoing unless you have very good hospitalization insurance.

Want to bet that being a lawyer or a judge isn’t fundamental to one’s identity — just ask a non-lawyer, non-judge spouse or anyone whose ever had to attend a social function with with one of us? My wife Cathy can usually pick the lawyers out in a room even without introductions!  They “dress, act, and speak” like lawyers!

I might also add that the identity of being a BIA Appellate Judge is so “fundamental” to some of my former colleagues’ identity that they were willing to put forth a totally disingenuous interpretation of the U.N. Guidelines and blow off both fairness and due process for vulnerable asylum seekers (the BIA’s sole functions) to retain their jobs as Appellate Judges in the Bush and Obama Administrations, which were generally actively hostile or clearly indifferent to the rights of refugees. Nobody had the guts to stand up for a correct intrerpretation of the Refugee Convention which would have saved many lives and made the whole immigration system fairer and easier to administer in the long run.

There actually was a U.S. Circuit Judge way out in the 8th Circuit, of all places, who saw clearly the BIA’s disingenuous approach and “called” them on it. The case is Gaitan v. Holder, 671 F.3d 678, 682-86 (8th Cir. 2012) (Bye, Circuit Judge, concurring), the concurring Judge was Judge Bye, and I reproduce the concurring opinion in full from “Legale” because Judge Bye is so “spot on” and, regrettably, so few people paid attention to his criticism:

BYE, Circuit Judge, concurring.

Based upon our recent decisions in Constanza v. Holder, 647 F.3d 749 (8th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) and Ortiz-Puentes v. Holder, 662 F.3d 481 (8th Cir.2011), I concur in the result reached by the majority. I do so reluctantly, however, and write separately to express my disagreement with our circuit’s as-a-matter-of-course adoption of “social visibility” and “particularity” as requirements for establishing “membership in a particular social group.” See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A). While both decisions cited with approval the BIA’s new approach to defining “particular social group,” neither had before it the issue raised in this appeal: did the BIA act arbitrarily and capriciously in adding the requirements of “social visibility” and “particularity” to its definition of “particular social group.” While I am convinced it did, I am nonetheless bound by circuit precedent and therefore concur in the result.

Our circuit only recently addressed the BIA’s new approach to defining “particular social group.” While both Constanza and Ortiz-Puentes grafted the requirements of “social visibility” and “particularity” to petitioners’ social groups claims, neither panel offered any explanation as to why the addition of these new requirements—which are very clearly inconsistent with the BIA’s prior decisions—should not be deemed arbitrary and capricious. Neither panel inquired as to whether the BIA had provided a good reason, or any reason at all, for departing from established precedent. Neither asked if the BIA’s new approach to defining “particular social group” amounted to an arbitrary and capricious change from agency practice. Instead, we simply adopted the new approach, as a matter of course, offering no substantial reason ourselves for this shift in direction. As a result, I fear we have chosen the wrong direction.

In order to understand why the BIA’s addition of the “social visibility” and “particularity” requirements to the definition of “particular social group” is arbitrary and capricious, some background information is necessary. The BIA first attempted to define “particular social group” in Matter of Acosta, 19 I. & N. Dec. 211 (B.I.A.1985). In Acosta, the BIA relied on the canon of ejusdem generis to construe “membership in a particular social group” in a way which most closely resembles the definition of the other four grounds of persecution under the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act): race, religion, nationality, and political opinion. Id. at 233. After deducing commonalities between the five bases of persecution cognizable under the Act, the BIA defined “particular social group” as a “group of persons all of whom share a common, immutable characteristic,”

[671 F.3d 683]

 

which may be either “an innate one such as sex, color, or kinship ties” or a “shared past experience such as former military leadership or land ownership.” Id. In all such circumstances, BIA explained, the characteristic uniting the group must be “one that the members of the group either cannot change, or should not be required to change because it is fundamental to their individual identities or consciences.” Id. Because an occupation is not something individuals are either unable to change or, as a matter of conscience, should not be required to change, the BIA rejected an asylum claim by a taxi driver in the city of San Salvador premised on his membership in a taxi cooperative whose members were targeted by the guerillas for having refused to participate in guerrilla-sponsored work stoppages. Id. at 234.

During the next twenty years, the BIA applied the immutability definition of Acosta in a variety of contexts. The BIA’s published decisions recognized as a “particular social group” former members of Salvadorian national police (who could not change their past experience of serving in the police), see In re Fuentes, 19 I. & N. Dec. 658 (B.I.A.1988); members of the Marehan subclan of the Darood clan in Somalia (who shared kinship ties and linguistic commonalities), see In re H-, 21 I. & N. Dec. 337 (B.I.A. 1996); Filipinos of mixed Filipino-Chinese ancestry (because their traits were immutable)], see In re V-T-S-,21 I. & N. Dec. 792 (B.I.A.1997); young women of a certain Togo tribe who have not yet had a female genital mutilation (FGM) and who opposed the practice on moral grounds (because the “characteristic of having intact genitalia is one that is so fundamental to the individual identity of a young woman that she should not be required to change it”), see In re Kasinga, 21 I. & N. Dec. 357 (B.I.A.1996); and homosexuals in Cuba (based on the Board’s recognition of homosexuality as an immutable characteristic), see In re Toboso-Alfonso,20 I. & N. Dec. 819, 822 (B.I.A.1990). With some variations, all circuits adopted the Acostadefinition of “particular social group.” See generally Fatma E. Marouf, The Emerging Importance of “Social Visibility” in Defining a “Particular Social Group” and Its Potential Impact on Asylum Claims Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender, 27 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. 47, 53 & n. 24 (2008) (stating federal courts “generally have followed Acosta” and cataloging relevant precedents) (hereinafter “The Emerging Importance of Social Visibility”). Our circuit adopted the Acosta definition as well, although it seemingly expanded it following the Ninth Circuit’s lead to also permit social groups based on a “voluntary associational relationship among the purported members.” Safaie v. INS, 25 F.3d 636, 640 (8th Cir.1994) (theorizing a group of Iranian women who refuse to conform to Iranian customs relating to dress and behavior and whose opposition is so profound that they would choose to suffer the severe consequences of noncompliance “may well satisfy the definition”) (citing the standard in Sanchez-Trujillo v. INS, 801 F.2d 1571, 1576 (9th Cir.1986)).

Beginning in 2006, however, the BIA started deviating from the Acosta definition of “particular social group” by emphasizing the importance of social visibility of a given group. In Matter of C-A-, for example,2 the BIA reiterated its adherence

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to Acosta, but listed “the extent to which members of a society perceive those with the characteristic in question as members of a social group” as a “relevant factor” in the analysis. 23 I. & N. Dec. 951, 956-57 (B.I.A.2006). Applying this standard, the BIA rejected the proposed social group of noncriminal drug informants working against the Cali drug cartel in Colombia in part because “the very nature of the conduct at issue is such that it is generally out of the public view.” Id. at 960.

The BIA continued the trend in Matter of A-M-E & J-G-U-, 24 I. & N. Dec. 69 (B.I.A.2007), by refusing to recognize a social group of “affluent Guatemalans” targeted for ransom. The BIA acknowledged the petitioners should not be expected to divest themselves of their wealth under the second prong of Acosta, but denied the claim on the basis of the applicants’ inability to show “social visibility,” id. at 75 (lamenting the lack of evidence to demonstrate “the general societal perception” of wealthy people was different from the common perception of groups at different socio-economic levels), and “particularity,” id.at 76 (criticizing the proposed group for being “too amorphous” and “indeterminate”). In its reasoning, the BIA drew on the Second Circuit opinion in Gomez v. INS, 947 F.2d 660, 664 (2d Cir.1991), where the court required members of a cognizable social group to possess “some fundamental characteristic in common which serves to distinguish them in the eyes of a persecutor—or in the eyes of the outside world in general.”

The biggest transformation in the BIA’s “particular social group” jurisprudence, however, came in its two most recent decisions issued on the same day in 2008: Matter of S-E-G-,24 I. & N. Dec. 579 (B.I.A.2008), and Matter of E-A-G-, 24 I. & N. Dec. 591 (B.I.A.2008). Both confronted claims of gang-related persecution under the rubric of membership in a particular social group. In E-A-G-, the BIA refused to recognize social groups of “young persons who are perceived to be affiliated with gangs (as perceived by the government and/or the general public)” and “persons resistant to gang membership (refusing to join when recruited)” because these groups “have not been shown to be part of a socially visible group within Honduran society, and the respondent [does not] possess[] any characteristics that would cause others in Honduran society to recognize him as one who has refused gang recruitment.” 24 I. & N. Dec. at 593-94. In S-E-G-, the unsuccessful group was that of Salvadorian youth who have been subjected to recruitment efforts by the MS-13 and who have rejected and resisted membership in the gang based on their own personal, moral, and religious opposition to the gang’s values and activities. 24 I. & N. Dec. at 579. Their claim for asylum failed because, according

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to the BIA, it did not fare well under the “recent decisions holding that membership in a purported social group requires that the group have particular and well-defined boundaries, and that it possess a recognized level of social visibility.” Id. In essence, the decisions elevated the requirements of “social visibility” and “particularity” from merely some of the many factors in the holistic analysis of the issue to absolute prerequisites to establishing membership in a particular social group.

This new approach to defining “particular social group” split the circuits as to the validity and permissible extent of the BIA’s reliance on “social visibility” and “particularity.” Compare Valdiviezo-Galdamez v. Holder, 663 F.3d 582, 603-09 (3d Cir.2011) (concluding the BIA’s “social visibility” and “particularity” requirements are inconsistent with prior BIA decisions and rejecting the government’s attempt to graft these additional requirements onto petitioner’s social group claims); Gatimi v. Holder, 578 F.3d 611, 615-16 (7th Cir. 2009) (criticizing the BIA’s decisions in S-E-G- and E-A-G- for being “inconsistent” with the BIA’s precedents in Acosta and Kasinga and for failing to explain the reasons for adopting the “social visibility” criterion); Benitez Ramos v. Holder, 589 F.3d 426, 430-31 (7th Cir.2009) (denouncing the BIA’s insistence on “social visibility,” sometimes in its literal form, and charging the BIA might not understand the difference between visibility in a social sense and the external criterion sense); Urbina-Mejia v. Holder, 597 F.3d 360, 365-67 (6th Cir.2010) (noting being a former gang member is an immutable characteristic and defining former members of the 18th Street gang as a “particular social group” based on their inability to change their past and the ability of their persecutors to recognize them as former gang members), with Lizama v. Holder, 629 F.3d 440, 447 (4th Cir.2011) (upholding the BIA’s definition of a particular social group as requiring that “(1) its members share common immutable characteristics, (2) these common characteristics give members social visibility, and (3) the group is defined with sufficient particularity to delimit its membership”); Ramos-Lopez v. Holder, 563 F.3d 855, 862 (9th Cir.2009) (upholding the BIA’s adoption of the “social visibility” requirement); Scatambuli v. Holder, 558 F.3d 53, 60 (1st Cir.2009) (rejecting petitioners’ claims the BIA is precluded from considering the visibility of a group); and Fuentes-Hernandez v. Holder,411 Fed.App’x. 438, 438-39 (2d Cir. 2011) (stating individuals who resisted gang recruitment in El Salvador do not constitute a “particular social group” because their proposed group lacked “social visibility” and “particularity” and because the alleged persecution “did not bear the requisite nexus to a protected ground”).

I agree with the circuits which hold the BIA’s addition of the “social visibility” and “particularity” requirements to the definition of “particular social group” is arbitrary and capricious. First, as discussed above, these newly added requirements are inconsistent with prior BIA decisions. Specifically, they are in direct conflict with the definition of “particular social group” announced in Acosta. By stating this, I am in no way suggesting the BIA must continue to adhere to the Acosta definition. I am of course cognizant the BIA may “add new requirements to, or even change, its definition of `particular social group'” over time. Valdiviezo-Galdamez, 663 F.3d at 608; see also Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 57, 103 S.Ct. 2856, 77 L.Ed.2d 443 (1983) (stating an agency may change its interpretation of a stature or regulation over time). The BIA, however, must explain its choice for

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doing so because an unexplained departure from established precedent is generally “a reason for holding [the departure] to be an arbitrary and capricious change from agency practice[.]” Nat’l Cable & Telecomms. Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967, 981, 125 S.Ct. 2688, 162 L.Ed.2d 820 (2005); see also FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 556 U.S. 502, 129 S.Ct. 1800, 1811, 173 L.Ed.2d 738 (2009) (stating “the agency must show that there are good reasons for the new policy”); Friends of Boundary Waters Wilderness v. Dombeck, 164 F.3d 1115, 1123 (8th Cir. 1999) (noting “a sudden and unexpected change in agency policy” may be characterized as arbitrary and capricious).

Because the BIA departed from its well-established Acosta definition without providing a reasonable explanation for its choice, the departure is arbitrary and capricious. Thus, although I am bound by our decisions in Constanza and Ortiz-Puentes, I cannot agree with our circuit’s as-a-matter-of-course adoption of the BIA’s new approach to defining “particular social group”—an approach which not only represents a stark departure from established precedent, but also eviscerates protections for many groups of applicants eligible under the agency’s prior definition.

Therefore, I reluctantly concur in the result.

FootNotes

1. Gaitan does not address the denial of relief under the Convention Against Torture in his brief. Any argument based on that ground is therefore deemed waived. See Tinajero-Ortiz v. United States, 635 F.3d 1100, 1103 n. 3 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, ___U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 315, 181 L.Ed.2d 194 (2011). Gaitan notes that he does not waive his claim that he is otherwise eligible for relief in the form of withholding of removal under the INA. However, “[t]he standard for withholding of removal, a clear probability of persecution, is more rigorous than the well-founded fear standard for asylum. An alien who fails to prove eligibility for asylum cannot meet the standard for establishing withholding of removal.” Turay v. Ashcroft, 405 F.3d 663, 667 (8th Cir.2005) (internal citations omitted). Because we find that Gaitan is not eligible for asylum, Gaitan is unable to meet the standard for establishing withholding of removal.

 

2. The BIA signaled its intention to break away from the Acosta standard as early as 2001, in its decision in Matter of R-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. 906 (B.I.A.2001). There, the BIA refused to accord a social group status to a group of “Guatemalan women who have been involved intimately with Guatemalan male companions who believe that women are to live under male domination.” Id. at 917-18. Although the outcome of the opinion was unobjectionable even under the traditional Acosta standard, its logic was noteworthy for the BIA’s insistence that the applicant demonstrate “how the characteristic is understood in the alien’s society” and how “the potential persecutors… see persons sharing the characteristic as warranting suppression or the infliction of harm.” Id. at 918. Because at the time R-A- was issued, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was in the process of finalizing a rule defining “membership in a particular social group,” the Attorney General vacated the BIA’s opinion pending the publication of that rule. In re R-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. 906 (B.I.A.2001). The proposed rule would incorporate R-A-‘s consideration of social visibility, but only as one of several non-exclusive factors. Asylum & Withholding Definitions, 65 Fed.Reg. 76,588, 76,594 (Dec. 7, 2000). Ultimately, the rule was never formalized, and the ball was back in the BIA’s court to define the “particular social group” incrementally, on a case-by-case basis.”

When Gaitan came out in 2012, the Bushies were gone Obama had taken over, and the Attorney General was Eric Holder. One might have thought that someone with Holder’s reputation for civil rights sensitivity and equal justice under the law might have forced the BIA to confront its tarnished past, or at least have appointed some “asylum experts” as Appellate Judges to force the BIA to engage in some “two-sided” appellate deliberation.
But, alas, Holder, like his successor Attorney General Loretta Lynch, didn’t  see a need to extend civil rights and fair legal treatment to refugees and asylum seekers being mistreated by the DOJ’s wholly owned subsidiary, the BIA. It became apparent that Holder and Lynch rather liked the idea of owning a complacent, largely pro-Government appellate court just as much as Ashcroft and the Bushies did.
During the Obama Administration, the BIA continued to be comprised of Appellate Judges who were insiders and/or bureaucrats. They kept the numbers rolling, didn’t rock the boat, almost never dissented, and “went along to get along” even with obviously flawed legal policies that forced scared, often semi-literate women and children to represent themselves before the U.S. Immigration Courts and make out cases under the BIA’s arcane, convoluted, and generally applicant-unfriendly definitions of PSG. So Sessions was able to take over a dysfunctional court system (in terms of its due process mission), but a relatively well-oiled “denial mill” masquerading as a Federal Appellate Court. And, that’s where we stand today, folks!

The U.S. Immigration Courts will not regain integrity until the are removed from the Executive Branch and reconstituted as as an independent Article I or even Article III Court. Until then, it’s likely that refugees and asylum seekers will continue to suffer unfair treatment, bias, and undeserved fates under the U.S. asylum system. Doesn’t anybody care?

PWS

09-14-17