Musings on Events in U.S. Immigration Court, Immigration Law, Sports, and Other Random Topics by Retired United States Immigration Judge (Arlington, Virginia) and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt. To see my complete professional bio, just click on the link below.
“WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months before the department announced her departure on Friday, according to multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.
She will be leaving the Justice Department in the coming weeks to take a position with Walmart as the company’s executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, a job change that had been in the works for some time, the sources said.
Sources: Brand left DOJ over fear of overseeing Russia probe 3:40
As far back as last fall, Brand had expressed to friends that she felt overwhelmed and unsupported in her job, especially as many key positions under her jurisdiction had still not been filled with permanent, Senate-confirmed officials.
Four of the 13 divisions overseen by the associate attorney general remain unfilled, including the civil rights division and the civil division, over one year into the Trump administration.
While Brand has largely stayed out of the spotlight, public criticism of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by President Donald Trump worried Brand that Rosenstein’s job could be in danger.
Should Rosenstein be fired, Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, thrusting her into a political spotlight that Brand told friends she did not want to enter.
The Justice Department pushed back on NBC’s report.
“It is clear these anonymous sources have never met Rachel Brand let alone know her thinking. All of this is false and frankly ridiculous,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores.
Brand has had a long legal career that has spanned several administrations, including under Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush.
In announcing her departure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions described Brand as “a lawyer’s lawyer,” noting that she graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked at the Supreme Court.
In the same statement, Brand said, “I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my time here.”
Undoubtedly, the DOJ under Trump and Sessions has made some great strides in attacking the rule of law, undermining social justice, mal-administering the Immigration Courts, eroding the credibility of DOJ attorneys in court, and generally diminishing the quality and fairness of the justice system in the United States.
While those might give Rachel “bragging rights” over at Wal-Mart or in right-wing legal circles, I don’t see that they are anything to “write home about.” Hopefully, at some point in the future, having served as a politico in the Trump/Sessions DOJ will become a “career killer” for any future Government appointments.
But, in today’s topsy-turvy legal-political climate, it’s still a shrewd “self-preservation” move on Brand’s part. And, she’s somewhat less likely to be stomping on anyone’s civil rights over at Wal-Mart (although you never know when an opportunity to dump on the civil rights of the LGBTQ community, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, women, the poor, or to promote religious intelerance might present itself in a corporate setting).
Looking forward to more DOJ reporting from the super-talented Julia! I’ve missed her on the “immigration beat!”
“After my father died in Honduras in 1990, I sponsored my widowed mother for permanent residency in the United States. She was 67 years old, I was her only child, and my three children were her only grandchildren. Of course I had to bring her here.
I was doing what most children with aging parents, in any country, try to do: take care of them as they once took care of us. Fortunately, the wisdom of U.S. immigration law at the time allowed her to enter with a green card under the family reunification visa preference, now under attack as “chain migration” by opponents of legal immigration, including President Trump. I was able to sponsor her because I was a U.S. citizen, born and raised here. No doubt some would consider me an “anchor baby,” although my nonimmigrant parents were here legally when I was born. We used to be called first-generation Americans, but “anchor baby” apparently resonates better for fearmongering purposes.
The Trump administration’s proposals to change the U.S. immigration system and end most family reunification preferences would have kept me from helping my mother, and if they become law, they’ll keep countless Americans from doing the same for their loved ones. The president wants to end visa preferences for parents, adult children and siblings of immigrants — only minor children or spouses would qualify for family visas. In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Trump said that he would protect “the nuclear family” and that the changes he’s proposed are necessary for “our security, and for the future of America.” But his rules wouldn’t have protected my family, or our future, at all. In my case, bringing my mother here had a profound impact on my life and those of my children — and no one would have been better off if immigration law had forced her to stay in Honduras.
CONTENT FROM CHILDREN’S NATIONAL
“There was constant anxiety. He would accuse people of not being careful enough [with food]. He was scared something could happen and that he could have a reaction.”
[For 50 years, keeping families together has been central to U.S. immigration policy]
In 1996, after going through a divorce, I found myself a single father, trying to raise three tweens and teens on my own, wondering how I would handle work and family obligations. My mother saved my life. In many ways, she saved my children’s lives as well. She was the after-school presence, always there to greet them and keep them out of trouble. We did a good job: All three graduated from good colleges — the University of Pennsylvania, Duke and the University of Pittsburgh. They’ve all gone on to successful careers in education, technology and real estate.
Without my mother here, I would have had to decline the greatest professional opportunity of my life in 2001: the chance to work in the White House as a special assistant for economic policy to President George W. Bush. What had been a few hours a day of after-school care that my mother handled became many hours a day and often late nights, as anyone who has worked in the White House will attest. Had she not been here, I could never have met the demands of that job with kids in high school.
In 2002, we celebrated my mother obtaining her U.S. citizenship with lunch in the White House Mess. We sat there and wished my father had lived to see this — his son working in the White House. My father, born to a single mother in a poor mountain town in Honduras, got a college education only because Rotary International gave him a scholarship at age 27 to study in the United States. He went on to get a master’s degree in economics, the same trade that brought me to the White House’s National Economic Council.
In some ways, mine was an atypical foreign family: My parents spent 20 years working here on G-4 visas , which are granted to employees of international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank, where they worked before taking overseas posts and ultimately retiring in Honduras. In other ways, though, we were the stereotypical American immigrant story: They came here to improve their lot in life. They were luckier than most and better educated than many. But that education took place only after my parents got here. They came with a high school education and no assets. They left this world with much more, but you couldn’t have predicted that when they first arrived in the United States.
[How ‘chain migration’ brought us the Trump White House]
Now the Trump administration is deriding family reunification as “chain migration,” a term intended to belittle the contributions that immigrants and their families make. “Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” Trump claimed Tuesday — a claim that isn’t true, as current law only allows citizens or permanent residents to sponsor immediate relatives. Some of the president’s allies, such as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), don’t even want people like me to be citizens in the first place: My parents were not citizens or permanent residents when I was born, and King has introduced legislation to prevent children of people like them from becoming citizens at birth. Under these visions for America, I would not have been able to work in the White House; I would not have been able to sponsor my mother for permanent residency; and my mother would have been unable to help me and my children accomplish what we have accomplished.
I ask only that people look at me and my family, especially my mother, as part of the positive impact that immigrants have in America. Both of my parents were born in Honduras (no doubt one of the places the president had in mind when he made a scatological reference to the countries of origin of many immigrants). Thanks to the compassion and vision of our current policies, though, my mother made a lasting contribution to our nation: the well-being and advancement of me and my three children. No one looking at us would ever think “Norwegian.” But surely they would think that we embody the American spirit.”
Come on, Carlos! You’re a smart guy! What did you expect from a party that embraces outspoken anti-Latino, White Nationalist, racists like Steve King, Jeff Sessions, Kris Kobach, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Donald Trump?
Your achievements and past contributions are meaningless. It’s your a Brown skin, Hispanic race, and immigrant heritage that they hate and denigrate!
So, instead of asking why and lamenting the overt racism that has become a key part of the GOP agenda (just that Hispanics have replaced African-Americans as the primary target), why not do the “smart” thing and switch over to the Democratic Party where the American Dream isn’t restricted to rich White Guys?
There’s a simple question here: Do you believe in America or not?
Throughout its history, the country has accepted waves of mostly low-skilled immigrants — German, Irish, Italian, Eastern European, now Latino. There are highly skilled immigrants, too; African newcomers, for example, are better-educated than the U.S. population as a whole, and an estimated 63 percent of people holding “computer and mathematical” jobs in Silicon Valley are foreign-born. But most immigrants over the years have arrived bearing not much more than grit, ambition and a dream.
Does an influx of workers with entry-level skills tend to depress wages? That’s the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking why the federal minimum wage is so low as to be almost irrelevant.
And we should recognize that immigration gives the United States a tremendous competitive advantage. In other advanced countries, populations are aging rapidly. Immigration provides a steady stream of younger workers whose brain and brawn keep programs such as Medicare and Social Security viable.
The only coherent — if despicable — arguments for Trump’s plan are racial and cultural. The way they used to put it in the Jim Crow days was succinct: White is right.”
The results are just as clear as in the German case. Between 2014 and 2016 the counties that embrace diversity accounted for 72 percent of the nation’s increased economic output and two-thirds of the new jobs. The approximately 85 percent of counties that support restrictionists like Donald Trump accounted for a measly 28 percent of the growth.
Republicans’ problem is that since George W. Bush left town they’ve become the East Germans of the 21st century. They have embraced a cultural model that produces low growth and low dynamism. No wonder they want to erect a wall.
Progressives say Republicans oppose immigration because of bigotry. But it’s not that simple. It’s more accurate to say restrictionists are stuck in a mono-cultural system that undermines their own values: industry, faithfulness and self-discipline. Of course they react with defensive animosity to the immigrants who out-hustle and out-build them. You’d react negatively, too, if confronted with people who are better versions of what you wish you were yourself.”
You can can read the complete versions of both op-eds, which I highly recommend, at the above links.
When you’re coming from the same places as Jim Crow and the East Germans, there is no acceptable “rational basis” for the restrictionist agenda. It’s bad for America as well as for immigrants. But, it’s difficult or impossible to make rational arguments against deeply held, factually incorrect, irrational beliefs, particularly those based on racial, economic, cultural, and class bias. That’s probably why rational “immigration reform” has been, and remains, so difficult to achieve.
And, having seen thousands of migrants and their families come before me at the Arlington Immigration Court over the years, gotten to know many of their stories, and having represented immigrants, entrepreneurs, and businesses during my time in private practice, there is no doubt that Brooks is right: they “out-hustle and out-build” many of those “native-born” Americans who despise and look down on them.
And, it’s not just the doctors, professors, and top execs — folks who pound nails, lay foundations, make food, sweep floors, put on roofs , and pick our produce are also performing essential services that keep our country going — and, in many if not all cases, doing it better than the rest of us could or would.Really, how long would YOU last picking lettuce or laying shingles on a 100 degree day? And, how GOOD would you really be at it? There is more “skill” to so-called “unskilled” work than most of us in the “privileged classes” want to admit!
“The defining moment of Jeff Sessions’s time as attorney general has been when he recused himself from oversight of the Russia investigation. That quickly led to the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is now extensively probing President Trump. And by all accounts, it seriously strained Sessions’s relationship with Trump, who thinks Sessions should be protecting him and doing his bidding.
But there are increasing signs that Sessions has indeed done plenty of Trump’s bidding behind closed doors. And he’s done it on some dicey and very politically tinged issues — so much so that he made Trump’s second FBI director deeply uncomfortable with the whole thing.
The Post’s Devlin Barrett and Philip Rucker report that Sessions has pressured FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to get rid of his deputy Andrew McCabe, a holdover from James B. Comey’s FBI and favorite target for Republicans alleging bias in federal law enforcement. Some have reported that Wray even threatened to resign; The Post is reporting that he did not explicitly do so.
Here’s the meat of it all:
Sessions, Republican lawmakers and some members of the Trump administration have argued for weeks that Wray should conduct some kind of housecleaning by demoting or reassigning senior aides to his predecessor, Comey, according to people familiar with the matter. These people added that Sessions himself is under tremendous political pressure from conservative lawmakers and White House officials who have complained that the bureaucracy of federal law enforcement is biased against the president.
Trump has made no secret of his distaste for McCabe, even tweeting about it repeatedly after McCabe announced last month that he would soon retire, when he becomes eligible for full pension benefits. Trump’s tweets date back to the summer and have focused on McCabe’s wife’s run for the Virginia state legislature as a Democrat and ties to Hillary Clinton.
. . . .
In other words, Trump has publicly stated his preference for Sessions to try to get rid of McCabe, and he has suggested Wray do it as well. Now we find out Sessions did indeed attempt it, and Wray resisted it.
But it’s only the latest evidence that Sessions and his Justice Department are taking specific actions that Trump has publicly urged, even as they, in some cases, risk looking like they are in service to Trump’s political goals.
(Remarkably, Trump actually hit Sessions for his weak positions on both leakers and Clinton’s emails in the same tweet. The Justice Department now appears to be addressing both.)
The Post’s Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky even reported last month that Sessions has engaged in an all-out campaign to regain Trump’s faith by pointing to things the Justice Department has done in service of Trump’s agenda. That’s a pretty remarkable state of affairs.
Some of these things are issues on which Sessions has clearly sided with Trump, especially the dangers of leakers. So it’s perhaps no surprise Sessions would pursue them. But the fact that Trump called for these actions before Sessions was reported to have taken them sure makes it look like he’s taking direction from Trump — or at least succumbing to pressure that Trump and others have brought to bear.
Sessions has also, notably, resisted that pressure at times. During congressional testimony in November, he very publicly shunned a Republican lawmaker’s conspiracy theory — one to which Trump has also alluded — about how the federal government may have colluded with Democrats to spy on Trump’s campaign. Sessions said the issue didn’t rise to the level of appointing a special counsel.
But the picture of what Sessions is doing behind the scenes is increasingly suggesting that Trump’s very public hints that his attorney general should do this or that have often resulted in those specific actions. And especially when it comes to things such as trying to force out McCabe or reportedly dig up dirt on Comey, it sure makes it look like Sessions is using his authorities to try to address Trump’s political aims.
And for an attorney general who leads the federal law enforcement that is currently investigating the president and his team, that’s a perception problem, at best.”
Read Blake’s full article, complete with “Tweet Texts,” at the link.
Meanwhile “chatter” surrounding the DOJ credits Sessions for doing a “bang up” job of implementing his racist, White Nationalist agenda at Justice. Basically, according to some, he’s very effectively shifting the Government’s resources, focus, and litigating capacity to insuring that no element of White privilege or far-Right religious intolerance goes unprotected.
At the same time, he’s using basically bogus or at least highly misleading “statistics” to “rev up” racist fervor against immigrant, primarily Latino communities and Democratic local officials who won’t go along with his program of attempting to draw false connections between immigrants and crime and terrorism. Meanwhile, he essentially has consigned the rights of African-Americans, Latinos, Immigrants, Migrants, Women who seek abortions, and the LGBTQ community to the “trash-bin of Justice.” Many who care about the future of racial equality and social justice in America are concerned that this type of “deep damage” to our justice system can’t easily be undone or repaired, even after Sessions and his “wrecking crew” finally depart the “Halls of Injustice.”
Reportedly, Sessions has been ably assisted in his campaign “to take the justice out of Justice” by Associate Attorney General Rachel B. Brand, the “number three” person at Justice. Brand, a former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy under Bush II, DOJ “vet,” and apparent “true believer” in the Radical Right, maintains a much “lower profile” than the ever controversial Sessions. But, apparently she and those under her excel at undoing and “deconstructing” all of the “social justice” achievements of the Obama Administration.
Following the “Watergate Disaster” in the 1970, where the Nixon Administration’s blatant politicization of the DOJ became a national scandal, succeeding Administrations, in my view, more or less “backed off” of obvious political partisanship at the DOJ. But, as Watergate becomes a “mere tiny image in the rearview mirror,” that “tradition of restraint” has gradually eroded. Sounds to me like the “Watergate Era” has basically returned to the DOJ. This time, and quite sadly for our Constitutional system of Government and the U.S. Justice System, there is some doubt as to whether it will ever depart again.
“In 2006, Arizona passed a ballot initiative that barred students without legal immigration status from receiving in-state tuition rates at public universities and colleges.
Dulce Matuz, an electrical-engineering major at Arizona State, ran to find her professor.
Bursting into tears, she told him something she had only ever shared with her closest friends. She was undocumented.
“It felt good to tell my story,” she told the Guardian this week. “It was like a weight had been lifted.”
The law meant Matuz would have to pay the out-of-state tuition rate, which she could not afford. But the next day, her professor gave her a flier advertising scholarships for “people in your situation”.
Matuz had thought she was the only undocumented student on one of the largest campuses in the country. She was wrong.
At an informational meeting, she met dozens of young people with stories similar to hers. Their discussion grew into a statewide coalition, the students rallying with organizations across the US to declare themselves “undocumented and unafraid”.
One by one they shed their anonymity, in effect daring law enforcement to target them.
It was a risky move, especially in a state which was then a cauldron of anti-immigrant sentiment. But the students weren’t alone. Thousands of young immigrants came forward to demand a future in the country where they were raised. Each had a name and a story.
Collectively, they are known as Dreamers, young people without immigration status who were brought to the US as children. Over the last decade, they’ve gone from the “shadows” to the center stage of US politics, and their fate now dangles before an irascible president and a gridlocked Congress.
In September, Donald Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), an Obama-era program that lifted the threat of deportation for Dreamers.
The administration argued that Obama had overstepped his authority. But Trump did give Dreamers a six-month grace period and called on Congress to pass legislation.
“If the Dreamers are able to lead a fight that results in a radical, nativist administration signing into law their freedom, it would be a testament only to how much moral and political power the Dreamers have built,” said Frank Sharry, a long-time advocate of immigration reform and executive director of America’s Voice.
Conservatives suggest Trump is uniquely qualified to succeed where predecessors have failed, to achieve immigration reform, precisely because of his credibility among fierce opponents of illegal immigration.
At a meeting earlier this month, for example, Trump promised to “take the heat” if Republicans passed legislation.
“President Obama tried and couldn’t fix immigration, President Bush tried and couldn’t do it,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is pushing bipartisan immigration reform.
“I believe President Trump can. Today’s Daca recipients can be tomorrow’s Trump Dreamers.”
Polling has consistently shown that a large majority of Americans – 87% in one recent survey – support protections for Dreamers. But general anti-immigrant fervor has stalled efforts to pass legislation and conservatives remain divided over whether Dreamers should ever be allowed to be citizens.
Rounds of negotiations have yielded no solution, only a brief shutdown of the federal government during which Democrats tried to force lawmakers to extend legal status to the Dreamers.
Depending on the day, lawmakers and the president are either on the verge of striking a deal or as far apart as ever. Trump was elected after championing hard-line immigration policies but he has demanded both a “bill of love” and a border wall.
This week, the White House released a proposal that offered a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented young people – in exchange for a $25bn “trust fund” for a border wall, a crackdown on undocumented migrants and changes to the migration system.
The offer did not go down well, either with Trump’s base or with progressives ranged against him. Immigration hardliners crowned Trump “Amnesty Don”. Advocates for reform rejected the offer as an attempt to seal America’s borders.
In a statement issued on Friday, Chris Murphy, a Connecticut senator, called the offer “a total non-starter” that “preyed on the worst kind of prejudice”, using Dreamers “as a bargaining chip to build a wall and rip thousands of families apart”.
Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that Daca reform had “been made increasingly difficult by the fact that [Senate minority leader] Cryin’ Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!”
Dreamers say the fight is only beginning.
Matuz became a US citizen in 2016, a decade after she “came out of the shadows”. But she still identifies strongly with her fellow Dreamers.
“We still haven’t achieved what we set out to achieve,” she said.
’They’re speaking up’
The Dreamer movement came of age during the Obama administration. But legislation to build a path to citizenship was introduced to Congress in 2001.
Two senators – Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican – introduced the first Dream Act in August that year, a month before 9/11.
But after the attacks, as concerns over national security and terrorism dominated public life, the immigration debate shifted sharply. The bill stalled. It was reintroduced several times, without success.
Nonetheless, the Dreamers continued to galvanize public support. They escalated their tactics, staging sit ins and actions that risked arrest.
“There was a time when they used to be very quiet,” Durbin said recently at a rally. “Not any more. They’re speaking up and we’re proud that they are.”
The Dreamers’ fight for citizenship, Durbin has said, is the “civil rights issue of our time”.
In December 2010, the Dream Act was brought to the floor. It failed again. In 2012, months before the presidential election, Barack Obama established Daca.
Recipients had to have entered the US before their 16th birthday, which means the oldest beneficiaries are now 35.
The most common age of entry to the US was three while the median age was six, according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank in Washington.
Eight hundred thousand people qualified, the vast majority of them Latino, according to data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Nearly 80% were born in Mexico.
The largest numbers of recipients now live in California and other border states such as Texas and Arizona. They are more likely than their ineligible counterparts to hold a college degree and a higher-skilled job, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute.
“What you’re seeing in the Dreamers is a reflection of the American ideals,” said Daniel Garza, president of the conservative Libre Institute, a free-market Latino advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers.
“When one breathes freedom it manifests itself. And now that these kids have a shot at directing their own future or setting a path toward their own future, let’s remove those barriers and allow them that opportunity.”
‘I’m not alone’
Over the last several months, Dreamers have been in Washington, walking the halls of Congress.
They wear light orange shirts with a comic book POW! bubble with the words: “Clean Dream Act Now.”
They sleep on church floors and friends’ couches; a few missed final exams to join protests in December, when there was a flicker of hope that legislation might receive a vote.
Greisa Martínez Rosas, 29, has been among them, leading members in song at rallies on the lawn in front of the capitol building, in between meetings with members of Congress.
She was eight when she and her father staked out a spot on the Rio Grande river and crossed from Mexico into Texas. She laid seashells to mark the place. The next day, her family swam into the United States.
Martínez Rosas grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood of Dallas and attended Texas A&M University. But the life she was building begin to unravel when her father was deported. Her mother died in 2016.
Fighting for a Dream Act has given her purpose, she said, and she is now advocacy and policy director at United We Dream, a national organization that campaigns for migrant rights. She has three younger sisters, one of them also undocumented.
“I am really lucky to be doing this,” she said. “It gives meaning to a lot of the pain and helps me deal with a lot of the trauma growing up undocumented.
“The reality is that I’m not alone. My story isn’t special. That’s why it’s so important that we wage this fight.”
The Dreamers rejected Trump’s latest proposal, even though it would allow a pathway to citizenship for more than twice the number of Daca recipients.
“We are not willing to accept an immigration deal that takes our country 10 steps back no matter how badly we want reprieve,” Martínez Rosas said. “That’s how much we love this country.”
The problem isn’t the Dreamers. It’s the 13% of so of White Nationalist citizens who have forgotten their own immigrant heritage and have abandoned human decency, compassion, and common sense in the process. Unfortunately, this minority has, and continues to wield, a disproportionate share of political power.
David Bier of the Cato Institute writes in the Washington Post:
“Trump administration officials announced this past week that the government would terminate provisional residency permits for about 200,000 Salvadorans next year. The decision is part of President Trump’s “America first” agenda, restricting the rights of immigrants in order to protect U.S. workers. But, as previous immigration experiments demonstrate, the policy will not aid American workers. And it certainly won’t make Salvadorans pack their bags. Trump’s order is likely to have the opposite effects.
President George W. Bush granted Salvadorans temporary protected status (TPS) after devastating earthquakes hit El Salvador in 2001. He and President Barack Obama repeatedly extended the status. Beyond its humanitarian impact, TPS provides significant economic benefits. It doesn’t give applicants access to any federal welfare — so there are few costs — but it does grant the legal right to work. And Salvadorans with TPS work at very high rates: Eighty-eight percent participate in the labor force, compared with 63 percent of all Americans.
Legal employment has helped Salvadorans achieve a relatively high standard of living. The median household income for Salvadorans with TPS is $50,000, higher than the roughly $36,000 for unauthorized immigrants. Their higher wages, combined with the lack of public benefits, has been a big win for U.S. taxpayers.
Canceling TPS will make it illegal for these Salvadorans to work, but it’s unlikely to force them home. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush granted TPS to some 185,000 Salvadorans during the country’s civil war, and when President Bill Clinton canceled their status in 1996, few returned. Deportations rose only slightly, and many Salvadorans just worked illegally until 2001.
At this point, 28 years since the original TPS designation and 17 years since the subsequent one, the incentives to stay will be too large for any mass migration back to El Salvador. Trump can try to drive them out with immigration raids and increased deportations, as other presidents have tried, but the highest percentage of unauthorized immigrants deported in a given year is 2.1 percent — three times the amount this administration deported in 2017.
Losing the legal right to work doesn’t prevent immigrants from finding jobs. They can use fake or borrowed documents from U.S. citizen family members, or employers can pay them off the books. Illegal employment, however, pays less than legal employment — employers compensate for taking the risk of hiring someone who may be here illegally.”
Read Bier’s complete article at the link.
I can make a strong argument that Salvadoran, Haitian, and Honduran TPS are some of the most successful and humane Immigration programs in US history. In contrast to asylum adjudication, TPS adjudications cost the Government peanuts. And, the processing fees for periodic renewals of work authorization actually make money for the Government.
TPSers are overwhelmingly law-abiding, industrious, and because of their legal work authorization they pay taxes. Many TPSers work in essential industries like construction where there are not equally qualified “native born American workers” readily available to replace them. Many have US Citizen children and they have integrated into their communities. In my experience, while the majority would like to have a “path to citizenship” they aren’t aggressively agitating for one. Almost all are grateful just for the chance TPS gives them to remain with their families in the communities they call home and to work legally to support their families.
Thus, TPSers contribute much to the US and ask little in return. Their continuing presence here is in no way a “problem.”
In a rational political climate, extending TPS while offering some type of permanent status to TPSers through legislation would be a “no brainer.” Indeed, a generation or so ago, US enacted a great program called NACARA, which offered Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalan a way of staying permanently and eventually becoming citizens. The program was immensely successful at a minimal administrative cost to the Government.
But, today we have a White Nationalist Administration and an increasingly White Nationalist restrictionist GOP interested more in dumping on Hispanics and Blacks through a bogus “merit based” immigration agenda than they are in doing what’s best for America.
Bier’s right. the Salvadorans aren’t going anywhere. But the Administration and the GOP restrictionists appears fixed on driving them “underground” at great cost to the TPSers and to America. They are likely to remain underground until we have “regime change” and saner heads eventually prevail.
“In a little noted, but quite extraordinary move, the National Association of Immigration Judges (“NAIJ”) has asked Congress to protect its members (Immigration Judges) from the Trump Administration (their employer). The reason? The Trump Administration is seeking to “evaluate judges’ performance based on numerical measures or production quotas.” According to NAIJ, “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.”
EOIR is developing a more efficient way to adjudicate cases (and it comes with a free drink!).
Let’s start with a bit of background. NAIJ is a voluntary organization of United States Immigration Judges. It also is the recognized representative of Immigration Judges for collective bargaining purposes(in other words, the IJs’ union): “Our mission is to promote the independence of Immigration Judges and enhance the professionalism, dignity, and efficiency of the Immigration Courts, which are the trial-level tribunals where removal proceedings initiated by the Department of Homeland Security are conducted.”
According to NAIJ, the most important regulation governing IJ decision-making is 8 C.F.R. § 1003.10(b). This regulation requires that immigration judges exercise judicial independence. Specifically, “in deciding the individual cases before them, and subject to the applicable governing standards, immigration judges shall exercise their independent judgment and discretion and may take any action consistent with their authorities under the Act and regulations that is appropriate and necessary for the disposition of such cases.” 8 C.F.R. §1 003.10(b).
Up until now, IJs were exempted from quantitative performance evaluations. According to NAIJ, “The basis for this exemption was rooted in the notion that ratings created an inherent risk of actual or perceived influence by supervisors on the work of judges, with the potential of improperly affecting the outcome of cases.”
The Trump Administration is now moving to change the way it evaluates IJs. The main reason for the change is the Administration’s goal of reducing the very-large backlog of cases in Immigration Court (currently, there are about 640,000 pending cases). The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR – the office that administers the nation’s Immigration Courts) recently announced a plan to “transform its institutional culture to emphasize the importance of completing cases.” In other words, EOIR will judge its judges based–at least in part–on the number of cases completed.
NAIJ has called this development “alarming” and a threat to judicial independence. Why? Because when judges are forced to complete a certain number of cases, they may be unable to devote the necessary time to each case. As a result, the ability to make proper, well-thought-out decisions will suffer.
This is already a problem in Immigration Court. One IJ famously quipped that his job involved adjudicating death penalty cases in a traffic court setting. And so pushing judges to do more cases in less time will potentially impact the alien’s due process rights, and the integrity of our Immigration Courts.
NAIJ has long believed that the system needs a “structural overhaul” and has advocated for converting the Immigration Courts into Article I courts. Article I refers to the first article in the U.S. Constitution, the section on legislative (i.e., Congressional) powers. The idea is that Congress would establish an independent immigration court, much like it created a tax court and a court of veterans appeal. Such a court would be independent of the Executive Branch–the branch of government tasked with enforcing immigration law (currently, IJs are employees of the Department of Justice, a part of the Executive Branch).
NAIJ recognizes that creating Article I immigration courts “may not be feasible right now,” but it nevertheless urges Congress to protect the nation’s IJs from the new Trump Administration policy:
Congress can… 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. 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.
The fact that IJs themselves are concerned about the Administration’s move is worrying. The Immigration Judges I know are conscientious and take their jobs very seriously (in contrast to the Trump Administration, which seems utterly lacking in seriousness). If EOIR is making it more difficult for IJs to do their duty, as they understand it, then something is clearly wrong.
Perhaps the IJs’ concerns are overblown. Maybe EOIR will implement the new case completion standards in a way that does not damage judicial independence or due process. But given the Administration’s track record in general, and the inexperienced acting director appointed to head EOIR, it’s difficult to have much confidence in the new policy. Since Congress is unlikely to act on NAIJ’s request for protection, I suppose we will see soon enough how these changes affect the Immigration Courts.
Finally, in my opinion, EOIR has largely misdiagnosed the problem. While some delay may be caused by IJs kicking the can down the road, or by aliens “playing” the system, most delay is systematic–it is caused by reshuffling Administration priorities, which affect how DHS and DOJ schedule cases. I doubt that imposing numerical quotas on IJs will do much to improve the situation. Other solutions–facilitating pre-trial conferences, reforming the Master Calendar system, better use of technology, imposition of costs, premium processing for certain applicants–might be more effective. Everyone agrees that reducing the backlog is a worthy goal, but case completion requirements are probably not the best way to achieve that end.”
“Extraordinary” to be sure! Folks, this isn’t the Ninth Circuit or even the Seventh, Second, or Fourth Circuit, all of which from time to time have “stood tall” for the Due Process rights of migrants.
For those unfamiliar with the process, the U.S. immigration Court is a “captive Administrative Court” functioning as part of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) rather as an independent judiciary established under Article III or Article I of the U.S. Constitution.
For the past 17 years, the DOJ (with the exception of an ill-fated move by the Bush II Administration to hand out Immigration Judgeships as political rewards to their faithful) has gone out of its way to insure that those selected as Immigration Judges have a record demonstrating a “commitment to achieving agency priorities.” Translated from bureaucratese, that means that they understand the DHS immigration enforcement objectives and will not “rock the boat” by expanding or recognizing any new rights for migrants unless given permission to do so by the DOJ or DHS.
Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a judiciary where the overwhelming number of new U.S, immigration Judges appointed since 2000 — nearly 90% — come from “safe” government backgrounds, primarily from the DHS. Moreover, no “Appellate Immigration Judge” (or, “Board Member”) at the BIA has been appointed directly from outside the U.S. Government since the pre-21st Century “Schmidt Era” at the BIA. (For “EOIR trivia buffs,” the last two outside appointments to the BIA in 2000 were the late Hon. Juan P. Osuna and the Hon. Cecelia M. Expenoza who was exiled along with me and others during the “Ashcroft Purge” of 2003.)
So, we’re dealing with a basically conservative, government-oriented judiciary of “non-boat rockers” who mostly achieved and retained their present judicial positions by “knowing and doing what the boss wanted” and making sure that any “deviations” were within limits that would be tolerated.
Yes, it’s OK to grant some asylum cases, particularly from Africa or the Middle East, over DHS objections; but “watch out” if you start granting lots of asylum to folks from the Northern Triangle or Mexico for whom the big “NOT WELCOME SIGN” has been hung out by the last three Administrations, or if you accept any new “particular social groups” which Administrations tend to view with fearful eyes as potentially “opening the floodgates” of protection to those who sorely need and can easily access it (in other words, to those whom the Geneva Refugee Convention actually was intended to protect.)
So, this isn’t a judiciary that normally would be expected to “buck the system.” Indeed, although the world has probably never been worse for refugees since World War II, the Immigration Courts seem to have inexplicably but dutifully reduced asylum grants since the clearly xenophobic, anti-refugee, and anti-asylum Trump Administration assumed office and Gonzo began delivering his anti-asylum, anti-lawyer, anti-immigrant rants.
Therefore, the threat to the limited judicial independence that U.S. Immigration Judges possess under the regulations (which haven’t prevented occasional “reassignments” for ideological or political reasons in the past) has to be presumed both real and immediate to prompt this group to take the risky action of publicly seeking protection. After all, Gonzo could potentially “retaliate” by further limiting the judges’ authority, further jacking up the already astronomically high stress levels under which the judges operate, or “reassigning” “unreliable” judges to more mundane or unattractive positions within the DOJ (sometimes known as “hallwalker” positions).
It’s definitely a further sign of an unhealthy judicial system on the verge of collapse. Before that happens, and 650,000+ additional cases spew forth into other parts of our justice system, it would be wise of Congress to make at least some immediate reforms to preserve independence and due process within the U.S. immigration Courts.
I also agree with Jason that attorneys and respondents are not the major problem driving uncontrolled backlogs in the U.S. immigration Courts. No, it’s all about “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) generated by EOIR itself at the behest of its political handlers at the DOJ.
But, I don’t agree with Jason’s statement that EOIR has merely “misdiagnosed” the problem. No, EOIR and DOJ know exactly what the problem is, because they created it (egged on, no doubt by DHS and sometimes the White House).
Gonzo and EOIR are intentionally misrepresenting and misusing datato hide the truth about how screwed up the system has become because of the DOJ’s toxic combination of administrative incompetence with improper political and enforcement motives. In other words, DOJ is attempting to cover up its own “fraud, waste, and abuse” of public funds.
Even worse, and more reprehensible, Gonzo is attempting disingenuously to shift the blame to respondents and their overworked attorneys who are more often than not the actual victims of the scam being pulled off by the DOJ as part of the Trump Administration’s xenophobic, White Nationalist campaign to reduce the precious rights of asylum seekers and others. We can’t let him get away with it!
“God showed up and showed out last night in Alabama,” an old college friend exclaimed in a phone call on the morning after Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore’s surprising and ignominious special-election defeat. That Moore took down with him the arrogant but hapless President Trump, his chief cheerleader and rally sponsor, delighted my caller all the more. Email and social media across the country lit up with cries of jubilation.
Whether divinely inspired or voter driven, Democrat Doug Jones’s victory Tuesday night should have been the moment for Moore to realize that his self-depiction as Christ’s chief crusader, waging a holy war against a backsliding and sinful America, was finished.
He now faces his inevitable destination: political irrelevancy, not Washington.
Alabamians cannot be thanked enough for keeping Moore at home. They, as great Americans, did all they could. The awful truth, however, is that Tuesday’s voting went only so far. It kept Moore out of the U.S. Senate. But keep that glee in check. Tuesday’s result did not rid Washington of Moore. He remains ensconced within the fence and barricades that circle 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Yes, beloved: Roy Moore is in the White House.
Moore is all there in Trump: the pomposity and overweening egotism, the predatory behavior that causes women to line up to tell their stories about sexual misconduct and abuse. In Trump, as in Moore, can be found the inability to come clean about anything, the ability to tell bald-faced lies, the harboring of racism and religious bigotry. Their capacity to pander to base instincts has no equal. Neither does their meanness.
Though Trump may have a slight edge in the vice of cruelty.
How much worse can it get when the president of the United States publicly tweets that a U.S. senator is a “lightweight” and “flunky” and slyly insinuates that she would trade her body for campaign donations?
That is the smear Trump slimed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) with this week.
Is that rock bottom, even for Trump? A large slice of Gillibrand’s congressional colleagues thought so, along with longtime observers of American politics.
The revulsion at Trump’s attack reached a peak, however, that I never expected to be scaled by the editorial board of a major newspaper such as USA Today.
I say this as a former Post editorial writer who worked for several years with a small but plucky stable of colleagues carefully assembled by legendary editorial page editor Meg Greenfield. We were known to turn a remarkable phrase or two from time to time.
But I have difficulty recalling anything that got quite to the heart of our disgust with a public figure as well as the members of USA Today’s editorial board did. Taking note of Trump’s implying that Gillibrand would trade sexual favors for cash, USA Today declared: “A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.”
Editorial boards across the country are probably muttering, “We wish we had said that.” I know I do.
But that gets us to the centrality of the problem with Trump’s presidency: As with Moore, most of the country doesn’t like him. Not his policies or decisions, though many are just awful. But him, who he is, and for some, what he has turned out to be.
Read King’s complete op-ed at the link. And, don’t forget that “Ayatollah Roy Lite” is still over at what’s left of “Justice.”
A new in-depth study by the National Immigrant Justice Center (“NIJC”) shows how the Administration is intentionally using detention to deny Constitutional Due Process of Law to some of the most vulnerable:
When Donald Trump was elected president, the immigration detention system was already mired in such dysfunction that it routinely threatened the lives of those trapped inside. More than a year later, the administration intentionally uses its broken network of hundreds of immigration jails to advance an agenda that prioritizes mass deportation above respect for basic rights. This report focuses on the Cibola County Correctional Center, a prison complex in rural New Mexico owned and operated by the private prison giant CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America)1 with the capacity to jail 1,100 immigrants facing deportation. Located far from any major urban center in a state with no immigration court, the prison has become a black hole of due process rights.
The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is particularly alarmed by the lack of meaningful access to counsel at the Cibola prison. Federal immigration law allows immigrants the right to counsel in deportation proceedings, but immigrants must locate and pay for it themselves. Immigrants detained in Cibola and many other immigration jails nationally are unable to avail themselves of this right because the capacity of nearby legal service organizations to provide representation is dwarfed by the need. An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time — six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017. The due process violations occurring at Cibola and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prisons are the latest consequences of the Trump administration’s scheme to jail so many immigrants, and in such remote locations, that their right to representation is rendered meaningless.
An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time – six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017.
In light of DHS’s systematic and willful rights violations, NIJC calls on the agency to close detention facilities like Cibola, where due process is non-existent given individuals’ lack of access to counsel, and demands that Congress immediately cut funding for DHS’s enforcement and detention operations. (See Recommendations.)
U.S. Immigration Detention National Average Daily Population From 1994 To 20172
. . . .
The Future Of Immigration Detention: Why Cibola Matters
DHS paid little heed to the dearth of affordable legal services near Cibola when it entered its agreement with Cibola County and CoreCivic. Such a lapse is by no means new or unique. DHS has grown and maintained the immigration detention system in a manner incompatible with civil rights and due process protections.
In many ways, the Trump administration inherited an immigration detention system already riddled with abuse and neglect. Detained individuals, advocacy organizations including NIJC, and DHS’s Office of Inspector General have reported for decades on the profoundly inhumane conditions pervasive throughout the detention system, including: the excessive and arbitrary use of solitary confinement;22 inadequate, unsafe and spoiled food service;23 abuse of force by officers;24 and deaths attributable to medical negligence.25 Rather than assess possible reforms to address these problems—as the non-partisan Homeland Security Advisory Council advised in late 201626—the Trump administration quickly implemented changes that exacerbated existing harms. Today, DHS jails approximately 40,000 immigrants daily —more than any administration in recent history27— and holds them longer.28 The administration has publicly embraced the use of prolonged detention for asylum seekers29 and moved to weaken the standards governing conditions of detention.30
The administration seems poised to duplicate Cibola throughout the country. Its goal is clear: by undermining detained immigrants’ access to counsel, the administration ratchets up its removal rates.
Immigrants in detention centers throughout the country face the same frustrations as those jailed at Cibola when they try to find a lawyer. Nationally, fewer than one in every five immigrants in detention is able to find a lawyer.31 The Los Angeles Times recently reported that about 30 percent of detained immigrants are jailed more than 100 miles from the nearest government-listed legal service provider,32 with a median distance between the facility and the service provider of 56 miles.33
Access to counsel is important. Unrepresented, a detained immigrant, who often does not speak English, must develop her own legal arguments for relief eligibility, gather evidence that is often only available from within her country of origin (where she may fear for her own or her family’s safety), complete an application in English, and present a coherent presentation of her case to an immigration judge, all while a government-funded DHS prosecutor argues for her deportation.34 Faced with such a daunting task, immigrants enduring the isolation of detention are far less likely than those living in the community to defend against deportation and less likely to win their cases when they do so. The psychological harms caused by detention, especially for those with previous histories of torture or trauma,35 are so debilitating that even those with the strongest claims to legal protection in the United States often abandon the process and choose deportation instead.36 Detained immigrants with lawyers are 11 times more likely to pursue relief and are at least twice as likely to obtain relief as detained immigrants without counsel.37 A study analyzing the impact of appointed counsel for detained immigrants in New York City found a 1,100 percent increase in successful outcomes when universal representation became available..38
There is no doubt that DHS knows what it is doing. NIJC’s 2010 report Isolated in Detention documented the due process crisis already unfolding in the immigration detention system. At that time, NIJC found that 80 percent of detained immigrants were held in facilities that were severely underserved by legal aid organizations, with more than 100 immigrants for every full-time nonprofit attorney providing legal services.”40 The report presented eight recommendations to DHS and the Department of Justice to improve access to legal counsel for detained immigrants.41 Not one of the recommendations has been adopted or implemented by either agency.
Recently, DHS announced its interest in building new prisons in or near southern Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Salt Lake City, Utah. The agency stated its goal was to increase the system’s capacity by up to 4,000 more beds.42Legal aid organizations in these regions sent a letter to DHS explaining that they would have little or no capacity to provide meaningful access to counsel if the government carries out this expansion.43 As of publication of this report, DHS has not responded to this letter nor contacted any of the organizations to assess access to legal counsel.
The administration seems poised to duplicate Cibola throughout the country. Its goal is clear: by undermining detained immigrants’ access to counsel, the administration ratchets up its removal rates.
When the administration flaunts its record rates of deportations, it is telling a story of what happens to immigrants like Christopher and hundreds of others at Cibola who face insurmountable barriers to justice, not describing a legitimate outcome of enforcement of United States law. Jailing immigrants during their deportation proceedings makes it significantly more likely they will be deported, regardless of the merits or strength of their defense to deportation. At Cibola and prisons like it throughout the United States, incarceration has become another weapon in the administration’s arsenal, intended to facilitate mass removals no matter the cost to due process or civil rights.
DHS must close detention facilities like Cibola, where due process is non-existent given individuals’ lack of access to counsel.
Congress must cut appropriated funds for immigration detention, in light of the civil rights and due process crisis within the system.
Specifically, Congress must:
Cease funding to detain individuals where there is no evidence of flight or security risk.
Engage in robust oversight to ensure that when DHS does utilize detention, funding is only available for facilities where there is sufficient access to legal counsel (an established immigration bar) and adequate health care for individuals in detention.
A Note On Methodology
For the survey cited in this report, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) undertook a census of all the attorneys we could identify who regularly practice immigration law in New Mexico and Texas. The intent was to determine 1) the number of attorneys available to take immigration cases out of the Cibola County Correctional Center and 2) the maximum number of cases each attorney could take at a given time. NIJC staff identified all attorneys in New Mexico who, as of July 2017, were members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the primary membership association for immigration attorneys in the United States (identified using the membership directory at http://www.aila.org/member-directory). Through informal conversations with AILA members and legal aid organizations, NIJC staff added other New Mexico- and Texas-based attorneys to the list who were identified as providing even minimal legal representation at Cibola. NIJC staff and interns reached out to each of these attorneys via email and telephone. NIJC communicated directly via phone or email with an attorney or authorized staff person at all but nine of the 60 offices on the final list. Each attorney was asked whether they were able and willing to provide legal representation to individuals detained at Cibola, for a fee or on a low-cost or pro bono basis, and if so approximately how many cases they could take at maximum capacity. The detailed results of this census are on record with NIJC.
In addition to these census questions, NIJC staff held more extensive interviews with staff members at the following nonprofit legal service providers: Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico (Las Cruces, NM); Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (El Paso, TX); Instituto Legal (Albuquerque, NM); Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center (El Paso, TX); the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (Albuquerque, NM); and Santa Fe Dreamers Project (Santa Fe, NM). Additionally, in June 2017 NIJC staff members visited the Cibola prison, where they spoke with 12 individuals detained at the facility whose insights inspired and contributed to this report. Notes from these conversations are on record with NIJC. Notes from all of these conversations are on record with NIJC.
The principal authors of this report are NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman and NIJC Director of Communications Tara Tidwell Cullen, with research and editing contributions from NIJC colleagues Keren Zwick, Diane Eikenberry, Mary Meg McCarthy, Claudia Valenzuela, Julia Toepfer, and Isabel Dieppa. NIJC interns Linda Song and Anya Martin also contributed to this report. Sincere thanks for insights and support from Jessica Martin and Rebekah Wolf of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Allegra Love of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Yazmin Ruiz of United We Dream, and the detained immigrants whose experiences are described in this report.
All photos credit the National Immigrant Justice Center.”
Read the complete report at the link.
NIJC confirms what most of us involved in the immigration justice system already know — that the Trump Administration has “doubled down” on the Obama Administration’s misguided detention policies to create an “American Gulag.” A key feature of the Gulag is using captive so-called “U.S. Immigration Courts” in prisons. Such “captive prison courts” actually are parodies of real independent courts empowered to require Due Process for migrants and adherence to the rule of law. Immigration detention is a national disgrace for which all of us should be ashamed.
But, don’t expect any improvement from the Trump Administration unless the Article III Courts require it or we get a different Congress at some point. (I note that a few Democrats have honed in on this issue and introduced the “Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act” which unfortunately is DOA in this Congress.) Given the performance of the Article IIIs to date in this area, and the Trump Administration’s “quietly successful” program to stock the Article IIIs with right-wing ideologues, I wouldn’t count on that either. On the other hand, I’ve seen even very committed conservative jurists reach their “breaking point” on Government immigration abuses once they become life-tenured Federal Judges and are no longer directly accountable to their right-wing “political rabbis.” Denial of statutory, Constitutional, and Human Rights sometimes crosses over ideological fault lines.
Kudos to my good friends and dedicated defenders of Due Process and Human Rights Heidi Altman and Diane Eikenberry of the DC Office of the of the NIJC/Heartland Alliance for their leadership role in exposing these continuing abuses and making a record for future generations to understand and hopefully act on our current failure to make “equal justice for all” a reality in America and the related failure of our U.S. Immigration Courts to live up to their commitment to use “best practices” to “guarantee fairness and due process for all.”
“For more than five hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat in a hearing room on Capitol Hill this month, fending off inquiries on Washington’s two favorite topics: President Trump and Russia.
But legislators spent little time asking Sessions about the dramatic and controversial changes in policy he has made since taking over the top law enforcement job in the United States nine months ago.
From his crackdown on illegal immigration to his reversal of Obama administration policies on criminal justice and policing, Sessions is methodically reshaping the Justice Department to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views — moves drawing comparatively less public scrutiny than the ongoing investigations into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.
Sessions has implemented a new charging and sentencing policy that calls for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, even if that might meanminority defendants face stiff, mandatory minimum penalties. He has defended the president’s travel ban and tried to strip funding from cities with policies he considers too friendly toward undocumented immigrants.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Nov. 14. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Sessions has even adjusted the department’s legal stances in cases involving voting rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in a way that advocates warn might disenfranchise poor minorities and give certain religious people a license to discriminate.
Supporters and critics say the attorney general has been among the most effective of the Cabinet secretaries — implementing Trump’s conservative policy agenda even as the president publicly and privately toys with firing him over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia case.
. . . .
In meetings with top Justice Department officials about terrorist suspects, Sessions often has a particular question: Where is the person from? When officials tell him a suspect was born and lives in the United States, he typically has a follow-up: To what country does his family trace its lineage?
While there are reasons to want to know that information, some officials familiar with the inquiries said the questions struck them as revealing that Sessions harbors an innate suspicion about people from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement, “The Attorney General asks lots of relevant questions in these classified briefings.”
Sessions, unlike past attorneys general, has been especially aggressive on immigration. He served as the public face of the administration’s rolling back of a program that granted a reprieve from deportation to people who had come here without documentation as children, and he directed federal prosecutors to make illegal-immigration cases a higher priority. The attorney general has long held the view that the United States should even reduce the number of those immigrating here legally.
In an interview with Breitbart News in 2015, then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke favorably of a 1924 law that excluded all immigrants from Asia and set strict caps on others.
“When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy and it slowed down immigration significantly,” Sessions said. “We then assimilated through 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America.”
Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the Obama administration who now works as chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Sessions seems to harbor an “unwillingness to recognize the history of this country is rooted in immigration.”
“On issue after issue, it’s very easy to see what his worldview is of what this country is and who belongs in this country,” she said, adding that his view is “distinctly anti-immigrant.”
Those on the other side of the aisle, however, say they welcome the changes Sessions has made at the Justice Department.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for moderating levels of immigration, said she would give the attorney general an “A-plus” for his work in the area, especially for his crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” his push to hire more immigration judges and his focus on the MS-13 gang.
“He was able to hit the ground running because he has so much expertise already in immigration enforcement and related public safety issues and the constitutional issues, so he’s accomplished a lot in a very short time,” Vaughan said.”
Read the compete article, which deals with much more than immigration, at the link.
Immigrants, refugees, immigration advocates, and career civil servants involved in immigration at the DOJ seems to be “star-crossed.” After decades of relative indifference to the importance of immigration, an Attorney General finally shows up who makes it his highest priority.
Only problem is that he’s a committed xenophobe and White Nationalist whose largely false and exaggerated narrative on immigration comes right from the alt-right restrictionist playbook and harks back to the Jim Crow era of the American South — only this time with Hispanics and Muslims as the primary targets.
In any “normal” American business, obsession with tracing back lineage of someone’s family would be prima facie evidence of prohibited “national origins discrimination.” But, for Gonzo, it’s just another day at the office.
Notwithstanding his less than stellar performances before Congress and that he’s fallen off Trump’s “A-Team” (notwithstanding probably doing more to deconstruct the Constitution and “Good Government” than any other cabinet officer), he’s unlikely to be going anywhere soon. So the damage will continue to add up for the foreseeable future. It’s not like Senator Liz Warren and others didn’t try to warn America about this dude!
Meanwhile, perhaps not to be outdone, over at the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is proceeding to deconstruct the Career Foreign Service and reduce the Stated Department and our Diplomatic Corps to “administrative roadkill.” You can read about that debacle in this NY Times article:
“It has been a long and unproductive year for President Trump. Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act cratered. The wall on the U.S.-Mexico border hasn’t been built or even funded. Tax reform, though moving forward, is still well short of a Rose Garden signing ceremony. Despite unified Republican control of government, Trump’s got little to show for it.
Yet it has also been a long and quite productive year for the president. He has dramatically changed the direction of federal policy toward the environment, the energy industries, immigration, education, civil rights, trade and the federal workforce, and he is rapidly remaking the federal court system. What President Barack Obama started in many of these areas, Trump has started to reverse.
The president’s tweets draw outsize attention to his grievances and his petty feuds. The absence of notable legislative successes focuses criticism on his style of leadership. Those realities overshadow what he has done and is doing unilaterally, to the extent of his executive powers. In other ways, his presidency seems unique. In the arena of executive action, he is pursuing a model established by his recent past predecessors, with worrisome consequences to constitutional governance.
That’s the conclusion of an essay in the most recent issue of the Forum, a nonpartisan journal of ideas and political analysis. Sidney M. Milkis and Nicholas Jacobs, both of the University of Virginia, argue that Trump’s deployment of what they call “executive-centered partisanship” is both in keeping with the modern presidency and a potentially damaging shift in our politics.
The authors take note of Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, where he said that he, an outsider, knew better than anyone how to solve the problems of broken government. “Nobody knows the system better than me,” he said. “Which is why I alone can fix it.”
The first year of his presidency appears to make a mockery of that statement, given the problems he’s had in Congress and the fact that his approval ratings are the lowest of any president at this point in his term as far back as there was polling.
Yet, as the authors note, “Often overlooked among the disappointments and recriminations of Trump’s frenzied beginning is his administration’s aggressive and deliberate assault on the Liberal state. . . . Since day one, Trump has forcefully — and sometimes successfully — taken aim at the programmatic achievements of his predecessor.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Immigration is one of the key areas in which Trump has been able to change the landscape and undo much of Obama’s legacy without any significant legislative changes. And, there is no obvious reason why he can’t keep it up. Unlike other areas, Trump has his own “captive” Federal Immigration Judiciary, run by Jeff Sessions. And, Congress has proved unwilling, unable, or both to wade into significant immigration legislation for more than a decade.
Expedited Removal is Not the Answer to the Backlog
With the immigration court backlog at over 600,000 cases and rising, immigration law commentator (and fellow BIA alum) Nolan Rappaport recently suggested that the present administration might view the increased use of expedited removal as “the only viable alternative” to shrink the swelling tide of cases. My fellow blogger Paul Schmidt has opposed such approach; I wish to join him in adding my arguments as to why the expansion of expedited removal would be unacceptable.
If the criminal court system were to be flooded to the breaking point, the solution could not be to let supervisory police officers decide which defendants might have a reasonable enough chance of being found innocent and get to go to court, and just find the rest guilty without the right to a trial. However, that is pretty much the premise of expedited removal. An overwhelming volume of cases cannot be used to justify the stripping away of due process protections.
Our immigration courts have evolved significantly over the decades. Deportation hearings were once conducted by “special inquiry officers,” who were attorneys working for the INS. Beginning in 1973, immigration judges began presiding over hearings. In 1983, those judges were separated from the INS into a separate adjudicatory agency, EOIR. In 2002, INS was moved into three components within the newly-created DHS, while EOIR remained in the Department of Justice. The strong motive behind these developments was that the agency charged with enforcement was not suited to serve as a neutral factfinder and decision maker. Increasing the scale of expedited removal would undo the above progress and return decision-making into the hands of the enforcement branch – the legal equivalent of having the fox guard the hen house.
Immigration judges render decisions independently, with no pressure or influence from their higher-ups. This is not true of asylum officers. I had one case years ago in which the asylum officer’s supervisor so adamantly opposed the grant of asylum that the officer had to wait until the supervisor went on vacation, and then had the acting supervisor sign off approving the grant. I have also heard of an asylum office director pressuring the staff to grant fewer cases in order to bring the office’s grant rate closer to the lower grant rate of another asylum office. Furthermore, to the extent that those seeking expedited removal are able to obtain counsel in the short time frame provided (and while detained, sometimes in remote settings), asylum officers allow attorneys a greatly reduced role in the process. In immigration court, the attorney makes legal arguments and objections, questions the respondent, and lays the foundation for documents to be offered into evidence. Even in full asylum office interviews, attorneys are relegated to sitting in the back row and taking notes. As the government’s own statistics show that represented asylum seekers are twice as likely to be granted relief, the asylum office’s minimizing of the attorney’s role clearly lessens the asylum seeker’s chance of success.
Expedited removal has really never worked well. In opposing its implementation in the mid-1990s, myself and other advocates argued that the legal threshold – the newly-created “credible fear” standard – was problematic. When the 1980 Refugee Act adopted the legal standard of “well-founded fear” for asylum claims, INS interpreted the term to mean “more likely than not;” it took seven years of litigation and a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to correctly define the standard as requiring only a 10 percent chance of persecution. But expedited removal asked us to trust the same INS to properly interpret the vague new “credible fear” standard, and this time without the right to seek judicial review. Not surprisingly, so many mistakes were made after the standard was implemented that by mid-1997, the then INS director of asylum instructed asylum officers to simply find all applicants professing a fear of persecution to have met the credible fear standard. Those who claimed no fear in their countries were summarily removed; INS claimed that the majority of arrivees were in this latter group.
But where they really? A person arriving in this country only gets a credible fear interview if they indicate to the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer who first encounters them that they fear return to their country. Two studies conducted over a decade apart by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government entity, found serious problems with the screening process of those arriving but not found admissible to the U.S. According to USCIRF, some arrivees were never asked whether they feared return; others who were asked and responded in the affirmative had “no” recorded in their statements, which were often not read back to them. The USCIRF report cited instances in which those wishing to seek asylum were pressured into signing inaccurate statements, or even into retracting their fear claims and withdrawing their applications for admission.
The answer to the immigration court backlog is clearly not to subject more people to the flawed and biased expedited removal system in lieu of removal hearings. To my knowledge, every other high volume court employs prosecutorial discretion and stipulated settlements to lessen the case load. Plea bargains are employed in everything from murder to traffic court cases. Under the Obama administration, prosecutorial discretion was employed in immigration court and significantly helped prosecutors and judges deal with the caseload. For unknown reasons, the present administration has ended this useful practice. DHS attorneys are also being instructed to oppose requests to terminate proceedings made by those wishing to leave the U.S. to attend immigrant visas abroad. These intending immigrants want to leave the country, and will only be allowed to return legally if they are found by a U.S. consular officer to be qualified and admissible to this country; under the prior administration, termination under these circumstances was readily agreed to by DHS. At the same time DHS is forcing so many immigrants to unnecessarily remain in removal proceedings, the agency will not put into proceedings those who want to be there in order to apply for certain types of relief that may only be granted by an immigration judge, such as cancellation of removal. Preventing immigrants from obtaining legal status to which they might be entitled seems suspiciously consistent with the present administration’s desire to stem the pace of naturalization in order to preserve the voting bloc that brought them to office last year.
Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.
“One thing you can count on in 21st-century U.S. politics is that Republicans will lie about taxes. They did it under George W. Bush, they did it under Barack Obama and they’re still doing it under Donald Trump.
Yet this time is different. It’s not just that the lies have gotten even more brazen. There’s now a combination of incoherence and rage that we, or at least I, haven’t seen before. These days, they can’t even seem to get their fake story straight — and they literally start yelling obscenities when someone tries to point out the facts.
G.O.P. lies about taxes generally involve two issues: who is hurt or helped by tax changes, and what these changes will do to the budget.
Thus, when George W. Bush cut taxes in 2001 and 2003, he and his party repeatedly insisted that the tax cuts were primarily for the middle class. In fact, while there were some middle-class tax breaks in the package, such as an increase in the child tax credit, these were dwarfed by cuts in tax rates on high incomes, reduced taxes on dividends and repeal of the estate tax. Over all, the richest 1 percent saw a much larger increase in after-tax income than middle-class families did.
At the same time, the Bush administration used a series of gimmicks to hide the true fiscal cost of the plan, such as delaying the implementation of some tax cuts while pretending that others would expire when the actual intention was to make them permanent.
When Obama took office, these tricks were simply flipped on their head. Republicans insisted, falsely, that Obama had imposed a “massive tax increase” on the middle class; in fact, for the most part he actually cut middle-class taxes. Meanwhile, they insisted that the surge in the budget deficit caused by the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis was permanent, and ridiculed the Obama administration’s claims that deficits would fall sharply once crisis spending ended and tax receipts recovered; in fact, that’s exactly what happened.
So what’s different this time? As in the Bush years, Republicans are claiming to be offering a middle-class tax cut. But where Bush truly was cutting taxes on the middle class, just much less than he was on the wealthy, current Republican plans would raise those taxes on many lower- and middle-income families, even as they go down for the wealthy. (Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, claims that only “million-dollar earners”would see tax increases. This is the opposite of the truth.
Oh, and a memo to journalists: If you play it safe by reporting this as “Democrats say” that middle-class taxes will go up, you’re misleading your readers: Those estimates come from the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s own nonpartisan scorekeeper.
How can Republicans like Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, pretend to be helping the middle class? It depends crucially on a new kind of budget gimmick: Both the House and Senate tax-cut bills do contain some middle-class tax breaks — but only for the first few years. Then they expire.
Take one of Ryan’s favorite examples, a family with two children and earning $59,000 a year. That family would indeed get a tax break next year. But the break would rapidly dwindle and turn into a tax increase by 2024.
The Republican response is to claim that these tax breaks wouldn’t really expire, that Congress would eventually renew them. That’s quite doubtful — and even if true, it means that the tax plans would add much more to the national debt than the G.O.P. admits. Which brings me to the whole budget deficit issue.
Not long ago, leading Republicans claimed to be deeply concerned about budget deficits. Only fools and centrists took the Republicans seriously. Still, the abrupt shift to nonchalance about adding trillions to the debt in order to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy is causing a bit of whiplash even among cynics. How do they justify the shift?
Well, they don’t seem to have settled on a story. Mnuchin keeps asserting that tax cuts will pay for themselves, going so far as to claim (falsely) that Treasury has released a study showing this. Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, cheerfully acknowledges that they’re using gimmicks to pass a bill that permanently cuts taxes on corporations, and not to worry. Whatever works, it seems.
So we’re really looking at an unprecedented level of dishonesty here. But what happens when you try to explain what’s going on? When Senator Sherrod Brown tried to point out, correctly, that the Senate G.O.P.’s tax bill heavily favors the rich, Senator Orrin Hatch exploded, calling it “bull crap” and asserting that he grew up poor (which is relevant why, exactly?).
Sorry, but this isn’t the righteous anger of a man falsely accused of wrongdoing. It’s the rage con men always exhibit when caught out in their con.
But what’s the con about? The very incoherence of the arguments Republicans are making for their plans shows that it’s not about helping the economy, let alone ordinary families. It really is about making the rich richer, at everyone else’s expense. If this be bull crap, make the most of it.”
As usual, the GOP counts heavily on voters being too biased or gullible to figure out that they are being fleeced. And, to date, they have been correct. So, why stop a “winning strategy” even if it is based on lies, demonstrably bogus assumptions, and other “cons?”
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?”
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!”
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!