THE NEW YORKER: Bureaucratic Delays Impede Due Process In U.S. Immigration Court!

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-will-trump-do-with-half-a-million-backlogged-immigration-cases

Jonathan Blitzer writes in The New Yorker:

“In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions travelled to Nogales, Arizona, to make an announcement. “This is the Trump era,” he said. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigrations laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.” While his tone was harsh, and many of the proposals he outlined were hostile to immigrants, he detailed one idea that even some of his critics support: the hiring of more immigration judges.

U.S. immigration courts are facing a backlog of over half a million cases—and each one, on average, takes almost two years to close. These delays mean that everyone from asylum seekers to green-card holders faces extended stays in detention while awaiting rulings. Speaking about the problem, one immigration judge recently told the Times, “The courts as a whole lose credibility.”

Much of the backlog can be traced back to the Obama Administration, when spending on immigration enforcement went up, while Congress dramatically limited funds for hiring more judges. The number of pending cases grew from a hundred and sixty-seven thousand, in 2008, to five hundred and sixty thousand, in 2017, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The broader trend, though, goes back farther. Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, in 2002, the increase in resources allocated for border security and immigration policing has always significantly outpaced funding for the courts. (Immigration courts are part of the Department of Justice.) As more and more people have been arrested, detained, and ordered deported, the courts have remained understaffed and underfunded. “We’ve always been an afterthought,” Dana Leigh Marks, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told me.

Roughly three hundred judges nationwide are responsible for the entire immigration caseload, and hiring is slow—filling a vacancy typically tak

es about two years, according to the Government Accountability Office. In Nogales, Sessions said that he would try to streamline the hiring process. But until that happens the Administration has been relocating judges to areas where they’re deemed most necessary. “We have already surged twenty-five immigration judges to detention centers along the border,” Sessions said, as if talking about military troop levels.”

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To state the obvious, a court should be run as an independent court system, not a bureaucratic agency within a highly politicized Executive Department like the DOJ. (If you ever wondered whether the DOJ was politicized, recent events should make it clear that it is.)

And, Jeff, these are judges, not troops; and the individuals are not an “invading army,” just mostly ordinary folks seeking refuge, due process, and fair treatment under our laws and the Constitution. Remember, it’s not an immigration crisis; it’s a crisis involving the steady degradation of due process within the U.S. Immigration Court system.

PWS

06-21-17

WashPost: GANGS — A Complicated Problem With No Easy Solution — Budget Cuts Undermine Some Local Programs!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/ms-13-gains-recruits-and-power-in-us-as-teens-surge-across-border/2017/06/16/aacea62a-3989-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_ms-13-1240pmm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.5745c22fb3d0

Michael E. Miller, Dan Morse, and Justin Jouvenal report:

“The increasing MS-13 violence has become a flash point in a national debate over immigration. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have vowed to eradicate the gang, while immigrant advocates say the young people are being scapegoated to further an anti-immigrant agenda.

Danny’s case illustrates just how difficult the balance between compassion and safety can be. Was he a child who needed help? Or a gang member who shouldn’t have been here?

“Do you close the doors to all law-abiding folks who just want to be here and make a better life . . . and in the process keep out the handful who are going to wreak havoc on our community?” asked one federal prosecutor, who is not permitted to speak publicly and has handled numerous MS-13 cases. “Or do you open the doors and you let in good folks and some bad along with the good?”

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Read the entire, much longer, article at the link.

it does seem short sighted to save a few bucks by cutting some of the few programs specifically designed to address this issue.

PWS

06-16-17

 

FAILED DUE PROCESS VISION: BIA Blows Off IJ’s Due Process Violations — Third Circuit Blows Whistle On BIA! — Serrano-Alberto v. Attorney General — READ MY “CONTINUING CRITIQUE” OF THE BIA’S FAILURE TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF ASYLUM SEEKERS!

http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/153146p.pdf

PANEL: Circuit Judges VANASKIE, KRAUSE, and NYGAARD

OPINION BY: Judge Nygaard

“While in the vast majority of cases, IJs diligently comport with their constitutional and statutory obligations, and while it is only on rare occasion that we have held an IJ’s conduct crosses the line, the record here compels us to conclude this is one of those rare cases. Because we reach this conclusion against the backdrop of the three main cases to date in which we have distinguished between permissible and impermissible IJ conduct under the Due Process Clause, we will review each of those cases before addressing Serrano- Alberto’s claims for relief.

. . . .

What these cases teach us is that, where a petitioner claims to have been deprived of the opportunity to “make arguments on his or her own behalf,” Dia, 353 F.3d at 239, there is a spectrum of troubling conduct that is fact-specific and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if (1) the petitioner “was prevented from reasonably presenting his case[,] and (2) . . . substantial prejudice resulted,” Fadiga, 488 F.3d at 155 (internal quotation marks omitted). At one end of the spectrum, the “lack of courtesy,” “interject[ions]” to clarify and develop the record, and “annoyance and dissatisfaction with . . . testimony” in Abdulrahman, 330 F.3d at 597, were not sufficient to establish a due process claim. At the other end, the “contemptuous tone,” focus on “issues irrelevant to” the petitioner’s claims, and findings unsupported by the record in Wang, 423 F.3d at 270, and the “wholesale nitpicking,” “continual[] abuse[]” and “belligerence,” and “interrupt[ions] . . . preventing important

30

parts of [the petitioner’s] story from becoming a part of the record,” in Cham, 445 F.3d at 691, 694, were flagrant enough to violate due process. Where these component parts of an IJ’s conduct are sufficiently egregious, at least in combination, a petitioner’s procedural due process rights are violated.

In Serrano-Alberto’s case, we conclude the IJ’s conduct falls on the impermissible end of the spectrum. Indeed, the IJ’s conduct here shares many of the attributes of the conduct we found unconstitutional in Wang and Cham, including a hostile and demeaning tone, a focus on issues irrelevant to the merits, brow beating, and continual interruptions. See supra Sec. III.B. And in contrast to Abdulrahman where the interruptions assisted the petitioner in answering questions and appropriately refocused the hearing, 330 F.3d at 596-98, the IJ’s interruptions here repeatedly shut down productive questioning and focused instead on irrelevant details, see supra Sec. III.B.”

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On the “plus side,” the Third Circuit went out of its way to point out that this case is the exception rather than the rule with respect to Immigration Judges’ respect for due process during the hearing process.

But, on the negative side, why should a supposedly “expert” Board whose mission is to protect due process be letting clearly unfair adjudications like this, which violate due process, get by? Not everybody can afford to go to the Court of Appeals. So, the Board’s failure to carry out its due process functions can actually cost lives, or at least ruin them. How can such a critically important function as appellate immigration judging be treated so dismissively, inappropriately, incompetently, and lackadaisically by successive Administrations while largely escaping critical public examination of its often highly questionable jurisprudence?

In my view, as I’ve observed before, part of the problem lies with the BIA’s overall negative approach to asylum seekers, particularly those from Central America with claims based on “particular social groups.” With a “closed, inbred judiciary” drawn almost exclusively from Government, a highly politicized Department of Justice which is unqualified to run a court system, and the fear of another “Ashcroft purge” hanging over them for judging independently and protecting the rights of asylum seekers, the BIA has basically “tanked” on its duty to guarantee fairness, due process, and protection to asylum seekers. So, if the BIA is unwilling to speak up for the due process and substantive rights of respondents, what’s its purpose? To provide a “veneer of deliberation and due process” to dissuade the Article III courts and the public from digging into the details to find out the real problems?

It’s also interesting that the Third Circuit “calls out” the BIA for a standard practice of using (often bogus) “nexus” denials to deny protection to asylum applicants who fit within a protected ground and can clearly demonstrate a likelihood of harm upon return. Check out FN 5 in the Third Circuit’s opinion:

“5 In a number of recent cases, the BIA likewise has assumed a cognizable PSG or imputed political opinion and disposed of the appeal by finding no nexus. See, e.g., Bol- Velasquez v. Att’y Gen., No. 15-3098 (3d Cir. filed Aug. 28, 2015) (ECF Agency Case Docketed); Bell v. Att’y Gen., No. 14-4781 (3d Cir. filed Dec. 18, 2014) (same); Santos v. Att’y Gen., No. 14-1050 (3d Cir. filed Jan. 8, 2014) (same); Ulloa- Santos v. Att’y Gen., No. 12-2781 (3d Cir. filed June 25, 2012) (same); Orellana-Garcia v. Att’y Gen., No. 12-2099 (3d Cir. filed Apr. 20, 2012) (same). This practice, however, can have troubling consequences. First, it places the analytical cart before the horse in cases like this one, where the very definition of the PSG is then at issue, for denying relief based on the absence of a nexus begs the question: nexus to what? See, e.g., Bol-Velasquez, No. 15-3098. Even the Attorney General has observed “it would be better practice for Immigration Judges and the Board to address at the outset whether the applicant has established persecution on account of membership in a [PSG], rather than assuming it as the Board did here. Deciding that issue—and defining the [PSG] of which the applicant is a part—is fundamental to the analysis of which party bears the burden of proof and what the nature of that burden is.” Matter of A-T-, 24 I. & N. Dec. 617, 623 n.7 (U.S. Att’y Gen. 2008). Second, even where the PSG definition is undisputed—so that the BIA would certainly have discretion to conclude that the efficiency of assuming a given PSG weighs in favor of resolution at the nexus stage—a reflexive practice of simply assuming a PSG has been established and is cognizable does not account for the very real benefits on the other side of the scale. Just as the Supreme Court has observed in the qualified immunity context, adjudication at every step is generally “necessary to support the Constitution’s ‘elaboration from case to case’ and to prevent constitutional stagnation” because “[t]he law might be deprived of this explanation were a court simply to skip ahead,” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232, 236 (2009) (holding the two-step protocol announced in Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001) is no longer mandatory “but often beneficial”), so here, the BIA’s practice of assuming PSG and resolving cases on nexus grounds often inhibits the proper and orderly development of the law in this area by leaving the contours of protected status undefined, precluding further appellate review under the Chenery doctrine, see SEC v. Chenery Corp., 332 U.S. 194 (1947), and ultimately generating additional needless litigation because of the uncertainty in this area, see Valdiviezo-Galdamez, 663 F.3d at 594-609; Fatin v. INS, 12 F.3d 1233, 1238 (3d Cir. 1993); Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I. & N. Dec. 227, 230 (BIA 2014). This is a case in point, where the IJ articulated the relevant PSG as “individuals perceived as wealthy who refuse to pay gang taxes,” App. 17, although other definitions were reasonable, and the BIA, despite being presented with alternative formulations, declined to rule on the question altogether. In sum, for both of the reasons stated, we strongly encourage IJs and the BIA to define the PSG in question and to adjudicate the existence and cognizability of that PSG.”

Let’s get down to the real point. Largely because of intervention from Article III Courts, more and more “particular social groups” are becoming “cognizable.” This is particularly true in the area of family-based social groups.

Alternatively, the DHS and the BIA have tried to deny claims on the grounds that the foreign government is “not unable or unwilling to protect.” But, given the documented conditions in the Northern Triangle of Central America, such findings often don’t pass the “straight face test” and have had difficulty on judicial review. So the best way to deny protection to Central American asylum seekers is by developing metaphysical, largely bogus, findings of lack of “nexus.”

The answer to the Third Circuit’s question “nexus to what” is simple. It doesn’t matter. No matter what the protected group is in Central American cases, the BIA will do its best to find that no nexus exists, and encourage Immigration Judges to do likewise.

A vivid example of that was the BIA’s recent precedent inMatter of L-E-A-, 27 I&N Dec. 40 (BIA 2017), discussed in earlier blogs. There, without dissent or meaningful discussion, the BIA “deconstructed” a clearly established case for nexus (which actually had been found by the Immigration Judge) and buried it under layers of impenetrable legal gobbledygook.  Maybe it will get deference from the Article IIIs, maybe it won’t. There isn’t much consistency there either.

Asylum applicants lives are at stake in removal proceedings. They deserve a process where fairness, due process, and deep understanding of the life-preserving functions of protection law are paramount. Today’s system, which all too often runs on the principles of expediency, institutional preservation, job security, pleasing the boss, and sending law enforcement “messages” is failing those most in need. One way or another, our country and future generations will pay the price for this dereliction of duty.

PWS

06-13-17

 

 

Not So Fast, My Friends! — Border Intrusions Increase In May N/W/S Administration’s (Perhaps Premature) “Victory Dance!”

http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jun/11/illegal-immigration-across-southwest-border-increa/

Stephen Dinan reports in the Washington Times:

“Illegal immigration across the southwest border appears to have jumped 27 percent in May, according to numbers released this week by Homeland Security, breaking a three-month streak of declines under President Trump and suggesting that the slump in migrants has bottomed out.

The Border Patrol nabbed 14,535 illegal immigrants in the southwest last month, up from just 11,129 in April. Analysts said that the number of people caught is a rough measure of the overall flow of people trying to sneak in.

The number of illegal immigrants showing up at ports of entry without authorization also ticked up, from 4,649 to 5,432.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol and the ports of entry, acknowledged the increase in crossings, but attributed it to “a seasonal uptick.”

CBP said it “expects the uptick to continue” through the summer months.

The numbers suggest that while Mr. Trump appears to have changed the calculations of many border crossers, there’s still a segment of the population — particularly among Central Americans — determined to make the journey.

Agents usually record an uptick from April to May, but the jump this year is the largest on record.

 

Still, it’s by far the lowest May total on record. For example, May 2016 saw more than 40,000 illegal immigrants caught at the border.

Illegal immigration from Cuba and Haiti had been a problem last year, but had dipped under the final months of President Obama and again under Mr. Trump.

Now, Cubans appear to be surging again, while Haitians remain low.

Two other special categories of migrants — unaccompanied minors and families traveling together — also saw increases last month, rising from a combined 2,117 nabbed by the Border Patrol in April to 3,070 in May.”

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We should also keep in mind that according to other recent reports, the largest flow of asylum applicants is now from Venezuela. Most of them are middle class and business-oriented individuals who already have visas enabling them to enter the U.S. legally. Once admitted, they can apply for asylum at any time during the first year following entry. Such individuals would not show up in any of the border or port of entry statistics.

PWS

06-12-17

“IMMIGRATION COURTS — RECLAIMING THE VISION” — Read My Article In The Latest Federal Bar News!

Here is the link:

immigration courts

And, here’s an excerpt:

“Our immigration courts are going through an existential crisis that threatens the very foundations of our American justice system. I have often spoken about my dismay that the noble due process vision of our immigration courts has been derailed. What can be done to get it back on track?

First, and foremost, the immigration courts must return to the focus on due process as the one and only mission. The improper use of our due process court system by political officials to advance enforcement priorities and/or send “don’t come” messages to asylum seekers, which are highly ineffective in any event, must end. That’s unlikely to happen under the Department of Justice—as proved by over three decades of history, particularly recent history. It will take some type of independent court. I think that an Article I Immigration Court, which has been supported by groups such as the American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association, would be best.

Clearly, the due process focus has been lost when officials outside the Executive Office for Immigration Review have forced ill-advised “prioritization” and attempts to “expedite” the cases of frightened women and children from the Northern Triangle (the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala) who require lawyers to gain the protection that most of them need and deserve. Putting these cases in front of other pending cases is not only unfair to all, but has created what I call “aimless docket reshuffling” that has thrown our system into chaos.

Evidently, the idea of the prioritization was to remove most of those recently crossing the border to seek protection, thereby sending a “don’t come, we don’t want you” message to asylum seekers. But, as a deterrent, this program has been spectacularly unsuccessful. Not surprisingly to me, individuals fleeing for their lives from the Northern Triangle have continued to seek refuge in the United States in large numbers. Immigration court backlogs have continued to grow across the board, notwithstanding an actual reduction in overall case receipts and an increase in the number of authorized immigration judges.”

I encourage you to read the entire article.

Additionally, this entire issue of The Federal Lawyer is devoted to Immigration Law. Kudos to Judge Lawrence O. Burman of the Arlington Immigration Court and Judge Robin Feder of the Boston Immigration court for their key roles in FBA leadership and for inspiring this effort. There are four other great articles that will help you understand what is happening today in this most important area. Check them all out at this link:

http://www.fedbar.org/magazine.html

Finally, if you aren’t currently a member of the Federal Bar Association (“FBA”), please join the FBA and the Immigration Section today! The price is very reasonable, you get access to The Green Card (the Immigration Section newsletter, Edited by Judge Burman) and some other great educational materials, and you support the effort for due process, collegiality, and badly needed U.S. Immigration Court Reform, which the FBA advocates. The current “powers that be” are not going to fix the broken U.S. Immigration Court System without outside involvement and, ultimately, Congressional action. This won’t happen by itself.  So, if like me, you are appalled and dismayed by what has happened to due process in our U.S. Immigration Court system, now is the time to get involved and work to change it!

Also, check out my previous blogs on the recent FBA Immigration Seminar in Denver.

http://wp.me/p8eeJm-O1

http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Oa

http://wp.me/p8eeJm-OU

http://wp.me/p8eeJm-P4

PWS

06-05-17

 

 

 

 

USCIS Nominee Apparently Has Strong Anti-Immigrant Views!

https://psmag.com/news/trumps-uscis-pick-harsh-on-undocument-immigrants

Pacific Standard reports:

“Lee Francis Cissna, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the federal agency that handles applications for visas, refugee status, and citizenship, has put little on the public record in his 20 years as a lawyer, government employee, diplomat, and Capitol Hill aide.

But it turns out he has left many clues about how he could reverse Obama-era policies if he becomes director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a non-enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

On Wednesday, May 24th, Cissna, 50, who has worked on immigration policy at Homeland Security for much of his career, is scheduled to appear at a confirmation hearing chaired by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley. From 2015 until earlier this year, Cissna worked for Grassley on immigration issues, having been detailed to his staff by Homeland Security. During that time, he remained on the agency’s payroll.

While there, he drafted dozens of letters under the senator’s name to Homeland Security officials, helping Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to intensify his oversight of immigration and creating a blueprint for dismantling President Barack Obama’s initiatives, according to a dozen current and former agency and congressional staff members.

ProPublica reviewed more than 60 of the letters sent by Grassley during the time Cissna worked in his office. Among the policies they criticized were:

An emergency program for Central American children to reunite with parents in the U.S. The system “unquestionably circumvents the refugee program established by Congress,” according to a November of 2015 letter.
The system for granting asylum to people claiming persecution in their home countries. A November of 2016 letter claimed thousands of immigrants were “amassing” in Mexican border cities with the intention of “asserting dubious claims of asylum, which will practically guarantee their entry.”
Giving so-called “Dreamers”—undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children—the chance to obtain travel documents on top of work permits. This program would “open the door to undocumented immigrants to gain U.S. citizenship,” a March of 2016 letter said.
A program allowing undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime to stay in the U.S. even if there are no visa slots available. A December of 2016 letter said the policy is “being exploited by those wishing to defraud the system and avoid deportation.”

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Dude seems to oppose many of the best things that USCIS has done to improve the immigration situation. Also appears that like Senator Grassley he has a habit of repeating largely “fact free” restrictionist, white nationalist dogma. Grassley is right on a few things (allowing cameras in court is one of them) but none of the items mentioned in this article.

PWS

05-25-17

“Trump Effect” Slows Migration, But There Might Be More Than Meets The Eye — Increase In Surreptitious Entries, Higher Smuggling Fees, Wait & See Attitude All Play Roles!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/the-trump-effect-has-slowed-illegal-us-border-crossings-but-for-how-long/2017/05/21/dfa12a0a-39be-11e7-a59b-26e0451a96fd_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_border-crossings410am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.3cb4b3c465ee

Joshua Partlow reports in the Washington Post:

“SAN JOSE LAS FLORES, El Salvador — In a different era, Oscar Galvez Serrano might have abandoned his mother’s tin-roof shack in the jungly Central American hills by now and set out for the United States.

Despite having been deported in March, Galvez said, he would have tried to quickly return to join his 11-year-old son in Sherman, Tex., and his siblings and cousins. He would have taken another job — roofing, landscaping or washing dishes. There is something different now, however, looming over Central Americans’ decisions on migration: President Trump.

Migrants used to feel that if they reached the United States illegally, they could stay. “They’ve gotten rid of all that,” said Galvez, 36. “I still hope I can go back there. I just don’t know when.”

Trump has credited his tough stance on illegal immigrants for the sharp decline in apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-
Mexico border, tweeting in March that “many are not even trying to come in anymore.” In the first four months of the year, U.S. authorities have detained about 98,000 would-be immigrants heading north, a 40 percent drop from the previous year.

In El Salvador, which has contributed tens of thousands of border crossers in recent years, officials and potential migrants acknowledge that fewer people are heading to the United States. But they say that the slowdown may be temporary — and that the drop-off may not be as large as it seems.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

In immigration, things seldom have simplistic explanations. So, if I were the Trump Administration, I’d wait awhile before going into the “victory dance” on halting unauthorized migration.

PWS

05-22-17

Some Undocumented Migrants Flee US For Canada — A 21st Century “Underground Railroad”

 

https://apple.news/AcVFywEAtSw6IcI4GHsDgww

Adolfo Flores reports for BuzzFeed News:

“Martha never imagined she’d be in an upstate New York church basement hiding from the US government, far from the troubled El Salvador she had left behind years ago and very different from the life she had slowly built in Virginia.
The ascension of Donald Trump to the White House after threatening to deport high numbers of undocumented immigrants — combined with the prospect of being separated from their US-born daughters and the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was on her husband’s heels — drove them into hiding to wait for an asylum interview in Canada.
“A lot of people like us are desperate, looking for where to run because they can’t be here, because of this man,” Martha, who has lived in the US for 16 years, told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview.
The family declined to use their real names out of fear of retaliation from US immigration authorities.
“When you come to this country, you come with nothing, zero, and little by little you build a life,” Martha said. “Then, suddenly you have to make a decision you never thought you’d have to make: leave and start over again.”
Her family is part of a small but growing number of immigrants who lived in the US for years and are being ferried to the Canadian border via an underground network of churches and immigration rights groups. Rev. Justo Gonzalez II of Pilgrim St. Luke’s in Buffalo, New York, said that so far they’ve helped 20 people, including six children, get to Canada to petition for asylum.
During a recent visit by BuzzFeed News, there were nine people, including Martha’s family, waiting at the church to make the same journey.
Vive, a Buffalo-based organization that helps refugees, reached out to Gonzalez and other sites when they started seeing large numbers of immigrants asking for their help getting to Canada. As a precaution, Gonzalez set up additional security cameras around the church, and everyone has to be buzzed in during non-mass hours. Volunteers patrol the building during mass to make sure no one is there to harass their guests.”

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Read the full article at the above link.

Outwardly, this appears to be a nice, self-sufficient family which is contributing to our society.  Their reasons for fleeing from El Salvador and coming here also appear to be compelling, at least from their standpoint.

The article glosses over the question of why Moises’s TPS protection was rescinded in 2007. Most often, this happens when someone commits two or more misdemeanors (or one felony) in the U.S. So, at least to some extent, the family’s problems might be self-inflicted.

Still, is it a good use of our law enforcement resources to create a climate which drives folks like this out of the US?

Or would it be better to use limited resources to integrate these folks into our society in some way or another?

PWS

05-21-17

Here’s My Keynote Address From Today’s FBA Immigration Law Conference In Denver, CO!

LIFE AT EOIR – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

By

Paul Wickham Schmidt

Retired U.S. Immigration Judge

Keynote Address

2017 Immigration Law Conference

Denver, CO

May 12, 2017

INTRODUCTION

Good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me. Its an honor to appear before you.

Funny thing happened to me on the way to this conference. When I arrived at the airport yesterday afternoon, my good friend Judge Lory Rosenberg rushed up to me at baggage claim and said “Oh, I see we’re having you for lunch!” I said “What?” She said “You’re our keynote speaker at lunch tomorrow.” I scoffed at the idea, saying I might be on the after lunch panel with her, but that was it. However, when I actually took the time to look at the program I saw that certainly not for the first time, Lory was right. Unbeknownst to me I was, in fact, listed as the keynote speaker.

I’ve composed this speech on my I-pad, which I’m using as a teleprompter. As you know, those of us who worked at EOIR aren’t used to this new-fangled technology. So, please bear with me.

As we get started, I’d like all of you to join me in recognizing my friend and former colleague Judge Larry Burman for his tireless efforts to make the ILS the best section in the FBA. In the later years, I tried very hard to avoid being at court at nights, weekends, and holidays. But, occasionally I had to go pick up my cellphone or something else I had inadvertently left in my office. And, who should be there but Larry. And he was always working on a FBA project, the Green Card, Conference Planning, recruiting new members, etc. So, please join me in a round of applause for Judge Burman for all he has done for promoting productive dialogue and improving the practice of immigration law.

Now, this is when I used to give my comprehensive disclaimer providing plausible deniabilityfor everyone in the Immigration Court System if I happened to say anything inconvenient or controversial. But, now that Im retired, we can skip that part.

My speech is entitled: Life At EOIR, Past Present, and Future.I will start by introducing myself to you and telling you a bit about how my life and career have been intertwined with EOIR. Then I will briefly address five things: the court systems vision, the judges role, my judicial philosophy, what needs to be done to reclaim the due process vision of the Immigration Courts, and how you can get involved.

CAREER SUMMARY

I graduated in 1970 from Lawrence University a small liberal arts college in Appleton, Wisconsin, where I majored in history. My broad liberal arts education and the intensive writing and intellectual dialogue involved were the best possible preparation for all that followed.

I then attended the University of Wisconsin School of Law in Madison, Wisconsin, graduating in 1973. Go Badgers!

I began my legal career in 1973 as an Attorney Advisor at the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) at the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) under the Attorney Generals Honors Program. Admittedly, however, the BIAs Executive Assistant culled my resume from the Honors Program reject pile.One of my staff colleagues at that time, now retired U.S Immigration Judge Joan Churchill, is right here in the audience.

At that time, before the creation of the Executive Office for Immigration Review – “EOIR” for you Winnie the Pooh fans — the Board had only five members and nine staff attorneys, as compared to todays cast of thousands. Among other things, I worked on the famous, or infamous, John Lennon case, which eventually was reversed by the Second Circuit in an opinion by the late Chief Judge Irving Kaufman.[1] As an interesting historical footnote, that case was argued in the Circuit by then Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Maguire Dunne, who went on to become a distinguished Member of the BIA and one of my Vice Chairs during my tenure as Chairman.

I also shared an office with my good friend, the late Lauri Steven Filppu, who later became a Deputy Director of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) in the DOJs Civil Division and subsequently served with me on the BIA. The Chairman of the BIA at that time was the legendary immigration guru” Maurice A. “Maury” Roberts. Chairman Roberts took Lauri and me under this wing and shared with us his love of immigration law, his focus on sound scholarship, his affinity for clear, effective legal writing, and his humane sense of fairness and justice for the individuals coming before the BIA.

In 1976, I moved to the Office of General Counsel at the “Legacy” Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”). There, I worked for another legendary figure in immigration law, then General Counsel Sam Bernsen. Sam was a naturalized citizen who started his career as a 17-year-old messenger at Ellis Island and worked his way to the top of the Civil Service ranks. Perhaps not incidentally, he was also a good friend of Chairman Roberts.

At that time, the Office of General Counsel was very small, with a staff of only three attorneys in addition to the General Counsel and his Deputy, another mentor and immigration guru, Ralph Farb. At one time, all three of us on the staff sat in the same office! In 1978, Ralph was appointed to the BIA, and I succeeded him as Deputy General Counsel.   I also served as the Acting General Counsel for several very lengthy periods in both the Carter and Reagan Administrations.

Not long after I arrived, the General Counsel position became political. The incoming Administration encouraged Sam to retire, and he went on to become a name and Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C. office of the powerhouse immigration boutique Fragomen, Del Rey, and Bernsen. He was replaced by my good friend and colleague David Crosland, now an Immigration Judge in Baltimore, who selected me as his Deputy. Dave was also the Acting Commissioner of Immigration during the second half of the Carter Administration, one of the periods when I was the Acting General Counsel.

The third General Counsel that I served under was one of my most unforgettable characters:the late, great Maurice C. “Mike” Inman, Jr. He was known, not always affectionately, as Iron Mike.His management style was something of a cross between the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, and the fictional Mafia chieftain, Don Corleone. As my one of my colleagues said of Iron Mike:” “He consistently and unreasonably demanded that we do the impossible, and most of the time we succeeded.Although we were totally different personalities, Mike and I made a good team, and we accomplished amazing things. It was more or less a good cop, bad coproutine, and Ill let you guess who played which role. You can check the “Inman era” out with retired Immigration Judge William P. Joyce, who is sitting in the audience and shared the experience with me.

Among other things, I worked on the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Cuban Boatlift, the Refugee Act of 1980, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), the creation of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL), and establishing what has evolved into the modern Chief Counsel system at Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

I also worked on the creation of EOIR, which combined the Immigration Courts, which had previously been part of the INS, with the BIA to improve judicial independence. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, the leadership and impetus for getting the Immigration Judges into a separate organization came from Mike and the late Al Nelson, who was then the Commissioner of Immigration. Prosecutors by position and litigators by trade, they saw the inherent conflicts and overall undesirability, from a due process and credibility standpoint, of having immigration enforcement and impartial court adjudication in the same division. I find it troubling that officials at todays DOJ arent able to understand and act appropriately on the glaring conflict of interest currently staring them in their collective faces.

By the time I left in 1987, the General Counsels Office, largely as a result of the enactment of IRCA and new employer sanctions provisions, had dozens of attorneys, organized into divisions, and approximately 600 attorneys in the field program, the vast majority of whom had been hired during my tenure.

In 1987, I left INS and joined Jones Days DC Office, a job that I got largely because of my wife Cathy and her old girl network.I eventually became a partner specializing in business immigration, multinational executives, and religious workers. Among my major legislative projects on behalf of our clients were the special religious worker provisions added to the law by the Immigration Act of 1990 and the “Special Immigrant Juvenile” provisions of the INA with which some of you might be familiar.

Following my time at Jones Day, I succeeded my former boss and mentor Sam Bernsen as the Managing Partner of the DC Office of Fragomen, Del Rey & Bernsen, the leading national immigration boutique, where I continued to concentrate on business immigration. You will note that immigration is a small community; you need to be nice to everyone because you keep running into the same folks over and over again in your career. While at Fragomen, I also assisted the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) on a number of projects and was an adviser to the LawyersCommittee, now known as Human Rights First.

In 1995, then Attorney General Janet Reno appointed me Chairman of the BIA. Not surprisingly, Janet Reno, who recently died, was my favorite among all of the Attorneys General I worked under. I felt that she supported me personally, and she supported the concept of an independent judiciary, even though she didnt always agree with our decisions and vice versa.

She was the only Attorney General who consistently came to our Investitures and Immigration Judge Conferences in person and mixed and mingled with the group. She was also kind to our clerical staff and invited them downtown to meet personally with her. She had a saying equal justice for allthat she worked into almost all of her speeches, and which I found quite inspirational. She was also hands down the funniest former Attorney General to appear on Saturday Night Live,doing her famous Janet Reno Dance Partyroutine with Will Farrell immediately following the end of her lengthy tenure at the DOJ.

Among other things, I oversaw an expansion of the Board from the historical five members to more than 20 members, a more open selection system that gave some outside experts a chance to serve as appellate judges on the Board, the creation of a supervisory structure for the expanding staff, the establishment of a unified Clerks Office to process appeals, implementation of a true judicial format for published opinions, institution of bar coding for the tens of thousands of files, the establishment of a pro bono program to assist unrepresented respondents on appeal, the founding of the Virtual Law Library, electronic en banc voting and e-distribution of decisions to Immigration Judges, and the publication of the first BIA Practice Manual, which actually won a Plain Language Awardfrom then Vice President Gore.

I also wrote the majority opinion in my favorite case, Matter of Kasinga, establishing for the first time that the practice of female genital mutilation (“FGM”) is persecution” for asylum purposes.[2] As another historical footnote, the losingattorney in that case was none other than my good friend, then INS General Counsel David A. Martin, a famous immigration professor at the University of Virginia Law who personally argued before the Board.

In reality, however, by nominally losingthe case, David actually won the war for both of us, and more important, for the cause of suffering women throughout the world. We really were on the same side in Kasinga. Without Davids help, who knows if I would have been able to get an almost-united Board to make such a strong statement on protection of vulnerable women.

During my tenure as Chairman, then Chief Immigration Judge (now BIA Member) Michael J. Creppy and I were founding members of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (“IARLJ”). This organization, today headquartered in The Hague, promotes open dialogue and exchange of information among judges from many different countries adjudicating claims under the Geneva Convention on Refugees. Since my retirement, I have rejoined the IARLJ as a Vice President for the Americas.

In 2001, at the beginning of the Bush Administration, I stepped down as BIA Chairman, but remained as a Board Member until April 2003. At that time, then Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was not a fan of my opinions, invited me to vacate the Board and finish my career at the Arlington Immigration Court, where I remained until my retirement on June 30 of last year. So, Im one of the few ever to become an Immigration Judge without applying for the job. Or, maybe my opinions, particularly the dissents, were my application and I just didnt recognize it at the time. But, it turned out to be a great fit, and I truly enjoyed my time at the Arlington Court.

I have also taught Immigration Law at George Mason School of Law in 1989 and Refugee Law and Policyat Georgetown Law from 2012 through 2014. Ive just agreed to resume my Adjunct position with Georgetown Law for a compressed summer course” in “Immigration Law & Policy.

Please keep in mind that if everyone agreed with me, my career wouldnt have turned out the way it did. On the other hand, if nobody agreed with me, my career wouldnt have turned out the way it did. In bureaucratic terms, I was a “survivor.” I have also, at some point in my career, probably been on both sides of many of the important issues in U.S. immigration law.

One of the challenges that lawyers will face in Immigration Court is that different judges have distinct styles, philosophies, and preferences.   I always felt that although we might differ in personality and approach, at least in Arlington we all shared a commitment to achieving fairness and justice.

As a sitting judge, I encouraged meticulous preparation and advance consultation with the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel to stipulate or otherwise narrow issues. In Arlington, for example, even with a new high of 10 Immigration Judges, the average docket is still 3,000 cases per judge. There currently are more than 30,000 pending cases at the Arlington Court. Because of this overwhelming workload, efficiency and focusing on the disputed issues in court are particularly critical. 

THE DUE PROCESS VISION

Now, lets move on to the other topics: First, vision.   The “EOIR Vision” is: “Through teamwork and innovation, be the worlds best administrative tribunals, guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.In one of my prior incarnations, I was part of the group that developed that vision statement. Perhaps not surprisingly given the timing, that vision echoed the late Janet Reno’s “equal justice for alltheme.

Sadly, the Immigration Court System is moving further away from that due process vision. Instead, years of neglect, misunderstanding, mismanagement, and misguided priorities imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice have created judicial chaos with an expanding backlog now approaching an astounding 600,000 cases and no clear plan for resolving them in the foreseeable future.   There are now more pending cases in Immigration Court than in the entire U.S. District Court System, including both Civil and Criminal dockets, with fewer than half as many U.S. Immigration Judges currently on board as U.S. District Judges.

And, the new Administration promises to add hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new cases to the Immigration Court docket, again without any transparent plan for completing the half million already pending cases consistent with due process and fairness. In fact, notably, and most troubling, concern for fairness and due process in the immigration hearing process has not appeared anywhere in the Administrations many pronouncements on immigration.

Nobody has been hit harder by this preventable disaster than asylum seekers, particularly scared women and children fleeing for their lives from the Northern Triangle of Central America. In Immigration Court, notwithstanding the life or death issues at stake, unlike criminal court there is no right to an appointed lawyer. Individuals who cant afford a lawyer must rely on practicing lawyers who donate their time or on nonprofit community organizations to find free or low cost legal representation. Although the Government stubbornly resists the notion that all asylum seekers should be represented, studies show that represented asylum seekers are at least five times more likely to succeed than those who must represent themselves. For recently arrived women with children, the success differential is an astounding fourteen times![3]

You might have read about the unfortunate statement of an Assistant Chief Judge for Training who claimed that he could teach immigration law to unrepresented toddlers appearing in Immigration Court. Issues concerning representation of so-called vulnerable populationscontinue to challenge our Court System. Even with Clinics and Non-Governmental Organizations pitching in, there simply are not enough free or low cost lawyers available to handle the overwhelming need. In fact, soon to be former EOIR Director Juan Osuna once declared in an officially-sanctioned TV interview that the current system is “broken.”[4]

Notwithstanding the admitted problems, I still believe in the EOIR vision. Later in this speech Im going to share with you some of my ideas for reclaiming this noble due process vision.

THE ROLE OF THE IMMIGRATION JUDGE

Changing subjects, to the role of the Immigration Judge: Whats it like to be an Immigration Judge? As an Immigration Judge, I was an administrative judge. I was not part of the Judicial Branch established under Article III of the Constitution. The Attorney General, part of the Executive Branch, appointed me, and my authority was subject to her regulations.

We should all be concerned that the U.S. Immigration Court system is now totally under the control of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has consistently taken a negative view of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, and has failed to recognize the many essential, positive contributions that immigrants make to our country.  

Perhaps ironically, the late Judge Terence T. Evans of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals offered one of the best descriptions of what its like to be an Immigration Judge. Judge Evans was not one of us, but saw plenty of our work during his lifetime. Judge Evans said:

“Because 100 percent of asylum petitioners want to stay in this country, but less than 100 percent are entitled to asylum, an immigration judge must be alert to the fact that some petitioners will embellish their claims to increase their chances of success. On the other hand, an immigration judge must be sensitive to the suffering and fears of petitioners who are genuinely entitled to asylum in this country. A healthy balance of sympathy and skepticism is a job requirement for a good immigration judge. Attaining that balance is what makes the job of an immigration judge, in my view, excruciatingly difficult.”[5]

My Arlington Immigration Court colleague Judge Thomas G. Snow also gives a very moving and accurate glimpse of an Immigration Judges life in a recent article from USA Today:

” Immigration judges make these decisions alone. Many are made following distraught or shame-filled testimony covering almost unimaginable acts of inhumanity. And we make them several times a day, day after day, year after year.

We take every decision we make very seriously. We do our best to be fair to every person who comes before us. We judge each case on its own merits, no matter how many times weve seen similar fact patterns before.

We are not policymakers. We are not legislators. We are judges. Although we are employees of the U.S. Department of Justice who act under the delegated authority of the attorney general, no one tells us how to decide a case. I have been an immigration judge for more than 11 years, and nobody has ever tried to influence a single one of my thousands of decisions

And finally, because we are judges, we do our best to follow the law and apply it impartially to the people who appear before us. I know I do so, even when it breaks my heart.[6]

My good friend and colleague, Judge Dana Leigh Marks of the San Francisco Immigration Court, who is the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, offers a somewhat pithier description: [I]mmigration judges often feel asylum hearings are like holding death penalty cases in traffic court.’”[7]

Another historical footnote: as a young lawyer, then known as Dana Marks Keener, Judge Marks successfully argued the landmark Supreme Court case INS v. Cardoza Fonseca, establishing the generous well-founded fearstandard for asylum, while I helped the Solicitor Generals office develop the unsuccessful opposing arguments for INS.[8] Therefore, I sometimes refer to Judge Marks as one of the founding mothers” of U.S. asylum law.

From my perspective, as an Immigration Judge I was half scholar, half performing artist. An Immigration Judge is always on public display, particularly in this age of the Internet.His or her words, actions, attitudes, and even body language, send powerful messages, positive or negative, about our court system and our national values. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of those who fail at the job do so because they do not recognize and master the performing artistaspect, rather than from a lack of pertinent legal knowledge.

One of the keys to the Immigration Judges job is issuing scholarly, practical, well-written opinions in the most difficult cases. That ties directly into the job of the Immigration Courts amazing Judicial Law Clerks (“JLCs”) assisted by all-star legal interns from local law schools. The JLC’s job is, of course, to make the judge look smart,no matter how difficult or challenging that might be in a particular case.  

MY JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY

Next, I’ll say a few words about my philosophy. In all aspects of my career, I have found five essential elements for success: fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect, and teamwork.

Obviously, fairness to the parties is an essential element of judging. Scholarship in the law is what allows us to fairly apply the rules in particular cases. However, sometimes attempts to be fair or scholarly can be ineffective unless timely. In some cases, untimeliness can amount to unfairness no matter how smart or knowledgeable you are.

Respect for the parties, the public, colleagues, and appellate courts is absolutely necessary for our system to function. Finally, I view the whole judging process as a team exercise that involves a coordinated and cooperative effort among judges, respondents, counsel, interpreters, court clerks, security officers, administrators, law clerks and interns working behind the scenes, to get the job done correctly. Notwithstanding different roles, we all share a common interest in seeing that our justice system works.

Are the five elements that I just mentioned limited to Immigration Court? They are not only essential legal skills, they are also necessary life skills, whether you are running a courtroom, a law firm, a family, a PTA meeting, a book club, or a soccer team. As you might imagine, I am a huge fan of clinical experience as an essential part of the law school curriculum. Not only do clinical programs make important actual contributions to our justice system due process in action but they teach exactly the type of intellectual and practical values and skills that I have just described.

RECLAIMING THE VISION

Our Immigration Courts are going through an existential crisis that threatens the very foundations of our American Justice System. Earlier, I told you about my dismay that the noble due process vision of our Immigration Courts has been derailed. What can be done to get it back on track?

First, and foremost, the Immigration Courts must return to the focus on due process as the one and only mission. The improper use of our due process court system by political officials to advance enforcement priorities and/or send “don’t comemessages to asylum seekers, which are highly ineffective in any event, must end. Thats unlikely to happen under the DOJ as proved by over three decades of history, particularly recent history. It will take some type of independent court. I think that an Article I Immigration Court, which has been supported by groups such as the ABA and the FBA, would be best.

Clearly, the due process focus was lost during the last Administration when officials outside EOIR forced ill-advised prioritizationand attempts to “expedite” the cases of frightened women and children from the Northern Triangle who require lawyers to gain the protection that most of them need and deserve. Putting these cases in front of other pending cases was not only unfair to all, but has created what I call aimless docket reshuffling— “ADR” — that has thrown the Immigration Court system into chaos and dramatically increased the backlogs.  

Although those misguided Obama Administration priorities have been rescinded, the reprieve is only fleeting. The Trump Administration has announced plans to greatly expand the prioritytargets for removal to include even those who were merely accused of committing any crime. The Administration also plans a new and greatly expanded immigration detention empire,likely to be situated in remote locations near the Southern Border, relying largely on discredited private for profitprisons. The Administration also wants to make it more difficult for individuals to get full Immigration Court hearings on asylum claims and to expand the use of so-called expedited removal,thereby seeking to completely avoid the Immigration Court process.

Evidently, the idea, similar to that of the Obama Administration, is to remove most of those recently crossing the border to seek protection, thereby sending a “don’t come, we dont want youmessage to asylum seekers.

Second, there must be structural changes so that the Immigration Courts are organized and run like a real court system, not a highly bureaucratic agency. This means that sitting Immigration Judges, like in all other court systems, must control their dockets. The practice of having administrators in Falls Church and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., none of whom are sitting judges responsible for daily court hearings, manipulate and rearrange local dockets in a vain attempt to achieve policy goals unrelated to fairness and due process for individuals coming before the Immigration Courts must end.  

If there are to be nationwide policies and practices, they should be developed by an Immigration Judicial Conference,patterned along the lines of the Federal Judicial Conference. That would be composed of sitting Immigration Judges representing a cross-section of the country, several Appellate Immigration Judges from the BIA, and probably some U.S. Circuit Judges, since the Circuits are one of the primary consumersof the court’s “product.”

Third, there must be a new administrative organization to serve the courts, much like the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. This office would naturally be subordinate to the Immigration Judicial Conference. Currently, the glacial hiring process, inadequate courtroom space planning and acquisition, and unreliable, often-outdated technology are simply not up to the needs of a rapidly expanding court system.  

In particular, the judicial hiring process over the past 16 years has failed to produce the necessary balance because judicial selectees from private sector backgrounds particularly those with expertise in asylum and refugee law have been so few and far between. Indeed, during the last Administration nearly 90% of the judicial appointments were from Government backgrounds. And, there is no reason to believe that pattern will change under the current Administration. In fact, only one of the seven most recent appointments by Attorney Generals Sessions came from a private sector background.

Fourth, I would repeal all of the so-called Ashcroft reformsat the BIA and put the BIA back on track to being a real appellate court.   A properly comprised and well-functioning BIA should transparently debate and decide important, potentially controversial, issues, publishing dissenting opinions when appropriate. All BIA Appellate Judges should be required to vote and take a public position on all important precedent decisions. The BIA must also “rein in” those Immigration Courts with asylum grant rates so incredibly low as to make it clear that the generous dictates of the Supreme Court in Cardoza-Fonseca[9] and the BIA itself in Mogharrabi[10] are not being followed.

Nearly a decade has passed since Professors Andy Schoenholtz, Phil Shrag, and Jaya Ramji-Nogales published their seminal work Refugee Roulette, documenting the large disparities among Immigration Judges in asylum grant rates.[11] While there has been some improvement, the BIA, the only body that can effectively establish and enforce due process within the Immigration Court system, has not adequately addressed this situation.

For example, let’s take a brief “asylum magical mystery tour” down the East Coast.[12] In New York, 84% of the asylum applications are granted. Cross the Hudson River to Newark and that rate sinks to 48%, still respectable in light of the 47% national average but inexplicably 36% lower than New York. Move over to the Elizabeth Detention Center Court, where you might expect a further reduction, and the grant rate rises again to 59%. Get to Baltimore, and the grant rate drops to 43%. But, move down the BW Parkway a few miles to Arlington, still within the Fourth Circuit like Baltimore, and it rises again to 63%. Then, cross the border into North Carolina, still in the Fourth Circuit, and it drops remarkably to 13%. But, things could be worse. Travel a little further south to Atlanta and the grant rate bottoms out at an astounding 2%.

In other words, by lunchtime some days the Immigration Judges sitting in New York granted more than the five asylum cases granted in Atlanta during the entire Fiscal Year 2015!   An 84% to 2% differential in fewer than 900 miles! Three other major non-detained Immigration Courts, Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas, have asylum grants rates at or below 10%.

Indeed a recent 2017 study of the Atlanta Immigration Court by Emory Law and the Southern Poverty Law Center found:

[S]ome of the Immigration Judges do not respect rule of law principles and maintain practices that undermine the fair administration of justice. During the course of our observations, we witnessed the following [issue, among others]. Immigration Judges made prejudicial statements and expressed significant disinterest or even hostility towards respondents in their courts. In at least one instance, an Immigration Judge actively refused to listen to an attorney’s legal arguments. In another instance, an Immigration Judge failed to apply the correct standard of law in an asylum case. [13]

This is hardly “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!” These unusually low asylum grant rates are impossible to justify in light of the generous standard for well-founded fear established by the Supreme Court in Cardoza-Fonseca and the BIA in Mogharrabi, and the regulatory presumption of future fear arising out of past persecution that applies in many asylum cases.[14] Yet, the BIA has only recently and fairly timidly addressed the manifest lack of respect for asylum seekers and failure to guarantee fairness and due process for such vulnerable individuals in some cases arising in Atlanta and other courts with unrealistically low grant rates.[15]    

Over the past 16 years, the BIA’s inability or unwillingness to aggressively stand up for the due process rights of asylum seekers and to enforce the fair and generous standards required by American law have robbed our Immigration Court System of credibility and public support, as well as ruined the lives of many who were denied protection that should have been granted.   We need a BIA which functions like a Federal Appellate Court and whose overriding mission is to ensure that the due process vision of the Immigration Courts becomes a reality rather than an unfulfilled promise.

Fifth, and finally, the Immigration Courts need e-filing NOW! Without it, the courts are condemned to files in the aisles,misplaced filings, lost exhibits, and exorbitant courier charges. Also, because of the absence of e-filing, the public receives a level of service disturbingly below that of any other major court system. That gives the Immigration Courts an amateur nightaura totally inconsistent with the dignity of the process, the critical importance of the mission, and the expertise, hard work, and dedication of the judges and court staff who make up our court. 

GETTING INVOLVED 

Keep these thoughts in mind. Sadly, based on actions to date, I have little hope that Attorney General Sessions will support due process reforms or an independent U.S. Immigration Court, although it would be in his best interests as well as those of our country if he did. However, eventually our opportunity will come. When it does, those of us who believe in the primary importance of constitutional due process must be ready with concrete reforms.

So, do we abandon all hope? No, of course not!   Because there are hundreds of newer lawyers out there who are former Arlington JLCs, interns, my former student, and those who have practiced before the Arlington Immigration Court.       

They form what I call the New Due Process Army!And, while my time on the battlefield is winding down, they are just beginning the fight! They will keep at it for years, decades, or generations — whatever it takes to force the U.S. immigration judicial system to live up to its promise of guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!        

What can you do to get involved now? The overriding due process need is for competent representation of individuals claiming asylum and/or facing removal from the United States. Currently, there are not nearly enough pro bono lawyers to insure that everyone in Immigration Court gets represented.     

And the situation is getting worse. With the Administrations expansion of so-called expedited removal,lawyers are needed at earlier points in the process to insure that those with defenses or plausible claims for relief even get into the Immigration Court process, rather than being summarily removed with little, if any, recourse.

Additionally, given the pressure that the Administration is likely to exert through the Department of Justice to movecases quickly through the Immigration Court system with little regard for due process and fundamental fairness, resort to the Article III Courts to require fair proceedings and an unbiased application of the laws becomes even more essential. Litigation in the U.S. District and Appellate Courts has turned out to be effective in forcing systemic change. However, virtually no unrepresented individual is going to be capable of getting to the Court of Appeals, let alone prevailing on a claim.

I have been working with groups looking for ways to expand the accredited representativeprogram, which allows properly trained and certified individuals who are not lawyers to handle cases before the DHS and the Immigration Courts while working for certain nonprofit community organizations, on either a staff or volunteer basis. Notwithstanding some recently publicized problems with policing the system, which I wrote about on my blog immigrationrcourtside.com, this is a critically important program for expanding representation in Immigration Courts. The accredited representativeprogram is also an outstanding opportunity for retired individuals, like professors, who are not lawyers to qualify to provide pro bono representation in Immigration Court to needy migrants thorough properly recognized religious and community organizations.        

Even if you are not practicing or do not intend to practice immigration law, there are many outstanding opportunities to contribute by taking pro bono cases. Indeed, in my experience in Arlington, big lawfirms were some of the major contributors to highly effective pro bono representation. It was also great hands onexperience for those seeking to hone their litigation skills.

Those of you with language and teaching skills can help out in English Language Learning programs for migrants.   I have observed first hand that the better that individuals understand the language and culture of the US, the more successful they are in navigating our Immigration Court system and both assisting, and when necessary, challenging their representatives to perform at the highest levels. In other words, they are in a better position to be informed consumersof legal services.        

Another critical area for focus is funding of nonprofit community-based organizations and religious groups that assist migrants for little or no charge. Never has the need for such services been greater.

But, many of these organizations receive at least some government funding for outreach efforts. We have already seen how the President has directed the DHS to “defund” outreach efforts and use the money instead for a program to assist victims of crimes committed by undocumented individuals.

Undoubtedly, with the huge emphases on military expansion and immigration enforcement, to the exclusion of other important programs, virtually all forms of funding for outreach efforts to migrants are likely to disappear in the very near future. Those who care about helping others will have to make up the deficit. So, at giving time, remember your community nonprofit organizations that are assisting foreign nationals. 

Finally, as an informed voter and participant in our political process, you can advance the cause of Immigration Court reform and due process. For the last 16 years politicians of both parties have largely stood by and watched the unfolding due process disaster in the U.S. Immigration Courts without doing anything about it, and in some cases actually making it worse.

The notion that Immigration Court reform must be part of so-called comprehensive immigration reformis simply wrong. The Immigration Courts can and must be fixed sooner rather than later, regardless of what happens with overall immigration reform. Its time to let your Senators and Representatives know that we need due process reforms in the Immigration Courts as one of our highest national priorities.

Folks, the U.S Immigration Court system is on the verge of collapse. And, there is every reason to believe that the misguided enforce and detain to the maxpolicies being pursued by this Administration will drive the Immigration Courts over the edge. When that happens, a large chunk of the entire American justice system and the due process guarantees that make American great and different from most of the rest of the world will go down with it.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I have introduced you to one of Americas largest and most important, yet least understood and appreciated, court systems: the United States Immigration Court. I have shared with you the Courts noble due process vision and my view that it is not currently being fulfilled. I have also shared with you my ideas for effective court reform that would achieve the due process vision and how you can become involved in improving the process. Now is the time to take a stand for fundamental fairness’! Join the New Due Process Army! Due process forever!        

Thanks again for inviting me and for listening. Have a great conference!

 

 

(05/12/17)

        

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Matter of Lennon, 15 I&N Dec. 9 (BIA 1974), rev’d Lennon v. INS, 527 F.2d 187 (2d Cir. 1975).

[2] Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996).

[3] TRAC Immigration, “Representation is Key in Immigration Proceedings Involving Women with Children,” Feb. 18, 2015, available online at http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/377/.

[4] “Immigration Director Calls for Overhaul of Broken System,” NBC Bay Area News, May 27, 2015, available online.

[5] Guchshenkov v. Ashcroft, 366 F.3d 554 (7th Cir. 2004) (Evans, J., concurring).
[6] Hon. Thomas G. Snow, “The gut-wrenching life of an immigration judge,” USA Today, Dec. 12, 2106, available online at http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/12/12/immigration-judge-gut-wrenching-decisions-column/95308118/

[7] Julia Preston, “Lawyers Back Creating New Immigration Courts,” NY Times, Feb. 6, 2010.

[8] INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

[9] INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

[10] Matter of Mogharrabi, 19 I&N Dec. 4379(BIA 1987).

[11] Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Andrew I. Schoenholtz, and Philip G. Schrag, Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, 60 Stan. L. Rev. 295 (2007);

[12] All statistics are from the EOIR FY 2015 Statistics Yearbook, available online at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/fysb15/download,

[13] See Emory Law/SPLC Observation Study Rips Due Process Violations At Atlanta Immigration Court — Why Is The BIA “Asleep At The Switch” In Enforcing Due Process? What Happened To The EOIR’s “Due Process Vision?” in immigrationcourtside.com, available online at http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/03/02/emory-lawsplc-observation-study-rips-due-process-violations-at-atlanta-immigration-court-why-is-the-bia-asleep-at-the-switch-in-enforcing-due-process-what-happened-to-the-eoirs-due-proces/

[14] See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1).

[15] See, e.g., Matter of Y-S-L-C-, 26 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2015) (denial of due process where IJ tried to bar the testimony of minor respondent by disqualifying him as an expert witness under the Federal Rules of Evidence). While the BIA finally stepped in with this precedent, the behavior of this Judge shows a system where some Judges have abandoned any discernable concept of “guaranteeing fairness and due process.” The BIA’s “permissive” attitude toward Judges who consistently deny nearly all asylum applications has allowed this to happen. Indeed the Washington Post recently carried a poignant story of a young immigration lawyer who was driven out of the practice by the negative attitudes and treatment by the Immigration Judges at the Atlanta Immigration Court. Harlan, Chico, “In an Immigration Court that nearly always says no, a lawyer’s spirit is broken,” Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2016, available online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-an-immigration-court-that-nearly-always-says-no-a-lawyers-spirit-is-broken/2016/10/11/05f43a8e-8eee-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

How does this live up to the EOIR Vision of “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all?”   Does this represent the best that American justice has to offer?

These Are The Guys That Trump, Sessions, And Kelly Are Purporting To “Protect” Us Against!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/maryland-news/he-picked-up-a-paint-brush–and-discovered-a-world-of-opportunity/2017/05/07/bfac6d22-26cc-11e7-bb9d-8cd6118e1409_story.html?utm_term=.a44db669c584

Arelis R. Hernández writes in the Washington Post:

“The still life of rotting fruit captured the attention of Jon Rudnicki, an admissions counselor for the Maine College of Art who came to Washington last fall to review the portfolios of prospective students. So did the dark self-portrait titled “Slave With Agreement,” which shows artist Rafael Rodriguez, his hands tied with rope.

Before Rudnicki realized it, he had spent more than 20 minutes listening to the skinny young man from Prince George’s County talk about isolation, frustration and optimism — far longer than the five minutes he typically allows for student meetings.

“The intentionality behind the work was profound. He has a story to tell,” Rudnicki said of Rodriguez, a senior at Northwestern High School who is set to graduate next month. “I literally see thousands of kids and thousands of pieces of art, and it says something when a student’s face and artwork sticks out. I wanted to help him find his voice.”

Rudnicki lobbied for his college to admit Rodriguez, 21, who fled violence in his native El Salvador four years ago and entered the United States illegally, eventually coming to live with an aunt in Maryland.

The school offered him a scholarship that would pay nearly half of the annual $35,000 cost for four years.

And unlike thousands of other undocumented immigrants of college age, Rodriguez has a chance of being able to seek federal student loans to cover the rest, thanks to a little-known but increasingly in-demand program that will give him legal residency — and is easier for young people to access in Maryland than in most of the rest of the country.

“When I make art, I feel free,” said Rodriguez, who never painted before coming to the United States. “I want to get my education to be an art teacher, have my own art studio and teach people from my country the importance of getting an education. That’s the only way things will change there.”

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

Read the complete story at the link.

Rodriguez’s attorney, Diane McHugh Martinez, is one of the best!  She appeared before me many times at the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, Virginia, and always had creative ideas on how to use the law to save lives and make our country better. She helped many wonderful young people and families to achieve a new start and contribute to the greatness of America. And, she was always able to “reach across the aisle” and enlist the assistance of the fine DHS Assistant Chief Counsel in Arlington in “making the system work.”

As I used too say, “Building America, one case at a time!”

PWS

05-08-17

 

 

JURIST: Christopher N. Lasch Says Sessions More Interested In Politics Than Justice!

http://www.jurist.org/forum/2017/04/the-political-attorney-general.php

Professor Lasch writes:

“As JURIST previously reported, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to cut Department of Justice funding to so-called “sanctuary” cities. The Attorney General’s comments during the White House press briefing on March 27, 2017, and on other occasions, demonstrate that our nation’s top law enforcement official is concerned far less with enforcing the law than with pursuing the Trump administration’s political agenda.

Ignoring the Law
Anti-sanctuary politicians like to claim that sanctuary cities defy or flout federal law. President Trump, for example, in his January 25 executive order on interior immigration enforcement, claimed that “[s]anctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” Echoing this, Attorney General Sessions on March 27 likewise tried to paint sanctuary policies as defying federal law. He said that the DOJ Inspector General previously “found that these policies … violate federal law.” PolitiFact rightly rated this claim “mostly false” after consulting with immigration law experts and reviewing the Inspector General’s report [PDF], which was fairly explicit in not reaching the conclusion that any particular policy violated the law.

Sessions’s inaccurate portrayal of the Inspector General’s report fits into a larger pattern of dishonesty about the law when it comes to sanctuary policies. His remarks on March 27 suggested that sanctuary policies might violate numerous federal laws. But only one specific statute has ever been cited by those (including President Trump, in his executive order, and Attorney General Sessions, in his March 27 remarks) who suggest sanctuary policies defy federal law: 8 U.S.C. § 1373.

8 U.S.C. § 1373 is a very narrow law, addressed only to prohibitions on local law enforcement sharing information with federal immigration officials concerning a person’s citizenship or immigration status. The overwhelming majority of “sanctuary” policies across the country have nothing to say about such information sharing. (San Francisco, for example, while perhaps the jurisdiction most often maligned by the anti-sanctuary campaign, takes the position that it complies with 8 U.S.C. § 1373). Instead, most policies address whether immigration “detainers” (requests by federal immigration officials for the continued detention of a state or local inmate who is otherwise entitled to release) will be accepted by local law enforcement.

Lack of compliance with detainers is what is really at stake in the current debate over sanctuary cities. We know this because while administration officials point to 8 U.S.C. § 1373 to support the claim that sanctuary policies violate federal law, they fail to discuss any claimed violations of 8 U.S.C. § 1373. Instead, they talk about jurisdictions failing to honor detainers—which is exactly where Attorney General Sessions took the conversation on March 27, trotting out the San Francisco case of Francisco Sanchez and the Denver case of Ever Valles as examples of prisoners released, despite ICE having lodged a detainer–only to be subsequently charged with murder.

We also know that detainers are what is really troubling the administration because the President’s executive order directed the Department of Homeland Security “on a weekly basis, [to] make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” Attorney General Sessions cited this order on March 27 before turning to the Sanchez and Valles cases, claiming the DHS report showed “that in a single week, there were more than 200 instances of jurisdictions refusing to honor ICE detainer requests with respect to individuals charged or convicted of a serious crime.” The report, it turns out, was riddled with errors—”corrections” to the report issued by DHS included, for example, that Franklin County, Iowa; Franklin County, New York; and Franklin County, Pennsylvania were all erroneously listed as having declined detainers in the first report. Its issuance was discontinued after just three weeks.

Despite the obsession with declined detainers, Attorney General Sessions has in his remarks demonstrated utter obliviousness to the actual law governing detainers. On March 27, Sessions suggested honoring detainers was a “fundamental principle of law enforcement” and in February at a meeting of states’ attorneys general, Sessions called it a “shocking thing” that localities were not honoring detainers. These comments suggest unawareness of a steady stream of federal court decisions since 2014. The Third Circuit US Court of Appeals, in Galarza v. Szalczyk, established that localities cannot be compelled to honor detainers. A district court in Oregon held further that localities can be held liable for Fourth Amendment violations, given that the detention requested by federal officials amounts to a new warrantless arrest that must be justified under the Constitution. This line of precedent was sufficiently strong that the Obama administration put an end to the “Secure Communities” [PDF] program (which relied heavily on detainers) because of it.

If Sessions is aware of this body of law, he is not talking about it.

. . . .

These policy positions, however, are contradicted by all available data. Study [PDF] after study has shown that immigrants, regardless of status, commit crimes at lower rates than citizens. In the words of Michael Tonry [PDF[, “high levels of legal and illegal Hispanic immigration … [are] credited with contributing significantly to the decline in American crime rates since 1991.” And sanctuary policies have not made cities unsafe–the recent study by Tom K. Wong concludes that crime rates are lower and economic indicators are stronger in sanctuary jurisdictions.

JURIST guest columnist Ali Khan recently situated America’s current war on immigrants in global trends of nativism, racism and xenophobia. This, in my view, provides the answer to the question of what “countervailing principles” might cause Attorney General Sessions not only to ignore all available data on immigration, sanctuary, and crime, but to upend traditional Republican views on federal-versus-local control of policing. Trump’s anti-sanctuary rhetoric, I have argued [PDF], is racial rhetoric. It is part of an illogical, counterfactual, counter-legal, and highly successful political formula: Demonizing immigrants wins votes; deporting immigrants wins votes.

Sanctuary cities stand in the way of this political agenda. The Attorney General’s words and actions reveal that, when it comes to sanctuary cities, Jeff Sessions is not serving the role of chief law enforcement lawyer. He is just another politician chasing down votes for the President.”

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

Sessions’s latest threats directed against so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions have drawn some “robust pushback:”

As Jay Croft reports in CNN:

“(CNN)Insulting.

Out of touch.
Inaccurate.
Mayors of some of the so-called sanctuary cities were not impressed Friday with the Trump administration’s latest volley in the dispute over immigration policy. The Justice Department told the local government officials to share immigration information by June 30 on people who have been arrested — or lose federal money.

‘Civil deportation force’

“If anybody in the Trump administration would actually do some research before firing off letters, they would see that the city of New Orleans has already provided the Department of Justice documentation that shows we are in compliance with federal immigration laws,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

“This is another example of the Trump administration acting before doing their homework. The New Orleans Police Department will not be a part of President Trump’s civil deportation force no matter how many times they ask.”
He reiterated a point made by sanctuary mayors — that individuals are more likely to report crime and testify if they are not afraid of being questioned about their immigration status.

Values ‘not for sale’

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn’t pull any punches, either.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

“We’ve seen the letter from DOJ. Neither the facts nor the law are on their side,” Emanuel said.
“Regardless, let me be clear: Chicago’s values and Chicago’s future are not for sale.”
Emanuel’s office said Chicago wants to be seen as a “welcoming” city for immigrants.
In Chicago, $3.6 billion in federal funds are at stake, possibly jeopardizing money to pay for everything from feeding low-income pregnant women to repairing roads and bridges, according an analysis by the Better Government Association, a nonpartisan state watchdog group.

NY mayor: Not ‘soft on crime’

The Justice Department claimed illegal immigration into the country has increased crime in these cities. It called New York City “soft on crime.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

That didn’t play in New York.
“I have never met a member of the New York Police Department that is soft on crime,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
In a statement and on Twitter, de Blasio challenged President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come to the city “and look our officers in the eye and tell them they are soft on crime.”
Spokesman Seth Stein went a step farther.
“This grand-standing shows how out of touch the Trump administration is with reality,” Stein said.
“Contrary to their alternative facts, New York is the safest big city in the country, with crime at record lows in large part because we have policies in place to encourage cooperation between NYPD and immigrant communities.”
******************************************
Session’s tone deaf, xenophobic approach shows little interest in effective law enforcement. Unlike Sessions, over my time at the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, I actually had to deal on a face to face basis with both gang members and their victims. Unlike Sessions, I have actually denied bond to and entered orders of removal against established gang members. I’ve also granted relief to victims of gang violence and watched the U.S. legal system intentionally “turn its back” on other victims in dire need of protection.
I have a daughter who as a teacher has had to deal on a day to day basis with some gang issues in the schools and the community in a constructive manner, rather than the harsh platitudes coming out of Sessions’s mouth.
From my perspective, a credible effort to reduce gang violence in the U.S. would require:
1) confidence and close cooperation with the migrant communities across the U.S. (for example, the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, established with the help of Congress and the efforts of former Rep Frank Wolf has a much more nuanced and potentially effective “multi-faceted” approach to gang violence than the “talk tough, threaten, blame immigrants” approach Sessions is purveying; many of the gang-related cases I got at the Arlington Immigration Court stemmed from the efforts of the Task Force working positively in immigrant communities);
2) a sound voluntary working relationship with local police, community activists, and school officials that concentrates on reducing violent crime and making young people feel included and valued, not focused on “busting” undocumented migrants,
3) recognition that while deportations of gang leaders and members who are not U.S. citizens might be necessary, it will not solve the problem (indeed, since gangs control many of the prisons in Central America and have also have compromised the police and the some government officials, removal to, or even imprisonment in, the Northern Triangle is akin to a “corporate reassignment” for gang members);
4) an acknowledgement that U.S. deportations are what basically started, and then fueled, the “gang crisis” in Central America — MS-13 was actually “Born in the U.S.A.” (with apologies to Bruce — L.A. to be exact)  and “exported” (or perhaps more properly “deported”) to El Salvador after the end of the civil war; and
5) a program of at least temporary refuge for those fleeing gang violence in the Northern Triangle, many of whom now are effectively being told by the U.S. that joining gangs or giving in to their demands for extortion or assistance represents their only realistic chance of survival.
A long-term program to address the problems of gangs, drugs, violence against women, endemic public corruption, poor education, substandard health care, and gross economic inequality at the “point of origin” in the Northern Triangle is also needed, along with cooperative programs to encourage other stable countries in the Americas, such as Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica to share the responsibility of providing at least “safe haven” to those fleeing the Northern Triangle.
Our current national policies, and particularly the ones advocated by Sessions and parroted by Secretary Kelly, actually appear likely to  further the power and influence of gangs rather than curbing it. Indeed, as fear and distrust of our Government and the police spreads in migrant communities throughout the U.S., the power, protection, and authority of criminal gangs in the community is almost certainly going to be enhanced.
I think it’s also useful to “keep it in perspective.”Although the power of individual gangs has ebbed and flowed with time, gangs are a well-established historical phenomenon. Indeed, at least one historian has pointed to continuous battles between warring barons and their respective knights as the antecedents of today’s criminal gangs: ruthless, violent, structured on loyalty and fear, greedy, and insatiable. The United States probably does as good a job as any country of dealing with and controlling gang violence. But, it’s unlikely that even we are going to be able to completely eliminate it, any more than we will be able to completely eradicate crime.
PWS
04-22-17

DEPORTATION EXPRESS: U.S. Courts Appear Ready To “Green Light” Summary Removal Of Asylum Seekers Without Regard To Due Process — Advocates Striking Out In Attempts To Get Meaningful Judicial Review Of Expedited Removal — Trump Administration’s Plans To Expand Expedited Removal Likely To Deny Thousands Day In Court!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/17/politics/supreme-court-castro-expedited-removal/index.html

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter  writes:

“(CNN)The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a lower court opinion rejecting claims by undocumented Central American women and children — who were apprehended immediately after arriving in the country without authorization — seeking asylum.

Lawyers for the families sought to challenge their expedited removal proceedings in federal court arguing they face gender-based violence at home, but a Philadelphia-based federal appeals court held that they have no right to judicial review of such claims.
The court’s action means the government can continue to deny asylum seekers placed in expedited removal a chance to have their cases heard by federal court.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who has his first full week on the court starting Monday, did not participate in the decision.
The case, initially brought under the Obama administration, comes as the Trump administration has vowed to more strictly enforce immigration laws.
Originally, 28 mothers and their children entered the US border in Texas in late 2015. They were immediately placed in expedited removal proceedings. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, they argue they suffered “gender-based violence, including sexual assault, by men from whom they could not escape” and that they were targeted by gangs because “they are single women residing without a male household member to protect them.” They sought to challenge their removal proceedings in federal court, arguing that they did not receive substantive procedural rights to which they were entitled.
A federal appeals court ruled against the petitioners, arguing that Congress could deny review for those who have been denied initial entry into the country who were apprehended close to the border. The court essentially treated the petitioners as equal to those who arrived at the border but had not yet entered.
“We conclude that Congress may, consonant with the Constitution, deny habeas review in federal court of claims relating to an alien’s application for admission to the country, at least as to aliens who have been denied initial entry or who, like Petitioners, were apprehended very near the border and, essentially, immediately after surreptitious entry into the country,” wrote the majority of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
****************************************
Here’s a link to the Third Circuit’s decision in Castro v. DHShttp://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/161339p.pdf
******************************************
This could be the real “sleeper” in the Trump Administration’s “get tough” immigration enforcement plan. Given the 540,000+ backlog in the U.S. Immigration Courts, the Administration appears to be looking for ways to circumvent the court process entirely wherever possible.
DHS could easily change the existing regulations to “max out” so called “Expedited Removal” by DHS enforcement officers by applying it to everyone unable to establish at least two years’ continuous residence in the U.S. (Currently, the cutoff is 14 days if apprehended within 100 miles of the border.)
Even individuals who meet the two-year requirement could be subsumed in the Expedited Removal regime. Without a right to be represented by counsel, to have a full hearing before an impartial decision maker, and to appeal to the Article III Federal Courts, an individual wrongly placed in the expedited process would have little chance of avoiding summary removal without a chance to apply for relief that might be available before the Immigration Court.
While the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant certiorari in Castro is not a decision on the merits, to date no circuit has ruled in favor of the claimants. Unless and until that happens, it is unlikely that the Supremes will even consider the advocates’ arguments for at least some degree of judicial review of Expedited Removal.
PWS
04-17-17

REUTERS: Has Trump Won The Border War Without Firing A Shot? — Is Discouraging Women & Children Threatened In The Northern Triangle From Seeking Refuge In The U.S. Something Of Which We Should be Proud?

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-mothers-insight-idUSKBN17F23M?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Social

Julia Edwards Ainsley reports:

“President Donald Trump has won the first major battle in his war on illegal immigration, and he did it without building his wall.

The victory was announced last week by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which released figures showing a 93 percent drop since December of parents and children caught trying to cross the Mexico border illegally.

In December, 16,000 parents and children were apprehended; in March, a month in which immigration typically increases because of temperate weather, the number was just over 1,100.

It was a remarkable decline – steeper than the 72 percent drop in overall apprehensions – but for eight DHS officials interviewed by Reuters it was not surprising.

Trump has spoken about the need to crack down broadly on all illegal immigrants. But, internally, according to the DHS officials familiar with the department’s strategy, his administration has focused on one immigrant group more than others: women with children, the fastest growing demographic of illegal immigrants. This planning has not been previously reported.

In the months since Trump’s inauguration, DHS has rolled out a range of policies aimed at discouraging women from attempting to cross the border, including tougher initial hurdles for asylum claims and the threat of prosecuting parents if they hire smugglers to get their families across the border.

The department has also floated proposals such as separating women and children at the border.

DHS Secretary John Kelly told a Senate hearing on April 5 that the sharp drop in illegal immigration, especially among women and children, was due to Trump’s tough policies.

To date, it has been the threat of new policies rather than their implementation that has suppressed family migration.

Mothers and children aren’t being separated – and DHS has shelved the plan; parents haven’t been prosecuted, and there is no wall along most of the border. Yet the number of migrants trying to cross – especially women and children – has dropped drastically.

Asked to comment on the policy of targeting women with children, DHS spokesman Jonathan Hoffman referenced the March drop, saying, “Those were 15,000 women and children who did not put themselves at risk of death and assault from smugglers to make the trip north.”

The White House declined to comment and referred Reuters to DHS.

For months, Central Americans had heard about Trump’s get-tough policies. And public service announcements on radio and television presented bleak pictures of what awaited those who traveled north. Some of the ads were funded by the United States, others by United Nations agencies and regional governments.

One radio ad in Honduras featured a mother, saying, “It’s been a year and I don’t know if she is alive or dead. I’d do anything to have her here with me. Curse the day I sent her north.”

The possibility that mothers and children might be separated at the border caused particular alarm, Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Maria Andrea Matamoros told Reuters

“That worries any mother that wants to go to the United States with their kid, and being separated drastically changes their plans,” she said.

. . . .

After Kelly’s confirmation as Homeland Security chief in late January, several members of the original working group stepped into key roles at DHS. Gene Hamilton, who had worked for then Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, became senior counselor to Kelly, and Dimple Shah, who had been staff director of the House National Security Subcommittee, became deputy general counsel.

Kathy Nuebel-Kovarik, formerly a staffer for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, became policy chief at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Julie Kirchner left her position as executive director of the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform to become a top policy adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

None of the group’s members agreed to be interviewed by Reuters. Several DHS officials said that in their new roles they continued to focus on the issue of women and child migrants. Soon, they had the bare bones of a plan: Since the court ruling on children was an obstacle to prolonged detention, why not separate them from their mothers, sending children into foster care or protective federal custody while their mothers remained in detention centers, the two DHS officials and congressional aide said.

The group also advocated two other policies directly affecting mothers and children: raising the bar for asylum and prosecuting parents as human traffickers if they hired human smugglers.

The thinking was that “if they can just implement tough policies for eight weeks – or even threaten to do that – they would see the numbers of families crossing just plummet,” said one DHS official familiar with the planning.

. . . .

When Kelly and his advisers saw the numbers dropping, they announced they were shelving the idea of separating women and children – at least for now.

Asked whether it may be revived, DHS spokeswoman Jenny Burke said, “Families caught crossing the border illegally, generally will not be separated unless the situation at the time requires it.”

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

Time will tell if this really solves the “Southern Border Problem.” It would be interesting to see a study of the fate of the individuals who stayed in the Northern Triangle after hearing the “stay home, we don’t want you” message.

This “gang of eight” working group sounds like they have the “right stuff” to go far in the Trump-Sessions regime. And, their solution was probably cheaper than the “high seas interdiction” program developed and used by prior Administrations to prevent asylum seekers from reaching the United States and asserting their legal rights under U.S. and international law.

I wake up every morning thankful that 1) I woke up, and 2) I’m not a refugee. Wonder if any of the “gang of eight” have ever thought of what it would be like to be a refugee in the world they are creating? But, I suppose that at a certain level of intellectual arrogance, folks don’t think that they will ever have to rely on the the humanity and decency of others to survive. The bad news: that’s not always a correct assumption, and sometimes folks reap what they sow.

PWS

04-13-17

 

 

PETULA DVORAK IN THE WashPost: Forget The Administration’s Fear-Mongering — There Are Many Amazing Kids In Our Midst Seeking Survival & A Chance To Contribute! These Are The Kids I Met In Immigration Court — And I Am Still Moved & Inspired By What Many Of Them Have Achieved & Their Potential!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/theyve-survived-untold-horrors-undocumented-teens-dont-deserve-to-be-demonized/2017/03/27/518dcebe-09b5-11e7-a15f-a58d4a988474_story.html?hpid=hp_regional-hp-cards_rhp-card-columnists%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.346ab2350bee

Petula Dvorak writes in her regular local column in the Washington Post:

“Their dreams — to become a lawyer, an interior decorator, a sailor in the Navy — are a lot like the dreams that other kids at their Maryland high school have.

It’s their nightmares — seeing relatives killed, paying off coyotes, being raped at the border, spending weeks in a detention center, being homeless in a new country — that make them so different.

“They’ve survived untold horrors,” said Alicia Wilson, the executive director at La Clinica Del Pueblo, which is working with Northwestern High School to help these teenagers.

The Hyattsville school has absorbed dozens of these students — part of a wave of more than 150,000 kids who have crossed the U.S. border over the past three years fleeing violence in Central America.

We usually hear about these young immigrants only when they’re accused of committing heinous crimes — such as the two undocumented students charged with raping a 14-year-old classmate in a bathroom at Rockville High School. Or when they become victims of heinous crimes — such as Damaris Reyes Rivas, 15, whose mother wanted to protect her from MS-13 in El Salvador but lost her to the gang in Maryland.

In country with a growing compassion deficit, plenty of people resent these kids, demonizing them along with other undocumented immigrants. But I wish those folks got to spend the time with them that I did. They’re funny, vulnerable, hard-working and stunningly resilient.”

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

Exactly what I found  in more than a decade as a trial judge at the Arlington Immigration Court. The young people were among the most memorable of the thousands of lives that passed through my courtroom. “Funny, vulnerable, hard-working and stunningly resilient,” yes they were all of those things. To that, I would add smart, courageous, talented, motivated, and caring.

Many appeared at the first Master Calendar speaking only a few words of English. By the time the second Master rolled around (often 9-12 months on my overcrowded docket) they were basically fluent.  And, they often were assisting others in the family to understand the system, as well as taking on major family responsibilities with parents or guardians holding down two, or sometimes three jobs.

I checked their grades and urged/cajoled them to turn the Cs into Bs and the Bs into As. Many brought their report cards to the next haring to show me that they had done it.

I recognized the many athletes, musicians, chess players, science clubbers, and artists who were representing their schools. But, I also recognized those who were contributing by helping at home, the church, with younger siblings, etc.

Just lots of very impressive young people who had managed to put incredible pain, suffering, and uncertainty largely behind them in an effort to succeed and fit in with an strange new environment. They just wanted a chance to live in relative safety and security and to be able to lead productive, meaningful lives, contributing to society. Pretty much the same things that most off us want for ourselves and our loved ones.

More often than not, with the help of talented, caring attorneys, many of them serving in a pro bono capacity, and kind, considerate Assistant Chief Counsel we were able to fit them into “the system” in a variety of ways. Not always, But, most of the time. Those who got to stay were always grateful, gracious, and appreciative.

Even those we had to turn away I hope left with something of value — perhaps an education — and the feeling that they had been treated fairly and with respect, that I had carefully listened and considered their claim to stay, and that I had explained, to the best of my ability, in understandable language, why I couldn’t help them. Being a U.S. Immigration Judge was not an easy job.

Overall, I felt very inspired when I could play a positive role in the lives of these fine young people. “Building America’s future, one life at a time, one case at a time,” as I used to say.

PWS

03/28/17

 

THE HILL: Nolan Rappaport Says DHS Does Inadequate Job Of Tracking Unaccompanied Children!

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/325942-maryland-immigrant-rape-case-shows-failure-of-us-policy-on

Nolan writes:

“CBP is required by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to transfer the custody of unaccompanied alien children from Central America to ORR within 72 hours of determining that they are unaccompanied alien children. ORR promptly places them in the least restrictive setting that is in their best interests while they wait for an immigration hearing to be scheduled.

They normally are not held at a secure facility unless they are charged with criminal actions, pose a threat of violence, or are flight risks.

Unaccompanied alien children are not eligible for many forms of relief. Asylum is the most common. The only other possibilities I am aware of are “special immigrant juvenile status,” which requires a finding by a state juvenile court that they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned; and “T nonimmigrant status” for victims of trafficking.

Many of the children who are released from custody abscond instead of returning for their hearings. Between July 18, 2014, and June 28, 2016, removal proceedings were initiated in 69,540 cases. Only 31,091 of them were completed. Of the total completed cases, 12,977 resulted in removal orders, and 11,528 (89 percent) of the removal orders were issued in absentia because the children had absconded.

The post-Trump immigration court handles fewer unaccompanied alien children cases. This will increase the amount of time unaccompanied alien children have to wait for hearings, which is likely to increase the number of children who abscond.

Also, they will have less incentive to return for their hearings. In the more liberal Obama era, immigration judges granted asylum in up to 71 percent of their asylum cases. This is not likely to continue in the post-Trump era.

The fact that many unaccompanied alien children abscond is disturbing. We know very little about them.”

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

I have a few thoughts. First, although at the end of my career I was not assigned to the juvenile docket, I handled many juvenile cases over my 13 year career at the Arlington Immigration Court.

Even when I was not responsible for the juvenile docket, “mis-assigned” juvenile cases appeared on my docket on a regular basis, probably a consequence of the “haste makes waste” prioritization of juveniles by the Obama Administration. I never had a significant problem with juveniles “absconding.”

Not surprisingly, this is borne out by the facts. Studies show that represented juveniles appear for their hearings about 95% of the time. That suggests that the real effort should be on working with the pro bono bar to ensure that juvenile cases are scheduled in a manner that promotes maximum representation at the first hearing. Presto, the largely imaginary problem with “absconding” juveniles disappears.

See this link to an American Immigration Council analysis:

Taking Attendance: New Data Finds Majority of Children Appear in Immigration Court | American Immigr

Second, in the small number of cases where juveniles did not appear, the problem was almost always with the Government system, not the juveniles. Indeed, the suggestion that children, some infants, other toddlers, “abscond” is prima facie absurd.

There are a number of reasons why juveniles might not appear: 1) in their haste to move these cases through the system, DHS often incorrectly transmits the U.S. address to the Immigration Court; 2) under pressure to fill “priority” dockets required by the Obama Administration, the Immigration Court, which still operates with a manual data entry system, sometimes sent the notice to a wrong address; and 3) almost all juveniles have to rely on adult “sponsors” to get them to court.  Depending on the degree of understanding and responsibility on the part of the sponsor, this might or might not happen.

When the court appearance requirements are properly communicated and understood by the sponsor, and where the juvenile has realistic access to legal representation, there simply are not many “no show” issues. In Immigration Courts that put due process first, most no-shows are eventually reopened when the juvenile and the sponsor discover the problem and explain the failure to appear. Therefore, large numbers of “in absentia” juvenile cases suggests to me a problem with the system, and, perhaps, with particular Immigration Judges, rather than the juveniles.

Here’s a link to a L.A. Times article on in absentia orders for unaccompanied children.

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-children-deported-20150306-story.html

Third, Nolan’s reference to the “liberal” Obama administration seems gratuitous. The Obama Administration did little of substance to help juveniles and, to my knowledge, most of the precedents issued by the BIA made it more difficult, rather than easier, for juveniles from the Northern Triangle to get relief.

Nevertheless, juveniles were able to succeed at a fairly high rate where they obtained competent representation, Immigration Judges fairly applied the generous standards for asylum, and also gave the children adequate time to pursue other forms of relief such as those mentioned by Nolan.

The nationwide asylum grant rate in the most recent year was approximately 47%, not 71%.  The latter was just one of the courts with a higher rate. But, there were also courts like Atlanta, with a 2% rate who were not doing a fair job of asylum adjudication.

In any event, there is every reason to believe that most of the juveniles in the system had at least a “respectable” chance of success in remaining.

It’s possible that the Trump Administration will attempt to “game” to system to depress grant rates. Such conduct appears on its face to be both illegal and contrary to the generous standard for asylum established by the U.S. Supreme Court in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca.

To date, I am aware of no such overt attempt by the Administration to interfere with the fair adjudication of asylum claims. However, I do acknowledge that the general tone of the Executive Orders is xenophobic and disparaging to refugees and immigrants. At some point, the Article III Courts will decide whether or not the Administration is complying with the requirements of U.S. law and various international protection agreements.

Finally, I think that Nolan’s suggestion that unaccompanied children be sent to third countries for U.N. processing would be a violation of both the INA and the Wilberforce Act. While there is a provision in the INA for sending individuals who arrived in “safe third countries” back to those countries for asylum adjudication, to date it only applies to Canada and is limited in a way that would make it inapplicable to the Southern Border Central American cases.

The U.S. would do far better to acknowledge the legitimate fears that cause women and children to flee countries in the Northern Triangle. Dealing with the problems at their source, which is likely to be a long-term prospect, while providing at least some type of screening and temporary refuge short of asylum, would, in my view, be a much better and more humane solution to this chronic issue than the enforcement initiatives proposed by the Trump Administration.

PWS

03/27/17