BETH FERTIG AT NPR: “ADR” Moves Into High Gear, Devastating U.S. Immigration Courts, As Half Of NY Immigration Court “Goes Dark” — U.S. Immigration Judges Become Adjuncts Of DHS Border Enforcement Program — Dockets At Interior Courts “Orbited Into Never-Never Land!”

ADR = “Aimless Docket Reshuffling”

http://www.wnyc.org/story/even-more-immigration-judges-are-reassigned-trumps-crackdown-border/

Beth reports for WNYC/NPR:

“In its crackdown on illegal immigration, the Trump administration is moving an increasing number of immigration judges closer to the border with Mexico. The practice is so widespread that half of New York City’s 30 immigration judges have been temporarily reassigned for two-to-four weeks at a time between early April and July.

The judges have been sent to hear deportation cases in Louisiana, California, New Mexico and Texas, along with Elizabeth, New Jersey, where there’s a detention center. In June, WNYC reported that at least eight of New York City’s immigration judges have been temporarily moved to Texas and Louisiana since March. New information obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request revealed the number to be much higher.

All this reshuffling causes cases to get delayed for months. And New York City’s immigration court already has a backlog of more than 80,000 cases. People wait an average of more than two years go to court to fight against deportation. Some might welcome a prolonged wait. But immigration lawyer Edain Butterfield said her clients get anxious because they’re ready to make their case, when they suddenly learn their judge has had to postpone.

“They don’t know if their judge is going to stay on their case,” she said. “They sometimes have to get new documents, ask for another day off from work, ask their family to take another day off from work.”

David Wilkins, an attorney with Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn, said he’s representing a woman seeking asylum whose hearing was recently postponed almost a year — until the summer of 2018. He said she left her children in her home country back in 2012 because of domestic abuse. “It’s extremely difficult for her,” he said. “She’s been separated from her family for so long to sort of live with the constant uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen with her immigration proceeding.”

Judges from New York City aren’t the only ones being moved. According to the latest data obtained by WNYC, 128 of the nation’s approximately 325 immigration judges have been shuffled to other locations between early April and the middle of July. Many of those judges come from Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. These assignments, known as details, last for two or four weeks. Some judges have been shifted around multiple times.

The data does not include all judges assigned to hear cases in other locations by video teleconference. A couple of judges in New York City were seeing cases by video at a Texas detention center in May and June.

The reassignments are expected to continue until early 2018, but the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the immigration courts, would not reveal the schedule beyond July.

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all adults crossing the Mexican border would be sent to detention. To support the mission, he said, the Department of Justice had “already surged 25 immigration judges to detention centers along the border.”

Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said her union remains very concerned about the situation.

“The temporary assignment of judges to border courts creates increasing backlogs in the dockets they leave behind in their home courts and may not be conducive to the overall reduction of our burgeoning caseload.”

Nationally, the backlog has surged to more than 600,000 cases and observers believe that number is growing partly because of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Moving judges south might sound counterintuitive because illegal border crossings have actually dropped since President Trump took office. But Bryan Johnson, an immigration lawyer on Long Island, has a theory about why more judges are needed down south.

“The people that are deported will be deported in less time,” he explained. “And that is the message they want to send people in the home countries from where the migrants come from.”

There is no guaranteed right to counsel in immigration court, and experts said there are few low-cost immigration attorneys near the border — making it even easier to swiftly deport someone because they are not likely to have representation.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review did not respond to a request for comment. However, the agency has said it is hiring more judges.”

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Get the accompanying audio/video report at the link.

David Wilkins from the Central American Legal Defense Center in Brooklyn, quoted in Beth’s article, is one of my former Georgetown Law Refugee Law & Policy students, a former CALS Asylum Clinic participant, and a former Legal Intern at the Arlington Immigration Court. David was also an Immigrant Justice Crops fellow. He is a “charter member” of the “New Due Process Army.” Congratulations David, we’re all proud of what you are doing!

Attorney Bryan Johnson simply restates the obvious. Under A.G. Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, the U.S. Immigration Courts are once again being used as an arm of DHS Enforcement rather than a protector and dispenser of constitutional due process. Nobody in their right mind seriously thinks that Sessions is “surging” Immigration Judges to the border to grant more bonds, reverse more “credible fear” and “reasonable fear” denials, or grant more asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the CAT.

No, the “surge” program is clearly all about detention, coercion, denial, deportation and sending a “don’t come, we don’t want you” message to folks living in fear and danger in countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America. In other words, you might as well cooperate with, support, and/or join the gangs and narco-traffickers — the U.S. has absolutely no intention of saving your life! Nice message!

Don’t be too surprised when multinational gangs and narco-traffickers eventually seize political power in Central America (they have already infiltrated or compromised many government functions). And, we will have sent away the very folks who might have helped us stem the tide. At the same time, we are destroying the last vestiges of due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts, leaving hundreds of thousands of cases and lives “up in the air” and our justice system without a fair and effective mechanism for deciding and reviewing immigration cases. At some point, somebody is going to have to fix this mess. But, you can be sure it won’t be the Trump (“We Don’t Take Responsibility For Nothin'”) Administration.

PWS

07-24-17

 

9th Cir. Remands Reasonable Fear Denial In Reinstatement Case — VALENCIA MARTINEZ V. SESSIONS (Published)

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/07/20/14-70339.pdf

“The government does not offer any argument on the merits of this petition; therefore, it has waived any challenge to the arguments Martinez raised. See Clem v. Lomeli, 566 F.3d 1177, 1182 (9th Cir. 2009) (holding that an appellee who did not address an argument in the answering brief had waived that issue). On remand, the agency is directed: (1) to give proper consideration to Martinez’s testimony about police corruption and acquiescence in MS-13 violence; (2) to accord proper weight to the Department of State Country Report on El Salvador, and in particular, evidence of corruption and inability or unwillingness to prosecute gang violence; and (3) to apply the correct legal standards to Martinez’s Convention Against Torture claim.”

PANEL: Morgan Christen and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges, and James Alan Soto, District Judge.

OPINION BY: Judge Soto

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Read the full opinion at the link. It’s short. Three things stand out.

First, the Respondent’s credible testimony clearly established a plausible claim for CAT relief. If he gets representation, he will be able to show that the authorities in El Salvador do often cooperate with gangs and that the government is willfully blind to the many instances of torture of citizens by gangs. The Asylum Officer’s incorrect analysis along with that by the Immigration Judge show a fundamental misunderstanding of CAT law and the reasonable fear process. How does an Immigration Court system faced with such glaring problems eliminate training and the guidance provided through the former Benchbook?

Second, the 9th Circuit highlights the Byzantine nature of the regulations in this area.  How many unrepresented individuals who been treated in this unfair manner are hustled out of the country because they can’t figure out how to get meaningful review?

Third, this decision shows that there might well be ways to penetrate the general unwillingress of Appellate Courts to review the gross miscarriages of justice and denials of due process going on every day in the expedited removal process which is administered by the DHS and inadequately reviewed by the Immigration Judges. Once they take a look, they will be appalled at what they find!

PWS

07-21-17

NEW SUIT IN CAL. ALLEGES THAT DHS FLOUTS ASYLUM LAW AT BORDER!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/adolfoflores/us-officials-accused-of-intimidating-asylum-seekers?utm_te

Adolfo Flores writes in BuzzFeed News:

“Border agents are systematically intimidating and turning away asylum seekers at the US–Mexico border, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleges.

The federal class-action lawsuit filed in US District Court in California by immigrant rights groups alleges that US Customs and Border Protection agents have told migrants that “Donald Trump just signed new laws saying there is no asylum for anyone.” They have also allegedly coerced asylum seekers into signing forms abandoning their claims by threatening to take their children away.

“CBP’s illegal conduct is occurring as a humanitarian crisis drives vulnerable people experiencing persecution in their home countries to seek refugee protection in the United States,” the complaint states.

CBP said in a statement that it does not comment on pending litigation.

One of the plaintiffs, identified as Abigail Doe in the complaint, is a Mexican native with two children under the age of 10. She attempted to flee Mexico after the cartels threatened to kill her family.

Lenny Ignelzi / AP

She arrived in Tijuana with her two kids and approached border agents at the San Ysidro point of entry. The lawsuit states CBP agents coerced her into recanting her fear of staying in Mexico and signing a form withdrawing her application for admission to the US.

Abigail Doe and other women in the lawsuit said they were told by agents that if they continued to pursue their asylum claims they would be separated from their children.

“As a result of this coercion, the form falsely states that [Abigail Doe] and her children were unable to access the asylum process and were forced to return to Tijuana, where they remain in fear for their lives,” the lawsuit states.

Another woman, identified as Dinora Doe from Honduras, presented herself to US border authorities after her and her 18-year-old daughter were threatened and repeatedly raped by MS-13 gang members. The complaint accuses CBP officials of misinforming Dinora Doe of her rights under US law, and denying her the chance to apply for asylum.

The lawsuit also names Al Otro Lado, a legal aid organization that helps migrants on both sides of the border, as a plaintiff because it has allegedly been forced to divert significant resources to counteract CBP’s actions.”

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The article with a copy of the plaintiffs’ filing is at the link.

While the Trump Administration often disingenuously pontificates about the “rule of law,” in fact, they appear to have little concern for the Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act, International Treaties and Conventions, and a host of other legal requirements.

PWS

07-12-17

MS-13 MEMBER FILMS BRUTAL TORTURE-MURDER!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/ms-13-gang-member-narrated-video-of-teens-killing-fbi-agent-testifies/2017/07/10/88f90b08-65b2-11e7-8eb5-cbccc2e7bfbf_story.html?hpid=hp_local-news_damaris-1130pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.626af5bc6f07

Justin Jouvenal reports in  the Washington Post:

“The MS-13 gang member filmed the killing with a cellphone, barking out orders and narrating as fellow gang members set upon the 15-year-old girl with a knife and a large wooden stake in a suburban Virginia park, an FBI agent testified Monday.

The green-light to kill Damaris A. Reyes Rivas had come from the transnational gang’s leadership in El Salvador, payback for her alleged role in luring another MS-13 member to his death a week earlier, the FBI agent told a Fairfax County judge.

But it was 17-year-old Jose Cerrato who allegedly helped orchestrate the killing, part of a plan to send the video back to those MS-13 leaders as proof of his willingness to carry out orders, the agent testified. It’s unclear if the video was ever sent, but the FBI agent testified Cerrato soon earned a promotion within the ranks of the gang for his role in the slaying.

The testimony by FBI special agent Fernando Uribe came during a hearing in Fairfax County juvenile court in which a judge certified that Cerrato would face murder, abduction and gang participation charges as an adult.”

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Read the complete, very disturbing, story at the link.

PWS

07-11-17

9th Circuit Upholds Judge Gee’s Order Requiring Bond Hearings For Children! — Flores v. Sessions!

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-minor-immigrants-9th-circuit-20170705-story.html

Maura Dolan reports in the LA Times

“Minors who enter the U.S. without permission must be given a court hearing to determine whether they can be released, a federal appeals court panel decided unanimously Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said immigration authorities continue to be bound by a 1997 lawsuit settlement that guaranteed court hearings for minor immigrants, set standards for their detention and established a policy in favor of their release.

Following that settlement, Congress passed two laws dealing with unaccompanied minor immigrants. The federal government argued those laws replaced the settlement and revoked the right to bond hearings.

The 9th Circuit disagreed.

“In the absence of such hearings, these children are held in bureaucratic limbo, left to rely upon the [government’s] alleged benevolence and opaque decision making,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a Carter appointee, wrote for the court.

The settlement of Flores vs. Janet Reno required that juveniles detained near the border or elsewhere without a parent must be given bond hearings.

The hearings gave minors the right to a lawyer, an opportunity to learn and challenge government evidence against them and the right to contest being locked up, the panel said.

The 9th Circuit cited evidence that the government has been holding minors for months or even years without hearings, even when parents are nearby and can care for them.

Among them was a boy identified only as Hector, who was detained in California at the age of 15 for 480 days, mostly in a locked facility in Yolo County. The ruling did not say why Hector was picked up.

In a declaration, Hector described the Yolo County facility as a prison, where minors were locked in cells at night to sleep on cement benches with mattresses.

During 16 months there, Hector was not given a lawyer or an explanation about why he was being held even though his mother in Los Angeles was seeking his release, the 9th Circuit said.

Without any explanation, the federal government released Hector in December “into the custody of the person who had been advocating for his freedom all along — his mother,” Reinhardt wrote.

The court cited evidence that some juveniles have agreed to deportation rather than face continued incarceration without their families.

“Unaccompanied minors today face an impossible choice between what is, in effect, indefinite detention in prison, and agreeing to their own removal and possible persecution” in their native countries, Reinhardt wrote.

The ruling upheld a decision by Los Angeles-based U.S. Dist. Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee.

The government may appeal the panel’s decision to a larger 9th Circuit panel or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers in the case could not be reached for comment.”

Here’s a link to the 9th Circuit’s full 40-page opinion:

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/07/05/17-55208.pdf

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If you want to skip the legal gobbledygook (although the fact situations described are interesting and meaningful), the bottom lines are: 1) the last four Administrations have been to varying degrees tone-deaf to the needs of unaccompanied minors subject to immigration proceedings; 2) bond hearing before U.S. Immigration Judges play a critical role in protecting the rights of children and insuring due process.

PWS

07-05-17

 

DHS MISTREATS KIDS: U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee Finds That DHS Has Blown Off Her Prior Orders & Continues To Mistreat Children In Detention!

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/06/28/government-continues-ignore-rights-children-detention-court-finds/

Karolina Walters writes in Immigration Impact:

“Despite being among some of the most vulnerable, children seeking asylum in the United States often fare the worst. Upon entering the United States, children are often detained for extended periods in violation of a long-standing agreement known as the Flores settlement.

The Flores agreement essentially acts as a contract between the government and children held in immigration custody. On Tuesday, a federal district court judge ruled once again that the government is failing to meet its obligations to children held in immigration custody.

The court found a number of violations, including holding children too long in detention, in substandard conditions, and in non-licensed facilities. In addition, the court ruled that the government is required to look at each child’s case individually to determine whether release from custody is appropriate—the government may not rely on any blanket standard to avoid the responsibility of assessing each case individually.

The Flores agreement is a nationwide settlement reached in 1997. In this settlement, the government agreed that children taken into immigration custody would be placed in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to [their] age and special needs” and would be released “without unnecessary delay,” preferably to a parent. The settlement also requires that if a child is not released to a parent, adult relative, or an appropriate guardian, children must be placed in non-secure facilities licensed for the care of dependent children within five days of apprehension.

Two years ago, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), on behalf of immigrant children, brought suit to enforce the Flores settlement. In July and August of 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee said the government must apply the settlement to all minors, including those detained with family members. Tuesday’s order from Judge Gee outlines the particular ways in which the government is in breach of the Flores settlement and how the court seeks to ensure compliance going forward.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

While AG Jeff Sessions is out whipping up xenophobic frenzy and promoting the need for an “American Gulag” to support his “Gonzo Apocalypto” immigration enforcement agenda, he ignores his real legal and constitutional duties: Get General Kelly and the rest of the folks over at DHS to obey the law and stop mistreating kids!

That someone like Sessions with such totally warped values and lack of any sense of justice or decency should be in charge of our supposedly due process providing U.S. Immigration Court system is a continuing travesty of justice.

PWS

06-29-17

 

WASHPOST FRONT PAGER: THE END OF “CATCH & RELEASE?”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/he-crossed-the-border-illegally-but-wasnt-deported–because-he-brought-his-child/2017/06/25/bdef43c8-511b-11e7-b064-828ba60fbb98_story.html?utm_term=.c0a98403a3bb

Jessica Contrera reports from McMillan, TX for the Washington Post:

“Along the border, the impacts of Trump’s immigration policies are visible everywhere: At the river, the number of people crossing into the United States has plummeted. At the detention facilities, fewer people are being detained. And at the McAllen bus station — a place where ICE has released more than 30,000 families since 2014, sometimes hundreds a day — the number of people coming in each day is sometimes down to just an overwhelmed man and his only child, with tickets that will take them 1,700 miles and 46 hours north to live with a relative in Cleveland.

“Look at the dresses,” Sandra says as the bus passes a clothing store.

Miguel looks instead at her. She must be tired, he thinks. Or at least hungry. He reaches for a bag carrying the only food they have for the trip. It had been given to them not by ICE, but by a stranger at the bus station. She had run up to them just before they boarded and passed them the bag, which was full of snacks and sandwiches. Miguel hands a sandwich to Sandra. She takes a bite. He does not know who the stranger was, only that she seemed to be in a hurry, and now there are seven sandwiches left and 46 hours to go.

In the months since Trump took office, the sign-in sheet had fewer names with each passing week. For a time, the respite center staff wondered if the families would stop being released completely. “Under my administration,” Trump had said during his campaign, “anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.” He railed against the very policy that had allowed the families to come here: a policy critics have long called “catch and release.” It was a routine developed for ICE and Border Patrol to handle the overwhelming number of parents and children, mostly from Central America, crossing the border to ask for asylum. Each released family would be allowed to go live with their relatives in the United States, as long as they appeared at the check-ins and court dates that would eventually determine whether they would be deported.

On his sixth day in office, Trump issued an executive order declaring the “termination” of catch and release. It has not been as simple as that declaration, though; there are laws and judicial orders in place that limit how long ICE can detain children, and in most cases, when a child is released, at least one of their parents is, too.

For the time being, catch and release was still happening, and Gabriela was still showing up at work every day, never knowing if it would be the one when the surge of people returns, or another when so few people cross the border, no families show up at the respite center at all.”

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

Read the complete article at the above link.

We use “catch and release,” a sport fishing term to refer to the lives and futures of real human beings like this. And by all accounts, including my own observations, immigration detention is something that can be highly coercive, intentionally demoralizing, and expensive.

PWS

06-26-17

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