Think The Federal Courts Are Going To Save Our Republic From Trump? — Guess Again! — Trump (Or, More Accurately The Heritage Foundation) Is About To Remake Them In His Own Image!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-judicial-nominees-federalist-society_us_59497166e4b04c5e50256f0c?lq

HuffPost reports:

“WASHINGTON ― Most days, it seems like President Donald Trump is sabotaging his own agenda, one tweet at a time. But the White House has been quietly plowing ahead in one area that will affect generations of people: the courts.

Trump is unbelievably well-positioned to fill up federal courts with lifetime judges. He inherited a whopping 108 court vacancies when he became president ― double the number of vacancies President Barack Obama inherited when he took office.

The reason Trump gets to fill so many seats is partly because Obama was slow to fill court vacancies early in his tenure. But the main reason is Republicans’ years-long strategy of denying votes to Obama’s court picks. They refused to recommend judicial nominees, filibustered others, used procedural rules to drag out the confirmation process and, by Obama’s final year, blocked nominees they had recommended just to prevent him from filling more seats.

ALISSA SCHELLER/HUFFPOST

Court vacancies have only increased since Trump took office, as older judges have steadily retired. Trump has already nominated more than three times as many judges as Obama had at this point in his presidency ― 21 compared with six for Obama.

With Republicans in control of the Senate, Trump’s court picks will have a relatively easy time getting confirmed, too. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has hinted that he may tweak the committee’s rules to make it easier for Republicans to advance some of Trump’s nominees without Democratic support. And once nominees make it to the Senate floor, it takes only 51 votes to advance their nominations and confirm them. There are 52 Republicans, which means they could confirm all of Trump’s district and circuit court nominees without a single Democratic vote.

It used to take 60 votes to advance district and circuit court nominees, but Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rule in 2013 in order to get around a Republican blockade on Obama’s court picks. Now Trump benefits from that change.

It is, in effect, the perfect combination of factors for conservatives eager to tilt the nation’s courts to the right. Trump has piles of seats to fill, a list of nominees recommended to the White House by outside conservative groups, and a Republican Senate eager to confirm them.

“It is a huge opportunity,” said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who specializes in judicial nominations. “The question is how quickly they will move in the future. A lot of what they’ve done so far is low-hanging fruit and pretty easy to do.”

ALISSA SCHELLER/HUFFPOST

A good chunk of Trump’s judicial nominees so far have come through recommendations from The Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization. Its executive vice president, Leonard Leo, was instrumental in helping the White House put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. He recommended Gorsuch to Trump last fall and took a temporary leave from his job earlier this year to help prepare Gorsuch for his Senate confirmation hearing.

Leo also gave Trump a list of names of potential judicial picks that conservatives would like to see on the federal bench. Trump has already nominated several of them.

One of them is John Bush, a Kentucky lawyer who runs a local chapter of The Federalist Society. Trump nominated Bush, 52, last month to a lifetime post on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Progressive groups are vowing to fight his confirmation given some of his past remarks, which include comparing abortion to slavery and referring to them as “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” Bush has also said he strongly disagrees with same-sex marriage, mocked climate change and proclaimed “the witch is dead” when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted.

Damien Schiff, also a member of The Federalist Society, is Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The 37-year-old attorney at the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation would serve a 15-year term if confirmed. He came under fire for calling Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy “a judicial prostitute” on a blog several years ago. He has also criticized efforts to prevent bullying of LGBTQ students, referring to messages of equality as “teaching ‘gayness’ in schools,” and has argued that states should be allowed to criminalize “consensual sodomy.”

Both of those nominees had their Senate confirmation hearings last week. They’re now waiting for the Judiciary Committee to reconvene and vote out their nominations.

It’s not unusual for a president to consult with outside groups for potential judicial nominees. What’s different, says Tobias, is how heavily Trump seems to be relying on this particular group versus working directly with senators for judicial recommendations from their states, which is the standard path.

“I think Leonard Leo is just feeding him those people,” he said. “There are real questions about that, whether that’s good for the courts and gets us the finest nominees.”

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Read the entire article at the above link.

Remember, folks, these are lifetime appointments, so although, one way or another, Trump will eventually be gone, his judges will be around for decades. And, because Democrats can’t win Senate elections, they have lost their power to exert any influence whatsoever over Trump’s choices.

PWS

06-22-17

 

H-1B NONIMMIGRANTS: A Needed Visa In Need Of Reform — It’s Essential For Our Economy, But It’s Wrong When US Workers Are Displaced & Degraded — A Plea For Reform By One Who Has Benefitted From The System But Sees The Abuses!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/04/us/understanding-the-h-1b-visa/index.html

Moni Bassu writes in CNN:

“Palmer and other H-1B reformers want accountability.
They say US companies must be required to document their searches to fill positions with American workers. Employers must pay prevailing wages and be prevented from subcontracting or outsourcing H-1B jobs.
Reform advocates are pushing for a system of government enforcement and oversight of the H-1B regulations, not one that is reliant on whistleblowers to expose abuse.
Technology is here to stay. And it is changing at warp speed. The demand for smart talent is not going away. That’s why even the biggest critics of H-1B are the most ardent backers of reform, not elimination.
What I hear them saying is the system ought to work the way it used to, when my father obtained an H-1 visa. He was hired for a job he was uniquely qualified for, and he was compensated with a decent wage.
No one wants to see Americans lose their jobs unfairly, and if my father were still alive, I know he’d be troubled by what I learned about the current H-1B program.
I also know he would be heartened to see that some of the most ardent backers of visa reform are Indian Americans. After all, we are the ones who have most reaped the rewards of H-1B.”
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The full article, which gives actual examples of both the benefits and the abuses of the H-1B program is a “must read.” Get it at the link.
Several thoughts. I was very critical, and still am, of House Immigration Subcommittee GOP Members for starting off with controversial, “in your face,” and unneeded enforcement-only bills. See http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Qw
Why not instead start with something bipartisan that would be good for America, like H-1B reform. Chairman Grassley in the Senate has expressed strong interest in reforming the H-1B category to eliminate abuses. And, it appears that most major U.S. employers who use H-1Bs also see the need for reform to preserve and improve the program.
Additionally, things like investment visa “EB-5” reform also appear likely to attract support from both sides of the aisle in both houses.
A second thought, why don’t U.S. companies, particularly those started or run by immigrants, which use H-1Bs start the reforms now. “Reverse” the process. Use highly talented H-1B workers to train U.S. workers, particularly in places where the economic rebound has not yet reached, for whatever reason.
For example, in a recent blog dealt with the situation in the small city of Gillette, WY. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-UY  The folks seemed nice, optimistic, and interested in a brighter future for their community. But, with or without Trump and his environment-busting policies, coal mining as a way of life is on the way out. I can’t imagine that too many of the younger generation are hanging around places like Gillette.
Why not go in and establish some tech centers using H-1Bs as trainers. Sure, working on a computer in an office isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. But, it is something that can be done from anywhere.
And, the costs of doing business, at least initially, are likely to be less in a place like Gillette. Increased economic activity brings with it other needs: buildings, houses, markets, auto dealers, repair shops, HVAC technicians, public servants, schools, teachers, etc. So, there could be something for everyone, even those who don’t want to work at a desk all day.
Maybe, it’s time for those who want immigration reform to stop talking and whining and start doing. Things that demonstrably work and help folks out build their own bases of support. That’s better than trying to convince folks with statistics and pie charts!
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

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.”

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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

 

 

THE HILL: N. Rappaport Says Time For Congress To Pull The Plug On Troubled EB-5 Investor Program

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/328386-congress-pull-fraud-laden-visa-program-for-mostly-chinese

Nolan concludes:

“So, should the EB-5 program be terminated?

Yes, Congress has had more than 25 years to fix the EB-5 program. There is not going to be a legislative “fix.” The only viable alternative is to terminate it and start over.

I have a few suggestions for the new investment program. It should:

  • Raise the investment amounts;
  • Establish more detailed statutory requirements for regional centers;
  • Require Chinese investors to establish that they have permission from the Chinese government to remove enough money from China to meet the investment requirement;
  • Provide for input from the states on designating Targeted Employment Areas but have the designations made by the federal government;
  • Establish guidelines for making the “Targeted Employment Area” designations which eliminate the current gerrymandering process and ensure that the investment money goes where it is supposed to go; and
  • Include measures to eliminate fraud from the program.

Some lawmakers have given up already. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced bills to terminate the EB-5 program. These members have the right idea. It is time to put an end to a failing, faulty program and implement immigration policies that actually yield the intended result.”

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

PWS

04/12/17

 

“This Is The Trump Era” — Jeff Sessions Visits S. Border — Announces New Emphasis On Immigration Crimes — Although Majority of Feds’ Prosecutions Already Immigraton-Related, Enough Is Never Enough! — “Incarceration Nation” Coming! Sessions Also Seeks 125 New U.S. Immigration Judges Over Next 2 Years — Sessions “Disses” Forensic Science At DOJ!

https://www.wsj.com/articles/sessions-lays-out-tough-policy-on-undocumented-who-commit-crimes-1491930183

Aruna Viswanatha reports in the WSJ:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to pursue harsher charges against undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, or repeatedly cross into the U.S. illegally, and promised to add 125 immigration judges in the next two years to address a backlog of immigration cases.

The moves are part of the administration’s efforts to deter illegal immigration and is meant to target gangs and smugglers, though non-violent migrants could also face more severe prosecutions.

In a memo issued Tuesday, Mr. Sessions instructed prosecutors to make a series of immigration offenses “higher priorities,” including transporting or harboring illegal immigrants, illegally entering or reentering the country, or assaulting immigration enforcement agents.

In remarks to border patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona on Tuesday, Mr. Sessions spoke in stark terms about the threat he said illegal immigration poses.

“We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens,” Mr. Sessions said, according to the text of his prepared remarks. “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.”

“This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Mr. Sessions said.

Former prosecutors said they didn’t expect the memo to dramatically impact U.S. attorneys offices along the southern border, which already bring thousands of such cases each year. They said it could impact those further inland, which haven’t historically focused on immigration violations.

In the fiscal year that ended in September 2016, 52% of all federal criminal prosecutions involved immigration-related offenses, according to Justice Department data analyzed by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

. . . .

Immigration advocates said they worried that the memo and tone set by the administration was describing a closer link between criminal behavior and immigration than statistics show.

“We are seeing an over-emphasis on prosecuting, at the federal level, immigration, illegal entry and reentry cases, and far less paid to criminal violations that implicate public safety,” said Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.”

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On April 8, 2017, Sari Horowitz reported in the Washington Post on how Sessions’s enthusiastic plans to reinstitute the largely discredited “war on drugs” is likely to “jack up” Federal Prison populations:

“Crime is near historic lows in the United States, but Sessions says that the spike in homicides in several cities, including Chicago, is a harbinger of a “dangerous new trend” in America that requires a tough response.
“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad,” Sessions said to law enforcement officials in a speech in Richmond last month. “It will destroy your life.”

Advocates of criminal justice reform argue that Sessions and Cook are going in the wrong direction — back to a strategy that tore apart families and sent low-level drug offenders, disproportionately minority citizens, to prison for long sentences.

“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).”

. . . .

Cook and Sessions have also fought the winds of change on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently tried but failed to pass the first significant bill on criminal justice reform in decades.

The legislation, which had 37 sponsors in the Senate, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and 79 members of the House, would have reduced some of the long mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug crimes. It also would have given judges more flexibility in drug sentencing and made retroactive the law that reduced the large disparity between sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

The bill, introduced in 2015, had support from outside groups as diverse as the Koch brothers and the NAACP. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) supported it, as well.

But then people such as Sessions and Cook spoke up. The longtime Republican senator from Alabama became a leading opponent, citing the spike in crime in several cities.

“Violent crime and murders have increased across the country at almost alarming rates in some areas. Drug use and overdoses are occurring and dramatically increasing,” said Sessions, one of five members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against the legislation. “It is against this backdrop that we are considering a bill . . . to cut prison sentences for drug traffickers and even other violent criminals, including those currently in federal prison.”
Cook testified that it was the “wrong time to weaken the last tools available to federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents.”

After GOP lawmakers became nervous about passing legislation that might seem soft on crime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Sessions was the main reason that bill didn’t pass,” said Inimai M. Chettiar, the director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “He came in at the last minute and really torpedoed the bipartisan effort.”

Now that he is attorney general, Sessions has signaled a new direction. As his first step, Sessions told his prosecutors in a memo last month to begin using “every tool we have” — language that evoked the strategy from the drug war of loading up charges to lengthen sentences.

And he quickly appointed Cook to be a senior official on the attorney general’s task force on crime reduction and public safety, which was created following a Trump executive order to address what the president has called “American carnage.”

“If there was a flickering candle of hope that remained for sentencing reform, Cook’s appointment was a fire hose,” said Ring, of FAMM. “There simply aren’t enough backhoes to build all the prisons it would take to realize Steve Cook’s vision for America.”

. . . .

Sessions’s aides stress that the attorney general does not want to completely upend every aspect of criminal justice policy.

“We are not just sweeping away everything that has come before us.” said Robyn Thiemann, the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy, who is working with Cook and has been at the Justice Department for nearly 20 years. “The attorney general recognizes that there is good work out there.”

Still, Sessions’s remarks on the road reveal his continued fascination with an earlier era of crime fighting.

In the speech in Richmond, he said, “Psychologically, politically, morally, we need to say — as Nancy Reagan said — ‘Just say no.’ ”

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Not surprisingly, Sessions’s actions prompted a spate of critical commentary, the theme of which was the failure of the past “war on drugs” and “Just say no to Jeff Sessions.” You can search them on the internet, but here is a representative example, an excerpt from a posting by Rebecca Bergenstein Joseph in “Health Care Musings:”

“We Can’t Just Say No
Posted on April 9, 2017 by Rebecca Bergenstein Joseph
Three decades ago, Nancy Reagan launched her famous anti-drug campaign when she told American citizens, “Say yes to your life. And when it comes to alcohol and drugs, just say no.” 1 Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked the former First Lady’s legacy in a speech to Virginia law enforcement when he said, “ I think we have too much tolerance for drug use– psychologically, politically, morally. We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no.’”2 As our nation is confronted on a daily basis with the tragic effects of the opioid epidemic, it is important that we understand just how dangerous it is to suggest that we return to the ‘just say no’ approach.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the ‘just say no’ curriculum became the dominant drug education program nationwide in the form of DARE.3 The DARE program– Drug Abuse Resistance Education– was developed in 1983 by the Los Angeles police chief in collaboration with a physician, Dr. Ruth Rich. The pair adapted a drug education curriculum that was in the development process at University of Southern California in order to create a program that would be taught by police officers and would teach students to resist the peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs. With the backdrop of the War on Drugs that had continued from the Nixon presidency into the Reagan era, DARE grew quickly. Communities understandably wanted to prevent their children from using alcohol and drugs. The program was soon being used in 75% of schools nationwide and had a multimillion dollar budget.3 In fact, I would bet that many of you reading this are DARE graduates. I certainly am.

It did not take long for there to be research showing that the ‘just say no’ approach used in DARE was not working. By the early 1990s there were multiple studies showing that DARE had no effect on its graduates choices regarding alcohol and drug use.4 The decision to ignore the research about DARE culminated when the National Institute of Justice evaluated the program in 1994, concluded that it was ineffective, and proceeded to not publish this finding. In the 10 years that followed, DARE was subjected to evaluation by the Department of Education, the U.S Surgeon General’s Office, and the Government Accountability Office.4 The combined effect of these evaluations was the eventual transformation of DARE into an evidence-based curriculum, Keepin’ It REAL, which was released in 2011.5 But this only happened after billions of dollars were spent on a program that did not work and millions of students received inadequate drug education.

And yet, here we are again. The top law enforcement officer in our nation is suggesting that we go back to the days where elementary and middle school students were told that all they needed to do was ‘just say no.’”

Read the complete post here:

https://sites.tufts.edu/cmph357/author/rjosep06/

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Finally, just yesterday, on April 10, 2017, Spenser S. Hsu reported in the Washington Post that Sessions was “canning” the “National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013” as a consultant to the DOJ on proper forensic standards.

In plain terms, in Session’s haste to rack up more criminal convictions and appear “tough on crime,” the quality of the evidence or the actual guilt or innocence of those charged becomes merely “collateral damage” in the “war on crime.”

Here’s a portion of what Hsu had to say:

“Several commission members who have worked in criminal courts and supported the input of independent scientists said the department risks retreating into insularity and repeating past mistakes, saying that no matter how well-intentioned, prosecutors lack scientists’ objectivity and training.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of New York, the only federal judge on the commission, said, “It is unrealistic to expect that truly objective, scientifically sound standards for the use of forensic science . . . can be arrived at by entities centered solely within the Department of Justice.”

In suspending reviews of past testimony and the development of standards for future reporting, “the department has literally decided to suspend the search for the truth,” said Peter S. Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, which has reported that nearly half of 349 DNA exonerations involved misapplications of forensic science. “As a consequence innocent people will languish in prison or, God forbid, could be executed,” he said.

However, the National District Attorneys Association, which represents prosecutors, applauded the end of the commission and called for it to be replaced by an Office of Forensic Science inside the Justice Department. Disagreements between crime lab practitioners and defense community representatives on the commission had reduced it to “a think tank,” yielding few accomplishments and wasted tax dollars, the association said.

The commission was created after critical reports by the National Academy of Sciences about a dearth of standards and funding for crime labs, examiners and researchers, problems it partly traced to law enforcement control over the system.

Although examiners had long claimed to be able to match pattern evidence — such as with firearms or bite marks — to a source with “absolute” or “scientific” certainty, only DNA analysis had been validated through statistical research, scientists reported.

In one case, the FBI lab in 2005 abandoned its four-decade-long practice of tracing bullets to a specific manufacturer’s batch through chemical analyses after its method were scientifically debunked. In 2015, the department and bureau reported that nearly every examiner in an elite hair-analysis unit gave scientifically flawed or overstated testimony in 90 percent of cases for two decades before 2000.

The cases include 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison.”

Here is a link to the full article by Hsu: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/sessions-orders-justice-dept-to-end-forensic-science-commission-suspend-review-policy/2017/04/10/2dada0ca-1c96-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?utm_term=.97b814db4eac&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

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I “get” that some of the advocacy groups quoted in these articles could be considered “interested parties” and/or “soft on crime” in the world of hard-core prosecutors. But, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the Koch brothers “soft on crime?” Come on, man!

Capitalist theory says that as long as there is a nearly insatiable “market” in the United States for illegal drugs, and a nearly inexhaustible “supply” abroad, there is going to be drug-related crime. Harsher sentences might increase risks and therefore “jack up market prices” for “consumers” of “product,” while creating “new job opportunities” for “middlemen” who will have to take (and be compensated for) more risks and invest in more expensive business practices (such as bribery, or manipulation of the legal system) to get the product “to market.”

But, you can bet that until we deal with the “end causes” in a constructive manner, neither drug trafficking nor trafficking in undocumented individuals is likely to change much in the long run.

Indeed, authorities have been cutting off heads, hands, feet, and other appendages, drawing and quartering, hanging, crucifying, shooting, gassing, injecting, racking, mutilating, imprisoning in dungeons, transporting, banishing, and working to death those who have committed crimes, both serious and not so serious, for centuries. But, strangely, such harsh practices, while certainly diminishing the humanity of those who inflict them, have had little historical effect on crime. The most obvious effects have been more dead and damaged individuals, overcrowded prisons, and angry disaffected families.

125 new U.S. Immigration Judges should be good news for the beleaguered U.S. Immigration Courts. But, even assuming that Congress goes along, at the glacial pace the DOJ and EOIR have been hiring Immigration Judges over the past two Administrations, it could take all four years of Trump’s current term to get them on board and actually deciding cases.

More bad news: Added to the approximately 375 Immigration Judges currently authorized (but, only about 319 actually on the bench), that would bring the total to 500 Immigration Judges. Working at the current 750 completions/year (50% above the “optimum” of 500 completions/year) the currently authorized 375 Immigration Judges could complete fewer than 300,000 cases/year consistent with due process — barely enough to keep up with historic receipts, let alone the “enhanced enforcement” promised by the Trump Administration. They would not have to capacity to address the current “backlog” of approximately 550,000 cases.

If receipts remained “flat,” the 125 “new” Immigration Judges contemplated by AG Sessions could go to work on on the backlog. But, it would take them about 6 years to wipe out the 550,000 case existing backlog.

PWS

04/11/17

 

 

 

Senator Grassley Asks About BIA Review At Sessions’s Confirmation Hearing

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/01/12/jeff-sessions-affirms-anti-immigrant-views-confirmation-hearing/

Joshua Briesblatt over at Immigration Impact gives us this interesting nugget from the Sessions Confirmation hearing:

“Lastly, Senator Grassley asked Senator Sessions if he would review all the decisions coming out of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The Attorney General has the authority to unilaterally revoke decisions of the BIA. Much of current asylum law is based on decisions by the BIA including those that determine what groups must receive protection from persecution in their home. As Attorney General, he would have the authority to make asylum vastly more difficult for those around the world who flee to the United States to avoid violence. Senator Sessions said that he “does appear” to have that authority and that he has “not thoroughly studied” the issue.”

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Interesting.  Was Chairman Grassley (R-IA) actually trying to suggest that this is something Senator Sessions should undertake as AG?  Actually, I think that if and when he gets around to studying it, AG Sessions will find that he does, in fact, have authority to review any BIA decision. But, if he reviewed all of them — that would be about 35,000 per year — I don’t think he’d have much time left over for anything else, including sleeping and eating.  Most AG’S review, at most, one or two BIA decisions per year.

Still, it indicates a fundamental due process problem with having the Immigration Courts and the BIA lodged in the Department of Justice.  As the chief law enforcement officer and litigator for the U.S., the Attorney General has no business reviewing any BIA decision — it’s a colossal conflict of interest, even by today’s evolving ethics standards.  That’s why the Immigration Court System must, at some point, become truly independent which means removing it from the DOJ and establishing it as some type of independent entity — an independent agency or and Article I or Article III Court.  Until then, true due process in the Immigration Courts may be elusive.

Notably, notwithstanding lots of recent publicity about the exploding docket and the problems crippling the nation’s Immigration Courts, neither Chairman Grassley nor Senator Sessions seemed to be particularly “up” on the issue or to have much idea of the reality of life in the Immigration Courts.  That’s not very encouraging.

PWS

01/13/17