Yeganeh Torbati reports for Reuters News. Click the above link to play video!


As Yeganeh’s report notes, nobody disputes the Trump Administration’s claim that the MS-13 are “Bad Guys” who should be removed from the U.S. Although you wouldn’t know it from the Trump Administration’s self-congratulatory rhetoric, every Administration going back to that of President Ronald Reagan has made a concerted effort to remove gang members. They were a particular priority of the Obama Administration’s criminal alien removal program.

Unlike Trump, Sessions, and most of those “spouting off the rhetoric,” I have been involved in gang removal efforts from both the law enforcement and the judicial perspectives. I actually came face to face with gang members and entered final orders removing them from the United States at several levels during my Government career. And, unlike some final orders of removal, I know that these were actually carried out.

Not surprisingly, though, a few of the deportees managed to reenter the U.S. again. No “wall” is likely to stop determined international gangs from getting their members back into the U.S. if they really want to. Just like “show deportations” didn’t significantly hamper or eradicate Italian Mafia-type organized crime gangs, the “Maras” are unlikely to fold their tents and disappear quietly into the night just because of “get tough” speeches by American politicos and some well-publicized deportations. Most Maras are actually pretty good at running operations from abroad, as well as from prisons, both here and in the Northern Triangle.

I have observed, however, that the Trump Administration’s anti-gang program is likely to be relatively ineffective for a number of reasons. First, by terrorizing Latino communities with DHS arrests and removals of law-abiding non-criminals, they make it difficult or impossible for victims, most of whom are members of the Latino community, and some of whom are undocumented or come from “mixed families,” to report gang-related crimes and activities to the police. Thus, these folks are “easy marks” for the gangs.

Second, for the same reason, many community members are reluctant to come forward and be witnesses against gang members for fear of their own deportation or that the police will not protect them from retaliation.

Third, by consistently “dissing” and devaluing the contributions of the many law-abiding members of the Latino community, this Administration makes it easier for gang recruiters to point to the “empowerment” and “respect” that gangs claim to offer.

Fourth, by “manipulating the law” to deny legal protections to many of those who courageously resist gang recruitment (I just “blogged” an egregious example from the 9th Circuit this week), the Administration sends a strong “you might as well join” message to young people in the U.S. and who are returned to the Northern Triangle. The message that our Government places no value on their lives is not lost on these kids.

Finally, by failing to concentrate on the root causes of gangs in the Northern Triangle, and instead consistently “over-selling” the law enforcement benefits of deportation, the Administration guarantees an almost endless regime of violence and disorder in the Northern Triangle and a steady stream of would-be refugees flowing north.

The only effective gang-eradication programs that I’m aware of involve local authorities, often from the Latino community, gaining the trust of the young people in the community and “reinforcing” Latino role models, some originally from undocumented backgrounds, as offering viable alternatives to gangs. Slowly, through education and community based activities that show the value, respect, and positive recognition that can be gained by avoiding gangs and having the courage to stand up against them, we can, over time, drastically reduce, and perhaps eventually eliminate the destructive role gangs in America.

But, the continuing White Nationalist, anti-Hispanic “blathering” of Trump, Sessions, Homan, and the other GOP “hard liners” is likely to be counterproductive. And, “traditional” law enforcement methods of arrest, imprisonment, and deportation have been shown, by themselves, to be ineffective in solving the long-term problems of gangs in both America and the Northern Triangle. Of course we should continue to arrest and deport known gang members. But, we shouldn’t expect that, without some community-based solutions and more thoughtful approaches to the problems caused by deportations in the Northern Triangle, deportations will solve our problem. They won’t!






C.J.L.G. v. Sessions, 9th Cir., 01-29-18, published

PANEL: Consuelo M. Callahan and John B. Owens,
Circuit Judges, and David A. Faber,* District Judge.

* The Honorable David A. Faber, United States District Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia, sitting by designation.

OPINION BY: Judge Callahan



“The panel denied C.J.L.G.’s petition for review of a Board of Immigration Appeals decision, holding that neither the Due Process Clause nor the Immigration & Nationality Act creates a categorical right to court-appointed counsel at government expense for alien minors, and concluding that the Board’s denial of asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention against Torture was supported by substantial evidence.
The panel held that it is not established law that alien minors are categorically entitled to government-funded, court-appointed counsel and, applying the three-part test set forth in Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976), held that C.J. had not shown a necessity for such counsel to safeguard his due process right to a full and fair hearing.
The panel incorporated its analysis of C.J.’s asylum claim into its Mathews analysis in determining that C.J. was not prejudiced by any procedural deficiencies in his proceeding. The panel concluded that the record compelled a finding that C.J. had a well-founded fear of persecution based on threats he received from the Mara gang when he resisted their recruitment efforts, but rejected C.J.’s asylum claim because he had not established that the threats had a nexus to a protected ground, or that the government was unable or unwilling to control the Maras. The panel deemed waived any argument that he was denied due process on his withholding and CAT claims, but noted that his withholding claim would also fail.
The panel also rejected C.J.’s argument that the INA’s fair hearing provision, § 1229a(b)(4)(B), implicitly requires court-appointed counsel at government expense for all alien minors.
The panel further held that the IJ was not required to inform C.J. that he might be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile status, concluding that the IJ’s duty to inform aliens of “apparent eligibility” for relief was not triggered because, at the time of his removal proceeding, C.J. did not have a state court order that could have made him apparently eligible for SIJ status.
Finally, the panel concluded that the agency’s denial of CAT relief was supported by substantial evidence. The panel concluded that 1) the Board did not err in concluding that C.J.’s experience of having a member of the Maras put a gun to his head did not amount to “severe pain or suffering;” 2) there was no showing that the Honduran government acquiesced in the act; and 3) the record did not compel the conclusion that the government either turned a blind eye to the Maras’ threats or that it would be unable or unwilling to control the Maras in the future.
Concurring, Judge Owens wrote that the majority’s opinion does not hold, or even discuss, whether the Due Process Clause mandates counsel for unaccompanied minors, and observed that that is a different question that could lead to a different answer.
** This summary constitutes no part of the opinion of the court. It has been prepared by court staff for the convenience of the reader.”


“We are mindful that our decision means that, absent a reprieve offered by the government, C.J. will likely be returned to a country in turmoil. We sympathize with his personal plight, as C.J. appears to have displayed courage in the face of serious adversity. But while “our hearts are with [C.J.],” the law does not support his requested relief. Cf. Dugard v. United States, 835 F.3d 915, 917 (9th Cir. 2016). Neither Supreme Court nor circuit precedent compels the remedy that C.J. seeks: court-appointed counsel at government expense. And to the extent the IJ failed to provide all the trappings of a full and fair hearing, any shortcomings did not prejudice the outcome because the IJ adequately developed the record on issues that are dispositive to C.J.’s claims for relief. Attorney representation could not have altered this reality, which forecloses C.J.’s claim to an implied right to court-appointed counsel under the Due Process Clause. Moreover, the INA itself neither provides for nor implies a right to court-appointed counsel at government expense.

We further hold that the IJ was not required to advise C.J. of a separate state court process that could ultimately form the predicate for C.J.’s application for SIJ status with the IJ. The IJ is only required to advise an alien of relief for which he is “apparent[ly] eligib[le].” Because C.J.’s claimed relief—SIJ status—depends on a state court making certain findings before an IJ may grant him such relief—something that has not occurred here—C.J. is not “apparent[ly] eligib[le]” for SIJ status.
Finally, we decline to reverse the Board’s denial of C.J.’s asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT claims, because substantial evidence supports the Board’s determination that he is ineligible for any such relief.”


“I concur in the majority opinion and its narrow scope. It holds that the Due Process Clause does not mandate government-funded counsel for C.J.L.G, an accompanied minor. The opinion does not hold, or even discuss, whether the Due Process Clause mandates counsel for unaccompanied minors. That is a different question that could lead to a different answer. See, e.g., Lassiter v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 452 U.S. 18, 31–32 (1981) (holding that whether the Due Process Clause requires the appointment of counsel is considered on a case-by-case basis); J.E.F.M. v. Lynch, 837 F.3d 1026, 1039–41 (9th Cir. 2016) (McKeown, J., jjoined by M. Smith, J., specially concurring) (outlining unique challenges that unrepresented unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings confront).”


  • BOTTOM LINE: This kid should join the gang in Honduras to save his life (and the lives of his family), or they should all die. We really don’t care as long as he doesn’t darken our door!
  • We’re willing to send this teen back to death or a life of forced gang membership after a hearing that none of us, and probably no American citizen, would consider fair or just if it were applied to us or someone we cared about. The key here is not to care about human lives.
  • It would be easy enough to define “those who resist gang membership” as a “particular social group” entitled to protection under our asylum and related laws. We have just intentionally chosen not to do so to avoid having to give protection to kids like this.
  • We also have ample authority to exercise Executive discretion to allow individuals in danger in their home countries to remain here in safety even if they don’t satisfy the technical requirements for asylum or withholding of removal. We have just chosen not to do so.
  • Contrary to the majority’s holding, a lawyer, particularly one who could find “expert” evidence or testimony probably could have secured protection for this young man under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The latest State Department Country Report shows that gang torture is reported in Honduras, that the government and the justice system are inherently corrupt and incompetent, and that criminal justice system often fails to protect citizens.
  • While perhaps “well-meaning,” Judge Owens concurring opinion suggesting a different result for a “truly unaccompanied” minor is highly disingenuous. From the record, it appears that this kid’s mother was barely literate, (not surprisingly) didn’t understand asylum law, and couldn’t even fill out his application coherently in English. Her lack of understanding that the case depended on (counterintuitively) proving something “other than pure gang recruitment” was at work here actually appears to have undermined his case. If clearly incompetent “assistance” by a lay person like this like this is the dividing line between “due process” and “no due process,” that would be an absurd result!
  • The panel basically shirks its duty by conferring upon the trial judge, the U.S. Immigration Judge, the responsibility of acting as the unrepresented child’s attorney and developing the record. But, this runs directly counter to the most recent “OPPM” from the Chief Immigration Judge “reminding” Immigration Judges to “maintain neutrality” and not be too helpful to unrepresented minors as they are being railroaded out of the country.
  • The “Trump/Sessions Deportation Railroad” is up and running. At least this panel of Article III Judges in the 9th Circuit appear anxious to establish themselves as “Just Another Whistle Stop on the Deportation Railroad.” 
  • The blood of this young man and others like him who come seeking protection, only to find rejection based on a twisted hyper-legalistic reading of our laws and an abdication of moral responsibility to protect those in harm’s way will be on our hands as a nation. At some point it will stain. At some point, the stain will become indelible.
  • As a national policy, telling kids in the Northern Triangle that they have no choice but to join gangs or die is not likely to “solve” the “gang problem” here or there in the short or long run. Essentially, we’ve already demonstrated that. But, nobody is paying attention.