Mejia v. Sessions, 9th Cir., 08-29-17 (Published)
PANEL: Susan P. Graber and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges, and Edward J. Davila,* District Judge
OPINION BY: Judge Davila
“Here, there were clear indicia of Petitioner’s incompetency. He has a history of serious mental illness, including hallucinations, bipolar disorder, and major depression with psychotic features. During hearings before the IJ, Petitioner testified that he was not taking his medications and was feeling unwell. He said he was experiencing symptoms of mental illness and felt a “very strong pressure” in his head. He had difficulty following the IJ’s questions, and many of his responses were confused and disjointed. Under In re M-A-M-, those indicia triggered the IJ’s duty to explain whether Petitioner was competent and whether procedural safeguards were needed. The IJ failed to do so. On review, the BIA noted that Petitioner suffers from serious mental illness and “was feeling unwell without his medication” during the proceedings before the IJ.
Nonetheless, the BIA concluded that remand was not warranted because certain procedural safeguards were in place—for instance, Petitioner was represented by counsel, he “presented testimony in support of his claims,” and he “provided his parents as witnesses.” But the BIA did not address the IJ’s failure to articulate his assessment of Petitioner’s competence and why these procedural safeguards were adequate.
The BIA abused its discretion by failing to explain why it allowed the IJ to disregard In re M-A-M-’s rigorous procedural requirements. See Alphonsus, 705 F.3d at 1044 (“It is a well-settled principle of administrative law that an agency abuses its discretion if it clearly departs from its own standards.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).We therefore remand to the BIA with instructions to remand to the IJ for a new hearing consistent with In re M-A-M-.”
The problem of the BIA not applying its own precedents to protect migrants’ rights is hardly new. But, it’s likely to get worse as Sessions pushes his “captive court system” to churn out more removal orders faster with only lip service to due process.
Question: Why would a reviewing court have to direct the BIA to apply the BIA’s own precedent? So much for the BIA as a “guarantor of due process.”
Rather than “jacking up the numbers” to meet the Trump-Sessions removal agenda, the BIA needs to slow things down, assign more cases to three-member panels, and do the kind of careful judicial review and deliberation necessary to insure due process. It’s also pretty obvious that the staff has been instructed to “default to denial.” They need some training from academic experts in due process and asylum law.
Too much “inbreeding” — too much agency lingo — too much DOJ political influence. The effects are obvious. The BIA needs to be removed from the DOJ and re-constituted as an independent appellate court. Otherwise, the Courts of Appeals need to step in and force the BIA to do its job!