HON. JEFFREY S. CHASE: Alimbaev v. Att’y Gen (3rd Cir.) Shows How BIA Is Willing To Overlook Rules To Avoid Political Threat to Existence — No Wonder Due Process Is No Longer The Vision Or Goal Of The Immigraton Courts! — Read My Latest “Mini-Essay:” TIME TO END THE “CHARADE OF QUASI-JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE” AT THE BIA (With Credit to Peter Levinson)

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/10/5/3d-cir-rebukes-bia-for-troubling-erroneous-overreach

Here’s Jeffrey’s Blog:

“Oct 5 3d Cir. Rebukes BIA for Troubling, Erroneous Overreach

Alimbaev v. Att’y Gen. of U.S., No. 16-4313 (3d Cir. Sept. 25, 2017) opens with unusual language: “This disconcerting case, before our court for the second time, has a lengthy procedural history marked by confiict between the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the Immigration Judge (IJ)…” The court observed that the case involved “troubling allegations that the Petitioner…relished watching terroristic videos, while apparently harboring anti-American sympathies.” But the court noted that the question before it was whether the BIA applied the correct legal standard for reviewing the IJ’s factual findings, which the court found necessary for “preserving the rule of law, safeguarding the impartiality of our adjudicatory processes, and ensuring that fairness and objectivity are not usurped by emotion, regardless of the nature of the allegations.”

There is some history behind the correct legal standard mentioned by the circuit court. Prior to 2002, the BIA could review factual findings de novo, meaning it could substitute its own judgment as to whether the respondent was truthful or not for that of the immigration judge. In 2002, then attorney general John Ashcroft enacted procedural reforms which limited the scope of the Board’s review of factual findings to “clear error.” The new review standard meant that even if the Board strongly disagreed with the immigration judge’s fact finding, it could only reverse if it was left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake had been made. The stated reason for the change was that the overwhelming majority of immigration decisions were correct. The actual motive for the change was more likely that the Board was seen as too liberal by Ashcroft; the new standard would therefore make it more difficult for the Board to reverse deportation orders based on the immigration judges’ finding that the respondent lacked credibility.

The following year, Ashcroft purged the Board of all of its more liberal members. The resulting conservative lean has not been offset by subsequent appointments, in spite of the fact that several of those appointments were made under the Obama administration. The Board regularly uses boilerplate language to affirm adverse credibility findings on the grounds that they do not meet the “clearly erroneous” standard. Furthermore, 2005 legislation provided immigration judges with a broader range of bases for credibility determinations, which again made it more difficult for the Board and the circuit courts to reverse on credibility grounds.

The provisions safeguarding an IJ’s credibility finding should apply equally to cases in which relief was granted, making it difficult for a conservative panel of the Board to reverse a grant of relief where the IJ found the respondent credible. Alimbaev was decided by an outstanding immigration judge, who rendered a fair, detailed, thoughtfully considered decision. Factoring in the REAL ID Act standards and the limited scope of review allowed, the Board should have affirmed the IJ’s decision, even if its members would have reached a different factual finding themselves. Instead, the Board panel ignored all of the above to wrongly reverse the IJ not once but three times.

The immigration judge heard the case twice, granting the respondent’s applications for relief each time. In his second decision, the IJ found the respondent’s testimony to be “candid, internally consistent, generally believable, and sufficiently detailed.” In reversing, the BIA turned to nitpicking, citing two small inconsistencies that the Third Circuit termed so “insignificant…that they would probably not, standing alone, justify an IJ making a general adverse credibility finding, much less justify the BIA in rejecting a positive credibility finding under a clear error standard.” The Court therefore concluded that the BIA substituted its own view for the permissible view of the IJ, which is exactly what the “clear error” standard of review is meant to prevent.

The Board cited two other dubious reasons for reversing. One, which the circuit court described as “also troubling,” involved a false insinuation by the Board that a computer containing evidence corroborating the claim that the respondent had viewed “terrorist activity” was found in his residence. In fact, the evidence established that the computer in question was not the respondents, but one located in a communal area of an apartment in which the respondent lived; according to the record, the respondent used the communal computer only on occasion to watch the news. In a footnote, the court noted that none of the videos found on the communal computer were training materials; several originated from the recognized news source Al Jazeera, and “that on the whole, the computer did not produce any direct or causal link suggesting that [they] espoused violence, such as email messages of a questionable nature.” The circuit court therefore remanded the record back to the BIA, with clear instructions to reconsider the discretionary factors “with due deference to the IJ’s factfinding before weighing the various positive and negative factors…”

The question remains as to why the BIA got this so wrong. One possibility is that as the case involved allegations that the respondent might have harbored terrorist sympathies, the Board members let emotion and prejudice take over (apparently three separate times, over a period of several years). If that’s the case, it demonstrates that 15 years after the Ashcroft purge, the one-sided composition of the Board’s members (with no more liberal viewpoints to provide balance) has resulted in a lack of objectivity and impartiality in its decision making. Unfortunately, the appointment of more diverse Board members seems extremely unlikely to happen under the present administration.

But I believe there is another possibility as well. 15 years later, the Board remains very cognizant of the purge and its causes. It is plausible that the Board made a determination that as a matter of self-preservation, it is preferable to be legally wrong than to be perceived as being “soft on terrorism.” If that is the case, there is no stronger argument of the need for an independent immigration court that would not be subject to the type of political pressures that would impact impartiality and fairness.

It also bears mention that unlike the Board, the immigration judge in this case faced the same pressures, yet did not let them prevent him from issuing an impartial, fair, and ultimately correct decision (in spite of having his first decision vacated and remanded by the Board). Unlike the BIA, whose members review decisions that have been drafted for them in a suburban office tower, immigration judges are on the front lines, addressing crippling case loads, being sent on short notice to remote border locations, and dealing with DHS attorneys who now, on orders from Washington, cannot exercise prosecutorial discretion, must raise unnecessary objections, reserve appeal on grants of relief, and oppose termination in deserving cases. Yet many of these judges continue to issue their decisions with impartiality and fairness. Their higher-ups in the Department of Justice should learn from their performance the true meaning of the “rule of law.”

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.”

Reprinted With Permisison

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Here’s a link to my previously-published analysis of Alimbaev: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-1tX

 

TIME TO END THE “CHARADE OF QUASI-JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE” AT THE BIA (With Credit to Peter Levinson)

By Paul Wickham Schmidt

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

The “grand experiment” of trying to have the BIA operate as an independent appellate court along the lines of a U.S. Court of Appeals ended with the advent of the Bush II Administration in 2001 and Ashcroft’s not too subtle suggestion that he wanted me out as BIA Chairman (presumably, the ”implied threat” was to transfer me to an SES “Hallwalker” position elsewhere in the DOJ if I didn’t cooperate. I cooperated and became a Board Member until he bounced me out of that job in 2003).

Since then, and particularly since the “final purge” in 2003, the BIA has operated as a “captive court” exhibiting a keen awareness of the “political climate” at the DOJ. Don’t rock the boat, avoid dissent, don’t focus too much on fairness or due process for immigrants, particularly if it might cause controversy, interfere with Administration Enforcement programs, or show up in a published precedent.

I agree with everything Jeffrey says. It’s totally demoralizing for U.S. Immigration Judges who are willing to “do the right thing” and stand up for due process and fairness for respondents when the BIA comes back with a disingenuous reversal, sometimes using canned language that doesn’t even have much to do with the actual case.

You should have seen the reaction of some of our former Judicial Law Clerks in Arlington (a bright bunch, without exception, who hadn’t been steeped in the “EOIR mystique”) when a specious reversal of an asylum, withholding, or CAT grant came back from the BIA, often “blowing away” a meticulously detailed well-analyzed written grant with shallow platitudes. One of them told me that once you figured out what panel it had gone to, you could pretty much predict the result. It had more to do with the personal philosophies of the Appellate Judges than it did with the law or due process or even the actual facts of the case. And, of course, nobody was left on the BIA to dissent.

And, as I have pointed out before, both the Bush and Obama Administrations went to great lengths to insure that no “boat rockers,” “independent thinkers” or “outside experts” were appointed to appellate judgeships at the BIA for the past 17 years. Just another obvious reason why the promise of impartiality, fairness, and due process from the U.S. Immigration Courts has been abandoned and replaced with a “mission oriented” emphasis on fulfilling Administration Enforcement objectives. In other words, insuring that a party in interest, the DHS, won’t have its credibility or policies unduly hampered by a truly independent Board and that the Office of Immigration Litigation will get the positions that it wants to defend in the Circuit Courts.

When is the last time you saw the BIA prefer the respondent’s interpretation to the DHS’s in interpreting an allegedly “ambiguous” statutory provision under the Chevron doctrine? Even in cases where the respondent invokes “heavy duty assistance” on its side, like for example the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in an asylum case, the BIA basically “blows them off” without meaningful consideration and finds the DHS position to be the “most reasonable.” For one of the most egregious examples in modern BIA history, see the insulting “short shrift” that the BIA gave to the well-articulated views of the UNHCR (who also had some Circuit Court law on its side) in Matter of  M-E-V-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 207, 248-49 (BIA 2014) (“We believe that our interpretation in Matter of S-E-G- and Matter of E-A-G-, as clarified, more accurately captures the concepts underlying the United States’ obligations under the Protocol and will ensure greater consistency in the interpretation of asylum claims under the Act.”)

The whole Chevron/Brand X concept is a joke, particularly as applied to the BIA. It’s high time for the Supremes to abandon it (something in which Justice Gorsuch showed some interest when he was on the 10th Circuit). If we’re going to have a politicized interpretation, better have it be from life-tenured, Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Article III Judges, who notwithstanding politics actually possess decisional independence, than from an administrative judge who is an employee of the Attorney General (as the DOJ always likes to remind Immigration Judges).

It’s also a powerful argument why the current “expensive charade” of an independent Immigration Court needs to be replaced by a truly independent Article I Court. Until that happens, the Article III Courts will be faced with more and more “life or death” decisions based on the prevailing political winds and institutional preservation rather than on Due Process and the rule of law.

PWS

10-05-17

DOUBLE WHAMMY: BIA “BRAND X’s” Ninth Circuit On Material Misrepresentation & Extrajudicial Killings — Effectively Overrules Article III’s Interpretation! — Matter of D-R-, 27 I&N Dec. 105 ( BIA 2017)!

https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/pages/attachments/2017/09/14/3902_0.pdf

PANEL:  BIA Appellate Immigration Judges Grant, Malphrus, Mullane

OPINION BY: Judge Malphrus

HEADNOTES:

“(1) A misrepresentation is material under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(C)(i) (2012), when it tends to shut off a line of inquiry that is relevant to the alien’s admissibility and that would predictably have disclosed other facts relevant to his eligibility for a visa, other documentation, or admission to the United States. Forbes v. INS, 48 F.3d 439 (9th Cir. 1995), not followed.

(2) In determining whether an alien assisted or otherwise participated in extrajudicial killing, an adjudicator should consider (1) the nexus between the alien’s role, acts, or inaction and the extrajudicial killing and (2) his scienter, meaning his prior or contemporaneous knowledge of the killing. Miranda Alvarado v. Gonzales, 449 F.3d 915 (9th Cir. 2006), not followed.”

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Chief Justice John Marshall must be turning over in his grave at how with Chevron and Brand X the Supremes have turned the judicial authority of the United States over to administrative judges within the Executive Branch. Why have an Article III Judiciary at all if it is too timid, afraid, or unqualified to rule on questions of law?

PWS

09-18-17

 

 

 

THIS IS DUE PROCESS? — 10th Cir. Rips BIA’s Anti-Asylum Decision-Making — BIA Ignores Record, Makes Up Law To “Stick It” To PRC Asylum Seeker! — Qiu v. Sessions! — “The nonsensical nature of the BIA’s supposed reasoning on this point is illustrative of the BIA’s failure to give fair consideration to any of the arguments in Petitioner’s motion to reopen in this case, and it represents the very definition of an abuse of discretion!” — Read My Latest “Mini-Essay” — “HOW THE BIA FAILS TO PROVIDE FAIRNESS AND DUE PROCESS TO ASYLUM SEEKERS!”

16-9522

Qiu v. Sessions, 10th Cir., 09-12-17

PANEL: PHILLIPS, McKAY, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION BY: Judge McKay

KEY QUOTES:

The BIA held that Petitioner had not submitted sufficient evidence to show a change in country conditions, and thus that her motion to reopen was untimely under 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(c)(7)(C). The BIA first held that Petitioner had not submitted sufficient evidence to show that the treatment of Christians in China has worsened since her 2011 immigration hearing. This factual finding is not supported by substantial—or, indeed, any—evidence in the record. The agency provided no rational explanation as to how numerous accounts of a 300 percent increase in the persecution of Christians, “unprecedented violations” of religious freedoms beginning in 2014, and possibly “the most egregious and persistent” wave of persecution against Christians since the Cultural Revolution of 1966–76 was insufficient to show that the treatment of Christians in China had worsened since 2011. Nor is there anything in the record that would contradict Petitioner’s extensive evidence of a substantial increase in the government’s mistreatment of Christians since 2011. The BIA pointed to the fact that some portions of the State Department’s 2014 report include substantially similar language to the 2008 and 2009 reports. However, the State Department’s habit of cutting and pasting portions of its old reports into newer reports does nothing to refute all of the other evidence that the level and intensity of persecution against Christians has increased significantly since 2011. Nor does anything in the State Department report suggest that the U.S. Commission and various human-rights organizations are all reporting false data or drawing false conclusions about the deterioration of the treatment of Christians in China. The BIA thus abused its discretion by holding, completely contrary to all of the evidence, that Petitioner had not shown that the treatment of Christians in China has worsened in recent years.

The BIA also suggested that the substantial increase in the persecution of Christians was simply irrelevant because “[a] review of the record before the Immigration Judge indicated that China has long repressed religious freedom, and that underground or unregistered churches continued to experience varying degrees of official interference, harassment, and repression, including breaking up services, fines, detention, beatings, and torture.” (R. at 5.) However, the fact that there was already some level of persecution in China does not prevent Petitioner from showing a change in country conditions due to a significant increase in the level of persecution faced by Christians in her country. To hold otherwise would be to bar reopening for petitioners who file for asylum when they face some, albeit insufficient, risk of persecution in their country, while permitting reopening for petitioners who file for asylum without there being any danger of persecution, then seek reopening after their country fortuitously begins persecuting people who are in their protected category thereafter. But surely Congress did not intend for 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(c)(7)(C) to protect only petitioners who file frivolous asylum applications under no threat of persecution, while extending no help to petitioners who seek reopening after an existing pattern of persecution becomes dramatically worse. The BIA’s reasoning would lead to an absurd result, one we cannot condone.

Instead, we agree with the Second, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits that a significant increase in the level of persecution constitutes a material change in country conditions for purposes of 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(c)(7)(C) and that the BIA abuses its discretion when it fails to assess and consider a petitioner’s evidence that the persecution of others in his protected category has substantially worsened since the initial application. See Paul v. Gonzales, 444 F.3d 148, 157 (2d Cir. 2006) (“Proof that persecution of Christians in Pakistan has become more common, intense, or far-reaching—i.e., the very proof that petitioner purports to have presented in filing his motion to reopen—would clearly bear on this objective inquiry [into the likelihood of future persecution]. Under the circumstances, the BIA’s refusal even to consider such evidence constitutes an abuse of discretion.”); Poradisova v. Gonzales, 420 F.3d 70, 81–82 (2d Cir. 2005) (holding that the BIA abused its discretion in denying a motion to reopen based on worsened country conditions: evidence that the human-rights situation in Belarus is “in an ‘accelerating deterioration’” and “that the situation has worsened since the Poradisovs’ original application” “certainly warranted more than a perfunctory (and clearly inaccurate) mention by the BIA as being ‘merely cumulative’”); Shu Han Liu v. Holder, 718 F.3d 706, 709, 712–13 (7th Cir. 2013) (holding that a petitioner seeking to file an untimely motion to reopen must meet her burden of “show[ing] that Chinese persecution of Christians (of her type) had worsened,” and concluding that the BIA abused its discretion in ignoring evidence that current conditions in China were worse than conditions at the date of the petitioner’s final removal hearing); Chandra v. Holder, 751 F.3d 1034, 1039 (9th Cir. 2014) (“The BIA abused its discretion when it failed to assess Chandra’s evidence that treatment of Christians in Indonesia had deteriorated since his 2002 removal hearing.”); Jiang v. U.S. Attorney Gen., 568 F.3d 1252, 1258 (11th Cir. 2009) (holding that the BIA clearly abused its discretion by overlooking or “inexplicably discount[ing]” evidence of “the recent increased enforcement of the one-child policy” in the petitioner’s province and hometown).

Finally, the BIA rejected Petitioner’s mother’s statement regarding her recent religious persecution in Petitioner’s hometown as both unreliable and irrelevant. The BIA held that the statement was unreliable for two reasons: (1) it was unsworn, and (2) it was prepared for the purposes of litigation. The first of these reasons is incorrect both as a matter of fact and as a matter of law. Petitioner’s mother concluded her statement by expressly swearing to the truth of everything she had stated therein, and thus the BIA’s factual finding that the statement was unsworn is refuted by the record. And even if the BIA were correct in its factual finding, we note that several “[o]ther circuits have admonished the Board for dismissing or according little weight to a statement due to its unsworn nature.” Yu Yun Zhang v. Holder, 702 F.3d 878, 881 (6th Cir. 2012). There is no statutory support for the BIA’s contention that documents at immigration hearings must be sworn, and “numerous courts,” “without so much as pausing to note the unsworn nature of a document, . . . have relied on such documents when considering claims of asylum applicants.” Zuh v. Mukasey, 547 F.3d 504, 509 (4th Cir. 2008). “Moreover,” the Fourth Circuit noted in Zuh, “it seems untenable to require a sworn statement from a person harassed because of a relationship with an asylum applicant and potentially endangered by helping that applicant.” Id.; see also Yu Yun Zhang, 702 F.3d at 881 (“Given the documented persecution of Christians in China, it seems an arbitrarily high threshold to require that letters attesting to government abuse and admitting membership in a persecuted organization be notarized.”).

As for the BIA’s second reason for rejecting the statement as unreliable, the fact that the evidence was prepared while litigation was ongoing is all but inevitable in the context of a motion to reopen, and we hold that the BIA may not entirely dismiss an asylum applicant’s evidence as unreliable based solely on the timing of its creation. Neither the BIA decision nor the government brief cites to a single statute or circuit court decision to support the idea that the timing of a statement’s creation is a dispositive or even permissible factor in evaluating its reliability in an asylum case. Furthermore, we note that the Sixth Circuit has held that it simply “does not matter that [evidence] may have been written for the express purpose of supporting [a petitioner’s] motion to reopen,” citing for support to a Ninth Circuit case which held that the BIA may not “denigrate the credibility” of letters written by the petitioner’s friends based simply on the inference that her friends “‘would tend to write supportive letters.’” Yu Yun Zhang, 702 F.3d at 882 (quoting Zavala-Bonilla v. INS, 730 F.3d 562, 565 (9th Cir. 1984)). We need not resolve this broader question in the case before us today; even if the timing of a statement’s creation might perhaps play some role in determining its credibility and the weight it should be afforded, the BIA cannot entirely dismiss a statement as unreliable based simply on the fact that it was prepared for purposes of litigation. The protections that the asylum statute was intended to provide would be gutted if we permitted the BIA to entirely reject all evidence presented by an asylum applicant that is prepared following the filing of the initial asylum application, and we see neither legal or logical support for such a ruling. We accordingly hold that the BIA abused its discretion in this case by rejecting Petitioner’s mother’s statement as unreliable based solely on the (erroneous) finding that it was unsworn and on the timing of its creation.

Finally, the BIA dismissed Petitioner’s mother’s statement as irrelevant because “the respondent’s mother is not similarly situated to the respondent, inasmuch as the incidents giving rise to her purported violations occurred in China, not in the United States.” (R. at 4.) This reasoning defies understanding. The heart of the matter is whether Petitioner will be persecuted if she is removed to China—to the town where her mother has allegedly been persecuted for the religious beliefs she shares with Petitioner, and where the local police have allegedly made threatening statements about Petitioner—and it is simply absurd to dismiss her mother’s experiences as irrelevant because her mother’s experiences occurred in China. Indeed, it is the very fact that her mother’s experiences occurred in China that makes them relevant to Petitioner’s motion to reopen. Tinasmuch as the incidents giving rise to her purported violations occurred in China, not in the United States.” (R. at 4.) This reasoning defies understanding. The heart of the matter is whether Petitioner will be persecuted if she is removed to China—to the town where her mother has allegedly been persecuted for the religious beliefs she shares with Petitioner, and where the local police have allegedly made threatening statements about Petitioner—and it is simply absurd to dismiss her mother’s experiences as irrelevant because her mother’s experiences occurred in China. Indeed, it is the very fact that her mother’s experiences occurred in China that makes them relevant to Petitioner’s motion to reopen. The nonsensical nature of the BIA’s supposed reasoning on this point is illustrative of the BIA’s failure to give fair consideration to any of the arguments in Petitioner’s motion to reopen in this case, and it represents the very definition of an abuse of discretion. 

The BIA provided no rational, factually supported reason for denying Petitioner’s motion to reopen. We conclude that the BIA abused its discretion by denying the motion on factually erroneous, legally frivolous, and logically unsound grounds, and we accordingly remand this case back to the BIA for further consideration. In so doing, we express no opinion as to the ultimate merits of the case.”

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HOW THE BIA FAILS TO PROVIDE FAIRNESS AND DUE PROCESS TO ASYLUM SEEKERS

By

Paul Wickham Schmidt

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

Everyone should read the Tenth Circuit’s full opinion detailing the mounds of evidence that the BIA ignored and/or mischaracterized, at the above ink.

Folks, the 10th Circuit, former home of Justice Neil Gorsuch, is hardly known as a “haven” for asylum seekers. So, that the 10th finally is fed up with the BIA’s biased anti-asylum seeker decision making speaks volumes.

I’ve made the observation before that the BIA appears to be on “anti-asylum autopilot.” This looks for all the world like a “cut and paste” denial mass-produced by BIA staff from boilerplate that is unrelated to the facts, evidence, or, as this case shows, even the law. The BIA sometimes twists the law against asylum seekers; other times, as in this case, the BIA simply pretends that the law doesn’t exist by ignoring it. I can just imagine the BIA opinion drafter thinking to him or her self, “Oh boy, another routine PRC motion denial. This should sail through the panel without any problem.  Need to get those numbers up for the month.”

This is not an isolated incident. As I’ve pointed out before, there is a strong anti-asylum bias in the BIA’s decisions. Virtually no BIA precedents (particularly since the “Ashcroft purge” when true deliberation and dissent were tossed out the window) illustrate how commonly arising situations can and should result in many more grants to asylum seekers under the generous principles enunciated by the Supreme Court in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca and by the BIA in Matter of Mogharrabi, yet routinely ignored by today’s BIA.

The majority of asylum seekers are credible individuals coming from countries where persecution, torture, and human rights abuses are well-documented. Even in the Northern Triangle, where the BIA has intentionally skewed the law against asylum seekers, torture by gangs by and cartels while the corrupt government authorities are either complicit or “willfully blind” abounds. The BIA, and some U.S. Immigration Judges, have to work overtime and routimely turn a blind eye to both facts and the law to deny protection in the majority of cases.

At a minimum, most Southern Border arrivals fleeing gang violence should be getting temporary grants of protection under the CAT. Instead, they are often railroaded out of the country, sometimes without even seeing a U.S. Immigration Judge, other times with no legal assistance to help them in making a claim. And, the Sessions-led Justice Department had the absolute gall to claim that this lawless and unconstitutional behavior amounts to a “return to the rule of law” at EOIR!

Where’s the outrage from this type of gross abuse of the system by politicos who should have no role in the operations of the U.S. Immigration Courts? Where is the Congressional oversight of Sessions’s use of the USDOJ as a tool to advance a blatantly restrictionist, White Nationalist political agenda? How does a system that functions this poorly, on all levels, justify elimination of annual in-person training of U.S. Immigration Judges?

When you read the full decision, you can see the voluminous evidentiary package that the respondent’s counsel put together just to get a reopened hearing. And, it resulted in an illegal denial by the BIA. Only an appeal to a Court of Appeals saved the day. How could any unrepresented asylum seeker achieve due process in a system that demands unreasonable documentation, routinely denies individuals the legal assistance necessary to assemble and present such evidence, and then ignores the evidence when it is presented? What kind of due process is this?

And, the Article III Courts have to shoulder some of blame. In particular, the Fifth Circuit “goes along to get along” with the BIA, and turns a blind eye to violations of human rights laws and skewed factfinding in “rubber stamping” inadequate hearings coming from detention centers in obscure locations in Texas.

Reiterating a point I’ve made numerous times, why is a captive, enforcement-oriented, pro-Government tribunal that performs in the manner detailed in this case entitled to “deference” on either the facts or the law (so-called “Cheveon deference” that has been criticized by Justice Gorsuch and others)? What’s “expert” about a tribunal that routinely ignores and misconstrues basic asylum law as detailed in this decision?

At a minimum, in light of the types of gross miscarriages of justice that have come to light in some recent Court of Appeals decisions, the BIA should change its internal operating procedures to require that all asylum denials be reviewed by a  three-judge panel. But, don’t hold your breath. That would slow down the “assembly line” at the “Falls Church Service Center.” And turning out large numbers of final orders of removal without any real deliberation is what the “Sessions-Era BIA & EOIR” is all about.

Folks, we need an independent U.S. Immigration Court, including a competent Appellate Division (“BIA”). And in the future, selections of BIA Appellate Immigration Judges should be made in the same careful manner that applies to U.S. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Judges.

The “life and death” power wielded by U.S. Immigration Judges and BIA Appellate Immigration Judges actually exceeds that of most Article III Judges. Yet the selection process for the Immigration Judiciary is opaque, cumbersome, secretive, closed, and consistently produces one-sided results skewed toward “insiders” or those with government experience. In other words, those with a history of “going along to get along” in the system rather than showing independent thinking and the courage to stand up for due process even when  it isn’t “in vogue” with the politicos in an Administration (and genuine due process for migrants is seldom”in vogue” these days in either GOP or Democratic Administrations).

Proven expertise, excellence, sensitivity to individual situations, and commitment to due process for migrants and correct application of human rights law and protections should be a minimum qualification for an Appellate Immigration Judge. And, the same question should be asked that was asked of Justice Gorsuch: “If necessary, are you willing to stand up and rule against the President and the Administration.” Obviously, in the case of the current BIA, the answer would largely be “No.”

PWS

09-13-17

 

3rd Cir. “Just Says No” To DOJ Request For Remand To Give BIA Chance To Misconstrue Statute — PA misdemeanor count of obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function is categorically NOT a CIMT — Ildefonso-Candelario v. Atty. Gen.

http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/163625p.pdf

Key quote:

“Instead of defending the conclusion that section 5101 is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude, the government requests a remand without decision to permit the BIA to reconsider its position in the matter. See Ren v. Gonzales, 440 F.3d 446, 448 (7th Cir. 2006); see generally SKF USA Inc. v. United States, 254 F.3d 1022, 1027-30 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (outlining approaches to agency remand requests). The government points out that the BIA is generally entitled to Chevron deference for reasonable interpretations of ambiguous terms, Mehboob, 549 F.3d at 275, and theorizes that the BIA might conjure up an interpretation of the term “moral turpitude” enabling a conclusion that section 5101 categorically involves “conduct that is inherently base, vile, or depraved,” Knapik, 384 F.3d at 89.

Yet the government has been unable, either in its brief or at oral argument, to articulate any understanding of the phrase “crime involving moral turpitude” that could plausibly encompass section 5101. This is not because of a failure of imagination. It instead reflects the simple fact that there is no conceivable way to describe the least culpable conduct covered by section 5101 — such as the illegal but nonviolent political protest described in Ripley — as inherently vile, or as “a reprehensible act committed with an appreciable level of consciousness or deliberation.” Partyka, 417 F.3d at 414. Moreover, no “emerging case law,” Ren, 440 F.3d at 448, involving either section 5101 or the definition of moral turpitude in other contexts calls for giving the BIA a second bite at the apple. See Jean-Louis, 582 F.3d at 469 (declining to remand where the relevant legal materials, including BIA decisions, “lead[] inexorably to the conclusion” that an offense is not morally turpitudinous).

10

Under the circumstances, we see no reason for remanding without correcting the legal error apparent on the face of the petition. See Mayorga v. Att’y Gen., 757 F.3d 126, 134 (3d Cir. 2014); cf. City of Arlington v. FCC, 133 S. Ct. 1863, 1874 (2013) (“[W]here Congress has established an ambiguous line, the agency can go no further than the ambiguity will fairly allow.”). We thus deny the government’s request for a voluntary remand and hold that 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5101 is not categorically a crime involving moral turpitude.”

PANEL: JORDAN, KRAUSE, Circuit Judges and STEARNS, District Judge.

OPINION BY: JUDGE STEARNS

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Looks like the 3rd Circuit is starting to get the picture on how the BIA, under pressure from the politicos in the DOJ to produce more removals, has a strong tendency to construe the law against respondents and in favor of just about any DHS position that will facilitate removals.

That’s why it’s time for the Article III Courts to put an end to Chevron and the pro-Government, anti-individual results that it favors. “Captive” administrative tribunals responsible to Executive Branch politicos can’t be trusted to fairly and independently construe ambiguous statutory language. That’s properly the job of the Article III Courts; they have been shirking it for far too long! The Supremes have essentially reversed the results of Chief Justice John Marshall’s “victory” over President Thomas Jefferson in Marbury v. Madison!

PWS

08-04-17

 

 

THE ASYLUMIST: Jason Dzubow Wins Key “Firm Resettlement” Case — Wonders Why BIA Won’t Publish When Failing System Cries Out For More Consistency!

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/06/22/the-bia-on-firm-resettlement-2/

“Ultimately, the BIA accepted one of several arguments we presented. The Board held:

The intent of the firm resettlement bar is to disqualify asylum applicants who have previously found another country of refuge, not another country in which he or she faces a danger of persecution…. Given respondent’s situation with regard to [the third country], we conclude that, even assuming she otherwise would be viewed as having firmly resettled in that country, she is not barred from asylum.

Id. (emphasis in original). Thus, the Board went beyond the analysis of Matter of A-G-G- and looked to the intent of the firm resettlement bar. The intent, the BIA says, was only to bar “aliens who had already found shelter and begun new lives in other countries.” Id. (emphasis in original) (citing Rosenberg v. Yee Chien Woo, 402 U.S. 49, 56 (1971)).

It seems to me that the Board’s emphasis on the intent of the bar is significant. If you only read the firm resettlement bar (INA § 208(b)(1)(B)(2)(vi)) and Matter of A-G-G-, you could reasonably conclude–like the DHS attorney and the IJ in my case–that once a person is firmly resettled, she is forever barred from asylum. But that is not the conclusion the Board has now reached.

I am glad for the result and for my clients, but I am disappointed that the BIA chose not to publish this decision. The issue that my clients faced–where the country of resettlement is unsafe–is not uncommon. A number of my clients have faced similar situations, and I suspect that they are not unique. A published decision would have helped clarify matters and provided better guidance to our country’s Immigration Judges.

Maybe I am asking for too much. Maybe I should just be happy with what we got. Maybe I am being a big jerk for looking this gift horse in the mouth. But I can’t help but think that if the BIA would publish more decisions–especially in cases where there is no existing precedent–our Immigration Court system would be more consistent and more efficient. And so while I am thankful that we received a good decision from the Board in this particular case, I am also thinking about how much more good the Board could do if it made a concerted effort to fulfill its role as “the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws,” and if it would publish more cases.”

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I agree, Jason. As you know from our Asylumist interviews last summer, there was a time when the BIA published more cases. It was during the era of the “Schmidt Board.”

Many of the precedents involved controversial issues of first impression under IIRIRA. There was open dialogue with some separate opinions. Sometimes, the dissent better predicted the future development of the law than the majority opinion. Most were en banc, so every Board Appellate Judge had to take a public vote. And, some of them actually granted relief to the respondent.

But those days are long gone. Today’s Board exists 1) to push cases through the system to final orders of removal on more or less of an assembly line, 2) not to rock the boat, 3) to provide OIL with ways to defend the Government’s “party line” under Chevron, and 4) to preserve the institution and the jobs of the Appellate Judges.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention anything about due process, fairness, best practices, consistency, law development, informative dialogue, justice, or even practicality.  And, Jason, let’s face it. Who would want to publish a decision favorable to a respondent with Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions — a guy who basically never has a kind, humane, or generous word to say about any migrant, legal or not — as your boss?

In a functioning system, an appellate court that stood for fairness, due process, and best practices could be part of the solution. But, our current U.S. Immigration Court system is dysfunctional. And, mostly, the Board is just another part of the problem. Basically, if you don’t stand up for anything or anybody, you stand for nothing.

PWS

06-28-17

Led By Justice Thomas, Unanimous Supremes Reject USG’s Attempt To Deport Mexican Man For Consensual Sex With A Minor — “Strict Interpretation” Carries The Day!

Here is then full text of the opinion in Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-54_5i26.pdf

Here’s a key excerpt from Justice Thomas’s opinion:

“Relying on a different dictionary (and “sparse” legislative history), the Government suggests an alternative “‘everyday understanding’” of “sexual abuse of a minor.” Brief for Respondent 16–17 (citing Black’s Law Dictionary 1375 (6th ed. 1990)). Around the time sexual abuse of a minor was added to the INA’s list of aggravated felonies, that dictionary defined “[s]exual abuse” as “[i]llegal sex acts performed against a minor by a parent, guardian, relative, or acquaintance,” and defined “[m]inor” as “[a]n infant or person who is under the age of legal competence,” which in “most states” was “18.” Id., at 997, 1375. “‘Sex- ual abuse of a minor,’” the Government accordingly contends, “most naturally connotes conduct that (1) is illegal, (2) involves sexual activity, and (3) is directed at a person younger than 18 years old.” Brief for Respondent 17.

We are not persuaded that the generic federal offense corresponds to the Government’s definition. First, the Government’s proposed definition is flatly inconsistent with the definition of sexual abuse contained in the very dictionary on which it relies; the Government’s proposed definition does not require that the act be performed “by a parent, guardian, relative, or acquaintance.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1375 (6th ed. 1990) (emphasis added). In any event, as we explain below, offenses predicated on a special relationship of trust between the victim and offender are not at issue here and frequently have a different age requirement than the general age of consent. Second, in the context of statutory rape, the prepositional phrase “of a minor” naturally refers not to the age of legal competence (when a person is legally capable of agreeing to a contract, for example), but to the age of consent (when a person is legally capable of agreeing to sexual intercourse).

Third, the Government’s definition turns the categorical approach on its head by defining the generic federal offense of sexual abuse of a minor as whatever is illegal under the particular law of the State where the defendant was convicted. Under the Government’s preferred ap- proach, there is no “generic” definition at all. See Taylor, 495 U. S., at 591 (requiring “a clear indication that . . . Congress intended to abandon its general approach of using uniform categorical definitions to identify predicate offenses”); id., at 592 (“We think that ‘burglary’ in §924(e) must have some uniform definition independent of the labels employed by the various States’ criminal codes”).

C

The structure of the INA, a related federal statute, and evidence from state criminal codes confirm that, for a statutory rape offense to qualify as sexual abuse of a minor under the INA based solely on the age of the participants, the victim must be younger than 16.”

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Notwithstanding a supposedly “conservative” Court, going back several Administrations the USG has been losing on a surprisingly regular basis in its attempts to take the most extreme and inclusive interpretations of various already very harsh deportation provisions. And, “strict constructionists” like Justice Thomas and the late Justice Scalia have sometimes had just as much problem with the Government’s overreach as have supposedly more liberal or “middle of the road” justices. That’s why I’m not convinced that Justice Gorsuch (who did not participate in this case) will be as much of a “Government ringer” as some believe, at least in immigration matters.

Despite a number of notable setbacks at the Court, DHS, DOJ, and the BIA all seem to be rather “tone deaf” to the Court’s message. The Executive Branch continues to take the most extreme anti-immigrant positions even where, as in this case, it requires ignoring the “unambiguous” statutory language.

Given the “maximo enforcement” posture of the Trump Administration, there is little reason to believe that the Executive Branch will “get” the Court’s message about more reasonable interpretations of deportation statutes. Hopefully, the Court will continue to stand up against such abuses of Executive authority.

PWS

05-31-17

BREAKING: President Trump Nominates 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch To Supremes — Read My Short Article “Judge Gorsuch Understands — Why It’s High Time For Chevron ‘Judicial Task Avoidance’ To Go”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/neil-gorsuch-supreme-court_us_5890c0e8e4b0522c7d3d592a?ua16n5hws8p6xswcdi&

HuffPost writes:

“Against that backdrop, questions about the court’s independence and role as a check on the executive branch are sure to dominate Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, which will find Democrats on the offensive and under increasing pressure to block or deny the nomination outright ― much like Republicans obstructed the nomination of Merrick Garland, the highly respected appeals court judge President Barack Obama chose to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

If confirmed, Gorsuch, 49, would bring to the bench a conservative record that will be forever measured against that of Scalia, a towering firebrand of legal conservatism whose death last year forced Trump to issue not one but two lists of potential nominees he’d choose if elected. The lists ― largely assembled with the help of conservative brain trusts ― helped assuage supporters’ fears that Trump might not nominate judges who are conservative enough.

Conservatives need not worry. Gorsuch is an intellectual rising star ― a well-spoken and eloquent writer who enraptures Republican and Libertarian lawyers and law students who come to see him at conferences organized by the Federalist Society, a group that helped Trump put together his Supreme Court wish list.

. . . .

“One key concurring [sic] opinion that earned Gorsuch high praise from conservative commentators was in an immigration case decided last year in which Gorsuch staked out a strong position against the administrative state ― and the way the Supreme Court has made it easier for agencies to interpret laws that judges are better suited to interpret.

“That’s a problem for the judiciary,” Gorsuch wrote in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch. “And it is a problem for the people whose liberties may now be impaired not by an independent decisionmaker seeking to declare the law’s meaning as fairly as possible — the decisionmaker promised to them by law — but by an avowedly politicized administrative agent seeking to pursue whatever policy whim may rule the day.”

Administrative law isn’t exactly an area activists will rally around, but the high court hears a number of cases in which agencies are front and center ― whether the controversy is about transgender rights, health care, the environment or immigration. In that regard, Gorsuch could be skeptical of how the Trump administration ― and future administrations ― reads the law as it exists on the books.” [emphasis added]

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Judge Gorsuch Understands — Why It’s High Time For Chevron “Judicial Task Avoidance” To Go

by Paul Wickham Schmidt 

I haven’t studied Judge Gorsuch’s opinions enough to make any definitive judgement.  But, I really enjoyed his opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 1142 (10th Cir. 2016). He “gets it” about the current problems of “deferring to administrative courts like the BIA and the U.S. Immigration Court which are subject to interference and pressure from the Executive, which “owns” them, to implement certain pro-government policies at the expense of fairness and due process for the individual.

Contrary to the HuffPost report above, Judge Gorsuch wrote the unanimous opinion of the court, not a “concurring” opinion.  In it, he exposed the illogic of the Supreme Court’s so-called “Chevron doctrine.”

Chevron is a masterful piece of of Article III “judicial task avoidance” by the Supreme Court. It requires Federal Courts to “defer” to “captive” Executive Branch administrative judges, like the BIA, on important questions of law.  It also allows life-tenured Article III judges to avoid deciding difficult or potentially controversial issues.

In other words, as recognized by Judge Gorsuch, Chevron provides “cover” for Article III judges to avoid their sole constitutional responsibility of independently resolving legal questions. Judge Gorsuch and his colleagues found that Chevron did not apply in the particular circumstance before them.  The BIA had ignored both common sense and due process in trying to reach a result favorable to the Government.  The 10th Circuit reversed the BIA (for the third time in the same case).

Whatever the merits or demerits of the rest of his jurisprudence, I am encouraged that Judge Gorsuch recognizes the critical role of an independent Article III judiciary.  He is also “on to” the problems of over-relying on administrative judges, like the BIA and U.S. Immigration Judges, who work for the Executive and therefore can be subject to Executive rules and pressures that can, and sometimes do, unfairly skew results against individuals seeking justice in administrative courts.

Consequently, Judge Gorsuch should resist attempts by the Trump Administration to short-cut due process in the Immigration Courts and, hopefully, will encourage his colleagues to look closely to insure that individuals are being treated fairly in accordance with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. If at some point Chevron and it’s even more pernicious progeny  known as “Brand X” — which incredibly encourages administrative courts to “overrule” Article III courts on questions of law — go down the drain, the country and the cause of justice will be well-served.  And, Article III judges will be required to once again fully earn the salaries to which their life-tenure entitles them.

Read Judge Gorsuch’s full opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch below.

http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/14/14-9585.pd

PWS

01/31/17

Advocates: Here’s Your Opportunity To Shape The Future Of American Immigration Law — Don’t Blow It! — BIA Asks For Amicus Briefing On Whether “Misprision Of A Felony” Is A “Crime Involving Moral Turpitude!”

Amicus Invitation No. 17-01-05
AMICUS INVITATION (MISPRISION OF A FELONY), DUE FEBRUARY 6, 2017

The Board of Immigration Appeals welcomes interested members of the public to file amicus curiae briefs discussing the below issue:

ISSUES PRESENTED:

  1. (1)  Does the offense of misprision of a felony under 18 U.S.C. § 4 categorically qualify as a crime involving moral turpitude? Please see in that regard and address Matter of Robles- Urrea, 24 I&N Dec. 22 (BIA 2006), reversed, Robles-Urrea v. Holder, 678 F.3d 702 (9th Cir. 2012); and Itani v. Ashcroft, 298 F.3d 1213 (11th Cir. 2002).
  2. (2)  Assuming the Board should decide to adhere to Matter of Robles-Urrea, supra, in circuits other than the Ninth, is the application of such precedent impermissibly retroactive to convictions for acts committed prior to the publication of Matter of Robles- Urrea inasmuch as that decision overruled a prior precedent holding that misprision of a felony was not a crime involving moral turpitude?

Request to Appear as Amicus Curiae: Members of the public who wish to appear as amicus curiae before the Board must submit a Request to Appear as Amicus Curiae (“Request to Appear”) pursuant to Chapter 2.10, Appendix B (Directory), and Appendix F (Sample Cover Page) of the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual. The Request to Appear must explicitly identify that it is responding to Amicus Invitation No. 17-01-05. The decision to accept or deny a Request to Appear is within the sole discretion of the Board. Please see Chapter 2.10 of the Board Practice Manual.

Filing a Brief: Please file your amicus brief in conjunction with your Request to Appear pursuant to Chapter 2.10 of the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual. The brief accompanying the Request to Appear must explicitly identify that it is responding to Amicus Invitation No. 17-01-05. An amicus curiae brief is helpful to the Board if it presents relevant legal arguments that the parties have not already addressed. However, an amicus brief must be limited to a legal discussion of the issue(s) presented. The decision to accept or deny an amicus brief is within the sole discretion of the Board. The Board will not consider a brief that exceeds the scope of the amicus invitation.

Request for Case Information: Additional information about the case may be available. Please contact the Amicus Clerk by phone or mail (see contact information below) for this information prior to filing your Request to Appear and brief.

Page Limit: The Board asks that amicus curiae briefs be limited to 30 double-spaced pages.

Deadline: Please file a Request to Appear and brief with the Clerk’s Office at the address below by February 6, 2017. Your request must be received at the Clerk’s Office within the prescribed time limit. Motions to extend the time for filing a Request to Appear and brief are disfavored. The briefs or extension request must be RECEIVED at the Board on or before the due date. It is not sufficient simply

1

to mail the documents on time. We strongly urge the use of an overnight courier service to ensure the timely filing of your brief.

Service: Please mail three copies of your Request to Appear and brief to the Clerk’s Office at the address below. If the Clerk’s Office accepts your brief, it will then serve a copy on the parties and provide parties time to respond.

Joint Requests: The filing of parallel and identical or similarly worded briefs from multiple amici is disfavored. Rather, collaborating amici should submit a joint Request to Appear and brief. See generally Chapter 2.10 (Amicus Curiae).

Notice: A Request to Appear may be filed by an attorney, accredited representative, or an organization represented by an attorney registered to practice before the Board pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 1292.1(f). A Request to Appear filed by a person specified under 8 U.S.C. § 1367(a)(1) will not be considered.

Attribution: Should the Board decide to publish a decision, the Board may, at its discretion, name up to three attorneys or representatives. If you wish a different set of three names or you have a preference on the order of the three names, please specify the three names in your Request to Appear and brief.

Clerk’s Office Contact and Filing Address:

To send by courier or overnight delivery service, or to deliver in person:

Amicus Clerk
Board of Immigration Appeals Clerk’s Office
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2000 Falls Church, VA 22041 703-605-1007

Business hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Fee: A fee is not required for the filing of a Request to Appear and amicus briefs.

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The key case to read is Robles-Urrea v. Holder, 678 F.3d 702 (9th Cir. 2012), where the Ninth Circuit rejected the BIA’s conclusion in Matter of Robles- Urrea, 24 I&N Dec. 22 (BIA 2006) that misprision of a felony is “categorically” a “crime involving moral turpitude” for removal purposes.

In  simple terms, among other things, the BIA is now considering whether to “blow off” the reasoning of the Ninth Circuit in other circuits and adhere to its prior interpretation which the Ninth Circuit found to be wrong and which, of course, is must less favorable to respondents.

So, anybody who thinks that the BIA is about to “bark up the wrong tree” here (and, not for the first time, ignore the well reasoned decision of an Article III Court under the so-called “Chevron doctrine”) better get their group together and get crackin’ on a brief to convince the BIA that the Ninth Circuit got it right.

The deadline is February 6, 2017, (WARNING:  The BIA seldom extends amicus deadlines) and everything you need to know about how to file the brief is in the BIA’s notice, reproduced above.

Here are links to Robles-Urrea v. Holder:  https://casetext.com/case/roblesurrea-v-holder

and Matter of Robleshttps://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/eoir/legacy/2014/07/25/3542.pdf to help you get started.

Good luck!

PWS

01/06/17