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

 

IMMIGRATION HISTORY: Here’s The Chase-Burman Mini-Library Of Immigration History, Courtesy Of “The Green Card!”

75 Years of the BIA

http://www.fedbar.org/Image-Library/Sections-and-Divisions/Immigration/Green-Card-Spring-2016-updated.aspx

“Matter of L-, 1 I&N Dec. 1 (BIA 1940), was issued on August 29, 1940, the day before the Board of Immigration Appeals came into existence.2 Some background about the Board’s early history is required to explain this. From 1922 until 1940, a five-member Board of Review existed within the Department of Labor to review all immigration cases. The Board of Review had no decision- making authority of its own; it could only recommend action to the Secretary of Labor. In 1933, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was formed within the Department of Labor,3 and from 1933 until 1939 the Board of Review made its recommendations to the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization.4″

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Commentary on “Pattern or Practice” Persecution

http://www.fedbar.org/Image-Library/Sections-and-Divisions/Immigration/Green-Card-Fall-2016-.aspx

In INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, its landmark 1987 decision establishing that the burden of proving a “well-founded fear of persecution” is significantly less than fifty percent, the Supreme Court relied on the following scholarly example: “Let us…presume that it is known that in applicant’s country of origin every tenth adult male person is either put to death or sent to some remote labor camp… In such a case it would be only too apparent that anyone who managed to escape from the country would have ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted’ on his eventual return.”2 While the Court’s decision predates the “pattern or practice” regulation by more than three years, the example it relies on (which predates the regulation by 24 years) presents a classic “pattern or practice” scenario. The hypotheti- cal establishes (1) a group, i.e., all adult males in a particular country; and (2) information establishing systemic persecution of one in ten members of such group. all members of the group therefore have a well-founded without the need to explain their individual circumstances.”

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The History of Racism in U.S. Immigration


http://www.fedbar.org/Image-Library/Sections-and-Divisions/Immigration/the-green-card-winter-2017.aspx

“Racism was codified in this country’s original natu- ralization law. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited the right to naturalize to “free white persons.” Following the Civil War, the Act of July 14, 1870, added “aliens of African nativity” and “aliens of African descent” to those eligible to naturalize. However, all others considered “non-white” continued to be barred from obtaining United States citizenship. In 1922, the Supreme Court denied Takao Ozawa, a Japanese immigrant who had lived in the U.S. for 20 years, the right to become a naturalized citizen because he “clearly” was “not Caucasian.” In interpreting the term “free white persons,” the Court found that “the framers did not have in mind the brown or yellow races of Asia.”1 In United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind,2 the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion regarding an “upper-caste Hindu” who claimed a lineage classi ed as “Aryan” or “Caucasian.” The Court determined that “Aryan” related to “linguistic, and not at all with physical, characteristics,” and concluded that the term “free white persons” as understood by the common man, would not include those of Hindu ancestry.3 It was not until passage of the McCarran-Walter Act in 1952 that the naturalization law was amended to read that “[t]he right of a person to become a naturalized citizen shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex…”4

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

Read all three of Judge Chase’s outstanding histories and get some “instant perspective” on how we got to where we are today as a nation of immigrants. There was no shortage of hypocracy. And, I submit that in the course of history some of today’s politicians advocating restrictive racially and religiously charged immigration policies are going to look just as distasteful, arrogant, prejudiced, and ignorant as some of the judges, lawmakers, and government officials described in these articles.

PWS

06-19-17

UPDATE

Judge Chase has reminded me that there is a fourth part to this collection:

The History of U.S. Asylum Law

http://www.fedbar.org/Image-Library/Sections-and-Divisions/Immigration/Green-Card-Summer-2016.aspx

“U.S. asylum policy is a product of the tension between the public sentiments of compassion and fear. In the words of a former Deputy UN High Commissioner: “The public will not allow governments to be generous if it believes they have lost control.” 1 Although asylum can be traced back at least to the Old Testament, for all practical purposes, U.S. asylum policy began on the eve of World War II.”

PWS

06-21-17

EOIR INVESTS ELEVEN NEW U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES — PRIVATE SECTOR TOTALLY SHUT OUT!

Here are the bios of the new U.S. Immigration Judges:

IJInvestiture06162017

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This brings the total number of sitting U.S. Immigration Judges to 326. Congratulations to the new Judges, and please don’t forget the due process mission of the U.S. Immigration Courts!

Unfortunately, however, this continues the trend of creating a one-sided U.S. Immigration Court which basically has excluded from the 21st Century Immigration Judiciary those who gained all or most of their experience representing respondents, teaching, or writing in the public sector. It’s not particularly surprising that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has expressed a strong enforcement bias, would prefer to “go to the Government well” for all or most of his selections.

However, the real problem here is with the DOJ during the Obama Administration.  With a chance to fill perhaps a record number of U.S. Immigration Judge positions over eight years, and to create an evenly balanced, diverse Immigration Judiciary in the process, they not only turned the hiring process in to a ridiculous two-year average cycle, but also selected 88% of the candidates from Government backgrounds.

Why would someone take two years for a selection process that selects from a limited inside pool anyway? And, why would you lead outside applicants to take the time to apply, believing they had a fair chance of competing, when the process obviously was “fixed” in favor of insiders? Sort of reminds me of the discussion of the labor certification recruitment process that we recently had in my Immigration Law & Policy Class at Georgetown Law!

Just more ways in which the “Due Process Vision” of the U.S. Immigration Courts has basically been trashed by the last three Administrations!

PWS

06-19-17

THE HILL: Professor Andy Schoenholtz Of Georgetown Law On Why Americans Should Be Grateful To The 9th Circuit For Upholding The Rule Of Law Against Executive Overreach!

 

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/civil-rights/337955-9th-circuit-on-travel-ban-president-must-respect-congress

Professor Schoenholtz concludes:

“In fact, had the president focused on asking America’s civil servants to build on the progress achieved since 9/11 and try to find new ways of identifying security threats among those who seek visas, that work would have been accomplished by now, according to the schedule set by both the first and second EO’s.

If the Supreme Court decides at some point to hear a case regarding the EO, they will now be asked to consider not only whether the President has violated the Establishment Clause but also whether he has exceeded his statutory authority. As determined by the Supreme Court in the late nineteenth century, Congress has the constitutional authority to establish the immigration laws.

It has done just that by statute. The president has broad authority to implement that statutory system, but does the president have the power to stop admitting immigrants from six countries? From sixty? From all countries? Where does this end, and where would that leave Congress and the equilibrium established by the Constitution? We should thank the Ninth Circuit for raising that issue clearly and thoughtfully.

Andrew I. Schoenholtz is a Professor from Practice at Georgetown Law and the author, with Professors Jaya Ramji-Nogales and Philip G. Schrag, of “Lives in the Balance: Asylum Adjudication by the Department of Homeland Security.”

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

Read Andy’s entire analysis at the link.

I’m still somewhat skeptical that the Supremes will take this case given the problems caused by the President’s out of court statements and tweets. Future Chief Executives likely will be more “Presidential” and act with more prudence and thoughtfulness. So, why take a case that hopefully will turn out to be more or less “sui generus?” If I were the Supremes, I would let the lower courts sort through this mess and make a complete record before approaching the legal questions. But, we’ll see.  Very soon!

PWS

06-19-17

Why Is The U.S. Immigration Court So Totally Screwed Up? — Sure, Bad Laws & Inadequate Resources Are Endemic Problems — But, Trying To Run A Due Process Court System As An Agency Of A Political Department Which Is Clueless About Effective Judicial Administration Is The Overriding Reason This System Is “Built To Fail!”

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/06/08/immigration-courts-backlog/

Tory Johnson writes in Immigration Impact:

“Anyone familiar with the immigration system knows that the immigration courts have an enormous backlog which has persisted—and grown—for more than a decade. As of April 2017, the immigration court backlog topped 585,930 cases, more than double the pending cases in fiscal year (FY) 2006 (212,000).

The immigration court backlog means that many people wait years to have their cases resolved. According to a June 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the average time a case remains pending with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)—the office within the Department of Justice that adjudicates immigration cases—has increased. In FY 2006, cases took an average of 198 days to complete; now the average is 650 days.

For years government officials, external stakeholders, and others have attributed the growing backlog to staffing shortages, lack of resources, and changing priorities. GAO’s recent analysis affirms some of these problems, but found that average case completion times increased—from 43 days in FY 2006 to 286 days in FY 2015—even though the number of immigration judges increased by 17 percent in the last decade.

So what’s making cases take longer in immigration court, and contributing to the backlog?

In part, judges are taking more time to complete cases, especially as new hires get up to speed. Respondents to GAO’s investigation most commonly cited a lack of adequate staff as a cause of the backlog, but “immigration judges from five of the six courts [GAO] contacted also stated that they do not have sufficient time to conduct administrative tasks, such as case-related legal research or staying updated on changes to immigration law.”

Indeed, over the 10-year period, judges issued 54 percent more case continuances, or a temporary postponement of case proceedings, on their own volition—due to unplanned leave or insufficient time to complete a hearing, for example. Immigration judges may also grant a continuance to allow respondents time to obtain legal representation— since immigrants do not receive government-provided counsel— which demonstrably shortens the length of a case.

There is concern that the backlog may only worsen under the current administration. In order to carry out President Trump’s directives to ramp up immigration enforcement and deportations, the Justice Department has started relocating immigration judges. But transferring judges—many of whom have been reassigned to detention centers—for the purpose of speeding up immigration cases has alarmed immigration experts, who fear case delays will increase in immigration judges’ usual courts, adding to the backlog.

While the directives were not analyzed in GAO’s review, the report’s focus on systemic issues exacerbating the backlog makes the plans to shuffle judges to new courts all the more concerning.

GAO made 11 recommendations in the following areas that would “better position EOIR to address its case backlog and help improve the agency’s overall effectiveness and efficiency in carrying out its important mission.” The recommendations included implementing better workplace planning and hiring practices; building an electronic filing system with oversight and management mechanisms; video-teleconferencing (VTC) assessments to ensure neutral outcomes; and creating efficient management practices and comprehensive performance measures for all cases.

While some of these issues are being addressed—such as implementing a plan to streamline hiring—GAO found that the efforts EOIR cited do not fully address the concerns outlined in the report. In particular, EOIR is lacking comprehensive technological capabilities, data on VTC hearings, performance assessments, and short- and long-term plans for staffing needs created by the 39 percent of retirement-eligible immigration judges.

The shortcomings further demonstrate the GAO’s conclusion that EOIR is lacking critical management, accountability, and performance evaluation systems. These mechanisms are essential for EOIR and oversight bodies, such as Congress, to accurately assess the immigration courts and ensure that EOIR is achieving its mission, which includes timely adjudication of all cases.

EOIR should take the GAO’s recommendations seriously and work to implement solutions—the fates of hundreds of thousands of people literally depend on it.”

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

Sadly, the necessary changes are way beyond the capability of EOIR and the DOJ, particularly in light of current political leadership in the DOJ which seems determined to run the courts into the ground with ill-advised maximum enforcement initiatives and “aimless docket reshuffling.” EOIR has been an agency within the DOJ since 1983. It actually performs measurably worse today than it did in 2000. Expecting a “turnaround” within the DOJ is like expecting the Tooth Fairy to solve this problem.

You can check out my previous blog on the GAO report here:

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/06/02/gao-report-recommends-improvements-in-u-s-immigration-court-hiring-technology-data-analysis-oversight/

Note that the GAO discusses independent structures for the U.S. Immigration Court, but does not include a particular recommendation on that point.

But, I have one! We need an independent United States Immigration Court now! Otherwise the Immigration Court’s “due process meltdown” is eventually going to paralyze a large segment of the U.S. justice system. Yes, folks, it’s that bad! Maybe even worse, since DOJ and EOIR are “circling the wagons” to avoid public scrutiny and accountability. Tell your legislative representatives that we need an independent court now!

PWS

06-14-17

 

FAILED DUE PROCESS VISION: BIA Blows Off IJ’s Due Process Violations — Third Circuit Blows Whistle On BIA! — Serrano-Alberto v. Attorney General — READ MY “CONTINUING CRITIQUE” OF THE BIA’S FAILURE TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF ASYLUM SEEKERS!

http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/153146p.pdf

PANEL: Circuit Judges VANASKIE, KRAUSE, and NYGAARD

OPINION BY: Judge Nygaard

“While in the vast majority of cases, IJs diligently comport with their constitutional and statutory obligations, and while it is only on rare occasion that we have held an IJ’s conduct crosses the line, the record here compels us to conclude this is one of those rare cases. Because we reach this conclusion against the backdrop of the three main cases to date in which we have distinguished between permissible and impermissible IJ conduct under the Due Process Clause, we will review each of those cases before addressing Serrano- Alberto’s claims for relief.

. . . .

What these cases teach us is that, where a petitioner claims to have been deprived of the opportunity to “make arguments on his or her own behalf,” Dia, 353 F.3d at 239, there is a spectrum of troubling conduct that is fact-specific and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if (1) the petitioner “was prevented from reasonably presenting his case[,] and (2) . . . substantial prejudice resulted,” Fadiga, 488 F.3d at 155 (internal quotation marks omitted). At one end of the spectrum, the “lack of courtesy,” “interject[ions]” to clarify and develop the record, and “annoyance and dissatisfaction with . . . testimony” in Abdulrahman, 330 F.3d at 597, were not sufficient to establish a due process claim. At the other end, the “contemptuous tone,” focus on “issues irrelevant to” the petitioner’s claims, and findings unsupported by the record in Wang, 423 F.3d at 270, and the “wholesale nitpicking,” “continual[] abuse[]” and “belligerence,” and “interrupt[ions] . . . preventing important

30

parts of [the petitioner’s] story from becoming a part of the record,” in Cham, 445 F.3d at 691, 694, were flagrant enough to violate due process. Where these component parts of an IJ’s conduct are sufficiently egregious, at least in combination, a petitioner’s procedural due process rights are violated.

In Serrano-Alberto’s case, we conclude the IJ’s conduct falls on the impermissible end of the spectrum. Indeed, the IJ’s conduct here shares many of the attributes of the conduct we found unconstitutional in Wang and Cham, including a hostile and demeaning tone, a focus on issues irrelevant to the merits, brow beating, and continual interruptions. See supra Sec. III.B. And in contrast to Abdulrahman where the interruptions assisted the petitioner in answering questions and appropriately refocused the hearing, 330 F.3d at 596-98, the IJ’s interruptions here repeatedly shut down productive questioning and focused instead on irrelevant details, see supra Sec. III.B.”

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On the “plus side,” the Third Circuit went out of its way to point out that this case is the exception rather than the rule with respect to Immigration Judges’ respect for due process during the hearing process.

But, on the negative side, why should a supposedly “expert” Board whose mission is to protect due process be letting clearly unfair adjudications like this, which violate due process, get by? Not everybody can afford to go to the Court of Appeals. So, the Board’s failure to carry out its due process functions can actually cost lives, or at least ruin them. How can such a critically important function as appellate immigration judging be treated so dismissively, inappropriately, incompetently, and lackadaisically by successive Administrations while largely escaping critical public examination of its often highly questionable jurisprudence?

In my view, as I’ve observed before, part of the problem lies with the BIA’s overall negative approach to asylum seekers, particularly those from Central America with claims based on “particular social groups.” With a “closed, inbred judiciary” drawn almost exclusively from Government, a highly politicized Department of Justice which is unqualified to run a court system, and the fear of another “Ashcroft purge” hanging over them for judging independently and protecting the rights of asylum seekers, the BIA has basically “tanked” on its duty to guarantee fairness, due process, and protection to asylum seekers. So, if the BIA is unwilling to speak up for the due process and substantive rights of respondents, what’s its purpose? To provide a “veneer of deliberation and due process” to dissuade the Article III courts and the public from digging into the details to find out the real problems?

It’s also interesting that the Third Circuit “calls out” the BIA for a standard practice of using (often bogus) “nexus” denials to deny protection to asylum applicants who fit within a protected ground and can clearly demonstrate a likelihood of harm upon return. Check out FN 5 in the Third Circuit’s opinion:

“5 In a number of recent cases, the BIA likewise has assumed a cognizable PSG or imputed political opinion and disposed of the appeal by finding no nexus. See, e.g., Bol- Velasquez v. Att’y Gen., No. 15-3098 (3d Cir. filed Aug. 28, 2015) (ECF Agency Case Docketed); Bell v. Att’y Gen., No. 14-4781 (3d Cir. filed Dec. 18, 2014) (same); Santos v. Att’y Gen., No. 14-1050 (3d Cir. filed Jan. 8, 2014) (same); Ulloa- Santos v. Att’y Gen., No. 12-2781 (3d Cir. filed June 25, 2012) (same); Orellana-Garcia v. Att’y Gen., No. 12-2099 (3d Cir. filed Apr. 20, 2012) (same). This practice, however, can have troubling consequences. First, it places the analytical cart before the horse in cases like this one, where the very definition of the PSG is then at issue, for denying relief based on the absence of a nexus begs the question: nexus to what? See, e.g., Bol-Velasquez, No. 15-3098. Even the Attorney General has observed “it would be better practice for Immigration Judges and the Board to address at the outset whether the applicant has established persecution on account of membership in a [PSG], rather than assuming it as the Board did here. Deciding that issue—and defining the [PSG] of which the applicant is a part—is fundamental to the analysis of which party bears the burden of proof and what the nature of that burden is.” Matter of A-T-, 24 I. & N. Dec. 617, 623 n.7 (U.S. Att’y Gen. 2008). Second, even where the PSG definition is undisputed—so that the BIA would certainly have discretion to conclude that the efficiency of assuming a given PSG weighs in favor of resolution at the nexus stage—a reflexive practice of simply assuming a PSG has been established and is cognizable does not account for the very real benefits on the other side of the scale. Just as the Supreme Court has observed in the qualified immunity context, adjudication at every step is generally “necessary to support the Constitution’s ‘elaboration from case to case’ and to prevent constitutional stagnation” because “[t]he law might be deprived of this explanation were a court simply to skip ahead,” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232, 236 (2009) (holding the two-step protocol announced in Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001) is no longer mandatory “but often beneficial”), so here, the BIA’s practice of assuming PSG and resolving cases on nexus grounds often inhibits the proper and orderly development of the law in this area by leaving the contours of protected status undefined, precluding further appellate review under the Chenery doctrine, see SEC v. Chenery Corp., 332 U.S. 194 (1947), and ultimately generating additional needless litigation because of the uncertainty in this area, see Valdiviezo-Galdamez, 663 F.3d at 594-609; Fatin v. INS, 12 F.3d 1233, 1238 (3d Cir. 1993); Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I. & N. Dec. 227, 230 (BIA 2014). This is a case in point, where the IJ articulated the relevant PSG as “individuals perceived as wealthy who refuse to pay gang taxes,” App. 17, although other definitions were reasonable, and the BIA, despite being presented with alternative formulations, declined to rule on the question altogether. In sum, for both of the reasons stated, we strongly encourage IJs and the BIA to define the PSG in question and to adjudicate the existence and cognizability of that PSG.”

Let’s get down to the real point. Largely because of intervention from Article III Courts, more and more “particular social groups” are becoming “cognizable.” This is particularly true in the area of family-based social groups.

Alternatively, the DHS and the BIA have tried to deny claims on the grounds that the foreign government is “not unable or unwilling to protect.” But, given the documented conditions in the Northern Triangle of Central America, such findings often don’t pass the “straight face test” and have had difficulty on judicial review. So the best way to deny protection to Central American asylum seekers is by developing metaphysical, largely bogus, findings of lack of “nexus.”

The answer to the Third Circuit’s question “nexus to what” is simple. It doesn’t matter. No matter what the protected group is in Central American cases, the BIA will do its best to find that no nexus exists, and encourage Immigration Judges to do likewise.

A vivid example of that was the BIA’s recent precedent inMatter of L-E-A-, 27 I&N Dec. 40 (BIA 2017), discussed in earlier blogs. There, without dissent or meaningful discussion, the BIA “deconstructed” a clearly established case for nexus (which actually had been found by the Immigration Judge) and buried it under layers of impenetrable legal gobbledygook.  Maybe it will get deference from the Article IIIs, maybe it won’t. There isn’t much consistency there either.

Asylum applicants lives are at stake in removal proceedings. They deserve a process where fairness, due process, and deep understanding of the life-preserving functions of protection law are paramount. Today’s system, which all too often runs on the principles of expediency, institutional preservation, job security, pleasing the boss, and sending law enforcement “messages” is failing those most in need. One way or another, our country and future generations will pay the price for this dereliction of duty.

PWS

06-13-17

 

 

9th Circuit Reverses BIA, Says CAL Fleeing From A Police Officer Not A Categorical CIMT! — Ramirez-Contreras v. Sessions — Read My Mini-Essay “Hard Times In The Ivory Tower”

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/06/08/14-70452.pdf

Here is the summary prepared by the court staff:

“Immigration

The panel granted Ramirez-Contreras’s petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision concluding that his conviction for fleeing from a police officer under California Vehicle Code § 2800.2 is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude that rendered him statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal.

In holding that Ramirez-Contreras’s conviction is not a crime of moral turpitude, the panel accorded minimal deference to the BIA’s decision due to flaws in its reasoning.

Applying the categorical approach, the panel viewed the least of the acts criminalized under California Vehicle Code § 2800.2, and concluded that an individual can be convicted under subsection (b) for eluding police while committing three traffic violations that cannot be characterized as “vile or depraved.” Therefore, the panel held that California Vehicle Code § 2800.2 is not a crime of moral turpitude because the conduct criminalized does not necessarily create the risk of harm that characterizes a crime of moral turpitude.

The panel also held that the modified categorical approach does not apply because the elements of California Vehicle Code § 2800.2 are clearly indivisible.”

Before: Mary M. Schroeder, Andre M. Davis,** and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Schroeder

** The Honorable Andre M. Davis, United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting by designation.

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HARD TIMES IN THE IVORY TOWER

by Paul Wickham Schmidt

The BIA has been having a rough time lately on its rulings concerning both “aggravated felonies” and “crimes involving moral turpitude.” The BIA appears to take an “expansive” or “inclusive” approach to criminal removal statutes, while most courts, including the Supremes, seem to prefer a narrower approach that assumes the “least possible crime” and ameliorates some of the harshness of the INA’s removal provisions.

In my view, the BIA’s jurisprudence on criminal removal took a “downward turn” after Judge Lory D. Rosenberg was forced off the BIA by then Attorney General John Ashcroft around 2002. Judge Rosenberg’s dissents often set forth a “categorical” and “modified categorical” analysis that eventually proved to be more in line with that used by higher Federal Courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since the “Ashcroft purge,” the BIA has visibly struggled to get on the same wavelength with the reviewing courts on analyzing criminal removal provisions. At the same time, the BIA’s own precedents have been remarkable for their lack of meaningful dissent and absence of any type of visible judicial dialogue and deliberation. Maybe that’s what happens when you try to build a “captive court” from the “inside out” rather than competitively selecting the very best Appellate Immigration Judges from different backgrounds whose  views span the entire “real world” of immigration jurisprudence.

Just another reason why it’s time to get the United States Immigration Courts (including the “Appellate Division” a/k/a/ the BIA) out of the Executive Branch and into an independent judicial structure. No other major court system in America is run the way DOJ/EOIR runs the Immigration Courts. And, that’s not good news for those seeking genuine due process within the immigration system.

PWS

06-09-17

The Gibson Report For June 5, 2017! — More “ADR” On Tap For The New York Immigration Court?

Get it here:

Gibson Report 06-05-17

One thing that caught my eye in Elizabeth’s report is the first item:

“Update from Regina Rau, Acting Court Administrator-NYC:

Effective 7/3/17 Judge Tsankov will be assigned to the Varick Street Court.  Until further notice, any case on her NYC docket from 7/3/17 on will not be going forward.

Judge Chew will be retiring at the end of June. However his future cases will be heard by another Immigration Judge so all of your hearing dates will remain the same.”

In the case of Judge Tsankov’s docket, sure sounds like more “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) to me.  And, based on my experience and what I’ve been hearing from folks in and dealing with the Immigration Courts, I wouldn’t “bet the farm” on all of Judge Chew’s cases being heard on schedule either.

PWS

06-05-17

 

 

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.”

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

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

Here’s My Keynote Address From Today’s FBA Immigration Law Conference In Denver, CO!

LIFE AT EOIR – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

By

Paul Wickham Schmidt

Retired U.S. Immigration Judge

Keynote Address

2017 Immigration Law Conference

Denver, CO

May 12, 2017

INTRODUCTION

Good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me. Its an honor to appear before you.

Funny thing happened to me on the way to this conference. When I arrived at the airport yesterday afternoon, my good friend Judge Lory Rosenberg rushed up to me at baggage claim and said “Oh, I see we’re having you for lunch!” I said “What?” She said “You’re our keynote speaker at lunch tomorrow.” I scoffed at the idea, saying I might be on the after lunch panel with her, but that was it. However, when I actually took the time to look at the program I saw that certainly not for the first time, Lory was right. Unbeknownst to me I was, in fact, listed as the keynote speaker.

I’ve composed this speech on my I-pad, which I’m using as a teleprompter. As you know, those of us who worked at EOIR aren’t used to this new-fangled technology. So, please bear with me.

As we get started, I’d like all of you to join me in recognizing my friend and former colleague Judge Larry Burman for his tireless efforts to make the ILS the best section in the FBA. In the later years, I tried very hard to avoid being at court at nights, weekends, and holidays. But, occasionally I had to go pick up my cellphone or something else I had inadvertently left in my office. And, who should be there but Larry. And he was always working on a FBA project, the Green Card, Conference Planning, recruiting new members, etc. So, please join me in a round of applause for Judge Burman for all he has done for promoting productive dialogue and improving the practice of immigration law.

Now, this is when I used to give my comprehensive disclaimer providing plausible deniabilityfor everyone in the Immigration Court System if I happened to say anything inconvenient or controversial. But, now that Im retired, we can skip that part.

My speech is entitled: Life At EOIR, Past Present, and Future.I will start by introducing myself to you and telling you a bit about how my life and career have been intertwined with EOIR. Then I will briefly address five things: the court systems vision, the judges role, my judicial philosophy, what needs to be done to reclaim the due process vision of the Immigration Courts, and how you can get involved.

CAREER SUMMARY

I graduated in 1970 from Lawrence University a small liberal arts college in Appleton, Wisconsin, where I majored in history. My broad liberal arts education and the intensive writing and intellectual dialogue involved were the best possible preparation for all that followed.

I then attended the University of Wisconsin School of Law in Madison, Wisconsin, graduating in 1973. Go Badgers!

I began my legal career in 1973 as an Attorney Advisor at the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) at the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) under the Attorney Generals Honors Program. Admittedly, however, the BIAs Executive Assistant culled my resume from the Honors Program reject pile.One of my staff colleagues at that time, now retired U.S Immigration Judge Joan Churchill, is right here in the audience.

At that time, before the creation of the Executive Office for Immigration Review – “EOIR” for you Winnie the Pooh fans — the Board had only five members and nine staff attorneys, as compared to todays cast of thousands. Among other things, I worked on the famous, or infamous, John Lennon case, which eventually was reversed by the Second Circuit in an opinion by the late Chief Judge Irving Kaufman.[1] As an interesting historical footnote, that case was argued in the Circuit by then Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Maguire Dunne, who went on to become a distinguished Member of the BIA and one of my Vice Chairs during my tenure as Chairman.

I also shared an office with my good friend, the late Lauri Steven Filppu, who later became a Deputy Director of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) in the DOJs Civil Division and subsequently served with me on the BIA. The Chairman of the BIA at that time was the legendary immigration guru” Maurice A. “Maury” Roberts. Chairman Roberts took Lauri and me under this wing and shared with us his love of immigration law, his focus on sound scholarship, his affinity for clear, effective legal writing, and his humane sense of fairness and justice for the individuals coming before the BIA.

In 1976, I moved to the Office of General Counsel at the “Legacy” Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”). There, I worked for another legendary figure in immigration law, then General Counsel Sam Bernsen. Sam was a naturalized citizen who started his career as a 17-year-old messenger at Ellis Island and worked his way to the top of the Civil Service ranks. Perhaps not incidentally, he was also a good friend of Chairman Roberts.

At that time, the Office of General Counsel was very small, with a staff of only three attorneys in addition to the General Counsel and his Deputy, another mentor and immigration guru, Ralph Farb. At one time, all three of us on the staff sat in the same office! In 1978, Ralph was appointed to the BIA, and I succeeded him as Deputy General Counsel.   I also served as the Acting General Counsel for several very lengthy periods in both the Carter and Reagan Administrations.

Not long after I arrived, the General Counsel position became political. The incoming Administration encouraged Sam to retire, and he went on to become a name and Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C. office of the powerhouse immigration boutique Fragomen, Del Rey, and Bernsen. He was replaced by my good friend and colleague David Crosland, now an Immigration Judge in Baltimore, who selected me as his Deputy. Dave was also the Acting Commissioner of Immigration during the second half of the Carter Administration, one of the periods when I was the Acting General Counsel.

The third General Counsel that I served under was one of my most unforgettable characters:the late, great Maurice C. “Mike” Inman, Jr. He was known, not always affectionately, as Iron Mike.His management style was something of a cross between the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, and the fictional Mafia chieftain, Don Corleone. As my one of my colleagues said of Iron Mike:” “He consistently and unreasonably demanded that we do the impossible, and most of the time we succeeded.Although we were totally different personalities, Mike and I made a good team, and we accomplished amazing things. It was more or less a good cop, bad coproutine, and Ill let you guess who played which role. You can check the “Inman era” out with retired Immigration Judge William P. Joyce, who is sitting in the audience and shared the experience with me.

Among other things, I worked on the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Cuban Boatlift, the Refugee Act of 1980, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), the creation of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL), and establishing what has evolved into the modern Chief Counsel system at Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

I also worked on the creation of EOIR, which combined the Immigration Courts, which had previously been part of the INS, with the BIA to improve judicial independence. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, the leadership and impetus for getting the Immigration Judges into a separate organization came from Mike and the late Al Nelson, who was then the Commissioner of Immigration. Prosecutors by position and litigators by trade, they saw the inherent conflicts and overall undesirability, from a due process and credibility standpoint, of having immigration enforcement and impartial court adjudication in the same division. I find it troubling that officials at todays DOJ arent able to understand and act appropriately on the glaring conflict of interest currently staring them in their collective faces.

By the time I left in 1987, the General Counsels Office, largely as a result of the enactment of IRCA and new employer sanctions provisions, had dozens of attorneys, organized into divisions, and approximately 600 attorneys in the field program, the vast majority of whom had been hired during my tenure.

In 1987, I left INS and joined Jones Days DC Office, a job that I got largely because of my wife Cathy and her old girl network.I eventually became a partner specializing in business immigration, multinational executives, and religious workers. Among my major legislative projects on behalf of our clients were the special religious worker provisions added to the law by the Immigration Act of 1990 and the “Special Immigrant Juvenile” provisions of the INA with which some of you might be familiar.

Following my time at Jones Day, I succeeded my former boss and mentor Sam Bernsen as the Managing Partner of the DC Office of Fragomen, Del Rey & Bernsen, the leading national immigration boutique, where I continued to concentrate on business immigration. You will note that immigration is a small community; you need to be nice to everyone because you keep running into the same folks over and over again in your career. While at Fragomen, I also assisted the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) on a number of projects and was an adviser to the LawyersCommittee, now known as Human Rights First.

In 1995, then Attorney General Janet Reno appointed me Chairman of the BIA. Not surprisingly, Janet Reno, who recently died, was my favorite among all of the Attorneys General I worked under. I felt that she supported me personally, and she supported the concept of an independent judiciary, even though she didnt always agree with our decisions and vice versa.

She was the only Attorney General who consistently came to our Investitures and Immigration Judge Conferences in person and mixed and mingled with the group. She was also kind to our clerical staff and invited them downtown to meet personally with her. She had a saying equal justice for allthat she worked into almost all of her speeches, and which I found quite inspirational. She was also hands down the funniest former Attorney General to appear on Saturday Night Live,doing her famous Janet Reno Dance Partyroutine with Will Farrell immediately following the end of her lengthy tenure at the DOJ.

Among other things, I oversaw an expansion of the Board from the historical five members to more than 20 members, a more open selection system that gave some outside experts a chance to serve as appellate judges on the Board, the creation of a supervisory structure for the expanding staff, the establishment of a unified Clerks Office to process appeals, implementation of a true judicial format for published opinions, institution of bar coding for the tens of thousands of files, the establishment of a pro bono program to assist unrepresented respondents on appeal, the founding of the Virtual Law Library, electronic en banc voting and e-distribution of decisions to Immigration Judges, and the publication of the first BIA Practice Manual, which actually won a Plain Language Awardfrom then Vice President Gore.

I also wrote the majority opinion in my favorite case, Matter of Kasinga, establishing for the first time that the practice of female genital mutilation (“FGM”) is persecution” for asylum purposes.[2] As another historical footnote, the losingattorney in that case was none other than my good friend, then INS General Counsel David A. Martin, a famous immigration professor at the University of Virginia Law who personally argued before the Board.

In reality, however, by nominally losingthe case, David actually won the war for both of us, and more important, for the cause of suffering women throughout the world. We really were on the same side in Kasinga. Without Davids help, who knows if I would have been able to get an almost-united Board to make such a strong statement on protection of vulnerable women.

During my tenure as Chairman, then Chief Immigration Judge (now BIA Member) Michael J. Creppy and I were founding members of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (“IARLJ”). This organization, today headquartered in The Hague, promotes open dialogue and exchange of information among judges from many different countries adjudicating claims under the Geneva Convention on Refugees. Since my retirement, I have rejoined the IARLJ as a Vice President for the Americas.

In 2001, at the beginning of the Bush Administration, I stepped down as BIA Chairman, but remained as a Board Member until April 2003. At that time, then Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was not a fan of my opinions, invited me to vacate the Board and finish my career at the Arlington Immigration Court, where I remained until my retirement on June 30 of last year. So, Im one of the few ever to become an Immigration Judge without applying for the job. Or, maybe my opinions, particularly the dissents, were my application and I just didnt recognize it at the time. But, it turned out to be a great fit, and I truly enjoyed my time at the Arlington Court.

I have also taught Immigration Law at George Mason School of Law in 1989 and Refugee Law and Policyat Georgetown Law from 2012 through 2014. Ive just agreed to resume my Adjunct position with Georgetown Law for a compressed summer course” in “Immigration Law & Policy.

Please keep in mind that if everyone agreed with me, my career wouldnt have turned out the way it did. On the other hand, if nobody agreed with me, my career wouldnt have turned out the way it did. In bureaucratic terms, I was a “survivor.” I have also, at some point in my career, probably been on both sides of many of the important issues in U.S. immigration law.

One of the challenges that lawyers will face in Immigration Court is that different judges have distinct styles, philosophies, and preferences.   I always felt that although we might differ in personality and approach, at least in Arlington we all shared a commitment to achieving fairness and justice.

As a sitting judge, I encouraged meticulous preparation and advance consultation with the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel to stipulate or otherwise narrow issues. In Arlington, for example, even with a new high of 10 Immigration Judges, the average docket is still 3,000 cases per judge. There currently are more than 30,000 pending cases at the Arlington Court. Because of this overwhelming workload, efficiency and focusing on the disputed issues in court are particularly critical. 

THE DUE PROCESS VISION

Now, lets move on to the other topics: First, vision.   The “EOIR Vision” is: “Through teamwork and innovation, be the worlds best administrative tribunals, guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.In one of my prior incarnations, I was part of the group that developed that vision statement. Perhaps not surprisingly given the timing, that vision echoed the late Janet Reno’s “equal justice for alltheme.

Sadly, the Immigration Court System is moving further away from that due process vision. Instead, years of neglect, misunderstanding, mismanagement, and misguided priorities imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice have created judicial chaos with an expanding backlog now approaching an astounding 600,000 cases and no clear plan for resolving them in the foreseeable future.   There are now more pending cases in Immigration Court than in the entire U.S. District Court System, including both Civil and Criminal dockets, with fewer than half as many U.S. Immigration Judges currently on board as U.S. District Judges.

And, the new Administration promises to add hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new cases to the Immigration Court docket, again without any transparent plan for completing the half million already pending cases consistent with due process and fairness. In fact, notably, and most troubling, concern for fairness and due process in the immigration hearing process has not appeared anywhere in the Administrations many pronouncements on immigration.

Nobody has been hit harder by this preventable disaster than asylum seekers, particularly scared women and children fleeing for their lives from the Northern Triangle of Central America. In Immigration Court, notwithstanding the life or death issues at stake, unlike criminal court there is no right to an appointed lawyer. Individuals who cant afford a lawyer must rely on practicing lawyers who donate their time or on nonprofit community organizations to find free or low cost legal representation. Although the Government stubbornly resists the notion that all asylum seekers should be represented, studies show that represented asylum seekers are at least five times more likely to succeed than those who must represent themselves. For recently arrived women with children, the success differential is an astounding fourteen times![3]

You might have read about the unfortunate statement of an Assistant Chief Judge for Training who claimed that he could teach immigration law to unrepresented toddlers appearing in Immigration Court. Issues concerning representation of so-called vulnerable populationscontinue to challenge our Court System. Even with Clinics and Non-Governmental Organizations pitching in, there simply are not enough free or low cost lawyers available to handle the overwhelming need. In fact, soon to be former EOIR Director Juan Osuna once declared in an officially-sanctioned TV interview that the current system is “broken.”[4]

Notwithstanding the admitted problems, I still believe in the EOIR vision. Later in this speech Im going to share with you some of my ideas for reclaiming this noble due process vision.

THE ROLE OF THE IMMIGRATION JUDGE

Changing subjects, to the role of the Immigration Judge: Whats it like to be an Immigration Judge? As an Immigration Judge, I was an administrative judge. I was not part of the Judicial Branch established under Article III of the Constitution. The Attorney General, part of the Executive Branch, appointed me, and my authority was subject to her regulations.

We should all be concerned that the U.S. Immigration Court system is now totally under the control of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has consistently taken a negative view of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, and has failed to recognize the many essential, positive contributions that immigrants make to our country.  

Perhaps ironically, the late Judge Terence T. Evans of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals offered one of the best descriptions of what its like to be an Immigration Judge. Judge Evans was not one of us, but saw plenty of our work during his lifetime. Judge Evans said:

“Because 100 percent of asylum petitioners want to stay in this country, but less than 100 percent are entitled to asylum, an immigration judge must be alert to the fact that some petitioners will embellish their claims to increase their chances of success. On the other hand, an immigration judge must be sensitive to the suffering and fears of petitioners who are genuinely entitled to asylum in this country. A healthy balance of sympathy and skepticism is a job requirement for a good immigration judge. Attaining that balance is what makes the job of an immigration judge, in my view, excruciatingly difficult.”[5]

My Arlington Immigration Court colleague Judge Thomas G. Snow also gives a very moving and accurate glimpse of an Immigration Judges life in a recent article from USA Today:

” Immigration judges make these decisions alone. Many are made following distraught or shame-filled testimony covering almost unimaginable acts of inhumanity. And we make them several times a day, day after day, year after year.

We take every decision we make very seriously. We do our best to be fair to every person who comes before us. We judge each case on its own merits, no matter how many times weve seen similar fact patterns before.

We are not policymakers. We are not legislators. We are judges. Although we are employees of the U.S. Department of Justice who act under the delegated authority of the attorney general, no one tells us how to decide a case. I have been an immigration judge for more than 11 years, and nobody has ever tried to influence a single one of my thousands of decisions

And finally, because we are judges, we do our best to follow the law and apply it impartially to the people who appear before us. I know I do so, even when it breaks my heart.[6]

My good friend and colleague, Judge Dana Leigh Marks of the San Francisco Immigration Court, who is the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, offers a somewhat pithier description: [I]mmigration judges often feel asylum hearings are like holding death penalty cases in traffic court.’”[7]

Another historical footnote: as a young lawyer, then known as Dana Marks Keener, Judge Marks successfully argued the landmark Supreme Court case INS v. Cardoza Fonseca, establishing the generous well-founded fearstandard for asylum, while I helped the Solicitor Generals office develop the unsuccessful opposing arguments for INS.[8] Therefore, I sometimes refer to Judge Marks as one of the founding mothers” of U.S. asylum law.

From my perspective, as an Immigration Judge I was half scholar, half performing artist. An Immigration Judge is always on public display, particularly in this age of the Internet.His or her words, actions, attitudes, and even body language, send powerful messages, positive or negative, about our court system and our national values. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of those who fail at the job do so because they do not recognize and master the performing artistaspect, rather than from a lack of pertinent legal knowledge.

One of the keys to the Immigration Judges job is issuing scholarly, practical, well-written opinions in the most difficult cases. That ties directly into the job of the Immigration Courts amazing Judicial Law Clerks (“JLCs”) assisted by all-star legal interns from local law schools. The JLC’s job is, of course, to make the judge look smart,no matter how difficult or challenging that might be in a particular case.  

MY JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY

Next, I’ll say a few words about my philosophy. In all aspects of my career, I have found five essential elements for success: fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect, and teamwork.

Obviously, fairness to the parties is an essential element of judging. Scholarship in the law is what allows us to fairly apply the rules in particular cases. However, sometimes attempts to be fair or scholarly can be ineffective unless timely. In some cases, untimeliness can amount to unfairness no matter how smart or knowledgeable you are.

Respect for the parties, the public, colleagues, and appellate courts is absolutely necessary for our system to function. Finally, I view the whole judging process as a team exercise that involves a coordinated and cooperative effort among judges, respondents, counsel, interpreters, court clerks, security officers, administrators, law clerks and interns working behind the scenes, to get the job done correctly. Notwithstanding different roles, we all share a common interest in seeing that our justice system works.

Are the five elements that I just mentioned limited to Immigration Court? They are not only essential legal skills, they are also necessary life skills, whether you are running a courtroom, a law firm, a family, a PTA meeting, a book club, or a soccer team. As you might imagine, I am a huge fan of clinical experience as an essential part of the law school curriculum. Not only do clinical programs make important actual contributions to our justice system due process in action but they teach exactly the type of intellectual and practical values and skills that I have just described.

RECLAIMING THE VISION

Our Immigration Courts are going through an existential crisis that threatens the very foundations of our American Justice System. Earlier, I told you about my dismay that the noble due process vision of our Immigration Courts has been derailed. What can be done to get it back on track?

First, and foremost, the Immigration Courts must return to the focus on due process as the one and only mission. The improper use of our due process court system by political officials to advance enforcement priorities and/or send “don’t comemessages to asylum seekers, which are highly ineffective in any event, must end. Thats unlikely to happen under the DOJ as proved by over three decades of history, particularly recent history. It will take some type of independent court. I think that an Article I Immigration Court, which has been supported by groups such as the ABA and the FBA, would be best.

Clearly, the due process focus was lost during the last Administration when officials outside EOIR forced ill-advised prioritizationand attempts to “expedite” the cases of frightened women and children from the Northern Triangle who require lawyers to gain the protection that most of them need and deserve. Putting these cases in front of other pending cases was not only unfair to all, but has created what I call aimless docket reshuffling— “ADR” — that has thrown the Immigration Court system into chaos and dramatically increased the backlogs.  

Although those misguided Obama Administration priorities have been rescinded, the reprieve is only fleeting. The Trump Administration has announced plans to greatly expand the prioritytargets for removal to include even those who were merely accused of committing any crime. The Administration also plans a new and greatly expanded immigration detention empire,likely to be situated in remote locations near the Southern Border, relying largely on discredited private for profitprisons. The Administration also wants to make it more difficult for individuals to get full Immigration Court hearings on asylum claims and to expand the use of so-called expedited removal,thereby seeking to completely avoid the Immigration Court process.

Evidently, the idea, similar to that of the Obama Administration, is to remove most of those recently crossing the border to seek protection, thereby sending a “don’t come, we dont want youmessage to asylum seekers.

Second, there must be structural changes so that the Immigration Courts are organized and run like a real court system, not a highly bureaucratic agency. This means that sitting Immigration Judges, like in all other court systems, must control their dockets. The practice of having administrators in Falls Church and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., none of whom are sitting judges responsible for daily court hearings, manipulate and rearrange local dockets in a vain attempt to achieve policy goals unrelated to fairness and due process for individuals coming before the Immigration Courts must end.  

If there are to be nationwide policies and practices, they should be developed by an Immigration Judicial Conference,patterned along the lines of the Federal Judicial Conference. That would be composed of sitting Immigration Judges representing a cross-section of the country, several Appellate Immigration Judges from the BIA, and probably some U.S. Circuit Judges, since the Circuits are one of the primary consumersof the court’s “product.”

Third, there must be a new administrative organization to serve the courts, much like the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. This office would naturally be subordinate to the Immigration Judicial Conference. Currently, the glacial hiring process, inadequate courtroom space planning and acquisition, and unreliable, often-outdated technology are simply not up to the needs of a rapidly expanding court system.  

In particular, the judicial hiring process over the past 16 years has failed to produce the necessary balance because judicial selectees from private sector backgrounds particularly those with expertise in asylum and refugee law have been so few and far between. Indeed, during the last Administration nearly 90% of the judicial appointments were from Government backgrounds. And, there is no reason to believe that pattern will change under the current Administration. In fact, only one of the seven most recent appointments by Attorney Generals Sessions came from a private sector background.

Fourth, I would repeal all of the so-called Ashcroft reformsat the BIA and put the BIA back on track to being a real appellate court.   A properly comprised and well-functioning BIA should transparently debate and decide important, potentially controversial, issues, publishing dissenting opinions when appropriate. All BIA Appellate Judges should be required to vote and take a public position on all important precedent decisions. The BIA must also “rein in” those Immigration Courts with asylum grant rates so incredibly low as to make it clear that the generous dictates of the Supreme Court in Cardoza-Fonseca[9] and the BIA itself in Mogharrabi[10] are not being followed.

Nearly a decade has passed since Professors Andy Schoenholtz, Phil Shrag, and Jaya Ramji-Nogales published their seminal work Refugee Roulette, documenting the large disparities among Immigration Judges in asylum grant rates.[11] While there has been some improvement, the BIA, the only body that can effectively establish and enforce due process within the Immigration Court system, has not adequately addressed this situation.

For example, let’s take a brief “asylum magical mystery tour” down the East Coast.[12] In New York, 84% of the asylum applications are granted. Cross the Hudson River to Newark and that rate sinks to 48%, still respectable in light of the 47% national average but inexplicably 36% lower than New York. Move over to the Elizabeth Detention Center Court, where you might expect a further reduction, and the grant rate rises again to 59%. Get to Baltimore, and the grant rate drops to 43%. But, move down the BW Parkway a few miles to Arlington, still within the Fourth Circuit like Baltimore, and it rises again to 63%. Then, cross the border into North Carolina, still in the Fourth Circuit, and it drops remarkably to 13%. But, things could be worse. Travel a little further south to Atlanta and the grant rate bottoms out at an astounding 2%.

In other words, by lunchtime some days the Immigration Judges sitting in New York granted more than the five asylum cases granted in Atlanta during the entire Fiscal Year 2015!   An 84% to 2% differential in fewer than 900 miles! Three other major non-detained Immigration Courts, Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas, have asylum grants rates at or below 10%.

Indeed a recent 2017 study of the Atlanta Immigration Court by Emory Law and the Southern Poverty Law Center found:

[S]ome of the Immigration Judges do not respect rule of law principles and maintain practices that undermine the fair administration of justice. During the course of our observations, we witnessed the following [issue, among others]. Immigration Judges made prejudicial statements and expressed significant disinterest or even hostility towards respondents in their courts. In at least one instance, an Immigration Judge actively refused to listen to an attorney’s legal arguments. In another instance, an Immigration Judge failed to apply the correct standard of law in an asylum case. [13]

This is hardly “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!” These unusually low asylum grant rates are impossible to justify in light of the generous standard for well-founded fear established by the Supreme Court in Cardoza-Fonseca and the BIA in Mogharrabi, and the regulatory presumption of future fear arising out of past persecution that applies in many asylum cases.[14] Yet, the BIA has only recently and fairly timidly addressed the manifest lack of respect for asylum seekers and failure to guarantee fairness and due process for such vulnerable individuals in some cases arising in Atlanta and other courts with unrealistically low grant rates.[15]    

Over the past 16 years, the BIA’s inability or unwillingness to aggressively stand up for the due process rights of asylum seekers and to enforce the fair and generous standards required by American law have robbed our Immigration Court System of credibility and public support, as well as ruined the lives of many who were denied protection that should have been granted.   We need a BIA which functions like a Federal Appellate Court and whose overriding mission is to ensure that the due process vision of the Immigration Courts becomes a reality rather than an unfulfilled promise.

Fifth, and finally, the Immigration Courts need e-filing NOW! Without it, the courts are condemned to files in the aisles,misplaced filings, lost exhibits, and exorbitant courier charges. Also, because of the absence of e-filing, the public receives a level of service disturbingly below that of any other major court system. That gives the Immigration Courts an amateur nightaura totally inconsistent with the dignity of the process, the critical importance of the mission, and the expertise, hard work, and dedication of the judges and court staff who make up our court. 

GETTING INVOLVED 

Keep these thoughts in mind. Sadly, based on actions to date, I have little hope that Attorney General Sessions will support due process reforms or an independent U.S. Immigration Court, although it would be in his best interests as well as those of our country if he did. However, eventually our opportunity will come. When it does, those of us who believe in the primary importance of constitutional due process must be ready with concrete reforms.

So, do we abandon all hope? No, of course not!   Because there are hundreds of newer lawyers out there who are former Arlington JLCs, interns, my former student, and those who have practiced before the Arlington Immigration Court.       

They form what I call the New Due Process Army!And, while my time on the battlefield is winding down, they are just beginning the fight! They will keep at it for years, decades, or generations — whatever it takes to force the U.S. immigration judicial system to live up to its promise of guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!        

What can you do to get involved now? The overriding due process need is for competent representation of individuals claiming asylum and/or facing removal from the United States. Currently, there are not nearly enough pro bono lawyers to insure that everyone in Immigration Court gets represented.     

And the situation is getting worse. With the Administrations expansion of so-called expedited removal,lawyers are needed at earlier points in the process to insure that those with defenses or plausible claims for relief even get into the Immigration Court process, rather than being summarily removed with little, if any, recourse.

Additionally, given the pressure that the Administration is likely to exert through the Department of Justice to movecases quickly through the Immigration Court system with little regard for due process and fundamental fairness, resort to the Article III Courts to require fair proceedings and an unbiased application of the laws becomes even more essential. Litigation in the U.S. District and Appellate Courts has turned out to be effective in forcing systemic change. However, virtually no unrepresented individual is going to be capable of getting to the Court of Appeals, let alone prevailing on a claim.

I have been working with groups looking for ways to expand the accredited representativeprogram, which allows properly trained and certified individuals who are not lawyers to handle cases before the DHS and the Immigration Courts while working for certain nonprofit community organizations, on either a staff or volunteer basis. Notwithstanding some recently publicized problems with policing the system, which I wrote about on my blog immigrationrcourtside.com, this is a critically important program for expanding representation in Immigration Courts. The accredited representativeprogram is also an outstanding opportunity for retired individuals, like professors, who are not lawyers to qualify to provide pro bono representation in Immigration Court to needy migrants thorough properly recognized religious and community organizations.        

Even if you are not practicing or do not intend to practice immigration law, there are many outstanding opportunities to contribute by taking pro bono cases. Indeed, in my experience in Arlington, big lawfirms were some of the major contributors to highly effective pro bono representation. It was also great hands onexperience for those seeking to hone their litigation skills.

Those of you with language and teaching skills can help out in English Language Learning programs for migrants.   I have observed first hand that the better that individuals understand the language and culture of the US, the more successful they are in navigating our Immigration Court system and both assisting, and when necessary, challenging their representatives to perform at the highest levels. In other words, they are in a better position to be informed consumersof legal services.        

Another critical area for focus is funding of nonprofit community-based organizations and religious groups that assist migrants for little or no charge. Never has the need for such services been greater.

But, many of these organizations receive at least some government funding for outreach efforts. We have already seen how the President has directed the DHS to “defund” outreach efforts and use the money instead for a program to assist victims of crimes committed by undocumented individuals.

Undoubtedly, with the huge emphases on military expansion and immigration enforcement, to the exclusion of other important programs, virtually all forms of funding for outreach efforts to migrants are likely to disappear in the very near future. Those who care about helping others will have to make up the deficit. So, at giving time, remember your community nonprofit organizations that are assisting foreign nationals. 

Finally, as an informed voter and participant in our political process, you can advance the cause of Immigration Court reform and due process. For the last 16 years politicians of both parties have largely stood by and watched the unfolding due process disaster in the U.S. Immigration Courts without doing anything about it, and in some cases actually making it worse.

The notion that Immigration Court reform must be part of so-called comprehensive immigration reformis simply wrong. The Immigration Courts can and must be fixed sooner rather than later, regardless of what happens with overall immigration reform. Its time to let your Senators and Representatives know that we need due process reforms in the Immigration Courts as one of our highest national priorities.

Folks, the U.S Immigration Court system is on the verge of collapse. And, there is every reason to believe that the misguided enforce and detain to the maxpolicies being pursued by this Administration will drive the Immigration Courts over the edge. When that happens, a large chunk of the entire American justice system and the due process guarantees that make American great and different from most of the rest of the world will go down with it.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I have introduced you to one of Americas largest and most important, yet least understood and appreciated, court systems: the United States Immigration Court. I have shared with you the Courts noble due process vision and my view that it is not currently being fulfilled. I have also shared with you my ideas for effective court reform that would achieve the due process vision and how you can become involved in improving the process. Now is the time to take a stand for fundamental fairness’! Join the New Due Process Army! Due process forever!        

Thanks again for inviting me and for listening. Have a great conference!

 

 

(05/12/17)

        

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Matter of Lennon, 15 I&N Dec. 9 (BIA 1974), rev’d Lennon v. INS, 527 F.2d 187 (2d Cir. 1975).

[2] Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996).

[3] TRAC Immigration, “Representation is Key in Immigration Proceedings Involving Women with Children,” Feb. 18, 2015, available online at http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/377/.

[4] “Immigration Director Calls for Overhaul of Broken System,” NBC Bay Area News, May 27, 2015, available online.

[5] Guchshenkov v. Ashcroft, 366 F.3d 554 (7th Cir. 2004) (Evans, J., concurring).
[6] Hon. Thomas G. Snow, “The gut-wrenching life of an immigration judge,” USA Today, Dec. 12, 2106, available online at http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/12/12/immigration-judge-gut-wrenching-decisions-column/95308118/

[7] Julia Preston, “Lawyers Back Creating New Immigration Courts,” NY Times, Feb. 6, 2010.

[8] INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

[9] INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

[10] Matter of Mogharrabi, 19 I&N Dec. 4379(BIA 1987).

[11] Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Andrew I. Schoenholtz, and Philip G. Schrag, Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, 60 Stan. L. Rev. 295 (2007);

[12] All statistics are from the EOIR FY 2015 Statistics Yearbook, available online at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/fysb15/download,

[13] See Emory Law/SPLC Observation Study Rips Due Process Violations At Atlanta Immigration Court — Why Is The BIA “Asleep At The Switch” In Enforcing Due Process? What Happened To The EOIR’s “Due Process Vision?” in immigrationcourtside.com, available online at http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/03/02/emory-lawsplc-observation-study-rips-due-process-violations-at-atlanta-immigration-court-why-is-the-bia-asleep-at-the-switch-in-enforcing-due-process-what-happened-to-the-eoirs-due-proces/

[14] See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1).

[15] See, e.g., Matter of Y-S-L-C-, 26 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2015) (denial of due process where IJ tried to bar the testimony of minor respondent by disqualifying him as an expert witness under the Federal Rules of Evidence). While the BIA finally stepped in with this precedent, the behavior of this Judge shows a system where some Judges have abandoned any discernable concept of “guaranteeing fairness and due process.” The BIA’s “permissive” attitude toward Judges who consistently deny nearly all asylum applications has allowed this to happen. Indeed the Washington Post recently carried a poignant story of a young immigration lawyer who was driven out of the practice by the negative attitudes and treatment by the Immigration Judges at the Atlanta Immigration Court. Harlan, Chico, “In an Immigration Court that nearly always says no, a lawyer’s spirit is broken,” Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2016, available online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-an-immigration-court-that-nearly-always-says-no-a-lawyers-spirit-is-broken/2016/10/11/05f43a8e-8eee-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

How does this live up to the EOIR Vision of “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all?”   Does this represent the best that American justice has to offer?

New From 9th Circuit: Ayala v. Sessions — Reaffirming “economic extortion on the basis of a protected characteristic can constitute persecution!” — Judicial Review of Credible Fear/Reinstatement — “Extortion Plus” Reaffirmed!

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/05/01/13-72250.pdf

“The IJ abused his discretion in concluding that there was no legal error in his previous opinion affirming the negative reasonable fear determination.5 Contrary to the IJ’s holding, our precedents make clear that economic extortion on the basis of a protected characteristic can constitute persecution.

5 We review the legal error de novo and conclude that the IJ abused his discretion in reaching the result he did. See Popa v. Holder, 571 F.3d 890, 894 (9th Cir. 2009) (“An IJ abuses his discretion when he acts arbitrarily, irrationally, or contrary to law.”) (citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 405 (1990) (“A district court would necessarily abuse its discretion if it based its ruling on an erroneous view of the law or on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence.”).

AYALA V. SESSIONS 17

Borja, 175 F.3d at 736; Barajas-Romero, 846 F.3d at 357 & n.5 (“A person seeking withholding of removal must prove not only that his life or freedom will be threatened in his home country, but also that the threat is ‘because of’ one of the five listed reasons:” race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion) (citing 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3)(A); 8 C.F.R. § 208.16(b)). In Borja, for example, the petitioner suffered past persecution on account of her political opinion when she was extorted partly for economic reasons and partly on the basis of her political statements. 175 F.3d at 736. We described this type of persecution as “extortion plus”—that is, extortion, with the threat of violence, on the basis of a protected characteristic. Id.

Here, Ayala testified that she suffered this type of persecution by stating that she faced extortion, and threats of violence, not only for economic reasons, but also because of her family ties. Rios v. Lynch, 807 F.3d 1123, 1128 (9th Cir. 2015) (“[T]he family remains the quintessential particular social group.”). Whatever the merits of her claim, it was legal error for the IJ to hold that extortion could not constitute persecution for the purposes of withholding of removal: where the petitioner’s membership in a particular social group (in this case, a family) is at least “a reason” for the extortion, it is sufficient to meet the nexus requirement for withholding of removal. See Barajas-Romero, 846 F.3d at 360 (Post REAL-ID withholding claims are not governed by the “one central reason” test that applies to asylum claims, but instead require only that a protected ground was “a reason” for persecution, which “is a less demanding standard.”).

18 AYALA V. SESSIONS

Therefore, we grant Ayala’s petition for review, and remand for the IJ to address whether Ayala has established a reasonable fear based on her extortion-plus claim of persecution.

CONCLUSION

We have jurisdiction to review the IJ’s negative reasonable fear determination relating to the reinstatement of Ayala’s expedited removal order. The BIA’s dismissal of Ayala’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction was the final order of removal; therefore, Ayala’s petition for review is timely because it was filed less than 30 days after that order.

We hold that the IJ abused his discretion in concluding that extortion could not constitute past persecution, and in failing to consider the question of Ayala’s family ties. Therefore, we GRANT Ayala’s petition for review and REMAND for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

PANEL:

Stephen Reinhardt and Kim McLane Wardlaw, Circuit Judges, and Edward R. Korman,* District Judge. (*The Honorable Edward R. Korman, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, sitting by designation.)

OPINION BY:  Judge Reinhardt

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

In my experience, U.S. Immigration Judges, the BIA, and some Courts of Appeals make the mistake highlighted by the 9th Circuit in far too many instances by summarily disregarding credible claims of persecution based on extortion. That’s why the Trump Administration’s effort to “heighten” the standards for “credible fear” and “reasonable fear” of persecution will almost certainly compromise due process and fairness.

PWS

05-01-17

THE “GIBSON REPORT” — Week of May 1, 2017

Gibson Report — May 1, 2017

 

Thanks again to Elizabeth Gibson, Esq. for making this terrific resource available.

PWS

05-01-17

SUPREMES: “Chiefie” Incredulous At DOJ Position in Natz Case!

http://m.dailykos.com/stories/2017/4/27/1656715/–Oh-come-on-Supreme-Court-justices-incredulous-at-Justice-Department-immigration-argument?detail=emaildkre&link_id=1&can_id=aaabbf957f39adda3c39dd02432b2ad6&source=email-oh-come-on-supreme-court-justices-incredulous-at-justice-department-immigration-argument-2&email_referrer=oh-come-on-supreme-court-justices-incredulous-at-justice-department-immigration-argument-2___205999&email_subject=north-carolina-woman-voted-illegally-for-trump-but-wont-be-charged-for-compassionate-reasons

Laura Clawson writes at the Daily Kos:

“It, uh, doesn’t sound like the Trump-Sessions Justice Department is going to prevail in its argument to the U.S. Supreme Court that citizenship can be revoked over any misstatement or failure to disclose at all, however minor, that a person included (or didn’t include) on their citizenship application. Yes, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were all vocally skeptical. But there was also this, from Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught.

The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest.

“If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all’?” Chief Justice Roberts asked.

Robert A. Parker, a Justice Department lawyer, said the offense had to be disclosed. Chief Justice Roberts seemed shocked. “Oh, come on,” he said.

It sounds an awful lot like the Trump regime is looking for the right to revoke any naturalized person’s citizenship at any time, while creating an enormous new hoop for people seeking citizenship to jump through. Can you remember every single thing you’ve ever done?

Divna Maslenjak, the woman whose case prompted this exchange, could still face legal problems, since she had claimed that her husband had avoided military conscription in Bosnia when really he served in a unit that committed war crimes. But whatever the specific result for Maslenjak, it doesn’t seem likely that the Trump regime is going to get the far-ranging power it was effectively seeking:

Roberts added that it might not be a constitutional problem, but “it is certainly a problem of prosecutorial abuse.” Given the wide range of questions on the naturalization form, he observed,  the government’s position would mean that government officials would have “the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want, because everybody is going to have a situation where they didn’t put in something like that.” “And then the government can decide,” Roberts warned, “we are going to denaturalize you for reasons other than what might appear on your naturalization form, or we’re not.” For Roberts, giving that “extraordinary power, which essentially is unlimited power,” to the government would be “troublesome.”

Welcome to the Donald Trump presidency, Mr. Chief Justice.”

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

For many years (at least as long as I’ve been in DC — since 1973) the DOJ, and in particular the Solicitor General’s Office, has occupied a position of unusual respect and credibility with the Supremes. Indeed, the Solicitor General is sometimes referred to as the “10th Justice” because the Supremes often defer to his or her judgment on whether a case merits certiorari.

But, with Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions at the helm, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the DOJ lose its vaunted reputation and be treated with the same degree of skepticism that other litigants face from the Supremes.

To be fair, however, the DOJ’s “boneheaded” position in Maslenjak originated in the Obama Administration which also, thanks in no small way to its tone deaf handling of many immigration cases (particularly those involving crimes) also “wore out its welcome,” so to speak, with the Supremes.

Perhaps, it’s just the general arrogance with which the Executive Branch and the DOJ have functioned over the last several Administrations of both parties. And, Congress, largely as a result of the GOP and its Tea Party wing, turning into “Bakuninists”– promoting anarchy and achieving almost nothing of value since the enactment of Obamacare, has not helped stem the tide of Executive overreach.

PWS

04-29-17

 

 

NEW FROM 4TH CIRCUIT: Court Reviews Expedited Removal, Finds VA Statutory Burglary “Not Divisible” — CASTENDET-LEWIS v. SESSIONS!

http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/152484.P.pdf

PANEL:

GREGORY, Chief Judge, KING, Circuit Judge, and DAVIS, Senior Circuit Judge.

OPINION BY:  JUDGE KING

“In these circumstances, we must assess whether a Virginia statutory burglary constitutes an aggravated felony using the categorical approach. See Omargharib, 775 F.3d at 196. As the Attorney General concedes in this proceeding, the Virginia burglary statute is broader than the federal crime of generic burglary. In Taylor, the Supreme Court included in its definition of a generic burglary “an unlawful or unprivileged entry” into “a building or other structure,” and explained that state burglary statutes that “eliminat[e] the requirement that the entry be unlawful, or . . . includ[e] places, such as automobiles and vending machines, other than buildings,” fall outside the definition of generic burglary. See 495 U.S. at 598-99. As we noted above, the Virginia burglary statute is satisfied by various alternative means of entry, including one’s entry without breaking or one’s concealment after lawful entry. By proscribing such conduct, the statute falls outside the scope of generic burglary. The Virginia burglary statute also reaches several places that are not buildings or structures, such as ships, vessels, river craft, railroad cars, automobiles, trucks, and trailers. As the BIA recently recognized, the breadth of the statute means that it falls outside the definition of an aggravated felony. See In re H-M-F, __ I. & N. Dec. __ (BIA Mar. 29, 2017). Utilizing the categorical approach, we are also satisfied that the Virginia offense of statutory burglary criminalizes more conduct than the generic federal offense of burglary. The DHS therefore erred in classifying Castendet’s conviction as an aggravated felony.”

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

Could the wheels be starting to come off the DHS’s “Expedited Removal Machine” before it even gets up to full throttle?

PWS

04-27-17

PRECEDENT: BIA Opines On “Divisibility” In Agfel Cases — Matter of CHAIREZ-CASTREJON, 27 I&N Dec. 21 (BIA 2017)

https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/959656/download

Here’s the BIA headnote:

“In determining whether a statute is divisible under Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), Immigration Judges may consider or “peek” at an alien’s conviction record only to discern whether statutory alternatives define “elements” or “means,” provided State law does not otherwise resolve the question.”

PANEL: Appellate Immigration Judges Pauley, Greer, Malphrus

OPINION BY: Judge Pauley

CONCURRING OPINION BY: Judge Malphrus

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

This case is unusual because BIA Judges seldom file “separate opinions” in published decisions these days.

In his concurring opinion, Judge Garry D. Malphrus appears to be both questioning whether the  Supreme Court’s approach to statutory “divisibility” analysis comports with congressional intent in immigration matters and inviting Congress to perhaps change the INA so that the BIA and the Immigration Judges could examine the facts of the case, as set forth in the record of conviction, to determine whether the individual should be removed. Judge Malphrus says in his conclusion:

“Here, we must presume that the respondent committed the least of the acts criminalized within the range of conduct punishable under his statute of conviction. See Moncrieffe v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 1678, 1684–85 (2013). This is true even though the respondent’s plea agreement indicates that he did more—specifically, that he knowingly discharged a firearm at another, and thus he committed an aggravated felony crime of violence. See id.

The approach to divisibility required by Descamps and Mathis will result in immigration proceedings being terminated for many aliens who have committed serious crimes in the United States. See, e.g., Ramirez v. Lynch, 810 F.3d 1127, 1134–38 (9th Cir. 2016) (reversing the order of removal upon concluding that the California statute proscribing felony child abuse was not divisible, and thus it was improper to consider the conviction records in determining whether the alien’s conviction constituted an aggravated felony crime of violence). [footnote omitted].  It is for Congress to determine whether this approach is consistent with its intent regarding the immigration consequences of such criminal conduct.”

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

Another observation: How could an unrepresented respondent charged under this section possibly defend himself consistent with due process when the law is so complex and convoluted. This particular respondent was fortunate enough to have a lawyer, and as we can see, he was able to achieve a favorable result. But, recent studies have shown that the overwhelming number of respondents in detention (as individuals charged as “agfels” must be) must proceed without counsel. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Gv

PWS

04-24-17