Musings on Events in U.S. Immigration Court, Immigration Law, Sports, and Other Random Topics by Retired United States Immigration Judge (Arlington, Virginia) and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt. To see my complete professional bio, just click on the link below.
Trump and the GOP aren’t going to help the Dreamers. While the majority of GOP voters are favorably disposed to Dreamers, it isn’t a priority for them. Unlike the Dems, GOP legislators aren’t getting pressure from their constituents to solve the Dreamer problem. Meanwhile, “the base” doesn’t like the Dreamers. Without Trump’s support, the GOP isn’t going to press the issue. With Trump’s active opposition and veto threats, the Dreamers are “dead meat” as far as the GOP is concerned.
The Democrats can’t help the Dreamers from their minority position. The minority doesn’t get to control the agenda, particularly over the President’s active opposition. No, it doesn’t make sense to blame Schumer for sacrificing “leverage” he never really had. The shutdown didn’t work. The Dems and the Dreamers were losing the public opinion battle. Since the GOP is basically out to destroy Government (other than the military) they didn’t feel much pressure to make concessions to the minority to get it reopened.
The Dreamers aren’t going anywhere. It’s a tossup whether the Supremes will intervene in Trump’s favor in the Dreamer case. We will probably find out within the next week. Even if the Supremes do Trump’s bidding, there is no way Trump can deport 700,000 Dreamers. Unlike the semi-helpless women and children detained at the border that Trump & Sessions like to pick on, the Dreamers have resources, community support, and access to good lawyers. They have lots of possible defenses to removal and some affirmative causes of action that should keep the legal system occupied for decades, or at least until we get regime change and wiser legislators finally put the Dreamers on the path to citizenship.
THE BIG IDEA: Democrats are so eager to shield young foreign-born “dreamers” from deportation that they’re now offering to make compromises that would have been hard to imagine a year ago. Republicans, who feel like they have them over the barrel, are demanding more.
Showing his pragmatic side, for instance, Bernie Sanders says he’s willing to pony up big for border security if that’s what it takes. “I would go much further than I think is right,” the Vermont senator said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “Unwillingly. Unhappily. I think it’s a stupid thing to do. But we have to protect the dreamers. … I’m willing to make some painful concessions.”
Sanders said a wall is still a “totally absurd idea” and that there are better ways to secure the border with Mexico, but he also emphasized that there will be “a horrible moral stain” on the country if President Trump goes through with his order to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program next month.
— Anti-immigration hardliners are staking out a firm position because most of them are not actually concerned about the plight of the dreamers. They have never thought these young people, whose undocumented parents brought them to the United States as children, should be here anyway. They agitated for Trump to end the program.
This means they’ll be fine if no bill passes, and they know that gives them way more leverage to demand wholesale changes to the entire legal immigration system. “The president’s framework bill is not an opening bid for negotiations. It’s a best and final offer,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has emerged as the leader of this group in the Senate. He made this comment yesterday on “Fox and Friends,” knowing the president watches. Sure enough, Trump echoed the same talking point on Twitter, calling this the “last chance” for action.
— Mitch McConnell wants to use this week’s immigration debate to force show votes that can be used to embarrass vulnerable Democratic senators from red states. For example, the majority leader introduced a measure yesterday that would penalize so-called sanctuary cities for not cooperating with federal immigration laws. This issue tests well in polls and focus groups in most of the 10 states Trump carried in 2016 where a Democrat is now up for reelection. GOP insiders on the Hill say that McConnell is mainly focused on doing whatever it takes to protect his majority now that 2018 has arrived, and he has a narrower majority after the loss in Alabama.
— Democrats stuck together to block the Senate from taking up the poison pill on sanctuary cities, but the fact that the debate has so quickly devolved into a fight over process offered another data point – if for some reason you needed one – of how dysfunctional the Senate has become.
Trump urges senators to back his immigration proposal
— “Most Republicans on Tuesday appeared to be rallying behind a proposal by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and six other GOP senators that fulfills Trump’s calls to legalize 1.8 million dreamers, immediately authorizes spending at least $25 billion to bolster defenses along the U.S.-Mexico border, makes changes to family-based legal immigration programs and ends a diversity lottery system used by immigrants from smaller countries,” Ed O’Keefe reports. Senate Minority Leader Chuck “Schumer said the Grassley plan unfairly targets family-based immigration and that making such broad changes as part of a plan to legalize just a few million people ‘makes no sense.’
“In a bid to soften Trump’s proposals and win over Democrats, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) unveiled a watered-down version of the GOP proposal — but had not won support from members of either party by late Tuesday. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime proponent of comprehensive immigration changes, said the Grassley proposal should be the focus of the Senate’s debate. … Schumer and other Democrats, meanwhile, voiced support for a plan by Sens. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would grant legal status to dreamers in the country since 2013 but would not immediately authorize money to build out southern border walls and fencing.”
— Democrats would like to pass a narrow bill that only protects DACA recipients, but they know that’s not possible with Republicans in control of Congress and the presidency. To get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, they’re conceding on at least some of Trump’s demands related to security. Sanders said there are between 55 to 57 votes for a compromise that would save the dreamers and fund border protections. “We are scrambling now for three to five more votes,” he said.
— The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. to continue debate, as negotiations behind the scenes continue. Somewhat counterintuitively, conservative hardliners believe that Latinos will be less likely to turn out this November if nothing passes in Congress because activists will blame Democrats for not delivering.
Bernie Sanders heads to a Democratic caucus meeting in the Capitol. (Oliver Contreras for The Washington Post)
— Despite concerted efforts by Trump and McConnell to drive a wedge through the Democratic caucus, there remains a remarkable degree of unity. This highlights how much the terms of the immigration debate have shifted over the past decade. Every Democrat in Congress now wants to protect DACA recipients. It wasn’t always this way. The House passed a Dream Act in 2010 that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship if they entered the United States as children, graduated from high school or got an equivalent degree, and had been in the United States for at least five years. Five moderate Democrats in the Senate voted no. If each of them had supported it, the bill would have become law, and DACA would have been unnecessary. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is the only one of those five Democrats still left. (The others retired or lost.) Now Tester speaks out against the president’s decision to end DACA. (I explored this dynamic in-depth last September.)
Sanders marveled during our interview at how much the polling has shifted in recent years toward protecting dreamers, with some public surveys showing that as many 90 percent of Americans don’t think they should be deported. The share who think they should also have a pathway to become U.S. citizens has also risen. “If we talked a year or two ago, I’m not sure I would have thought that would be possible,” he said.
Hillary Clinton relentlessly attacked Bernie during the debates in 2016 for voting to kill comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Sanders – working closely with some of the leading unions – expressed concern back then that the bill would drive down wages for native-born workers by flooding the labor market with cheap foreign workers. This position caused him problems with Hispanics during his presidential bid.
Sanders rejects the idea that his views have changed since 2007, and he still defends his 11-year-old vote. He noted that the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) opposed that bill, as did the Southern Poverty Law Center, because it included a guest worker program that was “akin to slavery.” He said he remains just as concerned about guest worker programs as he was back then, but that he’s always favored a comprehensive solution that includes legal protections for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who live here. “You can say you support immigration reform, but obviously the devil is in the details on what that means,” the senator explained. “I stood with progressive organizations who said you don’t want to bring indentured servitude.”
Sanders criticized a guest worker program in his home state that allows resorts to hire ski instructors from Europe instead of native Vermonters. “Now do you not think we can find young people in Vermont who know how to ski and snowboard? But if you go to some of the resorts, that’s what you would find,” he said. “When I was a kid, we worked at summer jobs to help pay for college. … So I think we want to take a hard look at guest worker programs. Some of them remain very unfair.”
— After coming surprisingly close to toppling Clinton and winning the Democratic nomination two years ago, Sanders is at or near the top of the pack in every poll of potential 2020 primary match-ups. He’s going to Des Moines next Friday for a rally with congressional candidate Pete D’Alessandro, his first visit to Iowa this year. Sanders will also go to Wisconsin for Randy Bryce, who is running against Speaker Paul Ryan, and Illinois, where he’ll boost Chuy Garcia’s bid for retiring Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s open seat. A few weeks after that, he plans a tour of the Southwest. “I’m going to do everything I can to help people in 2018,” Sanders said.
Lobbying for their lives
— Republicans have gone the other direction. Before Trump came on the scene, the party was divided but GOP elites agreed that, for the long-term survival of the party, they needed to embrace more inclusive policies. Losses in 2012 prompted many Senate Republicans to endorse a comprehensive bill the next year (Sanders voted for it too), but the legislation was doomed in the House after Majority Leader Eric Cantor went down in a Virginia primary partly because of his perceived softness on the issue.
Elected Republicans used to insist adamantly that they were not anti-immigration but anti-illegal immigration. That’s changed. At the behest of Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Republicans are rallying around the idea of dramatic reductions in legal immigration. Two years ago, this was an extreme idea that most GOP senators would have quickly distanced themselves from. Now it’s considered mainstream and the centerpiece of the bill that McConnell has rallied his members behind.
To put it in perspective: By cutting the rate of legal immigration, Trump’s proposal – codified in Grassley’s bill — would delay the date that white Americans become a minority of the population by as many as five additional years, according to expert analysis.
“What’s very sad, but not unusual given the moment we’re living in, is that Republicans are more concerned about their right-wing, extremist, xenophobic base,” said Sanders. “You would think that, with 85 to 90 percent of people supporting protections for the dreamers, that it would not take a profile in courage to pass legislation to protect them.”
Kelly: ‘Dreamers’ who didn’t sign up for DACA were ‘too afraid’ or ‘too lazy’
— A dual-track fight over DACA is playing out in the courts. A federal judge in New York issued a preliminary injunction last night that keeps the program alive beyond Trump’s March 5 deadline so that legal challenges can play out. “A federal judge in California has issued a similar injunction, and the Supreme Court is expected this week to consider whether it will take up the fight over DACA,” Matt Zapotosky reports.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis recognized that Trump “indisputably” has the authority to end the program put in place by Barack Obama, but he also called the administration’s arguments that DACA was unconstitutional and illegal under federal law flimsy. “Because that conclusion was erroneous, the decision to end the DACA program cannot stand,” he wrote.
— Happy Valentine’s Day. Don’t forget to get a gift.
— What I’m especially excited about this morning is baseball. Pitchers and catchers are reporting for spring tr
Contrary to most of the “chatter,” I think that the Dreamers and the Democrats have the upper hand in this one. I’ll tell you why below!
A “border security package,” could involve the Wall, technology and much needed management improvements at DHS (but certainly no additional detention money — stop the “New American Gulag” — or personnel for the Border Patrol until they full current vacancies and account for how they are currently are deploying agents).
Beyond that, the Dems probably could agree to a reallocation of diversity and some preference visas while maintaining current legal immigration levels. Cutting legal immigration levels, eliminating family immigration, or authorizing further denials of due process (the totally bogus and essentially evil claim that the current already inadequate protections for children and other vulnerable migrant’s are “loopholes”) should be “non-starters.”
If they can’t get the deal they want, the Dems can walk away and still win for the Dreamers in the long run. Here is why:
I doubt that Trump would actually veto a compromise bill passed by both Houses that protected Dreamers without his full “Four Pillars of White Nationalism” program.
If he does, any Democrat who can’t make Trump and the GOP pay for such a dumb move in the next election cycle doesn’t deserve to be a Democrat.
The “full Dreamer protection” trade for border security with no other changes should be a “no brainer.” If Trump or the GOP “tank” it over the restrictionist agenda, the Democrats should be able to make them pay at the polls.
Right now, the Administration is under two injunctions halting the repeal of the “core DACA” program.
If the Supremes don’t intervene, that issue could be tied up in the lower Federal Courts for years.
It’s very clear that the Administration’s current position is ultimately a loser before the lower Federal Courts.
If the Administration tries to “short-circuit” the process by going through APA to promulgate a regulation to terminate DACA, that process also is likely to be successfully challenged in the Federal Courts.
The so-called “legal rationale” that Sessions has invoked for ending DACA has literally been “laughed out of court.”
Trump himself has said that there is really no reason to remove Dreamers from the U.S.
So, on the merits, an attempt to terminate DACA by regulation probably would be held “without any legal or rational basis” by the lower Federal Courts.
Even if the Supremes give the “green light” to terminate DACA, most “Dreamers” by now have plausible cases for other forms of relief.
Many DACA recipients have never been in removal proceedings. If they have been here for at least 10 years, have clean criminal backgrounds, and have spouses or children who are U.S. citizens they can apply for “cancellation of removal.”
“Former DACA” recipients appear to be a “particular social group” for asylum and withholding of removal purposes. They are “particularized, the characteristic of having DACA revoked is “immutable,” and they are highly “socially distinct.” Many of them come from countries with abysmal human rights records and ongoing, directed violence. They therefore would have plausible asylum or withholding claims, or claims under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”).
If ICE tries to use information voluntarily given by the Dreamers during the application process to establish removability or for any other adverse reason, that is likely to provoke a challenge that will be successful in at least some lower Federal Courts.
Safety in numbers.
There is nothing that Trump, Sessions, and the DHS can actually do to remove 700,000+ Dreamers.
The U.S. Immigration Courts are backed up for years, with nearly 700,000 already pending cases! Sessions is doing everything he can to make the backlog even worse. Dreamers will go to the “end of the line.”
Sure Sessions would like to speed up the deportation “assembly line” (a/k/a “The Deportation Railway”).
But, his boneheaded and transparently unfair attempts to do that are highly likely to cause “big time” pushback from the Federal Courts and actually “tie up” the entire system — not just “Dreamers.”
The last time the DOJ tied to mindlessly accelerate the process, under AG John Ashcroft, the Courts of Appeals remanded defective deportation orders by the basket-load for various due process and legal violations — many with stinging published opinions.
Finally, even former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez (“Gonzo I”), hardly a “Due Process Junkie” had enough and slowed down the train. It took years for the “haste makes waste” Circuit Court remands to work their way back through the system. Some might still be hanging around.
Because the GOP White Nationalists and Trump read off of “restrictionist cue cards” that don’t take account of the law, facts, or history, the Dems should have a huge advantage here if and when individual “Dreamer” removal cases get to the Federal Courts.
Each “Dreamer removal case” should present the Democrats with excellent example of the cruelty, stupidity, and total wastefulness of the Trump/Sessions/DHS enforcement policies. Wasting money to “Make America Worse.” Come on, man!
Bottom Line:Trump and Sessions have created a “false Dreamer emergency” that they can’t escape without some help from the Democrats. If the Democrats see an opportunity to make a “good deal” for the Dreamers, they should take it. But, they shouldn’t trade the Dreamers for the harmful White Nationalist restrictionist agenda! Eventually, the problem will be solved in a way that is favorable for most Dreamers, regardless of what the White Nationalists threaten right now. The Dreamers might just have to hang on longer until we get at least some degree of “regime change.”
“A few years ago, a populist disrupter of the established political order said that Arizona was right to try to take immigration enforcement into its own hands when the Obama administration was not aggressive enough. Its “citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy.” He similarly expressedsympathy for the “Polish factory workers’ kid” who was going to be out of a job because of affirmative action and lamented that the Supreme Court’s giving too many constitutional rights to Guantanamo detainees “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”
Who made the statements? Donald Trump? Newt Gingrich? No, those were the words of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died two years ago Tuesday. Scalia disrupted business as usual on the court just like Gingrich disrupted the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s and Trump is now disrupting the presidency. Scalia changed the way the Supreme Court writes and analyzes its cases and the tone judges and lawyers use to disagree with each other, evincing a pungent anti-elitist populism that, aside from some criminal procedure cases, mostly served his conservative values. Now the judiciary is being filled at a frenetic pace by Trump and Senate Republicans with Scalian acolytes like Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who will use Scalia’s tools to further delegitimize their liberal opponents and continue to polarize the federal courts.
Scalia joined the Supreme Court in 1986 after a stint as a law professor, a government official and a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He arrived at a court in which justices used an eclectic mix of criteria, from text to history and purpose to pragmatism and personal values, to decide the meaning of the Constitution and federal statutes. Justices disagreed with one another, but for the most part, they were polite in their written dissents.
Scalia came in with different ideas, which he said were compelled by the limited grant of judicial power in the Constitution and would increase the legitimacy of judicial decision-making. He offered revamped, supposedly neutral jurisprudential theories. Yet, as I argue in my upcoming book, “The Justice of Contradictions: Antonin Scalia and the Politics of Disruption,” his doctrines were usually flexible enough to deliver opinions consistent with his conservative libertarian ideology.
He was an “originalist” who believed that constitutional provisions should be interpreted in line with their public meaning at the time of enactment, as when he argued that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause did not apply to sex discrimination — except when he wasn’t, as when in affirmative action cases, he consistently ignored evidence that at the time the equal protection clause was ratified, Congress enacted preferences specifically intending to help African Americans.”
. . . .
Scalia, the Harvard law graduate, frequently cast his fellow justices as out-of-touch Ivy League elitists sticking it to the little guy. Yet he often sided with big business over consumers and environmental groups, deciding cases on issues related to standing and arbitration law that made it harder for people to have their rights protected and vindicated in court.
He disagreed with others using a tone like no other justice. The day after it decided King v. Burwell in June 2015, the court recognized a right of same-sex couples to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges. Scalia, applying his originalist understanding of the 14th Amendment, unsurprisingly rejected the majority’s approach. But he leveled his harshest words at Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion, which he described as “couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic.” He added that “if, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag.” He compared the opinion to an aphorism in a fortune cookie.
The combination of Scalia’s view that textualism and originalism were the only legitimate way to decide cases and his caustic dismissal of anyone who dared to disagree with him led to a much coarser, polarized court after his tenure on the bench. He gave the Supreme Court’s imprimatur to the practice of delegitimizing one’s ideological opponents rather than simply disagreeing with them.
Most important, he gave key conservative acolytes tools to advance an ideological agenda — tools that he presented as politically neutral. The most important of these acolytes is Gorsuch, the newest Supreme Court justice (and, thanks to the refusal of Senate Republicans to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland after Scalia died, also the justice who replaced his ideological role model). While not quite a Scalia clone, he is fully following in Scalia’s tradition. Not long after joining the court, Gorsuch admonished his colleagues in a statutory interpretation case that “if a statute needs repair, there’s a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It’s called legislation.” And at oral argument in the 2017 Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering case, he dismissively interjected that “maybe we can just for a second talk about the arcane matter, the Constitution.” Think Scalia, but without the spontaneous wit and charm. Without Scalia, Gorsuch would have been just as conservative, but he would not have been packaging his jurisprudence in Scalian terms. And he perhaps would not have been as aggressive out of the box.
According to Time magazine, Trump wants to appoint more “originalists” and “textualists” on the court — flamethrowers who will disrupt things even more, following Scalia’s model. Gorsuch’s early record and the posthumous deification of Scalia by Federalist Society members and others on the right since his death show that Scalia’s pugnacious populism is the wave of the future for court appointees by Republican presidents and that the bitter partisan polarization we’ve seen in the political branches is in danger of becoming fixed as a permanent feature of the Supreme Court. Indeed, the main criticism of Scalia’s followers is that he was not consistent enough in insisting that originalism and textualism are the only right way to decide cases, consequences be damned.
Thanks to Scalia’s disruption, the Supreme Court may never be the same.
Yes, I always thought that beneath all the “origionalist” BS, Justice Scalia was pretty much just another jurist with a peculiar right-wing agenda. He rewrote history to match his own preconceived worldview. Additionally, he detested equality, social justice, and common sense in equal proportions. But, occasionally his intellectual machinations led him to side with the “good guys.”
He might not have been a “stable genius,” but he was a heck of a lot smarter than Trump and much funnier. And, while there are indications in his jurisprudence that he was a “racist at heart” (who despised Hispanics as much as African-Americans) he was somewhat less overt about his White Christian Nationalism than guys like Trump, Sessions, Miller, Bannon, Steve King, etc.
“Intrepid 24-7-365” Immigration Reporter Tal Kopan and her wonderful CNN colleagues provide up to the minute coverage of the latest developments. Thanks, Tal, for all that you and your colleagues do!
Despite fight in Congress over immigration, the DACA deadline is up in the air
By Tal Kopan, CNN
When President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, he created a March 5 deadline for protections to end, designed to give Congress time to act to save the program.
But while lawmakers have continued to use the March 5 date as a target, court action and the realities of the program have made any deadline murky and unclear.
As a result, there currently is no date that the protections will actually run out for the roughly 700,000 DACA recipients, young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children — but there remains a large amount of uncertainty about whether they could disappear at any time.
Trump himself mentioned the March 5 deadline in a tweet Monday.
“Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!”
The original plan proposed by Trump in September was that the Department of Homeland Security would phase out DACA by letting the two-year protections and work permits issued under the program expire without the option to renew them. But the administration allowed anyone with permits that expired before March 5 a one-month window to apply for a renewal, which would reset their two-year clock.
However, 20,000 of the 150,000 eligible to renew didn’t. They were either rejected, unable to pull together the paperwork and $500 fee, or unwilling to trust the government with their personal data and enroll again. Further complicating things, some of those rejections were later reopened after DHS acknowledged that thousands may have had their applications lost in the mail or delivered on time but rejected as late.
Then, in January, a federal court judge issued an order stopping the President’s plan to phase out DACA, and DHS has since resumed processing applications for renewals for all the recipients who had protections in September.
But the administration has also aggressively sought to have the judge’s ruling overturned by a higher court, including the Supreme Court, only adding uncertainty to the situation. If a court were to overturn the judge’s ruling, it could have several outcomes, including letting renewals processed in the interim stand, invalidating all of those renewals or even ending the whole program immediately.
McConnell holds all the cards on next week’s immigration debate, and he’s not tipping his hand
By Tal Kopan and Lauren Fox, CNN
In a week the Senate is supposed to debate and vote on major immigration legislation for the first time in years — and only one person might know what it will look like: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“That, you’d have to check with the leader on,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Monday about the process as he left a GOP Senate leadership meeting.
“You’ll have to ask him,” echoed fellow leadership member Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. “He’ll have to decide what he wants to do.”
“Sen. McConnell hasn’t announced his intention,” Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters.
Lawmakers of both parties told reporters Monday repeatedly they had no idea what the legislation or the process they’d be voting on likely next week would look like.
McConnell promised to turn to immigration on the Senate floor after February 8, the next date that government funding runs out, if broad agreement couldn’t be reached in that time. The promise, which he made on the Senate floor, was instrumental in ending a brief government shutdown last month, with senators of both parties pointing to the pledge for a “fair” floor debate as a major breakthrough.
The reality is, though, that McConnell has a lot of discretion as to how such a vote could go — and as of now, he has not given many clues.
Even in a meeting with White House chief of staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House legislative director Marc Short, a source said McConnell “wouldn’t indicate what he’s going to do.”
“Total poker face,” the administration official said. “He’s not going to tip his hand.”
But the group came for the meeting, the official said, to “make sure he hears from the administration.”
On Monday, lawmakers expressed hope that such a deal could come together before the Thursday funding deadline, but wouldn’t call it likely. That tees up a vote next week with an uncertain end.
“Probably if nothing is agreed on this week, which I would not be optimistic will happen, then Mitch’ll call up some bill next week and let everyone get their votes on their amendments and see where it goes,” Thune said. “My assumption is that in the end, something will pass. But I guess we’ll see.”
McConnell’s choices will be instrumental in deciding how the debate goes, lawmakers and experts say, and he has a number of options on how to proceed, from the base bill, to the amendment process.
“There’s a lot of different conversations that continue, I don’t think anyone has narrowed it down to one, two or even three paths at this point,” Gardner said.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving GOP senator, was the only lawmaker who seemed to know how the debate would look.
“I have a pretty good sense. I’ve been through it a hundred times,” he said, laughing. Asked if that meant a mess, he added, still chuckling: “It’s always a mess.”
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that it was “disgraceful” that an NFL player was killed by a man who police believe is an undocumented immigrant in a suspected drunk driving accident over the weekend.
“So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!” Trump tweeted.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson and another man were struck and killed in a suspected drunken driving accident early Sunday morning. Indiana State Police say the man they believe hit them is an undocumented immigrant who has been deported twice.
“My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken. @Colts,” Trump said in a second tweet Tuesday morning.
The crash occurred when Jackson and the other man were struck on the shoulder of Interstate 70 in Indianapolis.
Read the complete report from Tal and Meagan at the above link.
There’s always something “shaking” in the “hot button” world of 21st Century Immigration.
The Proper Role of Immigration Judges as Asylum Adjudicators
I would like to expand on the topic raised in my response to the BIA’s recent precedent decision in Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B-. In the U.S. system, what tensions exist between an immigration judge’s role as an independent judge within an adversarial system, and his or her overlapping role as an adjudicator of asylum claims?
As we all know, the 1980 Refugee Act was enacted to put the U.S. in compliance with the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees (to which the U.S. acceded through the 1967 Protocol). For that reason, numerous courts through the years have found the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status to provide “significant guidance in construing the Protocol” and a useful instrument “in giving content to the obligations the Protocol establishes,” as the U.S. Supreme Court stated in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca. The BIA has referenced the UNHCR Handbook in at least ten precedent decisions, as have numerous circuit courts.
Paragraphs 66 and 67 of the Handbook state the following:
66. In order to be considered a refugee, a person must show well-founded fear of persecution for one of the reasons stated above. It is immaterial whether the persecution arises from any single one of these reasons or from a combination of two or more of them. Often the applicant himself may not be aware of the reasons for the persecution feared. It is not, however, his duty to analyze his case to such an extent as to identify the reasons in detail.
67. It is for the examiner, when investigating the facts of the case, to ascertain the reason or reasons for the persecution feared and to decide whether the definition in the 1951 Convention is met with in this respect… (emphasis added.)
Not surprisingly, this approach is employed by the USCIS Asylum Office. Created in the implementation of the 1990 asylum regulations, the office’s first director, Gregg Beyer, previously worked for UNHCR for more than 12 years. The Asylum Officer Basic Training Manual (“AOBTM”) on the topic of nexus states that although the applicant bears the burden of proving nexus, the asylum officer has an affirmative duty to elicit all relevant information, and “should fully explore the motivations of any persecutor involved in the case.” The AOBTC therefore directs the asylum officer to “make reasonable inferences, keeping in mind the difficulty, in many cases, of establishing with precision a persecutor’s motives.”
The AOBTC also cites the 1988 BIA precedent decision in Matter of Fuentes.1 In that case, the Board held that “an applicant does not bear the unreasonable burden of establishing the exact motivation of a ‘persecutor’ where different reasons for actions are possible. However, an applicant does bear the burden of establishing facts on which a reasonable person would fear that the danger arises on account of” a protected ground.
In Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board takes the view that “it is for the Refugee Division to determine the ground, if any, applicable to the claimant’s fear of persecution.” The U.S. is unusual, if not unique, among western nations in not also delegating this responsibility to immigration judges. Also, note that the IRB references the “Refugee Division;” like many countries, Canada’s equivalent of immigration courts is divided into immigration and refugee divisions, in recognition of the special obligations and knowledge that asylum determinations require. The U.S. immigration court system does not have a separate refugee determination division; asylum claims are heard by the same judges and under the same conditions as all other types of immigration cases. Furthermore, as noted above, U.S. immigration judges hear cases in an adversarial setting, in which judges assume a passive, neutral role.
The role of asylum adjudicator carries responsibilities that are at odds with the the role of neutral arbiter. Asylum adjudicators are required to share the burden of documenting the asylum claim; the UNHCR Handbook at para. 196 states that “in some cases, it may be for the examiner to use all of the means at his disposal to produce the necessary evidence in support of the application.”2 And, as discussed above, once the facts are ascertained, it is the adjudicator who should identify the reasons for the feared persecution and determine if such reasons bear a nexus to a protected ground.
During the Department of Justice’s asylum reform discussions in the early 1990s, Gregg Beyer stated that the idea of separate asylum judges was considered, but ultimately rejected. To my knowledge, EOIR has never conducted an in-depth analysis of the conflicts between the judge’s responsibilities as an asylum adjudicator and his or her role as a neutral arbiter in adversarial proceedings. I discussed the Board’s incorrect holding in Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B- under which genuine refugees may be ordered returned to countries where they will face persecution because the asylum applicants lacked the sophistication to properly delineate a particular social group, a complex legal exercise that many immigration attorneys (and immigration judges) are unable to do. The problem also extends to other protected grounds. Would an unrepresented asylum applicant (who might be a child) understand what an imputed political opinion is? Would most asylum applicants be able to explain that actions viewed as resisting the authority of a third-generation gang such as MS-13 might constitute a political opinion? Regulations should be enacted making it the responsibility of immigration judges to consider these questions. Additionally, immigration judges, BIA Board Members and staff attorneys should be required to undergo specialized training to enable them to identify and properly analyze these issues.
1. 19 I&N Dec. 658 (BIA 1988).
2. See also the BIA’s precedent decision in Matter of S-M-J-, 21 I&N Dec. 722 (BIA 1997), which I have referenced in other articles.
Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.
Here’s what SCOTUS Blog has to say about the issue:
“Issue: Whether, to trigger the stop-time rule by serving a “notice to appear,” the government must “specify” the items listed in the definition of a “notice to appear,” including “[t]he time and place at which the proceedings will be held.”
And, here’s a “key quote” from Judge Lipez’s decision in Pereira that explains the issue a little more detail:
“The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) gives the Attorney General discretion to cancel the removal of a non-permanent resident alien if the alien meets certain criteria, including ten years of continuous physical presence in the United States. 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(1). Under the “stop-time” rule, the alien’s period of continuous physical presence ends “when the alien is served a notice to appear under section 1229(a)” of the INA. Id. § 1229b(d)(1). In this case, we must decide whether a notice to appear that does not contain the date and time of the alien’s initial hearing is nonetheless effective to end the alien’s period of continuous physical presence. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) answered this question affirmatively in Matter of Camarillo, 25 I. & N. Dec. 644 (B.I.A. 2011). The BIA applied that rule in this case.
Joining the majority of circuit courts to address this issue, we conclude that the BIA’s decision in Camarillo is entitled to Chevron deference. We deny the petition for review.”
So, with the 1st Circuit joining the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 9th Circuits in upholding Matter of Camarillo, 25 I&N Dec. 644 (BIA 2011); only the 3rd Circuit rejecting the BIA’s interpretation (Orozco- Velasquez v. Att’y Gen. United States, 817 F.3d 78, 81-82 (3d Cir. 2016)); and what is generally perceived as a “conservative leaning” Supreme Court, looks like a “slam dunk” for the Government, right? Not so fast!
On a question of statutory interpretation like this, I could definitely see some of the more conservative “strict constructionist” Justices teaming up with the “liberals” to reject the BIA’s interpretation by invoking the “plain meaning” rule of statutory construction to overcome “Chevron deference.” Indeed, quite interestingly, as I have noted in prior blogs, Justice Neil Gorsuch was an outspoken critic of Chevron while on the Tenth Circuit. Read his opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 1142 (10th Cir. 2016) if you have any doubts! Here’s a link to that opinion: https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/14/14-9585.pdf
So, I wouldn’t assume at this point that Justice Gorsuch will be a “shill” or “pushover” for the Administration on all immigration issues, even if Trump thinks that’s the type of “loyalty” all his judicial appointments owe him. Actually, the oath of office that Federal Judges take requires them to uphold the Constitution of the United States, not the views and positions of President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, or anybody else of any importance whatsoever. That’s what real “judicial independence” (as opposed to the “captive” Immigration Judiciary) is all about!
And, you might ask what’s the “big deal” about this case? After all, even if the Supremes agree with the petitioner and the Third Circuit that the notice was defective, the BIA and DHS could easily cure the “problem” simply by specifying a “time, place, and date” for the Immigration Court hearing on the original Notice to Appear. Indeed, when I joined the Arlington Immigration Court in 2003 such a system, called “Interactive Scheduling” was in effect. But, like much else at EOIR it appears to have run into problems and been largely abandoned as the dockets mushroomed out of control. Many (not all) things about the administration of the Immigration Courts actually moved backward during my 13 year tenure in Arlington.
But, if the original Notice to Appear were held to be ineffective, then it would not serve to “Stop Time” for the 10 year period of “continuous physical presence” required to apply for the relief of “Cancellation of Removal.” This, in turn, would make thousands of individuals now in Immigration Court proceedings, perhaps tens of thousands, eligible to apply for Cancellation. And, it likely would require the reopening of thousands of already completed cases where the respondent was denied Cancellation of Removal based solely on the “Stop Time” rule. So, that’s why it’s worth the Supremes’ time to resolve this conflict among the lower Federal Courts.
“The Justice Department is pushing for a question on citizenship to be added to the 2020 census, a move that observers say could depress participation by immigrants who fear that the government could use the information against them. That, in turn, could have potentially large ripple effects for everything the once-a-decade census determines — from how congressional seats are distributed around the country to where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent.
The DOJ made the request in a previously unreported letter, dated Dec. 12 and obtained by ProPublica, from DOJ official Arthur Gary to the top official at the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department. The letter argues that the DOJ needs better citizenship data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act “and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting.”
A Census Bureau spokesperson confirmed the agency received the letter and said the “request will go through the well-established process that any potential question would go through.” The DOJ declined to comment and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Observers said they feared adding a citizenship question would not only lower response rates, but also make the census more expensive and throw a wrench into the system with just two years to go before the 2020 count. Questions are usually carefully field-tested, a process that can take years.
“This is a recipe for sabotaging the census,” said Arturo Vargas, a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Census and the executive director of NALEO Educational Fund, a Latino advocacy group. “When you start adding last-minute questions that are not tested — how will the public understand the question? How much will it suppress response rates?”
The 2010 census included a handful of questions covering age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status — but not citizenship.
“People are not going to come out to be counted because they’re going to be fearful the information would be used for negative purposes,” said Steve Jost, a former top bureau official during the 2010 census. “This line about enforcing voting rights is a new and scary twist.” He noted that since the first census in 1790, the goal has been to count everyone in the country, not just citizens.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Under the law and Supreme Court precedents, census data is used to draw Congeessional districts. Indeed, quite contrary to the way the GOP operates, Reprsentatives are supposed to represent the interests of all of the residents of their district, not just “voters” or “GOP voters.”
The DOJ’s bogus request to add a citizenship question is a rather transparent attempt to reduce Hispanic political power, in line with the overall White Nationalist anti-democracy direction the party is moving under Trump.
“(CNN) A divided Supreme Court agreed 5-4 on Friday to temporarily put on hold a lower court order requiring the government to turn over documents related to its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The program is an Obama-era policy that defers deportation for some undocumented youth who had been brought to the United States as children.
The Supreme Court’s order is a setback for challengers, including California and the regents of the University of California, who contend that the Trump administration violated federal law when it abruptly decided to rescind the program. The challengers had sought the documents to bolster their case, pending in California.
Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by the three other liberal justices, dissented from the court’s order. Stressing that the lower court has still not heard the merits of the case, Breyer criticized the majority for intervening “in this kind of discovery-related dispute.”
He said the matter should be left with the lower courts, which are in a better position “to understand whether a particular discovery order is over-burdensome. ”
“This court,” Beyer wrote, is “poorly positioned to second-guess district courts’ determinations in this area.”
The high court’s action is a win for government lawyers, who argued in court papers that the “district court’s orders mandating discovery and expansion of the administrative record were in excess of the district court’s authority.”
They're united in friendship but divided by DACA
They’re united in friendship but divided by DACA
In a statement, a Justice Department spokesman praised the Supreme Court’s order.
“The Department of Homeland Security acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner, and the Justice Department believes the courts will ultimately agree,” said spokesman Devin O’Malley.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded: “What is the Trump administration trying so hard to hide?
“The administration owes the American people a real explanation for its decision to upend the lives of 800,000 Dreamers, stripping them of their ability to work and study, stirring fear, and threatening our economy,” Becerra said. “We’ll keep fighting in court for Dreamers, particularly the 1-in-4 DACA grantees who call California home.”
The district judge had filed a statement with the justices arguing that the government’s petition “leaves the incorrect impression that the district court endorsed unfettered discovery,” he said.
Judge William Alsup of the US District Court for the Northern District of California argued that his request was “limited, narrowly directed, and reasonable.”
The challengers have until Wednesday to respond to the ruling. The district court is set to hear arguments December 20 on whether the case should be dismissed altogether.”
To date, lower Federal Courts generally have been willing to hold the Trump Administration accountable for its immigration policies. But, the Supremes seem to agree with the Administration that Trump, Sessions, & co. can do as they please in the immigration area without providing anything other than fairly cosmetic explanations.
Dreamers apparently will have to look to Congress for any help in staying.
Sanders also said she doesn’t know how the videos got in front of Trump and wouldn’t say whether they were real.
“Whether it is a real video, the threat is real,” Sanders told a small group of reporters after appearing on Fox News. “That is what the President is talking about, that is what the President is focused on is dealing with those real threats, and those are real no matter how you look at it.”
When pressed on whether it matters if the video is real, Sanders said reporters were “focusing on the wrong thing.”
“The threat is real,” she said, later adding that “the threat needs to be addressed. The threat has to be talked about and that is what the President is doing in bringing that up.”
The retweets have once again thrust his administration into conversation about anti-Muslim bias as the courts are weighing the legality of Trump’s travel ban and raised questions about how content swirling on the Internet ends up on the President’s powerful Twitter account.
“I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security,” Sanders said. She later added that she and the reporters were talking about border security so Trump’s tweets were “accomplishing exactly that.”
Trump’s account retweeted the tweets early on Wednesday morning. The messages from Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, purport to show Muslims assaulting people and smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary.
A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday that Trump was “wrong” to retweet anti-Muslim videos, adding that Fransen’s organization “seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions.”
Sanders said she was not aware of any concerns from Trump that his retweets could damage his relationship with May.
“I think that both Theresa May and a lot of the other world leaders across the world know that these are real threats that we have to talk about, I think Europe has seen that a lot first hand,” Sanders said before the statement from May’s spokesperson was widely public.
Sanders added she was unaware of how the videos got in front of Trump but the process generally hinges on Dan Scavino, Trump’s director of social media and one of the few aides with the keys to Trump’s powerful social media platforms.
. . . .
The origin of these tweets is significant because Trump’s messages — from the benign to the inflammatory — have an impact on how the United States is viewed around the world and how policy is implemented.
For example, Wednesday’s retweets could imperial a key Trump goal: Banning immigration from eight countries, including majority Muslim nations like Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.
The Supreme Court is considering whether to allow the third version of Trump’s travel ban to go into effect. Government lawyers have argued that the policy is not a “Muslim ban,” despite Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during the 2016 campaign.
Lawyers arguing against the ban, though, have said that said government lawyers can’t “divorce the Proclamation from its history and context,” pointing to the President’s part statements which they argue color his views on a travel ban.
Neal Katyal, one of the lawyers opposing the ban, responded to Trump’s retweets with a simple, “Thanks! See you in court next week.”
Trump is no stranger to anti-Islam comments that has roiled his supporters and critics alike.
During the 2016 election, Trump told CNN that he believes “Islam hates us,” a comment that rankled some Republicans.
“There’s something there that — there’s a tremendous hatred there,” Trump said. “There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There’s an unbelievable hatred of us.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Gosh, why would they hate a country with a leader like Trump? And, the idea that Trump wants a “serious discussion” on anything, particularly immigration and terrorism, is totally absurd.
The truth is that there are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, the vast majority of whom are not Islamic terrorists and who could be potential allies in combatting terrorism. Needlessly insulting them and inflaming anti-Muslim public opinion can’t possibly be a smart or “winning” strategy.
“A federal appeals court Monday partially revived President Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries, allowing it to go into effect against people without a “bona fide” connection in the U.S., such as close family members.
The decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals means that the federal government can start blocking travel into the U.S. by most nationals of Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Chad who lack family in the country.
The order partially reversed one from Honolulu-based federal judge Derrick K. Watson, who blocked nearly the entire ban on the grounds that it “plainly discriminates based on nationality.” Watson ruled on a lawsuit brought by the state of Hawaii.
The 9th Circuit decision is a temporary measure before judges hear arguments Dec. 6 over the government’s appeal of Watson’s ruling. A panel of three judges — Michael Daly Hawkins, Ronald M. Gould and Richard A. Paez — is considering the appeal. All were appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Trump signed his newest travel ban on Sept. 24 to indefinitely halt travel from most citizens of the six countries, but Hawaii- and Maryland-based federal judges issued orders stopping it just as it was about to go into effect in October.
Trump’s travel order also applied to North Koreans and certain Venezuelan government officials and their families, but judges allowed bans on those nationals to continue.
The 9th Circuit decision is a win for the Trump administration, which has struggled since January in three attempts to push similar travel bans that immigration advocates and federal judges have largely described as illegal.”
Read the full article at the link.
Some good news for the Administration. But, less than a complete victory. And, the merits of the appeal remain to be decided. Stay tuned!
Marcia Coyle reports for the National Law Journal:
“The U.S. Justice Department’s request that the Supreme Court consider sanctions against lawyers who advocated for an immigrant teenager at the center of an abortion case has raised questions about the government’s motivation and threatened to jeopardize the reputation of the solicitor’s office before the justices. Former Justice Department attorneys called the government’s action in the Supreme Court “extraordinary” and said they had no memory of a similar Supreme Court petition.”
You’ll need a full subscription to the NLJ to get beyond what I’ve quoted above. But, you get the idea.
And remember, you read first in some of my earlier blogs in immigrationcourtside.com about the DOJ’s and SG’s likely loss of years of hard earned respect and credibility by arguing the relatively “law free” politicized “Gonzo” positions forced on them by Sessions and the rest of the White Nationalist Trumpsters. Remember, the pro bono lawyers being smeared by Sessions’s DOJ were fighting to vindicate a migrant teenager‘s clear constitutional rights against an attempt by Government officials to substitute their own personal opinions for the constitutional rules and to misrepresent their true intentions (use delay and obfuscation tondefeat constitutional rights) in doing so. Sounds like it’s Sessions and his group whose law licenses should be re-examined.
The public and to some extent the media might have allowed the “Trump/Sessions Crowd” to “normalize” the presentation of lies, misrepresentations, intentional omissions, distortions, and political screeds as “facts” or “legal arguments.” But, most Article III Courts don’t like being played for fools, particularly by the USDOJ which traditionally has been expected to meet higher standards of integrity, fairness, and responsibility to accurately inform the tribunals before which they appear.
Ironically, although Gonzo tried to tag immigration lawyers fighting to preserve their clients’ statutory and constitutional rights as “dirty,” that tag is much more likely to stick to Gonzo and some of the ethically challenged DOJ lawyers doing his bidding. Not to mention that the DOJ is wasting the time of the Supremes with its basically frivolous request, intended largely as political grandstanding to satisfy Gonzo’s anti-abortion, anti-US Constitution political backers.
Deena N. Sharuk teaches Immigration Law at the Law School.
Sharuk is currently practicing as an immigration attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she manages the Virginia Special Immigrant Juvenile Project. She received her B.A. in international relations with a specialization in human rights from Wellesley College. Sharuk received her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law.
After graduation, she worked as a fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and later practiced immigration law in Massachusetts and Virginia. Sharuk was recently appointed as a task force core team member to foster a welcoming environment for immigrants and minorities in Charlottesville and Albemarle county. She often presents to the community about changes in immigration law.
Tanishka V. Cruz is an attorney in solo practice at Cruz Law, a Charlottesville-based immigration and family law firm. She is also an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center, where for the past two years she has focused on the management of the Virginia Special Immigrant Juvenile Project, an award-winning collaboration between LAJC and pro bono attorneys across the state. The project has saved more than 150 refugee children from likely deportation.
Cruz earned her B.A. from Temple University and her J.D. from the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law.
She currently supervises students in the Immigration Law Clinic, which LAJC runs in conjunction with the Law School
JD. Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law 2012
Rachel C. McFarland is an attorney at Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville. She focuses on cases in public and subsidized housing, unpaid wages for migrant workers and immigration.
McFarland earned her B.A. from the University of Richmond in 2009, where she majored in Latin American and Iberian studies, and rhetoric and communication studies. She received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2015.
While at Georgetown, McFarland participated in the asylum clinic and received a certificate in refugees and humanitarian emergencies.
JD. Georgetown University Law Center 2015
BA. University of Richmond 2009
Wow, what a totally impressive and multi-talented team! All three of these amazing lawyers also work at the Legal Aid and Justice Center in Charlottesville, VA. They tirelessly pursue justice for our most vulnerable! They teach their clinical students “real life” client interview, case preparation, organization, time management, negotiation, and litigation skills while giving them a solid background in probably the most important and dynamic area in current American Law: U.S. Immigration Law.
They do it all with energy, enthusiasm, good humor, and inspiring teamwork that will help their students be successful in all areas of life and law while contributing to the American Justice system.
I am of course particularly proud of Rachel McFarland who was one of my wonderful Refugee Law and Policy students at Georgetown Law and has gone on to “do great things” and help others as a “charter member” of the “New Due Process Army.” Way to use that “RLP” training and experience, Rachel! I know that my good friend and colleague Professor Andy Schoenholtz who runs the Georgetown Law Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies program is also delighted at how Rachel has chosen to use her specialized training!
Thanks again, Rachel, for “making your professors proud” of your dedication and achievements. I hope that your students will do the same for you (and your terrific colleagues)!
For those of you who want to replicate the class experience in Charlottesville last Wednesday, here is the complete text of my class presentation: “BASIC ASYLUM LAW FOR LITIGATORS!”
IV. PRACTICAL TIPS FOR PRESENTNG AN ASYLUM CASE IN IMMIGRATION COURT
Good afternoon, and thanks for attending. As a former U.S. Immigration Judge at both the trial and appellate levels, and someone who has spent over four decades working in the field of immigration at all levels, I want to personally thank you for what you are doing.
Welcome to the “New Due Process Army” and our critical mission of forcing the U.S. Immigration Court system to live up to its unfulfilled promise of “guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.” Nothing is more important to achieving that mission than providing effective representation to individuals at the “retail level” of the system – the U.S. Immigration Courts.
There is a due process crisis going on in our U.S. Immigration Court system that threatens the integrity and the functioning of our entire U.S. justice system. And, the biggest need in the Immigration Courts is for effective legal representation of individuals seeking, expecting, and deserving justice in Immigration Court. Never has the need for pro bono attorneys been greater than it is now!
I’m truly delighted to be reunited with my friend and former student from Refugee Law & Policy at Georgetown Law, the wonderful Rachel McFarland. I am absolutely thrilled that Rachel has chosen to use her amazing talents to help those most in need and to be a teacher and an inspirational role model for others in the New Due Process Army. In addition to being brilliant and dedicated, Rachel exudes that most important quality for success in law and life: she is just one heck of a nice person! The same, of course, is true for your amazing Clinical Professor Deena Sharuk and her colleague Tanishka Cruz Thank you Deena, Tanishka, and Rachel, for all you are doing! All of you in this room truly represent “Due Process In Action.”
As all of you realize, our justice system is only as strong as its weakest link. If we fail in our responsibility to deliver fairness and due process to the most vulnerable individuals at the “retail level” of our system, then eventually our entire system will fail.
Our Government is going to remove those who lose their cases to countries where some of them undoubtedly will suffer extortion, rape, torture, forced induction into gangs, and even death. Before we return individuals to such possible fates, it is critical that they have a chance to be fully and fairly heard on their claims for protection and that they fully understand and have explained to them the reasons why our country is unwilling or unable to protect them. Neither of those things is going to happen without effective representation.
We should always keep in mind that contrary to the false impression given by some pundits and immigration “hard liners,” including, sadly and most recently our Attorney General, losing an asylum case means neither that the person is committing fraud nor that he or she does not have a legitimate fear of return. In most cases, it merely means that the dangers the person will face upon return do not fall within our somewhat convoluted asylum system. And, as a country, we have chosen not to exercise our discretion to grant temporary shelter to such individuals through Temporary Protected Status, Deferred Enforced Departure, or prosecutorial discretion (“PD”). In other words, we are returning them knowing that the effect might well be life threatening or even fatal in many cases.
I also predict that you will make a positive difference in the development of the law. The well-prepared and articulate arguments that you make in behalf of migrants are going to get attention and consideration from judges at all levels far beyond those presented by unrepresented individuals who can’t even speak English. It’s simply a fact of life. And, if you can win these cases, everything else you do in the law will be a “piece of cake.” I guarantee it.
Obviously, in representing your clients it is important to be polite, professional, and to let the excellence of your preparation, research, and arguments speak for you. In an overwhelmed system, judges are particularly grateful for all the help they can get. However, they are also under excruciating pressure to complete cases, particularly detained cases. So it is important to clearly identify your issues, focus your examination, and make sure that your “phone books” of evidence are properly organized and that there is a “road map” to direct the Immigration Judge and the Assistant Chief Counsel to the key points. You want to help the judge, and your opponent, get to a “comfort zone” where he or she can feel comfortable granting, or not opposing or appealing, relief.
I do want to offer one additional important piece of advice up front. That is to make sure to ask your client if her or his parents or grandparents, whether living or dead, are or were U.S. citizens. Citizenship is jurisdictional in Immigration Court, and occasionally we do come across individuals with valid but previously undeveloped claims for U.S. citizenship. You definitely want to find out about that sooner, rather than later, in the process.
My presentation today will be divided into three sections. First, we will go over the basic refugee definition and some of its ramifications. Second, I will provide some basic information about particular social group or “PSG” claims. Third, I will give you fourteen practical pointers for effectively presenting asylum cases in Immigration Court.
Please feel free to ask questions as we go along, or save them until the end.
II. WHO IS A REFUGEE?
In this section, I will first discuss the INA’s definition of “refugee.” Second, I will talk about the standard of proof. Third, we will discuss the meaning of the undefined term “persecution.” I will conclude this section with a discussion of the key concept of “nexus.”
A. Refugee Definition
An “asylee” under U.S. law is basically an individual who satisfies the “refugee” definition, but who is in the U.S. or at our border in a different status, or with no status at all. Most of your clients will fall in the latter category.
The definition of “refugee” is set forth in section 101(a)(42) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42). There are four basic elements:
Generally, outside the country of nationality (not usually an issue in border cases);
Unwilling or unable to return (failure of state protection);
Because of persecution (undefined) or a well founded fear of persecution;
On account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion (“nexus”).
There are some important exclusions to the refugee definition, the most frequent ones being the one-year filing deadline for asylum, those who have committed serious nonpolitical crimes outside the U.S. or particularly serious crimes in the U.S., persecutors of others, those who have rendered material support to a terrorist organizations, and those who are firmly resettled in another country. I won’t be going into these in detail today, but you should know that they are there, and I’d be happy to take questions on them. The ground most likely to come up in your cases is the one relating to individuals who have committed crimes.
Some individuals who are ineligible for asylum might still be eligible to receive withholding of removal under section 243(b) of the INA, 8 U.S.C., § 1253(b) or withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). And, everyone can potentially seek so-called “deferral of removal” under the CAT.
Also, please note that because of the requirement of a “nexus” to a “protected ground” not all types of harm trigger protection. In particular, crimes, wars, random violence, natural disasters, and personal vengeance or retribution do not automatically qualify individuals for refugee status, although “persecution“ within the meaning of the INA and the Convention certainly can sometimes occur in these contexts. However, some of these circumstances that fail to result in refugee protection because of the “nexus” requirement might be covered by the CAT, which has no nexus requirement.
The source of the “refugee” definition is he Refugee Act of 1980 which codified and implemented the U.N Convention and Protocol on the Status of Refugees to which the U.S. adhered in 1968. There are, however, some differences between the U.S. definition and the Convention definition, which I won’t go into today. But, again, you should be aware they exist, since some international or U.N. interpretations of the definition might be inapplicable under U.S. law.
B. Standard of Proof
The standard of proof in asylum cases was established by the Supreme Court in 1987 in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987). In asylum cases, a “well-founded” fear is something far less than a probability. It is an “objectively reasonable fear” or the type of fear that a “reasonable person” would have under the circumstances. Most courts and authorities have adopted the “10% chance” example set forth in Justice Stevens’s plurality opinion in Cardoza.
The BIA’s implementation of Cardoza, the 1987 precedent Matter of Mogharrabi, 19 I&N Dec. 439 (BIA 1987), makes the point that the persecution can be “significantly less than probable.” Your challenge as lawyers will be to get judges at all levels of our system to actually apply the generous Cardoza-Mogharrabi standard rather than just mouthing it. Sadly, the latter still happens too often, in my opinion.
A different and higher “more likely than not” standard applies to withholding of removal under the INA and to withholding and deferral of removal under the CAT. One great tool for satisfying the standard of proof for asylum or withholding under the Act is the rebuttable regulatory presumption of future persecution arising out of past persecution set forth in 8 C.F.R. 1208.13. This is a really important regulation that you should basically learn “by heart.” I will reference it again in the “practical tips” section of this presentation.
Withholding and CAT are more limited forms of relief than asylum. While they usually provide work authorization, they do not lead to green card status, allow the applicants to bring relatives, or travel abroad. They are also easier to revoke if conditions change. Nevertheless, there is one major advantage to withholding and CAT: they save your client’s life. Sometimes, that’s the best you can do. And, fundamentally, saving lives is really what this business is all about.
C. What Is Persecution?
Remarkably, neither the Convention nor the INA defines the term “persecution.” Consequently, U.S. Immigration Judges, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), and the U.S. Courts of Appeals are constantly referring to certain types of harm as “mere discrimination or harassment” not “rising to the level” of “persecution.” Often these highly subjective conclusions seem to be more in the mind of the judicial beholder than in the record or the law.
In the absence of a firm definition, I have found the most useful practical guidance to be in an opinion by the famous, or infamous, Judge Richard Posner, who recently retired from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2011 case Stanojkova v. Holder, 645 F.3d 943, 947-48 (7th Cir. 2011). Judge Posner gave three examples.
“The three forms are discrimination, harassment, and persecution. The first [discrimination] refers to unequal treatment, and is illustrated historically by India’s caste system and the Jim Crow laws in the southern U.S. states. Discrimination normally does not involve the application of physical force, except as punishment for violation of the discriminatory laws.”
Second: “Harassment involves targeting members of a specified group for adverse treatment, but without the application of significant physical force. Had [police] furious at [the respondent’s] being soft on Albanians followed his taxi (he was a taxicab driver in Macedonia) and ticketed him whenever he exceeded the speed limit by one mile per hour, that would be an example of harassment. A common form of sexual harassment is pestering a subordinate for a date or making lewd comments on her appearance, or perhaps hugging her, which is physical but generally not violent.”
Third: “Persecution involves, we suggest, the use of significant physical force against a person’s body, or the infliction of comparable physical harm without direct application of force (locking a person in a cell and starving him would be an example), or nonphysical harm of equal gravity—that last qualification is important because refusing to allow a person to practice his religion is a common form of persecution even though the only harm it causes is psychological. Another example of persecution that does not involve actual physical contact is a credible threat to inflict grave physical harm, as in pointing a gun at a person’s head and pulling the trigger but unbeknownst to the victim the gun is not loaded.”
These definitions are, of course, not binding outside the Seventh Circuit. But, I find them to be practical, usable definitions that I certainly found helpful in making asylum decisions in the Fourth and other circuits.
The concept of “nexus” or “on account of” has become critical in asylum adjudication. Indeed, that is where many of your upcoming battles will be focused. In many cases these days the DHS will concede the “particular social group” (“PSG”) and just argue that the harm has no “nexus” to that PSG or any other protected ground.
The REAL ID Act amended the INA to require that for an asylum applicant to prove ”nexus” or “on account” of any protected ground, he or she must show that the protected ground is “at least one central reason” for the feared persecution. INA § 208(b)(1)(B)(i), 8 U.S.C. § 1208(b)(1)(B)(i) While this did not eliminate the frequently encountered “mixed motive” situation, it was intended to “tighten up” prior case law that had referred to the persecution as stemming “in whole or in part” from a protected ground.
The BIA ruled in Matter of C-T-L-, 25 I & N Dec. 341 (BIA 2010) that the “one central reason” test also applies to nexus in the withholding of removal context. However, the Ninth Circuit rejected the BIA’s interpretation in Barajas-Romero v. Lynch, 846 F.3d 351 (BIA 2014), maintaining that the more generous “in whole or in part” test should continue to apply to withholding cases under the INA. To my knowledge, the Fourth Circuit has not directly addressed the issue. So, I believe that C-T-L- would apply in the Immigration Courts in the Fourth Circuit at present.
Unfortunately, the BIA has given a very narrow reading to the “one central reason” test. In a recent precedent, Matter of L-E-A-, 27 I &N Dec. 40 (BIA 2017), the respondent was a member of a family social group. He clearly was targeted by a cartel in Mexico because he was a member of a family that owned a grocery store. In other words, “but for” the respondent’s family membership, he would not have been targeted by the gang.
Nevertheless, instead of granting the case, the BIA looked beyond the initial causation. The BIA found that “the respondent was targeted only as a means to achieve the cartel’s objective to increase its profits by selling drugs in the store owned by his father. Therefore the cartel’s motive to increase its profits by selling contraband in the store was one central reason for its actions against the respondent. Any motive to harm the respondent because he was a member of his family was, at most, incidental.” 27 I&N Dec. at 46 (citations omitted). Accordingly, the BIA denied the case.
Unfortunately, the BIA cited and relied upon an analysis of nexus in a similar case by the Fifth Circuit in Ramirez-Mejia v. Lynch, 794 F.3d 485n (5th Cir. 2015). The BIA, and to some extent the Fifth Circuit, have essentially used the “nexus” requirement to “squeeze the life” out of the family PSG. We can see that the normal rules of legal causation have been suspended. The respondent would not have been targeted by the cartel had he not belonged to this particular family. Yet, the BIA searched for and found an “overriding motive” that did not relate to a protected ground and determined that to be the “central reason” and the family PSG to be “tangential.”
What kind of case could succeed under L-E-A-? Well, perhaps not wanting to give anyone any practical ideas on how to qualify, the BIA searched history and came up with the execution of the Romanov family by the Bolsheviks as an example of a where family was a “central reason” for the persecution. So, maybe if the respondent’s father were a major donor to a political party that opposed cartels, a member of a religion that opposed drugs, or a member of a hated minority group, the respondent’s family membership could have been “at least one central reason.”
But the Romanov family case would have been grantable on actual or imputed political opinion grounds. The other examples I gave would have been more easily grantable on actual or implied political opinion, religion, or nationality grounds. So the BIA appears designed to make the family PSG ground largely superfluous.
This leaves you as litigators in a tricky situation. The IJ will be bound by L-E-A,
and the BIA is unlikely to retreat from L-E-A-. On the other hand, the Fourth Circuit might not go along with the L-E-A- view, although Judge Wilkins appeared anxious to endorse L-E-A- in his separate concurring opinion in Valasquez v. Sessions, 866 F.3d 188 (4th Cir. 2017).
To my knowledge, L-E-A- has not actually been considered and endorsed by any circuit to date. To me, it appears to be inconsistent with some of the existing family-based nexus case law in the Fourth and Ninth Circuits. See, e.g., Zavaleta-Policiano v. Sessions, 873 F.3d 241 (4th Cir. 2017) (slamming BIA for misapplying concept of “mixed motive”). So, I wouldn’t be shocked if a “circuit split” eventually develops and the issue finally wends its way to the Supreme Court. Who knows, maybe one of you will be arguing it.
In any event, in my view, it is too early for you to “waive” strong nexus arguments even if they will be rejected under L-E-A-. On the other hand, that’s not likely to solve your client’s currentproblems.
So, what can you do? First, look for legitimate ways to distinguish L-E-A-. Assume that the DHS will “pull out the stops” in arguing that everything but family was the central reason –greed, lust, crime, random violence, personal vengeance, envy, resentment, etc. Look for evidence in the record that the dispute really was, to a major extent, about family, rather than one of the non-qualifying grounds.
Second, look for some qualifying non-family PSG or a “more conventional” religious, nationality, racial, or political motive.
Third, consider the possibility of CAT protection. The advocacy community probably underutilizes CAT. CAT doesn’t have a specific nexus requirement and often can be proved by extensive documentary or expert evidence, both UVA Clinic specialties. Sure, the standard of proof is high and CAT is a lesser form of relief than asylum. But, it saves your client’s life! And, if the nexus law changes in your favor, you can always file a motion to reopen to re-apply for asylum under the changed law.
This is an area of the law where creativity, preparation, and persistence often pay off in the long run. So, don’t give up. Keep on fighting for a reasonable and proper application of the “refugee” definition and for the rights of your clients.
III. PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUP
In this section I will talk about the three basic requirements for a PSG, the success stories, the usual failures, things that can go wrong, and offer you a few practice pointers directly related to PSG claims.
A. The Three Requirements
The BIA has established three requirements for a PSG.
Immutability or fundamental to identity;
These three requirements are usually used to deny rather than grant protection. Indeed, most of the BIA’s recent precedents on PSG are rendered in a decidedly negative context.
There was a time about two decades ago when many of us, including a number of BIA Members, thought that immutability or fundamental to identity was the sole factor. But, following our departure, the BIA attached the additional requirements of “particularity” and “social visibility” now renamed “social distinction” to narrow the definition and facilitate denials, particularly of gang-based PSG claims.
The particularity and social distinction requirements basically work like a “scissors” to cut off claims. As you make your definition more specific to meet the “particularity” requirement it often will become so narrow and restrictive that it fails to satisfy “social distinction.” On the other hand, as your proposed PSG becomes more socially distinct, it’s likely that it will become more expansive and generic so that the BIA will find a lack of “particularity.”
While the UNHCR and many advocacy groups have argued for a return of immutability as the basic requirement with “social distinction” as an alternative, not an additional requirement, the BIA recently reaffirmed its “three criteria” approach. These cases, Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I &N Dec. 227 (BIA 2014) and its companion case Matter of W-E-G-, 26 I &N Dec. 208 (BIA 2014), are “must reads” for anyone doing PSG work.
About the only bright spot for advocates was that the BIA in M-E-V-G–rejected the commonly held view that no gang-based case could ever succeed. The BIA said that its decisions “should not be read as a blanket rejection of all factual scenarios involving gangs. Social group determinations are made on a case-by-case basis. For example, a factual scenario in which gangs are targeting homosexuals may support a particular social group claim. While persecution on account of a protected ground cannot be inferred merely from acts of random violence and the existence of civil strife, it is clear that persecution on account of a protected ground may occur during periods of civil strife if the victim is targeted on account of a protected ground.” 26 I&N Dec. at 251 (citations omitted).
In other words, the Board is asking for evidence intensive case-by-case adjudications of various proposed PSGs. Leaving aside the fairness of doing this in a context where we know that most applicants will be detained and unrepresented, I cannot think of an organization better suited to give the BIA what it asked for than the UVA Clinic – you guys!
B. Success Stories
There are four basic groups that have been relatively successful in establishing PSG claims.
LGBT individuals under Matter of Toboso-Alfonso, 20 I&N Dec. 819 (BIA 1990);
Women who fear or suffered female genital mutilation (“FGM”) under my decision in Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996);
Victims of domestic violence under Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014); and
Family under the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Crespin-Valladares v. Holder, 632 F.3d 117 (4th 2011), a case in which I was the Immigration Judge and Jones Day was pro bono counsel.
You should note that the first three of these success stories had something in common: strong support across a wide spectrum of the political universe. In fact, in LGBT, FGM, and domestic violence cases the DHS eventually changed its position so as to not oppose the recognition of the PSG. This, in turn, either facilitated or perhaps effectively forced the BIA to recognize the PSG in a precedent.
Family, on the other hand, has generally not developed the same type of political consensus as a PSG for asylum purposes. I have already discussed in detail how notwithstanding the clear logic of family as a PSG, the BIA uses a highly restrictive reading of the “nexus” requirement that prevents many family groups from qualifying for protection.
There are two additional important points established by Kasinga. First, the respondent does not have to establish that the persecutor acted or will act with “malevolent intent.” Persecution may be established even where the persecutor was inflicting the harm with the intent to “help” or “treat” the respondent. This comes up frequently in connection with LGBT claims.
Second, Kasinga holds that to justify a discretionary denial of asylum for a respondent who otherwise meets all of the statutory requirements, the adverse factors must be “egregious” so as to outweigh the likely danger of persecution.
You are likely to find a number of cases involving LGBT individuals, domestic violence, and family. In the Arlington Immigration Court during my tenure these cases succeeded at an extremely high rate, so much so that many of them went on my “short docket.” However, that was then and this is now. As they say, “There’s a new sheriff in town and, unfortunately in my view, he looks a lot like the infamous “Sheriff Joe.”
Finally, there are some “up and comer” PSG’s that have had success in some of the circuits and might eventually gain widespread acceptance. Among these are witnesses, landowners, and women subjected to forced marriages. The latter often can more successfully be presented under the domestic violence category. The Fourth Circuit actually has recognized “former gang members” as a potential PSG, although many such individuals will have difficulties under the criminal exclusions from the refugee definition. Martinez v. Holder, 740 F.3d 902 (4th Cir. 2014).
C. The Usual Losers
PSGs that don’t fit any of the categories I just mentioned are usually “losers.” Chief among the “usual losers” are victims of crime other than domestic violence, informants, extortion victims, and those resisting gang recruitment. You’ll probably see a fair number of such cases. Your challenge will be how to present them in a way that overcomes the negative connotations normally associated with such claims.
D. What Can Go Wrong?
Lots of things can go wrong with a PSG case. First, there is the issue of “circularity.” Generally, a PSG cannot be defined in terms of itself. For example “victims of crime” would generally be a “circular” social group.
An easy test is to use your proposed PSG in a simple sentence: “This respondent was harmed to overcome the characteristic of being _________. If you can’t say with a straight face in open court, don’t use it. For example, “this respondent was raped to overcome her characteristic of being a victim of rape” isn’t going to make it as a PSG.
We’ve already talked about how PSG claims can be attacked by denying the nexus. There are also the old favorites of lack of credibility or corroboration. Then, there is failure to meet the one-year filing deadline, no failure of state protection, reasonably available internal relocation, and fundamentally changed country conditions.
That’s why if you’re considering a PSG claim, it’s always wise to have “Plan B.” The problem today, however, is that the Administration has restricted or limited many of the “Plans B.” For example, until recently, the number one “Plan B” was to request prosecutorial discretion (“PD”) from the Assistant Chief Counsel if the respondent had sympathetic humanitarian factors, a clean criminal record, and strong ties to the U.S. However, for all practical purposes, this Administration has eliminated PD.
Nevertheless, its always worthwhile to think about whether things like Wilberforce Act treatment for certain unaccompanied juveniles, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, “T” visas for trafficking victims, “U” visas for victims of crime, or benefits under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) might be realistic possibilities for your client.
E. A Few Practical Tips on PSG
I’m going to close this section by offering you a few practical tips on presenting PSG cases that will also tie into my next major section.
First, think “25 words or fewer.” Just like the old boxtop contests from my youth. There are few, if any, known examples of success using lengthy, convoluted social group definitions.
Second, remember folks, it isn’t “making sausages.” The definition that goes in must be the same one that comes out the other end. Social groups that “morph” during the hearing just have no chance.
Third, be prepared to explain how your proposed particular social group meets the current BIA criteria of immutability, particularity, and social distinction, formerly known as “social visibility.”
Fourth, make sure that your respondent is actually a member of the particular social group you propose. You would be surprised at the number of counsel who propose a particular social group definition and then fail to offer proof that their client actually fits within that group.
Fifth, as I just mentioned, check your particular social group for “circularity.”
Sixth, and finally, be prepared for an onslaught of other arguments against your case, the chief of which probably will be “no nexus.” Normally, the DHS will “pull out all the stops” to prevent the recognition of a new PSG.
IV. PRACTICAL TIPS FOR PRESENTING AN ASYLUM CASE IN IMMIGRATION COURT
You should all have received a copy of my comprehensive three-page treatise on asylum law entitled “Practical Tips For Presenting an Asylum Case In Immigration Court,” Feb. 2017 Revised Edition. I’m going to quickly take you through the fourteen practical tips outlined there.
My first tip is, “Read a Good Book.” My strong recommendation is the one that has always been at the top of the Immigration Court Best Seller List: Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, 2017 edition.
Specifically, I invite your attention to Chapter 1208, which contains the seeds of all winning theories of asylum law, past, present, and future. It will also give you gems like how to shift the burden of proof to the DHS and how to win your case even if your client does not presently have a well-founded fear of persecution.
Second, “Get Real.” The REAL ID Act, P.L. 109-13, 119 Stat. 231 (2005), deals with credibility and burden of proof issues in asylum and other cases and applies to applications “made” on or after May 11, 2005, which will be all of your cases. Read it and decide how it can help you and how you can respond to DHS arguments.
Third, “Know One When You See One.” The one-year filing requirement of section 208(a)(2)(B) of the INA bars asylum in some cases. Your burden of proof on the one-year filing issue is very high: “clear and convincing evidence.” Judicial review might be limited. But, there are exceptions. Read the statute and the regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 1208.4 to find out how the filing requirement works and what arguments might be made to preserve a late asylum application. Remember that the one-year requirement does not apply to withholding of removal under the INA or to CAT applications.
At the beginning of each asylum case, I asked the parties to identify the issues. Respondents’ attorneys invariably told me about past persecution, future persecution, nexus, gender-based persecution, exceptions to the one year filing deadline, weird social groups, and so forth. The issue they sometimes fail to identify is the one that’s always first on my list. What is it?
That’s right, credibility, is the key issue in almost all asylum litigation. So, my fourth rule is “Play To Tell the Truth.” You must understand what goes into making credibility determinations and why the role of the Immigration Judge is so critical. Often, adverse credibility determinations are difficult to overturn on appeal. It’s all about deference.
But, credible testimony might not be enough to win your case. That’s why my fifth rule is “Don’t Believe Everything You Read.” Both appellate and trial court decisions often recite rote quotations about asylum being granted solely on the basis of credible testimony.
However, to give your client the best chance of winning his or her asylum case in immigration Court, under the law applicable in most circuits, you’re likely to need a combination of credible testimony andreasonably available corroborating evidence. Read Matter of S-M-J-, 21 I&N Dec. 722 (BIA 1997), largely codified by REAL ID, and find out what it really takes to win an asylum case in most Immigration Court.
In this respect, you should remember my corollary sixth rule “Paper Your Case.” According to Fourth Circuit precedent, even a proper adverse credibility ruling against your client might not be enough for an Immigration Judge to deny the asylum claim. The Judge must still examine the record as a whole, including all of the documentation supporting the claim, to determine whether independent documentary evidence establishes eligibility for asylum. Read Camara v. Ashcroft, 378 F.3d 361 (4th Cir. 2004) and discover how the power of independent documentary evidence can overcome even a sustainable adverse credibility finding. Also, remember that the REAL ID Act directs Immigration Judges to consider “the totality of the circumstances, and all relevant factors.”
“Read Your Paper” is my seventh important rule. You and your client are responsible for all the documentation you present in your case. Nothing will give you nightmares faster than having a client present false or fraudulent documentation to the Immigration Court. In my experience, I’ve had very few attorneys able to dig out of that hole. So, don’t let this happen to you.
My eighth rule is “Pile it On.” Sometimes, as demonstrated in one of my very favorite cases Matter of O-Z- & I-Z-, 22 I&N Dec. 23 (BIA 1998), reaffirmed in Matter of L-K-, 23 I&N Dec. 677, 683 (BIA 2004), you will be able to take a series of events happening to your respondent, his or her family, or close associates, none of which individually perhaps rises to the level of persecution, and combine them to win for your client.
My ninth rule is “Don’t Get Caught by the Devil.” The devil is in the details. If you don’t find that devil, the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel almost certainly will, and you will burn. Also, make sure to put your client at ease by carefully explaining the process and by going over the direct and cross-examinations in advance. Remember the cultural and language barriers that can sometimes interfere with effective presentation of your case.
I found the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel in Arlington were all very nice folks. They were also smart, knowledgeable, well prepared, and ready to vigorously litigate their client’s positions. They handled more trials in a year than most litigators do in a lifetime. So, beware and be prepared. You would also be wise to contact the Assistant Chief Counsel in advance of any merits hearing to discuss ways of narrowing the issues and possible “Plans B.”
My tenth rule is “Know Your Geography.” Not all Immigration Courts and Circuit Courts of Appeals are located on the West Coast. The BIA certainly is not. You must know and deal with the law in the jurisdiction where your case actually is located, not in the one you might wish it were located.
For example, the Arlington Immigration Court is in Crystal City. That is in Virginia, which is not presently part of the Ninth Circuit.
This is something that I once had trouble with, coming to the Arlington Court from a job where the majority of asylum cases arose in the Ninth Circuit. But, I got over it, and so can you.
My eleventh rule is to “Get Physical.” In defining persecution, some Circuits have emphasized “the infliction or threat of death, torture, or injury to one’s person or freedom.” See, e.g.,Niang v. Gonzales, 492 F.3d 505 (4th Cir. 2007). While the Circuits and the BIA have also recognized non-physical threats and harm, your strongest case probably will be to emphasize the physical aspects of the harm where they exist. Mirisawo v. Holder, 599 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2010); Matter of T-Z-, 24 I & N Dec. 163 (BIA 2007).
I particularly recommend the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Crespin-Valladares v. Holder, 632 F.3d 117 (4th Cir. 2011), which found that the BIA erred in rejecting my conclusion that “unrebutted evidence of death threats against [the respondent] and his family members, combined with the MS-13’s penchant for extracting vengeance against cooperating witnesses, gave rise to a reasonable fear of future persecution.” In other words, I was right, and the BIA was wrong. But, who’s keeping track?
My twelfth rule is “Practice, Practice, Practice.” The Immigration Court Practice Manual, available online at the EOIR web site http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/vll/OCIJPracManual/ocij_page1.htmwas effective July 1, 2008, and replaced all prior local rules. All filings with the Immigration Court must comply with the deadlines and formats established in this Practice Manual. The Practice Manual has a very helpful index, and it covers just about everything you will ever want to know about practice before the Immigration Courts. It contains useful appendices that give you contact information and tell you how to format and cite documents for filing in Immigration Court. Best of all, it’s applicable nationwide, so you can use what you learn in all Immigration Courts.
My thirteenth, rule is “It’s Always Wise to Have ‘Plan B.’” As I have pointed out, asylum litigation has many variables and opportunities for a claim to “go south.” Therefore, it is prudent to have a “Plan B” (alternative) in mind.
Among the “Plans B” that regularly came up in Arlington were: prosecutorial discretion (“PD”), Special Rule Cancellation of Removal (“NACARA”), Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”), non-Lawful Permanent Resident Cancellation of Removal (“EOIR 42-B”), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”), Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) status, I-130 petition with a “stateside waiver” (“I-601A”), “Wilberforce Act” special processing for unaccompanied children (“UACs”), T nonimmigrant status (for certain human trafficking victims), and U nonimmigrant status (for certain victims of crime). In my experience, many, perhaps the majority, of the “happy outcome” asylum cases coming before me were resolved on a basis “OTA,” that is “other than asylum.”
But, unfortunately in my view, the “Plan B” world is rapidly changing. So, please listen very carefully to the caveat that comes next.
Fourteenth, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. As some have said “there’s a new Sheriff in town,” and he’s announced a “maximum immigration enforcement” program targeting anyonewho has had any run-in with the law, whether convicted or not. He also intends to detain all undocumented border crossers or applicants for admission at the border. So, you can expect morearrests, more detention (particularly in far-away, inconvenient locations like, for instance, Farmville, VA), more bond hearings, more credible and reasonable fear reviews, more pressure to move cases even faster, and an even higher stress level in Immigration Court.
The “Plans B” involving discretion on the part of the Assistant Chief Counsel, like PD, DACA, and stateside processing, and even waiving appeal from grants of relief, are likely to disappear in the near future, if they have not already. In many cases, litigating up through the BIA and into the Article III Federal Courts (where the judges are, of course, bound to follow the law but not necessarily to accept the President’s or the Attorney General’s interpretation of it) might become your best, and perhaps only, “Plan B.”
In conclusion, I have told you about the basic elements of the refugee definition and how it is used in adjudicating asylum cases. I have also discussed the requirements and the pros and cons of the PSG protected ground. And, I have shared with you some of my practical tips for presenting an asylum case in U.S. Immigration Court.
Obviously, I can’t make you an immigration litigation expert in in afternoon. But, I trust that I have given you the basic tools to effectively represent your clients in Immigration Court. I have also given you some sources that you can consult for relevant information in developing your litigation strategy and your case.
I encourage you to read my blog, immigrationcourtside.com, which covers many recent developments in the U.S. Immigration Courts. As you come up with victories, defeats, good ideas, appalling situations, or anything else you think should be made more widely available, please feel free to submit them to me for publication. I also welcome first-hand accounts of how the system is, or isn’t, working at the “retail level.”
Thanks again for joining the New Due Process Army and undertaking this critical mission on behalf of the U.S. Constitution and all it stands for! Thanks for what you are doing for America, our system of justice, and the most vulnerable individuals who depend on that system for due process and justice.
Thanks for listening, good luck, do great things, and Due Process Forever! I’d be pleased to answer any additional questions.
“An alien who seeks admission to the United States without valid documents can be sent home without a hearing, and, this does not apply just to aliens at the border. An undocumented alien may be viewed as “seeking admission” even if he has been living here for more than a year.
But for immigration purposes, words mean whatever the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) says they mean.
Section 235(a)(1) of the INA says that an alien who is in the United States but has not been “admitted” shall be viewed as an applicant for admission for purposes of this Act. And section 101(a)(13) of the INA says that the terms “admission” and “admitted” mean a lawful entry into the United States after an inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.
This makes it possible for DHS to use expedited removal proceedings to deport undocumented aliens who already are in the United States without giving them hearings before an immigration judge, which is necessary now because the immigration court is experiencing a backlog crisis.As of the end of August 2017, the immigrant court’s backlog was 632,261 cases, and the immigration court has only 330 immigration judges. The backlog is getting larger every year because the judges are not even able to keep up with the new cases they receive each year.
. . . .
In expedited removal proceedings, which are conducted by immigration officers, an alien who lacks proper documentation or has committed fraud or a willful misrepresentation to enter the country, can be deported without a hearing before an immigration judge, unless he has a credible fear of persecution.
Previous administrations limited these proceedings to aliens at the border and aliens who had entered without inspection but were apprehended no more than 100 miles from the border after spending less than 14 days in the country.
Trump opted to use expedited removal proceedings to the full extent authorized by law. In his Executive Order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” he orders the DHS Secretary to use the proceedings for the aliens designated in section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(II)of the INA, i.e., aliens who are in the United States but were not lawfully admitted and cannot establish that they have been here continuously for two years.
If an alien wants an asylum hearing before an immigration judge, he has to establish to the satisfaction of an asylum officer that he has a credible fear of persecution. If the asylum officer is not persuaded, the alien can request an abbreviated review by an immigration judge, which usually is held within 24 hours.
Immigration officers should not be making unreviewable decisions about whether to deport someone who has lived in the United States for up to two years. I would prefer replacing the immigration officers with immigration judges for proceedings involving aliens who are already in the United States.
Expedited removal proceedings are not used for unaccompanied alien children.
Trump has asked Congress to amend the TVRPA to restrict the unaccompanied alien children protections. In the meantime, steps are being taken to deter parents from bringing their children here illegally.
ICE will be putting the parents of UACs in removal proceedings if they are undocumented aliens too, and if a smuggler was paid, they might be prosecuted for human trafficking.
Immigrant advocates still have time to work with Trump on immigration reform legislation, but once Trump has implemented an expanded expedited removal proceedings program, he is not going to be inclined to stop it. And it could start soon. He recently issued a Request for Information to identify multiple possible detention sites for holding criminal aliens and other immigration violators.”
Read Nolan’s full article over on The Hill at the above link.
I have no doubt that the Trump Administration will attempt to “max out’ the use of expedited removal. Interestingly, however, although the Executive Order referenced by Nolan was issued at the beginning of the Administration, the regulatory changes necessary to expand the use of expedited removal have not yet been published in the Federal Register. A change of this nature is likely to require full notice and comment, which will take some time. If the Administration tries to avoid the notice and comment process, that will be likely to give advocates a valid ground for challenging the revised regulation under the Administrative Procedures Act.
I also doubt that expedited removal can successfully address the current Immigration Court backlog, which is, after all, largely the result of incompetent management, poor enforcement choices, and “ADR” by politicos at the DOJ, including particularly in this Administration. Without removing the political influence over the Immigration Courts and placing them in an independent structure that can be professionally administered in an unbiased manner, no “docket reform” is likely to succeed..
Second, nearly all of the 10-11 million individuals currently in the U.S. without documentation have been here more than two years and can prove it. Indeed, the vast majority of the 630,000+ cases pending in Immigration Court have probably been on the docket for more than two years!
Third, like Nolan, I believe that “Immigration officers should not be making unreviewable decisions about whether to deport someone who has lived in the United States for up to two years.” Individuals living in the United States are entitled to constitutional due process under Supreme Court decisions. A fair hearing before an impartial adjudicator normally is a minimum requirement for due process. A DHS Immigration Officer is not an impartial judicial or quasi-judicial adjudicator.
The situations in which the Federal Courts have permitted DHS Immigration Officers to enter final removal orders against individuals who are “in the United States” (as opposed to at the border, in fact or “functionally”) are fairly limited. One is the situation of an individual who was never admitted as a Lawful Permanent Resident and who committed an aggravated felony. This doesn’t apply to most individuals in the U.S. without documentation.
As Nolan points out, the Federal Courts have also approved “expedited removal” under the current regulations which limit applicability to those who have been here fewer than 14 days and are apprehended within 100 miles of the border — in other words, those who have very minimal connection with the U.S. and have not established any type of “de facto” residence here. In making those limited (but still probably wrong from a constitutional standpoint) decisions some courts have indicated that they would have reservations about reaching the same result in the case of someone who had actually been here for a considerable period of time and had established a residence in the United States.
For example, in Castro v. DHS, 835 F.3d 433 (3rd Cir. 2016), cert. denied, a case upholding expedited removal under the current regulations, the court states:
Of course, even though our construction of § 1252 means that courts in the future will almost certainly lack statutory jurisdiction to review claims that the government has committed even more egregious violations of the expedited removal statute than those alleged by Petitioners, this does not necessarily mean that all aliens wishing to raise such claims will be without a remedy. For instance, consider the case of an alien who has been living continuously for several years in the United States before being ordered removed under § 1225(b)(1). Even though the statute would prevent him from seeking judicial review of a claim, say, that he was never granted a credible fear interview, under our analysis of the Suspension Clause below, the statute could very well be unconstitutional as applied to him (though we by no means undertake to so hold in this opinion). Suffice it to say, at least some of the arguably troubling implications of our reading of § 1252 may be tempered by the Constitution’s requirement that habeas review be available in some circumstances and for some people.
Here’s a link to the full Castro opinion and my previous blog on the decision:
I predict that, as in other areas, by “pushing the envelope” on the expedited removal statute, the Trump Administration will eventually force the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court, to find it unconstitutional at least in some applications.
The Administration would be smarter to go about Immigration Court docket reduction by limiting new enforcement actions to recent arrivals and those who have engaged in activities that endanger the public health and safety, similar to what the Obama Administration did. This should be combined with a realistic legalization proposal and return to a robust use of prosecutorial discretion (“PD”) that would remove many of the older, nonprioty cases from the docket.
Eliminating rights, “fudging” due process, and pretending like judicial and quasi-judicial resources are infinitely expandable will not solve the problem in the long run. It’s time for some “smart” immigration enforcement and action to reform the Immigration Courts into an independent court system. But, I’d ever accuse the Trump Administration of being “smart,” particularly in the area of immigration policy.
“Washington (CNN)Even as the Trump administration is asking Congress to approve a tough overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, the Department of Homeland Security is also quietly exploring ways it could transform the US immigration system on its own.
The department has been examining a range of subtle modifications to immigration policies that could have major consequences, including limiting protections for unaccompanied minors who come to the US illegally, expanding the use of speedy deportation proceedings, and tightening visa programs in ways that could limit legal immigration to the US, according to multiple sources familiar with the plans.
None of the policies being explored are finalized, according to the sources, and are in various stages of development. Any of them could change or fall by the wayside. Some of them are also included at least in part in the wish list of immigration priorities that President Donald Trump sent to Congress this week, and it’s unclear whether the administration will wait to see the results of negotiations over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that President Donald Trump has chosen to end.
Still, the proposals under consideration illustrate the extent to which the administration could attempt to dramatically change immigration in the US through unilateral executive action.
“Do you think Obama did a lot? That’s my answer,” said one former DHS official when asked how transformative the change could be. “They could do quite a bit.”
DACA itself was an example of how former President Barack Obama, frustrated with congressional inaction, sought to use executive authority to take action on immigration, putting in place the program to protect young undocumented immigrations brought to the US as children from deportation in 2012.
But the administration is now exploring rolling back more Obama-era policies, and changing even older systems.
DHS did not respond to a request for comment about the policies being explored or its process.
Targeting protections for unaccompanied minors
One effort underway is exploring what can be done about unaccompanied children (UACs), a category of undocumented immigrants who are caught illegally crossing the border into the US, are under age 18, and are not accompanied or met by a parent or guardian in the US. Those UACs, by law and legal settlement, are handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services for settling in the US, given protections from expedited removal proceedings and given special opportunities to pursue asylum cases in the US.
DHS and the Department of Justice have been exploring options to tighten the protections for UACs, including no longer considering them UACs if they’re reunited with parents or guardians in the US by HHS or once they turn 18.
In a previously unreported memo, obtained by CNN, the general counsel of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which manages the nation’s immigration courts, wrote in a legal opinion that the administration would be able to decide a UAC was no longer eligible for protections — a sea change in the way the 2008 law granting those protections has been interpreted. The Trump administration has portrayed the UAC protections as a loophole in the law that can be exploited by gangs, though experts have testified before Congress that the minors under the program are more likely to be victimized by gangs in the US due to a lack of a support network than to be gang members. The administration also has sought to crack down on parents who pay smugglers to bring their children into the US illegally, even to escape dangerous situations in Central America.
The White House also asked Congress to amend the 2008 law to restrict UAC protections.
In previously unreported comments made last month at a security conference in Washington, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan said that ICE is actively looking at the adults HHS places UACs with, and if they are in the US illegally, they will be processed for deportation — and if a smuggler was paid, they could be prosecuted for human trafficking.
DOJ touts effects of surge of immigration judges sent to border
DOJ touts effects of surge of immigration judges sent to border
“You cannot hide in the shadows, you can’t be an illegal alien in the United States, have your undocumented child smuggled at the hands of a criminal organization, and stay in the shadows,” Homan said. “We’re going to put the parents in proceedings, immigration proceedings, at a minimum. … Is that cruel? I don’t think so. Because if that child is really escaping fear and persecution, he’s going to stand in front of an immigration judge to plead his case, his parents should be standing shoulder to shoulder with him. I call that parenting.”
DHS is also continuing to weigh its options to expand the use of expedited removal more generally — a speedier process of deportation that bypasses a lengthy court process in particular cases — as authorized by Trump’s January executive order on immigration.
Legal immigration tightening
Other efforts in the works include ways to tighten legal avenues to come to the US.
Two policies being looked at are the subject of litigation in the DC Circuit court — work authorizations for spouses of high-skilled visa holders and an expansion of a program that allows STEM students to stay in the US an extra two years for training.
Both policies were challenged in the courts, and now the administration is considering whether to roll them back.
On the spousal authorizations, DHS told the court as much in a filing last month, asking for extra time for the DHS review to finish.
That filing points to a DHS review of “all” of the agency’s immigration policies, citing the President’s Executive Order to “buy American and hire American.”
“Executive Order 13,788 is an intervening event necessitating careful, considered review of all of DHS’s immigration policies to ensure that the interests of US workers are being protected,” the attorneys wrote, citing the order’s instructions to create new rules, if necessary, “to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system.”
Trump admin quietly made asylum more difficult in the US
Trump admin quietly made asylum more difficult in the US
DHS has also moved to tighten asylum claim credibility thresholds, and is exploring asking Congress for more authority to do so. Another target is reportedly cultural exchange visas, which according to The Wall Street Journal are also under scrutiny after the “hire American” order.
Further unilateral moves wouldn’t even require policy changes, immigration attorneys fear. Attorneys who represent immigration clients fear that simply by slowing down the visa process, DHS could substantially decrease the number of immigrants admitted to the United States. US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced this summer it would begin requiring interviews for all green card applicants on employment and refugee grounds, and that it would roll out required interviews for other categories over time, adding a substantial and potentially lengthy hurdle to achieving legal permanent residency.
“If the wait time for naturalizations increases by three months, USCIS can naturalize 25% fewer people per year, which would mean millions of people over a four-year period,” said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney and former Obama administration DOJ official. “Even without a policy change, the administration (can accomplish) dramatic reductions to legal immigration through increases in processing times and taking a hawkish approach to finding reasons for denials of immigration applications.”
DHS pointed CNN to statistics showing no increase in the rate of denials of immigration applications, though the backlog of pending applications has grown steadily over the past two years.
One-quarter of DACA renewals not in on deadline day
One-quarter of DACA renewals not in on deadline day
Sources familiar with the inner workings of DHS describe an environment where political appointees and policy staff with strongly held opinions circulate ideas that sometimes reach the press before front office and secretarial staff are even aware of the discussions.
While political appointees and career officials are not described as butting heads, some of policy ideas do end up moderated by career employees on practical grounds. One source also described some employees of USCIS, which administers DACA, as getting emotional when the plan was made to end the program.
“Once it gets to a senior level, there are pretty robust discussions,” another source familiar said. “And once it gets to that level there are folks with ideas, and then folks who have been around for a while who say, ‘That won’t work.'”
Those competing ideas are then ultimately decided on by the secretary and high-level decision makers, though sources say political appointees are sometimes in a position to have influence over what information flows to the front office and top officials.
“The secretary and the decision makers end up with that (dynamic),” the source said.”
Immigration “Courts” run and controlled by Political Enforcement Officials and actively engaged in looking for ways to diminish the rights of individuals coming before them are not “real courts” and are not capable for delivering fair, unbiased, and impartial justice in accordance with the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This kangaroo court system, operating under false premises, is unconstitutional (in addition to be incompetently administered)!
Will the Article III Courts ever do their duty, put this corrupt and unlawful system out of its misery, and restore at least some semblance of due process and justice for immigrants? Or, will they “go along to get along” and thus make themselves part of one of the most shameful charades of justice In American Legal History?