Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions, 7th Cir., 10-06-17 (published)
PANEL: Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
OPINION BY: Judge EASTERBROOK
“LDG addressed the question whether the Attorney Gen‐ eral has the authority to waive the inadmissibility of an alien seeking a U visa. We assumed that, in removal proceedings, IJs may exercise all of the Attorney General’s discretionary powers over immigration. The panel did not justify that as‐ sumption, because the parties had not doubted its correct‐ ness. But after LDG the Board concluded that the assumption is mistaken. In re Khan, 26 I&N Dec. 797 (2016), holds that IJs have only such powers as have been delegated and that the power to waive an alien’s inadmissibility during proceedings seeking U visas is not among them. The Third Circuit has agreed with that conclusion. Sunday v. Attorney General, 832 F.3d 211 (3d Cir. 2016). We must decide in this case whether to follow Sunday and Khan.
Delegation from the Attorney General to immigration judges is a matter of regulation, and arguably pertinent reg‐ ulations are scattered through Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The BIA in Khan observed, correctly, that the panel in LDG had not mentioned 8 C.F.R. §§235.2(d), 1235.2(d), which omit any delegation to IJs of the power to waive an alien’s admissibility. And that’s true, for those regu‐ lations concern the powers of District Directors rather than the powers of IJs. The principal regulation that does cover IJs’ authority is 8 C.F.R. §1003.10, which provides in part:
(a) Appointment. The immigration judges are attorneys whom the Attorney General appoints as administrative judges within the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge to conduct specified classes of proceedings, including hearings under section 240 of the [Immigration and Nationality] Act. Immigration judges shall act as the Attorney General’s delegates in the cases that come be‐ fore them.
(b) Powers and duties. In conducting hearings under section 240 of the Act and such other proceedings the Attorney General may assign to them, immigration judges shall exercise the powers and duties delegated to them by the Act and by the Attorney General through regulation. In deciding the individual cases be‐ fore them, and subject to the applicable governing standards, immigration judges shall exercise their independent judgment and discretion and may take any action consistent with their au‐ thorities under the Act and regulations that is appropriate and necessary for the disposition of such cases. Immigration judges shall administer oaths, receive evidence, and interrogate, exam‐ ine, and cross‐examine aliens and any witnesses. Subject to §§ 1003.35 and 1287.4 of this chapter, they may issue administra‐ tive subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the presenta‐ tion of evidence. In all cases, immigration judges shall seek to re‐ solve the questions before them in a timely and impartial man‐ ner consistent with the Act and regulations.
The Attorney General’s brief in this court observes that §1003.10(b) does not delegate to IJs any power to waive an alien’s inadmissibility. Sure enough, it doesn’t. But §1003.10(a) does. It says that “[i]mmigration judges shall act as the Attorney General’s delegates in the cases that come before them.” This sounds like a declaration that IJs may ex‐ ercise all of the Attorney General’s powers “in the cases that come before them”, unless some other regulation limits that general delegation. The BIA in Khan did not identify any provision that subtracts from the delegation in §1003.10(a). Nor did the Third Circuit in Sunday. Indeed, neither the BIA nor the Third Circuit cited §1003.10(a). We therefore adhere to the view of LDG that IJs may exercise the Attorney Gen‐ eral’s powers over immigration.”
In the end, of course, the respondent didn’t win much. The 7th Circuit remanded the case to the BIA to “exercise Chevron authority” on the question of whether the Attorney General himself has been stripped of authority to grant these waivers by the legislation that established the DHS as a separate entity.
But, we already know the answer to that question. The BIA has no desire to exercise jurisdiction over this waiver. Indeed, to do so, could turn out to be “career threatening” if you work for notorious xenophobe Jeff Sessions.
Moreover, even before the advent of Sessions, the BIA abandoned any pretense of impartiality in exercising Chevron jurisdiction. The BIA usually looks for the interpretation least favorable to the respondent, that of the DHS, and adopts that as it “preferred interpretation.” To do otherwise could hamper any Administration’s efforts to achieve enforcement objectives, thereby endangering the BIA as an institution. Moreover, agreeing with the private litigant in a published decision could undermine the efforts of the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation to facilitate successful defense of petitions for review removal orders in the Article III Courts.
If this sounds like a strange scenario for a supposedly fair, impartial, and unbiased “court” to adopt, that’s because it is! The BIA is there primarily to slap a “patina of due process” on removal orders without really interfering with the DHS’s “removal railroad.” And that’s useful because of Chevron and the ability of OIL and the DOJ to disingenuously claim that respondents receive “full due process” from the Immigration Courts and the BIA and that Article III Courts, therefore, ought not to worry themselves about the results. And, in a surprising number of cases, the Article IIIs oblige. They don’t want to be stuck having to redo tens of thousands of mass produced BIA appeals.
So, what’s not to like about this system? The Attorney General gets his wholly owned courts to churn out removal orders that look fair (but really aren’t in many cases). The BIA Appellate Judges get to keep their high paying jobs in the Falls Church Tower without having to personally “face up” to the poor folks they are railroading out of the country to places where their lives and futures are in danger. OIL gets to buttress its narrow readings of immigration statutes against immigrants with so-called “court decisions” from the BIA that really aren’t really decisions by independent decision makers. The DHS gets lots of removal orders to keep the “Enforcer In Chief” happy, plus they gain leverage to use against any U.S. Immigration Judge who keeps ruling in favor of respondents. “We’ll just take you to the BIA and get it reversed.” The Article IIIs get to largely avoid moral or legal responsibility for this facade of fairness and due process. Out of sight (which folks are when they get removed), out of mind. We’re just “deferring” to the BIA. Don’t blame us! And, don’t forget Congress! They get to pretend like none of this is happening and claim they are “solving” the problem just by throwing a few more positions and a little more money at EOIR. No need for meaningful oversight into the charade of due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts. And, there are a few guys over on the GOP side of the Hill who hate immigrants and despise due process as much as Sessions does. They undoubtedly see this as a model for the entire U.S. justice system, or better yet, have lots of ideas on how to avoid the Immigration Courts entirely and make the “removal railway” run even faster.
The only folks who aren’t served are the poor folks looking to the U.S. Immigration Courts as courts of last resort to save their lives, preserve their futures, or at least listen sympathetically to their case for remaining. Some of these poor fools actually believe all they stuff about Americans being fair and humane. Those guys were really discombobulated when I had to tell them that while I had absolutely no doubt that some very ”bad things” were going to happen to them upon return, that just doesn’t matter to the U.S. legal system. While I sometimes had the unenviable task of “telling it like it is,” the BIA, the DOJ, and the Federal Courts really couldn’t care less if migrants end up getting killed, raped, or maimed upon return or if their families in the U.S. have to go on welfare. There’s just no place for them in our system.
The other folks who might not come out so well are the rest of America — the non-xenophobes. Most Americans aren’t actually xenophobes in the Trump-Sessions-MIller-Bannon-GOP Restrictionist tradition. While those of us who know what’s happening might be powerless to stop it, we can document it for future generations. We’re making a record.
In the age of information, none of this is going away or going to be swept under an “eternal carpet.” Someday there will be a “day or recokening” for our descendants, just like the one for those of us whose current privilege was built on enslaved African American labor and its many benefits as well as by a century of “Jim Crow” laws which siphoned off African American Citizens’ Constitutional rights and human dignity and conferred them instead on undeserving white folks in both the South and the North.
We have certainly demonstrated that we can be “tone deaf” to both the motivations and the actual effects of our current broken immigration policies. Indeed, there can be no better evidence of that than the election of Trump and empowerment of his xenophobe racist cronies like Sessions and Miller.
But, in the end, we won’t escape the judgement of history, nor will they. The ugliness of our current immigration policies and practices, and the “false debate” about them (there, in fact is no legitimate case for the “restrictionist agenda” — just a racial and cultural one), might be buried in a barrage of alt-right media and “Sessions bogus law and fact free pronouncements.” But, someday, those are going to look just as “legit’ as Conferederate broadsides or the racially hateful rhetoric of Jefferson Davis do today outside the membership of various hate groups and the alt-right.