THE TRUMP/SESSIONS XENOPHOBIC ANTI-REFUGEE BIAS THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERY ASPECT OF AMERICAN SOCIETY, INCLUDING OUR STAR CHEFS & OUR IMMIGRATION-INSPIRED CRUSINE!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/in-praise-of-refugee-chefs-they-came-from-syria-but-they-represent-an-american-ideal/2017/12/06/64e7c4be-c400-11e7-aae0-cb18a8c29c65_story.html

Marin Cogan reports for the Washington Post:

“On a Thursday morning in June, near the end of Ramadan, Majed Abdulraheem arrives for work at Union Kitchen. The brightly lit, shared commercial kitchen space in Northeast Washington is filled with chef’s tables, pastry racks and the bustling of a dozen cooks building fledgling businesses. It’s Chef Majed’s second time at work today. Fasting makes the daytime heat of the kitchen too hard to manage, and so he was in the kitchen preparing orders late last night, into the early morning.

Abdulraheem, 29, works at Foodhini, a meal delivery service that employs immigrant chefs in Washington. The start-up was founded by Noobtsaa Philip Vang, a child of refugees from Laos, who discovered, after arriving from Minnesota to Georgetown three years ago to get his MBA, that he was missing the Hmong cuisine he grew up with. “I was really craving some of my mom’s food,” says Vang, “and I was thinking I wanted to find a grandma or auntie that was living in the neighborhood somewhere and just buy some of their food.”

He started mulling his own family’s immigration story: When his mom came to the United States, she had limited English skills, and finding work was difficult. His dad sometimes worked multiple jobs, sleeping in his car between shifts, to make sure the family had enough money to survive. What his mother did have, which might have been marketable if only she’d had the resources, was incredible skill as a chef. “There’s got to be a way to create opportunities for people like my mom,” he thought.

Abdulraheem is one of Foodhini’s first chefs. On its website, he offers a menu of his own design: bamiatan, a dish of crisp mini okra sauteed in garlic and topped with cilantro; mutabbal, an eggplant-tahini dip similar to baba ghanouj; and kebab hindi, meatballs cooked in a spiced tomato stew. Like Vang, his love for food and for family are inextricably intertwined: Many of the items on Abdulraheem’s menu are dishes his mother used to make for him when he was a kid growing up in a small town in southern Syria. Even after attending culinary school in Syria, and after years of working in restaurants, he still considers her, his original teacher, to be the better chef.

“You have to love cooking to be good at it,” Abdulraheem tells me through an interpreter. He is preparing the vegetables for fattoush, a staple salad of lettuce, tomato and crunchy pita chips. He stacks long leaves of romaine lettuce, one on top of the other, slicing them crosswise into small confetti ribbons as he talks, before perfectly dicing tomatoes. He cuts huge lemons in half, just once, and squeezes the juice out of them effortlessly. It’s a simple dish but one he loves to make, because it’s both universal and endlessly customizable. “I’m making fattoush, my wife will make fattoush, you can make fattoush,” he says. “But each time it will come out a little bit different, because it’s a reflection of you.”


Majed Abdulraheem and wife Walaa Jadallah at their home in Riverdale Park, Md. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

When Abdulraheem arrived here in 2016, he became part of a long history of immigrants — often refugees — who reached the United States and began making food. You can find this tradition in Eden Center, the Northern Virginia strip mall packed with pho restaurants and pan-Asian groceries, built up by Vietnamese refugees in the 1980s. You can see it in the popular Ethiopian restaurants on U Street; in the restaurants of Peter Chang, who fled Washington’s Chinese Embassy in 2003 and acquired one of the most loyal followings of any chef in America; or in the Thai and Indian restaurants in large cities and small towns across the country.

. . . .

What Abdulraheem and other refugee chefs bring when they come to America has implications beyond the kitchen. Cooking the dishes — sharing the foods of their home country — is a way of ensuring “that identity and heritage are not lost just because the homeland is,” says Poopa Dweck, author of the book “Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews.” They are “documenting history, in some way, for the next generation.”

It’s this diversity — the richness of so many cuisines and cultures, brought from all over the world — that makes American food so outstanding. At the moment, however, that tradition is under threat. The Trump administration has dedicated a lot of energy to barring Syrian refugees like Abdulraheem from coming into the country, while waging a multifront campaign against undocumented immigrants from Latin America. Continuing on this path would have a profound impact — not just on our food, but on our national identity.

It can be hard to explain to people who view immigration as a threat just what we stand to lose when we turn away from this ideal. Maybe a grand argument about American values isn’t the best place to begin. Maybe it’s best to start smaller, somewhere closer to home — somewhere like the dinner table.


Abdulraheem’s kebab hindi (meatballs cooked in a spiced tomato stew). (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

There are things that Majed Abdulraheem doesn’t usually talk about when he’s at work chopping vegetables. But they’re on his mind a lot: How, on his last visit to his parents’ home in 2013, they begged him not to return to his apartment in Damascus but to flee Syria across the border to Jordan instead. How he did as his parents asked. And how he never got to see his father, who became ill during his exile, before he died.

. . . .

The culinary education of refugee chefs is unusual. It is at once cosmopolitan — thanks to the fusing of different influences during the chef’s travels — and narrowly defined by both physical barriers and the limitations of circumstance. The journeys of refugee chefs often spark creativity, born of necessity. The education, just like the migration, is sui generis. Just like America.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

The irony is certainly not lost on me. Refugees overcome great obstacles to contribute to America’s greatness; immigrants (including, yes, those without legal status) help us prosper as a society; guys like Trump and Sessions are corrosive negative influences who contribute little of positive value and do great damage to our country, our society, and our collective future every day they hold power, despite having having been given every chance to make positive contributions.

America’s continued greatness, and perhaps our ultimate survival as a nation, depends on whether we can use the legal system and the ballot box to remove corrosive influences like Trump, Sessions, and their ill-intentioned cronies from office before they can completely destroy our country.

PWS

12-10-17

KELLY AIDE KIRSTJEN NIELSEN CONFIRMED AS DHS SEC!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/senate-confirms-kirstjen-nielsen-a-top-white-house-aide-to-lead-homeland-security/2017/12/05/65337056-d9fb-11e7-b859-fb0995360725_story.html

Nick Miroff reports for the Washington Post:

“The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Kirstjen M. Nielsen as the next secretary of the Department Homeland Security, installing a close confidant of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to lead the federal agency responsible for carrying out many of President Trump’s most ambitious domestic policy plans.

Nielsen, 45, developed a reputation for fierce devotion to Kelly as his deputy at the White House, and before that as his chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, which he ran from January until July.

An attorney and cybersecurity expert, Nielsen will be the first DHS secretary with previous experience working at the agency. Her confirmation Tuesday gives the White House a DHS chief well versed in the politics and policy goals of Trump’s immigration enforcement agenda.

“By confirming Ms. Nielsen’s nomination to lead the DHS, this Senate will take a serious step to strengthen our nation’s security,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

“Ms. Nielsen will be charged with leading the department at a critical time,” he said. “With her understanding of the challenges facing our nation and her experience in prevention and preparedness, I believe that she will excel as the next Secretary of Homeland Security.”

Nielsen was confirmed 62 to 37, the narrowest margin ever to approve a DHS secretary. Though no GOP senator voted against her, the outcome reflected both intense opposition to Trump as well as doubts about Nielsen’s executive leadership experience and willingness to challenge the White House in the event of a disagreement.

Last month, a watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against Nielsen, after she used a private consultant who represents clients with millions of dollars in DHS contracts to help her navigate the confirmation process.”

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Read the full article at the link.

On paper, she appears qualified. But, so did Kelly. DHS is a mess. Those expecting any “enlightened leadership” or humanity from Nielsen are likely to be just as disappointed as they were with Kelly. I’d love to be wrong, but Nielsen is probably going to be as much of a Trump toady and Sessions parrot as her predecessor.

PWS

12-05-17

“LET THE HAITIANS STAY” — IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO!

The NY Times Editorial Board writes:

“The Temporary Protected Status program provides the sort of assistance the United States should be proud to extend to foreigners fleeing civil unrest, violence or natural disasters. Enacted by Congress in 1990, it currently offers safe and legal harbor to 437,000 people from 10 countries. Many stay for a long time, their status regularly extended because of continued turmoil in their homelands.

That, alas, is a far cry from the spirit of the Trump administration. But even President Trump’s bombastic pledges to throw up a Mexican border wall, expel illegal immigrants and bar entry to Muslims are different from expelling people who, though they may have entered the United States illegally, have been allowed to stay legally, often for many years, with solid jobs and large families, while their homelands remain unsettled or dangerous.

On Thanksgiving, of all days, the Department of Homeland Security is to announce whether it will extend the temporary protected status that was granted to about 50,000 Haitians when their country was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. Their stay has been regularly extended, but in May, John Kelly, then secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, gave them only six more months, explicitly to get ready to go home. Unless their status is extended this week, they must leave by Jan. 22.

By any reasonable measure, Haiti is not ready to take them back. The destitute country has never fully recovered from the 2010 earthquake or the cholera epidemic that followed. Last year, Hurricane Matthew added even more suffering. The country does not have the resources to absorb 50,000 people, and the money they have sent back is a critical source of income for their relatives and homeland.

Every member of Congress who represents South Florida, where most of these Haitians live, is in favor of extending their status. One of them, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Miami, is among the congressional members of both parties who have proposed legislation that would allow these immigrants to eventually apply for permanent residency, which is not possible under current rules.”

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Read the full editorial at the link.

Haitians seem to have gotten the “short end” of US immigration, refugee, and humanitarian policies over the years.

Let’s take a look at the latest Country Report on Human Rights issued by the US State Department:

“The most serious impediments to human rights involved weak democratic governance in the country worsened by the lack of an elected and functioning government; insufficient respect for the rule of law, exacerbated by a deficient judicial system; and chronic widespread corruption. Other human rights problems included significant but isolated allegations of arbitrary and unlawful killings by government officials; allegations of use of force against suspects and protesters; severe overcrowding and poor sanitation in prisons; chronic prolonged pretrial detention; an inefficient, unreliable, and inconsistent judiciary; governmental confiscation of private property without due process. There was also rape, violence, and societal discrimination against women; child abuse; allegations of social marginalization of vulnerable populations; and trafficking in persons. Violence, including gender-based violence, and crime within the remaining internally displaced persons (IDP) camps remained a problem. Although the government took steps to prosecute or punish government and law enforcement officials accused of committing abuses, credible reports persisted of officials engaging in corrupt practices, and civil society groups alleged there was widespread impunity.”

Sound like a place where 50,000 additional refugees can be safely returned and reintegrated? Preposterous!

No, the only thing that has changed here is the political motivation of the Administration; TPS — some of the most successful, efficient, and cost effective migration programs the US has ever run — has become a target of the xenophobic, White Nationalist, restrictionist wing of the GOP.

Allowing 50,000 Haitians already residing here to remain costs the US nothing — in fact their continued presence is good for the US economy and our international image. Not to mention that many of the Haitian TPS holders have relatives with legal status in the US.

On the other hand, pulling TPS and removing these individuals could have catastrophic consequences for the individuals involved, their families, and their US communities. And, it’s likely to overwhelm Haiti, a country that has already proved unable to take care of its existing population.

Anywhere but the Trump Administration, extending TPS for Haitians and others while looking for a long-term solution that would give them some type of permanent status in the US would be a “no brainer.” But, in the Trump Administration immigration and refugee policies appear to be driven largely by a policy of “no brains” — just unnecessary cruelty, wasting resources, diminishing our international humanitarian standing, and playing to the xenophobia, racism, and hate of the White Nationalists.

PWS

11-20-17

REAL DUE PROCESS MAKES A STUNNING DIFFERENCE! – NY PROJECT FINDS THAT REPRESENTED IMMIGRANTS ARE 12X MORE LIKELY TO WIN CASES!

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/9/16623906/immigration-court-lawyer

Dara Lind reports for VOX

“Omar Siagha has been in the US for 52 years. He’s a legal permanent resident with three children. He’d never been to prison, he says, before he was taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention — faced with the loss of his green card for a misdemeanor.

His brother tried to seek out lawyers who could help Siagha, but all they offered, in his words, were “high numbers and no hope” — no guarantee, in other words, that they’d be able to get him out of detention for all the money they were charging.

Then he met lawyers from Brooklyn Defender Services — part of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, an effort to guarantee legal representation for detained immigrants. They demanded only one thing of him, he recalls: “Omar, you’ve got to tell us the truth.”

But Siagha’s access to a lawyer in immigration court is the exception.

There’s no right to counsel in immigration court, which is part of the executive branch rather than the judiciary. Often, an immigrant’s only shot at legal assistance before they’re marched in front of a judge is the pro bono or legal aid clinic that happens to have attorneys at that courthouse. Those clinics have such limited resources that they try to select only the cases they think have the best shot of winning — which can be extremely difficult to ascertain in a 15-minute interview.

But advocates and local governments are trying to make cases like Siagha’s the rule, not the exception. Soon, every eligible immigrant who gets detained in one of a dozen cities — including New York, Chicago, Oakland, California, and Atlanta — will have access to a lawyer to help fight their immigration court case.

The change started at Varick Street. The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project started in New York City in 2013, guaranteeing access to counsel for detained immigrants.

According to a study released Thursday by the Vera Institute for Justice (which is now helping fund the representation efforts in the other cities, under the auspices of the Safe Cities Network), the results were stunning. With guaranteed legal representation, up to 12 times as many immigrants have been able to win their cases: either able to get legal relief from deportation or at least able to persuade ICE to drop the attempt to deport them this time.

So far, cities have been trying to protect their immigrant populations through inaction — refusing to help with certain federal requests. Giving immigrants lawyers, on the other hand, seemingly makes the system work better. And if it works, it could leave the Trump administration — which is already upset with the amount of time it takes to resolve an immigration court case — very frustrated indeed. (The Department of Justice, which runs immigration courts, didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

Immigration court is supposed to give immigrants a chance for relief. In reality … it depends.

As federal immigration enforcement has ramped up over the past 15 years, nearly every component of it has gotten a sleek bureaucratic upgrade, a boatload of money, and heightened interest and oversight from Congress. But immigration court has been overlooked as everything else has been built up around it.

The reason is simple. Chronologically, most immigrants have to go through immigration court after being apprehended and before being deported. But bureaucratically, immigration courts are run by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, housed in the Justice Department instead of by the Department of Homeland Security. And when it comes to money and bureaucratic attention, that makes all the difference in the world.

From the outside, the striking thing about immigration court is how slow it is — lawyers already report that hearings for those apprehended today are scheduled in 2021. That’s also the Trump administration’s problem with it; the federal government is sweeping up more immigrants than it did in 2016 but deporting fewer of them.

But it doesn’t seem that way from the inside, to an immigrant who doesn’t have any idea what’s going on — especially one who’s being kept in detention.

This is the scene that Peter Markowitz accustomed himself to, as a young immigration lawyer at the Varick Street courtroom in New York: “People brought in, in shackles, with their feet and hands shackled to their waist, often not understanding the language of the proceedings, having no idea of the legal norms that were controlling their fate — being deported hand over fist.”

I know he’s not exaggerating; in my first morning watching immigration court proceedings in Minneapolis in 2008, I saw at least 10 detainees get issued deportation orders before lunch. Almost none had lawyers. Sometimes the judge would pause and explain to the detainee, in plain English, what was really going on — but she didn’t have to, and sometimes she wouldn’t bother.”

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Read Dara’s full article at the link.

No lawyer = no due process. Rather than trying to hustle folks out of the country without a full and effective chance for them to be heard — in other words, true Due Process — Jeff Sessions should be changing the Immigration Court system to put less reliance on detention and detention center “kangaroo courts” and more emphasis on insuring that each individual scheduled for a hearing has fair and  reasonable access to competent counsel.

I totally agree that due process can’t be put on a “timetable,” as Sessions and his crew at the DOJ seem to want. As observed by none other than Chief Justice John Roberts — certainly no “bleeding heart liberal” —“It takes time to decide a case on appeal. Sometimes a little; sometimes a lot.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.s. 418 (2009). That’s even more true on the trial level.

I have a somewhat different take on whether representation and providing full due process will ultimately slow down the system. In the short run, represented cases might take longer than unrepresented ones (although I personally found that not invariably true). However, as noted by Chief Judge Katzmann, lack of representation both promotes wrong, and therefore unfair, results, but also inhibits the proper development of the law. (Perhaps not incidentally, I note that Chief Judge Katzmann actually took time to attend and participate in Annual Immigration Judge Training Conferences back in the day when the “powers that be” at DOJ and EOIR deemed such training to be a necessary ingredient of a fair judicial system — something that was eliminated by Sessions’s DOJ this year. Apparently, new, untrained Immigration Judges can be expected to “crank out” more final orders of removal than trained judges.)

When I was in Arlington, the vast majority of the non-detained respondents were represented, and the majority of those got some sort of relief — in other words, won their cases to some extent. As time went on, this development required the DHS to adjust its position and to stop “fully litigating” issues that experience and the law told them they were going to lose.

That, in turn, led to more efficient and focused hearings as well as decisions to drop certain types of cases as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Had that process been allowed to continue, rather than being artificially arrested by the Trump regime, it could well have eventually led to more efficient use of docket time and alternate means of disposing of cases that were “likely losers” or of no particular enforcement value to the DHS or the country at large.

By contrast, “haste makes waste” attempts to force cases through the system without representation or otherwise in violation of Due Process often led to appellate reversals, “do-overs,” and re-openings, all of which were less efficient for the system than “doing it right in the first place” would have been!

In my view (echoed at least to some extent by my colleague retired Judge Jeffrey Chase), more conscientious publication of BIA precedents granting asylum could and should have taken large blocks of asylum cases off the “full merits” dockets of Immigration Judges — either by allowing them to be “short docketed” with the use of stipulations or allowing them to be favorably disposed of by the DHS Asylum Offices.

No system that I’m aware of can fully litigate every single possible law violation. Indeed, our entire criminal justice system works overwhelmingly from “plea bargaining” that often bears little if any resemblance to “what actually happened.” Plea bargaining is a practical response that reflects the reality of our justice system and  the inherent limitations on judicial time. And effective plea bargaining requires lawyers on both sides as well as appropriate law development as guidance that can only happen when parties are represented. The absurd claim of Sessions and the DHS that the law allows them no discretion as to whether or not to bring certain categories of removal cases is just that — absurd and in direct contradiction of the rest of the U.S. justice system.

The current policies of the DHS and the DOJ, which work against Due Process, rather than seeking to take advantage of and actively promote it, are ultimately doomed to failure. The only question is how much of a mess, how many wasted resources, and how much pain and unfairness they will create in the process of failing.

Andrea Saenz, mentioned in the article is a former Judicial Law clerk at the New York Immigration Court. I have always admired her clear, concise, “accessible” legal writing — much like that of Judge Jeffrey Chase — and have told her so.

I am also proud that a number of attorneys involved in the “New York Project” and the Brooklyn Defenders are alums of the Arlington Immigration Court or my Georgetown Law RLP class — in other words, charter members of the “New Due Process Army!”  They are literally changing our system, one case and one individual life at a time. And, they and their successors will still be at it long after guys like Jeff Sessions and his restrictionist cronies and their legally and morally bankrupt philosophies have faded from the scene.

Thanks to my friend the amazing Professor Alberto Benítez from the GW Law Immigration Clinic for sending me this item!

PWS

11-10-17

KELLY TRIED TO BULLY ACTING DHS DIRECTOR ELAINE DUKE INTO TERMINATING TPS FOR HONDURANS – SHE WOULD HAVE NONE OF IT!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/09/politics/elaine-duke-hondurous-immigrants/index.html

“By: Tal Kopan, Abby Phillip and Miranda Green, CNN

White House chief of staff John Kelly pressured acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to terminate protections for tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants currently living in the US, sources tell CNN.

Duke received multiple calls from Kelly pressuring her, in Duke’s perception, to end Temporary Protected Status for Honduran immigrants on Monday’s decision day, leaving Duke “distraught and disappointed” and ready to leave the department, according to a source familiar with Duke’s thinking.

The Trump administration characterized the call as Kelly weighing in through a normal process and said Duke was committed to remaining at her post.

The Washington Post first reported on the call.

TPS is an immigration status allowed by law for certain countries experiencing dire conditions, such as a natural disaster, epidemic or war, and protects individuals from deportation and authorizes them to work in the US.

Monday was the deadline for a decision on the protected status for the roughly 86,000 Hondurans. DHS instead announced that Duke had not found there was enough information to make a formal decision, a move that triggered a six-month extension of the protected status. The administration did terminate protections for Nicaraguans, about 5,300 of which live in the US. Both populations have lived in the US for nearly two decades.

According to the source familiar with Duke’s thinking, Kelly and the administration wanted Homeland Security secretary nominee Kirstjen Nielsen to avoid questions about the issue at her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, and wanted to her confirmed quickly enough that she would be the one to make a decision on temporary protected status for Haitians, which is due at the end of the month and which will likely be ended.

According to the source familiar, Duke had decided over the weekend that she did not have enough information to end the protections for the Hondurans, which is what the department announced late Monday evening.

“I think she’s very distraught and disappointed at Kelly and the whole apparatus,” the source said. “She’s out there alone, you know? It’s like, ‘Why do I keep doing this if you guys are just going to beat me up?'”

The source confirmed that she made reference to resigning during the back-and-forth and is inclined to leave the job.

The source described the back-and-forth as a “forceful, directive conversation.”

“It was a loud conversation, it wasn’t a quiet conversation,” the source said.”

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Read the rest of the story from Tal & Co at the link. No wonder Gonzo’s DOJ is trying (unethically) to “retaliate” against CNN by abusing the anti-trust laws! Very “Third World” — a perfect term to describe the Trump Administration — corruptly using government power to reward cronies, intimidate the public, and punish opposition. Those of us who have had to deal with Third World dictatorships and kleptocracies and their carnage for decades know the characteristics all too well.

So, long time Honduran residents of the US (and their families, employers, employees, colleagues, friends, and neighbors) owe their “six month reprieve” from insane chaos totally to one career Senior Executive with the backbone and integrity (a word seldom heard in connection with the Trump Administration) to stand up to the “Trump Mafia.” Cheers for Elaine Duke!

Kelly sinks deeper into “The Swamp” every day with each new revelation of his sleazy conduct and reactionary views. I suspect that Duke’s DHS career will come to an end shortly. And, there is some reason to suspect that her permanent replacement, Kirstjen Nielsen, is being put over at DHS to  be a “yes-woman” for the Trump, Sessions, Kelly, Miller, Bannon (in absentia) White Nationalist crew operating out of the White House and the DOJ. Whether she will live up to their “low expectations,” however, is another matter entirely.

PWS

11-10-17

EUGENE ROBINSON IN WASHPOST: The Master Of Racial Identity Politics & His GOP Stooges!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-trump-is-the-master-of-abhorrent-identity-politics/2017/11/02/e675bca8-c003-11e7-959c-fe2b598d8c00_story.html?utm_term=.47797a94c8ea

Robinson writes:

“By now it should be clear that racism is a feature of the Trump administration, not a bug.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly’s hideous rewriting of Civil War history is merely the latest evidence. Can anyone really believe “the lack of an ability to compromise” caused that bloody war? Is it possible to become a four-star Marine general without knowing that the Constitution itself was structured around a compromise on slavery? Or that the first half of the 19th century saw a series of equally immoral compromises that let slavery continue?

How can a man whose son died in service of his country believe that “men . . . of good faith” is an acceptable description of military officers who committed treason and took up arms against the United States, as did Robert E. Lee and the rest of the Confederate generals? Do people of good faith hold others in cruel bondage, buy and sell them like chattel and forcibly compel their unpaid labor?

Kelly buys into the racist, revisionist, dripping-with-Spanish-moss version of history that white Southerners concocted as they were imposing the system of Jim Crow repression. Anyone ignorant enough to believe the war was about anything other than slavery should read the declarations issued by the Confederate states upon secession. Here is a quote from Mississippi’s proclamation, which is vile but at least forthright:

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Those who profited handsomely from slavery — including the growing financial markets of Wall Street and the bustling textile mills of New England — knew full well that it was wrong. They just didn’t want to give it up.

Kelly’s “good faith” historical claptrap would be bad enough in a vacuum. But it alarmingly echoes President Trump’s “many sides” analysis of the Charlottesville incident — and continues a tone that Trump set at the outset of his campaign, when he vilified Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists.

. . . .

When Trump miscalibrates and strays into explicit racism, as he did in the case of Charlottesville, there are expressions of shock and horror from fellow Republicans and even members of his Cabinet. But nobody renounces him, except senators who are about to retire. Nobody quits his administration on principle. Trump’s enablers meekly go back to the all-important business of cutting rich people’s taxes.

Making whites feel embattled and aggrieved is central to the Trump presidency. It is what makes him different from all other recent presidents, perhaps going back as far as Woodrow Wilson, who imposed Jim Crow segregation on the federal workforce. It is what makes Trump so corrosive to the national fabric.

There is one master practitioner of identity politics in the United States today. Shamefully, he lives in the White House.”

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Read Robinson’s entire op-ed at the link.

Yup! Hard to add much to this analysis! Kelly’s perverted account of the Civil War (although depressing) is not particularly surprising when you remember that this is a guy who bought into the Trump-Gonzo-Miller-Bannon racist and bogus “overrun by the immigrant hordes and Muslim terrorists” fear-mongering hook, line, and sinker, with no apparent reflection on its demonstrable falsity or stupidity.

PWS

11-05-17

THE SHRINKING GENERAL: KELLY’S IGNORANT WHITE NATIONALISM SHOWS HIM TO BE “TRUMP’S MAN” WHILE FURTHER DIMINISHING HIS IMAGE AND LEGACY!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/opinion/kelly-racist-history-slavery-compromise.html

From the NY Times Editorial Board:

“When asked in an interview broadcast on Monday about plans by a Virginia church to remove plaques honoring George Washington and Robert E. Lee, he said it showed “a lack of appreciation of history.”

“Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” he added. He said that in the Civil War “men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

With those remarks, Mr. Kelly revealed that it’s he, like the president, who lacks an appreciation of history — that he has chosen instead to embrace the mythology that white racists methodically created to hide the truth about the causes and course of the Civil War. The truth is, white Southerners went to war to destroy the United States in order to continue enslaving nearly 40 percent of the people in the region.

As for Lee’s honor, while some historians argue that he held a distaste for human bondage, he nevertheless fought ferociously to preserve slavery, which he viewed as the best arrangement that could possibly exist between whites and African-Americans. During the war, his army kidnapped free blacks, returning them to chains. After the war ended, he advised acquaintances to avoid hiring free blacks — arguing that it was against white interests to do so — and suggested that free black people be forced out of his native state, Virginia.

Mr. Kelly really gave the game away when he went on to argue that it was wrong for us to look back at the past through the lens of “what is today accepted as right and wrong.” As the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has noted, you can only contend that most people believed that slavery was right at the time of the Civil War if you exclude black people from your analysis, not to mention from your moral imagination.

If Mr. Kelly is supposed to be the administration’s disciplinarian, keeping it on message, then echoing his boss’s kind words for slaveholders and those who slaughtered American soldiers to defend them shows that a central message is, “Racists, we’re your guys.”

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Read the entire editorial at the link.

The Civil War was about preservation of slavery — the ownership of and stripping of rights and dignity from other human beings who had contributed more to the United States than all of their owners combined. There is no moral or historical ambiguity here.

Robert E. Lee was a flawed individual — neither “honorable” nor “dishonorable.” He unquestionably had talents as a leader and a military strategist. Those were offset, however, by his having betrayed his country and spent years engineering the killing of U.S. soldiers in support of a rebellion fueled by what undoubtedly is the worst cause in American history. I’d argue that even the “Tories” during the American Revolution, who were simply remaining loyal to their sovereign king and country, were more “honorable.” Even more despicably, as far as I am aware, Lee neither apologized for his actions nor did he later condemn slavery and work for the advancement and equality of African Americans during his post-war life. His legacy can be viewed as “tragic,” but certainly not “honorable.”

Moreover, Kelly’s mis-statement of history dishonors the memories of individuals like Major General George H. Thomas, Admiral David Farragut, Commanding General Winfield S. Scott, and dozens of other “southerners” who chose to honor their oaths to defend and fight for the United States of America! They are truly the “honorable ones.” It also dishonors the many African Americans and other Americans of color who currently are serving in the U.S. Marines and other branches of our military.

Obviously those of us who saw “redeeming features” in General Kelly at the time of his original appointment as DHS Secretary (where he basically parroted the inhumane, divisive, and wasteful White Nationalist “Gonzo” immigration enforcement agenda of Jeff Sessions) misjudged him. By the time his tenure in the White House ends, he will have reduced himself in stature to the point where he can depart in Trump’s hip pocket and nobody will even notice he’s gone.

PWS

11-02-17

 

HuffPost: “How John Kelly Exposed Himself As Steve Bannon Lite — He’s proven himself to be an authoritarian and a true Trump soulmate!”

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-john-kelly-exposed-himself-as-steve-bannon-lite_us_59eb7f47e4b00f08619f2adf

Michelangelo Signorile reports:

“Kelly also showed himself in that press briefing to have an authoritarian impulse, portraying the military as an institution not only be revered, but to be obeyed. As Masha Gessen noted in the New Yorker, he spoke in the “language of a military coup.” (White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would give even more credence to that observation the following day when she told a reporter who pointed to Kelly’s false statements that it’s “highly inappropriate” to question “a four-star Marine general.”)
Perhaps most interesting is that even under Kelly’s watch―and Kelly is reportedly referred to by some White House staffers as the “church lady” who polices access to Trump―the president chats with Bannon on the phone several times a week.
Kelly may not speak publicly often, nor do so with the bravado, sarcasm and edge of Bannon. His tone and demeanor are, more often, certainly much lighter and softer. But, by both his actions at DHS and his words last week, it’s clear he’s not ideologically far off from Bannon, who certainly doesn’t want Trump to be restrained.

Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter”

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Read the complete, pretty depressing, article at the link!

Certainly suggests two things: 1) “military heroes” should stay out of politics, and 2) anyone coming in contact with Trump is irretrievably diminished by the association.

PWS

10-22-17

 

AMERICAN GULAG! – NEW “SHORT” (14 Min.) FROM BRAVE NEW FILMS – “IMMIGRANT PRISONS” – TELLS SHOCKING STORIES OF SEXUAL ABUSE, DEHUMANIZATION, SLAVE LABOR, DENIAL OF MEDICAL CARE, AND DEATH IMPOSED ON CIVIL IMMIGRATION DETAINEES BY OUR GOVERNMENT! — Their Only “Crime” Is Asking America To Make Good On Our False Promise Of “Equal Justice For All!” — Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions & DHS Are Using This System To Destroy Due Process In U.S. Immigration Courts!

https://www.thenation.com/article/a-look-inside-our-abusive-immigrant-prisons/

HERE’S THE VIDEO:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjsVmKAXCBs#action=share

FROM THE NATION :

“A Look Inside Our Abusive Immigrant Prisons

Each year, the US government locks up roughly 440,000 immigrants in over 200 immigrant prisons.

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Shocking, disturbing, disgusting, infuriating, depressing — yes, this video is all of those things! Yet, incredibly, these are the “techniques” that our Government officials like Trump, Gen. Kelly, Jeff Sessions, Thomas Homan, Stephen Miller, and others use to discourage refugees from seeking legal protection under our laws and international agreements and to dissuade other immigrants, both legal and undocumented, from asserting their rights, including their right to be treated with Due Process of law under our Constitution. It’s part of the “don’t come to the US, don’t believe all that stuff about “beacon of freedom,” we’re just another “big ‘dressed up Banana Republic'” message that the White Nationalist restrictionists in the Administration and the GOP Congress are seeking to send.

Beyond that, these corrupt public officials are enriching their cronies in the so-called “private detention industry” with questionable contracts and access to what essentially is forced labor by the detainees. Do YOU really want to be part of this disgraceful and deceitful abuse of human rights?

PWS

10-18-17

 

SLATE: “Jeff Sessions Spews Nativist Lies While Explaining Why Trump Is Killing DACA!”

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/09/05/sessions_daca_speech_was_full_of_nativist_lies.html

Mark Joseph Stern writes:

“Many Republicans have made clear in recent weeks that they favor the basic policy DACA enshrined, and merely oppose its executive implementation. Sessions, who helped persuade Trump to kill the program, is not one of those Republicans. In his remarks, he directly denounced the very idea of granting any kind of amnesty to undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own. At the heart of his speech were two lies, straight from Breitbart, explaining why DACA must end:

The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.

Let’s examine these falsehoods in turn.

First: Sessions claimed that DACA “contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border.” This allegation, often touted by far-right xenophobes, is false. A study published in International Migration, a peer-reviewed academic journal, found that the surge in unaccompanied minors actually began in 2008. (DACA was announced in 2012.) The authors pointed to a host of factors contributing to this phenomenon, including escalating gang violence in Central America, as well as drug cartels’ willingness to target and recruit children in Mexico. But the study found that DACA was not one of these factors. Its authors concluded that “the claim that DACA is responsible for the increase in the flow of unaccompanied alien children is not supported by the data.”

Even without the study, it should be obvious that DACA played no role in this surge of unaccompanied minors because the theory itself makes no sense. Undocumented children who arrived in the United States following DACA’s implementation would not qualify for the program. Only those individuals who “have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007” and “were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012” could receive DACA status. Why would parents send their children to the U.S. to participate in a program in which they are not legally permitted to participate?

Second: Sessions alleged that DACA has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” This line is obviously drawn from the false narrative that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens. There is no actual evidence that DACA recipients have taken jobs from any Americans, let alone “hundreds of thousands.” There is, however, strong evidence that killing DACA will significantly damage the economy—a fact that Sessions conveniently omitted from his speech.

Once DACA is fully rescinded, its former recipients will lose their work permits (and thus their jobs) and face possible deportation. According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, about 30,000 people will lose their jobs each month as their DACA status expires. The loss of these workers could reduce the national GDP by $280 billion to $433 billion over the next decade. According to estimates by the libertarian Cato Institute, DACA’s demise will cost employers $2 billion and the federal government $60 billion. Trump’s decision to end DACA isn’t a job-saver; it’s a job-killer.

Toward the end of his speech, Sessions praised the RAISE Act, a Republican-backed bill that would tightly curtail immigration into the U.S. Sessions claimed the act would “produce enormous benefits for our country.” In reality, the measure marks an effort to return America to an older immigration regime that locked out racial and ethnic minorities. Sessions has praised the 1924 law that created this regime—a law whose chief author declared that his act was meant to end “indiscriminate acceptance of all races.” On Tuesday, Sessions revived this principle in slightly more polite language.

The attorney general’s utterly gratuitous defamation of young Latino immigrants tells you everything you need to know about the decision to kill DACA. Before Tuesday, the Trump administration seemed eager to frame its DACA decision as respect for constitutional separation of powers: Congress, it insisted, not the president, must set immigration policy. But after Sessions’ speech, it is difficult to view this move as anything other than an attempt to implement the white nationalism that Trump and Sessions campaigned on.”

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Read the full report at the link.

It shouldn’t be news by now that “Gonzo Apocalypto” is a lifelong racist and White Nationalist totally unfit to serve as Attorney General. That’s what Liz Warren and others said during the confirmation process when Sessions’s GOP “fellow travelers” were so eager to brush over his un-American record and his anti-American views.

Latinos, Asians, Blacks, Jews and other American minorities need to unite with those of us who don’t want a return to the “Jim Crow” American South of the earlier 20th Century (which spawned the likes of Sessions and where the white GOP population is still racially and culturally tone deaf) behind some good candidates, get out the vote, and throw the White Nationalists and their GOP enablers and apologists (guys like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and most of the rest of the today’s GOP legislators who take responsibility for nothing while encouraging the Trump Administration’s outrageous conduct by refusing to join with Congressional Democrats to “just say no'”) out of office at the ballot box.  Otherwise, there won’t be an America in the future. We’ve got to stop letting “the “30%” who either never knew or have forgotten what it means to be a real American run roughshod over our country and particularly our kids. It’s going to be a long four years. Feels like it already.

PWS

09-05-17

JASON DZUBOW IN THE ASYLUMIST: TRUMP’S 101 YEAR PLAN FOR REMOVALS! — “Malevolence tempered by incompetence!”

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/07/27/president-trumps-101-year-deportation-plan/

Jason writes:

“Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong had their five-year plans. Nikita Khrushchev had his seven-year plan. And now President Trump has a 101-year plan. That’s how long it will take to deport the country’s 11 million undocumented residents if current trends continue.

Happy Birthday! Now, get the hell out of my country!

The most recent statistics on case completions in Immigration Court show that the Trump Administration has issued an average of 8,996 removal (deportation) orders per month between February and June 2017 (and 11,000,000 divided by 8,996 cases/month = 1,222.8 months, or 101.9 years). That’s up from 6,913 during the same period last year, but still well-below the peak period during the early days of the Obama Administration, when courts were issuing 13,500 removal orders each month.

Of course, the Trump Administration has indicated that it wants to ramp up deportations, and to that end, the Executive Office for Immigration Review or EOIR–the office that oversees the nation’s Immigration Courts–plans to hire more Immigration Judges (“IJs”). Indeed, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the Attorney General (at least for now) announced that EOIR would hire 50 more judges this year and 75 next year.

Assuming EOIR can find 125 new IJs, and also assuming that no currently-serving judges retire (a big assumption given that something like 50% of our country’s IJs are eligible to retire), then EOIR will go from 250 IJs to 375. So instead of 101 years to deport the nation’s 11 million undocumented residents, it will only take 68 years (assuming that no new people enter the U.S. illegally or overstay their visas, and assuming my math is correct–more big assumptions).

But frankly, I’m doubtful that 68 years–or even 101 years–is realistic. It’s partly that more people are entering the population of “illegals” all the time, and so even as the government chips away at the 11,000,000 figure, more people are joining that club, so to speak. Worse, from the federal government’s point of view, there is not enough of a national consensus to deport so many people, and there is significant legal resistance to Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda.

In addition to all this, there is the Trump Administration’s modus operandi, which is best characterized as malevolence tempered by incompetence. One statistic buried in the recent deportation numbers illustrates this point. In March 2017, judges issued 10,110 removal orders. A few months later, in June, judges issued 8,919 removal orders.

This means that the number of deportation orders dropped by 1,191 or about 11.8%. How can this be? In a word: Incompetence (I suppose if I wanted to be more generous—which I don’t—I could say, Inexperience). The Trump Administration has no idea how to run the government and their failure in the immigration realm is but one example.

There are at least a couple ways the Administration’s incompetence has manifested itself at EOIR.

One is in the distribution of judges. It makes sense to send IJs where they are needed. But that’s not exactly what is happening. Maybe it’s just opening night jitters for the new leadership at EOIR. Maybe they’ll find their feet and get organized. But so far, it seems EOIR is sending judges to the border, where they are underutilized. While this may have the appearance of action (which may be good enough for this Administration), the effect—as revealed in the statistical data—is that fewer people are actually being deported.

As I wrote previously, the new Acting Director of EOIR has essentially no management experience, and it’s still unclear whether he is receiving the support he needs, or whether his leadership team has the institutional memory to navigate the EOIR bureaucracy. Perhaps this is part of the reason for the inefficient use of judicial resources.

Another reason may be that shifting judges around is not as easy as moving pieces on a chess board. The IJs have families, homes, and ties to their communities. Not to mention a union to protect them (or try to protect them) from management. And it doesn’t help that many Immigration Courts are located in places that you wouldn’t really want to live, if you had a choice. So getting judges to where you need them, and keeping them there for long enough to make a difference, is not so easy.

A second way the Trump Administration has sabotaged itself is related to prosecutorial discretion or PD. In the pre-Trump era, DHS attorneys (the “prosecutors” in Immigration Court) had discretion to administratively close cases that were not a priority. This allowed DHS to focus on people who they wanted to deport: Criminals, human rights abusers, people perceived as a threat to national security. In other words, “Bad Hombres.” Now, PD is essentially gone. By the end of the Obama Administration, 2,400 cases per month were being closed through PD. Since President Trump came to office, the average is less than 100 PD cases per month. The result was predictable: DHS can’t prioritize cases and IJs are having a harder time managing their dockets. In essence, if everyone is a deportation priority, no one is a deportation priority.

Perhaps the Trump Administration hopes to “fix” these problems by making it easier to deport people. The Administration has floated the idea of reducing due process protections for non-citizens. Specifically, they are considering expanding the use of expedited removal, which is a way to bypass Immigration Courts for certain aliens who have been in the U.S. for less than 90 days. But most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants have been here much longer than that, and so they would not be affected. Also, expansion of expedited removal would presumably trigger legal challenges, which may make it difficult to implement.

Another “fix” is to prevent people from coming here in the first place. Build the wall. Deny visas to people overseas. Scare potential immigrants so they stay away. Illegally turn away asylum seekers at the border. Certainly, all this will reduce the number of people coming to America. But the cost will be high. Foreign tourists, students, and business people add many billions to our economy. Foreign scholars, scientists, artists, and other immigrants contribute to our country’s strength. Whether the U.S. is willing to forfeit the benefits of the global economy in order to restrict some people from coming or staying here unlawfully, I do not know. But the forces driving migration are powerful, and so I have real doubts that Mr. Trump’s efforts will have more than a marginal impact, especially over the long run. And even if he could stop the flow entirely, it still leaves 11 million people who are already here.

There is an obvious alternative to Mr. Trump’s plan. Instead of wasting billions of dollars, harming our economy, and ripping millions of families apart, why not move towards a broad legalization for those who are here? Focus on deporting criminals and other “bad hombres,” and leave hard-working immigrants in peace. Sadly, this is not the path we are on. And so, sometime in 2118, perhaps our country will finally say adieu to its last undocumented resident.”

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Amen!

PWS

08-14-17

 

NOLAN RAPPAPORT IN THE HILL: RAISE ACT COULD BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DREAMERS!

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/346367-how-trumps-legal-immigration-cuts-could-be-a-blessing-to

Nolan writes:

“Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) recently introduced a revised version of the bill addressing legal immigration into the United States, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act.  It is supposed to spur economic growth and raise working Americans’ wages by giving priority to the best-skilled immigrants from around the world and reducing overall immigration by half.

Supporters include President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, andActing Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke.

Nevertheless, it will not reach the president’s desk without support from influential Democratic congressmen, which will be difficult to get and won’t be free.
According to Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the RAISE Act “and the bear hug by the Bannon/Kelly/Trump White House — betrays the deep animosity towards legal immigration that has become the central, unifying tenet of the Republican Party.”

. . . .

Suggestions for a compromise.

The main price for Gutierrez’s support would be to establish a DREAM Act program that would be based on an appropriate merit-based point system.

The number of undocumented aliens who might benefit from a dream act can range from 2.5 to 3.3 million.  It isn’t likely that an agreement will be reached if Gutierrez insists on a number in that range.

Concessions have to be made to achieve an acceptable compromise, and allowing termination of the Visa Waiver Program would be a reasonable choice.  An alternative would be to keep the program as is but distribute the visas on a merit point system instead of using a lottery.

The refugee provision is problematic, but the president has sole authority to determine the number of admissions and the current president supports the 50,000 cap. The Democrats will try to eliminate this cap or raise it if they can’t eliminate it, but this should not be a deal breaker if the other issues are worked out satisfactorily.

The restrictions on family-based immigration, however, are another matter.  They should be modified.  Cotton and Purdue doomed their bill to failure with these provisions.  They hurt constituents on both sides of the aisle.

Moreover, they do not make any sense.  What does national interest mean if the family-unification needs of citizens and legal permanent residents don’t count?

Some advocates strongly opposes the point system because they think it fails to take into account the needs of U.S. businesses, but their concern is based on the point criterion in the current version of the RAISE Act, which has not been subjected to any hearings or markups yet.  If the senators and Gutierrez cannot work out a compromise that protects the needs of U.S. businesses, there will be plenty of time to make additional changes.

This isn’t just about moving these bills through congress.  According to recent Gallup polls, “Americans view Congress relatively poorly, with job approval ratings of the institution below 30% since October 2009.”

And the current Republican-controlled congress is not turning this around.  Reaching an agreement with the Democrats on an immigration reform bill that includes a DREAM Act legalization program would be a good place to start.”

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Go over to The Hill at the above link to read Nolan’s complete article.

PWS

08-13-17

 

WASHPOST: TRUMP/SESSIONS/KELLY “GONZO” IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT DEPORTS THE “GOOD GUYS!” — WHY? — BECAUSE THEY CAN!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-administration-is-deporting-a-lot-of-good-people/2017/08/12/42c6bb96-7eba-11e7-a669-b400c5c7e1cc_story.html?utm_term=.8d4182d7737e

August 12 at 2:12 PM

PRESIDENT TRUMP vowed to deport “bad hombres” — undocumented immigrants with criminal records whose presence in this country is an unquestioned burden and menace. Instead, his administration has been content to seize and expel a teenage soccer star and his brother in suburban Maryland; a mother of three in Michigan who had spent 20 years in the United States; and, now in detention pending removal, a 43-year-old janitor at MIT whose three small children are U.S. citizens and whose mother, a permanent resident, planned to sponsor him for a green card next year.

None of them had criminal records. Both the Michigan mother and the MIT janitor ran their own businesses, paying taxes and contributing to the economy. All had active, honorable lives deeply entwined with their communities. Deporting them is not only inhumane but also senseless.

So why do it? Possibly, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is simply plucking the low-hanging fruit that crosses agents’ path. Possibly, the agency is trying to please the boss in the Oval Office by juicing deportation numbers with the easiest targets of opportunity.”

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Read the full editorial at the link.

Irrational enforcement against the most vulnerable makes weak leaders and bullies feel a false sense of strength, empowerment, and “being in charge.”

PWS

08-13-17

 

 

DEPORTATIONS RISE UNDER TRUMP, BUT BORDER CROSSINGS ALSO CONTINUE TO TICK UPWARDS! — Read My OpEssay: “Due Process Disaster Is Brewing In The U.S. Immigration Courts — Is Anybody Paying Attention?”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/deportation-orders-up-under-trump-fewer-prevail-in-immigration-court/2017/08/08/d3f0a6a6-7c74-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.848b8a83c250&wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

Maria Sacchetti reports in the Washington Post:

“Federal immigration courts ordered 57,069 people to leave the United States in the first six months of the Trump administration, up nearly 31 percent over the same period last year, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Additionally, 16,058 people prevailed in their immigration cases, or had them closed, allowing them to stay in the United States, according to the data, which tallied orders issued from Feb. 1 to July 31. That total marked a 20.7 percent drop from the 20,255 immigrants who prevailed at the same time last year.

In a news release, the Justice Department said the notoriously backlogged court system is making a return to the “rule of law” under President Trump, who has vowed to speed deportations. But officials did not say how many of the orders were issued in absentia, meaning to immigrants who did not attend their hearings and therefore could not immediately be deported.

The Washington Post reported last week that thousands of immigrants, some seeking protection from violence in their homelands, have missed their court dates in recent years, often because they did not know about them or were afraid to show up. Advocates for immigrants have also raised concern about the lack of legal aid for immigrants, especially for those in immigration jails.

Last month, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges said courts are severely understaffed, with about 300 immigration judges juggling a quickly rising caseload. An estimated 600,000 cases are pending nationwide.

United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led organization, protested ICE raids at Lafayette Square near the White House in February. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Unlike the traditional federal court system, which is independent of the executive branch of government, immigration courts are administered by the Justice Department.

That agency said that from Feb. 1 to July 31, judges issued 73,127 final immigration decisions, an increase of 14.5 percent over the same period in 2016.

Of those decisions, 49,983 were deportation orders, an increase of nearly 28 percent from the same period in 2016. The rest were orders to leave the United States voluntarily, a process by which immigrants generally face fewer barriers if they wish to apply to return to the United States in the future.

Federal officials attributed the increase in case completions to Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order dispatching more than 100 immigration judges to immigration jails across the country. More than 90 percent of cases heard in jails have led to orders to leave the United States. The department has also hired 54 new judges to work in immigration courts since Trump took office. More are being hired every month.

Dana Leigh Marks, an immigration judge based in San Francisco who heads the national association, wrote in Newsday last month that immigration courts should be separated from the Justice Department to ensure “judicial independence and protection from political influences.”

“More skilled court management, provided by experienced court administrators, rather than a law enforcement agency with priorities other than fairness and efficiency, would greatly enhance our ability to complete the tasks,” she wrote. “For example, cases would not be docketed to make political statements or serve as a show of force by the U.S. government.”

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Due Process Disaster Is Brewing In The U.S. Immigration Courts — Is Anybody Paying Attention? 

by Paul Wickham Schmidt

U.S. Immigration Judge (Retired)

Meanwhile, according to CQ Roll Call, arrests of undocumented individuals at the Southern Border rose 13.1% in July, the second consecutive monthly increase. Overall, DHS’s CBP reports arresting more family units and fewer unaccompanied children during the first 10 months of FY 2017.

While CBP “fobs off” the increases as “seasonal,” they do cast some doubt on whether the Trump Administration’s “send ’em all back asap” enforcement approach is really going to decrease undocumented migration in the long run. It might simply be a case of professional human smuggling operations revising their methods and raising their prices to adjust to higher risk factors and the “market” taking time to adjust to the changing practices and price increases. Moreover, to date, neither increases in removal orders, some as noted by Horwitz undoubtedly “in absentia orders” issued without full due process protections, nor increases in the number of U.S. Immigration Judges has stopped the growth of the backlog of cases before the U.S. Immigration Courts, currently estimated at more than 610,000 pending cases!

Apparently, under the Trump/Sessions regime success in the U.S. Immigration Court System is no longer measured by improvements in due process and fairness or by insuring that the individuals coming before the court get the protections and relief to which they are entitled under the law. Nope! The “rule of law” in Immigration Court now appears synonymous with turning that Court System into a “deportation mill” — just another whistle stop on the “deportation express.”

In other words, we’ve now come “full circle” since 1983. Then, EOIR was created to get the Immigration Courts out of INS to enhance due process and overcome a public perception that the courts were merely functioning as adjuncts of INS enforcement. The U.S. Immigration Courts and EOIR essentially have been “recaptured” by DHS  enforcement.

EOIR has once again become an insulated “inbred” agency. Judicial appointments are made by DOJ politicos almost exclusively from the ranks of government attorneys, primarily DHS and DOJ prosecutors, just like when the “Legacy INS” ran the courts. Dockets are out of control, management is haphazard, technology is outdated and inadequate, and clerical staffing shortages are chronic. Staffing and docketing priorities are designed to accommodate enforcement priorities and to maximize removals, rather than to promote due process and fairness. Training and attention to the real “rule of law” are afterthoughts. Public service is a dirty word.

Morale among those at EOIR who care about the due process judicial mission has been steadily declining even as already sky-high stress levels continue to ratchet up. Numbers and removals have replaced fairness, professionalism, and unbiased decision making as objectives.

There are rumors that the Immigration Courts are going to be taken out of the DOJ and “reintegrated” into DHS to reflect their “true function” as part of the deportation mechanism. I think it’s unlikely unless Sessions becomes the new Secretary of DHS. But, really, what difference would it make? Sessions basically “reassumed” the immigration enforcement functions that once were in the Attorney General’s portfolio but were sent over to DHS when it was created after 9-11. Kelly merely signed off and nodded agreement to what Sessions told him to do.

A move by the DOJ apparently is afoot to revamp the judicial “evaluation system” to rate Immigration Judges more like “lower level DOJ attorneys” rather than judicial officials exercising independent judgment. Such bureaucratic ratings systems often elevate “productivity” above quality, value “following agency priorities” over exercising independent judgment, and serve to give the politicos at the DOJ more control and leverage over the day to day functioning of what is supposed to be a judiciary free from political influence or intimidation. Moreover, such ratings are often prepared by “supervisory judges” many of whom hear no cases and most of whom have little daily contact with the Immigration  Judges they nominally “supervise.” In a well-functioning judicial system, the local “Chief Judge” is a leader and problem solver, not a “supervisor” of her or his peers.

At this point, the Trump Administration clearly has no interest in fixing the festering problems in the U.S. Immigration Courts; they are determined to make things worse. While there is some bipartisan support in Congress for an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court, to date it hasn’t coalesced into any specific, politically viable legislation.

That basically leaves it to the Article III Federal Courts to decide whether or not to fix the Immigration Courts. One possibility is that they will decide that it is too much: just forget due process for foreign nationals, rubber stamp the removal orders, stay above the fray, and become another “whistle stop on the deportation express.”

A more optimistic possibility is that they will draw the line on the due process nightmare in the U.S. Immigration Courts being promoted by the Administration. But, that will make the Article III Courts a major “track block” on the deportation express. The trains will derail and pile up on the doorstep, and the Article III Courts can count on little if any help or resources from Congress in untangling the mess and getting things back on track. Understandably, from a practical if not a legal point of view, some Article III Judges aren’t going to want to go there.

One thing is certain — things can’t continue they way they are going now. Something has got to give! And, when it does, the Article III Courts will be forced to do some self-examination and decide whether they are going to be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Are life-tenured Article III judgeships in essence about securing life sinecures, or about taking a perhaps unpopular and labor intensive stand for Constitutional Due Process for all, even the weakest and most vulnerable among us? We’ll soon find out!

PWS

08-09-17

SARAH POSNER IN WASHPOST: Trump, Base, White Nationalist Agenda Virtually Grarantee Kelly’s Failure, Demise!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/08/07/john-kelly-is-doomed-to-fail-the-reason-why-isnt-what-you-think/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-d:homepage/story&utm_term=.ed3335ab0013

Posner writes:

“But that’s not the real reason he cannot succeed. Rather, it’s because Trump’s base, and in particular, his media and social media base, thrives on West Wing dysfunction that is rooted in what is portrayed as an existential battle between Trump’s “nationalist” staff and advisers, and the dreaded “globalists” in his midst. Because Trump has displayed no real interest in taming that beast, and in fact seems to relish feeding it, any effort by Kelly to slap Trump’s hand away from Twitter will have little impact on the persistent unrest roiling the White House.”

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Read the complete op-ed at the link. I have been predicting for some time now that Kelly’s association with the congenital liar and bully Trump and his gonzo White Nationalist agenda will lead to a badly tarnished reputation.

We’ll see. But seems to me that Posner has it pegged about right (or, perhaps, “alt right”).

PWS

08-08-17

Continue reading SARAH POSNER IN WASHPOST: Trump, Base, White Nationalist Agenda Virtually Grarantee Kelly’s Failure, Demise!