U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith Halts Iraqi Removals

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-iraqi-deportations-20170724-story.html

Melissa Etehad reports in the LA Times:

“A federal judge in Detroit has temporarily halted the deportations of more than 1,400 Iraqi immigrants, ruling that they deserve to have their cases play out in court because of the risk that they could be targeted for persecution in Iraq.

In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said the immigrants faced a “compelling confluence of extraordinary circumstances” and that the government’s attempt to rush their deportations was a violation of their rights.

Many of the Iraqis arrived in the U.S. as children as far back as the 1980s and have few ties to their native country. The majority are members of religious or ethnic minorities such as Chaldean Christians or Kurds, who have been subjected to torture and other forms of repression in Iraq.

They face deportation because they had overstayed visas or committed crimes, typically misdemeanors such as driving under the influence of alcohol.

They had been allowed to stay in the U.S. because for decades Iraq had refused to take them back. But in March, the Trump administration reached a deal with the Iraqi government to accept them and in June began rounding them up in immigration raids.

As of July 1, 234 had been arrested and detained around the country, including large numbers in Detroit, home to thousands of Chaldean Christians.

Returning the immigrants to Iraq would in some cases be akin to issuing a death sentence, according to civil rights and immigrant rights groups that filed a lawsuit in Detroit federal court in late June to block deportations of those immigrants who had been living in Detroit.

Many had been transferred multiple times to various detention facilities, making it harder for them to get legal representation and prepare their cases, advocates said.”

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Another defeat for the Trump Administration’s gonzo enforcement agenda.

PWS

07-25-17

NOT ALL DHS AGENTS ON BOARD WITH GONZO ENFORCEMENT POLICIES — Current Atmosphere Breeds Disrespect For Migrants! — Detaining Kids “Because We Can” — Consciously and Irresponsibly Overloading The U.S. Immigration Courts “Because We Can” — “Targeting The Most Vulnerable People, Not The Worst!”

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-veteran-ice-agent-disillusioned-with-the-trump-era-speaks-out

Jonathan Blitzer writes in the The New Yorker:

“The agent went on, “The whole idea is targeting kids. I know that technically they meet the legal definition of being adults. Fine. But if they were my kids travelling in a foreign country, I wouldn’t be O.K. with this. We’re not doing what we tell people we do. If you look next month, or at the end of this month, at the people in custody, it’s people who’ve been here for years. They’re supposed to be in high school.”
The agent was especially concerned about a new policy that allows ice to investigate cases of immigrants who may have paid smugglers to bring their children or relatives into the country. ice considers these family members guilty of placing children “directly in harm’s way,” as one spokeswoman recently put it, and the agency will hold them “accountable for their role in these conspiracies.” According to ice, these measures will help combat “a constant humanitarian threat,” but the agent said that rationale was just a pretext to increase arrests and eventually deport more people. “We seem to be targeting the most vulnerable people, not the worst.” The agent also believes that the policy will make it harder for the government to handle unaccompanied children who show up at the border. “You’re going to have kids stuck in detention because parents are too scared of being prosecuted to want to pick them up!” the agent said.
U.S. immigration courts are facing a backlog of half a million cases, with only a limited number of judges available to hear them and issue rulings. “We still have to make decisions based on a responsible use of the government’s resources—you can’t lock everybody up,” the agent said. “We’re putting more people into that overburdened system just because we can. There’s just this school of thought that, well, we can do what we want.”
Before this year, the agent had never spoken to the media. “I have a couple of colleagues that I can kind of talk to, but not many,” the agent said. “This has been a difficult year for many of us.” These people, not just at ice but also at other federal agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, are “trying to figure out how to minimize the damage.” It isn’t clear what, exactly, they can do under the circumstances. “Immigration is a pendulum—it swings to the left sometimes, or it swings to the right,” the agent told me last week. “But there was a normal range. Now people are bringing their own opinions into work.” In the agent’s view, ice is a changed agency.
“I like predictability,” the agent said. “I like being able to go into work and have faith in my senior managers and the Administration, and to know that, regardless of their political views, at the end of the day they’re going to do something that’s appropriate. I don’t feel that way anymore.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

Sure sounds like the “Gonzo Apocalypto” White Nationalist agenda with a extra touch of arrogance, cruelty, and inhumanity thrown in. Nice “culture of hate” that Kelly is apparently building over at DHS. The reputation of Gen. Kelly who is permitting this gross abuse of authority and resources on his watch should continue to deteriorate.

PWS

07-25-17

BETH FERTIG AT NPR: “ADR” Moves Into High Gear, Devastating U.S. Immigration Courts, As Half Of NY Immigration Court “Goes Dark” — U.S. Immigration Judges Become Adjuncts Of DHS Border Enforcement Program — Dockets At Interior Courts “Orbited Into Never-Never Land!”

ADR = “Aimless Docket Reshuffling”

http://www.wnyc.org/story/even-more-immigration-judges-are-reassigned-trumps-crackdown-border/

Beth reports for WNYC/NPR:

“In its crackdown on illegal immigration, the Trump administration is moving an increasing number of immigration judges closer to the border with Mexico. The practice is so widespread that half of New York City’s 30 immigration judges have been temporarily reassigned for two-to-four weeks at a time between early April and July.

The judges have been sent to hear deportation cases in Louisiana, California, New Mexico and Texas, along with Elizabeth, New Jersey, where there’s a detention center. In June, WNYC reported that at least eight of New York City’s immigration judges have been temporarily moved to Texas and Louisiana since March. New information obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request revealed the number to be much higher.

All this reshuffling causes cases to get delayed for months. And New York City’s immigration court already has a backlog of more than 80,000 cases. People wait an average of more than two years go to court to fight against deportation. Some might welcome a prolonged wait. But immigration lawyer Edain Butterfield said her clients get anxious because they’re ready to make their case, when they suddenly learn their judge has had to postpone.

“They don’t know if their judge is going to stay on their case,” she said. “They sometimes have to get new documents, ask for another day off from work, ask their family to take another day off from work.”

David Wilkins, an attorney with Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn, said he’s representing a woman seeking asylum whose hearing was recently postponed almost a year — until the summer of 2018. He said she left her children in her home country back in 2012 because of domestic abuse. “It’s extremely difficult for her,” he said. “She’s been separated from her family for so long to sort of live with the constant uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen with her immigration proceeding.”

Judges from New York City aren’t the only ones being moved. According to the latest data obtained by WNYC, 128 of the nation’s approximately 325 immigration judges have been shuffled to other locations between early April and the middle of July. Many of those judges come from Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. These assignments, known as details, last for two or four weeks. Some judges have been shifted around multiple times.

The data does not include all judges assigned to hear cases in other locations by video teleconference. A couple of judges in New York City were seeing cases by video at a Texas detention center in May and June.

The reassignments are expected to continue until early 2018, but the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the immigration courts, would not reveal the schedule beyond July.

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all adults crossing the Mexican border would be sent to detention. To support the mission, he said, the Department of Justice had “already surged 25 immigration judges to detention centers along the border.”

Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said her union remains very concerned about the situation.

“The temporary assignment of judges to border courts creates increasing backlogs in the dockets they leave behind in their home courts and may not be conducive to the overall reduction of our burgeoning caseload.”

Nationally, the backlog has surged to more than 600,000 cases and observers believe that number is growing partly because of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Moving judges south might sound counterintuitive because illegal border crossings have actually dropped since President Trump took office. But Bryan Johnson, an immigration lawyer on Long Island, has a theory about why more judges are needed down south.

“The people that are deported will be deported in less time,” he explained. “And that is the message they want to send people in the home countries from where the migrants come from.”

There is no guaranteed right to counsel in immigration court, and experts said there are few low-cost immigration attorneys near the border — making it even easier to swiftly deport someone because they are not likely to have representation.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review did not respond to a request for comment. However, the agency has said it is hiring more judges.”

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Get the accompanying audio/video report at the link.

David Wilkins from the Central American Legal Defense Center in Brooklyn, quoted in Beth’s article, is one of my former Georgetown Law Refugee Law & Policy students, a former CALS Asylum Clinic participant, and a former Legal Intern at the Arlington Immigration Court. David was also an Immigrant Justice Crops fellow. He is a “charter member” of the “New Due Process Army.” Congratulations David, we’re all proud of what you are doing!

Attorney Bryan Johnson simply restates the obvious. Under A.G. Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, the U.S. Immigration Courts are once again being used as an arm of DHS Enforcement rather than a protector and dispenser of constitutional due process. Nobody in their right mind seriously thinks that Sessions is “surging” Immigration Judges to the border to grant more bonds, reverse more “credible fear” and “reasonable fear” denials, or grant more asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the CAT.

No, the “surge” program is clearly all about detention, coercion, denial, deportation and sending a “don’t come, we don’t want you” message to folks living in fear and danger in countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America. In other words, you might as well cooperate with, support, and/or join the gangs and narco-traffickers — the U.S. has absolutely no intention of saving your life! Nice message!

Don’t be too surprised when multinational gangs and narco-traffickers eventually seize political power in Central America (they have already infiltrated or compromised many government functions). And, we will have sent away the very folks who might have helped us stem the tide. At the same time, we are destroying the last vestiges of due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts, leaving hundreds of thousands of cases and lives “up in the air” and our justice system without a fair and effective mechanism for deciding and reviewing immigration cases. At some point, somebody is going to have to fix this mess. But, you can be sure it won’t be the Trump (“We Don’t Take Responsibility For Nothin'”) Administration.

PWS

07-24-17

 

NORTHERN VIRGINIA PASTOR CAUGHT UP IN DHS WEB OF CRUEL, INDISCRIMINATE, & WASTEFUL ENFORCEMENT — WHILE SON FIGHTS FOR OUR COUNTRY IN AIR FORCE, GEN. KELLY & CO. PLAN TO SHOW APPRECIATION BY DEPORTING HIS FATHER!

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/ICE-Detains-Northern-Virginia-Pastor-435897973.html

NBC Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports:

“Faith groups around the Commonwealth are mobilizing to support a Northern Virginia pastor who may soon be deported.

Pastor Juan Gutierrez typically leads a small service of about 10 to 20 members at his home every Saturday in Dumfries, Virginia. But on Saturday, that number is expected to grow for a day-long vigil in support of his family.

Gutierrez went to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office for his usual check-in in late June, when he was suddenly taken into custody.

“I say why? He do everything like the rules say,” Gutierrez’s wife Aurelia Sicha said. “I was really sure surprised. I started to cry.”

Gutierrez came to the U.S. from Peru in 2002 with a visa to play music. Sicha, who is a U.S. citizen, became pregnant and he stayed to help care for their family.

ICE is now enforcing an order of removal Gutierrez received in 2012.

“I understand my husband broke the rules of this country because he’s here without the visa, but he’s a good man. Never he do [anything] wrong. He’s a pastor. He’s a preacher. The word of God,” Sicha said.

An ICE official confirmed to News4 that Gutierrez does not have a criminal record, writing in a statement, “As DHS Secretary Kelly and Acting ICE Director Homan have stated repeatedly, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats; however, no class or category of alien in the United States is exempt from arrest or removal.”

The couple has a son in the U.S. Air Force and a 13-year-old daughter.”

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See Julie’s video report, which also appeared on NBC 4 locally at the link.

I have pointed out that Kelly’s once sterling reputation will end up in the trash bin unless he starts showing some backbone and standing up to the arbitrary and wasteful enforcement program espoused by the Trump White Nationalists and some (but not all) of his own agents. Good law enforcement is not just an exercise in keeping the line agents happy, any more than leading a successful military operation is just about keeping the troops happy. It’s about using limited resources wisely, humanely, and with some rational purpose in mind to achieve some legitimate strategic goal. Arbitrarily enforcing a broken and unworkable law does none of the foregoing. So far, Kelly has come up disturbingly short on almost all accounts.

PWS

07-21-17

 

IN IMMIGRATION CIRCLES, THE ATLANTA COURT IS KNOWN AS “WHERE DUE PROCESS GOES TO DIE” –WILL IT BE THE “NEW NORM?” — The Asylumist, Jason Dzubow, Says “We’re All In Atlanta Now!”

We’re All in Atlanta Now
by JASON DZUBOW on JULY 19, 2017
Atlanta, Georgia is generally considered to have the most difficult Immigration Court in the country. Now, the Trump Administration has tapped attorneys from the Atlanta Office of the Chief Counsel (the “prosecutors” in Immigration Court) to take charge of the Immigration Courts and the “prosecutors” offices for the entire United States. A third Atlanta attorney has been appointed to a key policy-making position at the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

 

If you’re feeling down about Georgia exports, here’s something to love.
Before we get to those attorneys, let’s first talk about Atlanta. The average grant rate for asylum cases across the U.S. is just under 50%. The asylum grant rate at the Atlanta Immigration Court is less than 9%. Also, immigrant advocates have frequently complained about due process issues and the treatment of litigants in the Atlanta court.

It’s true that the Office of the Chief Counsel (“OCC”) and the Immigration Court are independent of each other, but I think we can safely glean a few things about the Atlanta OCC from what we know of the Court.

For one, since Immigration Judges will usually grant cases where the parties agree on relief, it seems likely that OCC attorneys in Atlanta rarely determine that a case should be approved for asylum. Of course, we do not know about the quality of the asylum cases in Atlanta—maybe they are unusually weak (a real possibility since sophisticated litigants will avoid Atlanta due to its low grant rate). But it would be strange indeed if almost no cases there meet the relatively low threshold required for asylum. The fact that the OCC is not stipulating to asylum on occasion indicates that they are taking a very hard line against such cases (this contrasts with many other jurisdictions, where the local OCCs regularly conclude that applicants qualify for asylum). The job of OCC attorneys is not merely to deport as many people as possible; they are supposed to do justice. This means agreeing to relief where it is appropriate. The low grant rate in Atlanta may indicate that OCC lawyers there are prioritizing “winning” over doing justice, and ideology above the law—all worrying signs as these attorneys move into national leadership positions.

Second, whether the asylum cases in Atlanta are strong or weak, I suspect that the high denial rate there colors the view of the OCC attorneys. If those attorneys believe that over 90% of asylum seekers are unworthy of relief—either because they do not meet the requirements for asylum or because they are lying about their claims—it seems likely that these attorneys will develop a jaundiced view of such cases, and maybe of immigrants in general.

Finally, there exists at least one instance of the Atlanta OCC taking an overly-aggressive position in a case involving alleged racial profiling by ICE (if OCC attorneys are the prosecutors, ICE officers are the police). In that case, an Immigration Judge in Atlanta ordered the OCC to produce an ICE agent accused of racial profiling. The OCC refused to produce the agent, and ultimately, the Judge ruled that the agents had engaged in “egregious” racial profiling and the OCC attorneys had committed “willful misconduct” by refusing to bring the agents to court. While the three OCC attorneys at issue here had left the Atlanta office by the time of this case, the OCC’s position again points to an agency willing to put “winning” ahead of justice.

With this background in mind, let’s turn to the alumnus of the Atlanta OCC who will be taking charge of our immigration system.

Tracy Short – ICE Principal Legal Advisor: Tracy Short is the new Principal Legal Advisor for ICE. In that capacity, he “oversees the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, the largest legal program within the Department of Homeland Security, comprised of more than 1,100 attorneys and 300 support professionals throughout the United States.” These are the attorneys who serve as “prosecutors” in Immigration Court, among their other tasks. According to his ICE biography, “From 2009 to 2015, Mr. Short served as the Deputy Chief Counsel in the ICE Atlanta Office of Chief Counsel.” Mr. Short also served on the committee staff for Congressman Bob Goodlatte, the staunch anti-immigration representative from Virginia.

While Mr. Short has impressive litigation experience, he has almost no management experience (as Deputy Chief Counsel, he might have supervised a few dozen people, at most). But now, under the Trump Administration, he is overseeing more than 1,400 lawyers and staff. Like his fellow veterans of the Atlanta OCC, I suspect he was chosen more for his ideological views than for his management background.

James McHenry – Acting Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”): In a move characterized as “unusual” by retired Immigration Judge and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt, the Attorney General has appointed James McHenry as the new Acting Director of EOIR, the office that oversees the nation’s immigration court system. Judge Schmidt notes that, “While Judge McHenry has stellar academic and professional credentials, and is an ‘EOIR vet,’ having served as a Judicial Law Clerk/Attorney Adviser in the Buffalo and Baltimore Immigration Courts, it is unusual in my experience for the acting head of EOIR to come from outside the ranks of current or former members of the Senior Executive Service, since it is a major executive job within the DOJ.” In other words, while Judge McHenry has had significant legal experience, he has very little leadership experience, especially at EOIR.

Indeed, Judge Schmidt’s characterization of Judge McHenry as an “EOIR vet” seems overly generous. He served as a Judicial Law Clerk, which is basically a one or two year gig for new law school graduates working as an assistant to Immigration Judges (I myself was a JLC back in the prediluvian era) and he has a few months experience as an Administrative Law Judge for the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, an office at EOIR that reviews certain employment cases involving immigrants.

Like Mr. Short, Judge McHenry worked for the Atlanta OCC. He served as an Assistant Chief Counsel for ICE in that office from 2005 to 2010.

Whether Judge McHenry’s “acting” role as Director of EOIR will become permanent, we do not know. But I agree with Judge Schmidt that it is highly unusual for a person with such limited management experience to be picked to head our country’s immigration court system, with hundreds of judges and support personnel to oversee.

Gene Hamilton – Counsel to DHS Secretary: Gene Hamilton was appointed as counsel to DHS Secretary John Kelly. Along with Stephen Miller, he was apparently a key architect of the Trump Administration’s travel ban against people from several majority-Muslim countries. He also served as a trial attorney at the Atlanta OCC in about 2014 and 2015, though I could not verify his length of service there. In addition, Mr. Hamilton served on the staff of Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions before he was appointed Attorney General. Mr. Sessions, of course, is well known for his regressive views on immigration, civil rights, and just about everything else.

So there you have it. Three veterans of the Atlanta OCC who together will be exercising significant control over our country’s immigration system. Given their backgrounds and experience (or lack thereof), it’s difficult to be optimistic about how that system will fare under their watch.

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Somewhat predictable for an Administration that has little or no regard for Constitutional Due Process. That’s why folks need to join the “New Due Process Army” and carry on the fight until better times arrive (and they eventually will)!

As always, thanks to Jason for his incisive analysis!

PWS

07-20-17

 

 

TRAC: More Judges, Fewer Completions, More Backlog — Now Topping 610,000 — Trump’s Gonzo Immigration Policies Adversely Affecting Immigration Courts!

Subject: Immigration Court Dispositions Drop 9.3 Percent Under Trump

==========================================
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
==========================================

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Greetings. The latest available case-by-case data indicate that Immigration Court dispositions have dropped by 9.3 percent since President Trump assumed office. While a larger proportion of this declining total consist of removal orders, cases closed during the past five months (February 2017-June 2017) totaled only 77,084 cases as compared with 84,956 for the same five-month period during 2016.

Under President Trump discretion to defer deporting individuals – irrespective of their circumstances — has largely been abolished. During the first five months of the Trump Administration prosecutorial discretion closures precipitously dropped to fewer than 100 per month from an average of around 2,400 per month during the same five month period in 2016. This decline has contributed to the court’s growing backlog of cases. The backlog reached a record 610,524 cases as of June 30, 2017. This is up from 598,943 at the end of May.

These findings are based upon the very latest case-by-case court records-current through the end of June 2017-that were obtained under the Freedom of information Act and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

To read the full report, please go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/474/

In addition, many of TRAC’s free query tools – which track the court’ backlog, new DHS filings, court dispositions, the handling of juvenile cases and much more – have now been updated through June 2017. For an index to the full list of TRAC’s immigration tools go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/imm/tools/

If you want to be sure to receive notifications whenever updated data become available, sign up at:

http://tracfed.syr.edu/cgi-bin/tracuser.pl?pub=1&list=imm

or follow us on Twitter @tracreports or like us on Facebook:

http://facebook.com/tracreports

TRAC is self-supporting and depends on foundation grants, individual contributions and subscription fees for the funding needed to obtain, analyze and publish the data we collect on the activities of the U.S. federal government. To help support TRAC’s ongoing efforts, go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/cgi-bin/sponsor/sponsor.pl

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University
Suite 360, Newhouse II
Syracuse, NY 13244-2100
315-443-3563

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The results speak for themselves as Trump’s gonzo enforcement strategy and gross mismanagement of the U.S. Immigration Courts by the Sessions-led DOJ continue to destroy due process in Immigration Court and burden both taxpayers and the rest of the justice system. Go over to TRAC for the full report.

The Trump Administration is taking ADR — Aimless Docket Reschuffling — to new levels of waste and abuse.

Thanks to Nolan Rappaport for bringing g this to my attention.

PWS

07-18-17

Administration Mulls Expansion Of Expedited Removal

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-memo-trump-administration-weighs-expanding-the-expedited-deportation-powers-of-dhs/2017/07/14/ce5f16b4-68ba-11e7-9928-22d00a47778f_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_dhsmemo-810pm:homepage/story&utm_term=.793d4747b053

The Washington Post reports:

“The Trump administration is weighing a new policy to dramatically expand the Department of Homeland Security’s powers to expedite the deportations of some illegal immigrants.

Since 2004, the agency has been authorized to bypass immigration courts only for immigrants who had been living in the country illegally for less than two weeks and were apprehended within 100 miles of the border.

Under the proposal, the agency would be empowered to seek the expedited removal of illegal immigrants apprehended anywhere in the United States who cannot prove they have lived in the country continuously for more than 90 days, according to a 13-page internal agency memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The new guidelines, if enacted, would represent a major expansion of the agency’s authority to speed up deportations under President Trump, who has made border security a top priority.

Two administration officials confirmed that the proposed new policy, which would not require congressional approval, is under review. The memo was circulated at the White House in May, and DHS is reviewing comments on the document from the Office of Management and Budget, according to one administration official familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Joanne F. Talbot, a DHS spokeswoman, said she had not seen the memo. She described it as a draft and emphasized that no final decisions have been made by Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.

“The potential changes would allow DHS to more efficiently use resources to remove persons who have been illegally present for relatively brief periods of time while still observing due-process requirements,” Talbot said.

Immigrant rights advocates denounced the proposed expansion of the expedited deportation authority, warning that the policy would strip more immigrants of due-process rights to seek asylum or other legal protections that would allow them to remain in the country.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

This should come as no surprise, since one of Trump’s Executive Orders on immigration called for such an expansion. The only surprises are 1) that it has taken them so long to get around to it, and 2) that the expansion is limited to those who have been here 90 days or less, rather than “pushing the envelope” to the maximum two-year limit in the statute.

Additionally, the Administration is no doubt aware that Article III judges have lacked the spine to stand up for due process and find the statute unconstitutional. Expedited removal is a travesty of due process. So, this will be a test whether the Article III judiciary is willing to stand up for the Constitution. So far, the prospects for the Constitution are not encouraging.

It’s not surprising that the Administration’s approach to the due process mess in the U.S. Immigration Courts is to avoid due process rather than fix the existing system. But, these measures are unlikely to help much. Almost all of the approximately 600,000 individuals currently in Immigration Court, and probably 95% of the 10-11 million plus individuals already in the U.S., have been here for 90 days or more.

PWS

07-14-17

 

Private Immigration Legislation & Change In DHS Policy Explained

http://www.ilw.com/immigrationdaily/news/20170712%20Policy%20changes.pdf

The following article prepared by CRS recently appeared in ilw.com. Nolan Rappaport was kind enough to forward it to me.

“Therefore, while private immigration bills have previously delayed an alien’s removal from the United States— sometimes indefinitely—ICE’s new policy markedly changes that established procedure. Aliens who are the beneficiaries of private immigration bills can no longer count on automatic stays of removal as their respective bills wind their way through the legislative process. Moreover, even if ICE is willing to grant a stay of removal, such a stay will be more limited in duration than in the past. Given these developments, Congress may be urged to modify its own existing rules governing the private immigration bill process to ensure that aliens seeking to benefit from such legislation receive prompt consideration by the agency of their requests to remain in the United States during that process. In addition, ICE’s change in policy may encourage some Members of Congress to work to expedite the disposition of private immigration bills in the future—potentially increasing the likelihood that some of these bills will be acted upon before the agency takes action. Congress also may consider legislative initiatives that would offer some removable aliens alternative and more practical ways to legalize their status and remain in this country.”

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Read the rest of the (short) article at the link.

PWS 07-13-17

TAL KOPAN AT CNN: DACA IN PERIL –“If you’re going to count on Jeff Sessions to save DACA, then DACA is ended!”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/12/politics/daca-jeopardy-kelly/index.html

Tal Reports:

“Washington (CNN)The DACA program, which protects undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, could be in serious jeopardy, President Donald Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security told lawmakers Wednesday.

Secretary John Kelly told Democrats of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that while he personally supports the program, he could not commit to the Trump administration defending it, according to members in attendance and Kelly’s spokesman, David Lapan.
Kelly said that legal experts he’s talked to both inside and outside the administration have convinced him that it is unlikely the DACA program, the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive action, would sustain a court challenge.
Kelly said he has discussed DACA with Attorney General Jeff Sessions but wouldn’t describe the contents of those conversations. Sessions is an immigration hard-liner who has been outspoken against the Obama administration policy.
“He did not indicate that they would (defend it). He didn’t say that they wouldn’t, but he didn’t say that they would,” said New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez. “So between that and what he says is the legal analysis he’s heard, it’s not a pretty picture.”
The issue may be forced later this year. There is a pending lawsuit on a related program, deferred action for parents of childhood arrivals, that will come up in September, and attorneys general from 10 states are threatening to add DACA to their complaints, which could force the administration to defend or abandon it.
Kelly suggested to lawmakers they work to pass immigration reform, but lawmakers expressed frustration that Kelly seemed to ignore the difficulty of passing legislation and the Republican opposition to extending DACA. They were also unhappy he seemed unaware there were any bills to make the program permanent, including the bipartisan BRIDGE Act and other proposals including from some Republicans — “to which there was a combination of laughter and appalled shock in the room,” said California Rep. Nanette Barragán.
. . . .
“If you’re going to count on Jeff Sessions to save DACA, then DACA is ended,” Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez said.”
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Read Tal’s complete article at the link.
The Trump Administration probably could garner bipartisan support for some sort of long-term legislative relief for “DACA/Dreamers.” But, so far, they haven’t shown much interest in doing so.
PWS
07-13-17

 

ANXIETY RAMPS UP FOR UNDOCUMENTED PARENTS OF US CITIZENS!

https://www.thecut.com/2017/07/undocumented-parents-deportation-ice-agents-trump-immigration.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Cut%2520-%2520July%252011%252C%25202017&utm_term=Subscription%2520List%2520-%2520The%2520Cut%2520%25281%2520Year%2529

Kim Brooks reports in The Cut:

“Yolanda already knows what it feels like to leave a child behind.

She left three in her native Guatemala just over two decades ago. “I had to decide so quickly,” she told me. “My husband had already crossed. My mother told me to go, to send money back to them, and that the children would follow when they were old enough.” They were 16 months, 7, and 9. Twenty-one years later, she’s still waiting.

 

Since she came to America, Yolanda has had another daughter. She’s 8 years old, and she has autism, which makes the struggle to establish an ordinary American life even harder. And then there’s the fact that, like more than 11 million other people in America, Yolanda is an undocumented immigrant. While her status has always been insecure, the risks it posed always seemed like an abstraction, and her community in Staten Island seemed to be mostly on her side. Then Donald Trump was elected president, and the incendiary rhetoric about immigrant communities that he had used on the campaign trail became an almost unbelievable reality. Suddenly, the future is as painful for Yolanda to contemplate as the past.

Image
El Centro del Inmigrante, an educational organization and worker center in Port Richmond, Staten Island. Photo: David Cortes. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.
“My biggest fear,” she said through a translator, as we sat across from each other in a small office at El Centro del Inmigrante, a community-based educational organization and worker center in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Staten Island, “is that I’ll be deported and my daughter will have to stay here. I have nobody to leave her with. But I’m also afraid of having to bring her back to a country where they won’t have any of the services she needs.”

The prospect of leaving her daughter behind is especially frightening because of her autism. “I have to monitor her constantly. I help her with everything she does. I tie her shoes, feed her. She sleeps with me. No one’s going to do that the way I do. Who would ever be able to take my place?”

The political transformation that forced such questions to the front of Yolanda’s mind began almost as soon as Trump came into office. An executive order signed in January mandated the detention of any undocumented person with or without a criminal record, just so long as he or she “pose[s] a risk to national security” in the thoroughly undefined “judgment of an immigration officer.” It also authorized the hiring of an additional 10,000 ICE agents. Meanwhile, those already in place seemed to interpret their role differently right away. In the first three months of 2017, the Washington Post reported, ICE arrested 5,441 undocumented immigrants without criminal records; in the same period last year, the number was less than half of that. And last Friday ICE announced what it called a “surge initiative,” a program to arrest immigrant parents who hire smugglers to bring their children to join them. Immigration advocates call the program “unimaginably cruel.”

In her community in Staten Island, which once seemed to Yolanda like a haven, the national picture seems to be encroaching with disturbing speed. In February, five Mexican immigrants in the borough were picked up in ICE raids, part of a wider sweep across New York City that led to a total of 41 arrests. In June, ICE arrested a teenager in New York State on the day of his senior prom. In this new climate, undocumented parents are panicking: flooding El Centro’s offices, desperate for information, trying to understand what Trump’s promise to deport as many undocumented immigrants as possible will mean for them. El Centro is scrambling to respond to the overwhelming new demand for its services, setting up workshops to help parents better understand their options, helping frightened parents apply for the services for their U.S.-born children, and providing up-to-date information on new enforcement measures. “We’ve been around since 1997,” said Favio Ramirez-Caminatti, the nonprofit’s executive director. “We’ve never seen a situation like this.”

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Read the complete story at the link!

America needs a realistic legalization program.

 

PWS

07-11-17

 

 

 

REVEAL: DUE PROCESS OUTRAGE — DHS MOVES TO DEPORT VULNERABLE CHILDREN WHO HAVE BEEN APPROVED FOR GREEN CARDS — FEDERAL COURTS NEED TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND END THE MISUSE OF EXPEDITED REMOVAL BY DHS!

https://www.revealnews.org/article/a-judge-said-these-kids-get-a-green-card-ice-says-they-get-deported/

Bernice Yeung writes in Reveal:

. . . .

“A Pennsylvania judge and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, have decided that V.G. deserves to stay in the United States.

But another arm of department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says he must go. And, under what’s known as “expedited removal,” immigration officials can skip the traditional removal process in front of immigration judges.

Instead, officials are given wide latitude to deport migrants under expedited removal, if those migrants are captured within 100 miles of the U.S. border, have been in the country for less than two weeks and don’t have valid travel documents.

Under this deportation regime, the U.S. government has freedom to deport migrants like V.G. and his mother – who were found soon after they crossed the border without immigration papers – with little due process and limited ways for migrants to contest the order.

President Barack Obama made wide use of the policy, and President Donald Trump favors expanding it further.

Created in 1996, the expedited removal policy has been controversial since the start. Those who seek to tighten the borders laud the policy for its efficiency and for promoting deterrence. But immigrant and asylum advocates say that it lacks checks and balances and gives too much discretion to border patrol agents.

But it’s a policy susceptible to errors without a meaningful process to correct them.

Once an immigration official has placed a migrant into expedited removal, there are few ways to contest it. People who can show they are authorized to live in the country are able to challenge expedited removal in federal court. Asylum-seekers also have a chance to make a case that they have a fear of returning to their home countries, but they cannot appeal an unfavorable decision.

Everyone else is returned to their home countries as quickly as possible. They are then barred from returning to the United States for five years.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has observed expedited removal proceedings since 2005, has found “serious flaws placing asylum seekers at risk of return to countries where they could face persecution.” The ACLU has also documented a case of an asylum-seeker who was quickly deported, only to be raped after she was sent back across the southern border.

Multiple U.S. citizens have been accidentally deported through expedited removal. Foreign workers and tourists with valid visas have also been turned away, prompting a judge to write in a 2010 decision that the expedited removal process is “fraught with risk of arbitrary, mistaken, or discriminatory behavior.”

Nonetheless, various courts across the country have agreed that the law is clear: The courts cannot intercede in expedited removal cases, even if there’s a reason to believe the outcome was unjust.

This has put kids like V.G. in legal limbo, stuck between two competing government mandates. They have a special status to stay in the United States. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security says it has the authority to deport them.

Immigration officials declined to comment on pending litigation. But in court documents filed in V.G.’s case, the government says the children’s deportation orders are final and their special status doesn’t change things, especially since they have not yet received their green cards.

V.G.’s attorneys argue, among other things, that a federal court has previously required the government to revisit the deportation orders of children once they’re granted the humanitarian status.

That requirement, they say, also extends to expedited removal cases.”

. . . .

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In addition to being bad policy, this clearly isn’t due process! It’s time for Federal Judges get out of the ivory tower and start enforcing the requirements of our Constitution! Assuming that recent arrivals apprehended at the border with no claim to stay in the U.S. might not get full judicial review (a proposition that I question), these kids are different, having been approved for green cards and merely waiting in line of a number to  become available in the near future. In the past, the policy of the DHS has invariably been to allow such individuals to remain in the U.s. pending availability of a visa number — even when that process might take years.

Thanks much to Nolan Rappaport for spotting this item and forwarding it to me!

PWS

07-10-17

CNN’S TAL KOPAN ON SANCTUARY CITIES: Trump Administration’s Statements Continue To Be a Goldmine Of Evidence For Opponents!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/07/politics/sanctuary-cities-trump-administration-words/index.html

Tal reports:

“Washington (CNN)The Trump administration does not shy away from tough rhetoric, and lawyers representing sanctuary cities are hoping that will come back to haunt it in court.

Attorneys representing Santa Clara County in California petitioned a federal judge late Thursday to enter a collection of statements made by members of the administration into the record in their case, saying that the administration’s public statements directly contradict what Justice Department lawyers are arguing before the court.
It’s the latest example of attorneys trying to use the public statements of the Trump administration against itself, a theme in court battles designed to try to block pieces of President Donald Trump’s agenda.
Santa Clara County is the lead plaintiff in a case challenging a piece of Trump’s January executive order on immigration that targeted sanctuary jurisdictions, a catch-all term generally used to describe states, cities and localities that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
The federal judge in the case in April blocked the administration from enforcing part of the order — a broad threat to take away federal funding from jurisdictions determined to be so-called sanctuaries.
The judge allowed a narrow interpretation of the threat to be enforced, hinging on a small piece of US law that requires localities to transmit immigration information about individuals to the federal government when asked. The judge said the government could withhold a small subset of federal grants related to law enforcement if cities didn’t comply with that law — a requirement already put in place as a precondition for those grants late in the Obama administration.
Despite months of statements that the administration would seek to potentially take away more grant monies for a broader range of perceived noncooperation from jurisdictions, the Justice Department in May released guidance clarifying that the narrow range of actions allowed by the federal judge were the only punishment the government intended to pursue.
After that, the Justice Department asked the court to dismiss the case, based in part on the new guidance.
But attorneys for Santa Clara County are asking the court to not buy the government’s argument, pointing to statements since the guidance that go far beyond what it says.
Attorneys are asking the judge to allow them to file an additional argument in the case, which compiles those statements.
Examples include testimony of Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan before Congress in June, where he said the government expects “not only sharing the information, but (to) allow us access to the jails” — the latter piece of which is not required by US law. The attorneys also note that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress three days after the guidance memo: “With respect to ‘the Sanctuary Cities thing,’ he said: ‘Frankly, I don’t really know what it means. I don’t think anyone out there knows what it means.'”
The attorneys argue that because of the administration officials’ comments, the court can’t simply rely on the guidance memo from the Justice Department — accusing the administration of more than “moving the goalposts.”
“Defendants’ shifting positions, clarifications, and interpretations of the Executive Order make clear why the Court’s injunction is necessary,” the attorneys wrote. “Between counsel’s representations, the AG memorandum, relevant congressional testimony, and the President’s own statements, defendants aren’t merely moving the goalposts in this litigation; they’re switching sports entirely.”
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Read Tal’s complete article at the link.
Arrogance and ignorance are usually a toxic combination in litigation.
PWS
07-07-17

9th Circuit Upholds Judge Gee’s Order Requiring Bond Hearings For Children! — Flores v. Sessions!

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-minor-immigrants-9th-circuit-20170705-story.html

Maura Dolan reports in the LA Times

“Minors who enter the U.S. without permission must be given a court hearing to determine whether they can be released, a federal appeals court panel decided unanimously Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said immigration authorities continue to be bound by a 1997 lawsuit settlement that guaranteed court hearings for minor immigrants, set standards for their detention and established a policy in favor of their release.

Following that settlement, Congress passed two laws dealing with unaccompanied minor immigrants. The federal government argued those laws replaced the settlement and revoked the right to bond hearings.

The 9th Circuit disagreed.

“In the absence of such hearings, these children are held in bureaucratic limbo, left to rely upon the [government’s] alleged benevolence and opaque decision making,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a Carter appointee, wrote for the court.

The settlement of Flores vs. Janet Reno required that juveniles detained near the border or elsewhere without a parent must be given bond hearings.

The hearings gave minors the right to a lawyer, an opportunity to learn and challenge government evidence against them and the right to contest being locked up, the panel said.

The 9th Circuit cited evidence that the government has been holding minors for months or even years without hearings, even when parents are nearby and can care for them.

Among them was a boy identified only as Hector, who was detained in California at the age of 15 for 480 days, mostly in a locked facility in Yolo County. The ruling did not say why Hector was picked up.

In a declaration, Hector described the Yolo County facility as a prison, where minors were locked in cells at night to sleep on cement benches with mattresses.

During 16 months there, Hector was not given a lawyer or an explanation about why he was being held even though his mother in Los Angeles was seeking his release, the 9th Circuit said.

Without any explanation, the federal government released Hector in December “into the custody of the person who had been advocating for his freedom all along — his mother,” Reinhardt wrote.

The court cited evidence that some juveniles have agreed to deportation rather than face continued incarceration without their families.

“Unaccompanied minors today face an impossible choice between what is, in effect, indefinite detention in prison, and agreeing to their own removal and possible persecution” in their native countries, Reinhardt wrote.

The ruling upheld a decision by Los Angeles-based U.S. Dist. Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee.

The government may appeal the panel’s decision to a larger 9th Circuit panel or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers in the case could not be reached for comment.”

Here’s a link to the 9th Circuit’s full 40-page opinion:

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/07/05/17-55208.pdf

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If you want to skip the legal gobbledygook (although the fact situations described are interesting and meaningful), the bottom lines are: 1) the last four Administrations have been to varying degrees tone-deaf to the needs of unaccompanied minors subject to immigration proceedings; 2) bond hearing before U.S. Immigration Judges play a critical role in protecting the rights of children and insuring due process.

PWS

07-05-17

 

KERWIN & WARREN: AMERICA’S CURRENT OUTDATED & ENFORCEMENT CENTERED IMMIGRATION SYSTEM HAS FAILED, & IT’S GETTING WORSE — WHY NOT DEVELOP A NEW SYSTEM THAT REFLECTS THE VALUE OF ALL TYPES OF IMMIGRANTS & BETTER REFLECTS OUR BEST NATIONAL VALUES?

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/06/27/immigration-system-in-line-values/

Guillermo Cantor writes in Immigration Impact:

Over the past two decades, much of the immigration policy debate has focused on issues related to immigration enforcement. In fact, many argue that “enforcement first”—the notion that we must adequately enforce the laws on the books before considering broader immigration reforms—has de facto become the nation’s singular immigration policy. This preoccupation with enforcement has come at the expense of consideration of other key components of a robust immigration system. Specifically, policymakers have failed to directly and adequately address some of the most fundamental questions, including what the legal immigration system should look like, what principles should guide admissions moving forward, and how to intentionally and strategically tie immigration policy to other domestic policies.

In an effort to refocus the debate, a recent article by Donald Kerwin and Robert Warren offers a range of ideas that address some structural issues concerning the legal immigration system. Arguing that the U.S. immigration system does not reflect the values and interests that it is supposed to serve, the authors propose a series of recommendations to reform the system and deliver on its promises.

After examining nearly a century’s worth of presidential signing statements of seminal immigration legislation, the authors identify a list of basic principles that, at least in theory, guide the U.S. immigration and refugee system. These include, but are not limited to, the belief that: families should be preserved; admission policies should not be based on national origin, race, or privilege; fairness and due process are essential in admission and removal decisions; individuals fleeing persecution and violence should be provided with a safe haven; immigrants embody the U.S. value of self-sufficiency, hard work, and drive to succeed; fair, orderly, and secure migration sustains the rule of law; and criminals and security threats defy U.S. ideals and, therefore, should not be admitted or allowed to remain.

If we accept as fact the premise that these principles should guide our immigration and refugee laws and policies, it becomes evident that such laws and policies—and their implementation—often fall short of serving the aforementioned objectives. In recent years, for example, mass deportations have led to large-scale family separation; backlogs in the family-based immigration system have kept numerous families apart for years; the routine detention and expedited removal of asylum seekers have been used to deter other asylum seekers from coming to the border; highly skilled immigrants often cannot work in their fields due to credentialing barriers; and the widespread use of summary removal procedures in the deportation of noncitizens has signaled a dramatic departure from fundamental principles of fairness and due process. And these are just a few examples.”

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Read the entire very worthwhile article at the link.

OK, let’s say we have around 11 million undocumented individuals here today. At least 10 million of them are basically law abiding working folks who are contributing to our economy and our society. Most have at least some US citizen children or other relatives. Many pay taxes, and all of them would if they were in legal status and we made it easy for them to do so. It’s reasonable to assume that nearly all of them entered over the past 40 years. Folks who came prior to that are likely to have legalized, gone home, or died.

So, we could easily have admitted at least 250,000 additional individuals each year under our legal immigration system and we’d be right where we are today.  Except, we wouldn’t have spent as much money on immigration enforcement, detention, removal, and divisive legal battles in the courts.

PWS

06-29-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

06-28-17