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

75 Years of the BIA

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

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

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

Commentary on “Pattern or Practice” Persecution

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

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

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

The History of Racism in U.S. Immigration


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

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

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

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

PWS

06-19-17

UPDATE

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

The History of U.S. Asylum Law

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

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

PWS

06-21-17

WSJ: 47 Years Have Passed, But The Mariel Boatlift Is Still Generating Controversy!

https://www.wsj.com/article_email/the-great-mariel-boatlift-experiment-1497630468-lMyQjAxMTI3NTEyNzIxMDc0Wj/

Ben Leubsdorf writes in the WSJ:

“In the spring and summer of 1980, some 125,000 Cuban refugees sailed from the port town of Mariel on fishing boats and pleasure craft toward the U.S., many destined to settle in Miami.

Nearly four decades later, that exodus is at the center of an unresolved, sometimes bitter argument among economists, hinging on a basic question: When foreigners come to the U.S., does their presence drive down the wages of native workers? The long-running dispute has gained new relevance as the Trump administration tries to implement and enforce a stricter immigration policy.

Research published a decade after the Mariel boatlift, as well as more recent analyses, concluded that the influx of Cuban migrants didn’t significantly raise unemployment or lower wages for Miamians. Immigration advocates said the episode showed that the U.S. labor market could quickly absorb migrants at little cost to American workers.

But Harvard University’s George Borjas, a Cuban-born specialist in immigration economics, reached very different conclusions. Looking at data for Miami after the boatlift, he concluded that the arrival of the Marielitos led to a large decline in wages for low-skilled local workers.

 While the debate rages in the academy and online, Dr. Borjas and his views are ascendant in the political realm. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited his research for years while a senator. President Donald Trump, with whom Dr. Borjas met during last year’s campaign, has echoed the Harvard economist’s research by regularly saying that low-wage immigrants hurt some Americans.

“This is his moment,” said David Card, the author of the early research on the boatlift that Dr. Borjas is seeking to upend. (The Justice Department declined to comment, and the White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

Dr. Borjas has sparred for years with Dr. Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as with Giovanni Peri of the University of California, Davis. In 2015, Dr. Borjas and Dr. Peri released papers three months apart that arrived at wildly different conclusions about Mariel.

The argument among the academics—all immigrants themselves—has escalated into charges of bias and bad faith. Dr. Peri and a co-author dismissed Dr. Borjas’s study as having “serious limitations.” Dr. Borjas fired back that “sloppiness” in their own paper “helps obfuscate what your eyes can clearly see and leads to a claim that nothing at all happened in post-Mariel Miami.”

Dr. Card and Dr. Peri, reviewing a textbook by Dr. Borjas several months later, said that he only “presents half the story about the economics of immigration.” Last fall, in another book, Dr. Borjas compared Dr. Peri to Marxist-Leninist teachers in his native Cuba: “They believed. All that was left was to compel everyone else to believe as well.”

The real-world stakes in the dispute are considerable. More than 43 million U.S. residents were born somewhere else, and most of the rest are descended from immigrants. Still, for more than two centuries, waves of migration have provoked backlashes from Americans worried about the nation’s economy, culture and social makeup.

Among economists today, there is little controversy about the benefits of immigration for the economy as a whole. A roughly 500-page assessment last year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which reviewed decades of research, concluded that immigrants are “integral to the nation’s economic growth” and have little or no effect on overall employment and earnings for workers already in the U.S.

A Cuban refugee rests on his cot in Miami’s ‘tent city,’ Aug. 18, 1980. At the time, five out of every six working-age Cuban refugees in Florida’s Dade County were without a job.
A Cuban refugee rests on his cot in Miami’s ‘tent city,’ Aug. 18, 1980. At the time, five out of every six working-age Cuban refugees in Florida’s Dade County were without a job.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

The report said that experiences aren’t the same for everyone and noted that some studies have found “sizable negative short run wage impacts” for U.S.-born high-school dropouts, the group most likely to compete for work with low-skilled immigrants.

“There’s no free lunch. There’s going to be some effect of immigration” on wages, said Pia Orrenius, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and a member of the panel that wrote the 2016 report. But, she added, the flexible U.S. economy adapts and should render any hit to the wages of native workers “a short-run phenomenon.”

Those most exposed to competition from new arrivals have long been a focus for Dr. Borjas. “Immigration is not like manna from heaven,” he said. “It can be great on average, but it doesn’t mean that every single person benefits.”

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

Read the entire article at the link.

First, I find it interesting that Dr. Borjas, who came here as an immigrant, seems so highly motivated to prove that those who came after him weren’t as “worthy.”  Sort of a “I’m OK, but you guys not so much” approach.

Second, none of these studies seem to go into the human element of immigration. What were to forces that drove the Marielitos to come? What have they accomplished in the long run? Did Americans in low wage jobs in Miami really sink into poverty and go on welfare, or did they just move on to other types of work that perhaps paid more?

Third, why don’t economists spend less time on analyzing the past and more time on figuring out how to minimize or avoid any adverse effects of immigration, even if those effects are only short-term and unequally distributed across the working population.

Fourth, I was at the “Legacy INS” during the boatlift and was involved in an intense effort to stop it. We used arrests, mass detention, vessel seizures, fines, criminal prosecutions, deterrents, warnings and public service announcements, and exclusion proceedings. But, frankly, nothing really worked until Castro closed the port of Mariel again. The Cuban Adjustment Act, which is still in effect, also made it difficult or impossible to return Cubans who had no prior criminal records.

Eventually, the Reagan Administration came up with controversial policy of high seas interdiction, which has been used in the Caribbean to some extent by every succeeding Administration. Although interdiction survived Supreme Court review, it has criticized by many and is inconsistent with at least the spirit, if not the letter, of the UN Convention and Protocol, to which we are a party. I doubt, however, that interdiction could have stopped the Cuban boat lift, given the large number of boats and American citizens of Cuban descent who participated in going to Mariel to transport relatives, friends, or former neighbors or co-workers who wanted to leave Cuba.

Fifth, and finally, I find the Mariel Boatlift to be one of the “major events” of modern U.S. refugee history.  It has left a legacy of four enforcement strategies that are still with us today:

 * The use of long-term mass civil immigration detention as a deterrent;

* High seas interdiction;

* Overall negative vibes and case law on asylum applicants who are part of a so-callled “mass migration situation” (“Scarface Syndrome,” a reference to the Al Pacino movie about a Cuban drug kingpin who used the boatlift to get a foothold in the U.S.);

* A belief that the case-by-case adjudication procedures established by the Refugee Act of 1980 are inadequate to handle mass migrations (probably one of the origins of “expedited removal” procedures).

PWS

06-18-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personalized Immigration History, Anyone? Four Of Us “Old Timers” — Hon. Gus Villageliu, Hon. M. Christopher Grant, Hon. Jeffrey Chase, & I — Have Put Together Some Of Our Recollections Of The Earlier Days Of The Immigration Court Under The “Comments” To My Recent “York Speech!”

Click this link, and go to the “Comments” tab at the bottom. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-WJ

Additional thoughts and comments welcome!

PWS

06-11-17

DANGEROUS MISSION: 2 UN Investigators Killed In DRC!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/20/world/africa/congo-zaida-catalan-michael-j-sharp-united-nations-democratic-republic-of-congo.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

The NY Times reports:

“Zaida Catalán was on to something, and it was making her jumpy.

“Exciting development,” she scribbled in her diary in late January. “I can maybe nail this bastard. Damn!”

Weeks later, Ms. Catalán, a United Nations investigator with little training and no safety equipment or even health insurance, headed into a remote area teeming with militia fighters to find the culprits behind a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A grainy cellphone video shows what happened next: A cluster of men with rifles and red bandannas lead Ms. Catalán, a 36-year-old Swedish-Chilean, into a grove with her American colleague, Michael J. Sharp, 34. The two investigators are barefoot.

Mr. Sharp starts arguing. He and Ms. Catalán are forced onto the ground. Suddenly, shots are fired, hitting Mr. Sharp first. Ms. Catalán screams and tries to run for cover. She is shot twice.

Their bodies were discovered weeks later in a shallow grave, laid out carefully, side by side, in opposite directions. Ms. Catalán had been decapitated. Her head had been taken.

Their deaths raise tough questions about the United Nations and its work in the most dangerous places in the world. Almost two months passed before the United Nations even assembled a panel to look into what went wrong. The United Nations Security Council could go further and order a more formal investigation, but more than two months after the murders, it has taken no steps in that direction.

Instead, it has left the investigation to Congo, a nation where violence, corruption and impunity are so widespread that the United Nations has had to spend billions of dollars over the years in a failed effort to bring peace and stability. Indeed, a big focus of Ms. Catalán and her colleagues was whether the Congolese government played a role in the massacre and broader chaos she was investigating.

“The U.N. needs to take ownership,” said Akshaya Kumar, a deputy director at Human Rights Watch. She added that the Congolese authorities, who are implicated in the region’s conflict, were in no position to carry out a credible investigation.

The killings have also stirred a sharp debate over the United Nations’ responsibility to prepare and protect the people it hires to investigate wrongdoing around the world. Ms. Catalán and Mr. Sharp belonged to a panel of six experts authorized by the Security Council to investigate rapes, massacres and the exploitation of Congo’s vast natural resources.”

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

Sometimes we forget or minimize the great dangers faced by those fighting for human rights throughout the world.

Probably the most vivid personal example in my career was the untimely death of noted human rights activist and attorney Arthur Helton in Iraq.  During my “Legacy INS” career I opposed, and probably helped depose, Arthur in a number of vigorously litigated Federal Court cases. But, I always considered Arthur a gentleman, a scholar, a person of great principle and integrity, and a most worthy opponent. His death was indeed a shock. In 2004, the American Society of International Law established the Arthur Helton Fellowship in his memory.

 

NEW PRECEDENT: Applicant Bears Burden Of Showing Mandatory Denial Inapplicable: MATTER OF M-B-C-, 27 I&N Dec. 31 (BIA 2017)

https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/967306/download#31

BIA HEADNOTE:

“Where the record contains some evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could conclude that one or more grounds for mandatory denial of an application for relief may apply, the alien bears the burden under 8 C.F.R. § 1240.8(d) (2016) to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that such grounds do not apply.”

PANEL:  Appellate Immigration Judges Malphrus, Mullane, Liebowitz

OPINION BY:  Judge Mullane

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

This was an unusual case, with lots of competing evidence on both sides. But, normally, this issue came up in routine NACARA or even TPS cases.

Here’s a more “normal”scenario.”  The respondent was a private in the El Salvaoran Army during the Civil War in the 1980s. The DHS introduces old country reports and excerpts from the “El Rescate Database” showing that the respondent’s unit was in the department where human rights abuses took place. That’s sufficient to shift the burden to the respondent. to prove he did not engage in persecution.

The respondent testifies that he performed routine duties around the base and was never involved on combat, never harmed any civilian, and never witnessed any civilian being harmed.

That’s the case! Now the Immigration Judge has to make a decision on that skimpy evidence.

Things to keep in mind:

!) The U.S. Government was supporting the Salvadoran military during the Civil War. Indeed, a number of the individuals that DHS now claims were “persecutors of others” received military training in the U.S. or from U.S. officers.

2) The INS and the Immigration Courts summarily rejected asylum claims from individuals who suffered severe human rights violations amounting to persecution inflicted by the Salvadoran Government, the Armed Forces, the Civil Patrol, and entities aligned with them, such as so-called “death squads.”

Victim or persecutor,

Friend or foe,

The U.S. system,

Is a tough go.

PWS

05-19-17

 

 

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

LIFE AT EOIR – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

By

Paul Wickham Schmidt

Retired U.S. Immigration Judge

Keynote Address

2017 Immigration Law Conference

Denver, CO

May 12, 2017

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DUE PROCESS VISION

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ROLE OF THE IMMIGRATION JUDGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY

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

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

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

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

RECLAIMING THE VISION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING INVOLVED 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

 

 

(05/12/17)

        

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[14] See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1).

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

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

LA TIMES: Immigration Courts Not Only “Broken Piece” Of Trump’s Removal Regime — DHS Can’t Keep Up With Removals Even Now! — “Haste Makes Waste” Rush To Hire More Agents Likely To Dilute Standards, Threaten National Security!” — New IG Report Blasts Current Practices!

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-ice-oig-20170420-story.html

Joseph Tanfani reports:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hampered by poor organization and an overworked staff, will have trouble keeping up with the Trump administration’s plans to ramp up deportations of people in the country illegally, government inspectors have concluded.

ICE has “overwhelming caseloads,” its records are “likely inaccurate” and its deportation policies and procedures “are outdated and unclear,” said a report released Thursday by the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department.

“ICE is almost certainly not deporting all the aliens who could be deported and will likely not be able to keep up with the growing number of deportable aliens,” the 19-page report concludes.

The harsh assessment is the latest dash of cold reality for Trump, who was swept into Washington promising vastly tougher enforcement of immigration laws, including more removals, thousands more Border Patrol agents and deportation officers, and construction of a formidable wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Law360: U.S. Solicitor General — Plum Or Lemon?

Andrew Strickler at Law 360 suggests that what was once Washington’s “best legal job” might now be a “career ender” rather than a “career enhancer.” Still, probably a far cry from being the Commissioner of the “Legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service,” sometimes described as “the worst Presidential appointment in Government.”

Those of you who subscribe to Law 360 (I don’t, so all I read was the “teaser”) can read the full article here:

https://www.law360.com/articles/891376?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=articles_search

PWS

02/16/17

Wow! Even Professor John “Johnny Waterboard” Yoo Thinks That Four Years Of Trump’s “‘So-called’ Judgement” Could Be Torture!

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-so-called-judgment-1486941557

Yoo, author of the notorious “Torture Memos” under the Bush II DOJ, and his colleague Professor Sai Prakash (who, as far as I know, had nothing whatsoever to do with said Torture Memo) write in today’s Washington Post:

“But if presidential attacks on the courts are nothing new, the history also underscores the smallness of Mr. Trump’s vision. Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR knew when to speak and when to keep silent. They invoked the great powers of the presidency to oppose the Supreme Court only when fundamental constitutional questions were at stake: the punishment of political dissent; secession and slavery; Congress’s power to regulate the economy. The occasion for Mr. Trump’s fury is a temporary restraining order of a temporary suspension of immigration from seven countries. Mr. Trump still has the opportunity to prevail on the merits. He hasn’t lost the case—at least not yet.

The Trump administration will often appear in court over the next four or eight years. It will lose plenty of cases, because, like its predecessors, it will push the legal envelope. If the president publicly vents every time he loses a ruling, his complaints will recede into background noise.

Questioning judicial decisions, and even the judiciary’s legitimacy, is entirely proper. But a wise president will reserve such attacks for extraordinary matters of state involving the highest constitutional principles. To do otherwise risks dissipating the executive’s energy, weakening the president’s agenda, and wasting his political capital. When criticizing the Supreme Court for upholding the Bank of the United States, declaring Dred Scott a slave, or striking down the New Deal, presidents were advancing constitutional agendas worthy of a fierce attack on the courts. Mr. Trump is upset about losing a minor procedural test of a temporary executive order. If he doesn’t learn to be more judicious, we’re in for a long four years.”

****************************
Kinda says it all. Yoo and Prakash are right. All Administrations lose cases on a daily basis in Federal Courts throughout the county — literally thousands of them over a full Administration.

I know, because one of my duties as the Deputy General Counsel of the “Legacy INS” was to to write or supervise the writing of “Adverse Decision Reports” (known in the DOJ litigation business as “Tombstones”) to the Solicitor General’s Office. It could have been almost a full time job (without some “help from my friends” in the office and the field).

And, of course, the INS was only one of many Government agencies litigating in the Federal Courts every day. We at the “Legacy INS” even had our own “dedicated litigation division,” known as the “Office of Immigration Litigation (“OIL”)” within the Civil Division. Also, no (or almost no) term of the Supreme Court goes by without the USG being on the “losing” side of one or more major decisions.

So, the Prez better get used to it. He could start by paying more attention to the career “Federal Court Pros” in the Solicitor General’s Office and OIL and less attention to the views of guys like Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and even VP Mike Pence who are totally clueless as to how to conduct winning Federal litigation. Indeed, as Governor of Indiana, Pence got “totally creamed” in his disingenuous, mean-spirited, and illegal attempt to bar the resettlement of well-screened Syrian refugee families in Indiana. But, some folks never learn (and. perhaps, never will).

PWS

02/13/17

Read The Winter 2017 Edition Of “The Green Card” From The FBA — Includes My Article “Immigration Courts — Reclaiming the Vision” (P. 15) & “The Asylumist” Jason Dzubow’s Reprise Of The “Schmidt Interviews” (See “Immigration Rant,” P. 2)!

Green Card Winter 2017 Final

Here are some excerpts:

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

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

Clearly, the due process focus has been lost when officials outside EOIR have forced ill-advised “prioritization” and attempts to “expedite” the cases of frightened women and children from the Northern Triangle who require lawyers to gain the protection that most of them need and deserve. Putting these cases in front of other pending cases is not only unfair to all, but has created what I call “aimless docket reshuffling” that has thrown our system into chaos.

Evidently, the idea of the prioritization was to remove most of those recently crossing the border to seek protection, thereby sending a “don’t come, we don’t want you” message to asylum seekers. But, as a deterrent, this program has been spectacularly unsuccessful. Not surprisingly to me, individuals fleeing for their lives from the Northern Triangle have continued to seek refuge in the United States in large numbers. Immigration Court backlogs have continued to grow across the board, notwithstanding an actual reduction in overall case receipts and an increase in the number of authorized Immigration Judges.”

Another one:

Former BIA Chairman Paul W. Schmidt on His Career, the Board, and the Purge

“Paul Wickham Schmidt served as Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) from 1995 to 2001. He was a Board Member of the BIA from 2001 to 2003, and served as an Immigration Judge in Arlington, Virginia from 2003 until his retirement earlier this year. He also worked in private practice and held other senior positions in government, including Deputy General Counsel and Acting General Counsel at INS. The Asylumist caught up with Judge Schmidt in Maine, where he has been enjoying his retirement, and talked to him about his career, the BIA, and the “purge” of 2003.”

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

Read the complete articles plus lots of other “great stuff” both practical and more philosophical at the above link.

And, for all of you “aspiring writers” out there, Green Card Editor and my good friend and former colleague from the U.S. Immigration Court In Arlington, VA, Hon. Lawrence Owen “Larry” Burman, and the Publications Director, Dr. Alicia Triche, are always looking for “new talent” and interesting articles. Instructions on how to submit manuscripts are on page one.

PWS

02/01/17

 

Another Installment In The Schmidt Making America Really Great Series: “Refugees And Due Process Make America Really Great” — Read My Speech From Last Night’s “Refugee Ball”

REFUGEES AND DUE PROCESS MAKE AMERICA REALLY GREAT

 

Remarks by Paul Wickham Schmidt,

Retired United States Immigration Judge

 

The Refugee Ball

 

Sixth & I Synagogue 600 I Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 from 5:00 to 9:00 PM

 

Good evening, everyone. I’m honored to be here. Lets have a big round of applause for Jason Dzubow and his staff for coming up with the idea and putting this together!

As you can probably tell, it was a battle getting into my “Jones Day Spring Prom Era Tux” tonight. As I walked out the door, my wife Cathy said: “Are you actually going to be able to breathe, let alone speak, in that thing?”

As a “regular” at the Arlington Immigration Court, Jason obviously is quite familiar with my habits. I noted that on the advance program he took the extreme precaution of not only putting me in a “10-minute slot” near the end of the program, but also adding in parentheses in big bold letters “10 minutes max.” So, I get the picture, Jason. I’m going to briefly address two things that make America great: refugees and due process.

I’m pleased to back in the old ‘hood, although it’s hard to recognize. For about twelve years in the 1970s and 1980s I worked in the General Counsel’s Office of the “Legacy INS” in the famous Chester Arthur Building – the only monument in Washington to our great 21st President –at 425 Eye St., NW, just down the street. And, one of my most memorable accomplishments during that time was being part of the “team” that helped the Refugee Act of 1980 become law. It was a chance to make a positive difference in America’s future, indeed in the world’s future, while coming into contact with some of the finest intellects in the business: David Martin, Alex Aleinikoff, Doris Meissner, the late Jerry Tinker, and the late Jack Perkins come immediately to mind. So, I have what you might call a “vested interest” in U.S. refugee and asylum system.

I worked with refugees and their cases almost every workday for more than 21 years during my tenure as a trial and appellate judge with the United States Immigration Courts. And, I’ll admit that on many of my “off days” the challenges, stories, human drama, triumph, and trauma of refugees and refugee law bounced around in my head, much to the dismay of my wonderful wife, Cathy.

Although I have the greatest respect and admiration for the inspiring life stories of refugees and their contributions to the United States, I have never, for even one second, wanted to be a refugee. Like all of the speakers tonight, I see refugees as a huge asset to our country. It says something about us as a nation that so many great people from all over the world want to make this their home and to contribute their talents, some of which were on display here tonight, to the greatness of America. So, to all of you out there who came as refugees or asylees, thank you for coming, for your service, and for your dedication to making our great country even greater.

The other topic I want to address briefly, that is near and dear to me personally, is the overriding importance of due process in our refugee and asylum system. Each of you who came as a refugee or asylee is here because an adjudicator at some level of our system carefully and fairly gave you a chance to state your claim, listened to and reviewed the support you provided for your claim, and made a favorable decision in your case.

For some of you, that decision was made by a DHS Refugee Officer or an Asylum Officer. Others of you had to rely on different levels of our system – a U.S. Immigration Judge, the Board of Immigration Appeals, or in some cases, a U.S. Court of Appeals to have your status granted. In all of these instances you received something very precious under our Constitution: due process of law.

Unfortunately, there currently is a “due process crisis” in our overloaded Immigration Court System.   With over one-half million pending cases and waiting times of many years in some courts for final hearings to be held, our Immigration Court System is under intense pressure.

Sometimes, that results in approaches that generally have a favorable impact for individuals seeking protection.   For example, grants of Temporary Protected Status and work authorization take many cases off the Immigration Court docket and legislation such as NACARA for Central Americans or HIRIFA for Haitians permanently resolves many cases favorably at the DHS without requiring a full-blown asylum hearing before an U.S. Immigration Judge.

But, when backlogs build up and enforcement pressures mount on our Government, less benign approaches and suggestions sometimes come to the fore. Adjudicators can be pressured to do counterproductive things like decide more cases in less time, limit evidence to shorten hearings, and make “blanket denials” based on supposed improvements in country conditions.

Other times, placing more individuals in civil immigration detention is looked at as a way of both expediting case processing and actively discouraging individuals from coming to the United States and making claims for refuge under our laws in the first place. Or, moving cases though the system so quickly that applicants can’t find pro bono lawyers to represent them is sometimes incorrectly viewed as an acceptable method for shortening adjudication times, thereby reducing backlogs.

Another method far too often used for discouraging asylum claims and inhibiting due process is placing asylum applicants in DHS Detention Centers, often privately operated, with “imbedded” Immigration Courts in obscure out of the way locations like Dilley, Texas and Lumpkin, Georgia where access to pro bono attorneys, family members, and other sources of support is severely limited or nonexistent.

When these things happen, due process suffers. So, while I’m always hoping for the best, it is critical for all of us in this room to zealously protect the due process rights of all migrants and insist on full due process being maintained, and, ideally, even enhanced. This includes both supporting individuals in the system by helping them obtain effective legal representation and, where appropriate, vigorously asserting the due process rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrants in the Article III Federal Courts.

Only by insisting on due process for those already in the system will we be able to insure a fair and effective system for future refugees. And, welcoming and fairly treating future refugees is a key to making and keeping America great.

So, that’s my message: due process can’t be taken for granted! It must be nurtured, protected, expanded, and vigorously and proudly asserted! Thanks for listening, good luck, do great things, and due process forever!

(Rev. 01/18/17)

 

 

 

 

Rappaport — Trump Will Inherit A Mess In the U.S. Immigration Courts — Former GOP Hill Staffer Peter Levinson Tells Us In One Sentence Why The Current System Is “Built To Fail” — Can Anyone Fix this Mess Before It’s Too Late For Our Country And The Millions Whose Lives And Futures Depend Our Immigration Court’s Ability To Guarantee Fairness And Deliver Due Process? Read My Commentary — “We Need An Article I United States Immigration Court — NOW — Could The Impetus Come From An Unlikely Source?” — Below!

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/314238-our-immigration-court-crisis-will-be-trumps-lasting-headache

We Need An Article I United States Immigration Court — NOW — Could The Impetus Come From An Unlikely Source?

By Paul Wickham Schmidt

Writing in The Hill, my friend Nolan Rappaport says:

“President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this situation before he can begin his promised enforcement program.
Realistically, he is going to have to consider asking Congress for a legalization program to reduce the undocumented population but it does not have to be the kind of legalization program that the Democrats have been proposing.”

That makes lots of sense to me.  It will certainly help the Immigration Courts to quickly remove many “non priority” cases from the docket without compromising due process. But, it’s not a complete solution to the problems facing our Immigration Courts.

And, well-respected scholar, gentleman, and former GOP Hill Immigration Staffer Peter Levinsion succinctly tells us why just fiddling around with the administrative process within the DOJ won’t get the job done:

“”The Attorney General’s ability to review Board decisions inappropriately injects a law enforcement official into a quasi-judicial appellate process, creates an unnecessary layer of review, compromises the appearance of independent Board decision-making, and undermines the Board’s stature generally.””

Yup, folks, the U.S. Immigration Courts, including the all-important Appellate Division (the Board of Immigration Appeals, or the “BIA”), where hundreds of thousands of individuals are awaiting the fair, independent due process hearings guaranteed to them by the U.S. Constitution, are actually a wholly owned subsidiary of the chief prosecutor and law enforcement officer of the U.S. — the Attorney General.

Who wouldn’t like to own a court system where your only client — the U.S. Government — is an interested party in every single case?  Who wouldn’t, indeed, unless that court system is in the sad circumstances of the current U.S. Immigration Court system — overworked, understaffed, over-prioritized, under-appreciated, laboring under outdated systems and technology abandoned by most other courts decades ago, and generally out of control.  Other than that, what’s the problem?

The answer, as proposed by Nolan and Peter, and many others including the Federal Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the National Association of Immigration Judges, and many other nonpartisan judicial experts is an independent Article I (or even Article III) Immigration Court, including the Appellate Division.

“Impossible,” you say,  “Congress and President Trump will never go for it.  Nobody in the Washington ‘power curve’ could sell this idea.”  But, I beg to disagree.

There is one person in Washington who could sell this long overdue idea to President Trump and legislators from both sides of the aisle.  His name is Jeff Sessions.  And, he’s about to become the next Attorney General of the United Sates.

Why would Attorney General Jeff Sessions suddenly become an advocate for due process and “good government?”  Well, I can think of at least three obvious reasons.

First, being the “father” of an Article I Immigration Court would be a lasting positive contribution to our system of justice — not a bad legacy for a man who has been “on the wrong side of history” for much of his four decades of public service.  Second, it would silence many of the critics who have doubted Sessions’s claims that he can overcome his “out of the mainstream” views of the past and protect and vindicate the rights of everyone in America, particularly in the sensitive areas of immigration and civil rights.  Third, and perhaps most important, by creating an independent, credible, modern, due process oriented Immigration Court outside the Department of Justice, Sessions would pave the way for a more effective immigration enforcement strategy by the Administration while dramatically increasing the likelihood that removal orders will pass muster in the Article III Courts.

Sure sounds like a “win-win-win” to me.  I’ve observed that the majority of the time, people act in accordance with their own best interests which frequently line up with the best interests of our country as a whole.  Yes, there will always be a substantial minority of instances where people act against their best interests.  Usually, that’s when they are blinded by an uncompromising philosophy or personal animus.

I can’t find much of the latter in Senator Sessions.  He seems like a genuinely genial personality who makes it a point to get along with folks and treat them politely even when they disagree with his views.  The former could be a problem for Sessions, however.  Can he get beyond his highly restrictive outlook on immigration and adopt big-picture reforms?  Only time will tell.  But there is a precedent.

EOIR was actually created during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan.  It was two “strong enforcement types,” then INS Commissioner Al Nelson and General Counsel “Iron  Mike” Inman, Jr., part of the so-called “California Mafia,” who persuaded then Attorney General William French Smith to remove the Immigration Judges from the “Legacy INS,” and combine them with the Board of Immigration Appeals to form EOIR, with then-BIA Chairman David Milhollan as the first EOIR Director. Smith selected as the first Chief Immigration Judge a well-respected (even if not universally beloved) apolitical Senior Executive, William R. Robie, who had run the Department’s Office of Attorney Personnel Management and had a well-deserved reputation in the Washington legal community for “getting the trains running on time.”

It was one of the few times in my more that three decades in Government that I witnessed Senior Political Executives actually arguing for a needed transfer of functions and personnel out of their own agency.  Traditionally, agency heads battled furiously to hang on to any piece of “turf,” no matter how problematic its performance or how tangental it was to the agency’s mission.  But, Nelson and Inman, who were litigators and certainly no “softies” on immigration enforcement, appreciated that for victories in Immigration Court to be meaningful and to stand up on further judicial review, the Immigration Court needed to be a level playing field that would be credible to those outside the Department of Justice.

Unfortunately, the immediate improvements in due process and court management achieved by making the Immigration Courts independent from the “Legacy INS” have long since “played out.”  The system within the DOJ not only reached a point of diminishing returns, but has actually been spiraling downward over the past two Administrations.  Sadly, Nelson, Inman, Milhollan, and Robie have all died in the interim. But, it would be a great way to honor their memories, in the spirit of bipartisan reform and “smart government,” if an Article I Immigration Court were high on Attorney General Sessions’s agenda.

PWS

01/17/17

 

The First Target Of The Trump/Sessions Immigration Agenda Might Not Be Undocumented Individuals — “H-1B” Program That Brings Professionals and Techies In To Aid U.S. Companies Appears To Be In The Crosshairs — Some Indian Pols Rejoice At Prospect Of Relocating Silicon Valley To India!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/trump-and-sessions-plan-to-restrict-highly-skilled-foreign-workers-hyderabad-says-bring-it-on/2017/01/08/8701e0ca-d2c0-11e6-aa0c-f196d8ef0650_story.html?utm_term=.bd6585171144

“But the H-1B cap meant that the bulk of Indian tech workers stayed back. The current cap — not just from India — is 65,000, plus another 20,000 who have graduated from American universities with advanced degrees, down from almost double that at the beginning of the 2000s.

Among those who do get the visas, most ultimately return to settle and work in India. In Hyderabad, many of those returnees are confident that their city can compete with Silicon Valley for India’s brightest young minds.

K.T. Rama Rao, the son of the current chief minister, was one of them. Now he’s the minister for information technology in his father’s government. He pointed to Apple as an example of how Hyderabad could absorb the thousands of workers in a potential future with far fewer H-1Bs — or without them altogether.

“Apple is already moving their maps division here, and they’re doing that because we’re producing more G.I.S. talent than anyone else in the world,” he claimed in an interview, referring to geographic information systems. “Ideally, a president of the United States would have a balanced perspective on business, but if he wants tech firms to stay, he should create better job readiness in the U.S.”

Rao said that legislation targeting big Indian outsourcing companies would wean them away from their dependency on servicing American companies. Without the visa program, they would have to engage in new lines of work that created value in Hyderabad and not abroad, he said.

Amit Jain, now the president of Uber India, is another returnee who used to be on an H-1B. He said that the influx of American companies, as well as a growing indigenous start-up culture, could offer what Indians used to seek in the United States closer to home.

“We definitely have a more robust ecosystem here now,” he said. “We’re seeing plenty of hiring in the future.”

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

I find the projected continued role of Jeff Sessions in this process interesting.  While the Attorney General used to be responsible for administering the H-1B program, that ended more than a decade ago with the transfer of the adjudication functions of the “Legacy INS” to the then newly created Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and it’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Division.   The Attorney General’s responsibility for the H-1B program is now strictly “in the margins:” narrow legal issues involving individuals in H-1B status occasionally arise in Immigration Court proceedings, and the Office of Immigration Litigation (“OIL”) in the Civil Division and the U.S. Attorneys are occasionally called upon to defend particular USCIS policies or interpretations of the H-1B category in Federal Court.

Normally, the moving force within an Administration on H-1B policies and reforms would be the Secretary of Homeland Security — soon to be General John Kelly.  Sessions’s continued involvement as Attorney General in what normally would be DHS/USCIS issues, could presage a reincarnation of the old “Commissioner of Immigration” role.  The Commissioner once headed the INS within the Department of Justice and was a powerful figure whose “finger was literally in every pie in the immigration world.”

My recollection is that one of the ideas of moving the immigration enforcement and service functions to the DHS, while leaving the Immigration Courts behind within the Department of Justice was to increase the separation of the immigration enforcement and service functions from the legal and “fair and impartial hearing” functions of the Immigration Courts.  While this distinction has always worked better in theory (and, perhaps, in terms of perception) than in actual practice, it is likely to become further blurred and hampered if the Attorney General intends to assume a primary immigration enforcement and policy making role within the Administration.

Presumably, Senator Sessions’s specific views on how he sees his role in immigration and his plans for maintaining and improving the due process role of the Immigration Courts — currently struggling with a 500,000+ case backlog and dozens of unfilled judicial positions — will be better fleshed out during the upcoming confirmation process.

PWS

01/09/17