“The government does not offer any argument on the merits of this petition; therefore, it has waived any challenge to the arguments Martinez raised. See Clem v. Lomeli, 566 F.3d 1177, 1182 (9th Cir. 2009) (holding that an appellee who did not address an argument in the answering brief had waived that issue). On remand, the agency is directed: (1) to give proper consideration to Martinez’s testimony about police corruption and acquiescence in MS-13 violence; (2) to accord proper weight to the Department of State Country Report on El Salvador, and in particular, evidence of corruption and inability or unwillingness to prosecute gang violence; and (3) to apply the correct legal standards to Martinez’s Convention Against Torture claim.”
PANEL: Morgan Christen and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges, and James Alan Soto, District Judge.
OPINION BY: Judge Soto
Read the full opinion at the link. It’s short. Three things stand out.
First, the Respondent’s credible testimony clearly established a plausible claim for CAT relief. If he gets representation, he will be able to show that the authorities in El Salvador do often cooperate with gangs and that the government is willfully blind to the many instances of torture of citizens by gangs. The Asylum Officer’s incorrect analysis along with that by the Immigration Judge show a fundamental misunderstanding of CAT law and the reasonable fear process. How does an Immigration Court system faced with such glaring problems eliminate training and the guidance provided through the former Benchbook?
Second, the 9th Circuit highlights the Byzantine nature of the regulations in this area. How many unrepresented individuals who been treated in this unfair manner are hustled out of the country because they can’t figure out how to get meaningful review?
Third, this decision shows that there might well be ways to penetrate the general unwillingress of Appellate Courts to review the gross miscarriages of justice and denials of due process going on every day in the expedited removal process which is administered by the DHS and inadequately reviewed by the Immigration Judges. Once they take a look, they will be appalled at what they find!
“Effective February 27, 2017, new changes to the asylum screening process could lead to an increased number of deportations of asylum-seekers who fear persecution upon return to their home country.
On February 13, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised its Asylum Division Officer Training Course (ADOTC) lesson plans on how to assess an asylum seeker’s credible and reasonable fear of persecution or torture. The lesson plans were revised to be consistent with the January 25, 2017 Executive Order on border security and immigration enforcement and provide guidelines to the asylum officers when conducting credible fear interviews (for those at the border or port of entry who were never previously deported) and reasonable fear interviews (for those who were previously order deported but who later seek asylum).
The changes to the lesson plans are significant and may cause the denial rate to skyrocket, in which case thousands of asylum seekers would be wrongfully denied a meaningful day in court . Not only does the new guidance provide asylum officers with greater discretion to deny an applicant for reasons which may be out of the applicant’s control, but the applicant will essentially be forced to undergo a full asylum hearing with none of the safeguards in place to ensure a meaningful opportunity to present a claim for relief.”
Read Katie’s complete analysis at the link. You should also look at Dree Collopy’s short video on the changes which I previously posted.
If this carries over into Immigration Court where unsuccessful applicants can seek “expedited review,” it would mean that “credible fear reviews” could become more time consuming.
I was usually able to complete them in a few minutes using the Asylum Officer’s notes and asking a few questions. I found that the overwhelming number of those denied had “credible fear,” and probably at least half of those cases eventually resulted in relief. However, over the last year of my career I was primarily on the non-detained docket, so I only did “credible fears” when I was on detail to a detention center or the system was backed up.
As an Immigration Judge, I did not use the USCIS lesson plans. But, I did rely on the Asylum Officer’s notes for a basic understanding of the claim. I then usually asked a few questions to verify that the notes accurately reflected the claim and that nothing relevant had been omitted.
Here’s the You-Tube link.
Great job by Dree!
Bottom Line: Under pressure from the Trump Administration, USCIS is tilting the system against (largely unrepresented) asylum applicants from the Northern Triangle. The only questions are 1) whether the Immigration Courts will follow suit, and 2) if so, whether the Article III Courts will blow or swallow (as they have done so far in the credible/reasonable fear context) the whistle on due process for the most vulnerable.
A good introduction to reality for anyone who believes that conscientious career civil servants will be able to persevere in the face of the Trump Administration’s all-out assault on due process and fundamental fairness.
Release lesson plans
credible fear lesson plan
These were forwarded by Nolan Rappaport. Nolan believes that these guidelines will “raise the bar” substantially for asylum claimants to pass through the credible fear process.
On initial review, I’d be hard pressed to say there was anything “legally erroneous” about these lesson plans. However, they did seem highly “legalistic.”
I have done numerous “credible fear reviews” in my judicial career and found that the determinations were more “holistic” than “legalistic.” Most of the folks I reviewed had credible, legitimate fears that arguably came within the legal definitions of persecution and/or torture particularly if the individual could fully develop the claims with the help of a lawyer.
I did not always retain jurisdiction over the cases once they were allowed into the Individual Hearing system Of the cases the came back to me, I estimate that at least half of the individuals succeeded in getting some form of protection at the Immigration Court level.
Read the lesson plans here and decide for yourself!