HON. JEFFREY CHASE: Stripped By Ashcroft Of The Appellate Judges Who Understood Asylum Law & Stood Up For The Rights Of Refugees, An Emasculated BIA (With No Meaningful Deliberation Or Dissent) Intentionally Misconstrued The “Particular Social Group” Category To Screw Asylum Seekers! — READ MY LATEST “MINI-ESSAY” –“ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS”  — How The BIA Intentionally Misconstrued Asylum Law To Deny Particular Social Group Protection, While The Obama Administration Turned Its Back On Due Process For Refugees!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/9/14/particular-social-group-errors-in-the-bias-post-acosta-analysis

Jeffrey writes:

Particular Social Group: Errors in the BIA’s Post-Acosta Analysis

In 2006, the Board of Immigration Appeals published its decision in Matter of C-A-, the first in a line of cases creating significant restrictions on what constitutes a cognizable particular social group in claims for asylum. It is worth noting that three years earlier, then Attorney General John Ashcroft purged the BIA of its five most liberal members; two other Board members who clearly would have been removed as well left just prior to the purge. Therefore, the ensuing line of BIA precedents addressing particular social group issues were something of a one-sided affair, with no liberal voices to temper or dissent from the majority.

 

Back in 1985, the Board decided Matter of Acosta, in which it set forth the applicable standard for particular social group determinations.  Not surprisingly, particular social group has proven more difficult for courts to interpret than the other four grounds of race, religion, nationality, and political opinion.  This is because one doesn’t start out asking the question “what is a race?” or “what is a religion?”  Those terms are generally understood.  Not so with particular social group, which as I learned it, was a last-minute creation designed to cover those clearly in need of refugee protection who aren’t covered by the other four grounds.  In Acosta, the Board had to decide how broadly the “PSG” category should be interpreted.  In response to evidence that the drafters of the 1951 Convention considered the ground of particular social group “to be of broader application than the combined notions of racial, ethnic, and religious group,” the Board applied the doctrine of ejusdem generis to conclude that a particular social group, like the four other categories it is grouped with, should be defined by characteristics that are immutable either because its members are unable to change them (like race and nationality), or because they should not, as a matter of conscience, be required to change them (like religion or political opinion).

The Acosta formulation was fair, and worked perfectly well for 21 years.  It was consistent with the way particular social group was being interpreted and applied internationally, and was in no need of modification.  Yet, the post-purge Board added two additional hurdles to particular social group determination: social distinction (previously called social visibility) and particularity.  As discussed below, the result-oriented line of decisions are legally flawed.

Matter of C-A-’s “social visibility” analysis contains at least three errors.   First, as Prof. Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) at the University of California – Hastings Law School in San Francisco has pointed out, although the Board in Matter of C-A- cited to the 2002 UNHCR Guidelines on Particular Social Groups as a basis for adding the social distinction requirement, there is a significant difference between the Board’s holding and the UNHCR Guidelines.  The Guidelines at para. 11 define particular social group as “a group of persons who share a common characteristic other than their risk of being persecuted OR  who are perceived as a group by society.”  Note the use of “or.”  “Or” was intended to expand the group of those who satisfy for PSG status, by including both those who share a common characteristic  OR possess what the Board now calls social distinction.  However, the Board changed the “or” to an “and,” which has the opposite effect of significantly narrowing those who can establish a cognizable PSG by requiring both a shared characteristic and social distinction.

Secondly, the Board found that the proposed group of confidential informants lacked social “visibility” (as it then called social distinction) because informants, by the nature of their conduct, are “generally out of the public view,” and “in the normal course of events…remain unknown and undiscovered.”  However, this is irrelevant to whether the group itself is perceived by society to be distinct.  For example, “Russian spies” by the nature of their conduct, seek to remain unknown, undiscovered, and out of the public eye.  However, the group is often in the news, and is the subject of a popular TV show. It has served as the basis for characters in countless novels and films for decades, and has inspired the passage of anti-espionage laws.  The Board thus erred in apparently confusing the “singled out” requirement of the individual asylum applicant with the “social distinction” requirement of the proposed group.

Thirdly, the Board in C-A- stated that visibility of a group of confidential informants “is limited to those informants who are discovered because they appear as witnesses or otherwise come to the attention of cartel members.”  In that case, the cartel members were the persecutors.  However, the Board has claimed that it is the perception of society, and not the persecutors, that determines social distinction.

The particularity requirement is also problematic.  The element requires the social group to be defined by characteristics that provide a clear benchmark for determining inclusion.  The Board requires the terms used to define the group to have “commonly accepted definitions in the society in which the group is a part;” and “[t]he group must also be discrete, and have definable boundaries–it must not be amorphous, overbroad, diffuse, or subjective.”  See Matter of W-G-R-, 26 I&N Dec. 208, 214 (BIA 2014); Matter of A-M-E- & J-G-U-, 24 I&N Dec. 69, 76 (BIA 2007) (rejecting the proposed group as “too amorphous…to provide an adequate benchmark for determining group membership”).

However, in applying the new requirement of particularity to particular social group determinations only, the Board violated the doctrine of ejusdem generis that it had invoked in Acosta.  This is significant, as determinations under the other four protected categories would not necessarily stand up to the particularity determination.  In finding the proposed group of “former members of the MS-13 gang in El Salvador who have renounced their gang membership” to lack particularity, the Board stated that the proposed group “could include persons of any age, sex, or background.”  Matter of W-G-R-, 26 I&N Dec. 208, 221 (BIA 2014).  Of course, race, religion, and nationality will always include persons of any age, sex, or background; and political opinion could also draw from as wide a range of the population.

In a claim of persecution on account of religion, would the Jewish religion, for example, withstand the particularity requirement?  There is a strong chance that such group would be found too amorphous to provide an adequate benchmark for inclusion.  For example, a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that 14 percent of American Jews stated that they were raising their children “partially Jewish.”  Do “partially Jewish” claimants merit inclusion in the group?  What about those who only attend synagogue once a year, on Yom Kippur?  Or those who consider themselves culturally Jewish, but don’t observe the religion?  Or those with only a Jewish father (who would therefore not be considered Jewish under traditional Jewish law, but would be considered Jewish in the more liberal Reform branch of the religion)?  Where is the benchmark for inclusion?

Looking to the other asylum categories, is one said to possess a political opinion because she votes once every four years for candidates of a particular party, or because she has canvassed for a party’s candidates, given speeches at rallies, or run for office herself?  In this time of multiculturalism, where individuals of mixed race or ethnicity may choose to identify with a particular race or nationality from among two or more choices, would those categories also be found too amorphous?

In addition to the above shortcomings, attorneys have pointed out that particularity and social distinction often work at odds with each other.  Groups that rank high on society’s radar are usually not defined with the type of specific parameters for inclusion, and would therefore be dismissed as too “amorphous.”  Conversely, groups defined with the exacting precision demanded of the particularity requirement tend to be too cumbersome to register in the zeitgeist.  As an example, the term “soccer moms” became popular in American society several presidential elections ago, when “winning the soccer mom vote” was deemed a significant goal.  So while the term “soccer moms” clearly possessed social distinction, it would undoubtedly be found too amorphous to satisfy the particularity requirement.  However, “married middle-class suburban women between the ages of 32 and 47, who spend a significant amount of time driving their school-aged children to multiple after-school activities, which may or may not include soccer” might be particular enough, but will not grab public attention to the degree required to qualify as social distinction.

In spite of the above shortcomings, the federal circuit courts have largely accorded deference to the Board’s flawed interpretation.  Although immigration judges are bound by the Board’s holdings, practitioners may raise the above issues in order to create a record for eventual review by the circuit courts.  The Seventh and Third Circuits have rejected the particularity requirement for different reasons than those stated above.  As I am not aware of any circuit court addressing the issue of whether religion or any other protected ground would stand up to the particularity requirement, I present it as an argument worth pursuing.

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.”

Republished with permission.

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“ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS”  — How The BIA Intentionally Misconstrued Asylum Law To Deny Particular Social Group Protection, While The Obama Administration Turned Its Back On Due Process For Refugees!

By Paul Wickham Schmidt

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

The original Acosta decision was also wrongly decided on the merits. Of course most “occupational groups” have characteristics that are fundamental to their identity and are, therefore, properly classified as PSGs for asylum and withholding of removal purposes under the INA!

Taxi drivers in San Salvador were clearly a well-recognized tightly-knit group who were identified as such by the public, the Government, and the guerrillas and weren’t lightly going to switch occupations. That’s why they were targeted by both sides!

The result in Acosta was also completely nonsensical from a policy standpoint. The BIA’s “bottom line” was that taxi drivers in San Salvador who feared the guerrillas could either quit their jobs en masse or participate in a transportation strike called by the guerrillas. But, either of those actions would have crippled the Salvadoran Government which the U.S. was supporting during the guerrilla war! How stupid can you get! But, when categorically denying asylum to large groups of Central American refugees, there’s no limit to what captive adjudicators who want to hang on to their jobs will do to avoid granting protection!

Would you tell a New York cabbie that his or her occupation isn’t “fundamental” to his or her identity? I certainly wouldn’t do it while sitting in his or her back seat. How many yarns, stories, and jokes have you heard with the phrase “like a New York cabbie?” There are even movies glorifying or vilifying the occupation!

How about American truck drivers? They have their own culture, lingo, and even restaurants, gas stations, and stores. Next time you walk into a Pilot Truck Stop along the Interstate, see if you can tell the “pros” from the “amateur divers” like me. Then go up to one of those “pros” and tell him or her that he or she could just as well make a living  as a checkout clerk or a computer programmer! Or, walk into the “Reserved for Professional Drivers” section, take a seat, and see how long you last. I really wouldn’t try either of the foregoing unless you have very good hospitalization insurance.

Want to bet that being a lawyer or a judge isn’t fundamental to one’s identity — just ask a non-lawyer, non-judge spouse or anyone whose ever had to attend a social function with with one of us? My wife Cathy can usually pick the lawyers out in a room even without introductions!  They “dress, act, and speak” like lawyers!

I might also add that the identity of being a BIA Appellate Judge is so “fundamental” to some of my former colleagues’ identity that they were willing to put forth a totally disingenuous interpretation of the U.N. Guidelines and blow off both fairness and due process for vulnerable asylum seekers (the BIA’s sole functions) to retain their jobs as Appellate Judges in the Bush and Obama Administrations, which were generally actively hostile or clearly indifferent to the rights of refugees. Nobody had the guts to stand up for a correct intrerpretation of the Refugee Convention which would have saved many lives and made the whole immigration system fairer and easier to administer in the long run.

There actually was a U.S. Circuit Judge way out in the 8th Circuit, of all places, who saw clearly the BIA’s disingenuous approach and “called” them on it. The case is Gaitan v. Holder, 671 F.3d 678, 682-86 (8th Cir. 2012) (Bye, Circuit Judge, concurring), the concurring Judge was Judge Bye, and I reproduce the concurring opinion in full from “Legale” because Judge Bye is so “spot on” and, regrettably, so few people paid attention to his criticism:

BYE, Circuit Judge, concurring.

Based upon our recent decisions in Constanza v. Holder, 647 F.3d 749 (8th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) and Ortiz-Puentes v. Holder, 662 F.3d 481 (8th Cir.2011), I concur in the result reached by the majority. I do so reluctantly, however, and write separately to express my disagreement with our circuit’s as-a-matter-of-course adoption of “social visibility” and “particularity” as requirements for establishing “membership in a particular social group.” See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A). While both decisions cited with approval the BIA’s new approach to defining “particular social group,” neither had before it the issue raised in this appeal: did the BIA act arbitrarily and capriciously in adding the requirements of “social visibility” and “particularity” to its definition of “particular social group.” While I am convinced it did, I am nonetheless bound by circuit precedent and therefore concur in the result.

Our circuit only recently addressed the BIA’s new approach to defining “particular social group.” While both Constanza and Ortiz-Puentes grafted the requirements of “social visibility” and “particularity” to petitioners’ social groups claims, neither panel offered any explanation as to why the addition of these new requirements—which are very clearly inconsistent with the BIA’s prior decisions—should not be deemed arbitrary and capricious. Neither panel inquired as to whether the BIA had provided a good reason, or any reason at all, for departing from established precedent. Neither asked if the BIA’s new approach to defining “particular social group” amounted to an arbitrary and capricious change from agency practice. Instead, we simply adopted the new approach, as a matter of course, offering no substantial reason ourselves for this shift in direction. As a result, I fear we have chosen the wrong direction.

In order to understand why the BIA’s addition of the “social visibility” and “particularity” requirements to the definition of “particular social group” is arbitrary and capricious, some background information is necessary. The BIA first attempted to define “particular social group” in Matter of Acosta, 19 I. & N. Dec. 211 (B.I.A.1985). In Acosta, the BIA relied on the canon of ejusdem generis to construe “membership in a particular social group” in a way which most closely resembles the definition of the other four grounds of persecution under the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act): race, religion, nationality, and political opinion. Id. at 233. After deducing commonalities between the five bases of persecution cognizable under the Act, the BIA defined “particular social group” as a “group of persons all of whom share a common, immutable characteristic,”

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which may be either “an innate one such as sex, color, or kinship ties” or a “shared past experience such as former military leadership or land ownership.” Id. In all such circumstances, BIA explained, the characteristic uniting the group must be “one that the members of the group either cannot change, or should not be required to change because it is fundamental to their individual identities or consciences.” Id. Because an occupation is not something individuals are either unable to change or, as a matter of conscience, should not be required to change, the BIA rejected an asylum claim by a taxi driver in the city of San Salvador premised on his membership in a taxi cooperative whose members were targeted by the guerillas for having refused to participate in guerrilla-sponsored work stoppages. Id. at 234.

During the next twenty years, the BIA applied the immutability definition of Acosta in a variety of contexts. The BIA’s published decisions recognized as a “particular social group” former members of Salvadorian national police (who could not change their past experience of serving in the police), see In re Fuentes, 19 I. & N. Dec. 658 (B.I.A.1988); members of the Marehan subclan of the Darood clan in Somalia (who shared kinship ties and linguistic commonalities), see In re H-, 21 I. & N. Dec. 337 (B.I.A. 1996); Filipinos of mixed Filipino-Chinese ancestry (because their traits were immutable)], see In re V-T-S-,21 I. & N. Dec. 792 (B.I.A.1997); young women of a certain Togo tribe who have not yet had a female genital mutilation (FGM) and who opposed the practice on moral grounds (because the “characteristic of having intact genitalia is one that is so fundamental to the individual identity of a young woman that she should not be required to change it”), see In re Kasinga, 21 I. & N. Dec. 357 (B.I.A.1996); and homosexuals in Cuba (based on the Board’s recognition of homosexuality as an immutable characteristic), see In re Toboso-Alfonso,20 I. & N. Dec. 819, 822 (B.I.A.1990). With some variations, all circuits adopted the Acostadefinition of “particular social group.” See generally Fatma E. Marouf, The Emerging Importance of “Social Visibility” in Defining a “Particular Social Group” and Its Potential Impact on Asylum Claims Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender, 27 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. 47, 53 & n. 24 (2008) (stating federal courts “generally have followed Acosta” and cataloging relevant precedents) (hereinafter “The Emerging Importance of Social Visibility”). Our circuit adopted the Acosta definition as well, although it seemingly expanded it following the Ninth Circuit’s lead to also permit social groups based on a “voluntary associational relationship among the purported members.” Safaie v. INS, 25 F.3d 636, 640 (8th Cir.1994) (theorizing a group of Iranian women who refuse to conform to Iranian customs relating to dress and behavior and whose opposition is so profound that they would choose to suffer the severe consequences of noncompliance “may well satisfy the definition”) (citing the standard in Sanchez-Trujillo v. INS, 801 F.2d 1571, 1576 (9th Cir.1986)).

Beginning in 2006, however, the BIA started deviating from the Acosta definition of “particular social group” by emphasizing the importance of social visibility of a given group. In Matter of C-A-, for example,2 the BIA reiterated its adherence

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to Acosta, but listed “the extent to which members of a society perceive those with the characteristic in question as members of a social group” as a “relevant factor” in the analysis. 23 I. & N. Dec. 951, 956-57 (B.I.A.2006). Applying this standard, the BIA rejected the proposed social group of noncriminal drug informants working against the Cali drug cartel in Colombia in part because “the very nature of the conduct at issue is such that it is generally out of the public view.” Id. at 960.

The BIA continued the trend in Matter of A-M-E & J-G-U-, 24 I. & N. Dec. 69 (B.I.A.2007), by refusing to recognize a social group of “affluent Guatemalans” targeted for ransom. The BIA acknowledged the petitioners should not be expected to divest themselves of their wealth under the second prong of Acosta, but denied the claim on the basis of the applicants’ inability to show “social visibility,” id. at 75 (lamenting the lack of evidence to demonstrate “the general societal perception” of wealthy people was different from the common perception of groups at different socio-economic levels), and “particularity,” id.at 76 (criticizing the proposed group for being “too amorphous” and “indeterminate”). In its reasoning, the BIA drew on the Second Circuit opinion in Gomez v. INS, 947 F.2d 660, 664 (2d Cir.1991), where the court required members of a cognizable social group to possess “some fundamental characteristic in common which serves to distinguish them in the eyes of a persecutor—or in the eyes of the outside world in general.”

The biggest transformation in the BIA’s “particular social group” jurisprudence, however, came in its two most recent decisions issued on the same day in 2008: Matter of S-E-G-,24 I. & N. Dec. 579 (B.I.A.2008), and Matter of E-A-G-, 24 I. & N. Dec. 591 (B.I.A.2008). Both confronted claims of gang-related persecution under the rubric of membership in a particular social group. In E-A-G-, the BIA refused to recognize social groups of “young persons who are perceived to be affiliated with gangs (as perceived by the government and/or the general public)” and “persons resistant to gang membership (refusing to join when recruited)” because these groups “have not been shown to be part of a socially visible group within Honduran society, and the respondent [does not] possess[] any characteristics that would cause others in Honduran society to recognize him as one who has refused gang recruitment.” 24 I. & N. Dec. at 593-94. In S-E-G-, the unsuccessful group was that of Salvadorian youth who have been subjected to recruitment efforts by the MS-13 and who have rejected and resisted membership in the gang based on their own personal, moral, and religious opposition to the gang’s values and activities. 24 I. & N. Dec. at 579. Their claim for asylum failed because, according

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to the BIA, it did not fare well under the “recent decisions holding that membership in a purported social group requires that the group have particular and well-defined boundaries, and that it possess a recognized level of social visibility.” Id. In essence, the decisions elevated the requirements of “social visibility” and “particularity” from merely some of the many factors in the holistic analysis of the issue to absolute prerequisites to establishing membership in a particular social group.

This new approach to defining “particular social group” split the circuits as to the validity and permissible extent of the BIA’s reliance on “social visibility” and “particularity.” Compare Valdiviezo-Galdamez v. Holder, 663 F.3d 582, 603-09 (3d Cir.2011) (concluding the BIA’s “social visibility” and “particularity” requirements are inconsistent with prior BIA decisions and rejecting the government’s attempt to graft these additional requirements onto petitioner’s social group claims); Gatimi v. Holder, 578 F.3d 611, 615-16 (7th Cir. 2009) (criticizing the BIA’s decisions in S-E-G- and E-A-G- for being “inconsistent” with the BIA’s precedents in Acosta and Kasinga and for failing to explain the reasons for adopting the “social visibility” criterion); Benitez Ramos v. Holder, 589 F.3d 426, 430-31 (7th Cir.2009) (denouncing the BIA’s insistence on “social visibility,” sometimes in its literal form, and charging the BIA might not understand the difference between visibility in a social sense and the external criterion sense); Urbina-Mejia v. Holder, 597 F.3d 360, 365-67 (6th Cir.2010) (noting being a former gang member is an immutable characteristic and defining former members of the 18th Street gang as a “particular social group” based on their inability to change their past and the ability of their persecutors to recognize them as former gang members), with Lizama v. Holder, 629 F.3d 440, 447 (4th Cir.2011) (upholding the BIA’s definition of a particular social group as requiring that “(1) its members share common immutable characteristics, (2) these common characteristics give members social visibility, and (3) the group is defined with sufficient particularity to delimit its membership”); Ramos-Lopez v. Holder, 563 F.3d 855, 862 (9th Cir.2009) (upholding the BIA’s adoption of the “social visibility” requirement); Scatambuli v. Holder, 558 F.3d 53, 60 (1st Cir.2009) (rejecting petitioners’ claims the BIA is precluded from considering the visibility of a group); and Fuentes-Hernandez v. Holder,411 Fed.App’x. 438, 438-39 (2d Cir. 2011) (stating individuals who resisted gang recruitment in El Salvador do not constitute a “particular social group” because their proposed group lacked “social visibility” and “particularity” and because the alleged persecution “did not bear the requisite nexus to a protected ground”).

I agree with the circuits which hold the BIA’s addition of the “social visibility” and “particularity” requirements to the definition of “particular social group” is arbitrary and capricious. First, as discussed above, these newly added requirements are inconsistent with prior BIA decisions. Specifically, they are in direct conflict with the definition of “particular social group” announced in Acosta. By stating this, I am in no way suggesting the BIA must continue to adhere to the Acosta definition. I am of course cognizant the BIA may “add new requirements to, or even change, its definition of `particular social group'” over time. Valdiviezo-Galdamez, 663 F.3d at 608; see also Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 57, 103 S.Ct. 2856, 77 L.Ed.2d 443 (1983) (stating an agency may change its interpretation of a stature or regulation over time). The BIA, however, must explain its choice for

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doing so because an unexplained departure from established precedent is generally “a reason for holding [the departure] to be an arbitrary and capricious change from agency practice[.]” Nat’l Cable & Telecomms. Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967, 981, 125 S.Ct. 2688, 162 L.Ed.2d 820 (2005); see also FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 556 U.S. 502, 129 S.Ct. 1800, 1811, 173 L.Ed.2d 738 (2009) (stating “the agency must show that there are good reasons for the new policy”); Friends of Boundary Waters Wilderness v. Dombeck, 164 F.3d 1115, 1123 (8th Cir. 1999) (noting “a sudden and unexpected change in agency policy” may be characterized as arbitrary and capricious).

Because the BIA departed from its well-established Acosta definition without providing a reasonable explanation for its choice, the departure is arbitrary and capricious. Thus, although I am bound by our decisions in Constanza and Ortiz-Puentes, I cannot agree with our circuit’s as-a-matter-of-course adoption of the BIA’s new approach to defining “particular social group”—an approach which not only represents a stark departure from established precedent, but also eviscerates protections for many groups of applicants eligible under the agency’s prior definition.

Therefore, I reluctantly concur in the result.

FootNotes

1. Gaitan does not address the denial of relief under the Convention Against Torture in his brief. Any argument based on that ground is therefore deemed waived. See Tinajero-Ortiz v. United States, 635 F.3d 1100, 1103 n. 3 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, ___U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 315, 181 L.Ed.2d 194 (2011). Gaitan notes that he does not waive his claim that he is otherwise eligible for relief in the form of withholding of removal under the INA. However, “[t]he standard for withholding of removal, a clear probability of persecution, is more rigorous than the well-founded fear standard for asylum. An alien who fails to prove eligibility for asylum cannot meet the standard for establishing withholding of removal.” Turay v. Ashcroft, 405 F.3d 663, 667 (8th Cir.2005) (internal citations omitted). Because we find that Gaitan is not eligible for asylum, Gaitan is unable to meet the standard for establishing withholding of removal.

 

2. The BIA signaled its intention to break away from the Acosta standard as early as 2001, in its decision in Matter of R-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. 906 (B.I.A.2001). There, the BIA refused to accord a social group status to a group of “Guatemalan women who have been involved intimately with Guatemalan male companions who believe that women are to live under male domination.” Id. at 917-18. Although the outcome of the opinion was unobjectionable even under the traditional Acosta standard, its logic was noteworthy for the BIA’s insistence that the applicant demonstrate “how the characteristic is understood in the alien’s society” and how “the potential persecutors… see persons sharing the characteristic as warranting suppression or the infliction of harm.” Id. at 918. Because at the time R-A- was issued, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was in the process of finalizing a rule defining “membership in a particular social group,” the Attorney General vacated the BIA’s opinion pending the publication of that rule. In re R-A-, 22 I. & N. Dec. 906 (B.I.A.2001). The proposed rule would incorporate R-A-‘s consideration of social visibility, but only as one of several non-exclusive factors. Asylum & Withholding Definitions, 65 Fed.Reg. 76,588, 76,594 (Dec. 7, 2000). Ultimately, the rule was never formalized, and the ball was back in the BIA’s court to define the “particular social group” incrementally, on a case-by-case basis.”

When Gaitan came out in 2012, the Bushies were gone Obama had taken over, and the Attorney General was Eric Holder. One might have thought that someone with Holder’s reputation for civil rights sensitivity and equal justice under the law might have forced the BIA to confront its tarnished past, or at least have appointed some “asylum experts” as Appellate Judges to force the BIA to engage in some “two-sided” appellate deliberation.
But, alas, Holder, like his successor Attorney General Loretta Lynch, didn’t  see a need to extend civil rights and fair legal treatment to refugees and asylum seekers being mistreated by the DOJ’s wholly owned subsidiary, the BIA. It became apparent that Holder and Lynch rather liked the idea of owning a complacent, largely pro-Government appellate court just as much as Ashcroft and the Bushies did.
During the Obama Administration, the BIA continued to be comprised of Appellate Judges who were insiders and/or bureaucrats. They kept the numbers rolling, didn’t rock the boat, almost never dissented, and “went along to get along” even with obviously flawed legal policies that forced scared, often semi-literate women and children to represent themselves before the U.S. Immigration Courts and make out cases under the BIA’s arcane, convoluted, and generally applicant-unfriendly definitions of PSG. So Sessions was able to take over a dysfunctional court system (in terms of its due process mission), but a relatively well-oiled “denial mill” masquerading as a Federal Appellate Court. And, that’s where we stand today, folks!

The U.S. Immigration Courts will not regain integrity until the are removed from the Executive Branch and reconstituted as as an independent Article I or even Article III Court. Until then, it’s likely that refugees and asylum seekers will continue to suffer unfair treatment, bias, and undeserved fates under the U.S. asylum system. Doesn’t anybody care?

PWS

09-14-17

 

BIA/DURESS DEFENSE — NEW COMMENTARY FROM JUDGE JEFFREY S. CHASE: “Former IJs and Board Members File Amicus Brief in Negusie Remand”

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/7/17/former-ijs-and-board-members-file-amicus-brief-in-negusie-remand

Jeffrey writes:

“An Amicus brief was recently filed with the BIA on behalf of seven former immigration judges (including myself) and a former BIA board member in the case of Negusie v. Holder.  (In addition to the former Board member, one of the included IJs also served as a temporary Board member).   The case was remanded by the U.S. Supreme Court in order for the Board to determine whether there is a duress exception to the bar to asylum which applies to those who have persecuted others on account of a protected ground.

The context for the brief is as follows.  After initially ceding a limited duress exception to the Board, DHS recently changed its position.  In now opposing such exception, DHS relies in part on its contention that the complex analysis such determinations require would overburden the currently backloggedimmigration courts.

The amicus brief on behalf of the former IJs and Board member offers three primary points in rebuttal to this portion of DHS’s claim.  First, the brief points out that the immigration courts’ present backlog is largely the result of policy decisions made by both EOIR and DHS itself.  As the brief argues, it is disingenuous for DHS to create policies that contribute to the immigration courts’ backlog, and then argue to limit immigration judge’s decision-making authority as a means of alleviating its self-created burden.  The brief adds that such “bureaucratic failures resulting in the immigration court backlog cannot be a reason to deny people their right to a fair and just outcome.”

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Read Jeffrey’s complete analysis over on his own website at the above link.

Why the “Chevron Doctrine” has gotta go:

Folks, the Supremes remanded the Negusie case in 2009 — that’s right, approximately eight years ago! Since that time, the supposedly “expert” BIA has been screwing around trying to came up with guidance.

It was obvious from the Supreme’s decision that they all had firm opinions on the correct answer (notwithstanding some very disingenuous protests to the contrary). So, why send the case back several levels in the system, all the way to a non-Article III administrative tribunal to make a decision that the BIA is either unwilling or incapable of making in a timely manner?

It’s time for the Supremes to step up to the plate and decide difficult and controversial issues when they are presented to them, not “punt” back to lesser qualified Executive agencies that lack the necessary judicial independence to make the best and fairest decisions. Why have a Supreme Court that is afraid to decide important legal issues?

In the meantime, lives are in the balance as the BIA flounders about trying to reach a decision. U.S. Immigration Judges and lower Federal Courts have had to “go it alone” on real-life cases while the BIA ruminates. Indeed, I had to decide such cases at the trial level on several occasions without any meaningful guidance from the BIA.

Moreover, the obvious unfairness of these delays is well illustrated here. During the eight years at the BIA, the Administration has changed and is now taking a much more restrictive position. But, if the BIA had done its job, the precedent, presumably more generous, would have been established years ago, and many cases would already have been finally determined thereunder.

It’s time to put an end to the absurdly “undue deference” that the Supremes give to non-Article III decision makers on questions of law under Chevron.

PWS

07-17-17

KATHERINE M. REILLY NAMED ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF EOIR — Also, My “Mini-History” Of EOIR Directors

Here’s the official DOJ press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 3, 2017

Executive Office for Immigration Review Announces New Acting Deputy Director

FALLS CHURCH, VA – The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today announced the appointment of Katherine H. Reilly as the agency’s Acting Deputy Director. Ms. Reilly has served as Chief Counsel of the Employee and Labor Relations Unit within EOIR’s Office of General Counsel since December 2013.

“Katherine’s varied and impressive legal experience makes her well-suited for assuming the position of Acting Deputy Director at EOIR, especially during this important time when we are mobilizing all of our resources to combat a growing caseload,” said Acting Director James McHenry. “The skills she has acquired as a manager and through her work in employee and labor relations are critical for the agency, both to meet its current challenges and to establish effective policies and procedures for the future.”

In her new capacity as Acting Deputy Director, Ms. Reilly will supervise EOIR’s components and will be responsible for assisting in leading the agency in formulating and administering policies and strategies which enhance EOIR’s effectiveness in fulfilling its core mission of adjudicating cases fairly, expeditiously, and uniformly

Katherine H. Reilly joined EOIR in December 2013 as Chief Counsel of the Employee and Labor Relations Unit within the Office of General Counsel. Prior to her tenure with EOIR, she was the Director of Legal Services for the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, managing that agency’s employee relations team, civil litigation section, and contracting division. Ms. Reilly also served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for criminal prosecutions in the Northern District of Texas. She began her career with the Federal Trade Commission as an antitrust attorney and also worked for a law firm, advising corporate clients on antitrust and commercial litigation. Ms. Reilly received her Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Master of Laws degree from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Ms. Reilly is a member of the District of Columbia and Virginia bars.

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Congratulations, good luck and best wishes to Acting Deputy Director Reilly.

And, here’s my “Mini-History of EOIR Directors:”

EOIR MINI-HISTORY: DIRECTORS AND DEPUTY-DIRECTORS

by Paul Wickham Schmidt

U.S. Immigration Judge (Retired) & Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law

 

When EOIR was created within the DOJ in 1983, it merged the previously “stand-alone” Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) with the Immigration Judges, who were previously part of the “Legacy” Immigration and Naturalization Service “INS”). David Milhollan, who was then the Chairman of the BIA also (somewhat reluctantly) became EOIR’s first Director, while retaining his position as Chair, thereby effectively merging the positions of Director and Chair.

 

Upon Milhollan’s retirement, in 1995 the positions were separated to increase the decisional independence of the BIA. For awhile, Jack Perkins, then Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, served as Acting Director. Attorney General Janet Reno named long-time DOJ Senior Executive Anthony C “Tony” Moscato, who had most recently served as the Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the second Director. I was appointed to the now separate position of BIA Chair. Moscato and I had significant roles in the 1983 creation of EOIR.

 

Moscato, noting the growth of EOIR’s functions, recommended the creation of the position of EOIR Deputy Director. Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Kevin D. Rooney as the first Deputy Director. Rooney had served as the Assistant Attorney General for Administration during several Administrations and was in private practice at the time of his appointment.

 

Eventually, Moscato sought and received appointment as a BIA Member. (Thereby going from my “immediate supervisor” to my “direct subordinate,” although these terms make little sense in the EOIR context because neither the Director nor the Chairman has authority to direct the decision-making of Board Members). Rooney succeeded Moscato as the third Director. Then EOIR General Counsel Peg Philbin became the Deputy Director.

 

Philbin served as Acting Director while Rooney was the Acting Commissioner of the INS for a few months during the Bush Administration (uh, talk about conflicts and perceptions, but that really wasn’t a strong point for the Bush II Administration either), but she eventually left EOIR to become a Senior Executive at the State Department. Then Board Member Kevin Ohlson replaced her as Deputy Director. Upon Rooney’s retirement, Deputy Director Ohlson succeeded him as the fourth Director. Ohlson had also held a number of Senior Executive positions within the DOJ prior to his brief stint as a Board Member.

 

When Eric Holder became Attorney General, Ohlson left EOIR to become his Chief of Staff. After some time, during which Judge Thomas Snow served as Acting Director, Juan P. Osuna, then a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division, became the fifth Director. Osuna had also been BIA Chair, BIA Vice Chair, and a Board Member. Ana M. Kocur, then a BIA staff supervisor, was selected to be Osuna’s Deputy.

 

Upon the departure of Osuna and Kocur in May 2017, both the top executive positions in EOIR became vacant. Interestingly, while two former BIA Chairs, Milhollan and Osuna, became Directors, EOIR has never had a Director who had served as a U.S. Immigration Judge at the trial level of the system, although the Immigration Judge program is by far the largest “adjudicating component” of EOIR.

 

Also, no former Immigration Judge has ever held the Deputy Director position. However, as noted above, one current Immigration Judge, Judge Thomas Snow, held the position of Acting Director during the interim between Ohlson’s departure and Osuna’s appointment. Snow, a former top executive in the DOJ’s Criminal Division before his appointment to the bench, was well regarded and well liked by the sitting Immigration Judges. Reportedly, he was offered the position on a permanent basis, but turned it down to return to the Arlington Immigration Court bench where he remains (thus having “outlasted” Osuna).

 

The Director is an unusual position in that as a non-judicial official, he or she is specifically excluded from having any substantive role in EOIR’s sole function: quasi-judicial adjudication. In a future, better-functioning, independent U.S. Immigration Court system, the Chief Appellate Judge (now BIA Chair) would resume the formal role as administrative head of the judicial system, along the lines of the relationship between the Chief Justice and the rest of the Article III Judiciary. The “Director” position would become the “Executive Director of the Administrative Office” subordinate to the Chief Appellate Judge.

 

With the elimination of the inherently political role of the DOJ in the U.S. Immigration Court system, there no longer would be a need to for the largely fictional perception that the “Director” serves as a “buffer” between the “adjudicating components” and the political and litigation officials at the DOJ. The current problems of the U.S. Immigration Court well illustrate the insurmountable difficulties of attempting to run one of the nation’s largest and most important court systems as an “agency” of a political department. Even if the DOJ had the will to allow the Immigration Courts to function independently, it lacks the competence and expertise in court administration to successfully support such a system.

 

The only real question is when will Congress finally face reality and create a truly independent and properly functioning U.S. Immigration court system?

 

PWS

07-06-17

 

 

 

Supremes Find GOP’s Racist Intent Drove NC Redistricting!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-rules-race-improperly-dominated-nc-redistricting-efforts/2017/05/22/c159fc70-3efa-11e7-8c25-44d09ff5a4a8_story.html

Robert Barnes reports in the Washington Post:

“The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature relied on racial gerrymandering when drawing the state’s congressional districts, a decision that could make it easier to challenge other state redistricting plans.

The decision continued a trend at the court, where justices have found that racial considerations improperly tainted redistricting decisions by GOP-led legislatures in Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina. Some cases involved congressional districts, others legislative districts.

The states contended that their efforts were partisan moves to protect their majorities, which the Supreme Court in the past has allowed, rather than attempts to diminish the impact of minority voters, which are forbidden.

But the justices declared that North Carolina had relied too heavily on race in its efforts to “reshuffle,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan, voters in two congressional districts. They were unanimous in rejecting one of the districts and split 5 to 3 on the other.

“This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering,” said former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., who is part of a Democratic effort focused on redistricting. “North Carolina’s maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation. Today’s ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country: Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.”

North Carolina leaders said the court had made the rules regarding redistricting even murkier. Lawmakers are required to consider race when drawing legislative lines so that minorities have a chance to elect candidates of their choice when the numbers are there. But the court has said racial considerations cannot predominate when drawing the districts.”

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Racism is an obvious problem in the Republican Party and particularly in the Trump Administration. The GOP publicly denies racist intent while regularly practicing it to maintain and “fire up” their electoral base. At some point, actions speak louder than words.

Contrary to the disingenuous statements by GOP leaders in North Carolina that the Court’s ruling is “confusing,” former US Attorney General Eric Holder has succinctly stated it: “Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.”

While I haven’t always agreed with him, Eric is one of the brightest guys around. But, you don’t even have to be at his intellectual level to “get the message.”

One guy who is unlikely to get the message is current US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  He has pledged to “back off” of the DOJ’s aggressive stand in protecting minority voting rights, developed under AGs Holder and Lynch, and instead to defer to racist state legislative actions designed to dilute or discourage minority voting. Not surprisingly, this happens most often in the GOP controlled areas of the South.

Liz was right!

PWS

05-23-17

BREAKING: WashPost Reports That Russia Probe Now Involves Trump Top Aide! — Is The “House Of Cards” Beginning To Wobble?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russia-probe-reaches-current-white-house-official-people-familiar-with-the-case-say/2017/05/19/7685adba-3c99-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_fbiprobedeck-315pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.2f64c5fc8b83

Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky Report:

“The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Flynn resigned in February after disclosures that he had lied to administration officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tikkerson.”

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Read the complete story at the link.

I think “we’ve got trouble, right here in River City!” Stay runed!

PWS

05-19-17

 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) Slams Sessions On Sentencing!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/15/opinions/sessions-is-wrong-rand-paul-opinion/index.html

Sen. Rand Paul writes in an op-ed for CNN:

“The attorney general on Friday made an unfortunate announcement that will impact the lives of millions of Americans: he issued new instructions for prosecutors to charge suspects with the most serious provable offenses, “those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”

Rand Paul

Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated a generation of minorities. Eric Holder, the attorney general under President Obama, issued guidelines to U.S. Attorneys that they should refrain from seeking long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
I agreed with him then and still do. In fact, I’m the author of a bipartisan bill with Senator Leahy to change the law on this matter. Until we pass that bill, though, the discretion on enforcement — and the lives of many young drug offenders — lies with the current attorney general
The attorney general’s new guidelines, a reversal of a policy that was working, will accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system. We should be treating our nation’s drug epidemic for what it is — a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy.
And make no mistake, the lives of many drug offenders are ruined the day they receive that long sentence the attorney general wants them to have.
If I told you that one out of three African-American males is forbidden by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago.
Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting, primarily because of the War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected young black males.
The ACLU reports that blacks are four to five times likelier to be convicted for drug possession, although surveys indicate that blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates. The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, but three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses are African American or Latino.
Why are the arrest rates so lopsided? Because it is easier to go into urban areas and make arrests than suburban areas. Arrest statistics matter when cities apply for federal grants. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that it’s easier to round up, arrest, and convict poor kids than it is to convict rich kids.
. . . .
Each case should be judged on its own merits. Mandatory minimums prevent this from happening.
Mandatory minimum sentencing has done little to address the very real problem of drug abuse while also doing great damage by destroying so many lives, and most Americans now realize it.
Proposition 47 recently passed in California, and it has spurred a cultural change in the way nonviolent drug offenders are treated, resulting in more than 13,000 fewer prisoners and a savings of $150 million, according to a Stanford Law School study.
Pew Research found that 67% of Americans want drug offenders to get treatment, not prison, and over 60% want an end to mandatory minimum sentences.
I urge the attorney general to reconsider his recent action. But even more importantly, I urge my colleagues to consider bipartisan legislation to fix this problem in the law where it should be handled. Congress can end this injustice, and I look forward to leading this fight for justice.”
***********************************************
Finally, the ever divisive Jeff “Gonzo-Apocalypto” Sessions is doing something to unite Americans —  his “return to the failed policies of the past” on drugs is uniting Democrats and Republicans in bipartisan opposition.
PWS
05-16-17

MARJORIE COHN IN HUFFPOST: Destroying American Justice From The Inside — The “Gonzo-Apocalypto Era” Takes Hold At The USDOJ!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-sessions-department-of-injustice_us_590dd80ee4b0f711807244f1

Cohn writes:

“Motivated by his deep-seated biases and those of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pursuing a draconian agenda on voting rights, immigration, crime, policing, the drug war, federal sentencing and the privatization of prisons.

Sessions, now head of the Department of Justice, which is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, once called the act “intrusive.” In 2013, after the Supreme Court issued a decision in “Shelby County v. Holder” that struck down the section of the act that established a formula for preclearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, Sessions called it “a good day for the South.”

Sessions and Trump tout the existence of what the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School calls a “phantom crime wave.” While this administration scaremongers about high crime rates, in reality, national crime and murder rates are at a near-historic low: 50 percent less than they were at their peak in 1991.

Trump’s campaign mantra was “law and order,” a euphemism for tolerating excessive force by police officers, often against people of color. Trump speaks of “American carnage” in the cities and a “war” on the police. His bogus rhetoric is aimed at Black Lives Matter, which arose in response to increasing numbers of police shootings, particularly of nonwhites.

The president depicts police reform measures as “anti-law enforcement” and Sessions is fully on board with this framing. In 2015, when he was a senator, Sessions said that police reform movements endanger public safety and hinder police work.

Sessions opposes consent decrees, which are court-enforced agreements aimed at eliminating racial profiling and excessive force by police in agencies that demonstrate “a pattern or practice” of violating civil rights. Sessions says the federal government should not be “dictating to local police how to do their jobs” (except when it comes to immigration enforcement, that is).

Amnesty International warns that Trump and Sessions’ “law and order” rhetoric could lead to higher levels of mass incarceration, long sentences and prolonged solitary confinement.

. . . .

Trump and Sessions are not disappointing the white nationalists who favor using immigration policy as a wedge to further their “alt-right” program.

Kevin de León, President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, noted, “It has become abundantly clear” that Sessions and Trump “are basing their law enforcement policies on principles of white supremacy ― not American values.”

From January to mid-March of this year, immigration arrests have increased by 33 percent. Since Trump’s inauguration, the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal records has doubled. Roughly half of the 675 arrested in early February raids had either driving convictions or no criminal record at all, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.

Sessions drastically increased penalties for illegal reentry into the United States and ordered immigration officials to charge undocumented immigrants with higher-penalty crimes.

Although Sessions’ heavy-handed actions are based on Trump’s spurious claim that immigrants disproportionately murder and rape US citizens, studies have shown that immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than citizens.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are arresting immigrants who come to the courthouse. This egregious practice motivated California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to complain in a letter to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security that ICE agents “appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests.”

Terrorizing immigrants with frightful measures discourages immigrant witnesses from reporting crimes, and discourages victims from seeking legal measures and services that are meant to protect their own safety and well-being.

By March, the Los Angeles Police Department had seen a 25 percent drop in the number of Latinos reporting sexual assault and a 10 percent decrease in Latinos’ reports of domestic violence. By early April, there was a 42.8 percent drop in the number of Latinos who reported rapes to the Houston Police Department. And a health care center in Los Angeles reported a 20 percent decrease in food stamp enrollments and a 54 percent drop in enrollments for Medicaid.

The Trump administration has been arresting ― even deporting ― “Dreamers” who relied on Barack Obama’s assurances they would be protected if they came out of the shadows and provided their personal information to ICE. Dreamer Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez is a registrant in Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and was the first DACA recipient to be deported. Bojorquez, who is now in Mexico, is suing the US federal government.

On January 25, 2017, Trump signed an executive order to halt federal funding to municipal governments that don’t facilitate federal immigration enforcement. Trump’s order is aimed at “sanctuary cities” that protect immigrants from deportation.

In March, Sessions threatened officials in nine jurisdictions with losing their 2016 grants if they failed to certify by June 30 that they were in compliance with a law that forbids local authorities from forcing officials to withhold information about immigration status from federal authorities.

But the majority of sanctuary policies do not cover information sharing. Most address how to handle “detainers,” where federal immigration officials request that state or local authorities continue to detain people who are eligible for release. Courts have said jurisdictions cannot be forced to honor those detainers.

Trump’s January 25 order is blocked, for now. US District Judge William H. Orrick III issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that forbids the federal government from withholding funds from municipal governments that don’t fully cooperate with immigration agents.

Orrick also ruled the federal government can’t legally force counties to hold undocumented people beyond their release dates. The judge concluded Trump’s order likely violates due process, the separation of powers doctrine, and the 10th Amendment, which prevents federal interference with state and local self-government. Only Congress can limit spending, Orrick wrote.

This is Trump’s third executive order halted by federal courts. His first and second Muslim bans are now pending in the 9th and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeals.

. . . .

After Trump nominated Sessions for attorney general, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois) stated, “No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants and people of color than Sen. Sessions.”

Indeed, no one is worse equipped to lead the Department of Justice. Sessions’ racism is prominently on display in every action he has taken during his short tenure in Trump’s cabinet.

It is critical that “we the people” continue to resist, in every way we can, the Trump-Sessions pattern and practice of injustice.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law; and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Follow her on Twitter. Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.”

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Read the entire article over on HuffPost.

So much damage in so little time. And, I’m sure the worst is yet to come. Most impressive in a depressingly negative way! Senators Liz Warren, Cory Booker, and others were right!

PWS

05-07-17

U.S. IMMIGRATON COURTS: She Must Have Had Writer’s Cramp — EOIR Swears In 14 New Judges Appointed By Former AG Lynch — Almost All From Government Backgrounds!

https://www.justice.gov/eoir/pr/executive-office-immigration-review-swears-14-immigration-judges

“FALLS CHURCH, VA – The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today announced the investiture of 14 new immigration judges. Chief Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller presided over the investiture during a ceremony held April 7, 2017, at EOIR headquarters in Falls Church, Va.

After a thorough application process, former Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Justin F. Adams, Edward M. Barcus, Paula J. Donnolo, Lauren T. Farber, Paul M. Habich, Cara O. Knapp, Maria Lurye, Anthony E. Maingot, Sarah B. Mazzie, Matthew E. Morrissey, An Mai Nguyen, Sean D. Santen, Stuart A. Siegel, and Gwendylan E. Tregerman to their new positions.

“We are happy to welcome these 14 appointees to our growing immigration judge corps,” said Keller. “These new immigration judges will enhance the agency’s ability to process detained cases, our highest priority, while also strengthening the agency’s capacity to address its broader pending caseload.”

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First, congratulations to all of the new U.S. Immigration Judges. While these days, probably nobody at DOJ or EOIR will tell you, the “Vision” of the U.S. Immigration Court is: “Through teamwork and innovation be the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.” Please don’t forget that, and always let fairness and due process be your guide and inspiration!

Read the new U.S. Immigration Judges’ bios in the full press release at the above link. Interestingly, EOIR seems to have stopped furnishing information on the total number of Immigration Judges on the bench. But, by my “rough count,” it’s around 319. Also, by my “rough count” that would leave around 55 existing judicial vacancies in the U.S. Immigration Courts.

While former AG Lynch had a flurry of last minute appointments, the record will reflect that under her leadership, the DOJ & EOIR did an exceptionally poor job of filling new positions and getting additional Immigration Judges on the bench. The last minute appointments and unfilled judicial positions were from a group of additional positions provided to DOJ/EOIR by Congress some time ago. After years of moaning and groaning about lack of judicial positions, the DOJ/EOIR system was unable to deal with success. To state the obvious: If they can’t fill the ones they have now, why give them more?

Also, without taking anything away from the new judges, this set of appointments continues a two-Administration “tradition” of largely excluding qualified individuals from private practice, academia, and NGOs from the Immigration Judiciary. Although they had ample chance to do so, both former Attorney General Eric Holder and Lynch failed to address, and in fact participated in, this patent unfairness which has a tendency to skew due process in the Immigration Court system at both the trial and appellate levels. Shame on them!

I’ll keep saying it:  We need an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court that operates in much the same manner as the Article III Courts! There is simply no justification for the current sad state of the U.S. Immigration Court system where due process and professional court administration have needlessly deteriorated over Administrations of both parties. Both the public and the individuals who depend on the U.S. Immigration Courts for due process deserve better!

PWS

04/11/17

 

“This Is The Trump Era” — Jeff Sessions Visits S. Border — Announces New Emphasis On Immigration Crimes — Although Majority of Feds’ Prosecutions Already Immigraton-Related, Enough Is Never Enough! — “Incarceration Nation” Coming! Sessions Also Seeks 125 New U.S. Immigration Judges Over Next 2 Years — Sessions “Disses” Forensic Science At DOJ!

https://www.wsj.com/articles/sessions-lays-out-tough-policy-on-undocumented-who-commit-crimes-1491930183

Aruna Viswanatha reports in the WSJ:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to pursue harsher charges against undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, or repeatedly cross into the U.S. illegally, and promised to add 125 immigration judges in the next two years to address a backlog of immigration cases.

The moves are part of the administration’s efforts to deter illegal immigration and is meant to target gangs and smugglers, though non-violent migrants could also face more severe prosecutions.

In a memo issued Tuesday, Mr. Sessions instructed prosecutors to make a series of immigration offenses “higher priorities,” including transporting or harboring illegal immigrants, illegally entering or reentering the country, or assaulting immigration enforcement agents.

In remarks to border patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona on Tuesday, Mr. Sessions spoke in stark terms about the threat he said illegal immigration poses.

“We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens,” Mr. Sessions said, according to the text of his prepared remarks. “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.”

“This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Mr. Sessions said.

Former prosecutors said they didn’t expect the memo to dramatically impact U.S. attorneys offices along the southern border, which already bring thousands of such cases each year. They said it could impact those further inland, which haven’t historically focused on immigration violations.

In the fiscal year that ended in September 2016, 52% of all federal criminal prosecutions involved immigration-related offenses, according to Justice Department data analyzed by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

. . . .

Immigration advocates said they worried that the memo and tone set by the administration was describing a closer link between criminal behavior and immigration than statistics show.

“We are seeing an over-emphasis on prosecuting, at the federal level, immigration, illegal entry and reentry cases, and far less paid to criminal violations that implicate public safety,” said Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.”

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On April 8, 2017, Sari Horowitz reported in the Washington Post on how Sessions’s enthusiastic plans to reinstitute the largely discredited “war on drugs” is likely to “jack up” Federal Prison populations:

“Crime is near historic lows in the United States, but Sessions says that the spike in homicides in several cities, including Chicago, is a harbinger of a “dangerous new trend” in America that requires a tough response.
“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad,” Sessions said to law enforcement officials in a speech in Richmond last month. “It will destroy your life.”

Advocates of criminal justice reform argue that Sessions and Cook are going in the wrong direction — back to a strategy that tore apart families and sent low-level drug offenders, disproportionately minority citizens, to prison for long sentences.

“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).”

. . . .

Cook and Sessions have also fought the winds of change on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently tried but failed to pass the first significant bill on criminal justice reform in decades.

The legislation, which had 37 sponsors in the Senate, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and 79 members of the House, would have reduced some of the long mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug crimes. It also would have given judges more flexibility in drug sentencing and made retroactive the law that reduced the large disparity between sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

The bill, introduced in 2015, had support from outside groups as diverse as the Koch brothers and the NAACP. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) supported it, as well.

But then people such as Sessions and Cook spoke up. The longtime Republican senator from Alabama became a leading opponent, citing the spike in crime in several cities.

“Violent crime and murders have increased across the country at almost alarming rates in some areas. Drug use and overdoses are occurring and dramatically increasing,” said Sessions, one of five members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against the legislation. “It is against this backdrop that we are considering a bill . . . to cut prison sentences for drug traffickers and even other violent criminals, including those currently in federal prison.”
Cook testified that it was the “wrong time to weaken the last tools available to federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents.”

After GOP lawmakers became nervous about passing legislation that might seem soft on crime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Sessions was the main reason that bill didn’t pass,” said Inimai M. Chettiar, the director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “He came in at the last minute and really torpedoed the bipartisan effort.”

Now that he is attorney general, Sessions has signaled a new direction. As his first step, Sessions told his prosecutors in a memo last month to begin using “every tool we have” — language that evoked the strategy from the drug war of loading up charges to lengthen sentences.

And he quickly appointed Cook to be a senior official on the attorney general’s task force on crime reduction and public safety, which was created following a Trump executive order to address what the president has called “American carnage.”

“If there was a flickering candle of hope that remained for sentencing reform, Cook’s appointment was a fire hose,” said Ring, of FAMM. “There simply aren’t enough backhoes to build all the prisons it would take to realize Steve Cook’s vision for America.”

. . . .

Sessions’s aides stress that the attorney general does not want to completely upend every aspect of criminal justice policy.

“We are not just sweeping away everything that has come before us.” said Robyn Thiemann, the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy, who is working with Cook and has been at the Justice Department for nearly 20 years. “The attorney general recognizes that there is good work out there.”

Still, Sessions’s remarks on the road reveal his continued fascination with an earlier era of crime fighting.

In the speech in Richmond, he said, “Psychologically, politically, morally, we need to say — as Nancy Reagan said — ‘Just say no.’ ”

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Not surprisingly, Sessions’s actions prompted a spate of critical commentary, the theme of which was the failure of the past “war on drugs” and “Just say no to Jeff Sessions.” You can search them on the internet, but here is a representative example, an excerpt from a posting by Rebecca Bergenstein Joseph in “Health Care Musings:”

“We Can’t Just Say No
Posted on April 9, 2017 by Rebecca Bergenstein Joseph
Three decades ago, Nancy Reagan launched her famous anti-drug campaign when she told American citizens, “Say yes to your life. And when it comes to alcohol and drugs, just say no.” 1 Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked the former First Lady’s legacy in a speech to Virginia law enforcement when he said, “ I think we have too much tolerance for drug use– psychologically, politically, morally. We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no.’”2 As our nation is confronted on a daily basis with the tragic effects of the opioid epidemic, it is important that we understand just how dangerous it is to suggest that we return to the ‘just say no’ approach.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the ‘just say no’ curriculum became the dominant drug education program nationwide in the form of DARE.3 The DARE program– Drug Abuse Resistance Education– was developed in 1983 by the Los Angeles police chief in collaboration with a physician, Dr. Ruth Rich. The pair adapted a drug education curriculum that was in the development process at University of Southern California in order to create a program that would be taught by police officers and would teach students to resist the peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs. With the backdrop of the War on Drugs that had continued from the Nixon presidency into the Reagan era, DARE grew quickly. Communities understandably wanted to prevent their children from using alcohol and drugs. The program was soon being used in 75% of schools nationwide and had a multimillion dollar budget.3 In fact, I would bet that many of you reading this are DARE graduates. I certainly am.

It did not take long for there to be research showing that the ‘just say no’ approach used in DARE was not working. By the early 1990s there were multiple studies showing that DARE had no effect on its graduates choices regarding alcohol and drug use.4 The decision to ignore the research about DARE culminated when the National Institute of Justice evaluated the program in 1994, concluded that it was ineffective, and proceeded to not publish this finding. In the 10 years that followed, DARE was subjected to evaluation by the Department of Education, the U.S Surgeon General’s Office, and the Government Accountability Office.4 The combined effect of these evaluations was the eventual transformation of DARE into an evidence-based curriculum, Keepin’ It REAL, which was released in 2011.5 But this only happened after billions of dollars were spent on a program that did not work and millions of students received inadequate drug education.

And yet, here we are again. The top law enforcement officer in our nation is suggesting that we go back to the days where elementary and middle school students were told that all they needed to do was ‘just say no.’”

Read the complete post here:

https://sites.tufts.edu/cmph357/author/rjosep06/

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Finally, just yesterday, on April 10, 2017, Spenser S. Hsu reported in the Washington Post that Sessions was “canning” the “National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013” as a consultant to the DOJ on proper forensic standards.

In plain terms, in Session’s haste to rack up more criminal convictions and appear “tough on crime,” the quality of the evidence or the actual guilt or innocence of those charged becomes merely “collateral damage” in the “war on crime.”

Here’s a portion of what Hsu had to say:

“Several commission members who have worked in criminal courts and supported the input of independent scientists said the department risks retreating into insularity and repeating past mistakes, saying that no matter how well-intentioned, prosecutors lack scientists’ objectivity and training.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of New York, the only federal judge on the commission, said, “It is unrealistic to expect that truly objective, scientifically sound standards for the use of forensic science . . . can be arrived at by entities centered solely within the Department of Justice.”

In suspending reviews of past testimony and the development of standards for future reporting, “the department has literally decided to suspend the search for the truth,” said Peter S. Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, which has reported that nearly half of 349 DNA exonerations involved misapplications of forensic science. “As a consequence innocent people will languish in prison or, God forbid, could be executed,” he said.

However, the National District Attorneys Association, which represents prosecutors, applauded the end of the commission and called for it to be replaced by an Office of Forensic Science inside the Justice Department. Disagreements between crime lab practitioners and defense community representatives on the commission had reduced it to “a think tank,” yielding few accomplishments and wasted tax dollars, the association said.

The commission was created after critical reports by the National Academy of Sciences about a dearth of standards and funding for crime labs, examiners and researchers, problems it partly traced to law enforcement control over the system.

Although examiners had long claimed to be able to match pattern evidence — such as with firearms or bite marks — to a source with “absolute” or “scientific” certainty, only DNA analysis had been validated through statistical research, scientists reported.

In one case, the FBI lab in 2005 abandoned its four-decade-long practice of tracing bullets to a specific manufacturer’s batch through chemical analyses after its method were scientifically debunked. In 2015, the department and bureau reported that nearly every examiner in an elite hair-analysis unit gave scientifically flawed or overstated testimony in 90 percent of cases for two decades before 2000.

The cases include 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison.”

Here is a link to the full article by Hsu: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/sessions-orders-justice-dept-to-end-forensic-science-commission-suspend-review-policy/2017/04/10/2dada0ca-1c96-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?utm_term=.97b814db4eac&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

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I “get” that some of the advocacy groups quoted in these articles could be considered “interested parties” and/or “soft on crime” in the world of hard-core prosecutors. But, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the Koch brothers “soft on crime?” Come on, man!

Capitalist theory says that as long as there is a nearly insatiable “market” in the United States for illegal drugs, and a nearly inexhaustible “supply” abroad, there is going to be drug-related crime. Harsher sentences might increase risks and therefore “jack up market prices” for “consumers” of “product,” while creating “new job opportunities” for “middlemen” who will have to take (and be compensated for) more risks and invest in more expensive business practices (such as bribery, or manipulation of the legal system) to get the product “to market.”

But, you can bet that until we deal with the “end causes” in a constructive manner, neither drug trafficking nor trafficking in undocumented individuals is likely to change much in the long run.

Indeed, authorities have been cutting off heads, hands, feet, and other appendages, drawing and quartering, hanging, crucifying, shooting, gassing, injecting, racking, mutilating, imprisoning in dungeons, transporting, banishing, and working to death those who have committed crimes, both serious and not so serious, for centuries. But, strangely, such harsh practices, while certainly diminishing the humanity of those who inflict them, have had little historical effect on crime. The most obvious effects have been more dead and damaged individuals, overcrowded prisons, and angry disaffected families.

125 new U.S. Immigration Judges should be good news for the beleaguered U.S. Immigration Courts. But, even assuming that Congress goes along, at the glacial pace the DOJ and EOIR have been hiring Immigration Judges over the past two Administrations, it could take all four years of Trump’s current term to get them on board and actually deciding cases.

More bad news: Added to the approximately 375 Immigration Judges currently authorized (but, only about 319 actually on the bench), that would bring the total to 500 Immigration Judges. Working at the current 750 completions/year (50% above the “optimum” of 500 completions/year) the currently authorized 375 Immigration Judges could complete fewer than 300,000 cases/year consistent with due process — barely enough to keep up with historic receipts, let alone the “enhanced enforcement” promised by the Trump Administration. They would not have to capacity to address the current “backlog” of approximately 550,000 cases.

If receipts remained “flat,” the 125 “new” Immigration Judges contemplated by AG Sessions could go to work on on the backlog. But, it would take them about 6 years to wipe out the 550,000 case existing backlog.

PWS

04/11/17

 

 

 

Turning Back The Hands Of Time — Sessions Seeks To Restore AG’s Lead Role In Immigration Enforcement!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/seeking-central-role-on-immigration-attorney-general-jeff-sessions-plots-border-visit-to-arizona/2017/03/30/34fc8596-1550-11e7-833c-503e1f6394c9_story.html

David Nakamura and Matt Zapotosky report in the Washington Post:

“The Justice Department is seeking to play a more muscular role in the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement strategy, a move that is alarming immigrant rights advocates who fear Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s hard-line ideology could give Justice too much clout in determining policy.

To highlight the department’s expanding role, Sessions is considering making his first trip to the southern border in mid-April to Nogales, Ariz., a busy border crossing region that features a major patrol station and already has miles of fencing and walls designed to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico. Aides emphasized that his itinerary is still being developed and the stop in Nogales — which would come as Sessions travels to a conference of state police officials from around the country 200 miles away in Litchfield Park — is still tentative.

If he follows through, the border visit would come at a time when President Trump is asking Congress for billions of dollars to begin construction on a longer and larger wall between the United States and Mexico, a central campaign promise.

In recent weeks, Sessions has taken steps to increase his department’s focus on immigration.

. . . .

But legal experts said Sessions could significantly restructure the Justice Department by ramping up the number of immigration judges sent to the border to speed up hearings and by pursuing more criminal prosecutions against immigrants in the United States beyond those associated with drug cartels and human smugglers that past administrations have focused on.

The Sessions Justice Department also could move to strip some protections from undocumented immigrants, such as how much time they have to find a lawyer; more robustly defend DHS enforcement policies that are challenged in court; and use the Office of the Special Counsel to aggressively prevent employers from discriminating against American workers by hiring undocumented workers, said Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration.

“I think they will be in­cred­ibly active,” said Fresco, who helped draft the 2013 immigration bill while serving as an aide to Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). The only thing that could slow Sessions, he added, was “finding enough individuals with expertise and the willingness to speed these issues along.”

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Prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), the Attorney General had responsibility for nearly all aspects of domestic immigration enforcement and adjudication. Most of those functions were reassigned to the DHS, leaving the AG responsible primarily for the Immigration Courts (through the Executive Office for Immigration Review – “EOIR”) and for conducting immigration litigation in the Article III Federal Courts (through the Office of Immigration Litigation — “OIL”).

Apparently, Attorney General Sessions finds these legal roles too “passive” for his enforcement-oriented outlook. Sensing a vacuum because of his closeness to the President and DHS Secretary Kelly’s relative inexperience in immigration issues, Sessions now seeks to make, rather than just defend or adjudicate, immigration policy.

What does this say about the chances that Sessions will promote a fair and impartial administrative hearing system through the U.S. Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals over which he exercises ultimate control.

PWS

03/31/17