THE NEW YORKER: Bureaucratic Delays Impede Due Process In U.S. Immigration Court!

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-will-trump-do-with-half-a-million-backlogged-immigration-cases

Jonathan Blitzer writes in The New Yorker:

“In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions travelled to Nogales, Arizona, to make an announcement. “This is the Trump era,” he said. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigrations laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.” While his tone was harsh, and many of the proposals he outlined were hostile to immigrants, he detailed one idea that even some of his critics support: the hiring of more immigration judges.

U.S. immigration courts are facing a backlog of over half a million cases—and each one, on average, takes almost two years to close. These delays mean that everyone from asylum seekers to green-card holders faces extended stays in detention while awaiting rulings. Speaking about the problem, one immigration judge recently told the Times, “The courts as a whole lose credibility.”

Much of the backlog can be traced back to the Obama Administration, when spending on immigration enforcement went up, while Congress dramatically limited funds for hiring more judges. The number of pending cases grew from a hundred and sixty-seven thousand, in 2008, to five hundred and sixty thousand, in 2017, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The broader trend, though, goes back farther. Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, in 2002, the increase in resources allocated for border security and immigration policing has always significantly outpaced funding for the courts. (Immigration courts are part of the Department of Justice.) As more and more people have been arrested, detained, and ordered deported, the courts have remained understaffed and underfunded. “We’ve always been an afterthought,” Dana Leigh Marks, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told me.

Roughly three hundred judges nationwide are responsible for the entire immigration caseload, and hiring is slow—filling a vacancy typically tak

es about two years, according to the Government Accountability Office. In Nogales, Sessions said that he would try to streamline the hiring process. But until that happens the Administration has been relocating judges to areas where they’re deemed most necessary. “We have already surged twenty-five immigration judges to detention centers along the border,” Sessions said, as if talking about military troop levels.”

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To state the obvious, a court should be run as an independent court system, not a bureaucratic agency within a highly politicized Executive Department like the DOJ. (If you ever wondered whether the DOJ was politicized, recent events should make it clear that it is.)

And, Jeff, these are judges, not troops; and the individuals are not an “invading army,” just mostly ordinary folks seeking refuge, due process, and fair treatment under our laws and the Constitution. Remember, it’s not an immigration crisis; it’s a crisis involving the steady degradation of due process within the U.S. Immigration Court system.

PWS

06-21-17

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

75 Years of the BIA

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

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

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Commentary on “Pattern or Practice” Persecution

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

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

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The History of Racism in U.S. Immigration


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

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

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

PWS

06-19-17

UPDATE

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

The History of U.S. Asylum Law

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

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

PWS

06-21-17

EOIR INVESTS ELEVEN NEW U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES — PRIVATE SECTOR TOTALLY SHUT OUT!

Here are the bios of the new U.S. Immigration Judges:

IJInvestiture06162017

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This brings the total number of sitting U.S. Immigration Judges to 326. Congratulations to the new Judges, and please don’t forget the due process mission of the U.S. Immigration Courts!

Unfortunately, however, this continues the trend of creating a one-sided U.S. Immigration Court which basically has excluded from the 21st Century Immigration Judiciary those who gained all or most of their experience representing respondents, teaching, or writing in the public sector. It’s not particularly surprising that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has expressed a strong enforcement bias, would prefer to “go to the Government well” for all or most of his selections.

However, the real problem here is with the DOJ during the Obama Administration.  With a chance to fill perhaps a record number of U.S. Immigration Judge positions over eight years, and to create an evenly balanced, diverse Immigration Judiciary in the process, they not only turned the hiring process in to a ridiculous two-year average cycle, but also selected 88% of the candidates from Government backgrounds.

Why would someone take two years for a selection process that selects from a limited inside pool anyway? And, why would you lead outside applicants to take the time to apply, believing they had a fair chance of competing, when the process obviously was “fixed” in favor of insiders? Sort of reminds me of the discussion of the labor certification recruitment process that we recently had in my Immigration Law & Policy Class at Georgetown Law!

Just more ways in which the “Due Process Vision” of the U.S. Immigration Courts has basically been trashed by the last three Administrations!

PWS

06-19-17

The Gibson Report For June 19, 2017

The Gibson Report, June 19, 2017

Thanks, Elizabeth!

PWS

06-19-17

BIA PRECEDENT: SD Receipt Of Stolen Motor Vehicle NOT An Agfel — Lacks Mens Rea — Matter Of DEANG, 27 I&N Dec. 57 (BIA 2017) — Split Panel!

https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/974211/download

BIA HEADNOTES:

(“1) An essential element of an aggravated felony receipt of stolen property offense under section 101(a)(43)(G) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G) (2012), is that an offender must receive property with the “knowledge or belief” that it has been stolen, and this element excludes a mens rea equivalent to a “reason to believe.”

(2) A conviction for receipt of a stolen motor vehicle under section 32-4-5 of the South Dakota Codified Laws categorically does not define an aggravated felony receipt of stolen property offense under section 101(a)(43)(G) of the Act because it is indivisible with respect to the necessary mens rea and only requires, at a minimum, that an offender have a “reason to believe” that the vehicle received was stolen.”

BIA PANEL: Appellate Immigration Judges Pauley, Creppy, & Malphrus

OPINION BY: Judge Pauley

DISSENTING OPINION: Judge Malphrus

Here’s an excerpt from Judge Malphrus’s dissent:

“I cannot agree with the majority’s conclusion that the respondent’s receipt of stolen property offense does not qualify as an aggravated felony under section 101(a)(43)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G) (2012). I agree that our task is to determine the generic, contemporary meaning of the phrase “receipt of stolen property” in section 101(a)(43)(G) by surveying the Federal and State statutes as they existed in 1994, when Congress added the phrase “receipt of stolen property” to section 101(a)(43) of the Act, as well as the Model Penal Code. See Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 592, 598 (1990); see also Matter of Alvarado, 26 I&N Dec. 895, 897 (BIA 2016). However, there was simply no consensus regarding the mens rea standard for receipt of stolen property offenses in 1994. I cannot conclude that Congress intended to adopt a mens rea that, according to the majority, would preclude offenses in 21 jurisdictions, as well as a Federal offense, from qualifying as aggravated felonies.”

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Read the complete majority and dissenting opinions at the link. This is a very rare (these days) “split panel” on a BIA precedent.

PWS

06-18-17

 

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

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

Ben Leubsdorf writes in the WSJ:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Read the entire article at the link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* High seas interdiction;

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

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

PWS

06-18-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WashPost: GANGS — A Complicated Problem With No Easy Solution — Budget Cuts Undermine Some Local Programs!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/ms-13-gains-recruits-and-power-in-us-as-teens-surge-across-border/2017/06/16/aacea62a-3989-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_ms-13-1240pmm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.5745c22fb3d0

Michael E. Miller, Dan Morse, and Justin Jouvenal report:

“The increasing MS-13 violence has become a flash point in a national debate over immigration. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have vowed to eradicate the gang, while immigrant advocates say the young people are being scapegoated to further an anti-immigrant agenda.

Danny’s case illustrates just how difficult the balance between compassion and safety can be. Was he a child who needed help? Or a gang member who shouldn’t have been here?

“Do you close the doors to all law-abiding folks who just want to be here and make a better life . . . and in the process keep out the handful who are going to wreak havoc on our community?” asked one federal prosecutor, who is not permitted to speak publicly and has handled numerous MS-13 cases. “Or do you open the doors and you let in good folks and some bad along with the good?”

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Read the entire, much longer, article at the link.

it does seem short sighted to save a few bucks by cutting some of the few programs specifically designed to address this issue.

PWS

06-16-17

 

INSIDE THE IMMIGRATION COURTS: Principal Deputy Chief Immigration Judge Michael C. McGoings To Retire — Judge Christopher A. Santoro Named Acting Chief Of Staff

Sources in EOIR relate that Principal Deputy Chief Immigration Judge Michael C. McGoings has announced that he will retire at the end of this month. I hired  Judge McGoings as an Assistant Chief Counsel for the “Legacy INS” back in 1987, shortly before I left to go into private practice. He has served in numerous management and executive positions and has been a Deputy Chief Immigration Judge since 2009 and the Principal Deputy Chief Immigration Judge since 2013. Congratulations, thanks for many years of service, and all the best to Judge McGoings in his well-earned retirement.

Meanwhile, Acting EOIR Director Judge James McHenry has announced that he is appointing Judge Christopher A. Santoro as his Acting Chief of Staff. Judge Santoro was the Assistant Chief Immigration Judge with responsibility for the Arlington Immigration Court during part of my tenure there, from 2012 to 2015. He was known for his collegiality, hard work, organizational skills, problem solving ability, and willingness to jump in and actually hear cases in emergency situations. After serving as an Acting Deputy Chief Immigration Judge in 2015 until early 2016, Judge Santoro mysteriously disappeared from view somewhere into the “bowels of the EOIR bureaucracy” becoming essentially a “bureaucratic non-person.” I am pleased to see that he has resurfaced in a position where he can apply his skills to help stabilize a court system that is rapidly spiraling out of control.

PWS

06-15-17

Why Is The U.S. Immigration Court So Totally Screwed Up? — Sure, Bad Laws & Inadequate Resources Are Endemic Problems — But, Trying To Run A Due Process Court System As An Agency Of A Political Department Which Is Clueless About Effective Judicial Administration Is The Overriding Reason This System Is “Built To Fail!”

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/06/08/immigration-courts-backlog/

Tory Johnson writes in Immigration Impact:

“Anyone familiar with the immigration system knows that the immigration courts have an enormous backlog which has persisted—and grown—for more than a decade. As of April 2017, the immigration court backlog topped 585,930 cases, more than double the pending cases in fiscal year (FY) 2006 (212,000).

The immigration court backlog means that many people wait years to have their cases resolved. According to a June 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the average time a case remains pending with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)—the office within the Department of Justice that adjudicates immigration cases—has increased. In FY 2006, cases took an average of 198 days to complete; now the average is 650 days.

For years government officials, external stakeholders, and others have attributed the growing backlog to staffing shortages, lack of resources, and changing priorities. GAO’s recent analysis affirms some of these problems, but found that average case completion times increased—from 43 days in FY 2006 to 286 days in FY 2015—even though the number of immigration judges increased by 17 percent in the last decade.

So what’s making cases take longer in immigration court, and contributing to the backlog?

In part, judges are taking more time to complete cases, especially as new hires get up to speed. Respondents to GAO’s investigation most commonly cited a lack of adequate staff as a cause of the backlog, but “immigration judges from five of the six courts [GAO] contacted also stated that they do not have sufficient time to conduct administrative tasks, such as case-related legal research or staying updated on changes to immigration law.”

Indeed, over the 10-year period, judges issued 54 percent more case continuances, or a temporary postponement of case proceedings, on their own volition—due to unplanned leave or insufficient time to complete a hearing, for example. Immigration judges may also grant a continuance to allow respondents time to obtain legal representation— since immigrants do not receive government-provided counsel— which demonstrably shortens the length of a case.

There is concern that the backlog may only worsen under the current administration. In order to carry out President Trump’s directives to ramp up immigration enforcement and deportations, the Justice Department has started relocating immigration judges. But transferring judges—many of whom have been reassigned to detention centers—for the purpose of speeding up immigration cases has alarmed immigration experts, who fear case delays will increase in immigration judges’ usual courts, adding to the backlog.

While the directives were not analyzed in GAO’s review, the report’s focus on systemic issues exacerbating the backlog makes the plans to shuffle judges to new courts all the more concerning.

GAO made 11 recommendations in the following areas that would “better position EOIR to address its case backlog and help improve the agency’s overall effectiveness and efficiency in carrying out its important mission.” The recommendations included implementing better workplace planning and hiring practices; building an electronic filing system with oversight and management mechanisms; video-teleconferencing (VTC) assessments to ensure neutral outcomes; and creating efficient management practices and comprehensive performance measures for all cases.

While some of these issues are being addressed—such as implementing a plan to streamline hiring—GAO found that the efforts EOIR cited do not fully address the concerns outlined in the report. In particular, EOIR is lacking comprehensive technological capabilities, data on VTC hearings, performance assessments, and short- and long-term plans for staffing needs created by the 39 percent of retirement-eligible immigration judges.

The shortcomings further demonstrate the GAO’s conclusion that EOIR is lacking critical management, accountability, and performance evaluation systems. These mechanisms are essential for EOIR and oversight bodies, such as Congress, to accurately assess the immigration courts and ensure that EOIR is achieving its mission, which includes timely adjudication of all cases.

EOIR should take the GAO’s recommendations seriously and work to implement solutions—the fates of hundreds of thousands of people literally depend on it.”

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Sadly, the necessary changes are way beyond the capability of EOIR and the DOJ, particularly in light of current political leadership in the DOJ which seems determined to run the courts into the ground with ill-advised maximum enforcement initiatives and “aimless docket reshuffling.” EOIR has been an agency within the DOJ since 1983. It actually performs measurably worse today than it did in 2000. Expecting a “turnaround” within the DOJ is like expecting the Tooth Fairy to solve this problem.

You can check out my previous blog on the GAO report here:

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/06/02/gao-report-recommends-improvements-in-u-s-immigration-court-hiring-technology-data-analysis-oversight/

Note that the GAO discusses independent structures for the U.S. Immigration Court, but does not include a particular recommendation on that point.

But, I have one! We need an independent United States Immigration Court now! Otherwise the Immigration Court’s “due process meltdown” is eventually going to paralyze a large segment of the U.S. justice system. Yes, folks, it’s that bad! Maybe even worse, since DOJ and EOIR are “circling the wagons” to avoid public scrutiny and accountability. Tell your legislative representatives that we need an independent court now!

PWS

06-14-17

 

THE ASYLUMIST: The Importance Of Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect & Collegiality In Immigration Court

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/06/08/us-versus-them-in-immigration-court/#comments

Jason Dzubow writes in The Asylumist:

“Unlike perhaps some areas of law, immigration law has a strong ideological component. Many of the attorneys who represent immigrants do so because they believe in human rights and they want to keep families together. For such attorneys—and I include myself among them—our work represents an expression of our moral and/or religious values. In other words, it’s more than just a job; it’s a mission.

Does this make it harder for us to work cooperatively with opposing counsel (DHS)? Is it more urgent that we do so? For me, the answer to both these questions is yes. When our clients’ lives and futures are on the line, it can be very difficult to maintain a cordial relationship with a government attorney who is fighting to have that client deported. But even in the hardest-fought case, there is value in maintaining lines of communication. For example, even where the DHS attorney will not compromise and is fighting all-out for removal, there still exists the possibility of stipulating to evidence and witnesses, and of a post-order stay of removal. Severing the connection does not serve the client (though it may satisfy the ego), and certainly won’t help future clients, and so to me, there is little value in burning bridges, even when I believe DHS’s position is unjust.

All that said, there is no doubt that we will often disagree with our opposing counsel, and that we will fight as hard as we can for our clients. This is also a duty under the Rules of Professional Conduct (zealous advocacy), and for many of us, it is an expression of our deeply held belief in Justice.

With the ascension of the Trump Administration, and its more aggressive approach towards non-citizens, I believe it is more important than ever for us lawyers to keep good relationships with our DHS counterparts. While some government attorneys are glad to be “unleashed” and to step-up deportation efforts, many others are uncomfortable with the Administration’s scorched-Earth strategy. These DHS attorneys (and I suspect they are the majority) take seriously their obligation to do justice; not simply to remove everyone that ICE can get their hands on.

While the environment has become more difficult, I plan to continue my Old School approach. It works for me, it has worked for my clients, and I think it is particularly crucial in the current atmosphere. We lawyers–the immigration bar and DHS–should continue to lead by example, and continue to maintain the high ethical standards that our profession sets for us. In this way, we can help serve as a counter-balance to our country’s leaders, whose divisive, ends-justify-the-means approach has no use for the basic principles of morality or comity that have long served our profession and our democracy.”

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Read Jason’s complete blog at the link.

This is terrific advice for lawyers and judges, particularly those just starting out.

Fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect and teamwork are the things I have tried to promote throughout my career. I found all of them at the Arlington Immigration Court. “No way” I would have lasted 13 years on the trial bench  without lots of help and cooperation from the whole “court team.”

PWS

06-14-17

 

NO MERCY, NO JUDGEMENT, NO SANITY — “Deport ‘Em All — Create Universal Fear” (Paraphrased) Says Acting ICE Chief Homan!

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jun/13/thomas-homan-ice-chief-says-illegal-immigrants-sho/

Stephen Dinan reports in the Washington Times:

“Illegal immigrants should be living in fear of being deported, the chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday, pushing back against a growing sentiment among Democrats on Capitol Hill and activists across the country who have complained about agents enforcing the laws on the books.
Thomas D. Homan, acting director at ICE, said anyone in the country without authorization can be arrested and those who have been ordered deported by judges must be removed if laws are to have meaning.
His comments marked a major shift for an agency that President Obama forbade from enforcing the law when it came to more than 9 million of the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. Unshackled from Mr. Obama’s strictures, agents have dramatically increased the number of arrests.
Advocacy groups are enraged and demand leniency for “traumatized” immigrants.
Mr. Homan makes no apologies.
“If you’re in this country illegally and you committed a crime by being in this country, you should be uncomfortable, you should look over your shoulder. You need to be worried,” Mr. Homan testified to the House Appropriations Committee. “No population is off the table.”

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  1. Homan’s definition of “criminal” (the “Trump definition”) is remarkable. It includes folks who have never been convicted of a crime, but might have committed one. So, by this definition, anyone who has ever driven a car while over the legal limit, left assets off of a Federal or State tax return, or tried marijuana in high school or college when it was against the law is a “criminal.” That probably would include the majority of the U.S. population, and even lots of folks who work for Homan. Fortunately for them, they aren’t subject to Homan’s arbitrary removal policies.
  2. Homan’s over-broad use of “criminal” nevertheless excludes a large portion of the undocumented population who entered the U.S. legally on visas or visa waivers and then overstayed. Recent studies estimate that the visa overstays surpassed illegal entrants as a source of undocumented arrivals in 2008 and might amount to as much as 60% of the “new” undocumented population in recent years. Overstaying is not, in and of itself, a “crime.”
  3. Some of the individuals under “final orders” of removal were ordered removed in absentia. Many of these individuals have a right to file a motion to reopen which automatically stays removal and requires immediate attention by an Immigration Judge. In my experience, because of the “haste makes waste” priorities followed by the last few Administrations, many “Notices To Appear” (NTA’s) had incorrect addresses or were otherwise were defectively served. (Keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of NTAs and Notices of Hearing Date are served by regular U.S. Mail, rather than actual personal service.) Consequently, many of these supposed “scofflaws” might not actually have had their day in court and will be entitled to a reopened individual hearing in the future.
  4. Make no mistake about it, what Homan really is advocating is arbitrary enforcement. We can’t remove millions of individuals, but by arbitrarily removing a limited number, even if they are actually benefitting the US, we can spread fear among millions. And, by sowing fear, we can make these individuals afraid to report crime or cooperate with authorities in solving crime.
  5. It’s not really Homan’s fault. His pride in his largely arbitrary use of the enforcement resources at his disposal is just the logical outcome of years of intentional neglect of needed immigration reforms by Congress and successive Administrations. Arbitrary enforcement is what the Trump Administration asked for, and Homan is giving it to them. Big time! Eventually, it’s likely to crash the entire system. And, that will finally force Congress to do what it hates most: legislate.
  6. It also would be wrong to think of Acting Director Homan as a creation of the Trump Administration. He is a career civil servant who is exceptionally good at doing what he is told to do. So good, in fact, that he received a Presidential Rank SES Award from the Obama Administration for “jacking up” removals. Don’t forget that until Trump and his bombast arrived on the scene, President Obama was known as the “Deporter-in-Chief.” Obama made mistakes, but he did temper some of his counterproductive enforcement efforts with at least some amount of mercy, common sense, and the very beginnings of a rational system of enforcement along the lines of almost every other law enforcement agency in America. With Trump, the age of “full gonzo enforcement” has returned.

PWS

06-14-17

 

BIA Requests Amicus Briefing On Modified Categorical Approach & CIMT — Deadline Is July 12, 2017

https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/972601/download

June 12, 2017, Amicus Invitation Amicus Invitation No. 17-06-12 AMICUS INVITATION (MODIFIED CATEGORICAL APPROACH & CIMTS) DUE [JULY 12, 2017] JUNE 12, 2017 The Board of Immigration Appeals welcomes interested members of the public to file amicus curiae briefs discussing the below issue(s): ISSUE(S) PRESENTED: (1) Is the Board precluded from applying a modified categorical analysis for an indivisible or means-based statute within the context of crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) determinations, when the requirement in question is whether the involved conduct is reprehensible, which is a subjective determination that is not an element of the state offense? (2) Do the “three basic reasons for adhering to an elements-only inquiry,” Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243, 2252-53 (2016), have force in the CIMT context? (3) Do the answers to the first two questions require modification of the Board’s decision in Matter of Silva-Trevino, 26 I&N Dec. 826 (BIA 2016), and if so, how? Request to Appear as Amicus Curiae: Members of the public who wish to appear as amicus curiae before the Board must submit a Request to Appear as Amicus Curiae (“Request to Appear”) pursuant to Chapter 2.10, Appendix B (Directory), and Appendix F (Sample Cover Page) of the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual. The Request to Appeal must explicitly identify that it is responding to Amicus Invitation No. 17-06-12. The decision to accept or deny a Request to Appear is within the sole discretion of the Board. Please see Chapter 2.10 of the Board Practice Manual. Filing a Brief: Please file your amicus brief in conjunction with your Request to Appear pursuant to Chapter 2.10 of the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual. The brief accompanying the Request to Appeal must explicitly identify that it is responding to Amicus Invitation No. 17-06-12. An amicus curiae brief is helpful to the Board if it presents relevant legal arguments that the parties have not already addressed. However, an amicus brief must be limited to a legal discussion of the issue(s) presented. The decision to accept or deny an amicus brief is within the sole discretion of the Board. The Board will not consider a brief that exceeds the scope of the amicus invitation. Request for Case Information: Additional information about the case, including the parties’ contact information, may be available. Please contact the Clerk’s Office at the below address for this information prior to filing your Request to Appear and brief. Page Limit: The Board asks that amicus curiae briefs be limited to 30 double-spaced pages.

June 12, 2017, Amicus Invitation Amicus Invitation No. 17-06-12 AMICUS INVITATION (MODIFIED CATEGORICAL APPROACH & CIMTS) DUE [JULY 12, 2017] JUNE 12, 2017 The Board of Immigration Appeals welcomes interested members of the public to file amicus curiae briefs discussing the below issue(s): ISSUE(S) PRESENTED: (1) Is the Board precluded from applying a modified categorical analysis for an indivisible or means-based statute within the context of crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) determinations, when the requirement in question is whether the involved conduct is reprehensible, which is a subjective determination that is not an element of the state offense? (2) Do the “three basic reasons for adhering to an elements-only inquiry,” Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243, 2252-53 (2016), have force in the CIMT context? (3) Do the answers to the first two questions require modification of the Board’s decision in Matter of Silva-Trevino, 26 I&N Dec. 826 (BIA 2016), and if so, how? Request to Appear as Amicus Curiae: Members of the public who wish to appear as amicus curiae before the Board must submit a Request to Appear as Amicus Curiae (“Request to Appear”) pursuant to Chapter 2.10, Appendix B (Directory), and Appendix F (Sample Cover Page) of the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual. The Request to Appeal must explicitly identify that it is responding to Amicus Invitation No. 17-06-12. The decision to accept or deny a Request to Appear is within the sole discretion of the Board. Please see Chapter 2.10 of the Board Practice Manual. Filing a Brief: Please file your amicus brief in conjunction with your Request to Appear pursuant to Chapter 2.10 of the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual. The brief accompanying the Request to Appeal must explicitly identify that it is responding to Amicus Invitation No. 17-06-12. An amicus curiae brief is helpful to the Board if it presents relevant legal arguments that the parties have not already addressed. However, an amicus brief must be limited to a legal discussion of the issue(s) presented. The decision to accept or deny an amicus brief is within the sole discretion of the Board. The Board will not consider a brief that exceeds the scope of the amicus invitation. Request for Case Information: Additional information about the case, including the parties’ contact information, may be available. Please contact the Clerk’s Office at the below address for this information prior to filing your Request to Appear and brief. Page Limit: The Board asks that amicus curiae briefs be limited to 30 double-spaced pages.

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PWS

06-14-17 Continue reading BIA Requests Amicus Briefing On Modified Categorical Approach & CIMT — Deadline Is July 12, 2017

FAILED DUE PROCESS VISION: BIA Blows Off IJ’s Due Process Violations — Third Circuit Blows Whistle On BIA! — Serrano-Alberto v. Attorney General — READ MY “CONTINUING CRITIQUE” OF THE BIA’S FAILURE TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF ASYLUM SEEKERS!

http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/153146p.pdf

PANEL: Circuit Judges VANASKIE, KRAUSE, and NYGAARD

OPINION BY: Judge Nygaard

“While in the vast majority of cases, IJs diligently comport with their constitutional and statutory obligations, and while it is only on rare occasion that we have held an IJ’s conduct crosses the line, the record here compels us to conclude this is one of those rare cases. Because we reach this conclusion against the backdrop of the three main cases to date in which we have distinguished between permissible and impermissible IJ conduct under the Due Process Clause, we will review each of those cases before addressing Serrano- Alberto’s claims for relief.

. . . .

What these cases teach us is that, where a petitioner claims to have been deprived of the opportunity to “make arguments on his or her own behalf,” Dia, 353 F.3d at 239, there is a spectrum of troubling conduct that is fact-specific and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if (1) the petitioner “was prevented from reasonably presenting his case[,] and (2) . . . substantial prejudice resulted,” Fadiga, 488 F.3d at 155 (internal quotation marks omitted). At one end of the spectrum, the “lack of courtesy,” “interject[ions]” to clarify and develop the record, and “annoyance and dissatisfaction with . . . testimony” in Abdulrahman, 330 F.3d at 597, were not sufficient to establish a due process claim. At the other end, the “contemptuous tone,” focus on “issues irrelevant to” the petitioner’s claims, and findings unsupported by the record in Wang, 423 F.3d at 270, and the “wholesale nitpicking,” “continual[] abuse[]” and “belligerence,” and “interrupt[ions] . . . preventing important

30

parts of [the petitioner’s] story from becoming a part of the record,” in Cham, 445 F.3d at 691, 694, were flagrant enough to violate due process. Where these component parts of an IJ’s conduct are sufficiently egregious, at least in combination, a petitioner’s procedural due process rights are violated.

In Serrano-Alberto’s case, we conclude the IJ’s conduct falls on the impermissible end of the spectrum. Indeed, the IJ’s conduct here shares many of the attributes of the conduct we found unconstitutional in Wang and Cham, including a hostile and demeaning tone, a focus on issues irrelevant to the merits, brow beating, and continual interruptions. See supra Sec. III.B. And in contrast to Abdulrahman where the interruptions assisted the petitioner in answering questions and appropriately refocused the hearing, 330 F.3d at 596-98, the IJ’s interruptions here repeatedly shut down productive questioning and focused instead on irrelevant details, see supra Sec. III.B.”

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On the “plus side,” the Third Circuit went out of its way to point out that this case is the exception rather than the rule with respect to Immigration Judges’ respect for due process during the hearing process.

But, on the negative side, why should a supposedly “expert” Board whose mission is to protect due process be letting clearly unfair adjudications like this, which violate due process, get by? Not everybody can afford to go to the Court of Appeals. So, the Board’s failure to carry out its due process functions can actually cost lives, or at least ruin them. How can such a critically important function as appellate immigration judging be treated so dismissively, inappropriately, incompetently, and lackadaisically by successive Administrations while largely escaping critical public examination of its often highly questionable jurisprudence?

In my view, as I’ve observed before, part of the problem lies with the BIA’s overall negative approach to asylum seekers, particularly those from Central America with claims based on “particular social groups.” With a “closed, inbred judiciary” drawn almost exclusively from Government, a highly politicized Department of Justice which is unqualified to run a court system, and the fear of another “Ashcroft purge” hanging over them for judging independently and protecting the rights of asylum seekers, the BIA has basically “tanked” on its duty to guarantee fairness, due process, and protection to asylum seekers. So, if the BIA is unwilling to speak up for the due process and substantive rights of respondents, what’s its purpose? To provide a “veneer of deliberation and due process” to dissuade the Article III courts and the public from digging into the details to find out the real problems?

It’s also interesting that the Third Circuit “calls out” the BIA for a standard practice of using (often bogus) “nexus” denials to deny protection to asylum applicants who fit within a protected ground and can clearly demonstrate a likelihood of harm upon return. Check out FN 5 in the Third Circuit’s opinion:

“5 In a number of recent cases, the BIA likewise has assumed a cognizable PSG or imputed political opinion and disposed of the appeal by finding no nexus. See, e.g., Bol- Velasquez v. Att’y Gen., No. 15-3098 (3d Cir. filed Aug. 28, 2015) (ECF Agency Case Docketed); Bell v. Att’y Gen., No. 14-4781 (3d Cir. filed Dec. 18, 2014) (same); Santos v. Att’y Gen., No. 14-1050 (3d Cir. filed Jan. 8, 2014) (same); Ulloa- Santos v. Att’y Gen., No. 12-2781 (3d Cir. filed June 25, 2012) (same); Orellana-Garcia v. Att’y Gen., No. 12-2099 (3d Cir. filed Apr. 20, 2012) (same). This practice, however, can have troubling consequences. First, it places the analytical cart before the horse in cases like this one, where the very definition of the PSG is then at issue, for denying relief based on the absence of a nexus begs the question: nexus to what? See, e.g., Bol-Velasquez, No. 15-3098. Even the Attorney General has observed “it would be better practice for Immigration Judges and the Board to address at the outset whether the applicant has established persecution on account of membership in a [PSG], rather than assuming it as the Board did here. Deciding that issue—and defining the [PSG] of which the applicant is a part—is fundamental to the analysis of which party bears the burden of proof and what the nature of that burden is.” Matter of A-T-, 24 I. & N. Dec. 617, 623 n.7 (U.S. Att’y Gen. 2008). Second, even where the PSG definition is undisputed—so that the BIA would certainly have discretion to conclude that the efficiency of assuming a given PSG weighs in favor of resolution at the nexus stage—a reflexive practice of simply assuming a PSG has been established and is cognizable does not account for the very real benefits on the other side of the scale. Just as the Supreme Court has observed in the qualified immunity context, adjudication at every step is generally “necessary to support the Constitution’s ‘elaboration from case to case’ and to prevent constitutional stagnation” because “[t]he law might be deprived of this explanation were a court simply to skip ahead,” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232, 236 (2009) (holding the two-step protocol announced in Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001) is no longer mandatory “but often beneficial”), so here, the BIA’s practice of assuming PSG and resolving cases on nexus grounds often inhibits the proper and orderly development of the law in this area by leaving the contours of protected status undefined, precluding further appellate review under the Chenery doctrine, see SEC v. Chenery Corp., 332 U.S. 194 (1947), and ultimately generating additional needless litigation because of the uncertainty in this area, see Valdiviezo-Galdamez, 663 F.3d at 594-609; Fatin v. INS, 12 F.3d 1233, 1238 (3d Cir. 1993); Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I. & N. Dec. 227, 230 (BIA 2014). This is a case in point, where the IJ articulated the relevant PSG as “individuals perceived as wealthy who refuse to pay gang taxes,” App. 17, although other definitions were reasonable, and the BIA, despite being presented with alternative formulations, declined to rule on the question altogether. In sum, for both of the reasons stated, we strongly encourage IJs and the BIA to define the PSG in question and to adjudicate the existence and cognizability of that PSG.”

Let’s get down to the real point. Largely because of intervention from Article III Courts, more and more “particular social groups” are becoming “cognizable.” This is particularly true in the area of family-based social groups.

Alternatively, the DHS and the BIA have tried to deny claims on the grounds that the foreign government is “not unable or unwilling to protect.” But, given the documented conditions in the Northern Triangle of Central America, such findings often don’t pass the “straight face test” and have had difficulty on judicial review. So the best way to deny protection to Central American asylum seekers is by developing metaphysical, largely bogus, findings of lack of “nexus.”

The answer to the Third Circuit’s question “nexus to what” is simple. It doesn’t matter. No matter what the protected group is in Central American cases, the BIA will do its best to find that no nexus exists, and encourage Immigration Judges to do likewise.

A vivid example of that was the BIA’s recent precedent inMatter of L-E-A-, 27 I&N Dec. 40 (BIA 2017), discussed in earlier blogs. There, without dissent or meaningful discussion, the BIA “deconstructed” a clearly established case for nexus (which actually had been found by the Immigration Judge) and buried it under layers of impenetrable legal gobbledygook.  Maybe it will get deference from the Article IIIs, maybe it won’t. There isn’t much consistency there either.

Asylum applicants lives are at stake in removal proceedings. They deserve a process where fairness, due process, and deep understanding of the life-preserving functions of protection law are paramount. Today’s system, which all too often runs on the principles of expediency, institutional preservation, job security, pleasing the boss, and sending law enforcement “messages” is failing those most in need. One way or another, our country and future generations will pay the price for this dereliction of duty.

PWS

06-13-17

 

 

NICHOLAS KULISH IN THE NYT: TORTURED IN VENEZUELA, HANDCUFFED BY ICE @ THE MIAMI ASYLUM OFFICE! — DHS Continues To Abuse Legal Authority, Clog Backlogged U.S. Immigration Courts! My Quote: “Why clog an already clogged court docket with a case that looks like a slam dunk?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/us/asylum-torture-venezuela.html

Nicholas reports:

“Marco Coello, then a skinny 18-year-old high school student, was grabbed by plainclothes agents of the Venezuelan security services as he joined a 2014 demonstration against the government in Caracas.

They put a gun to his head. They attacked him with their feet, a golf club, a fire extinguisher. They tortured him with electric shocks. Then Mr. Coello was jailed for several months, and shortly after his release, he fled to the United States.

Human Rights Watch extensively documented his case in a report that year. The State Department included him in its own human rights report on Venezuela in 2015. With such an extensive paper trail of mistreatment in his home country, his lawyer, Elizabeth Blandon, expected a straightforward asylum interview when Mr. Coello appeared at an immigration office this April in Miami.

“I had this very naïve idea that we were going to walk in there and the officer was going to say, ‘It’s an honor to meet you,’” said Ms. Blandon, an immigration law expert in Weston, Fla.

Instead, he was arrested and taken to a detention facility on the edge of the Everglades. He was now a candidate for deportation. “Every time they would move me around, I would fear that they were going to take me to deport me,” said Mr. Coello, now 22.

Mr. Coello’s case drew extensive media coverage in both Miami and Caracas and, eventually, the intervention of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The senator helped secure Mr. Coello’s release, though he could still be deported.

The case may have been a sign of just how far the government is willing to go to carry out President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

“It’s very unusual — almost unprecedented — that ICE would arrest an asylum applicant who is at a U.S.C.I.S. office waiting for their asylum interview,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School.”

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Just because arresting individuals believed to be in the U.S. without authorization is legal doesn’t mean that it’s not stupid or wasteful in many cases. Cases like this belong in the Asylum Office.

In a well-functioning system, Mr. Coello likely would have been granted asylum following his interview. Instead, he’s on an already overcrowded U.S. Immigration Court docket with a merits hearing scheduled for approximately one year from now.

What does the U.S. gain from these types of wasteful enforcement actions? What message are we sending to Mr. Coello and others who will eventually become full members of our society? What kind of messages are we sending to Venezuela and those attempting to escape from some of the world’s most brutal governments?

Read Nicholas’s complete report, which contains more quotations from me and others, at the above link.

PWS

06-13-17

Supremes Apply Equal Protection Analysis To Citizenship Statutes — But Plaintiff Unwed Father Still Loses

No way to explain this baby succinctly. So, if you’re interested, here is the decision; written by Justice Ginsburg with a concurring opinion by Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Alito. The case is Sessions v. Morales-Santana.

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1191_2a34.pdf

PWS

06-12-17