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

Welcome To Jeff Sessions’s America — In 1957 Sessions Was 10 Years Old And His White Christian Fellow Alabamans Were Busy Perverting The “Rule Of Law” To Deny Their African American Fellow Citizens Constitutional Rights, Fundamental Justice, & Human Dignity!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-white-cop-dies-and-a-young-black-man-spends-years-in-jail-for-a-crime-he-didnt-do/2017/06/16/d771059e-4706-11e7-a196-a1bb629f64cb_story.html?hpid=hp_regional-hp-cards_rhp-card-arts%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.a94b2ba61075

Colbert I. king writes in the Washington Post:

“How is it possible in a country that prides itself on having a Bill of Rights, expresses reverence for due process and touts equal protection that a 17-year-old can be arrested, put on trial and sentenced to death, and then spend 13 years being shuttled among death row cellblocks in disgusting jails and prisons with his case under appeal, all for a crime he didn’t commit?

The answer contains some simple prerequisites: He had to be black, live in the Jim Crow South and be accused of committing, as one deputy sheriff put it, a “supreme offense, on the same level of a white woman being raped by a black man” — that is, the murder of a white police officer.

Teenager Caliph Washington, a native of Bessemer, Ala., was on the receiving end of all three conditions. And as such, Washington became a sure-fire candidate to suffer the kind of tyrannical law enforcement and rotten jurisprudence that Southern justice reserved for blacks of any age.

In “He Calls Me by Lightning,” S. Jonathan Bass, a professor at Alabama’s Samford University and a son of Bessemer parents, resurrects the life of Washington, who died in 2001 finally out of prison — but with charges still hanging over his head.

 

Bass, however, does more than tell Washington’s tale, as Washington’s widow, Christine, had asked him to do in a phone call. Bass dives deeply into the Bessemer society of 1957 where Washington was accused of shooting white police officer James “Cowboy” Clark on an empty dead-end street near a row of run-down houses on unpaved Exeter Alley.

Bessemer-style justice cannot be known, let alone understood, however, without learning about that neo-hardscrabble town 13 miles southwest of Birmingham.

Bessemer served as home to a sizable black majority, an entrenched white power structure and an all-white police department, consisting at the time of a “ragtag crew of poorly paid, ill-trained, and hot-tempered individuals” who earned less than Bessemer’s street and sanitation workers.

Bessemer was a town with its own quaint racial customs, such as forcing black men to “walk in the middle of the downtown streets, not on the sidewalks, after dark — presumably to keep them from any close contact with white women.”

 

Bessemer was a town where in 1944 the police forced black prisoners to participate in an Independence Day watermelon run. White citizens reportedly cheered as firefighters blasted the inmates with high-pressure hoses to make the race more challenging. Winners, it is said, received reduced sentences and the watermelons.

It was in that town that Caliph Washington was born in 1939, the same year of my birth in Washington, D.C.

Bessemer’s racial climate was no different the year Washington was accused of killing Cowboy Clark. The town’s prevailing attitude on race was captured at the time in a pamphlet distributed by a segregationist group, the Bessemer Citizens’ Council. Black Christians, the white citizens’ council said, should remain content with being “our brothers in Christ without also wanting to become our brothers-in-law.”

If ever there was a place to not get caught “driving while black” — which is what Washington was doing on that fateful night in July 1957 — it was Bessemer. And that night’s hazard appeared in the form of Clark and his partner, Thurman Avery, who were cruising the streets in their patrol car looking for whiskey bootleggers.”

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Read the rest of King’s op-ed at the link.

So, when you hear Sessions and his White Nationalist buddies like Bannon, Miller, Kobach, and Pence extolling the virtues of a small Federal Government (except for the migrant-bashing mechanisms) state control of voting, civil rights, police conduct, gender fairness, environmental regulations, labor relations, filling the prisons with maximum sentences, a new war on drugs, etc., it’s just clever code for “let’s make sure that white-dominated state and local governments can keep blacks, hispanics, immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities from achieving power, equality, and a fair share of the pie.” After all, if you believe, as these guys do, that true democracy can be a bad thing if it means diversity and power sharing, then you’re going to abuse the legal and political systems any way you can to maintain your hold on power.

And, of course, right-wing pontificating about the “rule of law” means  nothing other than selective application of some laws to the disadvantage of minorities, immigrants, and often women. You can see how selective Sessions’s commitment to the rule of law is when he withdraws DOJ participation in voting rights cases in the face of strong evidence of racial gerrymandering, withdraws support from protections for LGBT individuals, supports imprisonment in substandard prisons, targets legal marijuana, and “green lights” troubled police departments to prioritize aggressive law enforcement over the protection of minority citizens’ rights. Ethics laws, in particular, seems to be far removed from the Sessions/Trump concept of “Rule of Law.” And, sadly, this is only the beginning of the Trump Administration’s assault on our Constitution, our fundamental values, and the “real” “Rule of Law.”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NYT SATIRE: Bret Stephens Says Only Mass Deportation (Of “So-Called ‘Real Americans'”) Can Make America Really Great!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/only-mass-deportation-can-save-america.html

Bret Stephens writes:

“In the matter of immigration, mark this conservative columnist down as strongly pro-deportation. The United States has too many people who don’t work hard, don’t believe in God, don’t contribute much to society and don’t appreciate the greatness of the American system.

They need to return whence they came.

I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.

On point after point, America’s nonimmigrants are failing our country. Crime? A study by the Cato Institute notes that nonimmigrants are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of illegal immigrants, and at more than three times the rate of legal ones.

Educational achievement? Just 17 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search — often called the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of United States-born parents. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, just 9.5 percent of graduate students in electrical engineering were nonimmigrants.

Religious piety — especially of the Christian variety? More illegal immigrants identify as Christian (83 percent) than do Americans (70.6 percent), a fact right-wing immigration restrictionists might ponder as they bemoan declines in church attendance.

Business creation? Nonimmigrants start businesses at half the rate of immigrants, and accounted for fewer than half the companies started in Silicon Valley between 1995 and 2005. Overall, the share of nonimmigrant entrepreneurs fell by more than 10 percentage points between 1995 and 2008, according to a Harvard Business Review study.

Nor does the case against nonimmigrants end there. The rate of out-of-wedlock births for United States-born mothers exceeds the rate for foreign-born moms, 42 percent to 33 percent. The rate of delinquency and criminality among nonimmigrant teens considerably exceeds that of their immigrant peers. A recent report by the Sentencing Project also finds evidence that the fewer immigrants there are in a neighborhood, the likelier it is to be unsafe.

Photo

Immigrants cheering at the start of a naturalization ceremony in Atlanta last fall. CreditDavid Goldman/Associated Press

And then there’s the all-important issue of demographics. The race for the future is ultimately a race for people — healthy, working-age, fertile people — and our nonimmigrants fail us here, too. “The increase in the overall number of U.S. births, from 3.74 million in 1970 to 4.0 million in 2014, is due entirely to births to foreign-born mothers,” reports the Pew Research Center. Without these immigrant moms, the United States would be faced with the same demographic death spiral that now confronts Japan.

Bottom line: So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future. In other words, just the kind of people we used to be — when “we” had just come off the boat.”

. . . .

Beyond the inhumanity of toying with people’s lives this way, there’s also the shortsightedness of it. We do not usually find happiness by driving away those who would love us. Businesses do not often prosper by firing their better employees and discouraging job applications. So how does America become great again by berating and evicting its most energetic, enterprising, law-abiding, job-creating, idea-generating, self-multiplying and God-fearing people?

Because I’m the child of immigrants and grew up abroad, I have always thought of the United States as a country that belongs first to its newcomers — the people who strain hardest to become a part of it because they realize that it’s precious; and who do the most to remake it so that our ideas, and our appeal, may stay fresh.

That used to be a cliché, but in the Age of Trump it needs to be explained all over again. We’re a country of immigrants — by and for them, too. Americans who don’t get it should get out.”

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Read the rest of Stephens’s op-ed at the link.

As I often say, only naturalized citizens had to go through a merit-based process to obtain their U.S. citizenship. For the rest of us, it was just an accident of birth that we personally did nothing to deserve or merit.

PWS

06–18-17

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

 

Venezuela Now Tops List Of Asylum Sending Countries!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/11/us/venezuela-asylum-seekers-us/index.html

Marilia Brocchetto, Polo Sandoval and Jaide Timm-Garcia report for CNN:

“(CNN)The decision to come to the United States wasn’t an easy one. Carolina, a 33-year-old mother of three, said it was perhaps one of the toughest decisions of her life — one taken after many sleepless nights in her Barquisimeto, Venezuela, apartment.

Holding back tears, she remembers a night spent on the floor. She huddled with her three kids, praying, as Venezuelan government forces fiercely clashed with protesters outside her apartment walls. In the streets anti-government protesters demanded Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro step down. Their protests were met with tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets. During that night of April 11, three Venezuelans would die in the Barquisimetoarea.
“The hardest moments happened on the last days,” Carolina said. Carolina is not her real name. She has asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation against her family in Venezuela.

Carolina says she got emotional the first time she visited an American supermarket. One of the first things she bought was candy for her children.

Sitting in a metro Atlanta shopping area, she talks of an entire life left behind. The boutique she owned with her husband. The social events she organized. She remembers her family — her uncle who’s currently recovering from a stroke and her grandmother, in her 80’s, who has no one to care for her.
“One day I called her and she told me all she had to eat was rice and butter.”
Venezuela has been plagued by food shortages and soaring prices. Inflation levels are in the triple digits. In 2016, the average Venezuelan living in extreme poverty lost about 19 pounds due to the lack of food. Many of its citizens had to skip meals, according to a national poll.
People have demanded president Maduro step down and hold elections. Protests have stretched into a third month, resulting in nearly 70 deaths.
Carolina, her husband and their three kids will soon be joining the growing number of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the United states. Venezuelans are now the top asylum seekers in the US, ahead of citizens from China, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. It’s the first time Venezuelans have topped the list.
Carolina sold her business and her car in Venezuela and used the money to buy plane tickets for her family. The leftover money was rationed out to buy a small car and for a deposit on an apartment.
“We know we are starting from zero” she said, “it is a very difficult time and I have a lot of sadness in my heart for the things I left behind in Venezuela, but for my children, it is all worth it.”
Carolina and her family have been in the United States for less than a month. Once they file their asylum applications, Carolina and her husband will then need to wait 150 days before they can request a work permit.
In the meantime, she said she stays up at night talking to her husband about money, and how little of it they have left.
However, Carolina knows her family is lucky to have had the tourist visas that allowed them to come into the US.”
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Read the complete story with more “individual portraits” at the link. This shows another hole in the Trump “border deterrence” theory: most Venezuelans enter the US legally and apply for asylum later on. I had predicted some time ago that Venezuela’s abusive leftist government would soon collapse what had been one of the Hemisphere’s more prosperous and resource rich countries, scattering hundreds of thousands of refugees throughout the Americas!
But, of course, advance planning with other nations for a humanitarian response to refugee emergencies is beyond this Administration. They just keep spouting enforcement and detention, the same failed, yet expensive, so-called “strategies” that have been unsuccessfully tried over and over for the past 50 years.
PWS
06-11-17

UW Law Looking For Immigrant Justice Clinic Director!

http://jobs.hr.wisc.edu/cw/en-us/job/495278/immigrant-justice-clinic-director

Click the link for full details.  Great opportunity for a bilingual immigration attorney who wants to get into clinical teaching at a terrific school in a super city.  Unlike many of today’s law schools, UW Law is located on Bascom Hill in the “heart” of the Main Campus with a view of the Capitol dome! Madison has to be one of the best places to live in the US.

While the initial appointmeet is for one year, based on performance, creativity, and ability to inspire funding, the position has longer term potential!

And, as an extra bonus, if you get the job, I’ll drop by at some mutually convenient time and give your students a “guest lecture.” Preferably right before a Badger home football or basketball game!

Thanks to Professor Alberto Benítez of the GW Law Immigration Clinic for sending this my way.

PWS

06-09-17

 

AMERICA’S REAL IMMIGRATION CRISIS: THE ATTACK ON DUE PROCESS IN THE UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION COURTS — Read My Keynote Speech FromThe Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center’s “Light Of Liberty Awards” Ceremony Last Night!

AMERICA’S REAL IMMIGRATION CRISIS: THE ATTACK ON DUE PROCESS IN THE UNITED STATES IMMIGRATON COURTS

 

Keynote Address by

 

Paul Wickham Schmidt

 

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

 

LIGHT OF LIBERTY AWARDS

 

Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center

 

Heritage Hills Golf Resort

 

York, PA

 

JUNE 7, 2016

 

  1. I. INTRODUCTION

 

 

Good evening. Thank you so much for inviting me to speak at this wonderful event. I’m honored to be here. The PIRC is a terrific organization that provides critical legal services to the most vulnerable during one of the most difficult periods in our recent history.

 

The York area has a well-established tradition of humanitarian generosity and support for the most needy that was highlighted during the Golden Venture episode and described in the book Snakehead. I learned today that PIRC was formed to respond to the needs of the Golden Venture detainees. The U.S. Immigration Court in York has one of the highest representation rates for detained individuals in the nation, over 50%.

 

By contrast, the Arlington Immigration Court, where I used to sit, and the Baltimore Immigration Court had detained representation rates of around 20% and 10% respectively. And, it’s even worse in other parts of the country.

 

Back in February, I had the pleasure of working with your amazing Executive Director, Mary Studzinski, at a group session directed at improving training for non-attorney representatives authorized to practice before the U.S. Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. We bonded instantly. That’s “human bonding” rather than “immigration bonding,” of course. Mary’s kinetic energy, practical knowledge, tremendous dedication, and incisive contributions to the group were simply stunning. I must admit, I thought she was the Managing Attorney of the organization until she explained her role to me. You are so fortunate to have of someone who cares so deeply about your mission leading you. Mary is just what America needs right now.

 

Speaking of what America needs, I of course want to be the first to congratulate the five extraordinary individuals and two groups we are honoring tonight with well-deserved “Light of Liberty” Awards. Your energy, knowledge, and willingness to give of yourselves to others is making a much needed positive difference in this community and in our world. Each of you is indeed changing the course of history for the better. And, I’m pleased to announce that I have bestowed on each of tonight’s award recipients the rank of “General” in the “New Due Process Army. “

 

And, of course, thanks again to our great sponsors, mentioned by Mary, for supporting PIRCV and tonight’s awards.

 

II. THE DUE PROCESS CRISIS IN IMMIGRATON COURT

 

As most of you in this room probably recognize, there is no “immigration crisis” in America today. What we have is a series of potentially solvable problems involving immigration that have been allowed to grow and fester by politicians and political officials over many years.

 

But, there is a real crisis involving immigration: the attack on due process in our U.S. Immigration Courts that have brought them to the brink of collapse. I’m going to tell you seven things impeding the delivery of due process in Immigration Court that should be of grave concern to you and to all other Americans who care about our justice system and our value of fundamental fairness.

 

First, political officials in the last three Administrations have hijacked the noble mission of the U.S. Immigration Courts. That vision, which I helped develop in the late 1990s, is to “be the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.”

 

Instead, the Department of Justice’s ever-changing priorities, aimless docket reshuffling, and morbid fascination with increased immigration detention as a means of deterrence have turned the Immigration Court system back into a tool of DHS enforcement. Obviously, it is past time for an independent U.S. Immigration Court to be established outside the Executive Branch.

 

Second, there simply are not enough pro bono and low bono attorneys and authorized representatives available to assist all the individuals who need representation in Immigration Court. As I mentioned, this problem is particularly acute in detention courts. We know that representation makes a huge difference. Represented individuals succeed at rates four to five times greater than unrepresented individuals.

 

There have been a number of studies documenting the substandard conditions in immigration detention, particularly those run by private contractors, which in some cases prove deadly or debilitating. Some of these studies have recommended that immigration detention be sharply reduced and that so-called “family detention” be discontinued immediately.

 

A rational response might have been to develop creative alternatives to detention, and to work closely with and support efforts to insure access to legal representation for all individuals in Removal Proceedings. Instead, the response of the current Administration has been to “double down” on detention, by promising to detain all undocumented arrivals and to create a new “American Gulag” of detention centers, most privately run, along our southern border, where access to attorneys and self-help resources is limited to non-existent.

 

Third, the Immigration Courts have an overwhelming caseload. Largely as a result of “aimless docket reshuffling” by Administrations of both parties, the courts’ backlog has now reached an astounding 600,000 cases, with no end in sight. Since 2009, the number of cases pending before the Immigration Courts has tripled, while court resources have languished.

 

The Administration’s detention priorities and essentially random DHS enforcement program are like running express trains at full throttle into an existing train wreck without any discernable plan for clearing the track!” You can read about it in my article in the latest edition of The Federal Lawyer.

 

Fourth, the immigration system relies far too much on detention. The theory is that detention, particularly under poor conditions with no access to lawyers, family, or friends, will “grind down individuals” so that they abandon their claims and take final orders or depart voluntarily. As they return to their countries and relate their unhappy experiences with the U.S. justice system, that supposedly will “deter” other individuals from coming.

 

Although there has been a downturn in border apprehensions since the Administration took office, there is little empirical evidence that such deterrence strategies will be effective in stopping undocumented migration in the long run. In any event, use of detention, as a primary deterrent for non-criminals who are asserting their statutory right to a hearing and their constitutional right to due process is highly inappropriate. Immigration detention is also expensive, and questions have been raised about the procedures used for awarding some of the contracts.

 

Fifth, we need an appellate court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, that functions like a real court not a high-volume service center. Over the past decade and one-half, the Board has taken an overly restrictive view of asylum law that fails to fulfill the generous requirements of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Cardoza-Fonseca and the Board’s own precedent in Matter of Mogharrabi. The Board has also failed to take a strong stand for respondents’ due process rights in Immigration Court.

 

Largely as a result of the Board’s failure to assert positive leadership, there is a tremendous discrepancy in asylum grant rates – so-called refugee roulette.” Overall grant rates have inexplicably been falling. Some courts such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and some other major non-detained courts have ludicrously low asylum grant rates, thereby suggesting a system skewed, perhaps intentionally, against asylum seekers. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Board has become totally “government-dominated” with no member appointed from the private sector this century.

 

Sixth, the DOJ selection process for Immigration Judges and BIA Members has become both incredibly ponderous and totally one-sided. According to a recent GAO study, it takes on the average nearly two years to fill an Immigration Judge position. No wonder there are scores of vacancies and an unmanageable backlog!

 

And, it’s not that the results of this glacial process produce a representative immigration judiciary. During the Obama Administration, approximately 88% of the Immigration Judge appointments came directly from government backgrounds. In other words, private sector expertise has been almost totally excluded from the 21st Century immigration judiciary.

 

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

 

III. ACTION PLAN

 

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

 

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

           

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

           

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

          

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

 

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

 

Obviously, the PIRC is a fantastic way to contribute to assertively protecting the due process rights of migrants. Internships and JLC positions at the Immigration Courts are also ways for law students and recent law grads to contribute to due process while learning.

 

As mentioned earlier, Mary and I have been working with groups looking for ways to expand the “accredited representative” program, which allows properly trained and certified individuals who are not lawyers to handle cases before the DHS and the Immigration Courts while working for certain nonprofit community organizations, on either a staff or volunteer basis. The “accredited representative” program is also an outstanding opportunity for retired individuals, like professors, teachers, and others who are not lawyers but who can qualify to provide pro bono representation in Immigration Court to needy migrants thorough properly recognized religious and community organizations.

 

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

           

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

           

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

IV. CONCLUSION

 

In conclusion, I have shared with you the U.S. Immigration Court’s noble due process vision and the ways it currently is being undermined and disregarded. I have also shared with you some of my ideas for effective court reforms that would achieve the due process vision and how you can become involved in improving the process. Now is the time to take a stand for fundamental fairness! Join the New Due Process Army! Due process forever!

            Thanks again for inviting me and for listening. Congratulations again to our award winners and newly commissioned Generals of the New Due Process Army.

 

(06-08-17)

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Congratulations to these Light of Liberty Awards winners and newly commissioned Generals in the New Due Process Army:

ATTORNEY OF THE YEAR:

Rosina Stambaugh, Esquire

LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

Asylum & Human Rights Clinic, University of Connecticut School of Law

CONTINUING COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE INDIVIDUAL:

Professor Jill Family,

Widener University Delaware Law School

INTERPRETER OF THE YEAR

Rosalyn Groff

COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR:

Dr. Anne Middaugh

CONTINUING COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE ORGANIZATION:

Philadelphia Bar Foundation

VOICE OF COURAGE:

Josia Nunes

 

Out in the audience was superstar lawyer/social worker Hannah Cartwright, a “Charter Member” of the New Due Process Army, now on the legal staff at the PIRC. Hanna, a distinguished Catholic University Law grad, served as a Legal Intern at the Arlington Immigration Court and a Judicial Law Clerk at the Philadelphia Immigration Court.

Pictures and other news from this wonderful event to follow.

PWS

06-08-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: NPR’s Beth Fertig Exposes Administration’s Immigration Court Due Process Disaster — Taxpayers Billed For Sending Judges To Hustle Detainees Through Court Without Lawyers, Leaving More Represented Cases At Home To Rot! — Backlogs Mushroom As Administration Plays Games With Human Lives!

http://www.wnyc.org/story/missing-new-york-immigration-judges/

Fertig reports:

“In the middle of May, paper notices were posted on the walls of the federal building in lower Manhattan announcing the absence of several immigration judges. Some were out for a week or two, while others were away for six weeks. The flyers said their cases would be rescheduled.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the immigration courts, would not comment on the judges’ whereabouts. It cited the confidentiality of personnel matters. But after WNYC asked about these missing judges, many of the paper notices were taken off the walls of the 12th and 14th floors, where hearings are held in small courtrooms.

It’s no secret that President Donald Trump’s administration has been redeploying judges to detention centers near the southern border to speed up the processing of cases. After contacting numerous immigration attorneys down south, as well as retired judges and others, WNYC was able to crowdsource the judges’ locations. At least eight of New York City’s 29 immigration judges had been sent to Texas and Louisiana since March to conduct hearings in person or by video. Six judges were out for different parts of the month of May, alone.

“NYC

The federal building is home to the nation’s busiest immigration court, with a backlog of 80,000 cases. By redeploying so many judges in such a short period of time, immigration lawyers fear the delays will grow even longer. Meanwhile, attorneys near the border question whether these extra judges are even necessary.

Among other matters, judges at detention courts are supposed to hear cases involving people who crossed the border illegally. Yet those numbers have declined since Trump took office. That’s why local attorneys are cynical about the surge.

“I don’t really think that they need all these judges,” said Ken Mayeaux, an immigration lawyer in Baton Rouge.

Mayeaux said what’s really needed there are more immigration attorneys. As federal agents arrest an increasing number of immigrants who are already in the U.S. without legal status, they’re sending them to southern detention centers that are pretty isolated. The ones in Oakdale and Jena, Louisiana, are hours west of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where the vast majority of the state’s immigration advocates are concentrated, said Mayreaux.

“To ramp things up in one of the places that has the lowest representation rates in the United States, that’s a due process disaster,” he said.

Data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University confirms that immigrants may only wait a couple of months for their deportation case to be completed in these detention centers near the border. But in New York, the wait to see an immigration judge is 2.4 years.

So why move judges from a clogged and busy court system in New York to the border region, where immigration cases are already moving swiftly?

“In this particular instance, it’s a virtuous circle from the perspective of the administration,” explained Andrew Arthur, a former immigration judge.

Arthur is a resident fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. It’s a think tank that wants to limit immigration, though it’s been branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. During the Obama administration, Arthur said too many immigrants were let out of detention and waited years for their cases to be heard. He said moving more judges to the border will prevent that from happening.

“Because the quicker that you hear the cases the less likely that an individual is to be released,” Arthur said. “Therefore the less likely another group of individuals are to attempt to make the journey to the United States.”

Another former immigration judge, Paul Wickham Schmidt, said the Obama administration tried something similar by fast-tracking the cases of Central American migrants in 2014. But he said it wound up scrambling the judges’ dockets and was counterproductive. He was redeployed from his home court in Virginia and estimates he had to reschedule a hundred cases in a week.

“Nobody cares what’s happening on the home docket,” he said. “It’s all about showing presence on the border.”

Not all judges assigned to the border are physically present. Mana Yegani, an immigration lawyer in Houston, said she’s seen several judges — including a few from New York — at a detention center where cases are done by video teleconference.

“We never see the prosecutor’s face, it’s just a voice in the background,” she explained. “It’s just not a fair process for our clients and I don’t think the judges can be efficient the way they’re supposed to. They take an oath to be fair and to uphold the Constitution and due process, and I think the way the system is set up it really hinders that.”

A new audit of the immigration courts by the Government Accountability Office questioned whether video teleconferences have an impact on outcomes and said more data should be collected.

Some attorneys believe the reassignments are temporary to see if border crossings continue to ebb. The Executive Officer for Immigration Review won’t comment on that, but spokesman John Martin said the agency will hire 50 new judges and “plans to continue to advertise and fill positions nationwide for immigration judges and supporting staff.”

In the meantime, there’s no question that shifting judges away from New York is having an impact on real people.”

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Read Beth’s entire article, including the story of one “real” asylum applicant waiting patiently for a hearing that almost didn’t happen.

The due process farce continues, at taxpayer expense, while the U.S. Immigration Courts are being treated as an enforcement arm of the DHS. Aimless Docket Reshuffling (“ADR”) denies due process at both the “sending courts” and “receiving courts.” When, if ever, will Congress or the Federal Courts step in and put an end to this travesty of justice and mockery of our constitutional requirement for due process! In the meantime, what’s happening in the Immigration Courts is a continuing national disgrace.

PWS

06-06-17

 

“Trump Effect” Slows Migration, But There Might Be More Than Meets The Eye — Increase In Surreptitious Entries, Higher Smuggling Fees, Wait & See Attitude All Play Roles!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/the-trump-effect-has-slowed-illegal-us-border-crossings-but-for-how-long/2017/05/21/dfa12a0a-39be-11e7-a59b-26e0451a96fd_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_border-crossings410am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.3cb4b3c465ee

Joshua Partlow reports in the Washington Post:

“SAN JOSE LAS FLORES, El Salvador — In a different era, Oscar Galvez Serrano might have abandoned his mother’s tin-roof shack in the jungly Central American hills by now and set out for the United States.

Despite having been deported in March, Galvez said, he would have tried to quickly return to join his 11-year-old son in Sherman, Tex., and his siblings and cousins. He would have taken another job — roofing, landscaping or washing dishes. There is something different now, however, looming over Central Americans’ decisions on migration: President Trump.

Migrants used to feel that if they reached the United States illegally, they could stay. “They’ve gotten rid of all that,” said Galvez, 36. “I still hope I can go back there. I just don’t know when.”

Trump has credited his tough stance on illegal immigrants for the sharp decline in apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-
Mexico border, tweeting in March that “many are not even trying to come in anymore.” In the first four months of the year, U.S. authorities have detained about 98,000 would-be immigrants heading north, a 40 percent drop from the previous year.

In El Salvador, which has contributed tens of thousands of border crossers in recent years, officials and potential migrants acknowledge that fewer people are heading to the United States. But they say that the slowdown may be temporary — and that the drop-off may not be as large as it seems.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

In immigration, things seldom have simplistic explanations. So, if I were the Trump Administration, I’d wait awhile before going into the “victory dance” on halting unauthorized migration.

PWS

05-22-17

N. Rappaport On GOP’s “Extreme Enforcement” Initiatives!

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/334554-republicans-are-preparing-extreme-immigration-measures

Nolan writes in The Hill:

“Highlights from Labrador’s summary of the Davis-Oliver Act.

It provides states with congressional authorization to enact and enforce their own immigration laws to end the executive branch’s ability to unilaterally shut down immigration enforcement.
It withholds certain federal grants from jurisdictions that refuse to honor immigration detainers or prohibit their law enforcement officers from giving immigration-related information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Jurisdictions that refuse to honor detainer requests and release criminal aliens may be sued by the victims of crimes the aliens commit after they are released.
It makes membership in a criminal gang grounds for deportation.
It requires background checks to be completed before immigration benefits can be granted.
Criminalization of undocumented aliens.

Section 314 makes crimes out of illegal entry and unlawful presence. If an offender does not have three misdemeanor convictions or a felony conviction, a first offense can result in imprisonment for up to six months. Subsequent offenses can result in imprisonment for up to two years.

If the alien has three misdemeanor convictions or a felony conviction, however, the term of imprisonment can be up to 20 years. This is not as harsh as some of the criminal provisions which are in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) already. Smuggling an alien into the country or helping one to remain here unlawfully (harboring) may “be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life” if it results in the death of any person.

Home free magnet.

President Obama created what I call the “home free magnet”, when he focused enforcement on undocumented aliens who had been convicted of serious crimes or had been caught near the border after making an illegal entry. Aliens wanting to enter the United States illegally knew that they would be safe from deportation once they had reached the interior of the country.

This attracted undocumented aliens and became a powerful incentive for them to do whatever was necessary to enter the United States. President Trump destroyed this magnet with tough campaign rhetoric and his executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, which greatly expands Obama’s enforcement priorities.

. . . .

Perhaps the Democrats should consider supporting a modified version of the Davis-Oliver Act in return for Republican consideration of a modified legalization program and other measures that are important to the Democrats.

A similar agreement was the basis for the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which made legalization available to millions of undocumented aliens in return for interior enforcement measures and border security.

The Republicans can deport most of the undocumented aliens in the country if they choose to do so, but it would take a long time and would be very expensive politically as well as financially.

They might be willing to consider a legalization program that is based on American needs, such as preventing citizen and lawful permanent resident families from being broken up and providing needed foreign workers for American employers.”

It could be limited to temporary lawful status while background investigations are being conducted. Greg Siskind and I suggested a way to do this in, “Pre-Registration: A Proposal to Kick-Start CIR.”

To be truly comprehensive, immigration reform has to include effective enforcement measures and time for putting together such a bill is running out.

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Read Nolan’s complete article over on The Hill at the above link.

Having served during the Obama Administration (as well as others from both parties) I disagree with Nolan’s characterization of Obama as having a “home free” policy. At least since the summer of 2014, no characterization could be further from the truth!

Beginning in the summer of 2014, the Obama Administrations, quite unwisely in my view, “prioritized” the cases of recent arrivals at the Southern Border. By taking these cases out of sequence, and totally out of proportion to any “threat” they posed, the Obama Administration’s policy of Aimless Docket Reshuffling (“ADR”) helped create an Immigration Court backlog that now approaches 600,000 cases, notwithstanding relatively “flat” receipts and actual increases in the number of sitting judges.

While eliminating the “recent arrivals priority,” the Trump Administration’s essentially “random” enforcement policy, lacking in any type of restraint or rationality, has actually made things much worse. As backlogs mushroom, the “home free” problem is actually more significant, although with a pronounced degree of randomness and irrationally. In other words, total docket chaos in Immigration Court.

While the threat of more “expedited removals,” which evade the Immigration Courts, does hang over the system, the procedures have not actually been implemented. Moreover, contrary to Nolan’s suggestion, there is no chance that the GOP will be able to remove more than a small fraction of the approximately 11 million undocumented aliens in the U.S. Yes, arbitrary enforcement does produce some “terrorism” effect by making everyone feel unsafe. Perhaps a relatively small number of undocumented residents will give up and leave (or try to enter Canada). Nevertheless, there is no practical way that 11 million individuals actually could be removed.

The GOP would do much better to sign on to immigration reforms that would give some type of legal status (not necessarily green cards) to most of those already here, while expanding legal immigration opportunities across the board. The resulting system would actually reduce pressure on the border while making interior enfircement more of a practical possibility than it has been at any time during the last for decades. But, that would take a thoughtful, practical, non-xenophobic, approach — something that has eluded the GOP in the years since the Reagan Administration.

Look for folks like Labrador & Goodlatte to work with the Adminstration to create a complete “train wreck” in the immigration enforcement system.

PWS

05-22-17

 

DOJ’s Location Of U.S. Immigration Courts At Obscure Detention Locations Helps DHS To Deny Due Process, Punish Lawyers!

https://www.propublica.org/article/immigrants-in-detention-centers-are-often-hundreds-of-miles-from-legal-help

Patrick G. Lee writes in ProPublica:

“One morning in February, lawyer Marty Rosenbluth set off from his Hillsborough, North Carolina, home to represent two anxious clients in court. He drove about eight hours southwest, spent the night in a hotel and then got up around 6 a.m. to make the final 40-minute push to his destination: a federal immigration court and detention center in the tiny rural Georgia town of Lumpkin.

During two brief hearings over two days, Rosenbluth said, he convinced an immigration judge to grant both of his new clients more time to assess their legal options to stay in the United States. Then he got in his car and drove the 513 miles back home.

“Without an attorney, it’s almost impossible to win your case in the immigration courts. You don’t even really know what to say or what the standards are,” said Rosenbluth, who works for a private law firm and took on the cases for a fee. “You may have a really, really good case. But you simply can’t package it in a way that the court can understand.”

His clients that day were lucky. Only 6 percent of the men held at the Lumpkin complex — a 2,001-bed detention center and immigration court — have legal representation, according to a 2015 study in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Nationwide, it’s not much better, the study of data from October 2006 to September 2012 found: Just 14 percent of detainees have lawyers.

That percentage is likely to get even smaller under the Trump administration, which has identified 21,000 potential new detention beds to add to the approximately 40,000 currently in use. In January, President Trump signed an executive order telling the secretary of homeland security, who oversees the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, to “immediately” start signing contracts for detention centers and building new ones.

If history is any guide, many of those facilities will end up in places like Lumpkin, population 2,741. The city’s small downtown has a courthouse, the police department, a couple of restaurants and a Dollar General. There’s no hotel and many of the nearest immigration lawyers are based 140 miles away in Atlanta.

“It’s been a strategic move by ICE to construct detention centers in rural areas,” said Amy Fischer, policy director for RAICES, a San Antonio-based nonprofit that supports on-site legal aid programs at two Texas facilities for detained families. “Even if the money is there, it’s very difficult to set up a pro bono network when you’re geographically three hours away from a big city.”
ICE currently oversees a network of about 200 facilities, jails, processing centers and former prisons where immigrants can be held, according to a government list from February.

Unlike criminal defendants, most immigrants in deportation proceedings are not entitled to government-appointed lawyers because their cases are deemed civil matters. Far from free legal help and with scant financial resources, the majority of detainees take their chances solo, facing off against federal lawyers before judges saddled with full dockets of cases. Frequently they must use interpreters.

An ICE spokesman denied that detention facilities are purposely opened in remote locations to limit attorney access. “Any kind of detention center, due to zoning and other factors, they are typically placed in the outskirts of a downtown area,” said spokesman Bryan Cox. “ICE is very supportive and very accommodating in terms of individuals who wish to have representation and ensuring that they have the adequate ability to do so.” At Lumpkin’s Stewart Detention Center, for instance, lawyers can schedule hourlong video teleconferences with detainees, Cox said.

But a ProPublica review found that access to free or low-cost legal counsel was limited at many centers. Government-funded orientation programs, which exist at a few dozen detention locations, typically include self-help workshops, group presentations on the immigration court process, brief one-on-one consultations and pro bono referrals, but they stop short of providing direct legal representation. And a list of pro bono legal service providers distributed by the courts includes many who don’t take the cases of detainees at all. Those that do can often only take a limited number — perhaps five to 10 cases at a time.

The legal help makes a difference. Across the country, 21 percent of detained immigrants who had lawyers won their deportation cases, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review study found, compared to just 2 percent of detainees without a lawyer. The study also found that 48 percent of detainees who had lawyers were released from detention while their cases were pending, compared to 7 percent of those who lacked lawyers.

Legal counsel can also speed up the process for those detainees with no viable claims to stay in the country, experts said. A discussion with a lawyer might prompt the detainee to cut his losses and opt for voluntary departure, avoiding a pointless legal fight and the taxpayer-funded costs of detention.

Lawmakers in some states, such as New York and California, have stepped in to help, pledging taxpayer money toward providing lawyers for immigrants who can’t afford their own. But such help only aids those detainees whose deportation cases are assigned to courts in those areas.

“What brings good results is access to family and access to counsel and access to evidence, and when you’re in a far off location without those things, the likelihood of ICE winning and the person being denied due process increase dramatically,” said Conor Gleason, an immigration attorney at The Bronx Defenders in New York.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

Lumpkin is “at the outskirts” of what “downtown area?” Don’t all major metro areas have “metropolitan correctional centers,” city jails, county jails, or some equivalent located near the courts and hub of legal activities for criminal defendants awaiting trial? Why are civil detainees allowed to be treated this way?

For far too long, under AGs from both parties, the DOJ has participated in this disingenuous charade designed to promote removals over due process. Because cases often have to be continued for lawyers, even where none is likely to be found, the procedure actually adds to detention costs in many cases.  Why not house only those with final orders awaiting removal or with pending appeals at places like Lumpkin? Why don’t the BIA and Courts of Appeals rule that intentionally detaining individuals where they cannot realistically exercise their “right to be represented by counsel of their own choosing” is a denial of due process?

Look for the situation to get much worse under Sessions, who envisions an “American Gulag” where detention rules as part of his program to demonize migrants by treating them all as “dangerous criminals.”

Meanwhile, as I pointed in a recent panel discussion at AYUDA, the only part of the immigration system over which the private sector has any control or influence these days is promoting due process by providing more pro bono lawyers for migrants. Eventually, if those efforts are persistent enough, the Government might be forced to change its approach.

PWS

05-18-17

DEATH WATCH: Average 1/MO Dies In ICE Custody — And It’s Only Just Beginning, As Another ICE Detainee Dies, This Time In Atlanta!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/17/us/ice-atlanta-detainee-dies/index.html

Catherine E. Shoichet reports for CNN:

“Atlanta (CNN) A man in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody has died after being hospitalized for shortness of breath, officials said Wednesday.

Atulkumar Babubhai Patel was pronounced dead at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
The 58-year-old Indian national’s death is the second death of a detainee in ICE custody this week — and the second this week in the state of Georgia.
Officials said complications from congestive heart failure were ruled the preliminary cause of death.
Patel arrived at the Atlanta airport on May 10 on a flight from Quito, Ecuador. Authorities denied him entry into the United States because he did not have the necessary immigration documents, ICE said.
He was transferred to ICE custody in the Atlanta City Detention Center on Thursday, according to the agency. An initial medical screening at the time determined he had high blood pressure and diabetes. Two days later, Patel was transported to the hospital after a nurse checking his blood sugar noticed he had shortness of breath, ICE said. He died on Tuesday afternoon.
In its statement announcing Patel’s death, officials said fatalities in ICE custody are “exceedingly rare.”
“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” ICE said.

Second death this week

Patel is the eighth person to die in ICE custody this fiscal year, which began in October.
Authorities are also investigating the death of another immigrant detainee in Georgia. Jean Jimenez-Joseph, 27, was found unresponsive in his cell on Monday with a sheet around his neck. The preliminary cause of death was self-inflicted strangulation.
He’d been in solitary confinement for more than two weeks at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.
The recent deaths have drawn sharp criticism from immigrant rights activists, who have long decried conditions in immigration detention centers and called on the government to close such facilities.
US President Donald Trump has called for increasing detention as part of his crackdown on illegal immigration. And Congress recently upped its funding for immigrant detention, approving a spending bill that pays for an average of more than 39,000 detention beds per day.
***************************************************
“Exceedingly rare?”  Like in two deaths in one week in ICE custody in Georgia? In addition to ruined lives, the Trump/Sessions/Kelly vision for an “American Gulag” is certain to cause more preventable deaths in DHS custody, in light of the well-documented substandard conditions in such facilities, particularly those run by private contractors and local jailers. I guess each member of the “Triumvirate of Death”  is well enough off so a few million in civil judgments wouldn’t be a problem.  But, the taxpayers are likely to be shelling out megabucks for some tort claims.
PWS
05-17-17

ICE Gets Jollies By Busting More Non-Criminals, Adding to Immigration Court Backlogs!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration-arrests-up-during-trump/2017/05/17/74399a04-3b12-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html

Maria Sacchetti reports in the Washington Post:

“Federal immigration agents are arresting more than 400 immigrants a day, a sharp leap from last year that reflects one of President Trump’s most far-reaching campaign promises.

In Trump’s first 100 days in office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 41,318 immigrants, up 37.6 percent over the same period last year, the agency said Wednesday. Almost 3 out of 4 of those arrested have criminal records, including gang members and fugitives wanted for murder. But the biggest increase by far is among immigrants with no criminal records.

“This administration is fully implementing its mass-deportation agenda,” said Gregory Chen, government relations director for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “They’re going after people who have lived here for a long time.”

. . . .

Acting ICE director Thomas Homan said the statistics released Wednesday show that agents still prioritize lawbreakers: 30,473 criminals were arrested from Jan. 22 to April 29, an 18 percent increase from the same period in 2016.

Meanwhile, arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to nearly 11,000, the fastest-growing category by far.

“Will the number of noncriminal arrests and removals increase this year? Absolutely,” Homan said. “That’s enforcing the laws that are on the books.”

What is less clear is what is happening to the immigrants who are being taken into custody.

Overall, deportations have fallen about 12 percent this year, to about 56,315 people, which Homan attributed to a severe backlog in federal immigration courts. He also said it can take longer to deport criminals than those without criminal records, because those in the former category may have additional court proceedings. The Trump administration has called for additional immigration judges and detention space to speed deportations.

Homan did not say how many of the 41,318 people whose arrests were announced Wednesday have been deported, remain in custody or have been released.

Unlike criminal arrests, records of immigration arrests — which are considered civil violations — are not publicly accessible.

The secrecy allows immigration officials to pick and choose which examples of their work to highlight. On Wednesday, they said the immigrants arrested since Trump’s executive order include Estivan Rafael Marques Velasquez, an alleged MS-13 gang member from El Salvador captured in New York in February; Juan Antonio Melchor Molina, a fugitive wanted for a 2008 murder in Mexico who was arrested last month in Dallas; and William Magana-Contreras, another reputed MS-13 member arrested in Houston last month. Magana-Contreras is wanted for aggravated homicide in El Salvador, officials said.

Some advocates questioned whether ICE is truly prioritizing the most serious criminals.

Parastoo Zahedi, an immigration lawyer in Virginia, said ICE is actively trying to deport one of her clients to Italy because of a conviction for possession of a small amount of marijuana. He has lived in the United States nearly all his life.

“It’s not criminal aliens,” Zahedi said. “It’s anyone that they can catch.”

Ava Benach, a D.C. immigration lawyer, said ICE agents are “empowered, emboldened and . . . eager to enforce the law aggressively.”

Advocates also questioned the wisdom of arresting thousands more immigrants — especially those who pose no known public safety threat — when immigration courts are severely backlogged. But Homan said that is the agency’s job.

. . . .

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

Let’s put this in plain language.  We have a law that doesn’t work, and a system that is broken. There are an estimated 11 million undocumented individuals residing in the U.S. Most of them work, pay taxes (in some form), and contribute to the economy. Many have immediate relatives who are US citizens or otherwise in the country legally.

Because everyone can’t possibly be removed, the “unfocused” enforcement advocated by Homan on behalf of the Trump Administration turns out to be highly if not completely arbitrary. In most cases of those without serious criminal records, removal would be a net loss to our country.

Moreover, the Administration has reassigned U.S. Immigration Judges away from their regular dockets to work on detained cases, which, understandably, are the highest priority. By mindlessly “jacking up” the detained docket, the Administration  guarantees that backlogs will continue to build on the “non-detained” dockets.

The Immigration Courts now have a backlog approaching 600,000, and it continues to grow by leaps and bounds even though there are more Immigration Judges on duty now than in past years and productivity has remained constant over the past few years (although Immigration Judges still complete multiples of what other similarly situated Federal Judges do, and far more cases than the
“ideal”). This is because of the “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” — ADR — foisted on the Immigration Courts by the past two Administrations.

While, at the very end of the Obama Administration ICE was making some progress toward smarter, more focused use of enforcement resources, which took into account the finite limits of Immigration Court dockets, the Trump Administration has returned to a policy of random irrational enforcement. They have also limited the discretion of individual ICE Assistant Chief Counsel to exercise discretion to get what should be “low priority” cases off the docket — in other words, to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” — “PD” — as other prosecutors do.

PWS

05-17-17

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

LIFE AT EOIR – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

By

Paul Wickham Schmidt

Retired U.S. Immigration Judge

Keynote Address

2017 Immigration Law Conference

Denver, CO

May 12, 2017

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DUE PROCESS VISION

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ROLE OF THE IMMIGRATION JUDGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY

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

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

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

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

RECLAIMING THE VISION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING INVOLVED 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

 

 

(05/12/17)

        

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[14] See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1).

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

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