Musings on Events in U.S. Immigration Court, Immigration Law, Sports, and Other Random Topics by Retired United States Immigration Judge (Arlington, Virginia) and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt. To see my complete professional bio, just click on the link below.
Mica Rosenberg, Read Levinson, & Ryan McNeill report:
“They fled danger at home to make a high-stakes bet on U.S. immigration courts
Threatened by gangs in Honduras, two women sought asylum in the United States. Their stories illustrate what a Reuters analysis of thousands of court decisions found: The difference between residency and deportation depends largely on who hears the case, and where.
OAKLAND, California – The two Honduran women told nearly identical stories to the immigration courts: Fear for their lives and for the lives of their children drove them to seek asylum in the United States.
They were elected in 2013 to the board of the parent-teacher association at their children’s school in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. They hoped that mothers working together could oust the violent gangs that plagued the campus.
Instead, they became targets. Weeks apart, in the spring of 2014, each of the women was confronted by armed gang members who vowed to kill them and their children if they didn’t meet the thugs’ demands.
Unaware of each other’s plight, both fled with their children, making the dangerous trek across Mexico. Both were taken into custody near Hidalgo, Texas, and ended up finding each other in the same U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. There, they applied for asylum.
That’s when their fates diverged.
Sandra Gutierrez joined her husband in California, where her case was heard by a San Francisco immigration court judge. At the end of her asylum hearing in September 2016, she received a one-page form, with an “X” in the box next to “granted.” She was free to settle into life with her family in the United States.
The other woman, Ana, joined her daughter’s father in the southeastern United States, and her case was assigned to an immigration court in Charlotte, North Carolina. The judge denied her petition and ordered her deported. She is now awaiting a court date after new lawyers got her case reopened.
Ana declined to be interviewed for this article. Through her lawyers, she asked that her full name not be used because of her uncertain status and her fear that Honduran gangs could find her.
The women’s lawyers framed their respective cases with some important differences. However, the women said their reasons for seeking asylum were the same: Gangs had targeted them because of their involvement in the parent-teacher association, and for that, they and their families had been threatened.
Taken together, the two cases – nearly indistinguishable in their outlines but with opposite outcomes – illustrate a troubling fact: An immigrant’s chance of being allowed to stay in the United States depends largely on who hears the case and where it is heard.
Judge Stuart Couch, who heard Ana’s case in Charlotte, orders immigrants deported 89 percent of the time, according to a Reuters analysis of more than 370,000 cases heard in all 58 U.S. immigration courts over the past 10 years. Judge Dalin Holyoak, who heard Gutierrez’s case in San Francisco, orders deportation in 43 percent of cases.
In Charlotte, immigrants are ordered deported in 84 percent of cases, more than twice the rate in San Francisco, where 36 percent of cases end in deportation.
Couch and Holyoak and their courts are not rare outliers, the analysis found. Variations among judges and courts are broad.
Judge Olivia Cassin in New York City allows immigrants to remain in the country in 93 percent of cases she hears. Judge Monique Harris in Houston allows immigrants to stay in just four percent of cases. In Atlanta, 89 percent of cases result in a deportation order. In New York City, 24 percent do.
The Reuters analysis used data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the U.S. Justice Department unit that oversees immigration courts. The count of deportations included cases in which judges allowed immigrants to leave the country voluntarily.
The analysis excluded immigrants who were in detention when their cases were heard because such cases are handled differently. It also excluded cases in which the immigrant did not appear in court, which nearly always end in a deportation order, and cases terminated without a decision or closed at the request of a prosecutor.
About half the cases in the analysis were filed by asylum seekers like the two Honduran women. The rest were requests for cancellation of deportation orders or other adjustments to immigration status.
Of course, other factors influence outcomes in immigration court. For example, U.S. government policy is more lenient toward people from some countries, less so for others.
Also, immigration judges are bound by precedents established in the federal appeals court that covers their location. Immigration courts in California and the Pacific Northwest fall under the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and they rule in favor of immigrants far more often than courts in the 4th Circuit, which includes North and South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, Reuters found.
Even so, the Reuters analysis determined that after controlling for such factors, who hears a case and where it is heard remain reliable predictors of how a case will be decided. An immigrant was still four times as likely to be granted asylum by Holyoak in San Francisco as by Couch in Charlotte.
The Reuters analysis also found that an immigration judge’s particular characteristics and situation can affect outcomes. Men are more likely than women to order deportation, as are judges who have worked as ICE prosecutors. The longer a judge has been serving, the more likely that judge is to grant asylum.
“These are life or death matters. … Whether you win or whether you lose shouldn’t depend on the roll of the dice of which judge gets your case.”
The findings underscore what academics and government watchdogs have long complained about U.S. immigration courts: Differences among judges and courts can render the system unfair and even inhumane.
“It is clearly troubling when you have these kinds of gross disparities,” said Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings School of the Law in San Francisco. “These are life or death matters. … Whether you win or whether you lose shouldn’t depend on the roll of the dice of which judge gets your case.”
EOIR spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly said the agency does not comment on external analyses of its data.
Devin O’Malley, a Department of Justice spokesman, challenged the Reuters analysis, citing “numerous conflicting statements, miscalculations, and other data errors,” but declined to elaborate further.
Immigration judges, appointed by the U.S. attorney general, are not authorized to speak on the record about cases.
Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said each case is like “a 1,000 piece puzzle.” While two cases might look identical on the surface, she said, each judge has to weigh the nuances of immigration law to allow someone to stay in the country, which could lead to different outcomes.
The question of equality of treatment among judges has gained urgency as the number of cases in immigration court has ballooned to record highs. Under President Barack Obama, the courts began efforts to hire more immigration judges to reduce the system’s burgeoning backlog, which now stands at more than 620,000 cases, nearly 100,000 of them added since last December.
The administration of President Donald Trump is continuing the effort. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April that the Justice Department planned to hire more than 50 judges this year and 75 in 2018, which would put the total number of sitting judges above 400.
Of the 28 immigration judges Sessions has appointed so far, 16 are former ICE prosecutors. That experience, the Reuters analysis found, makes them 23 percent more likely to order deportation. (Neither Holyoak nor Couch worked as an ICE prosecutor, according to their EOIR biographies.)
In a wish list of immigration proposals sent to Congress on Oct. 8, the White House said that “lax legal standards” had led to the immigration court backlog and that “misguided judicial decisions have prevented the removal of numerous criminal aliens, while also rendering those aliens eligible to apply for asylum.” Among the proposals offered in exchange for a deal with Congress on the roughly 800,000 “dreamers” – children brought to the country illegally by their parents – the Trump administration said it wanted to hire even more immigration judges and 1,000 ICE attorneys, while “establishing performance metrics for Immigration Judges.”
CRISIS AT THE BORDER
In 2014, an unprecedented 68,000 parents and children, most of them fleeing violence and lawlessness in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, crossed into the United States from Mexico – a refugee crisis that has contributed to the bloated backlog of asylum petitions. Many of the migrants, including Gutierrez and Ana, convinced initial interviewers that they had a “credible fear” of returning home, the first step in filing an asylum claim.
Having come from a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world may have helped establish “credible fear.” But the two women were already at a disadvantage – precisely because they came from Honduras.
Country of origin is a big factor in determining who gets to stay in the United States because immigrants from some countries are afforded special protections. For example, courts ruled in favor of Chinese immigrants 75 percent of the time, the Reuters analysis found. A 1996 law expanded the definition of political refugees to include people who are forced to abort a child or undergo sterilization, allowing Chinese women to claim persecution under Beijing’s coercive birth-control policies.
Hondurans enjoy no special considerations. They were allowed to stay in the United States in just 16 percent of cases, the Reuters analysis found.
The mass exodus from Central America was under way when Gutierrez and Ana were elected to the board of the parent-teacher association at their children’s school in spring 2013.
Two rival gangs – the Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13 – were operating brazenly in the neighborhood. The year before, according to police records in Honduras, gang members killed a school security guard. Now, they were extorting teachers, selling drugs openly and assaulting or killing anyone who confronted them.
The new six-member association board set about trying to improve security at the school, which sits on a dirt road behind a high wall topped with razor wire.
“Before, no one wanted to say anything about the gangs,” Gutierrez said. “We were the brave ones. The previous president was a man, so we thought, ‘We are women, they won’t do anything to us.’ ”
The school’s principal, who asked that he and the school not be identified out of fear of retaliation, worked with the board. They had early success, he said, when they persuaded police to provide officers to guard the school. But the patrols left after a few weeks, probably intimidated by the gangs.
One evening in April 2014, Gutierrez was watching television at home with her two sons, ages 5 and 11, when she heard banging at the front door. Her older boy recognized the three armed and heavily tattooed young men on the stoop as the same ones who had thrown him to the ground earlier that day, telling him, not for the first time, that they wanted him to join their ranks. Now they had come to deliver a message to Gutierrez.
“They said they knew I was involved in the parents’ association,” Gutierrez said. “They said they would kill me and my children.
“I began to panic and shake,” she said. “I thought, ‘I have to go now. I am not going to risk my child’s life.’ ”
She quickly packed some backpacks for her and her children and called the only friend she knew who had a car. They drove all night to her friend’s mother’s house in another town.
“NO POLICE HERE”
Two months later, according to court documents, Ana was walking her 7-year-old daughter home from school when three members of a rival gang confronted them. Two of them grabbed Ana and her daughter, pinned their wrists behind their backs, and pointed a gun at the child’s head. The third pointed a gun at Ana’s head. They demanded that a payment of more than $5,000 be delivered in 24 hours, a huge sum for a woman who sold tortillas for a living.
Ana testified in her asylum hearing that she knew they were gang members “because they were dressed in baggy clothing and they also had ugly tattoos … all over their bodies and faces.”
Ana and her daughter ran home and then, fearing the gang would come after them, fled out the back door. “We had to jump over a wall, and I hurt my foot doing so,” she said in an affidavit. “I was desperate and knew that I had to leave – my daughter’s life and mine were in danger.”
The school principal said he understands why Gutierrez and Ana left Honduras. “Because there were no police here, (the gangs) did what they wanted,” he said. “They said, ‘We’re going to kill the members of the parent-teacher association to get them out of here.’ So the women fled.”
Gutierrez hid for two months at her friend’s mother’s house outside Tegucigalpa. She joined another woman and, with their children, they set out to cross Mexico. On the journey, they were kidnapped – common for Central American migrants – and held for a $3,500 ransom. Gutierrez contacted relatives who wired the money. The kidnappers released her and her two sons near the U.S. border.
There they piled with another group of migrants into an inflatable raft and crossed the Rio Grande, the border between Mexico and the United States. They landed near Hidalgo, Texas.
After walking for an hour and a half, lost and desperate, Gutierrez and her sons sat down in the middle of a dirt road and waited for someone to pass. Two officials in uniforms picked them up. They were eventually transferred to the ICE detention center in Artesia.
Ana fled with her daughter the night the gang members threatened them on the street. “We bought a bus pass to go to Guatemala and from Guatemala to Mexico and to the U.S.-Mexico border,” according to her court testimony. The journey took three weeks. In Mexico, she hired a coyote – a smuggler – to help them cross into the United States and then turned herself in to Border Patrol agents near Hidalgo. She arrived at the Artesia detention center just weeks after Gutierrez.
“The other women in the center told me that there was someone else from Honduras who I might know, but I wasn’t sure who they were talking about,” Gutierrez said. “And then one day we went to lunch, and there they were.”
Gutierrez said that was when she first learned that her fellow parent-teacher association board member had been threatened and had fled from home.
Volunteer lawyers helped the women prepare and submit their applications for asylum.
In late 2014, the two women were released on bond. Gutierrez moved with her boys to Oakland, California, to join her husband, and petitioned to have her case moved to San Francisco. Ana moved with her daughter to live with her daughter’s father and petitioned to have her case moved to Charlotte.
“ASYLUM FREE ZONES”
Many immigrants released on bond before their cases are heard have no idea that where they settle could make the difference between obtaining legal status and deportation.
People familiar with the system are well aware of the difference. When Theodore Murphy, a former ICE prosecutor who now represents immigrants, has a client in a jurisdiction with a high deportation rate but near one with a lower rate, “I tell them to move,” he said.
The Charlotte court that would hear Ana’s case was one of five jurisdictions labeled “asylum free zones” by a group of immigrant advocates in written testimony last December before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The courts in Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas and Atlanta also received the designation.
The advocates testified that, while asylum is granted in nearly half of cases nationwide, Charlotte judges granted asylum in just 13 percent of cases in 2015. The Charlotte court was singled out for displaying a particular “bias against Central American gang and gender-related asylum claims.”
Couch is the toughest of Charlotte’s three immigration judges, according to the Reuters analysis.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research organization at Syracuse University in New York, first sounded the alarm about disparities in immigration court decisions in 2006. The next year, researchers at Temple University and Georgetown Law School concluded in a study titled “Refugee Roulette” that “in many cases, the most important moment in an asylum case is the instant in which a clerk randomly assigns an application to a particular asylum officer or immigration judge.” In 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found similar disparities in its own study.
In response to the rising criticism, the Executive Office for Immigration Review began tracking decisions to identify judges with unusually high or low rates of granting asylum. Mattingly, the EOIR spokeswoman, said the agency held training sessions for judges to address the disparities in 2008 and 2009. It then created a system for the public to file complaints against immigration judges.
In a 2016 report, the GAO found that little had changed. EOIR held a two-day training session last year. There is no training on the 2017 calendar.
From 2012 to 2016, EOIR received 624 complaints against judges. The 138 complaints lodged in 2016 alone included allegations of bias, as well as concerns about due process and judges’ conduct within the courtroom. Of the 102 complaints that had been resolved when the data were published, only three resulted in discipline, defined as “reprimand” or “suspension” of the judge. “Corrective actions” such as counseling or training were taken in 39 cases. Close to half the complaints were dismissed.
The agency does not identify judges who were the subjects of complaints.
Mattingly, the EOIR spokeswoman, said the agency “takes seriously any claims of unjustified and significant anomalies in immigration judge decision-making and takes steps to evaluate disparities in immigration adjudications.”
DAY IN COURT
Asylum applicants cannot gain legal U.S. residency because they fled their countries in mortal fear of civil strife or rampant crime or a natural disaster. They must convince the court that they have well-founded fears of persecution in their country because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinions or membership in a particular social group. The definition of a “particular social group” has been subject to conflicting interpretations in the courts, but in general, such a group comprises people who share basic beliefs or traits that can’t or shouldn’t have to be changed.
In the San Francisco court, Gutierrez’s lawyers argued that she qualified for asylum because as a leader of the parent-teacher association, she was at risk for her political opinion – her stand against gangs – and for belonging to a particular social group of Hondurans opposed to gang violence and recruitment in schools. The lawyers also argued that she was part of another particular social group as the family member of someone under threat, since the gangs had terrorized her son in trying to recruit him.
Holyoak was convinced. Gutierrez told Reuters that during her final hearing, the judge apologized for asking so many questions about what had been a painful time in her life, explaining that he had needed to establish her credibility.
In the Charlotte court, Ana’s lawyer focused more narrowly on her political opinion, arguing that she was at risk of persecution for her opposition to gangs in her position on the parent-teacher association board.
After hearing Ana’s case, Couch concluded in his written opinion that Ana was not eligible for asylum because she had “not demonstrated a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of a statutorily protected ground.” He wasn’t convinced that she risked persecution in Honduras because of her political opinion.
Well-established law recognizes family as a protected social group, according to the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. Cases that claim opposition to gangs as a protected political opinion, the center says, have generated fewer precedent-setting decisions, making that argument a more difficult one to win in court, though it has prevailed in some cases.
Ana’s response to Couch’s extensive questioning played a part in the decision. In immigration court, the asylum seeker is typically the only witness. As a result, “credibility is really the key factor. Persecutors don’t give affidavits,” said Andrew Arthur, a former immigration judge who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit organization that supports lower levels of immigration.
Couch wrote in his opinion that Ana’s difficulty recounting the names of the women on the association board weighed against her credibility. He noted that she testified about her fears of the gang “with a flat affect and little emotion,” displaying a “poor demeanor” that “did not support her credibility.”
The judge also questioned why, in an early interview with an asylum officer, Ana never mentioned threats to the parent-teacher association, and instead said she thought the gangs were targeting her for the money her daughter’s father was sending from the United States to build a house in Honduras.
Ana’s assertion that she learned from Gutierrez in detention about gang threats to the parent-teacher association was not “persuasive,” Couch wrote. “The evidence indicates this is a case of criminal extortion that the respondent attempts to fashion into an imputed political opinion claim.”
“SOMEONE WANTS TO KILL THEM”
Gutierrez said Ana told her in one of their occasional phone conversations that she felt intimidated by the intense questioning of the ICE attorney. Gutierrez also said her friend “is very forgetful. … It’s not that she is lying. It’s just that she forgets things.”
Lisa Knox, the lawyer who represented Gutierrez, said judges where she practices tend to give applicants the benefit of the doubt. “They have more understanding of trauma survivors and the difficulty they might have in recounting certain details and little discrepancies,” she said.
Further, Knox said, asylum seekers aren’t thinking about the finer points of U.S. asylum law when they are fleeing persecution. “People show up in our office (and) they have no idea why someone wants to kill them. They just know someone wants to kill them.”
Ana’s lawyer appealed her case to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the first step in the appellate process. This time, her lawyer included arguments about her membership in a particular social group. She lost. In a three-page ruling, one board member said Ana’s lawyer could not introduce a new argument on appeal and agreed with Couch that Ana hadn’t proved a political motive behind the gang members’ attack.
Ana missed the deadline to appeal the BIA decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because her lawyer confused the deadline. She petitioned the BIA through new lawyers to reopen her case and send it back to the immigration court to allow her to present new evidence of her persecution. The new lawyers argued that her previous representation had been ineffective.
In July, the BIA granted Ana the right to a rehearing in immigration court, sending her case back to Charlotte, where it could be heard again by Couch.
Gutierrez can live and work legally in the United States and will ultimately be able to apply for citizenship. The 43-year-old, who worked as a nurse in Honduras, lives in a small one-bedroom apartment with her husband, her two sons – now 15 and 8 – her adult daughter and her grandson. She works as an office janitor and is taking English classes. Her boys are in school. The older one, once threatened by gangs in Honduras, likes studying history and math and is learning to play the cello.
Ana, 31, has had a baby since arriving in the United States and has been granted work authorization while she awaits a final decision on her case. She and her lawyers declined to share more detailed information about her situation because she remains fearful of the gangs in Honduras.
“I am very worried about her,” Gutierrez said. “The situation in our country is getting worse and worse.”
Last February, a 50-year-old woman and her 29-year-old son who were selling food at the school Gutierrez and Ana’s children attended were kidnapped from their home and decapitated, according to police records.
The head of the son was placed on the body of the mother and the head of the mother was placed on the body of the son. The murders, like more than 93 percent of crimes in Honduras, remain unsolved.
Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia and Kristina Cooke
A not-quite-independent judiciary
U.S. immigration courts are administrative courts within the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. Unlike federal court judges, whose authority stems from the U.S. Constitution’s establishment of an independent judicial branch, immigration judges fall under the executive branch and thus are hired, and can be fired, by the attorney general.
More than 300 judges are spread among 58 U.S. immigration courts in 27 states, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. Cases are assigned to an immigration court based on where the immigrant lives. Within each court, cases are assigned to judges on a random, rotational basis.
The courts handle cases to determine whether an individual should be deported. Possible outcomes include asylum; adjustments of status; stay of deportation; and deportation. Decisions can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, an administrative body within the Department of Justice. From there, cases can be appealed to federal appeals court.
The Federal Bar Association and the National Association of Immigration Judges have endorsed the idea of creating an immigration court system independent of the executive branch. The Government Accountability Office studied some proposals for reform in 2017, without endorsing any particular model.
By Mica Rosenberg in Oakland, California, and Reade Levinson and Ryan McNeill in New York, with additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco
Data: Reade Levinson and Ryan McNeill
Graphics: Ashlyn Still
Photo editing: Steve McKinley and Barbara Adhiya
Video: Zachary Goelman
Design: Jeff Magness
Edited by Sue Horton, Janet Roberts and John Blanton”
Go to the link at the beginning to get the full benefit of the “interactive” features of this report on Reuters.
Also, here is an interactive presentation on the Trump Administration’s overall immigration policies:
Interesting to note that the Arlington Immigration Court, where I sat for 13 years, has one of the most consistent “grant rates” in the country, ranging from approximately 54% to 60% grants. Compare that with the Charlotte Immigration Court at 11% to 28% grants within the same judicial circuit (the Fourth Circuit). Something is seriously wrong here. And, Jeff Sessions has absolutely no intent of solving it except by pushing for 100% denials everywhere! That’s the very definition of a “Kangaroo Court!”
It’s time for an Article I Court. But, not sure it will happen any time soon. Meanwhile Sessions is making a mockery out of justice in the Immigration Courts just as he has in many other parts of the U.S. Justice system.
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) is reportedly intending to implement numerical quotas on Immigration Judges as a way of evaluating their performance. This move would undermine judicial independence, threaten the integrity of the immigration court system, and cause massive due process violations.
As it currently stands, Immigration Judges are not rated based on the number of cases they complete within a certain time frame. The DOJ – currently in settlement negotiations with the union for immigration judges, the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) – is now trying to remove those safeguards, declaring a need to accelerate deportations to reduce the court’s case backlog and ensure more individuals are deported.
This move is unprecedented, as immigration judges have been exempt from performance evaluations tied to case completion rates for over two decades. According to the NAIJ, the basis for the exemption was “rooted in the notion that ratings created an inherent risk of actual or perceived influence by supervisors on the work of judges, with the potential of improperly affecting the outcome of cases.”
If case completion quotas are imposed, Immigration Judges will be pressured to adjudicate cases more quickly, unfairly fast-tracking the deportation of those with valid claims for relief. Asylum seekers may need more time to obtain evidence that will strengthen their case or find an attorney to represent them. Only 37 percent of all immigrants (and merely 14 percent of detained immigrants) are able to secure legal counsel in their removal cases, even though immigrants with attorneys fare much better at every stage of the court process.
If judges feel compelled to dispose of cases quickly decreasing the chances that immigrants will be able to get an attorney, immigrants will pay the price, at incredible risk to their livelihood.
The Justice Department has expressed concern in recent weeks about the enormous backlog of 600,000 cases pending before the immigration courts and may see numerical quotas as an easy fix. Just this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called on Congress to tighten up rules for people seeking to “game” the system by exploiting loopholes in a “broken” and extremely backlogged process. However, punishing immigration judges with mandatory quotas is not the solution.
The announcement, however, has sparked condemnation by immigration judges and attorneys alike; in fact, the national IJ Union maintains that such a move means “trying to turn immigration judges into assembly-line workers.”
Tying the number of cases completed to the evaluation of an individual immigration judge’s performance represents the administration’s latest move to accelerate deportations at the expense of due process. Judges may be forced to violate their duty to be fair and impartial in deciding their cases.”
The backlog problems in U.S. Immigration Court have nothing to do with “low productivity” by U.S. Immigration Judges.
It’s a result of a fundamentally flawed system created by Congress, years of inattention and ineffective oversight by Congress, political interference by the DOJ with court dockets and scheduling, years of “ADR,” and glaringly incompetent so-called judicial management by DOJ. There are “too many chefs stirring the pot” and too few “real cooks” out there doing the job.
The DOJ’s inappropriate “Vatican style” bureaucracy has produced a bloated and detached central administrative staff trying unsuccessfully to micromanage a minimalist, starving court system in a manner that keeps enforcement-driven politicos happy and, therefore, their jobs intact.
How could a court system set up in this absurd manner possibly “guarantee fairness and due process for all?” It can’t, and has stopped even pretending to be focused on that overriding mission! And what competence would Jeff Sessions (who was turned down for a Federal judgeship by members of his own party because of his record of bias) and administrators at EOIR HQ in Falls Church, who don’t actually handle Immigration Court dockets on a regular basis, have to establish “quotas” for those who do? No, it’s very obvious that the “quotas” will be directed at only one goal: maximizing removals while minimizing due process
When EOIR was established during the Reagan Administration the DOJ recognized that case completion quotas would interfere with judicial independence. What’s changed in the intervening 34 years?
Two things have changed: 1) the overtly political climate within the DOJ which now sees the Immigration Courts as part of the immigration enforcement apparatus (as it was before EOIR was created); and 2) the huge backlogs resulting from years of ADR, “inbreeding,” and incompetent management by the DOJ. This, in turn, requires the DOJ to find “scapegoats” like Immigration Judges, asylum applicants, unaccompanied children, and private attorneys to shift the blame for their own inappropriate behavior and incompetent administration of the Immigration Courts.
In U.S. Government parlance, there’s a term for that: fraud, waste, and abuse!
The Oct. 13 news article “Citing ‘rampant abuse and fraud,’ Sessions urges tighter asylum rules” quoted Attorney General Jeff Sessions as saying that many asylum claims “lacked merit” and are “simply a ruse to enter the country illegally.” As one of the “dirty immigration lawyers” who has represented hundreds of asylum seekers, I find these claims wildly inaccurate and dangerous. When I ask my clients, the majority of them children, why they came to the came to the United States, they invariably tell me the same thing: I had no choice — I was running for my
life. Indeed, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 58 per cent of Northern Triangle and Mexican children displaced in the United States suffered or faced harms that indicated need for international protection. These children are not gaming the system; they are seeking refuge from rampant gender based violence, MS-13 death threats and child abuse.
While I like to think I am a “smart” attorney, even immigrants represented by the smartest attorneys do not stand a chance in places such as Atlanta, where the asylum grant rate is as low as 2 per cent. Yes, reform is needed, but the only reform we should consider is one that provides more robust protections and recognizes our moral and legal obligation to protect asylum seekers.
Nickole Miller, Baltimore The writer is a lawyer with the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law.
Nickole speaks truth. Almost all of the “credible fear” reviews involving folks from the Northern Triangle that I performed as a U.S. Immigration Judge, both at the border and in Arlington, presented plausible claims for at least protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) if the rules were properly applied (which they often are not in Immigration Court — there is a strong bias against granting even the minimal protection that CAT provides). Many also had plausible gender-based, religious, or political asylum claims if they were allowed to gather the necessary evidence.
Whether ultimately successful or not, these individuals were clearly entitled to their day in court, to be listened to by an unbiased judicial decision maker, to have the reasons for the decision to accept or reject them carefully explained in language they can understand, and to have a right to appeal to a higher authority.
Of course, without a lawyer and some knowledge of the complicated CAT regulations and administrative and Federal Court case-law, a CAT applicant would have about “0 chance” of success. The same is true of asylum which requires proof not only of the possibility of future harm, but also proof of causal relationship to a “protected ground” an arcane concept which most unfamiliar with asylum law cannot grasp.
In other words, our system sends back individuals who have established legitimate fears of death, rape, or torture, just because they fail to show that it is “on account” of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. These concepts are often applied, particularly in Immigration Court where respondents are unrepresented, in the manner “most unfavorable” to the claimant. This is in direct violation of the U.N. guidance which holds that credible asylum seekers should be given “the benefit of the doubt.”
Moreover, assuming that we have the “right” to send good folks, who have done no wrong, back to be harmed in the Northern Triangle, that doesn’t mean that we should be doing so as either a legal or moral matter. That’s what devices like Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”), Deferred Enforced Departure (“DED”), and just “plain old Prosecutorial Discretion (“PD”) are for: to save lives and maintain the status quo while deferring the more difficult decisions on permanent protection until later. Obviously, this would also allow at least minimal protections to be granted by DHS outside the Immigration Court system, thus relieving the courts of thousands of cases, but without endangering lives, legal rights, or due process.
I agree with Nickole that the “asylum reform” needed is exactly the opposite of that being proposed by restrictionist opportunists like Trump and Sessions. The first step would be insuring that individuals seeking protections in Immigration Court have a right to a hearing before a real, impartial judicial official who will apply the law fairly and impartially, and who does not work for the Executive Branch and therefore is more likely to be free from the type of anti-asylum and anti-migrant bias overtly demonstrated by Sessions and other enforcement officials.
“When rapid immigration and terrorist attacks occur simultaneously — and the terrorists belong to the same ethnic or religious group as the new immigrants — the combination of fear and xenophobia can be dangerous and destructive. In much of Europe, fear of jihadists (who pose a genuine security threat) and animosity toward refugees (who generally do not) have been conflated in a way that allows far-right populists to seize on Islamic State attacks as a pretext to shut the doors to desperate refugees, many of whom are themselves fleeing the Islamic State, and to engage in blatant discrimination against Muslim fellow citizens.
But this isn’t happening only in European countries. In recent years, anti-immigration rhetoric and nativist policies have become the new normal in liberal democracies from Europe to the United States. Legitimate debates about immigration policy and preventing extremism have been eclipsed by an obsessive focus on Muslims that paints them as an immutable civilizational enemy that is fundamentally incompatible with Western democratic values.
Yet despite the breathless warnings of impending Islamic conquest sounded by alarmist writers and pandering politicians, the risk of Islamization of the West has been greatly exaggerated. Islamists are not on the verge of seizing power in any advanced Western democracy or even winning significant political influence at the polls.
The same cannot be said of white nationalists, who today are on the march from Charlottesville, Va., to Dresden, Germany. As an ideology, white nationalism poses a significantly greater threat to Western democracies; its proponents and sympathizers have proved, historically and recently, that they can win a sizable share of the vote — as they did this year in France, Germany and the Netherlands — and even win power, as they have in the United States.
Far-right leaders are correct that immigration creates problems; what they miss is that they are the primary problem. The greatest threat to liberal democracies does not come from immigrants and refugees but from the backlash against them by those on the inside who are exploiting fear of outsiders to chip away at the values and institutions that make our societies liberal.
Anti-Semitic and xenophobic movements did not disappear from Europe after the liberation of Auschwitz, just as white supremacist groups have lurked beneath the surface of American politics ever since the Emancipation Proclamation. What has changed is that these groups have now been stirred from their slumber by savvy politicians seeking to stoke anger toward immigrants, refugees and racial minorities for their own benefit. Leaders from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen have validated the worldview of these groups, implicitly or explicitly encouraging them to promote their hateful opinions openly. As a result, ideas that were once marginal have now gone mainstream.”
Read the entire article at the link.
I’ve said it before: Donald Trump and his “fellow travelers” are the biggest threat to our democracy, safety, and security.
“I never expected to speak the phrase: “As Mississippi goes, so goes the federal government.” But when it comes to demeaning and disempowering LGBT, it is now apropos.
The self-righteous drive to make others suffer for not living Evangelical beliefs appears to be unstoppable with Trump in power and with Sessions as his henchman for civil rights. They are taking their cues from the Deep South and particularly Mississippi.
Mississippi is the national leader on religiously-motivated discrimination against LGBT and generating divisiveness on these issues, as I discussed here.
Mississippi continues to aspire to fomenting the most discrimination against LGBT with HB 1523, which explicitly permits business owners to refuse service to LGBT for religious reasons. The trial court correctly held that it was unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction.
In June, the Fifth Circuit let the law go into effect, holding that the challengers lacked standing. On further review, the Fifth Circuit refused to vacate the ruling, which let the law stand. Now perhaps it goes to the Supreme Court.
Its sponsors put it into place so that Evangelicals can legally exclude LGBT from the marketplace. They say it’s about their “religious liberty,” by which they mean not the right to observe their own practices, but rather their supposed right to judge and condemn others before doing business with them.
The whole anti-LGBT project is so unbelievably hypocritical: they aren’t fighting to bar liars, adulterers, rapists, or pedophiles from their businesses, all of whom who violate plain biblical commands.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice on February 28, 2017 in Washington, D.C. ZACH GIBSON/GETTY
What they are engineering is lives without having to associate with “those people.” One can only hope that good, old-fashioned profit motives enrich those businesses that provide service to LGBT and put out of business those who prefer the Jim Crow life.
Trump Administration Follows Mississippi’s Lead
Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has piled onto this administration’s obsession with humiliating and harming transgender Americans here and here with a new document interpreting federal law to require accommodation of those in the government who believe LGBT are sinful.
That’s right, the drive is to accommodate the ones who cannot tolerate those who aren’t like them. This is all about deconstructing the LGBT civil rights the Obama administration put into place as discussed here and here.
For good measure, the administration is also rolling back protections intended to ensure LGBT are not discriminated against in long-term care facilities. (The administration also went after women’s rights to contraception as fellow columnist Joanna Grossman explains, again an issue where it is in lock step with Evangelical lobbyists.)
Where Did This Intolerance Come From?
The push to inflict exclusion and suffering on LGBT for religious reasons owes its origins to the working out of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in American culture. Whether you have read Hegel or Calvin, this is what happens when you put into place a “right” that has no natural limit.
The religious lobbyists, including knowing conservatives and some truly naïve liberals, backed this benighted law in 1993. It was declared unconstitutional in 1997 in Boerne v. Flores, because it was so far removed from anything that the First Amendment had ever required .
What was unleashed with this federal statute, which morphed into state laws and later federal law, was a theory that the default position for religious liberty should be that a religious believer has a right to overcome any law that burdens religiously-motivated conduct.
Many laws exist to protect the vulnerable. When religious believers seize a “right” to trump the law, they in effect hurt the vulnerable. That is true here.
This power grab—particularly by religious organizations who believe in imprinting their beliefs on the culture—paved the way for the depraved arguments now being made for “religious liberty” that amount to exclusion and harm to an entire category of citizens defined solely by their sexual orientation. They have falsely claimed the mantle of victimhood while making victims of others.
The powerful choose the labels and the vulnerable suffer. If you have not seen this power maneuver elsewhere in history or in the Trump Administration’s dealings with race, you are not paying attention.
Marci A. Hamilton is the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania; the founder, CEO, and Academic Director of the nonprofit think tank to prevent child abuse and neglect, CHILD USA, and author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She also runs two active websites covering her areas of expertise, the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, www.RFRAperils.com, and statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, www.sol-reform.com.”
While the Evangelical right wages a bogus war against the non-existent “Sharia law in America,” the real threat to our freedoms, our Constitution, and the rule of law is posed by these very same right wingers. Led by folks like Gonzo who have moved from the “wacko fringe” to positions of power, they are forcing their false interpretation of Christianity down the throats of the rest of us who don’t share their “Gospel of Hate & Intolerance.”
From a theological standpoint (after all, it is Sunday), Jesus’s ministry was not to the rich, powerful, rulers, or Pharisees enforcing the Jewish Law; no, Jesus’s ministry was one of love, compassion, forgiveness, and eternal hope for the outsiders, the outcasts, the poor, and the “rejected” of Jewish and Roman society. If Jesus were among us today, he would much more likely be found “rubbing shoulders” and preaching to the gay community or the undocumented than he would wandering the halls of Jeff Sessions’s Department of (In)Justice.
“As discussed in last week’s post, in 2002, the standard under which the BIA reviews credibility determination was changed as part of the reforms instituted by then Attorney General John Ashcroft. Furthermore, in 2005, Congress enacted the REAL ID Act, which provided immigration judges with broader grounds for determining credibility. These two factors combine to make it more difficult for the Board to reverse an immigration judge’s adverse credibility finding than it was prior to these changes. The following are some thoughts on strategy when appealing credibility findings to the Board.
1. Don’t offer alternative interpretations of the record.
You cannot successfully challenge an adverse credibility finding by offering an alternative way of viewing the record. If the IJ’s interpretation is deemed reasonable, the BIA cannot reverse on the grounds that it would have weighed the documents, interpreted the facts, or resolved the ambiguities differently. Or as the Supreme Court has held, “[w]here there are two permissible views of the evidence, the factfinder’s choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous.” Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573-74 (1985).
2. Does the record support the IJ’s finding?
On occasion, the discrepancy cited by the IJ is not found in the transcript. IJs hear so many cases; some hearings are spread over months or years due to continuances; witnesses or their interpreters do not always speak clearly; documents are sometimes clumsily translated. For all of these reasons, it is possible that the IJ didn’t quite hear or remember what was said with complete accuracy, or might have misconstrued what a supporting document purports to be or says. It is worth reviewing the record carefully.
3. Does the REAL ID Act standard apply?
The REAL ID Act applies to applications filed on or after May 11, 2005. With the passage of time, fewer and fewer cases will involve applications filed prior to the effective date. However, there are still some cases which have been administratively closed, reopened, or remanded which involve applications not subject to the REAL ID Act standard. In those rare instances, look to whether the IJ relied on factors that would not support an adverse credibility finding under the pre-REAL ID standard. For example, did the IJ rely on non-material discrepancies to support the credibility finding? If so, argue that under the proper, pre-REAL ID Act standard, the discrepancies cited must go to the heart of the matter in order to properly support an adverse credibility finding.
4. Did the IJ’s decision contain an explicit credibility finding?
Under the REAL ID Act, “if no adverse credibility determination is explicitly made, the applicant or witness shall have a rebuttable presumption of credibility on appeal.” See INA section 208(b)(1)(B)(iii) (governing asylum applications); INA section 240(c)(4)(C) (governing all other applications for relief). Therefore, review the decision carefully to determine if an explicit credibility finding was made. In some decisions, the immigration judge will find parts of the testimony “problematic,” or question its plausibility, without actually reaching a conclusion that the testimony lacked credibility. In such cases, argue on appeal that the statutory presumption of credibility should apply.
5. Did the credibility finding cover all or only part of the testimony?
As an IJ, I commonly stated in my opinions that credibility findings are not an all or nothing proposition. A respondent may be credible as to parts of his or her claim, but incredible as to other aspects. There are instances in which a single falsehood might discredit the entirety of the testimony under the doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. However, there are variations in the application of the doctrine among the circuits, and there are exceptions. For example, the Second Circuit in Siewe v. Gonzales, 480 F.3d 160 (2d Cir. 2007) recognized the doctrine, but laid out five specific exceptions under which a false statement will not undermine the overall credibility. However, the Seventh Circuit, in Kadia v. Gonzales, 501 F.3d 817 (7th Cir, 2007) rejected falsus in uno,referring to it as a “discredited doctrine.” The Ninth Circuit, in Shouchen Yang v. Lynch, 815 F.3d 1173 (9th Cir. 2016), acknowledged that an IJ may apply the doctrine, but that the Board itself could not (for example, to deny a motion to reopen based on a prior adverse credibility finding). Therefore, determine whether under the applicable circuit case law the falsehood cited by the IJ was sufficient to undermine all of the testimony. If not, determine whether the remainder of the testimony is sufficient to meet the burden of proof.
6. Did the IJ rely on a permissible inference, or impermissible speculation?
In Siewe v. Gonzales, supra, the Second Circuit discussed the difference between a permissible inference and impermissible “bald” speculation. The court cited earlier case law stating that “an inference is not a suspicion or a guess.” Rather, an inference must be “tethered to the evidentiary record:” meaning it should be supported “by record facts, or even a single fact, viewed in the light of common sense and ordinary experience.” Generally, findings such as “no real Christian wouldn’t know that prayer” or “the police would never leave a copy of the arrest warrant” would constitute bald speculation unless there was expert testimony or reliable documentation in the record to lend support to such conclusion.
7. Did the IJ permissibly rely on an omission under applicable circuit law?
There is a body of circuit court case law treating omissions differently than discrepancies. For example, several circuits have held that as there is no requirement to list every incident in the I-589, the absence of certain events from the written application that were later included in the respondent’s testimony did not undermine credibility. Look to whether the omission involved an event that wasn’t highly significant to the claim. Also look for other factors that might explain the omission, i.e. a female respondent’s non disclosure of a rape to a male airport inspector; a respondent’s fear of disclosing his sexual orientation to a government official upon arrival in light of past experiences in his/her country. Regarding omissions in airport statements, please refer to my prior post concerning the questionable reliability of such statements in light of a detailed USCIRF report. See also, e.g., Moab v. Gonzales, 500 F.3d 656 (7th Cir. 2007); Ramseachire v. Ashcroft, 357 F.3d 169 (2d Cir. 2004), addressing factors to consider in determining the reliability of airport statements.
8. Was the respondent provided the opportunity to explain the discrepancies?
At least in the Second and Ninth Circuits, case law requires the IJ to provide the respondent with the opportunity to respond to discrepancies. The Second Circuit limits this right to situations in which the inconsistency is not “dramatic,” and the need to clarify might therefore not be obvious to the respondent. See Pang v. USCIS, 448 F.3d 102 (2d Cir. 2006).
9. Did the “totality of the circumstances” support the credibility finding?
Even under the REAL ID Act standards, the IJ must consider the flaws in the testimony under “the totality of the circumstances, and all relevant factors.” INA sections 208(b)(1)(B)(ii), 240(c)(4)(C). The circuit courts have held that the standard does not allow IJs to “cherry pick” minor inconsistencies to reach an adverse credibility finding. For a recent example, note the Third Circuit’s determination in Alimbaev v. Att’y Gen. of U.S. (discussed in last week’s post) finding two inconsistencies relied on by the BIA as being “so insignificant…that they would probably not, standing alone, justify an IJ making an adverse credibility finding…”
Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.”
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Don’t Let “Gonzo’s” Lies & His Agenda Of Hate & Intentional Dehumanization Of Our Most Vulnerable Populations Win — Fight His Bogus Distorted Attack On Our Humanity & Our Legal System Every Inch Of The Way!
By Paul Wickham Schmidt
United States Immigration Judge (Retired)
For those of you who don’t know him, Judge Jeffrey Chase has a unique perspective starting his career in private practice, becoming a U.S. Immigration Judge in New York, and finally finishing his Government career as an Attorney Advisor writing decisions for the BIA.
Great stuff, Jeffrey! I love being able to help folks “tune in” to things the they can actually use in the day to day practice of immigration law!
One of the best ways to fight “Gonzoism” and uphold due process is by winning the cases one at a time through great advocacy. Don’t let the “false Gonzo narrative” fool you! Even under today’s restrictive laws (which Gonzo would like to eliminate or make even more restrictive) there are lots of “winners” out there at all levels.
But given the “negative haze” hanging over the Immigration Courts as a result of Gonzo and his restrictionists agenda, the best way of stopping the “Removal Railway” is from the “bottom up” by: 1) getting folks out of “Expedited Removal” (which Gonzo intends to make a literal “killing floor”); 2) getting them represented so they can’t be “pushed around” by DHS Counsel and Immigration Judges who fear for their jobs unless they produce “Maximo Removals with Minimal Due Process” per guys like Gonzo and Homan over at DHS; 3) getting them out of the “American Gulag” that Sessions and DHS have created to duress migrants into not seeking the protection they are entitled to or giving up potentially viable claims; 4) making great legal arguments and introducing lots of corroborating evidence, particularly on country conditions, at both the trial and appellate levels (here’s where Jeffrey’s contributions are invaluable); 5) fighting cases into the U.S. Courts of Appeals (where Gonzo’s false words and perverted views are not by any means the “last word”); and 5) attacking the overall fairness of the system in both the Courts of Appeals and the U.S. District Courts — at some point life-tenured Article III have to see the absolute farce that an Immigration Judiciary run by a clearly biased xenophobic White Nationalist restrictionist like Sessions has become. Every time Gonzo opens his mouth he proves that the promise of Due Process in the Immigration Courts is bogus and that the system is being rigged against migrants asserting their rights.
Sessions couldn’t be fair to a migrant or treat him or her like a human being if his life depended on it! The guy smears dreamers, children whose lives are threatened by gangs, hard-working American families, LGBTQ Americans, and women who have been raped or are victims of sexual abuse. How low can someone go!
Virtually everything Gonzo says is untrue or distorted, aimed at degrading the humanity and legal protections of some vulnerable group he hates (Gonzo’s “victim of the week”), be it the LGBTQ community, asylum seekers, women, children, immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, attorneys, the Obama Administration, or U.S. Immigration Judges trying to do a conscientious job. Perhaps the biggest and most egregious “whopper” is his assertion that those claiming asylum at the Southern Border are either fraudsters or making claims not covered by law.
On the contrary, according to a recent analysis by the UNHCR, certainly a more reliable source on asylum applicants than Gonzo, “over 80 percent of women from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico who were screened on arrival at the U.S. border ‘were found to have a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum or protection under the Convention against Torture.'” “Majority of Asylum Seekers have Legitimate Claims: Response to Sessions Statement,” available online at https://www.wola.org/2017/10/no-basis-claims-rampant-abuse-us-asylum-system-response-sessions-statement/.
This strongly suggests that the big fraud here isn’t coming from asylum seekers. No, the real fraud is the unusually high removal rate at the border touted by Gonzo and his EOIR “patsies” — the result of improper adjudications or unlawful manipulation of the system (intentional duress – misinforming individuals about their rights) by DHS, the U.S. Immigration Court, or simply wrong constructions of protection law.
I think that the majority of Immigration Court cases are still “winners” if the respondents can get competent representation and fight at all levels. Folks, Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions has declared war on migrants and on the Due Process Clause of our Constitution.
He’s using his reprehensible false narratives and “bully pulpit” to promote the White Nationalist, Xenophobic, restrictionist “myth” that most claims and defenses in Immigration Court are “bogus” and they are clogging up the court with meritless claims just to delay removal. The next step is to eliminate all rights and expel folks without any semblance of due process because Gonzo has prejudged them in advance as not folks we want in our country. How biased can you get!
So, we’ve got to prove that many, probably the majority, of the cases in Immigration Court have merit! Removal orders are being “churned out” in “Gonzo’s world” by using devices such as “in absentia orders” (in my extensive experience, more often than not the result of defects in service by mail stemming from sloppiness in DHS and EOIR records, or failure of the DHS to explain in Spanish — as required by law but seldom actually done — the meaning of a Notice to Appear and the various confusing “reporting requirements”); blocking folks with credible fears of persecution or torture from getting into the Immigration Court system by pushing Asylum Officers to improperly raise the standard and deny migrants their “day in court” and their ability to get representation and document their claims; using detention and the bond system to “coerce” migrants into giving up viable claims and taking “final orders;” intentionally putting detention centers and Immigration Courts in obscure detention locations for the specific purpose of making it difficult or impossible to get pro bono representation and consult with family and friends; using “out-of-town” Immigration Judges on detail or on video who are being pressured to “clear the dockets” by removing everyone and denying bonds or setting unreasonable bonds; sending “messages” to Immigration Judges and BIA Judges that most cases are bogus and the Administration expects them to act as “Kangaroo Courts” on the “Removal Railroad;” taking aim at hard-earned asylum victories at all levels by attacking and trying to restrict the many favorable precedents at both the Administrative and Court of Appeals levels that Immigration Judges and even the BIA often ignore and that unrepresented aliens don’t know about; improperly using the Immigration Court System to send “don’t come” enforcement messages to refugees in Central America and elsewhere; and shuttling potentially winning cases to the end of crowded dockets through improper “ADR” and thereby both looking for ways to make those cases fail through time (unavailable witnesses, changing conditions) and trying to avoid the favorable precedents and positive asylum statistics that these “winners” should be generating.
Folks, I’ve forgotten more about immigration law, Due Process, and the Immigration Courts than Gonzo Apocalypto and his restrictionist buddies on the Hill and in anti-immigrant interest groups will ever know. Their minds are closed. Their bias is ingrained. Virtually everything coming out of their mouths is a pack of vicious lies designed to “throw dirt” and deprive desperate individuals of the protections and fairness we owe them under our laws, international law, and our Constitution. Decent human beings have to fight Gonzo and his gang of “Bad Hombres” every inch of the way so that their heinous and immoral plan to eliminate immigration benefits and truncate Due Process for all of us on the way to creating an “Internal Security Force” and an “American Gulag” within the DHS will fail.
Remember,”as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Gonzo’s going to have some ‘splainin top do at some point in the future!
Stand Up For Migrants’ Rights! “Gonzo and His Toxic Gang Must Go!” Sen. Liz Warren was absolutely right. Demand a “recount” on the NYT “Worst Trump Cabinet Member” poll. Gonzo is in a class by himself!
“In Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, mammoth hurricanes have left behind a colossal amount of work. The cleanup and reconstruction efforts are going to take years. That means a severe demand for salvage and demolition crews, roofers, carpenters, IMMIGRANT workers at a makeshift camp in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press) drywall installers, painters, plumbers and workers in all manner of other trades and skills. And if recent history tells us anything, much of this demand will be met by immigrants — migrant laborers, many of them highly skilled, and many of them lacking legal status.
. . . .
This wasn’t a problem only for immigrants. As long as labor was exploitable and cheap, American-born workers and local businesses suffered too, as conditions and wages slid toward rock bottom.
If we had a federal government sensitive to these issues, the solution would be a moratorium on immigration enforcement in disaster zones. This would ensure that the rebuilders could keep working, and that those depending on them could return home as soon as possible. Given the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on immigrants, there’s little hope for this sensible fix. In the absence of such a moratorium, governors and mayors should insist that federal labor laws be enforced in these areas while reconstruction is underway. Labor laws guarantee workers payment, safe working conditions and the ability to report mistreatment, among other things.
When workers are vulnerable and afraid, aware that their immigration status can be used against them, they are easy targets for abuse. They know that one complaint could mean a quick call to immigration. Their fear of being deported and losing everything shackles them to bad employers.
. . . .
Diaz and the other workers organized, protesting the discrimination and illegal treatment. In retaliation, the employer evicted them without compensation. When they demanded their pay, the employer called local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which arrested the workers immediately. After spending 78 days in jail, Diaz convinced the district attorney that the workers had been the victim of employer retaliation. The D.A. withdrew the charges, but ICE still detained the workers and sought to deport them.
These abuses, and the exploitation that took place after Katrina, occurred during the George W. Bush administration, which supported comprehensive immigration reform. The climate of fear is far worse today, with agents and officers from ICE and the Border Patrol running roughshod over immigrant communities, goaded by President Trump’s toxic rhetoric.
Nevertheless, immigrants will still risk their lives to come here. Their need is that dire — and our demand is that urgent. The credit rating company Moody’s estimates that the damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could total $150 billion to $200 billion — considerably more than the $108 billion or so in damage left by Katrina. Irma destroyed an estimated 25% of homes in the Florida Keys. In Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, more than 136,000 homes and other structures were flooded by Harvey. In the aftermath of these disasters, there has been talk of rebuilding homes and cities with greater attention to long-term sustainability and resilience.
Some have even called for a “green New Deal” that marries these goals with stronger social safety nets for storm victims. This worthy vision can and should take into account the people who are doing the rebuilding, making sure they are safe, secure and paid a fair wage. And that means starting with meaningful protections for the immigrant workers who help storm victims return home.
Saket Soni is executive director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and the National Guestworker Alliance
Read the entire report at the above link.
Just another example of how White Nationalist inspired “Gonzo Enforcement” is not only wasteful, impractical, and inhumane, but also just plain dumb! The Trump Administration degrades America and our values with each day it is in office. When your “worldview” is driven by prejudice, bias, and political pandering, you’re bound to make lots of bad decisions!
“All talk. A United States senator went on CNBC to explain that while Donald Trump may be an unorthodox politician, “there’s a lot of evolution that is taking place, and I think you’re already seeing that.”
To everyone who argued that Trump was unfit for the presidency, the senator had a ready answer: “My advice would be to chill for a while,” he said. “My sense is that a lot of people who have been resisting will become more comfortable.”
The senator was Bob Corker of Tennessee, and he was speaking on the show “Squawk Box” in May 2016. Today, of course, Corker has become Trump’s newest enemy, saying that the president is “on the path to World War III” and that the White House has become “an adult day care center.”
So what is Senator Corker’s responsibility now, given the crucial role that he and other eminent Republicans played in making Trump seem normal enough to win the presidency? James Fallows answers that question in The Atlantic. “Talk is better than nothing,” Fallows writes, “but action is what counts.”
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker has the ability to hold hearings about the threat Trump poses to the country and the world, Fallows notes. Michelle Goldberg of The Times writes that Congress can also bar “the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a congressional declaration of war.”
I’ll add to that list: Corker and other senators can bring Trump’s legislative agenda to a complete halt until he begins acting more responsibly. No talk of a tax cut until he stops talking of nuclear war. Even the most ardent tax cutter should be willing to make that trade.
The reality that Corker has described — with an out-of-control president — is chilling. Trump, as Fallows puts it, is “irrational, ill-informed, impulsive, unfit for command, and increasingly a danger to the country and the world.”
It’s not enough to merely withhold support from Trump or to criticize him. Members of Congress have an unmatched ability to prevent damage by this president. Those members, like Corker, who ushered Trump into power by describing a man who doesn’t exist, bear a particular burden.”
Neither acting on their criticisms of Trump nor accepting responsibility are in the GOP’s tool box. Nor has the GOP shown the slightest interest or ability to govern in a bipartisan manner for the national interest.
The modern GOP is a toxic and motley collection of rich guys, xenophobes, war-mongers, theologues, racists, White Nationalists, science deniers, anti-intellectuals, and anarchists each apparently vying to be more selfish and irresponsible than the next. Where was “Bobby the Cork” when Trump and the GOP were planning to destroy Americans’ health care and tank insurance markets to reward fat cats with undeserved and unneeded tax breaks? He was right there on the Trump-GOP-Turtle “Destroy America Because We Promised To Do It Bandwagon.” Talk is cheap — responsible action is something else. I’ll believe it when I see it coming from “Bobby the Cork” and his GOP fellow travelers!
“Washington (CNN)The Trump administration dropped a potential bomb into negotiations on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy on Sunday night — but key players on the Hill still aren’t sure yet whether the fuse is actually lit.
Reaction to the administration’s priorities list of tough border security and immigration enforcement measures ranged from dismissal as “noise,” to skepticism about the President’s commitment level, to declarations of it being a “nonstarter” by Democrats.
Ultimately, most agree, President Donald Trump himself will have to say what his red lines are.
The White House late Sunday released a wish list of items for any potential deal to preserve DACA — the Obama administration policy that protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Those measures include provisions to make it harder for unaccompanied minors to enter the country illegally, money for the President’s border wall and cuts to legal immigration.
But the administration is already sending mixed messages about how intensely it is getting behind the list of priorities, which were developed in part by Stephen Miller, a White House policy adviser and longtime immigration hardliner.
An administration source told CNN that it was too early to tell whether the priorities are a firm line in the sand, saying there remains a “White House divided” on the issue — but emphasizing Trump “still wants to cut a deal.”
On a call with reporters on Sunday night, a senior administration official declined to say whether the list should be read as a veto threat.
“We’re not discussing what’s a veto threat right now, or we’re not looking to negotiate with ourselves,” the official said, adding the priorities are “all important.”
On Capitol Hill, most players are taking a wait-and-see approach.
White House lays out DACA deal asks
White House lays out DACA deal asks
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office was noncommittal. “The House immigration working group will review these principles and continue to consult with our conference and the administration to find a solution,” spokesman Doug Andres said.
Other sources pointed to the timing of the release — the Sunday night before a federal holiday — as a possible indication the White House is not as serious about the list.
“Like they’re trying to bury it,” one congressional aide said. Administration sources, for their part, said the list had been in the works for some time and was simply ready to be released.
A Republican consultant familiar with the discussions on the Hill about DACA downplayed the release altogether as “noise” — saying not much matters until the date draws nearer to December 8, when government funding runs out and any potential shutdown talk could get serious if progress hasn’t been made.
“I just don’t take this as that serious a proposal,” the consultant said. “One given what’s in there, that it’s everything under the sun. And two, when they released it.”
At the same time, one senior Democratic aide called it “most disheartening” that in the letter Trump sent to congressional Democratic leadership, he said the list “must” be passed.
Miller’s involvement has been a source of frustration for some negotiators on both sides of the aisle who have perceived him as trying to scuttle talks.
Top WH aide's DACA demands threaten to scuttle legislative fix
Top WH aide’s DACA demands threaten to scuttle legislative fix
“This isn’t an opening bid that anyone’s going to respond to,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy, a nonpartisan group, business-linked group backed by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg that advocates for moderate immigration policies. “There’s just this laundry list of deal breakers, each one of which is a poison pill in its own right. … But that doesn’t change the fact that the President, if he wants to protect Dreamers and get some border security, he can do that today.”
Hill work continues
Sources familiar with negotiations in Congress say they have been progressing slowly.
According to multiple sources familiar, the working group organized by Ryan, which includes key Republicans on different sides of the ideological spectrum, has met at least four times. The bare bones of a deal have yet to take shape, the sources said.
Further details remain on close hold. Members and their staffs have agreed to maintain silence on the substance of the discussions to avoid negotiations leaking to the press.
On the Senate side, sources familiar say conversations are happening, mostly among staff, but the process is less formal than on the House side.
One-quarter of DACA renewals not in on deadline day
Democrats maintain substantial leverage in the negotiations. Not only would any immigration deal require Democratic votes to pass — both to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate and to make up for Republican holdouts who would never support a DACA fix — but Democrats are already signaling they could withhold support for must-pass bills like government funding if progress isn’t made.
“That is definitely on the table, and we are working to make sure that it’s not just a Hispanic Caucus effort, but it’s the entire Democratic caucus,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham in a CHC call with reporters on Monday. “If we can’t get movement on a productive strategy that gives us a vote — and we’re open to considering reasonable, effective border security issues — then yes, … we’re going to use every leverage point at our disposal.”
A deal is still attainable, added Vice Chairman Joaquin Castro, but only if the White House is “reasonable.”
“This was a long laundry list of hardline immigration policies including things that we’ve specifically said our members cannot support, including a wall,” Castro said. “So we’re looking for a serious proposal from the President. This is not serious. … I would suggest the President look at this list more himself, get more personally involved, rather than assign it to a 30-year-old hardline zealot,” he added, referring to Miller.”
Any idea promoted by Miller has to be bad for America!
“(CNN)In the end, Donald Trump finally pushed Sen. Bob Corker to the point of exasperation, frustration and exhaustion felt by vast numbers of Americans who despair of the President’s behavior. “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center,” tweeted Corker, referring to his fellow Republican as if he needs constant minding. “Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”
Corker was provoked by early Sunday morning statements from Trump. who said, via Twitter, “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee, I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).” Trump also said Corker asked to become secretary of state but, “I said ‘NO THANKS.'” He also said Corker “didn’t have the guts” to seek re-election in 2018.
The capital letters suggest the tweets came straight from the President. He loves capital letters. But the timing and content are more important indicators of authenticity. Trump’s social media outbursts are more vivid on weekends, when he’s likely home alone.
And true Trump tweets resonate with a tone — “guts” and “begged me” are classics — that makes it seem like he doesn’t quite understand where he is, or what is required of him. (Never mind that Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, challenged Trump’s account of the facts: “The President called Sen. Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times.”)
The fact that Trump could conduct stream-of-consciousness carping from the confines of the same White House that had been occupied by the likes of Lincoln, FDR and Ronald Reagan suggests that he may not be aware of his surroundings. As he tweets about TV shows, we can see that his mind is too often fixed on matters beneath a president. And when he does focus on something important, like national security, he indulges in silliness about the “Rocket Man” (Kim Jong Un) or praises himself: “Wow, Senator Luther Strange picked up a lot of additional support since my endorsement.”
Despite the President’s “Wow,” Alabama’s Sen. Strange wound up losing a GOP primary to Roy Moore. A religious extremist who was twice forced to step down from the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore had called homosexuality “evil,” insisted Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison should not be permitted to serve in Congress and suggested the attacks of 9/11 could have been God’s punishment for American sinfulness.
The prospect of serving with Moore may have helped Corker reach his decision to retire as of 2018, but his concern about Trump predates the Alabama primary. In August, Corker was obviously appalled by Trump’s response to a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, when he said among the torch-bearing neo-Nazis there were some “very fine” people.
Corker considered these words and concluded, “The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”
Just days ago, Corker stood up for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had reportedly called Trump a “moron” and was trying to demonstrate his loyalty to the President. “I see what’s happening here,” said Corker. “I deal with people throughout the administration and (Tillerson), from my perspective, is in an incredibly frustrating place, where, as I watch, OK, and I can watch very closely on many occasions, I mean you know, he ends up being, not being supported in the way I would hope a secretary of state would be supported. That’s just from my vantage point.” He suggested that Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, were keeping the United States from tumbling into “chaos.”
Frustration with Trump can be heard across the nation as leaders who hoped the President would set aside his rage and self-centeredness in the service of the country are met, instead, by the same old Donald Trump. No more thoughtful than he was as a TV game show host and no more reliable than when he was a salesman practicing “truthful hyperbole,” Trump makes much of the world cringe as he fails to achieve his agenda at home and undercuts his own secretary of state abroad.
With Trump in a cycle of saying and doing destructive and disruptive things unbecoming the leader of the free world, Corker seems to be suffering from the sort of burnout experienced by those who care for senior relatives.
Here his evocation of “adult care” is more meaningful than the senator may even know. Adult day care is as much a service for the friends and family of those with dementia and other disabling conditions as it is for those who attend programs. The respite they receive when experts take over for a few hours makes it possible to continue with the burden of caregiving.
In the case of President Trump, the parallel with adults in care includes, also, the sad reality that someone who is supposed to be strong and capable is, instead, in need of supervision. It’s hard to begrudge Corker his decision to escape dealing with a president in this condition by not running for re-election. But as a member of the Republican Party, he’s one of the few who have the standing to get through to the man, and thus it seems like he’s taking the easy way out while leaving more of the work to the rest of us. We’re burned out, too.
Duh, Bobby, many of us knew that Donald Trump was the most spectacularly unqualified candidate ever to seek the Presidency long before he announced his intention to do so! It’s not like his racism, bias, incompetence, divisiveness, monumental dishonesty, pandering to hate and bigotry, fiscal irresponsibility, bullying, misogany, boorish behavior, science denial, anti-intellectualism, neo-facism, White Nationalism, anti-semitism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, intolerance, toadying up to Putin, lack of respect for human rights, wanton cruelty, jaw-dropping lack of judgement, untrustworthiness, cowardice, immorality, etc. were secrets. They’ve been out there for everyone (who was smart or intellectually honest enough) to see all along. But, you were happy to “go along to get along” until now. You’ve suddenly had an epiphany. “Hey, this guy that I supported and helped elect is totally incompetent and a threat to the heath and safety of the entire world (not just the “free world”).”
Forgive me if I’m not overwhelmed, Bobby! And, the majority of us who voted to save America and the world from the horrible catastrophe of Trump are still waiting for you and your “fellow travelers” to apologize to us. That would be an honest start on actually “Making America Great Again,” Bobby! Yup, Bobby, we’re burned out too! Long before you were!
Vice President Mike Pence walked out of Sunday’s NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers as several 49ers players knelt in protest during a rendition of the national anthem.
“While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect our Flag and our National Anthem,” Pence wrote on Twitter minutes after leaving the game in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Following the example of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, NFL players around the country have knelt during renditions of the national anthem in order to protest against police brutality and racial injustice directed towards black Americans.
More than a hundred NFL players from several football teams kneeled or held arms in solidarity earlier this month after President Donald Trump called NFL players who kneel during the anthem “sons of bitches.” He later insisted his criticism of the NFL had “nothing” to do with race.
Trump said on Sunday that he asked Pence to leave the stadium in Indianapolis if any players knelt during the national anthem, an extremely likely event given the number of players on the 49ers team who kneel during the anthem before every game.
The president’s revelation suggested the White House orchestrated the walk out on purpose, raising questions about the cost of Pence’s brief trip to Indianapolis. The vice president flew there from Las Vegas, where he visited the victims and families of last week’s horrific shooting. He is now flying back West for a stop in California.
“Wait. This was orchestrated to make a point? That’s not an inexpensive thing to do,” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) on Sunday.
Many people have commented that Pence’s action came off as publicity stunt, including San Francisco 49ers’ Eric Reid, who was one of the first players to kneel alongside Kaepernick in 2016. Reid told reporters that the three-year-old photo of Pence at a Colts game in 2014 was the last he had heard of the vice president attending a game.
“So this looks like a PR stunt to me,” Reid told a pool of reporters on Sunday. “He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. Based on the information I have, that’s the assumption I’ve made.”
This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts.Eric Reid, San Franciscos 49ers
Prior to walking out of the game, Pence met with former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. The retired football star, who also played for the University of Tennessee and has donated to prominent GOP figures, has been floated as a potential candidate to replace Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Corker is retiring next year, but Manning has said he has no plans to run for the seat.”
Obviously, Trump orchestrated this event to show America that if they ditch him they would be trading a bully for an idiot.
NOTE: Although Pence undoubtedly was carrying out a “staged” role assigned to him by Trump, and the quote is certainly sufficiently obsequious to have come from Pence, the actual quote in the headline section is “fake news.” However, the rest of the story about Pence’s idiotic behavior is, unfortunately, true — just another day in Trumpland.
NOW, ON TO MORE SIGNIFICANT NEWS:
After spotting the home-standing Dallas Cowboys a 21-6 lead (including missing two missed extra points) the Pack rallied for an exciting 35-31 victory over the ‘Pokes. The incomparable Aaron Rodgers (“AR”) led the last second comeback with a key third down scramble setting up the winning TD pass to Devonte Adams with 11 seconds remaining. Adams came back to catch two TD passes in an inspiring performance following a scary near-decapitation on a cheap shot by Bears’ LB Danny Trevathan during the Pack’s victory on Thursday, September 28.
“Washington (CNN)The White House on Sunday night is expected to release an aggressive list of priorities for any deal to protect young undocumented immigrants in limbo — a list that could make a deal almost impossible to reach if it is strictly followed.
According to documents obtained by CNN, the Trump administration is expected to ask lawmakers to include tough border security and immigration enforcement measures in any deal to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the administration is ending. Those measures would include provisions to make it harder for unaccompanied minors to enter the country illegally, money for the President’s border wall and cuts to legal immigration.
Trump announced he would end the Obama-era DACA program, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, at the beginning of last month, but gave Congress a six-month window in which to act to make the program permanent. Trump has repeatedly said he wanted border security measures as part of a deal, but Sunday night was the first time lawmakers were able to see the full list of the White House asks.
The list represents Republican priorities for immigration and border security, such as tightening the standard for asylum protections, beefing up staffing, cracking down on sanctuary cities, expanding the ways would-be immigrants can be rejected and cutting back significantly on the number of ways that immigrants can obtain green cards in the US by restricting family categories and transforming the employment-based system.
While Democrats have signaled an openness to some deal on DACA and border security, many of the proposals alone would be deal-breakers. Democrats are almost certainly needed to pass a bill to clear the filibuster threshold of 60 votes in the Senate and to make up for Republicans in both chambers who may decline to vote for any path to citizenship or legalization for DACA recipients.
What will be key, one Democratic congressional staffer said, is how hard the White House pushes for the wish list.
“Depends on whether they’re serious or just positioning,” the staffer said. “If it’s the latter, and they leave themselves a lot of room to move, then maybe we can still negotiate something. The problem is that they could lock themselves in politically and then not be able to bend.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were quick to pan the list, saying it shows Trump “can’t be serious” about reaching a deal if they start with a list that is “anathema” to immigrants and Democrats.
“We told the President at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable,” the Democratic leaders said in a statement, referring to discussions over dinner at the White House last month. “This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise. The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”
While Trump has Republican supporters on Capitol Hill who have endorsed a similar wish list of measures, even among his own party, lawmakers have pleaded with the White House not to seek a comprehensive immigration reform package before dealing with DACA — for which permits begin expiring March 6.
At a hearing in the Senate last week with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, both Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who have proposed different DACA measures, implored the officials not to seek a complete immigration deal before any action. Durbin said it was “too much” to “put the burden” on a DACA bill to answer all of the issues on the table.
“It’s too much to ask … and I hope you’ll take that message back,” Durbin said.
Responding to the general principles articulated at the hearing, Tillis said: “It reads like a laundry list for comprehensive immigration reform, and if Congress has proven an extraordinary ability to do anything, it’s to fail at comprehensive immigration reform.”
As I’ve said before, this “proposal” — obviously the work of White Nationalist racists like Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions influenced by Steve Bannon — is DOA. And, it’s certainly not an outline for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” No, it’s actually “Regressive Racist Anti-Americanism.” Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that that America has used immigration laws to advance a despicable racist agenda. But, in the 21st Century all decent Americans have to take a strong stand against “neo-racists” of the GOP and the “neo-fascists” of the Alt Right. And, a guys like Miller, Gonzo, and Bannon fit both of those categories. They, along with Trump and “Looney White Guys With Guns,” pose the biggest threats to America’s safety and security.
“Washington (CNN)Democrats are raising alarms that more than a quarter of eligible recipients under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have not yet filed to renew their status ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
According to data provided Wednesday by a senior Democratic congressional staffer and confirmed to CNN by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, 42,669 individuals nationwide — or 27.7% of the 154,234 people eligible — had not submitted their applications. That was slightly down from roughly 48,000 that the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday hadn’t yet submitted.
When President Donald Trump announced the end of the program, known as DACA, a month ago, he put in place a six-month delay on expiring protections by allowing any recipient whose DACA expires by March 5 until Thursday to apply for a two-year renewal. Otherwise, the program that protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation will begin to end on March 5, as the two-year permits of nearly 700,000 active protectees begin to run out.
Democrats have repeatedly implored DHS to extend the deadline, saying one month to gather paperwork — and the roughly $500 application fee — is not long enough for those affected.
Trump sketches out DACA deal with Republicans at White House dinner
They’ve been especially critical of DHS for not making special consideration for DACA recipients in states hit by hurricanes Irma and Harvey, though DHS did announce Tuesday it would make case-by-case decisions for recipients in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands affected by Maria.
The frustration bubbled up at a Senate hearing Tuesday, where Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin cited considerations the Internal Revenue Service was making for Texas, Louisiana and Florida residents.
“May I implore you, implore you, to do the same thing at DHS that our own Internal Revenue Service is doing,” Durbin said to the DHS officials testifying. “If it’s good enough for our tax collectors to have a heart, isn’t it good enough for DHS to have a heart?”
Senators’ frustration with Trump on DACA bubbles up at hearing
According to the Wednesday data, more than 2,600 of eligible recipients in Texas had yet to submit renewals, 28% of the total eligible in that state. In Florida, more than 2,000, or 35% of those eligible, had yet to renew. In the US islands hit by Irma, 16 of the 37 eligible hadn’t yet renewed.
Democrats have also been frustrated with DHS over its notification process, saying without individual notifications to those eligible for renewal, the administration should extend the deadline.
“We are very concerned that because DACA recipients were not individually notified of their eligibility for renewal, tens of thousands of DACA recipients could lose their work authorization and DACA status protections,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus leaders wrote in a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke on Tuesday repeating a request to meet about extending the deadline.
Trump said he was putting in place the six-month window to give Congress a sense of urgency to put the Obama administration executive action into law.
But despite Tuesday’s hearing, multiple working groups and meetings the President has had with lawmakers at the White House, little substantive progress has been made.
The fault lines have remained consistent. Democrats support the bipartisan Dream Act that would protect eligible young immigrants who arrived as children and put them on a path to citizenship. They say they could accept border security as a compromise with it, but insist they will not vote for anything that could put the families and friends of those protected at greater risk of deportation.
DACA deal: A list of just some of the things that could go wrong
But Republicans are also insistent that any DACA deal must include border security and likely immigration enforcement measures, and the more conservative members of the party are suggesting policies — like mandatory worker verification, cuts to the legal immigration system and expanded deportation authority — that would be almost impossible to get Democrats to agree to.
Any solution would likely have to include Democrats, as they’ll be needed for passage in the Senate and to make up for Republicans in the House who would never vote for any DACA deal. But House Speaker Paul Ryan has also pledged not to move any bill that doesn’t get the votes of a majority of Republicans, limiting the options.
Durbin was joined on Tuesday at the hearing by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, in urging lawmakers and the White House to not try to concoct too big a compromise. Tillis has sponsored legislation similar to Durbin’s Dream Act that he bills as a conservative DACA solution.
Responding to a wish list articulated by a DHS senior staff member testifying about the White House’s aims, Tillis grew frustrated and urged members to focus on a narrow deal as a starting point.
“It reads like a laundry list for comprehensive immigration reform, and if Congress has proven an extraordinary ability to do anything, it’s to fail at comprehensive immigration reform,” Tillis said.”
Bad news on all fronts for Dreamers, and for America. Over at the White House, notorious White Nationalist xenophobe racist and Sessions confidante Stephen Miller is plotting to destroy any chance of compromise legislation to aid Dreamers by attaching reductions in legal Immigraton and other parts of the White Nationalist agenda to the bill.
“The White House is finalizing a plan to demand hard-line immigration reforms in exchange for supporting a fix on the DACA program, according to three people familiar with the talks — an approach that risks alienating Democrats and even many Republicans, potentially tanking any deal.
The White House proposal is being crafted by Stephen Miller, the administration’s top immigration adviser, and includes cutting legal immigration by half over the next decade, an idea that’s already been panned by lawmakers in both parties.
The principles would likely be a political non-starter for Democrats and infuriate Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who have negotiated with President Donald Trump on immigration and left a White House meeting last month indicating a solution was near. They could also divide Republicans, many of whom oppose cutting legal immigration.
Miller was upset after Trump’s dinner last month with Schumer and Pelosi and has been working since to bring the president back to the tougher stance he took during his campaign.
Miller has begun talking with Hill aides and White House officials about the principles in recent days. The administration is expected to send its immigration wish-list to Congress in the coming days, perhaps as soon as this weekend, said the people familiar with the plan, who include two administration officials. They requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing negotiations.
A White House official cautioned that the plans have not been finalized and could still change. Miller didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Unless they change dramatically from their current form, the immigration principles could short-circuit congressional negotiations aimed at finding a fix to DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the Obama-era initiative that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors.
“Handing Stephen Miller the pen on any DACA deal after the revolt from their base is the quickest way to blow it up,” said a senior Democratic Senate aide.
Lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol panned an earlier White House immigration proposal spearheaded by Miller, the RAISE Act, when the White House rolled it out in August. Republicans including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ron Johnson .)of Wisconsin all but declared the proposal dead on arrival.
Trump announced last month that he would end the DACA program, but he said he’d give Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution.
Despite Trump’s efforts to make nice with Schumer and Pelosi, Republican lawmakers signaled this week that the president is prepared to demand tough immigration measures as part of the negotiations.
In addition to provisions in the RAISE Act, the White House’s immigration principles also include parts of the Davis-Oliver Act, including measures that would give state and local law enforcement power to enforce immigration laws, allow states to write their own immigration laws and expand criminal penalties for entering the U.S. illegally.
The principles would also incorporate a provision from the Davis-Oliver Act that puts the onus on Congress to designate Temporary Protected Status, which allows immigrants to temporarily stay in the United States because they are unable to return to their home country as a result of a natural disaster or other dangerous circumstances.
The Davis-Oliver Act gives Congress 90 days to approve a measure extending TPS protections to a foreign state. If Congress does not act, the designation will be terminated. Lawmakers have raised concerns that Congress will be unable to agree on the designations, effectively killing the program.
In addition, the principles call for billions of dollars in border security, as well as money for detention beds and more immigration judges, according to the people familiar with them. Republicans are likely to support those moves.”
Miller’s proposals are right out of the White Nationalist restrictionist playbook. It will be a non-starter for Democrats. Additionally, no decent human being of any party should ever be associated, in any way, with any idea emanating from the arrogant racist Miller.
If Miller is involved, Dreamer relief is DOA. That means that Dreamers are likely to be left to fight out their future one case at a time in the Federal Courts and in the Immigraton Courts. Given the existing 630,000+ case backlog in the U.S. Imigration Courts, and the relatively cumbersome process for restoring “Dreamer” cases to the Immigraton Court Docket, not many will actually be removed from the United States before 2000.
I also think that Dreamers will have a reasonable chance of succeeding in the Article III Courts in barring DHS from relying on any evidence furnished as part of the DACA application and interview process as evidence of removability. That’s likely to throw a further monkey wrench into any enforcement initiative aimed at Dreamers.
So, the best strategy might prove to be working hard to remove the Trump regime and enough White Nationalist GOPers through the ballot box to create a climate for reasonable immigraton reform in 2021.
Sad, but probably true. A country that mistreats its youth in this manner can expect “very bad things” to happen in the future.
“US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law, according to a memo on Wednesday sent to agency heads and US attorneys.
Sessions’ directive, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says, “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
It adds that the government will take this position in pending and future matters, which could have far-reaching implications across the federal government and may result in the Justice Department fighting against transgender workers in court.
“Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” Sessions writes. “This is a conclusion of law, not policy. As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.”
But Sharon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and now an attorney for the LGBT group Lambda Legal, countered that Sessions’ is ignoring a widespread trend in federal courts.
“It’s ironic for them to say this is law, and not policy,” McGowan told BuzzFeed News. “The memo is devoid of discussion of the way case law has been developing in this area for the last few years. It demonstrates that this memo is not actually a reflection of the law as it is — it’s a reflection of what the DOJ wishes the law were.”
“The sessions DOJ is trying to roll back the clock and pretend that the progress of the last decade hasnt’ happened,” she added. “The Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”
“The Justice Department is actually getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”
The memo reflects the Justice Department’s aggression toward LGBT rights under President Trump and Sessions, who reversed an Obama-era policy that protects transgender students after a few weeks in office. Last month, Sessions filed a brief at the Supreme Court in favor of a Christian baker who refused a wedding cake to a gay couple. And last week, the department argued in court that Title VII doesn’t protect a gay worker from discrimination, showing that Sessions will take his view on Title VII into private employment disputes.
At issue in the latest policy is how broadly the government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which does not address LGBT rights directly. Rather, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an independent agency that enforces civil rights law in the workplace, and a growing body of federal court decisions have found sex discrimination does include discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotyping — and that Title VII therefore bans anti-transgender discrimination as well.
Embracing that trend, former attorney general Eric Holder under President Obama announced the Justice Department would take that position as well, issuing a memo in 2014 that said, “I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status. The most straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination ‘because of … sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”
But Sessions said in his latest policy that he “withdraws the December 15, 2014, memorandum,” and adds his narrower view that the law only covers discrimination between “men and women.”
“The Department of Justice will take that position in all pending and future matters (except where controlling lower-court precedent dictates otherwise, in which event the issue should be preserved for potential future review),” Sessions writes.
Sessions adds: “The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals. Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis of gender identity, or to express a policy view on whether Congress should amend Title VII to provide different or additional protections.”
Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, explained the decision to issue the memo, telling BuzzFeed News, “The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided. Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today’s action. This Department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals, and will continue to enforce the numerous laws that Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
McGowan, from Lambda Legal, counters, “The memo is so weak that analysis is so thin, that it will courts will recognize it for what it is — a raw political document and not sound legal analysis that should be given any weight by them.”
Virulent homophobia has always been a key element of the “Gonzo Apocalypto Agenda.” Check out this report from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate about how when serving as Alabama’s Attorney General Gonzo attempted to use an Alabama statute that had been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Judge to both publicly demean LGBTQ students and stomp on their First Amendment rights. (So much for the disingenuous BS speech that Gonzo delivered on Free Speech at Georgetown Law last week.) Here’s what happened:
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech at Georgetown University Law Center in which he argued that “freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack.” As my colleague Dahlia Lithwick explained, the attorney general said this in “a room full of prescreened students who asked him prescreened questions while political demonstrators outside were penned off in ‘free speech zones.’ ” Ensconced in a safe space of his own, Sessions blasted the notion that speech can be “hurtful,” criticizing administrators and students for their “crackdown” on “speech they may have disagreed with.”
Mark Joseph Stern
MARK JOSEPH STERN
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.
Sessions’ hypocrisy on speech issues is not a new development. In 1996, the then–attorney general of Alabama used the full power of his office to try to shut down an LGBTQ conference at the University of Alabama. Sessions took his battle to court, asking a federal judge to let him block the conference altogether—or, at the very least, silence students who wished to discuss LGBTQ issues. He ultimately failed, but his campaign reveals a great deal about his highly selective view of free expression. Sessions claims to support freedom for “offensive” speech, but when speech offends him, he is all too happy to play the censor.
When Sessions served as Alabama attorney general, the state still criminalized sodomy. A 1992 law, Alabama Education Code Section 16-1-28, also barred public universities from funding, recognizing, or supporting any group “that fosters or promotes a lifestyle or actions prohibited by” the sodomy statute, either “directly or indirectly.” The law also forbade schools from allowing such organizations to use public facilities. Sessions’ predecessor, Jimmy Evans, had interpreted the statute to effectively outlaw the discussion or promotion of gay rights on public campuses, with that prohibition even extending to AIDS awareness campaigns.
In 1995, the University of South Alabama’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance sued in federal court to block Section 16-1-28. That summer, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that, under the First Amendment, public universities may not deny access to facilities or funding for student organizations on the basis of their viewpoints. This decision, the GLBA asserted, rendered Section 16-1-28 unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson agreed, holding the law to be invalid in a January 1996 ruling.
This decision was excellent news for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. The GLBA had planned to host the Fifth Annual Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual College Conference of the Southeastern United States in February 1996. Sessions, by now attorney general, was trying his hardest to shut it down.
“University officials say they’re going to try to obey the law,” Sessions said at the time, as CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported in December of last year. “I don’t see how it can be done without canceling this conference. I remain hopeful that if the administration does not act, the board of trustees will.” Sessions didn’t give up even after Judge Thompson struck down the law. “I intend to do everything I can to stop that conference,” he said.
In a last-ditch effort, Sessions returned to Thompson’s court and asked permission to ban the conference. “The State of Alabama,” he explained in court filings, “will experience irreparable harm by funding a conference and activities in violation of state law.” Failing a total ban, Sessions implored Thompson to let him censor any discussion of “safe sex and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.” Sessions claimed that, by talking about LGBTQ issues, conference attendees were essentially conspiring to promote criminal activity, and Alabama should not be obligated to support their criminality. Predictably, Thompson rejected Sessions’ arguments, writing that the attorney general was endeavoring to violate students’ free speech rights. Sessions then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously ruled against Alabama. The conference went on as planned.
Cathy Lopez Wessell, a lead organizer and spokeswoman for the conference, told me Sessions’ intervention “was incredibly stressful. We got threatening phone calls. We were attacked from all sides.” She continued, “We were the abomination of the month. I didn’t feel safe in the world for a while. I started to internalize some of the judgment leveled at our group. I thought, there must be something deeply wrong with you if you need to be silenced.”
Lopez Wessell explained that Sessions’ campaign against the conference registered as a broader attack on LGBTQ students.
“If we can’t talk, do we have a right to exist?” Lopez Wessell asked. “If our speech is so dangerous that it needs to be stopped, then are we dangerous? We weren’t promoting any particular activity; we just wanted to talk—about our experiences, about our existence.”
Denying the humanity as well as the human rights of those he is biased against is a staple of the Gonzo Apocalypto agenda. Just look at his constant attempts to tie all members of the Hispanic ethnic community to crime, drugs, and gangs (even though all credible studies show that immigrants or all types have markedly lower crime rates than native-born U.S. citizens) and his false and gratuitous attempts to tie “Dreamers” to crime, terrorism, and loss of jobs!
There is no more certain way of knowing that a DOJ “legal” memo is all policy and no law than the statement: “This is a conclusion of law, not policy.“ In other words, “Don’t you dare accuse me of doing what I’m actually doing!”
Since assuming the office of Attorney General for which he is so spectacularly unqualified, here’s a list of the folks whose rights or humanity Sessions has attacked or disparaged:
Civil Rights Protesters
City Officials Seeking To Foster Community Law Enforcement
State Governors Who Disagree With Him
Federal Judges Who Find Trump Policies Illegal
State & Federal Judges Who Object To Migrants Being Arrested At Their Courts
Liberal Students & College Administrators
Unaccompanied Migrant Children
Whistleblowers (a/k/a “Leakers” in “Gonzopeak”)
DOJ Career Attorneys
I’m sure I’ve left a few out. Feel free to send me additions. The list just keeps getting longer all the time.
The only group that appears to be “A-OK” with Gonzo is “White straight Christian male Republican ultra rightists.”