GONZO’S WORLD: TRUMP & SESSIONS ARE SYSTEMATICALLY DISMANTLING OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM – THE “BOGUS FOCUS” ON IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT IS KEY TO THEIR DESTRUCTIVE STRATEGY! — “Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/17/opinion/sunday/donald-trump-and-the-undoing-of-justice-reform.html

The New York Times Editorial Board writes:

“In the decade or so before Donald Trump became president, America’s approach to criminal justice was changing fast — reckoning with decades of destructive and ineffective policies that had ballooned the prison population and destroyed countless lives. Red and blue states were putting in place smart, sensible reforms like reducing harsh sentencing laws, slashing prison populations and crime rates, and providing more resources for the thousands of people who are released every week.

President Obama’s record on the issue was far from perfect, but he and his first attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., took several key steps: weakening racially discriminatory sentencing laws, shortening thousands of absurdly long drug sentences, and pulling back on the prosecution of low-level drug offenders and of federal marijuana offenses in states that have legalized it. This approach reflected state-level efforts and sent a message of encouragement to those still leery of reform.

Within minutes of taking office, Mr. Trump turned back the dial, warning darkly in his Inaugural Address of “American carnage,” of cities and towns gutted by crime — even though crime rates are at their lowest in decades. Things only got worse with the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, along with Mr. Trump, appears to be stuck in the 1980s, when politicians exploited the public’s fear of rising crime to sell absurdly harsh laws and win themselves re-election. Perhaps that’s why both men seem happy to distort, if not outright lie about, crime statistics that no longer support their narrative.

Last February, Mr. Trump claimed that “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” Wrong: The national rate remains at an all-time low. It’s true that the 10.8 percent increase in murders between 2014 and 2015 was the largest one-year rise in more than four decades, but the total number of murders is still far below what it was in the early 1990s.

 

As bad as the dishonesty is the fact that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions have managed to engineer their backward worldview largely under the public’s radar, as a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice documents. Last May, Mr. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to charge as aggressively as possible in every case — reversing a policy of Mr. Holder’s that had eased up on nonviolent drug offenders and others who fill the nation’s federal prisons. In January, Mr. Sessions rescinded another Obama-era policy that discouraged federal marijuana prosecutions in states where its sale and use are legal. (Mr. Sessions has long insisted, contrary to all available evidence, that marijuana is “a dangerous drug” and “only slightly less awful” than heroin.)

These sorts of moves don’t get much attention, but as the report notes, they could end up increasing the federal prison population, which began to fall for the first time in decades under Mr. Obama.

The reversal of sensible criminal justice reform doesn’t stop there. Under Mr. Trump, the Justice Department has pulled back from his predecessor’s investigations of police abuse and misconduct; resumed the use of private, for-profit prisons; and stopped granting commutations to low-level drug offenders who have spent years or decades behind bars.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sessions, who as a senator was one of the most reliable roadblocks to long-overdue federal sentencing reform, is still throwing wrenches into the works as Congress inches toward a bipartisan deal. Mr. Sessions called the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a sweeping bill that would reduce some mandatory-minimum sentences, and that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, a “grave error.” That earned him a rebuke from the committee’s chairman, Senator Charles Grassley, who pointed out that the attorney general is tasked with enforcing the laws, not writing them. “If General Sessions wanted to be involved in marking up this legislation, maybe he should have quit his job and run for the Republican Senate seat in Alabama,” Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Grassley is no one’s idea of a justice reformer, but he supports the bill because, he said, it “strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system.”

So what has this administration done right? The list is short and uninspiring. In October, Mr. Trump declared the epidemic of opioid abuse a national emergency, which could be a good step toward addressing it — but he’s since done almost nothing to combat a crisis that killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016.

In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Trump promised to “embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” It’s great if he really means that, but it’s hard to square his assurance with his own attorney general’s opposition to a bill that includes recidivism-reduction programs intended to achieve precisely this goal.

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

The rhetoric from the White House and the Justice Department has emboldened some state and local officials to talk tougher, even if just as ignorantly, about crime. The good news is that it’s not working as well anymore. In Virginia’s race for governor last fall, the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, attacked his opponent, Ralph Northam, with ads blaming him for violence by the MS-13 gang.

It was a despicable stunt, its fearmongering recalling the racist but effective Willie Horton ad that George H. W. Bush ran on in his successful 1988 presidential campaign. Thankfully, Virginia’s voters overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Gillespie, another sign that criminal justice reform is an issue with strong support across the political spectrum. In the era of Donald Trump, candidates of both parties should be proud to run as reformers — but particularly Democrats, who can cast the issue not only as a central component of a broader progressive agenda, but as yet another example of just how out of touch with the country Mr. Trump and his administration are.”

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I know it’s quoted above, but two paragraphs of this article deserve re-emphasis:

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

Gonzo consistently uses bogus statistics, fear-mongering, racial innuendo, and outright slurs of immigrants, including Dreamers, and their advocates to advance his White Nationalist agenda at Justice.

At the same time, he largely ignores or proposes laughably inadequate steps to address the real justice problems in America: Russian interference, the opioid crisis, uncontrolled gun violence (much of it involving mass shootings by disgruntled White Guys with assault-type weapons), overcrowded prisons, lack of an effective Federal community-based anti-gang effort in major cities, hate crimes committed by White Supremacists, grotesquely substandard conditions in civil immigration detention, and the uncontrolled backlogs and glaring denials of Due Process and fairness to migrants in our U.S. Immigration Court System.

How long can America go without a real Attorney General who acknowledges the rights of all people in America? How will we ever recover from the damage that Gonzo does every day he remains in the office for which he is so supremely unqualified?

PWS

02-19-18

 

LA TIMES: VLADI’S “NOT SO SECRET AGENT” DEVON NUNES (R-CA) DELIVERS AGAIN! – Bogus Attack On U.S. Institutions & Deflection From Russian Meddling Investigation Exceeds Putin’s Expectations For Destroying American Democracy!

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=931a545e-7bbc-45a3-9e6c-7b9d7c136452

From the LA Times Editorial Board:

“Devin Nunes strikes again

For months, some Republicans in Congress have been itching to give cover to President Trump’s complaint that the investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign is a politically motivated “witch hunt.” On Monday, the majority of the House Intelligence Committee put that shameful strategy into practice.

The panel voted along party lines to make public a ballyhooed memo purporting to show that the investigation now being pursued by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was tainted from the beginning by partisan bias. The White House can refuse, but Trump has signaled that he wants the document released despite opposition from his own Justice Department.

We welcome any effort by Congress to be genuinely transparent, especially on controversial and polarizing issues. But this move falls short of genuine transparency.

The panel’s Republican majority rejected a proposal to simultaneously release a dissenting document prepared by committee Democrats, who have dismissed the Republican memo as a “misleading set of talking points.” The Democrats’ response will be viewed by House members and could be released later — after the Republicans’ spin on the underlying classified information has dominated a few news cycles.

Nor is the committee seeking to release the actual documents used in the case. Instead, the memo provides an interpretation of those documents prepared under the direction of California’s own Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee chairman.

We haven’t seen the memo, but Republicans who have read it have described it in sensational terms that makes it clear that it will be music to Trump’s ears. The memo reportedly asserts that an application for a court order to conduct surveillance on a Trump campaign advisor, Carter Page, drew on information from Christopher Steele, a former British spy who created the now notorious “dossier” about alleged contacts between Trump and Russia that was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. But the fact that Steele’s research might have been part of the basis for the court order doesn’t mean that other matters weren’t cited in the application to the court or that subsequent investigations were unjustified.

Moreover, Nunes’ involvement in this project undermines its credibility. Last year, the Republican from Tulare pushed a bogus “unmasking” scandal that sought to shift the public’s focus away from the evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. election. That bit of freelancing led to him recusing himself from the panel’s probe.

The underlying allegations being investigated by Congress and by Mueller are as serious as can be. It’s alarming and infuriating that a foreign government may have sought to subvert our elections — and it’s even more outrageous that a candidate might possibly participate in such subversion. Accusations this grave need to be investigated and considered objectively, carefully and without fear or favor. The idea that either party or both would turn such serious issues into opportunities for partisan gain or gamesmanship is a sign of how dysfunctional and amoral Washington has become.”

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A bad week for America = a great week for Vladimir Putin and his Oligarchs!

Who would have thought that the party that saw the “Red Menace” under every bed in America when I was growing up would so eagerly “leap into bed” with our old (not really “reformed”) KGB menace Putin in an effort to discredit the FBI, the DOJ, the American Intelligence Community, and our Courts, all to preserve a congenital liar and “Putin sell-out” who happens to occupy our White House! Amazing, sports fans!

PWS

01-31-18

THE NY TIMES TAKES YOU INSIDE THE “NERVE CENTER” OF THE WHITE NATIONALIST EMPIRE: TRUMP’S “GONZO” IMMIGRATION POLICIES DRIVEN BY XENOPHOBIA, RACISM, IRRATIONAL FEAR, FAKE NEWS, MISINFORMATON, AND BIAS! – Trump & Cronies Deny Our Nation’s Immigrant Past While Seeking To Destroy Our Future As A Powerful and Diverse Democracy!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/23/us/politics/trump-immigration.html?_r=0

 

Michael D. Shear & Julie Hirschfield Davis report for the NY Times:

“WASHINGTON — Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June, plainly enraged.

Five months before, Mr. Trump had dispatched federal officers to the nation’s airports to stop travelers from several Muslim countries from entering the United States in a dramatic demonstration of how he would deliver on his campaign promise to fortify the nation’s borders.

But so many foreigners had flooded into the country since January, he vented to his national security team, that it was making a mockery of his pledge. Friends were calling to say he looked like a fool, Mr. Trump said.

According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.

More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

As the meeting continued, John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, and Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, tried to interject, explaining that many were short-term travelers making one-time visits. But as the president continued, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Miller turned their ire on Mr. Tillerson, blaming him for the influx of foreigners and prompting the secretary of state to throw up his arms in frustration. If he was so bad at his job, maybe he should stop issuing visas altogether, Mr. Tillerson fired back.

Tempers flared and Mr. Kelly asked that the room be cleared of staff members. But even after the door to the Oval Office was closed, aides could still hear the president berating his most senior advisers.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied on Saturday morning that Mr. Trump had made derogatory statements about immigrants during the meeting.

“General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims,” she said, referring to the current White House chief of staff, the national security adviser and the secretaries of state and homeland security. “It’s both sad and telling The New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous ‘sources’ anyway.”

While the White House did not deny the overall description of the meeting, officials strenuously insisted that Mr. Trump never used the words “AIDS” or “huts” to describe people from any country. Several participants in the meeting told Times reporters that they did not recall the president using those words and did not think he had, but the two officials who described the comments found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time.

The meeting in June reflects Mr. Trump’s visceral approach to an issue that defined his campaign and has indelibly shaped the first year of his presidency.

How We Reported This Story

The Times conducted over three dozen interviews with current and former administration officials, lawmakers and others close to the process.

Seizing on immigration as the cause of countless social and economic problems, Mr. Trump entered office with an agenda of symbolic but incompletely thought-out goals, the product not of rigorous policy debate but of emotionally charged personal interactions and an instinct for tapping into the nativist views of white working-class Americans.

Like many of his initiatives, his effort to change American immigration policy has been executed through a disorderly and dysfunctional process that sought from the start to defy the bureaucracy charged with enforcing it, according to interviews with three dozen current and former administration officials, lawmakers and others close to the process, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private interactions.

But while Mr. Trump has been repeatedly frustrated by the limits of his power, his efforts to remake decades of immigration policy have gained increasing momentum as the White House became more disciplined and adept at either ignoring or undercutting the entrenched opposition of many parts of the government. The resulting changes have had far-reaching consequences, not only for the immigrants who have sought to make a new home in this country, but also for the United States’ image in the world.

“We have taken a giant steamliner barreling full speed,” Mr. Miller said in a recent interview. “Slowed it, stopped it, begun to turn it around and started sailing in the other direction.”

It is an assessment shared ruefully by Mr. Trump’s harshest critics, who see a darker view of the past year. Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group, argues that the president’s immigration agenda is motivated by racism.

“He’s basically saying, ‘You people of color coming to America seeking the American dream are a threat to the white people,’” said Mr. Sharry, an outspoken critic of the president. “He’s come into office with an aggressive strategy of trying to reverse the demographic changes underway in America.”

. . . .

Even as the administration was engaged in a court battle over the travel ban, it began to turn its attention to another way of tightening the border — by limiting the number of refugees admitted each year to the United States. And if there was one “deep state” stronghold of Obama holdovers that Mr. Trump and his allies suspected of undermining them on immigration, it was the State Department, which administers the refugee program.

At the department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, there was a sense of foreboding about a president who had once warned that any refugee might be a “Trojan horse” or part of a “terrorist army.”

Mr. Trump had already used the travel ban to cut the number of allowable refugees admitted to the United States in 2017 to 50,000, a fraction of the 110,000 set by Mr. Obama. Now, Mr. Trump would have to decide the level for 2018.

At an April meeting with top officials from the bureau in the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room, Mr. Miller cited statistics from the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies that indicated that resettling refugees in the United States was far costlier than helping them in their own region.

Mr. Miller was visibly displeased, according to people present, when State Department officials pushed back, citing another study that found refugees to be a net benefit to the economy. He called the contention absurd and said it was exactly the wrong kind of thinking.

But the travel ban had been a lesson for Mr. Trump and his aides on the dangers of dictating a major policy change without involving the people who enforce it. This time, instead of shutting out those officials, they worked to tightly control the process.

In previous years, State Department officials had recommended a refugee level to the president. Now, Mr. Miller told officials the number would be determined by the Department of Homeland Security under a new policy that treated the issue as a security matter, not a diplomatic one.

When he got word that the Office of Refugee Resettlement had drafted a 55-page report showing that refugees were a net positive to the economy, Mr. Miller swiftly intervened, requesting a meeting to discuss it. The study never made it to the White House; it was shelved in favor of a three-page list of all the federal assistance programs that refugees used.

At the United Nations General Assembly in September, Mr. Trump cited the Center for Immigration Studies report, arguing that it was more cost-effective to keep refugees out than to bring them into the United States.

“Uncontrolled migration,” Mr. Trump declared, “is deeply unfair to both the sending and receiving countries.”

. . . .

As the new year approached, officials began considering a plan to separate parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally, a move that immigrant groups called draconian.

At times, though, Mr. Trump has shown an openness to a different approach. In private discussions, he returns periodically to the idea of a “comprehensive immigration” compromise, though aides have warned him against using the phrase because it is seen by his core supporters as code for amnesty. During a fall dinner with Democratic leaders, Mr. Trump explored the possibility of a bargain to legalize Dreamers in exchange for border security.

Mr. Trump even told Republicans recently that he wanted to think bigger, envisioning a deal early next year that would include a wall, protection for Dreamers, work permits for their parents, a shift to merit-based immigration with tougher work site enforcement, and ultimately, legal status for some undocumented immigrants.

The idea would prevent Dreamers from sponsoring the parents who brought them illegally for citizenship, limiting what Mr. Trump refers to as “chain migration.”

“He wants to make a deal,” said Mr. Graham, who spoke with Mr. Trump about the issue last week. “He wants to fix the entire system.”

Yet publicly, Mr. Trump has only employed the absolutist language that defined his campaign and has dominated his presidency.

After an Uzbek immigrant was arrested on suspicion of plowing a truck into a bicycle path in Lower Manhattan in October, killing eight people, the president seized on the episode.

Privately, in the Oval Office, the president expressed disbelief about the visa program that had admitted the suspect, confiding to a group of visiting senators that it was yet another piece of evidence that the United States’ immigration policies were “a joke.”

Even after a year of progress toward a country sealed off from foreign threats, the president still viewed the immigration system as plagued by complacency.

“We’re so politically correct,” he complained to reporters in the cabinet room, “that we’re afraid to do anything.”

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

Read the full, much more comprehensive and detailed, article at the link.

Disturbing for sure, but unfortunately not particularly surprising for those of us who have watched the Administration roll out its toxic, ill-informed immigration policies. Perhaps ironically, while the immigration issue has certainly allowed Trump to capture and control the GOP, polls show that his extreme restrictionist, xenophobic views on immigration are generally out of line with the majority of Americans (although not necessarily the majority of GOP voters).

PWS

12-23-17

NEW EOIR MEMO ENCOURAGES IMMIGRATION JUDGES TO DUMP ON UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN (“UACS”) – “When In Doubt, Kick ‘em Out” New Motto Of Gonzo’s “Captive Courts!” — We’ve Come A Long Way From “Guaranteeing Fairness And Due Process For All” In A Short Time!

Responding to several recent “hate speeches” by Attorney General Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, EOIR issued a new memorandum basically telling U.S. immigration Judges to revise their thinking and look for any way possible to “shaft” unaccompanied minors fleeing for their lives and asserting claims for protection under U.S. laws.

The memorandum from Chief U.S. mmigration Judge Marybeth Keller, dated Dec. 21, 2017, is available in full at this link:

http://www.aila.org/infonet/eoir-releases-memo-with-guidelines-for-immigration?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=b0fd06181c-AILA8_12_20_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-b0fd06181c-291958957

However, because it is drafted in dense bureaucratic doublespeak with a just a touch of “lip service” to the law, I will give you the “high points” as they would appear to most Immigration Judges:

  • The Attorney General hates UACS, and so should you if you want to keep your job.
  • While this Administration works on its announced plans to strip UACS of all statutory and Constitutional rights, you must always look for ways to effectively eliminate such “false rights” administratively in advance of any changes in the law.
  • Always look for ways to find that someone previously determined by DHS or the ORR to be a “UAC” is no longer, or never should have been, entitled to UAC benefits. 
  • The “best interests of the child” should NOT be an important consideration in an Immigration Court proceeding involving a UAC. 
  • Conversely, the “best interests of the Administration” should generally be given conclusive weight. 
  • Never let considerations of human empathy, misplaced kindness, false compassion, common sense, decency, or any other human emotion lead you to give a break or the benefit of the doubt to a UAC.  
  • Is is permissible, however, to create a false sense of informality and friendliness in your courtroom, so long as it doesn’t result in a grant of any type of protection or relief to the UAC. (Indeed, lulling a UAC into a false sense of comfort or security can be an effective strategy for insuring that he or she will not attempt to find a lawyer and will sign away or waive any rights.)
  • Remember that no matter how young, immature, discombobulated, confused, inarticulate, traumatized, or scared a UAC might be, he or she is NEVER entitled to appointed counsel or to any meaningful help from you in stating or supporting a claim for protection.
  • While all DHS requests should generally be treated as “priorities,” the only request from a UAC or his or her representative that should receive “priority” consideration is a request for immediate voluntary departure from the US. (You should never hesitate to grant such a request even if it appears to be the product of duress or against the UAC’s best interests.)
  • A good way to overcome the unfortunate tendency of some reviewing courts to find testimony of UACS “credible”” is to conclude that even if credible and facially sufficient to establish a claim for relief, the UAC’S testimony is “too generalized” or “not sufficiently detailed” (or any other kind of meaningless legal jargon you might come up with) to satisfy the “burden of proof” for protection.
  • Your main responsibility as an Immigration Judge, and the one for which you will be held accountable, is to ferret out and report fraud, not to insure fairness or due process for the UAC.
  • In discharging your duties as an Immigration Judge, you must always give primacy to the enforcement priorities of the Administration (including the overriding objective of deterrence and how it is advanced by REMOVAl orders, not relief) and the DHS over any legal claims advanced by a UAC. 
  • You should presume that all UACS and particularly any with “dirty” attorneys representing them are “fraudsters” unless and until otherwise established beyond a reasonable doubt. 
  • While it is permissible to present yourself to the public, and particularly to any reviewing courts Congressional, or media representatives as a “judge of a full due process court,” for all other purposes, you should always remember that you are a mere subordinate of the Attorney General, sworn to carry out his policies, and never, under any circumstances, should you consider yourself to be a “real judge” exercising independent judgement.
  • If you have any questions about this memorandum, please consult your ACIJ (who is specially trained to help you maximize final removals orders) rather than your conscience.
  • Remember: “When In Doubt, Kick ‘Em Out!”

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There was a time in the (seemingly now distant) past when children and other vulnerable individuals were considered appropriate for “special humanitarian consideration,” and treatment. Now, they are “special targets” for Gonzo and his White Nationalist storm troopers: “Fish in a barrel,” “easy numbers, “low hanging fruit,” “roadkill.”

I was particularly impressed (not necessarily favorably) by the straightforward exhortation for the Immigration Court to establish itself as perhaps the only court in the America where the widely accepted principle of “the best interests of the child” is specifically to be given short shrift.

On the other hand, you should think about the possibility that some day you’ll get the question “What did you do during Trump’s War on America, Mommy (or Daddy)?” Do you really want to say:  “I stood by and watched Gonzo Apocalypto abuse, harm, and in some cases kill, helpless children?” We all have choices to make!

PWS

12-21-17

THIRD WORLD AMERICA! – THE ATTACK OF THE SWAMP RATS! — Under Trump’s GOP, Americans Now Correctly View White House As The Most Corrupt Institution — But, Who Are The Fools Who Voted These Immoral Jokers Into Control?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/12/12/report-americans-view-trump-white-house-as-the-most-corrupt-government-institution/

Josh Rogin reports in the Washington Post:

“Almost half of Americans believe that corruption is pervasive in the White House under President Trump, a sharp increase over last year, according to a new survey. Americans now see Trump and his top officials as the most corrupt public officials in government, despite his campaign pledge to drain the swamp.

A new report out Tuesday compiled by Transparency International, the leading nonprofit organization tracking corruption worldwide, shows Americans have significantly lost faith that their government is ably fighting corruption, compared to last year. Overall, Washington-based government institutions are viewed by Americans are more corrupt than those outside the Beltway, the report found. But the Trump White House tops the list.

According to the group’s 2017 U.S. Corruption Barometer, 44 percent of respondents said that most or all of the officials in the office of the president are corrupt, up from 38 percent at the end of Obama’s second term.

Members of Congress are seen as the second most corrupt group of government officials of the nine categories in the survey, with 38 percent of Americans viewing them as mostly or all corrupt. After that, Americans perceive corruption as pervasive in non-White House government officials, business executives, local officials and business leaders in decreasing proportions. Only 16 percent of respondents viewed judges and magistrates as mostly or all corrupt, according to the data.

Meanwhile, 69 percent of respondents said the U.S. government is fighting corruption “fairly badly” or “very badly,” up from 51 percent in 2016. More than half of respondents said people don’t report corruption due to fear of retaliation.

Transparency International defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Key issues within that definition include the influence of wealthy individuals over government, “pay for play” politics, revolving doors between government and corporate entities and the abuse of the financial system by elites.

The perception of Trump and his top officials as being corrupt is easy to understand. Trump and his family have scores of well-documented conflicts of interest they have dealt with in an opaque manner. Meanwhile, Trump’s failure to divest fully from his businesses, combined with his failure to release his tax returns, has fueled suspicions.

The phone survey, performed by the company Efficience3, included interviews of 1,005 randomly selected Americans in October and November. The data were weighted to be demographically representative of all American adults by age, race, gender, urbanization, social grade and ethnicity.

Zoe Reiter, Transparency International’s U.S. representative, said that the study was meant to form a basis for understanding how government is failing to uphold high anti-corruption standards and provide a call to action for Americans to respond. She pointed out that 74 percent of respondents said they believed ordinary people still can make a difference.

“The good news is a majority of Americans feel empowered to fight corruption,” she said. “Since our elected officials are failing to deliver, we need to figure out a way to push them much harder to take these issues more seriously.”

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Read the rest of the article at the link.

There is some disconnect here, because some of the folks who now are concerned about corruption voted for Trump and the GOP, despite more than ample public evidence of his endemic dishonesty, congenital lying, incompetence, and general immorality. Garbage in — garbage out!

But, the answer to the problem is still pretty obvious:

  • Vote Trump and his corrupt cronies out of office;
  • Dismantle the current version of the GOP, which has become an “aider and abettor” of corruption, greed, immorality, and bad government.

Yes, we could and should have a viable two-party system. But, no major party should include horrible immoral individuals like Donald Trump, “Ayatollah Roy,” Steve King, Stephen Miller, or Steve Bannon whose views are deeply Anti-American and threatening to our continued existence as a nation and to the entire free world!

PWS

12-12-17

 

EXPOSED! — AILA’S JOHNSON SHOWS HOW “GONZO” INTENTIONALLY MISUSES DATA TO CREATE A FALSE ANTI-ASYLUM, ANTI-LAWYER NARRATIVE TO CONCEAL THE REAL GLARING PROBLEM DRIVING US IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOGS — AIMLESS DOCKET RESHUFFLING (“ADR”) DRIVEN BY POLITICOS ATTEMPTING TO STACK THE COURT SYSTEM AGAINST DUE PROCESS AND TILT IT IN FAVOR OF DHS/ADMINISTRATION ENFORCEMENT INITIATIVES!!!!!!! — SURPRISE — By Far The Biggest Increase In Continuances Comes From DHS & EOIR Itself!

http://www.aila.org/advo-media/press-releases/2017/ag-sessions-cites-flawed-facts-imm-court-system

From AILA Executive Director Ben Johnson:

“Once again, the Attorney General cites flawed facts to castigate the immigration bar for the significant case backlog and inefficiencies in our immigration court system,” said Benjamin Johnson, AILA Executive Director. “He blames immigration attorneys for seeking case continuances, disregarding the fact that continuances are also routinely requested by counsel for the government, or are issued unilaterally by the court for administrative reasons. In fact, although the report cited by the Attorney General indicates an 18% increase in continuances requested by respondents, that same report found a 54% increase in continuances requested by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and a 33% increase in ‘Operational-related’ continuances. That said, continuances are often a necessary means to ensure due process is afforded in removal proceedings. The number one reason a continuance is requested by a respondent is to find counsel. Other reasons include securing and authenticating documentary evidence from foreign countries, or to locating critical witnesses. And when the government refuses to share information from a client’s immigration file and instead makes them go through the lengthy process of a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act request, a continuance is often a client’s only lifeline to justice. For the AG to blame immigration lawyers for imagined trespasses is both malicious and wrong. We will not let that misinformation pass without setting the record straight.

“The immigration court backlog is a function of years and years of government spending on enforcement without a commensurate investment in court resources. Our nation would be better served if the immigration courts were an independent judiciary, free from the auspices of the Department of Justice, where every immigrant has access to counsel. Immigration court is not small claims court or traffic court; each decision has the potential to tear apart families or keep them together, to destroy businesses or build our economy, to send someone back to certain death, or bring hope for a new and better life. Immigration judges should make those decisions with all information at hand, without any undue influence or arbitrary case completion requirements. That is a goal we can all work toward.”

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

Sure matches my observations from the latter part of my career at the U.S. immigration Court in Arlington, VA!

Probably 75% of the cases on my “Non-Detained Docket” were there NOT at the request of a respondent or his or her attorney. No, they were “mass transferred and continued” to my docket unilaterally by EOIR to fulfill “Border Priorities” established by the DOJ during the Obama Administration as an adjunct to changing DHS Enforcement priorities.

And, these weren’t “short continuances” to find a lawyer or prepare an application as might be requested by a respondent or a private bar lawyer. NO, these were “Merits Hearing” cases that had often been set for late 2016 or 2017 hearings before one of my colleagues, only to be “continued” by EOIR to my docket for dates many additional years in the future. Indeed, many of these cases were unilaterally removed by EOIR from “Individual Dockets” and “orbited” to my “Master Calendars” (arraignments) years in the future — indeed years after I would be retired. That’s because my docket was already completely full for several years when this chapter of ADR started.

And the same was true for my colleague Judge Lawrence O. Burman. Indeed, at the time I retired, Judge Burman and I were the ONLY judges hearing “nonpriority, non-detained cases” — even though those cases were BY FAR the majority of cases on the Arlington Court Docket. And, to make things worse, my “replacement” retired at the end of 2016 thus resulting in a whole new “round” of ADR. 

Talk about ADR driven by incompetent administration and improper political meddling from the DOJ. And, from everything “Gonzo” has said and I have heard about what’s happening at EOIR, such impropriety has become “normalized” under the Trump Administration.

No court system can run efficiently and fairly when the perceived interests of one of the parties are elevated over fairness, Due Process, equal justice, and reaching correct decisions under the law. No court system can run efficiently and fairly when control over day-to-day dockets is stripped from the local US Immigration Judges and Court Administrators and hijacked by officials in Washington and Falls Church driven by political performance objectives  not by practical knowledge and day-to-day considerations of how to construct and run a docket for maximum fairness and efficiency under local conditions (the most important of which is the an adequate number of pro bono lawyers to represent respondents).

NO OTHER MAJOR COURT SYSTEM IN AMERICA OPERATES THE WAY EOIR DOES! THAT SHOULD TELL US SOMETHING!

So, why is “Gonzo Apocalypto” being allowed to get away with misrepresenting the facts and intentionally running the Immigration Court system for the perceived benefit of one of the parties and against the interests of the other? There is a simple term for such conduct: Ethical Misconduct. Usually, it results in the loss or suspension of the offender’s license to practice law. Why is Gonzo above accountability?

PWS

12-12-17

EUGENE ROBINSON IN WASHPOST: “The Clown Goes Abroad!”🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-clown-goes-abroad/2017/11/13/854b7186-c8b7-11e7-8321-481fd63f174d_story.html

“We are running a terribly unwise experiment: What happens when you replace U.S. presidential leadership with the slapstick antics of a clown?

On Saturday, President Trump issued the following statement: “Why would Kim Jong Un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend — and maybe someday that will happen!”

There is a natural tendency to become inured to Trump’s gushing stream of nonsense. Resist the urge. Read that statement again. The president of the United States, in the midst of a trip to Asia, taunted the nuclear-armed dictator of North Korea in a manner most sixth-graders would consider juvenile.

There was a time when the world looked to the U.S. president to speak clearly in defense of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. I refer to the entirety of modern U.S. history before January, when Trump assumed the high office he now dishonors.

His Asia tour has been at times a disaster, at times a farce. What was the most shameful moment? Perhaps when he announced that he has a “great relationship” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has encouraged police and vigilantes to fight the trade in illegal drugs by assassinating suspected traffickers without the bother of arrests or trials. At least 7,000 and perhaps as many as 13,000 people have been slain.

The White House claimed that human rights came up “briefly” in a private meeting between the two leaders, but Duterte said it didn’t come up at all. In fact, during a gala dinner, the buffoonish Duterte serenaded Trump with a Philippine ballad that includes the lyric, “You are the love I’ve been waiting for.”

The spectacle was simply appalling. One might argue, however, that Trump’s kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin was even worse.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Russian government directed a multipronged campaign to meddle in the 2016 election, with the aim of helping Trump win. Putin denies having committed this hostile act, and Trump, for some reason, takes the former KGB officer at his word.”

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

Read the rest of,the story at the link.

What about the clowns 🤡 who voted to make this idiot the Clown-in-Chief 🤡 over the objections of the majority of us?

PWS

11-13-17

 

GONZO’S WORLD: His Own Credibility Has Become A Bad Joke — But, Under Gonzo The DOJ & The SG’s Office Rapidly Losing Credibility & Respect From The Federal Courts!

https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/sites/nationallawjournal/2017/11/09/justice-department-faces-questions-for-supreme-court-attack-on-aclu-ethics/

Marcia Coyle reports for the National Law Journal:

“The U.S. Justice Department’s request that the Supreme Court consider sanctions against lawyers who advocated for an immigrant teenager at the center of an abortion case has raised questions about the government’s motivation and threatened to jeopardize the reputation of the solicitor’s office before the justices. Former Justice Department attorneys called the government’s action in the Supreme Court “extraordinary” and said they had no memory of a similar Supreme Court petition.”

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

You’ll need a full subscription to the NLJ to get beyond what I’ve quoted above. But, you get the idea.

And remember, you read first in some of my earlier blogs in immigrationcourtside.com about the DOJ’s and SG’s likely loss of years of hard earned respect and credibility by arguing the relatively “law free” politicized “Gonzo” positions forced on them by Sessions and the rest of the White Nationalist Trumpsters. Remember, the pro bono lawyers being smeared by Sessions’s DOJ were fighting to vindicate a migrant teenager‘s clear constitutional rights against an attempt by Government officials to substitute their own personal opinions for the constitutional rules and to misrepresent their true intentions (use delay and obfuscation tondefeat constitutional rights) in doing so. Sounds like it’s Sessions and his group whose law licenses should be re-examined.

The public and to some extent the media might have allowed the “Trump/Sessions Crowd” to “normalize” the presentation of lies, misrepresentations, intentional omissions, distortions, and political screeds as “facts” or “legal arguments.” But, most Article III Courts don’t like being played for fools, particularly by the USDOJ which traditionally has been expected to meet higher standards of integrity, fairness, and responsibility to accurately inform the tribunals before which they appear.

Ironically, although Gonzo tried to tag immigration lawyers fighting to preserve their clients’ statutory and constitutional rights as “dirty,” that tag is much more likely to stick to Gonzo and some of the ethically challenged DOJ lawyers doing his bidding. Not to mention that the DOJ is wasting the time of the Supremes with its basically frivolous request, intended largely as political grandstanding to satisfy Gonzo’s anti-abortion, anti-US Constitution political backers.

PWS

11-10-17

“AYATOLLAH ROY” APPARENTLY CAUGHT WITH HIS PANTS DOWN (LITERALLY) AS GOP REMAINS LARGELY IN DENIAL!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/people/dana-milbank

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:

“So President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and fellow Republicans think Roy Moore, the GOP Senate nominee from Alabama, should quit his Senate run only “if these allegations are true.”

If true? Four women, on the record in The Post, say Moore, when he was in his 30s, tried to date them as teens, and one of the women says he had sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32. Perhaps Republicans expect video and DNA evidence from 1979 magically to emerge, or a confession by Moore? (He denies the allegations.) More likely they are just dodging so that they can stick with Moore and keep the seat Republican — even if it means having an alleged pedophile join their caucus.

By comparison, there was more integrity in the defense of Moore offered by Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who told the Washington Examiner that, even if true, “there’s just nothing immoral or illegal here.” Indeed there’s biblical precedent for Moore’s alleged behavior.

“Take Joseph and Mary,” Zeigler said. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

 

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

Let us take seriously Zeigler’s justification, which is consistent with Moore’s view that “God’s laws are always superior to man’s laws,” and the Bible stands above the Constitution and other piddling laws of man. It is true that the Bible does not say “thou shalt not strip to thine tighty whities and kiss a 14-year-old and touch her through her bra and underpants.” The Bible also does not specifically prohibit colluding with the Russians, accepting emoluments, money laundering or conspiracy against the United States. So Moore, and for that matter President Trump and his administration, has nothing to worry about.

But if we are to accept the Bible literally as the legal standard (and not, say, age-of-consent laws), we will also have to accept as legal certain other activities in 21st-century America, including:

Sacrificing as a burnt offering your young son (Genesis 22:2) or your daughter, if she comes out of the doors of your house to meet you (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5).

 

Having rebellious children stoned to death by all the men of the city (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

Purchasing slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46), selling your daughter as a slave (Exodus 21:7-8) and making sure they submit to their masters, even cruel ones (1 Peter 2:18).

Executing pagan priests on their own altars and burning their bones (2 Kings 23:20-25).

Cutting off the hand of a woman if she grabs the penis of a man who is fighting with her husband (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).

. . . .

There’s no allegation of sexual intercourse, he said, and “Roy Moore fell in love with one of the younger women.” That would be his wife, Kayla, who Zeigler says is 14 years his junior and whom he was dating around that time.

You don’t need a judge and jury, Republicans, to determine that there was something icky going on or that there is something dangerous in having as a senator a man who places God’s law over man’s — and then interprets God’s laws to suit himself.“

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

Read the full op-ed at the above link.

Let’s see, “Ayatollah Roy” by his own proud statements is a:

  • Bigot
  • Homophobe
  • Racist
  • Xenophobe
  • Scofflaw
  • Theocrat

He’d love to strip everyone who disagrees with him of their rights while denying their humanity and full citizenship.

In plain terms, “Ayatollah Roy” is total perversion of everything it truly means to be an American living under our Constitution. So, does it really make much difference if he’s also a sexual pervert? Perversion seems to make no difference to the so-called voters in the “GOP Caliphite of Alabama.” Their truly despicable past is prologue. So, there is little reason to believe that the latest Moore disgrace will make any difference to such out of touch and tone deaf folks.

PWS

11-10-17

GOVERNMENT OF THE UNQUALIFIED, BY THE UNQUALIFIED, FOR THE UNCARING! — “Extreme Vetting” Doesn’t Apply To The Trump Administration! — Filling The USG With “Swamp Creatures” & Clowns! 🤡

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-other-huge-scandal-mueller-brought-to-light-this-week/2017/11/01/5e05a458-bf4c-11e7-959c-fe2b598d8c00_story.html?utm_term=.e0400dfe3805

Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post:

“Robert Mueller brought to light a huge scandal this week, and it has nothing to do with Russia.

He has introduced the world to Sam Clovis.

Clovis, we now know, was the Trump campaign official who oversaw George Papadopoulos and encouraged his efforts to meet with Russian officials. But what’s more interesting than what Clovis is is what Clovis isn’t.

For those who had not heard of Clovis before (which is pretty much everybody), he has been nominated to be the chief scientist at the Agriculture Department, a position that by law must go to “distinguished scientists,” even though he is, well, not a scientist. He is a talk-radio host, economics professor (though not actually an economist, either) and, most importantly, a Trump campaign adviser.

President Trump promised to “hire the best people.” And, as scientists go, Clovis is an excellent talk-show host. Among his scientific breakthroughs: being “extremely skeptical” of climate change, calling homosexuality “a choice,” suggesting gay rights would lead to legalized pedophilia, pushing the Obama birther allegation, and calling Eric Holder a “racist bigot” and Tom Perez a “racist Latino.”

A group called American Oversight had the foresight to make records requests for résumés of those hired by the Trump administration, and the group searched for those who worked on the Trump campaign. Among the “best” Trump hires American Oversight found:

●Sid Bowdidge, assistant to the secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Before working for the Trump campaign, Bowdidge, from 2013 to 2015, was manager of the Meineke Car Care branch in Seabrook, N.H. He previously was service and branch manager for tire shops. I don’t know what qualified Bowdidge for his position, but I do know this: He is not going to pay a lot for that muffler. (He had to hit the road, losing his job after it was discovered he had called Muslims “maggots.”)

●Victoria Barton, congressional relations for Regions II, V and VI, Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to working for the Trump campaign, Barton was an office manager and, between 2013 and 2015, a “bartender/bar manager.” The expertise in housing policy possessed by Barton is no doubt invaluable to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, a retired brain surgeon.

●Christopher Hagan, a confidential assistant at the Agriculture Department. Before working on the Trump campaign, he was, between 2009 and 2015, a “cabana attendant” at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y. According to his résumé, he “identified and addressed customer’s needs in a timely and orderly manner.”

This is important, because you never know when somebody at the USDA is going to need a towel.

●Nick Brusky, also a confidential assistant at the USDA. The Trump campaign worker previously drove a truck. He was a trustee in Butler Township, Ohio, at the same time, and, as Politico noted, his résumé lists coursework but no degree.

●David Matthews, yet another confidential assistant at the Agriculture Department, developed scented candles while also serving as a “legal receptionist” before joining the Trump campaign.

Some of the other “best” people Trump has hired are well known. Lynne Patton, HUD regional administrator, previously arranged Trump golf tournaments and arranged Eric Trump’s wedding, among other things. Callista Gingrich, just confirmed as ambassador to the Vatican, prepared for this by writing children’s books, singing in a church choir — and being married to Trump ally Newt Gingrich.

Others now in high office are less known: an office page, the author of an anti-Clinton book, a Christian-school librarian, a couple of real estate brokers and a landscaper. Many don’t appear to meet the educational qualifications for their positions. But they did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

One can imagine the chairman of an interagency task force going around the table asking each department what should be in the infrastructure bill:

ith “Swamp Creatures” & Clowns!

“Transportation Department?”

“Don’t know, sir. I was an Uber driver before I joined the campaign.”

“Army Corps of Engineers?”

“Pass. I ran a coin-operated laundromat.”

“Surely somebody here knows something about infrastructure?”

(Silence.)

“I was a toll-taker on the New Jersey Turnpike before the campaign. Now I’m in charge of climate science at the EPA.”

Anybody else?

“I was a plumber. But they made me chief medical officer at NIH because I watched a lot of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ ”

“What, they had no doctors for NIH?”

“We had one chiropractor on the campaign, sir, but they needed him to run NASA.”

“A chiropractor running NASA? What next, a musician at Strategic Command?”

“Actually, sir, the Stratcom commander was a hairdresser.”

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

And, this doesn’t even get into some of the spectacularly unqualified Cabinet Secretaries (“The Band of Sycophants”) already approved by a GOP Senate and serving. This morning Clovis withdrew as nominee.

But, Milbank’s point is still well-taken. Let’s assume for the time being that Mueller never links Manafort directly to Russia during the time he was Trump’s campaign Chairman. And yes, he’s innocent until proven guilty.

But, Mueller has just produced very substantial evidence that Manafort for years engaged in a scheme to shield income from the IRS, thus screwing U.S. taxpayers out of literally millions of dollars. In plain terms, he is allegedly a thief and a fraudster.

That a President who apparently avoided taxes himself for many years, is unwilling to disclose his tax returns, had the bad judgment to hire an apparent serious criminal to head his campaign is yet another colossal lapse in judgement and competence that would be disqualifying for any politician other than The Donald.

“And where are the clowns
Quick send in the clowns
Don’t bother they’re here.”🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡*

*Song and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

PWS

11-02-17

THOMAS B. EDSALL IN THE NYT: DEMOCRACY SOWING THE SEEDS FOR ITS OWN (AND OUR) DESTRUCTION!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/opinion/democracy-populism-trump.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_up_20171023&nl=upshot&nl_art=5&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1

Edsall writes:

“Will President Trump’s assault on the norms underpinning constitutional democracy permanently alter American political life?

On a daily basis, Trump tests the willingness of the public to accept a president who lies as a matter of routine. So far, Trump has persuaded a large swath of America to swallow what he feeds them.

. . . .

As Sasha Polakow-Suransky, the author of “Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy,” warns in The New York Review of Books:

Liberal democracies are better equipped than authoritarian states to grapple with the inevitable conflicts that arise in diverse societies, including the threat of terrorist violence. But they also contain the seeds of their own destruction: if they fail to deal with these challenges and allow xenophobic populists to hijack the public debate, then the votes of frustrated and disaffected citizens will increasingly go to the anti-immigrant right, societies will become less open, nativist parties will grow more powerful, and racist rhetoric that promotes a narrow and exclusionary sense of national identity will be legitimized.

The threat to democracy posed by the current outbreak of populist nationalism has become a matter of concern for both scholars and ordinary citizens. The central topic at a conference at Yale earlier this month was “How Do Democracies Fall Apart,” and the subject will be taken up again in November at a Stanford conference called “Global Populisms: A Threat to Democracy?

I contacted several of the participants at the Yale gathering and was struck by their anxiety over the future prospects of democratic governance.

One of the most insightful was Adam Przeworski, a political scientist at N.Y.U., who has written, but not yet published, his own analysis of current events under the title “What’s Happening.”

First and foremost, Przeworski stresses,

there is nothing “undemocratic” about the electoral victory of Donald Trump or the rise of anti-establishment parties in Europe.

These parties and candidates, he points out:

Do not advocate replacing elections by some other way of selecting rulers. They are ugly — most people view racism and xenophobia as ugly — but these parties do campaign under the slogan of returning to ‘the people’ the power usurped by elites, which they see as strengthening democracy. In the words of a Trump advertisement, “Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people.”

In support of Przeworski’s argument, it is clear that the success of the Trump campaign in winning the Republican nomination was the result of a classic democratic insurgency: the Republican electorate’s rejection of its party’s establishment.

The danger in the United States, in Przeworski’s view, is the possibility that the Trump administration will use the power of the presidency to undermine the procedures and institutions essential to the operation of democracy:

That the incumbent administration would intimidate hostile media and create a propaganda machine of its own, that it would politicize the security agencies, that it would harass political opponents, that it would use state power to reward sympathetic private firms, that it would selectively enforce laws, that it would provoke foreign conflicts to monger fear, that it would rig elections.

Przeworski believes that

such a scenario would not be unprecedented. The United States has a long history of waves of political repression: the “Red Scare” of 1917-20, the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, the McCarthy period, the Nixon presidency.

Along similar lines, Anna Grzymala-Busse, a political scientist at Stanford, replied by email to my inquiry:

My big worry is not simply that formal institutions have been eroded, but that the informal norms that underpin them are even more important and even more fragile. Norms of transparency, conflict of interest, civil discourse, respect for the opposition and freedom of the press, and equal treatment of citizens are all consistently undermined, and without these the formal institutions become brittle.

Trump, in Grzymala-Busse’s assessment, “articulates a classic populist message that we see in Europe: the elite establishment is a collusive cartel uninterested in the problems of ‘the people,’” and, she continued, he has begun to follow the path of European populist leaders:

Much of Trump’s language and actions are also familiar: there is a standard authoritarian populist template, developed in Hungary and faithfully followed in Poland and in Turkey: first, go after the courts, then the media, then the civil society, churches, universities.

The attacks on the courts, media and universities

are not simply the ravings of a lunatic, but an established strategy for undermining democratic oversight and discrediting the opposition.

. . . .

Paul Waldman, writing in The Washington Post on Oct, 17, summed up Trump’s approach to veracity and to reality itself:

Trump takes his own particular combination of ignorance, bluster and malice, and sets it off like a nuclear bomb of misinformation. The fallout spreads throughout the country, and no volume of corrections and fact checks can stop it. It wasn’t even part of a thought-out strategy, just a loathsome impulse that found its way out of the president’s mouth to spread far and wide.

Trump’s recklessness is disturbing enough on its own. But what makes it especially threatening is that much of the public — well beyond the 40 percent of the electorate that has shown itself to be unshakable in its devotion to the president — seems to be slowly accommodating itself to its daily dose of the Trump reality show, accepting the rhetorical violence that Trump inflicts on basic standards of truth as the new normal.”

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

Read Edsall’s full, much longer, article at the link.

An immigration policy based on xenophobia, racism, and White Nationalism, rather than on any rational, generally accepted socio-economic analysis, is at the heart of the Trump–Bannon-Sessions-Miller attack on America’s democratic institutions.  As I said earlier today, “The Trump Administration, and its ‘fellow travelers’ among GOP politicos and voters, is the biggest threat to our national security and the future of American Democracy.”

PWS

10-22-17

 

 

GONZO’S WORLD: DEHUMANIZING IMMIGRANTS BRINGS BACK DREDD SCOTT!

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/10/the_justice_department_s_radical_new_anti_abortion_stance_echoes_dred_scott.html

Mark Joseph Stern and Perry Grossman report for Slate:

“JURISPRUDENCE
THE LAW, LAWYERS, AND THE COURT.OCT. 19 2017 6:32 PM
Trump’s Dred Scott
In a case about the abortion rights of undocumented minors, the Department of Justice evokes the worst Supreme Court decision of all time.

By Perry Grossman and Mark Joseph Stern
Jeff Sessions and Roger B. Taney
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, left, and Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
Saul Loeb/Getty Images and Library of Congress

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump maligned undocumented immigrants as violent criminals and sexual predators who deserved to be rounded up and deported. Once in office, Trump transformed this rhetoric into policy, implementing a nationwide crackdown on immigrant communities. Now, the president’s dehumanizing disparagement of undocumented people has now seeped into his administration’s legal positions. This week, the Department of Justice is arguing in court that undocumented, unaccompanied minors have no right to abortions—and that undocumented immigrants may have no constitutional rights at all. This argument does not only contravene Supreme Court precedent. It also draws upon an inhuman notion of constitutional liberty most notoriously espoused in Dred Scott v. Sandford.

The Justice Department’s radical new theory arose out of a disturbing case in Texas that revolves around a 17-year-old referred to as Jane Doe in court filings. Doe arrived in the United States several months ago, unaccompanied by her parents and lacking documentation. She was placed in a federally funded Texas shelter, at which point she learned she was pregnant. Doe requested an abortion, but under state law, minors cannot receive the procedure without either parental consent or judicial approval. So Doe obtained what’s known as a judicial bypass and asked permission to attend a state-mandated counseling session before undergoing the procedure.

Her shelter refused to allow her to attend that counseling session, citing federal regulations promulgated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a wing of the Department of Health and Human Services. In March, ORR announced that federally funded shelters could not take “any action that facilitates” abortion for unaccompanied minors, including “scheduling appointments, transportation, or other arrangement,” without “direction and approval” from Scott Lloyd, the agency’s director. A Trump appointee and longtime anti-abortion activist, Lloyd has refused to allow minors to access abortion services. Instead, he has directed shelters to take these women to “crisis pregnancy centers,” which “counsel” them not to get abortions. At least once, Lloyd himself called a pregnant minor to talk her out of terminating her pregnancy. If a minor still wants to get an abortion after navigating these obstacles, ORR instructs its shelters to block her from attending her appointment.

Doe’s shelter followed these guidelines, taking her to a crisis pregnancy center and calling her mother to tell her Doe was pregnant. But Doe persisted, and in October, her court-appointed attorneys filed suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal district court in Washington, where ORR is headquartered. Doe argues that ORR’s rules violate her constitutional rights by placing an undue burden on her access to abortion.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan held a hearing in the case. While defending the government, Department of Justice attorney Scott Stewart strongly implied that undocumented women do not have a right to abortion. Here, Stewart was echoing an amicus brief filed by the Texas attorney general’s office, which proclaimed that “unlawfully present aliens” living in the United States have no constitutional right to abortion access. Chutkan then asked Stewart whether Doe has any constitutional rights; Stewart declined to make that “concession.”

Chutkan ruled against the government and issued a temporary restraining order guaranteeing Doe the ability to terminate her pregnancy. (She is currently 15 weeks pregnant, and abortion is illegal after 20 weeks in Texas.) The DOJ appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will hear arguments in the case on Friday morning. In its motion, the agency argued that the government’s “interest in promoting fetal life and childbirth over abortion” justified its refusal to let a minor go to an abortion clinic. It also claimed that, even if undocumented minors have a constitutional right to abortion care, the administration was not unduly burdening that right, because minors who want to terminate their pregnancies can leave the country. This argument is merely another way of stating that women like Doe have no right to an abortion in the United States.

By excluding undocumented immigrants from the protections of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Trump administration is essentially asserting that they do not qualify as “person[s]” under the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and 14th Amendments. The Supreme Court has ruled that the liberty component of the Due Process Clause protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy without a substantial obstacle. If arbitrary regulations that severely burden clinics qualify as such an unconstitutional obstacle, as the Supreme Court has held, then surely self-deportation does as well. Thus, the sole plausible interpretation of the DOJ’s posture is that the Due Process Clause does not protect undocumented women like Doe. Put simply, undocumented women are not people for constitutional purposes.

If the government can force Doe to carry her pregnancy to term, what can’t it do?
This theory parallels the Supreme Court’s most infamous ruling. Dred Scott was a black man born into slavery who moved with his “master” from a slave state to a free state. Upon his master’s death, Scott sued for his freedom. In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney—a virulent racist whose statue was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House in August—wrote an opinion dismissing Scott’s suit. Taney held that black people were not “persons” based on the language of the Constitution and that Scott, as a black man, therefore had no right to sue in the federal courts. Black men, Taney wrote, were “so far inferior” to whites that they had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Following the Civil War, Dred Scott was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments. These amendments ensured that everyone born in the United States would be a citizen. They also granted all “person[s]”—not just citizens—due process and equal protection under the law. Trump has already raised the specter of Dred Scott through his call to end birthright citizenship, the constitutional command that lay at the heart of the Civil War amendments. Now his administration is invoking the decision again in its attempt to deprive undocumented immigrants of their personhood under the Constitution.

The government has rarely alleged that undocumented immigrants may be deprived of rights protected by the liberty component of due process, what’s also known as “substantive” due process. Its few attempts have been unsuccessful. In 2003, the Bush administration argued that substantive due process does not apply to immigrants who reside in the country illegally. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, emphatically rejected this claim, explaining

If excludable aliens were not protected by even the substantive component of constitutional due process, as the government appears to argue, we do not see why the United States government could not torture or summarily execute them. … [W]e do not believe that our Constitution could permit persons living in the United States—whether they can be admitted for permanent residence or not—to be subjected to any government action without limit.
Perhaps recognizing the extremism of its argument, the Trump administration has left open the possibility that undocumented immigrants are entitled to some unspecified “minimal standards” of constitutional protection. But if those minimal standards don’t include the basic right to bodily autonomy, then the 6th Circuit’s query still stands. If the government can force Doe to carry her pregnancy to term against her will, what can’t it do? The administration’s attempt to exert complete control over Doe’s reproductive system is a straightforward deprivation of constitutional liberty that opens the door to equally egregious future abuses.

On Friday morning, the Justice Department will return to court once more to argue, in effect, that Jane Doe is not a “person” worthy of due process protections. It might as well cite Dred Scott for the proposition that the government may strip undocumented immigrants of their constitutionally protected liberty. The 14th Amendment was designed to end such capricious discrimination against individuals living in the United States. But to the Trump administration, immigrants like Doe aren’t even people—just possessions of the state, awaiting deportation.”

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Just when you think that Gonzo Apocalypto can’t sink any lower, he manages to achieve new depths!

Sen. Liz Warren was right!

PWS

10-19-17

MICA ROSENBERG, READE LEVINSON, & RYAN McNEILL EXPOSE UNEQUAL JUSTICE & ABUSE OF VULNERABLE ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM “COURT” SYSTEM LACKING BASIC JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE! Sessions’s Chilling Response: Speed Things Up, Establish Deportation Quotas, Strip Asylum Seekers Of Rights To Due Process, Eliminate Professional Judicial Training, & Aimlessly Throw More Inexperienced, Untrained Judges Into This Mess! – Will He Get Away With His Atrocious Plan To Make Immigration Courts The “Killing Floor?” — AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE UNFOLDING IN U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT ON A DAILY BASIS!

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-immigration-asylum/

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.

Filed

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.

“GROSS DISPARITIES”

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.”

Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings School of the Law in San Francisco

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.”

Video: High-stakes game of chance in U.S. immigration courts

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

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.

Reade Levinson

Heavy Odds

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:

http://www.reuters.com/trump-effect/immigration

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Great reporting by Mica and her team!

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.

PWS

10-17-17

 

WHITE NATIONALISM (NOT ISLAMIC TERRORISM) IS THE BIGGEST THREAT TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/opinion/sunday/white-nationalism-threat-islam-america.html

SASHA POLAKOW-SURANSKY writes in the NY Times:

“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.”

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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.

PWS

10-15-17

GONZO’S WORLD: Jeff Sessions Is The New Jim Crow – Public Officials Using Bogus “Rule Of Law” and False “Christian Values” To Advance An Agenda of Hate, Bigotry, Intolerance, and Resentment Is (Sadly) Nothing New In America – The Main Difference: African-Americans Aren’t Gonzo’s Only Targets! — LGBTQ Americans Last Week, Hispanic Asylum Seekers This Week, Who’s Next: Latino Communities, Minority Voters, Dreamers, Children, Women, Muslims, Democrats, Obama, Poor People, Property Owners, Marihuana Farmers, The Sick & Disabled? – The Majority of Americans Are Somewhere On Gonzo’s “Hit List!” – When Will It Be YOUR Turn? — Who Will Defend YOUR Rights Against Gonzo’s Nasty Crusade Of “Injustice At Justice?”

http://www.newsweek.com/sessions-deals-another-blow-lgbt-community-684572

Marci A. Hamilton writes in Newsweek:

“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.

GettyImages-646266774Attorney 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.”

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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.

 

PWS

10-15-17