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

WASHINGTON POST: “DEATH PENALTY IN TRAFFIC COURT” — BIG STAKES, LITTLE COURTS, FLAWED PROCEDURES, IMPROPER POLITICAL INFLUENCE, SOME JUDGES WHO FAIL TO PROTECT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS LEAD TO LIFE-THREATENING ERRORS ON A DAILY BASIS IN OVERWHELMED U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS. — What If YOU or YOUR Loved Were On Trial In This Godforsaken Corner Of Our Justice System Controlled By Jeff “Gonzo Aocalypto” Sessions!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-mexican-journalists-life-hangs-in-the-balance/2017/12/11/9783ab1a-deac-11e7-8679-a9728984779c_story.html

The WashPost Editorial Board writes:

“As he awaits his fate in a remote Texas jail, Mr. Gutierrez, 54, remains convinced of the peril he faces if deported to his native country. “My life depends on this [appeal],” he said by telephone in a news conference organized Monday by the National Press Club. “I’m terrified to set foot in Mexico.”

The judge who denied asylum in the case, Robert S. Hough, pointed to an absence of documentary and testimonial corroboration of Mr. Gutierrez’s claim. The woman who relayed word of the alleged death threat did not come forward; neither did Mr. Gutierrez’s former boss at the newspaper for which he worked in Chihuahua. Much of Mr. Gutierrez’s case comes down to his word.

Nonetheless, the judge’s cut-and-dried application of the law fails to take into account conditions in Mexico generally and the peril faced there by journalists in particular. It’s not surprising that Mr. Gutierrez cannot recover copies of his articles, written more than a decade ago for a regional newspaper. Nor is it unusual that witnesses are reluctant to come forward, given the fear with which many Mexicans regard the security forces.

As a U.N. report published this month concluded, citing the deaths, disappearances and attacks on dozens of journalists tallied by Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, “The data . . . presents a picture for the situation of journalists in Mexico that cannot be described as other than catastrophic.” Against that background, it seems cavalier to dismiss the threat Mr. Gutierrez faces should he be deported to Mexico. He should be granted asylum.”

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

Read the complete Editorial at the link.

Unfortunately, a “cut and dried application of the law” without proper regard to the facts or reality is a disturbingly accurate snapshot of what all too often happens daily in our Immigration Courts, a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the US Department of Justice and part of the “Trump Conglomerate” (formerly known as the US Government).

Our failing US Immigration Court system and its aggravation by AG “Gonzo Apocalypto’s” oft-expressed hostility to immigrants, asylum, the rule of law (except his 1950s “Jim Crow” views on the law and how it should be a tool for injustice and advancing White Nationalism), lawyers, Latinos, Mexicans, and the press has become an almost daily topic for major editorial boards. At least someone (other than me) is watching and documenting as this mockery of American justice unfolds before us.

In particular, too many U.S. Immigration Judges are tone-deaf to Mexican asylum claims, not wanting to be accused of “opening the floodgates” ( a concept that is nowhere to be found in the actual law) and knowing that “Gonzo” wants lots of  “quick removals” rather than asylum grants.  Additionally, the only administrative check on the Immigration Judges’ authority is a weak Appeals Board that never “calls out” overly restrictive Immigration Judges by name and seldom publishes precedents granting asylum. Truly, a prescription for a “Due Process Disaster!”

Judge Hough seems to have forgotten that under the law:

  • ”Corroborating evidence” can only be required if it is “reasonably available;”
  • Testimony may be corroborated by country condition information describing the same abuses that the applicant claims;
  • The standard for granting asylum is a  generous “well-founded fear” or “reasonable likelihood” of future harm which can be “significantly less than probable — as little as a 10% chance can suffice;
  • Asylum applicants are supposed to be given the “benefit of the doubt” in recognition of the evidentiary challenges of providing proof of persecution and the difficulties of relating traumatic events in the past.

It remain to be seen whether the Board of Immigration Appeals, EOIR’s “Appellate Court,” will correct Judge Hough’s life-threatening errors and, further, issue a strong precedent on asylum for foreign journalists (traditionally one of the most vulnerable and persecuted groups) to prevent further miscarriages of Justice such as this. Such a precedent would also discourage the DHS from continuing to abuse our system by pushing for removal (and needless detention) in cases such as this where a grant of asylum at the DHS  Asylum Office or at the hearing following the testimony would be the correct result.

Or, will the next major editorial describe and decry Mr. Gutierrez’s death in Mexico!

In a well-functioning justice system, this case should have been a “Short-docket, No-brainer Grant.” But, Gonzo Apocalypto seeks to use the US Immigration Courts as an extension of DHS enforcement rather than, as they were intended, as Courts guaranteeing fairness, Due Process, and equal justice for all! We need change. Lots of it!

[NOTE: For those interested, Judge Hough apparently has not decided enough asylum cases on the merits in El Paso to be listed on the statistical profile of asylum outcomes maintained by TRAC Immigration.]

PWS

12-12-17

 

WASHINGTON POST: GONZO’S IMMIGRATION COURT “REFORMS” WILL CREATE “KANGAROO COURTS!” —Recent “moves to evaluate judges based on the speed with which they handle dockets that typically exceed 2,000 cases, rather than on fair adjudication, is a recipe for assembly-line injustice.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-deportation-tough-talk-hurts-law-abiding-immigrants/2017/12/10/9a87524a-a93b-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html

The Post Editorial Board writes:

“The broader dysfunction in America’s immigration system remains largely unchanged. Federal immigration courts are grappling with a backlog of some 600,000 cases, an epic logjam. The administration wants to more than double the number of the 300 or so immigration judges, but that will take time. And its recent moves to evaluate judges based on the speed with which they handle dockets that typically exceed 2,000 cases, rather than on fair adjudication, is a recipe for assembly-line injustice.

Mr. Trump’s campaign bluster on deportation was detached from reality. He said he’d quickly deport 2 million or 3 million criminal illegal immigrants, but unless he’s counting parking scofflaws and jaywalkers, he won’t find that many “bad hombres” on the loose. In fact, legal and illegal immigrants are much less likely to end up in jail than U.S. citizens, according to a study by the Cato Institute.

The president’s sound and fury on deportation signify little. He has intensified arrests, disrupting settled and productive lives, families and communities — but to what end? Only an overhaul of America’s broken immigration system offers the prospect of a more lasting fix.”

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

Read the full article at the link.

The Post also points out the damage caused by Trump’s racist “bad hombres” rabble rousing and the largely bogus nature of the Administration’s claims to be removing “dangerous criminals.” No, the latter would require some professionalism and real law enforcement skills. Those characteristics are non-existent among Trump Politicos and seem to be in disturbingly short supply at DHS. To crib from Alabama GOP Senator Richard Shelby’s statement about “Ayatollah Roy:” Certainly DHS can do better than Tom Homan.

And certainly America can do better than a US Immigration Court run by White Nationalist Attorney General Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions. Gonzo’s warped concept of Constitutional Due Process is limited to insuring that he himself is represented by competent counsel as he forgets, misrepresents, misleads, mis-construes, and falsifies his way through the halls of justice.

Jeff Sessions does not represent America or American justice. The majority of American voters who did not want the Trump debacle in the first place still have the power to use the system to eventually restore decency, reasonableness, compassion, and integrity to American Government and to send the “Trump White Nationalist carpetbaggers” packing. The only question is whether or not we are up to the task!

PWS

12-12-17

 

FOURTH CIRCUIT JOINS 9TH, 2d, & 6TH IN REVERSING BIA’S OVERLY RESTRICTIVE READING OF ASYLUM ELIGIBILITY – ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE OF A PRE-EXISTING CLAIM CAN BE A “CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCE” JUSTIFYING “LATE” ASYLUM FILING! — ZAMBRANO V. SESSIONS (PUBLISHED)!

4th Cir on changed circumstances-1yr

Zambrano v. Sessions, 4th Cir., 12-05-17 (published)

PANEL: KEENAN and WYNN, Circuit Judges, and John A. GIBNEY, Jr., United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

OPINION BY: Judge Gibney

KEY QUOTE:

“This Court agrees with the logic of the Ninth, Second, and Sixth circuits. New facts that provide additional support for a pre-existing asylum claim can constitute a changed circumstance. These facts may include circumstances that show an intensification of a preexisting threat of persecution or new instances of persecution of the same kind suffered in the past. The Court remands to the BIA and leaves the determination of whether the facts on record constitute changed circumstances which materially affect the petitioner’s eligibility for asylum to the BIA’s sound discretion.

III.
The BIA erred when it categorically held that additional proof of an existing claim

does not establish changed circumstances. Accordingly, we grant the petition for review, vacate the BIA’s order, and remand the case to the BIA for further consideration in light of this opinion.”

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

This is a very important decision for asylum applicants in the Fourth Circuit, as this situation arises frequently in Immigration Court.

With three well-reasoned Circuit decisions already in the books, why is the BIA holding out for a discredited rationale? How many individuals who weren’t fortunate enough to have Ben Winograd or an equally talented lawyer argue for them in the Court of Appeals have already been wrongfully removed under the BIA’s discredited rationale? Where’s the BIA precedent adopting this rationale and making it binding on IJ’s nationwide before more individuals are wrongfully removed? How is this “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunal guaranteeing fairness and due process for all?”

The answer to the latter question is sadly obvious. While the BIA’s problems predated his tenure, the attitude of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as demonstrated in his recent pronouncement on so-called “Immigration Court efficiency” elevates “false efficiency,” speed, and cranking out removals above fundamental fairness and Due Process. Why have an elaborate administrative court system that doesn’t put Due Process first and foremost as “real” (non-captive) courts generally do? Why not just send all removal cases to U.S. District Judges and Magistrate Judges who make Due Process and fairness “job one” and aren’t preoccupied with “jacking up” removal statistics to please political bosses?

And, I’d like to see how far the DHS/Sessions’s (they are pretty much the same these days) boneheaded, arrogant, unrealistic, and wasteful “no PD” policy would get in a “real” court system where widespread, reasonable, and prudent use of PD by prosecutors is understood and accepted as an essential part of fairness, efficiency, and responsible use of publicly-funded judicial resources. Indeed, in some of my past “off the record” conversations with Article III Judges, they were absolutely flabbergasted to discover the unwillingness of DHS to meaningfully exercise “PD” in the pre-Obama era and to learn that at DHS the “cops,” rather than the prosecutors were responsible for setting PD policies!

PWS

12-08-17

 

ATTN “COURTSIDERS” – HEAR ME “LIVE” ON RADIO IN RICHMOND, VA, THE INTERNET, AND FACEBOOK TOMORROW, FRIDAY, DEC. 8, 2017!

I’ll be on two local radio shows hosted by Richmond Attorney Pablo Fantl tomorrow.

Both are am radio stations, and are available online.  They also will broadcast on Facebook Live, and will be available in the archives afterwards.  I will post links on immigrationcourtside.com once the recordings are available.

From 11:30-12:30     Radio Poder 1380 am   http://www.wbtk.com/

From 1:00-2:00         Maxima 1320 am          https://maxima1320.com/

These are programs directed at informing the Hispanic community in Richmond. Although I’m not bilingual, Pablo has promised excellent interpretation services. And, gosh knows, I’m pretty used to being translated into many languages from my days on the immigration bench.

Hope you’ll “tune in!”

PWS

12-07-17

 

 

DUE PROCESS DENIED! — NIJC REPORT FINDS THAT DHS DETENTION IN OBSCURE LOCATIONS DEPRIVES MIGRANTS OF MEANINGFUL ACCESS TO COUNSEL! — This Is What Happens When We Enable The “American Gulag!”

http://www.immigrantjustice.org/research-items/report-what-kind-miracle-systematic-violation-immigrants-right-counsel-cibola-county

A new in-depth study by the National Immigrant Justice Center (“NIJC”) shows how the Administration is intentionally using detention to deny Constitutional Due Process of Law to some of the most vulnerable:

“Introduction

Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico

When Donald Trump was elected president, the immigration detention system was already mired in such dysfunction that it routinely threatened the lives of those trapped inside. More than a year later, the administration intentionally uses its broken network of hundreds of immigration jails to advance an agenda that prioritizes mass deportation above respect for basic rights. This report focuses on the Cibola County Correctional Center, a prison complex in rural New Mexico owned and operated by the private prison giant CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America)1 with the capacity to jail 1,100 immigrants facing deportation. Located far from any major urban center in a state with no immigration court, the prison has become a black hole of due process rights.

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is particularly alarmed by the lack of meaningful access to counsel at the Cibola prison. Federal immigration law allows immigrants the right to counsel in deportation proceedings, but immigrants must locate and pay for it themselves. Immigrants detained in Cibola and many other immigration jails nationally are unable to avail themselves of this right because the capacity of nearby legal service organizations to provide representation is dwarfed by the need. An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time — six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017. The due process violations occurring at Cibola and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prisons are the latest consequences of the Trump administration’s scheme to jail so many immigrants, and in such remote locations, that their right to representation is rendered meaningless.

An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time – six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017.

In light of DHS’s systematic and willful rights violations, NIJC calls on the agency to close detention facilities like Cibola, where due process is non-existent given individuals’ lack of access to counsel, and demands that Congress immediately cut funding for DHS’s enforcement and detention operations. (See Recommendations.)

U.S. Immigration Detention National Average Daily Population From 1994 To 20172
U.S. Immigration Detention National Average Daily Population from 1994 to 2017
. . . .
Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, NM

 

The Future Of Immigration Detention: Why Cibola Matters

DHS paid little heed to the dearth of affordable legal services near Cibola when it entered its agreement with Cibola County and CoreCivic. Such a lapse is by no means new or unique. DHS has grown and maintained the immigration detention system in a manner incompatible with civil rights and due process protections.

In many ways, the Trump administration inherited an immigration detention system already riddled with abuse and neglect. Detained individuals, advocacy organizations including NIJC, and DHS’s Office of Inspector General have reported for decades on the profoundly inhumane conditions pervasive throughout the detention system, including: the excessive and arbitrary use of solitary confinement;22 inadequate, unsafe and spoiled food service;23 abuse of force by officers;24 and deaths attributable to medical negligence.25 Rather than assess possible reforms to address these problems—as the non-partisan Homeland Security Advisory Council advised in late 201626—the Trump administration quickly implemented changes that exacerbated existing harms. Today, DHS jails approximately 40,000 immigrants daily —more than any administration in recent history27— and holds them longer.28 The administration has publicly embraced the use of prolonged detention for asylum seekers29 and moved to weaken the standards governing conditions of detention.30

The administration seems poised to duplicate Cibola throughout the country. Its goal is clear: by undermining detained immigrants’ access to counsel, the administration ratchets up its removal rates.

Immigrants in detention centers throughout the country face the same frustrations as those jailed at Cibola when they try to find a lawyer. Nationally, fewer than one in every five immigrants in detention is able to find a lawyer.31 The Los Angeles Times recently reported that about 30 percent of detained immigrants are jailed more than 100 miles from the nearest government-listed legal service provider,32 with a median distance between the facility and the service provider of 56 miles.33

Access to counsel is important. Unrepresented, a detained immigrant, who often does not speak English, must develop her own legal arguments for relief eligibility, gather evidence that is often only available from within her country of origin (where she may fear for her own or her family’s safety), complete an application in English, and present a coherent presentation of her case to an immigration judge, all while a government-funded DHS prosecutor argues for her deportation.34 Faced with such a daunting task, immigrants enduring the isolation of detention are far less likely than those living in the community to defend against deportation and less likely to win their cases when they do so. The psychological harms caused by detention, especially for those with previous histories of torture or trauma,35 are so debilitating that even those with the strongest claims to legal protection in the United States often abandon the process and choose deportation instead.36 Detained immigrants with lawyers are 11 times more likely to pursue relief and are at least twice as likely to obtain relief as detained immigrants without counsel.37 A study analyzing the impact of appointed counsel for detained immigrants in New York City found a 1,100 percent increase in successful outcomes when universal representation became available..38

There is no doubt that DHS knows what it is doing. NIJC’s 2010 report Isolated in Detention documented the due process crisis already unfolding in the immigration detention system. At that time, NIJC found that 80 percent of detained immigrants were held in facilities that were severely underserved by legal aid organizations, with more than 100 immigrants for every full-time nonprofit attorney providing legal services.”40 The report presented eight recommendations to DHS and the Department of Justice to improve access to legal counsel for detained immigrants.41 Not one of the recommendations has been adopted or implemented by either agency.

Recently, DHS announced its interest in building new prisons in or near southern Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Salt Lake City, Utah. The agency stated its goal was to increase the system’s capacity by up to 4,000 more beds.42Legal aid organizations in these regions sent a letter to DHS explaining that they would have little or no capacity to provide meaningful access to counsel if the government carries out this expansion.43 As of publication of this report, DHS has not responded to this letter nor contacted any of the organizations to assess access to legal counsel.

The administration seems poised to duplicate Cibola throughout the country. Its goal is clear: by undermining detained immigrants’ access to counsel, the administration ratchets up its removal rates.

When the administration flaunts its record rates of deportations, it is telling a story of what happens to immigrants like Christopher and hundreds of others at Cibola who face insurmountable barriers to justice, not describing a legitimate outcome of enforcement of United States law. Jailing immigrants during their deportation proceedings makes it significantly more likely they will be deported, regardless of the merits or strength of their defense to deportation. At Cibola and prisons like it throughout the United States, incarceration has become another weapon in the administration’s arsenal, intended to facilitate mass removals no matter the cost to due process or civil rights.

 

Recommendations

DHS must close detention facilities like Cibola, where due process is non-existent given individuals’ lack of access to counsel.

Congress must cut appropriated funds for immigration detention, in light of the civil rights and due process crisis within the system.

Specifically, Congress must:

  1. Cease funding to detain individuals where there is no evidence of flight or security risk.
  2. Engage in robust oversight to ensure that when DHS does utilize detention, funding is only available for facilities where there  is sufficient access to legal counsel (an established immigration bar) and adequate health care for individuals in detention.

 

A Note On Methodology

For the survey cited in this report, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) undertook a census of all the attorneys we could identify who regularly practice immigration law in New Mexico and Texas. The intent was to determine 1) the number of attorneys available to take immigration cases out of the Cibola County Correctional Center and 2) the maximum number of cases each attorney could take at a given time. NIJC staff identified all attorneys in New Mexico who, as of July 2017, were members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the primary membership association for immigration attorneys in the United States (identified using the membership directory at http://www.aila.org/member-directory). Through informal conversations with AILA members and legal aid organizations, NIJC staff added other New Mexico- and Texas-based attorneys to the list who were identified as providing even minimal legal representation at Cibola. NIJC staff and interns reached out to each of these attorneys via email and telephone. NIJC communicated directly via phone or email with an attorney or authorized staff person at all but nine of the 60 offices on the final list. Each attorney was asked whether they were able and willing to provide legal representation to individuals detained at Cibola, for a fee or on a low-cost or pro bono basis, and if so approximately how many cases they could take at maximum capacity. The detailed results of this census are on record with NIJC.

In addition to these census questions, NIJC staff held more extensive interviews with staff members at the following nonprofit legal service providers: Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico (Las Cruces, NM); Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (El Paso, TX); Instituto Legal (Albuquerque, NM); Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center (El Paso, TX); the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (Albuquerque, NM); and Santa Fe Dreamers Project (Santa Fe, NM). Additionally, in June 2017 NIJC staff members visited the Cibola prison, where they spoke with 12 individuals detained at the facility whose insights inspired and contributed to this report. Notes from these conversations are on record with NIJC. Notes from all of these conversations are on record with NIJC.

Acknowledgements

The principal authors of this report are NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman and NIJC Director of Communications Tara Tidwell Cullen, with research and editing contributions from NIJC colleagues Keren Zwick, Diane Eikenberry, Mary Meg McCarthy, Claudia Valenzuela, Julia Toepfer, and Isabel Dieppa. NIJC interns Linda Song and Anya Martin also contributed to this report. Sincere thanks for insights and support from Jessica Martin and Rebekah Wolf of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Allegra Love of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Yazmin Ruiz of United We Dream, and the detained immigrants whose experiences are described in this report.

All photos credit the National Immigrant Justice Center.”

 

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

Read the complete report at the link.

NIJC confirms what most of us involved in the immigration justice system already know — that the Trump Administration has “doubled down” on the Obama Administration’s misguided detention policies to create an “American Gulag.” A key feature of the Gulag is using captive so-called “U.S. Immigration Courts” in prisons. Such “captive prison courts” actually are parodies of real independent courts empowered to require Due Process for migrants and adherence to the rule of law. Immigration detention is a national disgrace for which all of us should be ashamed.

But, don’t expect any improvement from the Trump Administration unless the Article III Courts require it or we get a different Congress at some point. (I note that a few Democrats have honed in on this issue and introduced the “Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act” which unfortunately is DOA in this Congress.) Given the performance of the Article IIIs to date in this area, and the Trump Administration’s “quietly successful” program to stock the Article IIIs with right-wing ideologues, I wouldn’t count on that either. On the other hand, I’ve seen even very committed conservative jurists reach their “breaking point” on Government immigration abuses once they become life-tenured Federal Judges and are no longer directly accountable to their right-wing “political rabbis.” Denial of statutory, Constitutional, and Human Rights sometimes crosses over ideological fault lines.

Kudos to my good friends and dedicated defenders of Due Process and Human Rights Heidi Altman and Diane Eikenberry of the DC Office of the of the NIJC/Heartland Alliance for their leadership role in exposing these continuing abuses and making a record for future generations to understand and hopefully act on our current failure to make “equal justice for all” a reality in America and the related failure of our U.S. Immigration Courts to live up to their commitment to use “best practices” to “guarantee fairness and due process for all.”

PWS

12-05-17

“THIRD WORLD AMERICA” — GOP ON THE VERGE OF “DECONSTRUCTING” GOVERNMENT, PUBLIC SERVICES, HEALTH, & EDUCATION AT ALL LEVELS TO HAND OUT FAVORS TO THE RICH — PARTY OF “REVERSE ROBIN HOOD” ABOUT TO “SCORE A BIG ONE“ FOR THE ALREADY OVERPRIVILEGED AT THE EXPENSE OF EVERYONE ELSE! –“This tax bill is a grand deception,” said Arnold Hiatt, the former chief executive of Stride Rite, which makes children’s shoes. “It hurts the most vulnerable, and hurts health care and education, which are essential for a healthy economy.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/29/business/republican-tax-cut.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

“Economists and tax experts are overwhelmingly skeptical that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. Many view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals — both generous purveyors of campaign contributions. By 2027, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.

“When you put all these pieces together, what you’re left with is we are squandering a giant sum of money,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who teaches law at the University of Southern California. “It’s not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class.”

In a recent University of Chicago survey of 38 prominent economistsacross the ideological spectrum, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth. Unanimously, the economists said the tax cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden, now estimated at more than $20 trillion.

If the package does have a guiding philosophy, it is a return to trickle-down economics, an enduring story line in which the wealthy are supposed to spend and invest their tax breaks, creating jobs and commercial opportunities for everyone else.

As President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes in the 1980s, he argued that citizens, not bureaucrats, should decide how to spend their money. President George W. Bush bestowed enormous tax cuts on the affluent.

But the trickle-down story has yet to achieve its promised happy ending. Only the beginning reliably transpires, the part where wealthy people get relief. The spoils of resulting economic growth have largely been monopolized by those with the highest incomes. Pay for most American workers has been stagnant since the mid-1970s, after the rising costs of housing, health care and other basics are factored in.

Nonetheless, Republicans are staging a trickle-down revival.

“Either it’s a religious belief, a belief where no amount of evidence would change that, or they are using the argument cynically and they just want more money for themselves,” the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, said.

Mr. Stiglitz has long warned of the perils of growing inequality while deriding tax-cutting inclinations. Yet even those who have favored lighter tax burdens are critical of the current proposals.

In the late 1970s, Bruce Bartlett developed what would become the locus of the Reagan tax cuts while working for Representative Jack Kemp, a conservative Republican from New York. Those cuts helped cushion the pain from sharp increases in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, Mr. Bartlett maintains. But Reagan was lowering the highest tax rate on individuals from 70 percent down to 28 percent by 1986.

“What they have here is a big tax cut for the rich paid for with random increases in taxes for various constituencies,” Mr. Bartlett said. “It’s ridiculous. And it’s telling that they are ramming this through without any debate. All of the empirical evidence goes against the tax cut.”

 

The meat of the package is a permanent lowering of the corporate tax rate, to 20 percent from 35 percent, which business leaders have long wanted. Proponents assert that this would prompt multinational companies to expand operations in the United States.

“We’ve been bleeding corporate headquarters and production for a long time,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and now president of the American Action Forum, a nonprofit that promotes smaller government.

But recent history suggests that when corporations get tax relief, they find abundant uses for money that do not involve paying higher wages. They give dividends to shareholders and stock options to executives. They stash earnings in tax havens.

In 2004, Congress invited American corporations to bring home overseas earnings at a sharply reduced rate, pitching it as a means of bolstering investment. But the corporations spent as much as 90 percent of their windfall buying back their shares, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis research.

If Congress bestows fresh relief on major businesses, signs suggest a similar result. Many companies are enjoying record profits. Those in the Fortune 500 had $2.6 trillion salted away overseas as of last year.

“In our boardroom, the number-one thing we’re talking about is not taxes,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive of Yelp, the online review platform. “Having a strong middle class out there spending money is what’s most important for our business.”

If the tax bill widens inequality, local communities will likely find themselves with fewer resources to aim at helping struggling people.

A key feature of the Senate bill is the elimination of a federal deduction for state and local taxes. Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and American Legislative Exchange Council have sought to end the deduction as a means of reining in government spending.

In high-tax states like California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — where electorates have historically shown a willingness to finance ample safety-net programs — the measure could change the political calculus. It would magnify the costs to taxpayers, pressuring states to stay lean or risk the wrath of voters.

Some see in this tilt a reworking of basic principles that have prevailed in American life for generations.

. . . .

Since the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security, unemployment benefits and other pillars of the safety net to combat the Great Depression, crises have been tempered by some measure of government support. Recent decades have brought cuts to social services, but the impact of the current bill could be especially consequential.

“This is a repudiation of the social contract that Franklin Roosevelt announced at the New Deal,” Joseph J. Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, said of trimming benefits for lower- and middle-income families to finance bigger rewards for the wealthy. Health coverage would shrink under the Republican plan while multimillion-dollar estates would not have to pay a penny in taxes.

The tax cut package, for instance, could trigger rules mandating cuts to Medicare, the government health care program for seniors, the Congressional Budget Office warned. Some 13 million people could lose health care via the elimination of a key plank of Obamacare. Insurance premiums are also expected to rise by 10 percent.

“This tax bill is a grand deception,” said Arnold Hiatt, the former chief executive of Stride Rite, which makes children’s shoes. “It hurts the most vulnerable, and hurts health care and education, which are essential for a healthy economy.”

The proposals break from seven decades’ worth of federal efforts to broaden access to higher education.

Since World War II, the guiding sense has been that “it is government’s responsibility to provide higher education for all those who can benefit from it,” said David Nasaw, a historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. That idea was behind the G.I. Bill, which helped generations of veterans pay for college and training.

The House bill includes provisions that would end the deductibility of tuition waivers for graduate students and repeal the deduction for interest paid on student loans. Both chambers’ bills would tax investment earnings from university endowments.

The endowment tax, in particular, threatens the ability of low-income students to pursue college and graduate studies, said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Proceeds from endowments subsidize students from lower-income families, while allowing students across the board to graduate with less debt.

“When the time of reckoning comes to fix huge deficits, social safety-net programs will be first on the chopping block,” Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said.

“It’s very far-reaching,” he added, “but there hasn’t been much of a debate.”

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

Read the complete, revealing but disturbing, article at the link. We’re ultimately going to look more like a (at least temporarily) well-to-do “Banana Republic” with the rich on top and in power; everyone else scrambling; lots of excess guns and ammo; and a lower standard of living for average folks to support the privileged power class. And, the GOP has managed to pull all of this off at the ballot box and without any true debate or public accounting, relying on the overall inability of the electorate to figure out that they are being fleeced by their own representatives. Pretty impressive!

PWS

11-30-17

ICE’S “IN YOUR FACE” COURTHOUSE ARREST POLICY ERODES OUR CONSTITUTOINAL SYSTEM OF JUSTICE!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/opinion/immigration-ice-courthouse-trump.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_ty_20171127&nl=opinion-today&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

PROFESSOR CÉSAR CUAUHTÉMOC GARCÍA HERNÁNDEZ writes in the NY Times:

“At the door of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver one Friday in April, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tackled a man to the ground. A chilling video shows the man — who, according to his lawyer, was there to deal with a traffic ticket — yelling “No!” “My hand!” and “Why?” in Spanish. Sheriff’s deputies order passers-by to stand back, and the violent arrest continues.

The next month, ICE agents returned and arrested another man. His lawyer can be heard in a video of the incident asking the agents if they had a warrant. One responds, “Yes, sir.” The lawyer asks, “Can I see it?”

The agent’s response: “No, sir.”

Both men, according to their lawyers, were taken to immigration detention centers.

This type of arrest is on the rise. Lawyers and judges in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington all reported in the first year of the Trump administration that immigration officials were breaking with tradition to descend upon their courthouses. Such arrests in New York have increased by 900 percent in 2017, according to the Immigrant Defense Project.

This is a deeply worrisome trend because arrests at courthouses don’t just derail the lives of the unsuspecting people who are detained, they threaten the very operation of our judicial system. Such arrests scare people away from the courts, keeping them, for example, from testifying at trials or seeking orders of protection. By using this tactic, the nation’s lead immigration law enforcement agency is undermining a pillar of our democracy.

. . . .

Courthouses have a special place in American society. It’s only in a court of law that we can be confident that disputes will be mediated deliberately, and according to a set of rules intended to ensure justice for all parties. As the Supreme Court declared in 1907: “The right to sue and defend in the courts is the alternative of force. In an organized society it is the right conservative of all other rights, and lies at the foundation of orderly government.”

The pursuit of justice depends on getting the parties in the same room. That’s why courts have the power to drag in unwilling participants with subpoenas. They can compel witnesses to testify or risk contempt charges. Courts rely on their hard-earned legitimacy as the rightful locations for resolution of disagreements.

Courthouse arrests by ICE deter not only undocumented immigrants but also people who are here legally but are nervous that they might have somehow compromised their status (or that an officer will think they have). That’s a nuance that is next to impossible for the average person to discern, and those complicated legal questions are exactly what immigration judges spend a lot of energy trying to answer.

. . . .

The harm this causes is bigger than the people whom ICE arrests. United States citizens are not immune to the impact of ICE activity in courthouses. All of us — including those of us who could easily prove our immigration status — depend on courts to do their job, and all of us suffer if the fear of ICE keeps people away.

ICE understands its actions can paralyze important institutions. Longstanding ICE policy discourages questioning or arresting people in schools and churches. It is time to add courthouses to that list. But top administration officials have vigorously defended courthouse arrests.

With no change to federal policy in sight, it is up to cities and states to push back. Elected officials must take seriously their legal obligation to keep courthouses accessible. In addition, the cities and states that own and operate most courthouses and ensure that no one uses their courts in a way that halts judicial business — protesters can’t block the doorway, bail bondsmen aren’t allowed to set up shop in the lobby — should do the same here for immigration agents.

ICE should no longer get free rein to tackle, handcuff and haul away immigrants, sending a message to others that they should think twice before trusting in the courts.

 

WALL OF WORDS! – MANY SAY TRUMP’S HARD-LINE, ANTI-IMMIGRANT RHETORIC, ANTI-REFUGEE MOVES, & RANDOM INTERIOR ENFORCEMENT HAVE ALREADY DRAMATICALLY STEMMED THE FLOW OF UNDOCUMENTED MIGRANTS – THE “CLIMATE OF FEAR” WORKS! — So, Who Needs “The Wall” Or Thousands of New Agents?

http://www.newsweek.com/forget-border-wall-how-trump-has-shaped-immigration-without-it-713608

Nicole Rodriguez writes in Newsweek:

“Who needs a wall?

Less than a year into his presidency, Donald Trump is moving swiftly to reshape the nation’s immigration system in more concrete ways, curtailing illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border and sending a chill throughout Central America.

In a stark reversal from the Obama era, the administration has ramped up round-ups of undocumented immigrants regardless of age or criminal history, expanded detention space and stepped up workplace raids. Officials have also restricted the number of refugees allowed into the country while pushing to speed the deportation cases of hundreds of thousands of immigrants awaiting legal decisions.

Taken together, the policy changes have put the border wall debate on the backburner, advocates on both sides of the issue said.

“Expanded border barriers—whether you call them walls or something else—are not priority,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. that supports tighter controls on immigration.

RTSXKERA worker chats with residents at a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Sunland Park, U.S. opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico January 26, 2017. JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ/REUTERS

“There’s no question the president has changed the tone of the debate and that caused a huge drop in illegal crossings,” Krikorian told Newsweek.

To be sure, the border wall has been bogged down by political obstacles, including the fact that Congress has not appropriated funds to build it. But the shifting sentiment is striking given how central the border wall was to Trump’s political support in last year’s presidential campaign. Its mere mention was an applause line at rallies and Trump himself said it was key to stemming the flow of illegal immigration.

But since his January inauguration, apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have dipped, according to the most recent data from Customs and Border Protection. Agents apprehended 31,582 undocumented immigrants at the border in January, compared to 22,293 in August, the latest available data. April saw the year’s low, with just 11,125 apprehensions.

Adam Isacson, director for defense oversight at The Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy organization, said news of the administration’s actions is spreading through Central America and discouraging crossings. At the same time, a climate of fear in the United States is gripping undocumented immigrant communities.

“People are avoiding going outside to get their groceries. They have friends to come and do that for them,” Isacson said. “They’re missing a lot of work when they learn that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is in the area and kids are not going to school as much. There’s real fear there.”

Indeed, the immigration overhaul has come so fast that the ranks of federal immigration judges are pushing back on some elements. At issue are the administration’s plans to impose “numeric perfomance standards” on judges deciding deportation cases.

The White House has said the quotas are necessary to help reduce a backlog of more than 600,000 cases, but judges say the standards will hamstring their ability to decide complex, life-and-death cases.

“[It’s] completely at odds with the kind of independence a judge needs,” Dana Leigh Marks, a spokesperson for the National Association of Immigration Judges and a federal immigration judge for more than 30 years, told Newsweek.”

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

Read the complete article at the link.

Nolan Rappaport reminds me that he predicted that cutting off the “home free magnet” in the interior would have a dramatic deterrent effect on illegal migration.

On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether having a system that relies on largely random enforcement to spread a climate of fear and loathing among a community of generally law-abiding, productive migrants, intertwined with citizens and legal residents, who are part of our communities is something that we’ll ultimately be proud of as a nation.

PWS

11-26-17

HON. JEFFREY CHASE SPEAKS OUT AGAINST EXPEDITED REMOVAL!

Expedited Removal is Not the Answer to the Backlog

With the immigration court backlog at over 600,000 cases and rising, immigration law commentator (and fellow BIA alum) Nolan Rappaport recently suggested that the present administration might view the  increased use of expedited removal as “the only viable alternative” to shrink the swelling tide of cases. My fellow blogger Paul Schmidt has opposed such approach; I wish to join him in adding my arguments as to why the expansion of expedited removal would be unacceptable.

If the criminal court system were to be flooded to the breaking point, the solution could not be to let supervisory police officers decide which defendants might have a reasonable enough chance of being found innocent and get to go to court, and just find the rest guilty without the right to a trial.  However, that is pretty much the premise of expedited removal.  An overwhelming volume of cases cannot be used to justify the stripping away of due process protections.

Our immigration courts have evolved significantly over the decades.  Deportation hearings were once conducted by “special inquiry officers,” who were attorneys working for the INS.  Beginning in 1973, immigration judges began presiding over hearings.  In 1983, those judges were separated from the INS into a separate adjudicatory agency, EOIR.  In 2002, INS was moved into three components within the newly-created DHS, while EOIR remained in the Department of Justice.  The strong motive behind these developments was that the agency charged with enforcement was not suited to serve as a neutral factfinder and decision maker.  Increasing the scale of expedited removal would undo the above progress and return decision-making into the hands of the enforcement branch – the legal equivalent of having the fox guard the hen house.

Immigration judges render decisions independently, with no pressure or influence from their higher-ups.  This is not true of asylum officers.  I had one case years ago in which the asylum officer’s supervisor so adamantly opposed the grant of asylum that the officer had to wait until the supervisor went on vacation, and then had the acting supervisor sign off approving the grant.  I have also heard of an asylum office director pressuring the staff to grant fewer cases in order to bring the office’s grant rate closer to the lower grant rate of another asylum office.  Furthermore, to the extent that those seeking expedited removal are able to obtain counsel in the short time frame provided (and while detained, sometimes in remote settings), asylum officers allow attorneys a greatly reduced role in the process.  In immigration court, the attorney makes legal arguments and objections, questions the respondent, and lays the foundation for documents to be offered into evidence.  Even in full asylum office interviews, attorneys are relegated to sitting in the back row and taking notes.  As the government’s own statistics show that represented asylum seekers are twice as likely to be granted relief, the asylum office’s minimizing of the attorney’s role clearly lessens the asylum seeker’s chance of success.

Expedited removal has really never worked well.  In opposing its implementation in the mid-1990s, myself and other advocates argued that the legal threshold – the newly-created “credible fear” standard – was problematic.  When the 1980 Refugee Act adopted the legal standard of “well-founded fear” for asylum claims, INS interpreted the term to mean “more likely than not;” it took seven years of litigation and a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to correctly define the standard as requiring only a 10 percent chance of persecution.  But expedited removal asked us to trust the same INS to properly interpret the vague new “credible fear” standard, and this time without the right to seek judicial review.  Not surprisingly, so many mistakes were made after the standard was implemented that by mid-1997, the then INS director of asylum instructed asylum officers to simply find all applicants professing a fear of persecution to have met the credible fear standard.  Those who claimed no fear in their countries were summarily removed; INS claimed that the majority of arrivees were in this latter group.

But where they really?  A person arriving in this country only gets a credible fear interview if they indicate to the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer who first encounters them that they fear return to their country.  Two studies conducted over a decade apart by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government entity, found serious problems with the screening process of those arriving but not found admissible to the U.S.  According to USCIRF, some arrivees were never asked whether they feared return; others who were asked and responded in the affirmative had “no” recorded in their statements, which were often not read back to them.  The USCIRF report cited instances in which those wishing to seek asylum were pressured into signing inaccurate statements, or even into retracting their fear claims and withdrawing their applications for admission.

The answer to the immigration court backlog is clearly not to subject more people to the flawed and biased expedited removal system in lieu of  removal hearings.  To my knowledge, every other high volume court employs prosecutorial discretion and stipulated settlements to lessen the case load.  Plea bargains are employed in everything from murder to traffic court cases.  Under the Obama administration, prosecutorial discretion was employed in immigration court and significantly helped prosecutors and judges deal with the caseload.  For unknown reasons, the present administration has ended this useful practice.  DHS attorneys are also being instructed to oppose requests to terminate proceedings made by those wishing to leave the U.S. to attend immigrant visas abroad.  These intending immigrants want to leave the country, and will only be allowed to return legally if they are found by a U.S. consular officer to be qualified and admissible to this country; under the prior administration, termination under these circumstances was readily agreed to by DHS.  At the same time DHS is forcing so many immigrants to unnecessarily remain in removal proceedings, the agency will not put into proceedings those who want to be there in order to apply for certain types of relief that may only be granted by an immigration judge, such as cancellation of removal.  Preventing immigrants from obtaining legal status to which they might be entitled seems suspiciously consistent with the present administration’s desire to stem the pace of naturalization in order to preserve the voting bloc that brought them to office last year.

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

 

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Jeffrey S. Chase is an immigration lawyer in New York City.  Jeffrey is a former Immigration Judge, senior legal advisor at the Board of Immigration Appeals, and volunteer staff attorney at Human Rights First.  He is a past recipient of AILA’s annual Pro Bono Award, and previously chaired AILA’s Asylum Reform Task Force.

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION

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Thanks, Jeffrey. Not surprisingly, I agree with everything you are saying!

There are no “silver bullet” solutions to backlogs that have built up over years and are largely the result of Congressional indifference, administrative incompetence, and improper political meddling by the Department of Justice over at least the last three Administrations. This has caused what I have termed “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”). Punishing the innocent “consumers” of services, the immigrants, by depriving them of Due Process is clearly not the answer.

I also agree with Jeffrey that eventually the answer will require:

  • Restoration of a “robust” ICE “PD program” to take off the docket large numbers of cases that don’t really belong in Immigration Court;
  • Far greater efforts by the DHS and USCIS to resolve deserving cases such as adjustment of status, asylum, T visas, U visas, ands SIJ visas favorably internally without resorting to the Immigration Courts;
  • Reduced use of immigration detention, and concerted efforts by the Government to schedule Immigration Court cases in a manner that best insures the reasonable access to pro bono legal services;
  • Realistic immigration reform legislation that will allow the bulk of the approximately 11 million supposedly “undocumented” individuals who have been residing in a productive and law-abiding manner in the U.S. to be granted some type of legal status (preferably with, but if necessary without, a specific path forward to citizenship);
  • Common-sense modifications in existing law to allow individuals who otherwise now qualify for permanent immigration to do so without the “unlawful presence” bar;
  • Restoration of the so-called “section 245(i) program” allowing such individuals to adjust status in the U.S. by paying a substantial “penalty fee;”
  • Substantially more resources for the U.S. Immigration Courts, but distributed in  a measured, professionally competent, and reasonable manner over time.

PWS

11-24-17

 

THE HILL: N. RAPPAPORT SAYS THAT EXPEDITED REMOVAL IS THE ANSWER TO IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOGS – I DISAGREE!

http://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/360139-our-immigration-courts-are-drowning-expedited-removal-can-bring-relief

Nolan writes:

“Trump has acknowledged that the immigration court’s enormous backlog cripples his ability to remove illegal immigrants in a timely manner, but his plan to deal with the backlog isn’t going to work.

This chart from the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) FY2016 Statistics Yearbook shows that the immigration judges (IJs) have not been making any progress on reducing the backlog.

At a recent Center for Immigration Studies panel discussion on the backlog, Judge Larry Burman said, “I cannot give you a merits hearing on my docket unless I take another case off. My docket is full through 2020, and I was instructed by my assistant chief immigration judge not to set any cases past 2020.”

By the end of September 2016, the backlog was up to 516,031 cases. A year later, it had grown to 629,051.

. . . .

If Trump relies on hiring more IJs to deal with the backlog crisis, his enforcement program will be a dismal failure.

His only viable alternative is to reduce the size of the immigration court’s docket, which he can do by promulgating regulations making IJ hearings unavailable to aliens whose cases can be handled in expedited removal proceedings.

He seems to have had this in mind when he directed DHS to use expedited removal proceedings to the full extent authorized by law, which would include most of the undocumented aliens in the United States who were not lawfully admitted, unless they can establish that they have been here for two years.

In expedited removal proceedings, which are conducted by immigration officers, aliens can be deported without IJ hearings unless they have a credible fear of persecution. If they establish a credible fear of persecution, they are entitled to an asylum hearing before an IJ.

But would the courts stop him?”

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

Go on over to The Hill at the link to read Nolan’s complete article.

Expedited removal is the wrong solution to the Immigration Court backlog!

  • As I have noted in recent blogs, recent studies show that Immigration Court hearings area already falling substantially short of providing real due process because of lack of available counsel and overuse of immigration detention. Expedited removal would aggravate that problem tenfold.
  • Expedited removal couldn’t begin to solve the current backlog problems because the vast majority of the estimated 11 million individuals already here have been here for more than two years and can prove it, most from Government records. Indeed, I’d wager that the vast majority of individuals in Removal Proceedings in U.S. Immigration Court have had their cases pending for two or more years.
  • The problems in Immigration Court were caused by “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” by the last three Administrations emanating from undue political influence from the Department of Justice, DHS, and the White House. Only an independent Immigration Court that places control of the dockets in individual Immigration Judges, where it belongs, can address those problems.
  • The answer to hiring problems resulting from poor management and political hiring from the DOJ is certainly not to “get rid of” any existing U.S. Immigration Judges. Whether the hiring was done properly or not, there is no reason to believe that any of the currently sitting local U.S. Immigration Judges did anything wrong or participated in the hiring process other than by applying for the jobs. The system needs all the experienced judges it currently has.
  • The problem of inconsistency will only be solved by having an independent BIA that acts in the manner of an independent appellate court, cracking down on those judges who are not correctly applying legal standards. That’s how all other court systems address consistency issues — through precedent and independent appellate review. Numerous examples have been documented of Immigration Judges in courts like Atlanta, Stewart, and Charlotte, to name three of the most notorious ones, improperly denying asylum claims and mistreating asylum applicants. The BIA has failed to function in a proper, independent manner ever since the “Ashcroft Purge.” The only way to get it doing its job is by creating true judicial independence.
  • “Haste makes waste” is never the right solution! It’s been done in the past and each time has resulted in increased backlogs and, more importantly, serious lapses in due process.
  • The docket does need to be trimmed. The Obama Administration was at least starting the process by a more widespread use of prosecutorial discretion or “PD” as in all other major law enforcement prosecutorial offices. Most of the individuals currently in the country without status are assets to the country, who have built up substantial equities, and do not belong in removal proceedings. No system can function with the type of unregulated, irrational, “gonzo” enforcement this Administration is pursuing.
  • The reasonable solution is to do what is necessary to build a well-functioning system that provides due process efficiently, as it is supposed to do. The elements are reasonable access to lawyers for everyone in proceedings, reducing expensive, wasteful, and fundamentally unfair use of detention, better merit hiring and training procedures for Immigration Judges, modern technology, better use of prosecutorial discretion by the DHS, legislation to grant legal status to law-abiding productive individuals currently present in the US without status, and a truly independent judicial system that can develop in the way judicial systems are supposed to — without political meddling and without more “haste makes waste” schemes like “expedited removal!”

PWS

11-14-17

JOE PATRICE @ ABOVE THE LAW: WE NOW HAVE “SCIENTIFIC PROOF” THAT IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ARE “INCREDIBLY USEFUL” — IN FACT, THEY ARE ESSENTIAL TO DUE PROCESS — So, Why Are Sessions & His Minions Smearing Lawyers & Trying To Railroad More Migrants Through The System Without Fair Hearings?

We Have Scientific Proof That Lawyers Are Incredibly Useful

Patrice writes:

“So instead of fighting whether or not the feds can order cops to bust up the local Motel 6, cities can just hire some lawyers.

This is the lie of every talking head that praises building a wall but adds, with all faux sincerity, that they have “no problem with legal immigrants.” Almost half of the people shuttled through assembly line deportation hearings actually fit within legal immigration protections, but the complexity of the system — not to mention language barriers — make them victims of the bureaucracy.

If that projection is correct, NYIFUP cases result in immigrant victories 48 percent of the time. As Oren Root, director of the Vera Institute’s Center for Immigration and Justice, puts it, that means that of every 12 immigrants who are winning at Varick Street right now, 11 would have been deported without a lawyer.

That finding challenges a widely held assumption about immigration court: that most immigrants who go through it don’t qualify for the types of protection that Congress has laid out for particularly compelling cases. The Vera finding implies that, in fact, many immigrants do deserve relief as Congress and the executive branch have established it — but that hundreds of thousands of them have been deported without getting the chance to pursue those claims.

New York’s program has inspired 12 more cities to adopt the program. It’s put up or shut up time for the Department of Justice — if they’re really committed to proving some undocumented migrant is in violation of the law, then stand up and make that case in court.

Against a real attorney.

Unless they’re chicken.”

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

Read the complete article at the link. I have previously reported on the VOX News Article and the Vera study.

I think Patrice has hit the nail on the head. Sessions, Miller, Bannon and the White Nationalist crowd are biased bullies picking on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Like all bullies, they have absolutely no desire to compete fairly on a level playing field.

The Vera report confirms what many of us involved in the field have been saying for years: a significant portion of those going through Immigration Court, probably 50% or more are entitled to be in the US. Without lawyers, such individuals have little or no chance of making and succeeding on claims that would allow them to stay. Since at least one-third of individuals (and a much higher percentage of detained individuals) are unrepresented, we are unlawfully removing tens of thousands of individuals each year, in violation of due process. And nothing aggravates this unfairness more than unnecessary detention (in other words, the majority of immigration detention which involves individuals who are not criminals, security threats, or threats to abscond if they are represented and understand the system).

A competent and conscientious Attoyney General would work cooperatively with private bar groups, NGOs, and localities to solve the representation crisis and drastically reduce the use of expensive and inhumane immigration detention. But, Sessions is moving in exactly the opposite direction, in violation of constitutional principles of due process, practical efficiency, and basic human decency.

PWS

11-13-17

ROGUE U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGE IN CHARLOTTE, NC? — BIA TWICE ORDERS JUDGE TO FOLLOW PRECEDENT & GIVE DUE PROCESS TO ASYLUM SEEKER!

https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/immigration/b/immigration-law-blog/archive/2017/11/10/unpub-bia-asylum-remand-insists-ij-follow-the-law-nov-6-2017.aspx?Redirected=true

Dan Kowalski reports at LexisNexis Immigration Community (quoting Respondent’s attorney Humza Kuzma):

“We appealed to the BIA, stating that the IJ was ignoring the law of the case and his direct instructions from a higher court. As Hassan noted in his FB post, we included redacted cases from a FOIA request another attorney had conducted, showing the various instances in the past two years where the IJ had been remanded in asylum proceedings. Yesterday, we got the remand, which reconfirmed that the prior rulings in the case were vacated and relying upon them was in judicial error, and instructed the IJ to grant our client a completely new hearing with an open record, and issue a new decision.”

BIA PANEL: Appellate Immigration Judges Guendelsberger, Kendall Clark, Grant

OPINION BY: Judge Edward R. Grant

)****************************

Read the full report and the BIA’s unpublished opinion at the link.

  • Why wasn’t this decision published?
  • Why wasn’t this Immigration Judge who is showing contempt for the BIA, precedent, asylum seekers, and Due Process named in the decision (a technique used by Article III Courts to deal with recalcitrant Judges)?
  • Why wasn’t this case remanded to a different Immigration Judge?
  • Why don’t we see more precedent decisions from appellate panels like this one which appears committed to a fair application of asylum law and reigning in rogue judges like this one?
  • How would an unrepresented individual ever be able to vindicate his or her statutory and constitutional rights before a biased and abusive judge like this?
  • What can be done to improve merit selection procedures for U.S. Immigration Judges so that individuals who are biased against migrants, unwilling comply with orders of higher tribunals, and uncommitted to Due Process will no longer be placed in judicial positions?

PWS

11-11-17

REAL DUE PROCESS MAKES A STUNNING DIFFERENCE! – NY PROJECT FINDS THAT REPRESENTED IMMIGRANTS ARE 12X MORE LIKELY TO WIN CASES!

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/9/16623906/immigration-court-lawyer

Dara Lind reports for VOX

“Omar Siagha has been in the US for 52 years. He’s a legal permanent resident with three children. He’d never been to prison, he says, before he was taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention — faced with the loss of his green card for a misdemeanor.

His brother tried to seek out lawyers who could help Siagha, but all they offered, in his words, were “high numbers and no hope” — no guarantee, in other words, that they’d be able to get him out of detention for all the money they were charging.

Then he met lawyers from Brooklyn Defender Services — part of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, an effort to guarantee legal representation for detained immigrants. They demanded only one thing of him, he recalls: “Omar, you’ve got to tell us the truth.”

But Siagha’s access to a lawyer in immigration court is the exception.

There’s no right to counsel in immigration court, which is part of the executive branch rather than the judiciary. Often, an immigrant’s only shot at legal assistance before they’re marched in front of a judge is the pro bono or legal aid clinic that happens to have attorneys at that courthouse. Those clinics have such limited resources that they try to select only the cases they think have the best shot of winning — which can be extremely difficult to ascertain in a 15-minute interview.

But advocates and local governments are trying to make cases like Siagha’s the rule, not the exception. Soon, every eligible immigrant who gets detained in one of a dozen cities — including New York, Chicago, Oakland, California, and Atlanta — will have access to a lawyer to help fight their immigration court case.

The change started at Varick Street. The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project started in New York City in 2013, guaranteeing access to counsel for detained immigrants.

According to a study released Thursday by the Vera Institute for Justice (which is now helping fund the representation efforts in the other cities, under the auspices of the Safe Cities Network), the results were stunning. With guaranteed legal representation, up to 12 times as many immigrants have been able to win their cases: either able to get legal relief from deportation or at least able to persuade ICE to drop the attempt to deport them this time.

So far, cities have been trying to protect their immigrant populations through inaction — refusing to help with certain federal requests. Giving immigrants lawyers, on the other hand, seemingly makes the system work better. And if it works, it could leave the Trump administration — which is already upset with the amount of time it takes to resolve an immigration court case — very frustrated indeed. (The Department of Justice, which runs immigration courts, didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

Immigration court is supposed to give immigrants a chance for relief. In reality … it depends.

As federal immigration enforcement has ramped up over the past 15 years, nearly every component of it has gotten a sleek bureaucratic upgrade, a boatload of money, and heightened interest and oversight from Congress. But immigration court has been overlooked as everything else has been built up around it.

The reason is simple. Chronologically, most immigrants have to go through immigration court after being apprehended and before being deported. But bureaucratically, immigration courts are run by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, housed in the Justice Department instead of by the Department of Homeland Security. And when it comes to money and bureaucratic attention, that makes all the difference in the world.

From the outside, the striking thing about immigration court is how slow it is — lawyers already report that hearings for those apprehended today are scheduled in 2021. That’s also the Trump administration’s problem with it; the federal government is sweeping up more immigrants than it did in 2016 but deporting fewer of them.

But it doesn’t seem that way from the inside, to an immigrant who doesn’t have any idea what’s going on — especially one who’s being kept in detention.

This is the scene that Peter Markowitz accustomed himself to, as a young immigration lawyer at the Varick Street courtroom in New York: “People brought in, in shackles, with their feet and hands shackled to their waist, often not understanding the language of the proceedings, having no idea of the legal norms that were controlling their fate — being deported hand over fist.”

I know he’s not exaggerating; in my first morning watching immigration court proceedings in Minneapolis in 2008, I saw at least 10 detainees get issued deportation orders before lunch. Almost none had lawyers. Sometimes the judge would pause and explain to the detainee, in plain English, what was really going on — but she didn’t have to, and sometimes she wouldn’t bother.”

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Read Dara’s full article at the link.

No lawyer = no due process. Rather than trying to hustle folks out of the country without a full and effective chance for them to be heard — in other words, true Due Process — Jeff Sessions should be changing the Immigration Court system to put less reliance on detention and detention center “kangaroo courts” and more emphasis on insuring that each individual scheduled for a hearing has fair and  reasonable access to competent counsel.

I totally agree that due process can’t be put on a “timetable,” as Sessions and his crew at the DOJ seem to want. As observed by none other than Chief Justice John Roberts — certainly no “bleeding heart liberal” —“It takes time to decide a case on appeal. Sometimes a little; sometimes a lot.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.s. 418 (2009). That’s even more true on the trial level.

I have a somewhat different take on whether representation and providing full due process will ultimately slow down the system. In the short run, represented cases might take longer than unrepresented ones (although I personally found that not invariably true). However, as noted by Chief Judge Katzmann, lack of representation both promotes wrong, and therefore unfair, results, but also inhibits the proper development of the law. (Perhaps not incidentally, I note that Chief Judge Katzmann actually took time to attend and participate in Annual Immigration Judge Training Conferences back in the day when the “powers that be” at DOJ and EOIR deemed such training to be a necessary ingredient of a fair judicial system — something that was eliminated by Sessions’s DOJ this year. Apparently, new, untrained Immigration Judges can be expected to “crank out” more final orders of removal than trained judges.)

When I was in Arlington, the vast majority of the non-detained respondents were represented, and the majority of those got some sort of relief — in other words, won their cases to some extent. As time went on, this development required the DHS to adjust its position and to stop “fully litigating” issues that experience and the law told them they were going to lose.

That, in turn, led to more efficient and focused hearings as well as decisions to drop certain types of cases as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Had that process been allowed to continue, rather than being artificially arrested by the Trump regime, it could well have eventually led to more efficient use of docket time and alternate means of disposing of cases that were “likely losers” or of no particular enforcement value to the DHS or the country at large.

By contrast, “haste makes waste” attempts to force cases through the system without representation or otherwise in violation of Due Process often led to appellate reversals, “do-overs,” and re-openings, all of which were less efficient for the system than “doing it right in the first place” would have been!

In my view (echoed at least to some extent by my colleague retired Judge Jeffrey Chase), more conscientious publication of BIA precedents granting asylum could and should have taken large blocks of asylum cases off the “full merits” dockets of Immigration Judges — either by allowing them to be “short docketed” with the use of stipulations or allowing them to be favorably disposed of by the DHS Asylum Offices.

No system that I’m aware of can fully litigate every single possible law violation. Indeed, our entire criminal justice system works overwhelmingly from “plea bargaining” that often bears little if any resemblance to “what actually happened.” Plea bargaining is a practical response that reflects the reality of our justice system and  the inherent limitations on judicial time. And effective plea bargaining requires lawyers on both sides as well as appropriate law development as guidance that can only happen when parties are represented. The absurd claim of Sessions and the DHS that the law allows them no discretion as to whether or not to bring certain categories of removal cases is just that — absurd and in direct contradiction of the rest of the U.S. justice system.

The current policies of the DHS and the DOJ, which work against Due Process, rather than seeking to take advantage of and actively promote it, are ultimately doomed to failure. The only question is how much of a mess, how many wasted resources, and how much pain and unfairness they will create in the process of failing.

Andrea Saenz, mentioned in the article is a former Judicial Law clerk at the New York Immigration Court. I have always admired her clear, concise, “accessible” legal writing — much like that of Judge Jeffrey Chase — and have told her so.

I am also proud that a number of attorneys involved in the “New York Project” and the Brooklyn Defenders are alums of the Arlington Immigration Court or my Georgetown Law RLP class — in other words, charter members of the “New Due Process Army!”  They are literally changing our system, one case and one individual life at a time. And, they and their successors will still be at it long after guys like Jeff Sessions and his restrictionist cronies and their legally and morally bankrupt philosophies have faded from the scene.

Thanks to my friend the amazing Professor Alberto Benítez from the GW Law Immigration Clinic for sending me this item!

PWS

11-10-17

DOUBT THAT THERE IS ANTI-ASYLUM BIAS IN THE STEWART (DETENTION CENTER) IMMIGRATION COURT? — Read This Outrageously Wrong IJ Decision (Fortunately) Reversed By The BIA!

Go on over to Dan Kowalski at LexisNexis Immigration Community to read this outrageous abuse of justice by a U.S. Immigration Judge!

Matter of K-D-H-, unpublished (BIA 10-05-17)

Here’s the link:

https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/immigration/b/immigration-law-blog/archive/2017/11/03/unpub-bia-asylum-victory-somalia-matter-of-k-d-h-oct-5-2017.aspx?Redirected=true

The BIA Panel that got this one right was:

Chairman/Chief Appellate Judge David Neal

Appellate Immigration Judge John Guendelsberger

Appellate Immigration Judge Molly Kendall Clark

OPINION BY: Judge Kendall Clark

Interestingly, this panel configuration seldom, if ever, appears in BIA precedent decisions. Nor are these Judges recorded as dissenting or commenting upon the BIA’s generally anti-asylum precedents, some of which almost mock the BIA’s leading precedent on the generous nature of asylum law following the Supreme Court’s decision in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca: Matter of Mogharrbi, 19 I&N Dec. 439 (BIA 1987).

So, why are the Appellate Immigration Judges who appear to have a good understanding of asylum law that is much more in line with the Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the BIA’s own pre-2003 precedents “buried in obscurity?” Meanwhile, those Appellate Immigration Judges who evince a lack of  understanding of asylum law, the realities of being asylum applicants in the “purposely user unfriendly” Immigration Courts, or any visible sympathy for the plight of asylum seekers (even those who are denied under our overly technical legal standards often face life threatening situations upon return — some actually die — we just choose not to take the necessary steps to protect them) seem to be among the “featured” in BIA precedents? Do all of the BIA Judges really agree with every precedent. If not, why aren’t we seeing some public dialogue, debate, and dissent, as with every other collegial, deliberative court in America? What’s the purpose and value of a “deliberative court” that almost never engages in any public deliberation (about some of the most difficult and complex questions facing our nation)? Where’s the accountability if all BIA Appellate Judges are not recording their votes on published precedents?

As you read the BIA decision and the decision below of Judge Randall Duncan of the Stewart Immigration Court here are a few questions you might keep in mind:

  • Why doesn’t Judge Duncan cite any actual cases?  (He refers to “the Eleventh Circuit” with no specific citations.)
  • Why didn’t Judge Duncan follow (or even discuss) either the BIA’s precedent in Matter of O-Z- & I-Z-, 23 I&N Dec. 22 (BIA 1998) or the Eleventh Circuit precedent in De Santamaria v, U.S. Att’y Gen., 525 F.3d 999, 1008 (11th Cir. 2008) both of which discuss “cumulative harm” and would inescapably have led to the conclusion that this respondent suffered past persecution?
  • Why isn’t this a published precedent in light of Judge Duncan’s clear misunderstanding of the applicable asylum law and because of the notorious reputation of the Atlanta-Stewart Immigration Courts as an “asylum free zone.”
  • Why did Judge Duncan, a relatively new Immigration Judge (Nov. 2016), attempt to dispose of this case with an obviously inadequate “Oral Decision.”
  • What kind of asylum training did Judge Duncan get?
  • What would have happened if this individual had been unrepresented (as many asylum applicants are at Stewart)?
  • What steps have the DOJ and EOIR taken to improve the poor substantive performance of some Immigration Judges who ignore applicable legal standards and deny far too many asylum cases?
  • What will Jeff Sessions’s “more untrained Immigration Judges peddling even faster” do to due process and justice in a court system that is currently failing to achieve fairness and due process in too many cases?

Taking a broken system and trying to expand it and make it run faster is simply going to produce more unfair and unjust results. In other words, it would be “insanely stupid.” The Immigration Court system has some serious quality of decision-making, bias, consistency, and due process issues that must be solved before the system can be expanded. Otherwise, the system will be institutionalizing “bad practices” rather than the “best practices.”

PWS

11-06-17