“GANG OF 14” FORMER IMMIGRATION JUDGES AND BIA APPELLATE IMMIGRATION JUDGES (INCLUDING ME) FILE AMICUS BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF ADMINISTRATIVE CLOSING! – Matter of Castro-Tum

HERE’S “OUR HERO” STEVEN H. SCHULMAN OF AKIN GUMP’S DC OFFICE WHO DID ALL THE “HEAVY LIFTING” OF DRAFTING THE BRIEF:

HERE’S THE “CAST OF CHARACTERS” (A/K/A “GANG OF 14”):

Amici curiae are retired Immigration Judges and former members of the Board of Immigration Appeals, who seek to address the Attorney General’s certified questions regarding administrative closure. Amici were appointed to serve at immigration courts around the United States and with the Board, and at senior positions with the Executive Office of Immigration Review. From their many combined years of service, amici have intimate knowledge of the operation of the immigration courts, including the importance of various procedural mechanisms to maintain efficient dockets. As explained in detail, administrative closure, when used judiciously, is a critical tool for immigration judges in managing their dockets. Without tools like administrative closure, immigration judges would be hampered, unable to set aside those matters that do not yet require court intervention and thus prevented from focusing on the removal cases that demand immediate attention.

In particular, the Honorable Sarah M. Burr served as a U.S. Immigration Judge in New York from 1994 and was appointed as Assistant Chief Immigration Judge in charge of the New York, Fishkill, Ulster, Bedford Hills and Varick Street immigration courts in 2006. She served in this capacity until January 2011, when she returned to the bench full-time until she retired in 2012. Prior to her appointment, she worked as a staff attorney for the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society in its trial and appeals bureaus and also as the supervising attorney in its immigration unit. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Immigrant Justice Corps.

The Honorable Jeffrey S. Chase served as an Immigration Judge in New York City from 1995 to 2007 and was an attorney advisor and senior legal advisor at the Board from 2007 to 2017. He is presently in private practice as an independent consultant on immigration law, and Page 2 of 32 is of counsel to the law firm of DiRaimondo & Masi in New York City. Prior to his appointment, he was a sole practitioner and volunteer staff attorney at Human Rights First. He also was the recipient of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s annual pro bono award in 1994 and chaired AILA’s Asylum Reform Task Force.

The Honorable Bruce J. Einhorn served as a United States Immigration Judge in Los Angeles from 1990 to 2007. He now serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, and a Visiting Professor of International, Immigration, and Refugee Law at the University of Oxford, England. He is also a contributing op-ed columnist at D.C.-based The Hill newspaper. He is a member of the Bars of Washington D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Honorable Cecelia M. Espenoza served as a Member of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) Board of Immigration Appeals from 2000-2003 and in the Office of the General Counsel from 2003-2017 where she served as Senior Associate General Counsel, Privacy Officer, Records Officer and Senior FOIA Counsel. She is presently in private practice as an independent consultant on immigration law, and a member of the World Bank’s Access to Information Appeals Board. Prior to her EOIR appointments, she was a law professor at St. Mary’s University (1997-2000) and the University of Denver College of Law (1990-1997) where she taught Immigration Law and Crimes and supervised students in the Immigration and Criminal Law Clinics. She has published several articles on Immigration Law. She is a graduate of the University of Utah and the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. She was recognized as the University of Utah Law School’s Alumna of the Year in 2014 and received the Outstanding Service Award from the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Page 3 of 32 Association in 1997 and the Distinguished Lawyer in Public Service Award from the Utah State Bar in 1989-1990.

The Honorable Noel Ferris served as an Immigration Judge in New York from 1994 to 2013 and an attorney advisor to the Board from 2013 to 2016, until her retirement. Previously, she served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1985 to 1990 and as Chief of the Immigration Unit from 1987 to 1990.

The Honorable John F. Gossart, Jr. served as a U.S. Immigration Judge from 1982 until his retirement in 2013 and is the former president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. At the time of his retirement, he was the third most senior immigration judge in the United States. Judge Gossart was awarded the Attorney General Medal by then Attorney General Eric Holder. From 1975 to 1982, he served in various positions with the former Immigration Naturalization Service, including as general attorney, naturalization attorney, trial attorney, and deputy assistant commissioner for naturalization. He is also the co-author of the National Immigration Court Practice Manual, which is used by all practitioners throughout the United States in immigration court proceedings. From 1997 to 2016, Judge Gossart was an adjunct professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law teaching immigration law, and more recently was an adjunct professor of law at the University of Maryland School of Law also teaching immigration law. He has been a faculty member of the National Judicial College, and has guest lectured at numerous law schools, the Judicial Institute of Maryland and the former Maryland Institute for the Continuing Education of Lawyers. He is also a past board member of the Immigration Law Section of the Federal Bar Association. Judge Gossart served in the United States Army from 1967 to 1969 and is a veteran of the Vietnam War. Page 4 of 32

The Honorable William P. Joyce served as an Immigration Judge in Boston, Massachusetts. Subsequent to retiring from the bench, he has been the Managing Partner of Joyce and Associates with 1,500 active immigration cases. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as legal counsel to the Chief Immigration Judge. Judge Joyce also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Associate General Counsel for enforcement for INS. He is a graduate of Georgetown School of Foreign Service and Georgetown Law School.

The Honorable Edward Kandler was appointed as an Immigration Judge in October 1998. Prior to his appointment to the Immigration Court in Seattle in June 2004, he served as an Immigration Judge at the Immigration Court in San Francisco from August 2000 to June 2004 and at the Immigration Court in New York City from October 1998 to August 2000. Judge Kandler received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1971 from California State University at San Francisco, a Master of Arts degree in 1974 from California State University at Hayward, and a Juris Doctorate in 1981 from the University of California at Davis. Judge Kandler served as an assistant U.S. trustee for the Western District of Washington from 1988 to 1998. He worked as an attorney for the law firm of Chinello, Chinello, Shelton & Auchard in Fresno, California, in 1988. From 1983 to 1988, Judge Kandler served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of California. He was also with the San Francisco law firm of Breon, Galgani, Godino from 1981 to 1983. Judge Kandler is a member of the California Bar.

The Honorable Carol King served as an Immigration Judge from 1995 to 2017 in San Francisco and was a temporary Board member for six months between 2010 and 2011. She previously practiced immigration law for ten years, both with the Law Offices of Marc Van Der Page 5 of 32 Hout and in her own private practice. She also taught immigration law for five years at Golden Gate University School of Law and is currently on the faculty of the Stanford University Law School Trial Advocacy Program. Judge King now works as a Removal Defense Strategist, advising attorneys and assisting with research and writing related to complex removal defense issues.

The Honorable Lory D. Rosenberg served on the Board from 1995 to 2002. She then served as Director of the Defending Immigrants Partnership of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association from 2002 until 2004. Prior to her appointment, she worked with the American Immigration Law Foundation from 1991 to 1995. She was also an adjunct Immigration Professor at American University Washington College of Law from 1997 to 2004. She is the founder of IDEAS Consulting and Coaching, LLC., a consulting service for immigration lawyers, and is the author of Immigration Law and Crimes. She currently works as Senior Advisor for the Immigrant Defenders Law Group.

The Honorable Susan Roy started her legal career as a Staff Attorney at the Board of Immigration Appeals, a position she received through the Attorney General Honors Program. She served as Assistant Chief Counsel, National Security Attorney, and Senior Attorney for the DHS Office of Chief Counsel in Newark, NJ, and then became an Immigration Judge, also in Newark. Sue has been in private practice for nearly 5 years, and two years ago, opened her own immigration law firm. Sue is the NJ AILA Chapter Liaison to EOIR, is the Vice Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the NJ State Bar Association, and in 2016 was awarded the Outstanding Prop Bono Attorney of the Year by the NJ Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Page 6 of 32

The Honorable Paul W. Schmidt served as an Immigration Judge from 2003 to 2016 in Arlington, virginia. He previously served as Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals from 1995 to 2001, and as a Board Member from 2001 to 2003. He authored the landmark decision Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1995) extending asylum protection to victims of female genital mutilation. He served as Deputy General Counsel of the former INS from 1978 to 1987, serving as Acting General Counsel from 1986-87 and 1979-81. He was the managing partner of the Washington, D.C. office of Fragomen, DelRey & Bernsen from 1993 to 1995, and practiced business immigration law with the Washington, D.C. office of Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue from 1987 to 1992, where he was a partner from 1990 to 1992. He served as an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University School of Law in 1989, and at Georgetown University Law Center from 2012 to 2014 and 2017 to present. He was a founding member of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ), which he presently serves as Americas Vice President. He also serves on the Advisory Board of AYUDA, and assists the National Immigrant Justice Center/Heartland Alliance on various projects; and speaks, writes and lectures at various forums throughout the country on immigration law topics. He also created the immigration law blog immigrationcourtside.com.

The Honorable Polly A. Webber served as an Immigration Judge from 1995 to 2016 in San Francisco, with details in facilities in Tacoma, Port Isabel, Boise, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Orlando. Previously, she practiced immigration law from 1980 to 1995 in her own private practice in San Jose. She was a national officer in AILA from 1985 to 1991 and served as National President of AILA from 1989 to 1990. She has also taught immigration and nationality law at both Santa Clara University School of Law and Lincoln Law School. Page 7 of 32

The Honorable Gustavo D. Villageliu served as a Board of Immigration Appeals Member from July 1995 to April 2003. He then served as Senior Associate General Counsel for the Executive Office for Immigration Review until he retired in 2011, helping manage FOIA, Privacy and Security as EOIR Records Manager. Before becoming a Board Member, Villageliu was an Immigration Judge in Miami, with both detained and non-detained dockets, as well as the Florida Northern Region Institutional Criminal Alien Hearing Docket 1990-95. Mr. Villageliu was a member of the Iowa, Florida and District of Columbia Bars. He graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1977. After working as a Johnson County Attorney prosecutor intern in Iowa City, Iowa he joined the Board as a staff attorney in January 1978, specializing in war criminal, investor, and criminal alien cases.

HERE’S A SUMMARY OF OUR ARGUMENT:

ARGUMENT………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 7

I. Immigration Judges and the Board have inherent and delegated authority to order administrative closure in a case ……………………………………………………………………………… 7

A. Federal courts have recognized that judges possess an inherent authority to order administrative closure………………………………………………………………………… 8

B. Regulations establishing and governing Immigration Judges ratify their inherent authority to order administrative closure. …………………………………………. 9

II. The Board’s decisions in Matter of Avetisyan, 25 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2012), and Matter of W-Y-U-, 27 I&N Dec. 17 (BIA 2017), articulate the appropriate standard for administrative closure……………………………………………………………………….. 13

A. The legal standard set forth in Avetisyan and W-Y-U- gives the Immigration Judge the correct degree of independence in deciding motions for administrative closure. ……………………………………………………………………………… 13

B. The facts and disposition of the case at bar show that the legal standard under Avetisyan and W-Y-U- is working correctly. ………………………………………………… 16

III. Fundamental principles of administrative law hold that the Attorney General cannot change the regulations that grant this authority without proper notice and comment rulemaking. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 18

A. Practical docket management considerations weigh in favor of retaining administrative closure. ……………………………………………………………………………… 19

B. Due process considerations also weigh in favor of retaining administrative closure. …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 21

IV. Options such as continuances, dismissal without prejudice, and termination without prejudice, are suboptimal as compared to administrative closure. …………………………….. 22

V. There is no reason to attach legal consequences to administrative closure. ………………… 25

FINALLY, HERE’S THE COMPLETE BRIEF FOR YOUR INFORMATION AND READING PLEASURE:

Former IJs and Retired BIA Members – FINAL Castro-Tum Brief

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  • Thanks again to all retired my colleagues. What a great opportunity to “reunite online” in support of a critically important cause affecting the American Justice System!
  • Special thanks to Judge Jeffrey Chase for spearheading the effort and getting all of us together!
  • “Super Special Thanks” to the amazing Steven H. Schulman, Partner at Akin Gump DC and to Akin Gump for donating your valuable time and expertise and making this happen!

PWS

02-17-18

 

 

 

 

AILA URGES CONGRESS TO CREATE INDEPENDENT ARTICLE I U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT TO REPLACE CURRENT DUE PROCESS TRAVESTY! – “In fact, instead of working to improve the system, DOJ recently announced initiatives that severely jeopardize an immigration judge’s ability to remain independent and impartial. These new policies are designed only to accelerate deportations, further eroding the integrity of the court system.”

RESOLUTION ON IMMIGRATION COURT REFORM AILA Board of Governors Winter 2018

PROPONENT: AILA Executive Committee and AILA EOIR Liaison Committee

Introduction:

Our immigration court system does not meet the standards which justice demands. Chronic and systemic problems have resulted in a severe lack of public confidence in the system’s capacity to deliver just and fair decisions in a timely manner. As a component of the Department of Justice (DOJ), EOIR has been particularly vulnerable to political pressure. Immigration judges, who are currently appointed by the Attorney General and are DOJ employees, have struggled to maintain independence in their decision making. In certain jurisdictions, the immigration court practices and adjudications have fallen far below constitutional norms. Years of disproportionately low court funding levels – as compared to other components of the immigration system such as ICE and CBP – have contributed to an ever-growing backlog of cases that is now well over 600,000.

Despite the well-documented history of structural flaws within the current immigration court system, DOJ and EOIR have failed to propose any viable plan to address these concerns. In fact, instead of working to improve the system, DOJ recently announced initiatives that severely jeopardize an immigration judge’s ability to remain independent and impartial. These new policies are designed only to accelerate deportations, further eroding the integrity of the court system.

RESOLUTION: The Board hereby reaffirms and clarifies its position on immigration court reform as follows:

In its current state, the immigration court system requires a complete structural overhaul to address several fundamental problems. AILA recommends that Congress create an independent immigration court system in the form of an Article I court, modeled after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Such an entity would protect and advance America’s core values of fairness and equality by safeguarding the independence and impartiality of the immigration court system.

Below is an outline of the basic features that should be included in the Article I court.

Independent System: Congress should establish an immigration court system under Article I of the Constitution, with both trial and appellate divisions, to adjudicate immigration cases.

This structural overhaul advances the immigration court’s status as a neutral arbiter, ensuring the independent functioning of the immigration judiciary.

Appellate Review:

AILA recommends that the new Article I court system provide trial level immigration courts and appellate level review, with further review to the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. To prevent overburdening Article III courts, it is necessary to include an appellate court within the Article I court system.

Judicial Appointment Process:

AILA recommends the appointment of trial-level and appellate-level judges for a fixed term of no less than 10 years, with the possibility of reappointment. These judges would be appointed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit in which the immigration court resides. The traditional Article I judicial appointment process, which relies on Presidential appointment with Senate confirmation, would be unworkable for the immigration court system and could easily create a backlog in judicial vacancies. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court system, which uses a different appointment process than other Article I courts, is a better model for the immigration court system, due to the comparable size and the volume of cases. Like the U.S. Bankruptcy Court System, which has 352 judges, the immigration court currently has over 300 judges. Traditional Article I courts have far fewer judges than that of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court System. Therefore, AILA recommends a judicial appointment system that closely resembles that of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Hiring Criteria for Judges:

Trial and appellate judges that are selected should be highly qualified, and well-trained, and should represent diverse backgrounds. In addition to ensuring racial ethnic, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religious, and geographic diversity, AILA advocates for a recruitment and selection process that is designed to ensure that the overall corps of immigration judges is balanced between individuals with a nongovernment, private sector background, and individuals from the public sector. We believe this balance best promotes the development of the law in the nation’s interest.

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Read the complete report here:

AILA Resolution Passed 2.3.2018

The proposal that U.S. Immigration Judges be appointed by the U.S. Courts of Appeals for renewable 10 year terms is particularly salutary. The current process needs to be professionalized and de-politicized. The U.S. Courts of Appeals are the “primary professional consumers” of the work product of the U.S. Immigration Judges. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Appointment System recommended by AILA has earned high praise for producing  a fair, impartial, merit-based, apolitical judiciary.

The current ridiculous selection and appointment process within the DOJ has two stunning deficiencies.

First, it has become an “insider-only” judiciary. Over the past three Administrations nearly 90% of the newly appointed U.S. Immigration Judges have been from government backgrounds, primarily DHS/ICE prosecutors. Outside expertise, including that gained from representing individuals in Immigration Court, clinical teaching, and working for NGOs and pro bono groups has been systematically excluded from the Immigration Court judiciary, giving it a built-in “one-sided” appearance.

Remarkably, the situation at the appellate level, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) has been even worse! No Appellate Immigration Judge/Board Member has been appointed from “outside Government” since 2000, and both of those have long since been removed or otherwise moved on.

Indeed, even sitting (as opposed to “administrative”) U.S. Immigration Judges are seldom appointed or even interviewed for BIA vacancies. There is only one current Appellate Immigration Judge who was appointed directly from the trial court, and that individual had only a modest (approximately three years) amount of trial experience. Thus, a number of sources of what would logically be the most expert and experienced appellate judicial candidates have been systematically excluded from the appointment process at the DOJ.

Second, while the results produced are highly problematic, the DOJ hiring process for U.S. Immigration Judges has been amazingly glacial! According to the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) the Immigration Judge appointment process during the last Administration took an average of two years! That’s longer than the Senate confirmation process for Article III Judges!

Much of the delay has reportedly been attributed to the slowness of the “background check process.” Come on man! Background checks are significant, but are essentially ministerial functions that can be speeded up at the will of the Attorney General.

It’s not like Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, or Jeff Sessions were willing to wait two years for background clearance for their other high-level appointees in the DOJ. No, it’s simply a matter of screwed up priorities and incompetence at the highest levels of the DOJ. And, let’s not forget that most of the appointees are already working for the DHS or the DOJ. So they currently have high-level background clearances that merely have to be “updated.”

It should be “child’s play” — a “no-brainer.” When Anthony C. “Tony” Moscato was the Director and Janet Reno was the Attorney General, background checks often were completed for Immigration Judges and BIA Members in less than 60 days. And, if Tony really needed someone on board immediately, he picked up the phone, called “downtown,” and it happened. Immediately! Competence and priorities!

Our oldest son Wick has been private bar member of the U.S. Magistrate Judge Recommendation Committee for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Their process was much more open, timely, and merit-focused than the current DOJ hiring process (whatever that might actually be) and fairly considered candidates from both inside and outside government.

Also, the slowness of the background check process unfairly prejudices “outside applicants.” Sure, it’s annoying for a “Government insider” to have to wait for clearance. But, his or her job and paycheck continue without problem during the process.

On the other hand, “outside applicants” have to make “business decisions,” — whether to take on additional employees or accept new clients; whether to commit to another year of teaching; whether to accept promotions, etc — that can be “deal breakers” as the process creeps along without much useful feedback from EOIR.

Attorney General Sessions has  claimed that he has a “secret process” for expediting appointments. But, so far, except for a “brief flurry” of appointments that were reportedly “already in  the pipeline” under Lynch, there hasn’t been much noticeable change in the timelines. Additionally, the process is often delayed because DOJ and EOIR have not planned adequately, and therefore have not acquired adequate space and equipment for new judges to actually start hearing cases.

Government bureaucrats love acronyms (so do I, in case you hadn’t noticed)! There is only one acronym that can adequately capture the current sorry state of administration of the U.S Immigration Courts under DOJ and EOIR administration: “FUBAR!”

And that’s without even getting to the all-out assault on Due Process for vulnerable respondents in the U.S. Immigration Courts being carried out by Jeff Sessions and his minions. According to my information, DOJ/EOIR “management” is pushing Immigration Judges to render twenty-minute “oral decisions;” complete “quotas” of 4-5 cases a day to get “satisfactory” ratings; and not include bond cases, administrative closure, Change of Venue, Credible Fear Reviews, or Motion to Reopen rulings in completions.

Since it takes an experienced Immigration Judge 3-4 hours to do a good job on a “fully contested” asylum decision with oral decision, that’s a “designed to fail” proposal that will undoubtedly lead to cutting of corners, numerous denials of Due Process, and remands from the U.s. courts of Appeals. But despite some disingenuous “rote references” to Due Process, it’s not even an afterthought in Sessions’s plan to turn Immigration Court into “Just Another Whistle Stop on The Deportation Railroad.”

As I say, “Bad ideas never die; they have a life of their own within the bureaucracy.” That’s why we need to get Immigration Courts out of the bureaucracy!
This Congress, which “can barely even tie its own  shoes,” so to speak, isn’t likely to get around to creating an Article I Immigration Court. But, every day that the current mal-administered and unfair  system remains within the DOJ is a Due Process and fairness disaster. That’s something that even Congress should be concerned about!   
Thanks to Attorney (and former Immigraton Judge) Sue Roy of New Jersey for  sending me the AILA Resolution.

PWS

02-07-18

 

 

 

NEW FROM TRAC: U.S IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOG NEARS 670,000, GROWING 11% OVER LAST 6 MO. OF 2017! – Counties In All 50 States Are Affected With California, New York, New Jersey, & Texas Leading The Way – Maryland Counties Among Those Experiencing Fastest Backlog Growth!

“Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
==========================================
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Greetings. The county in the country with the fastest growing number of residents with pending cases before the Immigration Court was Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) in North Carolina. Pending cases there shot up by 34 percent between May and December 2017. Coming in second with a growth rate of 30 percent over this same period was Loudoun County (Leesburg), Virginia.

Nationally, the Immigration Court backlog over the same period increased by 11 percent, reaching a new all-time high of 667,839 at the end of December. These pending cases were spread across 2,559 separate counties.

Only two counties — Pinal County (Florence), Arizona and El Paso County, Texas — out of the top 100, experienced a reduction in the number of residents with pending court cases.

California was the state with the largest number of counties that ranked in the top 100 by the current size of their pending Immigration Court backlog. That state included 19 out of the top 100 counties. New Jersey, New York, and Texas each had ten counties in the top 100. A total of 25 states had at least one county that ranked among the top 100 in the nation in the concentration of residents with pending court cases.

These results are based upon case-by-case court records that were obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University and are based on the reported address for each immigrant. If the individual was currently detained, the location was the address of the detention facility.

To see the full report, including rankings for the top 100 counties where the most immigrants with pending court cases reside, go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/497/

To view the number of residents as of the end of December 2017 with pending court cases for each county, as well as county subdivision, go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/addressrep/

In addition, many of TRAC’s free query tools – which track the court’s overall backlog, new DHS filings, court dispositions and much more – have now been updated through December 2017. For an index to the full list of TRAC’s immigration tools go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/imm/tools/

If you want to be sure to receive notifications whenever updated data become available, sign up at:

http://tracfed.syr.edu/cgi-bin/tracuser.pl?pub=1&list=imm

or follow us on Twitter @tracreports or like us on Facebook:

http://facebook.com/tracreports

TRAC is self-supporting and depends on foundation grants, individual contributions and subscription fees for the funding needed to obtain, analyze and publish the data we collect on the activities of the U.S. federal government. To help support TRAC’s ongoing efforts, go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/cgi-bin/sponsor/sponsor.pl

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University
Suite 360, Newhouse II
Syracuse, NY 13244-2100
315-443-3563

———————————————————————————
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is a nonpartisan joint research center of the Whitman School of Management (http://whitman.syr.edu) and the Newhouse School of Public Communications (http://newhouse.syr.edu) at Syracuse University. If you know someone who would like to sign up to receive occasional email announcements and press releases, they may go to http://trac.syr.edu and click on the E-mail Alerts link at the bottom of the page. If you do not wish to receive future email announcements and wish to be removed from our list, please send an email to trac@syr.edu with REMOVE as the subject.”

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While Attorney General Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and the EOIR bureaucrats are fiddling around trying to eliminate administrative closing (thereby adding as many as 340,000 cases to the existing backlog) and imposing unachievable “goals and timetables,” “Rome is burning!”

PWS

01-23-18

MANUEL MADRID @ AMERICAN PROSPECT: Sessions Relishes Chance To Turn U.S. Immigration Courts Into “Whistle Stops On His Deportation Railway!” – Administrative Closing Likely Just To Be The First Casualty – I’m Quoted!

http://theprosp.ec/2E3a315

Manuel writes:

“Jeff Sessions Is Just Getting Started on Deporting More Immigrants

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department

This could be Jeff Sessions’s year.

Not that he wasn’t busy in 2017, a year marked by his rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), attacking sanctuary cities, reinstating debtors’ prisons, and cracking down on recreational marijuana. Indeed, over these last few months Sessions appears to have been working with the single-minded focus of a man who reportedly came within inches of losing his job in July after falling into President Trump’s bad graces for recusing himself from the Mueller probe.

But 2018 will provide him his best chance yet at Trumpian redemption.

Sessions has long railed against the United States’ “broken” asylum system and the massive backlog of immigration court cases, which has forced immigrants to suffer unprecedented wait times and has put a significant strain on court resources. But the attorney general’s appetite for reform has now grown beyond pushing for more judges and a bigger budget, both largely bipartisan solutions. The past few months have seen Sessions begin to attempt to assert his influence over the work of immigration courts (which, unlike other federal courts, are part of the Executive Branch) and on diminishing the legal protections commonly used by hundreds of thousands of immigrants—developments that have alarmed immigration judges, attorneys, and immigrant advocacy groups alike.

Earlier this month, Sessions announced that he would be reviewing a decades-old practice used by immigration judges and the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals to shelve cases without making a final ruling. Described by judges as a procedural tool for prioritizing cases and organizing their case dockets, the practice—“administrative closure”—also provides immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation while their cases remain in removal proceedings. Critics argue that administrative closure, which became far more frequent in the later years of the Obama administration, creates a quasi-legal status for immigrants who might otherwise be deported.

There are currently around 350,000 administratively closed cases, according to according to the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal.

Should Sessions decide to eliminate administrative closures—a decision many observers describe as imminent—those cases could be thrown into flux. The move would be in line with previous statements from various figures in the Trump administration and executive orders signed by the president himself—namely, that no immigrant is safe from deportation; no population is off the table.

Beyond creating chaos for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the premature recalendaring of cases could also lead to erroneous deportations. For instance, in the case of unaccompanied minors applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a humanitarian protection granted by Citizenship and Immigration Services, an untimely return to court could be the difference between remaining or being ordered to leave the country. Even if a minor has already been approved by a state judge to apply for a green card, there is currently a two-year visa backlog for special visa applicants from Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras and more than a one-year backlog for those from from Mexico. Administrative closures allow these children to avoid deportation while they wait in line for a visa to become available.

But if judges can no longer close a case, they will either have to grant a string of continuances, a time-consuming act that requires all parties (the judge, defendant, and government attorney) to show up to court repeatedly, or simply issue an order of removal—even if the immigrant has a winning application sitting on a desk in Citizenship and Immigration Services. Under the Trump administration, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has been actively filing to recalendar cases of non-criminals that had been administratively closed for months, including those of children whose applications had already been approved. Now Sessions, who as a senator zealously opposed immigration reforms that would benefit undocumented immigrants, could recalendar them all.

Unshelving hundreds of thousands of cases would also further bog down an already towering backlog of approximately 650,000 immigration court cases, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse—a policy result that at first seems antithetical to Sessions’s rhetoric about cutting the backlog and raising efficiency. That is unless, as some suggest, the backlog and efficiency were never really his primary concerns to begin with.

“When [Sessions] says he wants to decrease the court backlog and hire more immigration judges, what he really means is he wants more deportation orders, whatever the cost,” says Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

 Removing a judge’s ability to close a case would be the second in a one-two punch aimed at knocking down avenues of relief for cases that remain in the system for long periods of time.

Sessions’s decision to review administrative closure surprised few who had been following his rhetoric over the past few weeks. In a December memo detailing plans to slash the backlog, the attorney general said that he anticipated “clarifying certain legal matters in the near future that will remove recurring impediments to judicial economy and the timely administration of justice.” The Justice Department had already largely done away with allowing prosecutors to join in motions to administratively close a case that didn’t fall within its enforcement priorities. Removing a judge’s ability to close a case would be the second in a one-two punch aimed at knocking down avenues of relief for cases that remain in the system for long periods of time.

And it’s unlikely that Sessions will stop there. As attorney general, he is free to review legal precedents for lower immigration courts. In changing precedential rulings, he could do away with a multitude of other legal lifelines essential to immigrants and their attorneys.

. . . .

“Administrative closure makes a good starting point for Sessions, because the courts likely won’t be able stop it,” says Paul Schmidt, a former immigration judge and former head of the Board of Immigration Appeals. “Administrative closure was a tool created by the Justice Department and therefore it can be dismantled by the Justice Department.”

“After all, the bad thing about the immigration courts is that they belong to the attorney general,” Schmidt adds.

Unlike other federal judges, immigration judges are technically considered Justice Department employees. This unique status as a judicial wing of the executive branch has left them open to threats of politicization. In October, it was revealed that the White House was planning on adding metrics on the duration and quantity of cases adjudicated by immigration judges to their performance reviews, effectively creating decision quotas. A spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges described the proposal as a worrying encroachment on judicial independence. “Immigration judge morale is at an all time low,” says Dana Marks, former president of the association and a judge for more than 30 years. Other federal judges are not subject to any such performance evaluations.

It’s no coincidence that a review of administrative closure was announced just a few months after it was discovered that the Justice Department was considering imposing quotas on judges. Streamlining deportations has proven an elusive goal, even for Sessions: Deportations in 2017 were down from the previous year, according to DHS numbers. Meanwhile, arrests surged—up 42 percent from the same period in 2016. Flooding already overwhelmed immigration courts with even more cases would certainly cause chaos in the short-term, but wouldn’t necessarily lead to deportations by itself. If an end to administrative closures is paired with decision quotas on immigration judges, however, a surge in deportations seems inevitable.”

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

Read Manuel’s complete article at the above link.

As I’ve noted before, Due Process clearly is “on the run” at the U.S. Immigration Courts. It will be up to the “New Due Process Army” and other advocates to take a stand against Sessions’s plans to erode Constitutional Due Process and legal protections for immigrants of all types. And don’t think that some U.S. citizens, particularly Blacks, Latinos, and Gays, aren’t also “in his sights for denial of rights.” An affront to the rights of the most vulnerable in America should be taken seriously for what it is — an attack on the rights of all of us as Americans! Stand up for Due Process before it’s too late!

PWS

01-23-18

MORE NONSENSE FROM EOIR: NEW “PRIORITIES & TIMETABLES” WON’T HELP RESOLVE 660,00 CASE BACKLOG, BUT WILL MINDLESSLY INCREASE STRESS, CAUSE MORE “ADR,” & IMPEDE DUE PROCESS!

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/01/17/doj-issues-new-immigration-court-policies-addressing-obama-era-caseload-backup.html

Brooke Singman reports for Fox News:

“The Justice Department issued new measures on Wednesday that will prioritize certain immigration cases in an effort to streamline a system that nearly tripled the caseload of judges during the Obama administration.

A memo listing guidelines for all new cases filed and an order that all immigration court cases that are reopened must establish case priorities was sent by John [sic] McHenry, the director of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, to the Office of Chief Immigration Judge, all immigration judges, all court administrators and all immigration court staff.

“In 2010, immigration court benchmarks for non-detained cases were abruptly abandoned, and since that time — perhaps non-coincidentally — the caseload has tripled,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement to Fox News, noting that the reintroduction of court-based goals and benchmarks would “assist in properly managing cases, increase productivity, and reduce the pending caseload.”

“Some policies implemented in the immigration court system in recent years have contributed to a three-fold increase of the courts’ pending caseload,” O’Malley said to Fox News, noting that certain “prioritization practices” made the caseload “worse” by continuing cases that could be resolved more quickly in favor of cases that often took longer to complete.

It was “the immigration court equivalent of fiddling while Rome burned,” O’Malley said.

“Some policies implemented in the immigration court system in recent years have contributed to a three-fold increase of the courts’ pending caseload.”

– Devin O’Malley, DOJ spokesman

McHenry’s memo is part of a larger push led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who issued a broader memo late last year outlining principles to ensure that the “adjudication of immigration court cases serves the national interest,” and gave McHenry the “authority” to set time frames for the resolution of cases, and to evaluate the performance of immigration judges and “take corrective action where needed.”

Currently, less than 10 percent of immigration cases pending meet the definition of “priority,” according to McHenry, leading him to address “confusion” and “clarify” the department’s priorities. That statistic, however, conveys a “potentially mistaken impression” of the importance of completing the other 600,000-plus pending cases that do not bear a “priority” designation, according to McHenry.

“All cases involving individuals in detention or custody, regardless of the custodian, are priorities for completion,” McHenry wrote, but noted that “the designation of a case as a priority is not intended to mandate a specific outcome in any particular case.”

Other measures McHenry ordered were new benchmarks for courts, and for immigration judges.

The new measures require that 85 percent of all non-status detained removal cases be completed within 60 days of filing; 85 percent of all non-status non-detained removal cases be completed within 1 year of filing; and 85 percent of all motions adjudicated within 14 days of the request.

McHenry also required 90 percent of custody redeterminations to be completed within 14 days of the request, and 95 percent of all hearings to be completed on their initial scheduled hearing date.

Another new rule requires 100 percent of “all credible fear reviews” to be completed within seven days.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.”

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

Thanks to Dan Kowalski over at LexisNexis for sending this item my way.

Inane memos like this, issued without consultation and meaningful input from either the U.S. Immigration Judges who actually decide the cases or the attorneys who litigate in immigration Court, are basically “DOA.” Significantly, both the BIA and the Federal Courts have made it clear that compliance with bureaucratic “timeframes” can’t overrule the legal requirements of Due Process in an individual case. Even assuming that Sessions can “co-opt” the BIA, the Federal Courts will be sending back cases in which it appears that the Immigration Judge has elevated the desire to meet timeframes over the requirements of fundamental fairness and Due Process.

But, quite contrary to Acting Director James (not “John” as the article states) McHenry’s bogus claim that the memo does not suggest any particular outcome, the memo clearly suggests that U.S. Immigration Judges should cut corners and deny Due Process to meet these artificial guidelines or risk having their performance judged “deficient.” For example, most detained cases with asylum applications that go to an “Individual Merits” hearing are going to take more than 60 days for the Respondent to locate a pro bono attorney and for that attorney to complete the application and prepare for what often can be a very complex and hotly contested hearing.  It’s an open invitation, if not an actual directive, to engage in sloppy, unprofessional judging.

Moreover, the tone of the memo insultingly suggests that the problem is that  in the absence of this type of sophomoric “guidance from above” U.S. Immigration Judges haven’t been working very hard or effectively to complete cases. Therefore, “cracking the administrative whip” — by folks that by and large are not and never have actually been sitting U.S. immigration Judges — will somehow motivate them to “pedal faster.” What a crock! Almost any executive or manager worth his or her salt knows that this type of “scare tactic” applied to a senior professional workforce accomplishes nothing besides ratcheting up already astronomically high stress levels and unnecessarily diminishing already low morale.

This memorandum is, however, yet another key exhibit on how and why the current U.S. Immigration Court is being incompetently administered by the DOJ and their “gofors” over at EOIR Headquarters in Falls Church. With the likes of Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions in charge of the U.S. Immigration Courts, things are only going to get worse. American needs an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court now! 

PWS

01-18-18

 

 

 

GONZO’S WORLD: HIS HIGHLY DISINGENUOUS “TRIBUTE” TO DR. KING WHILE ACTIVELY UNDERMINING MLK’S VISION OF RACIAL EQUALITY IN AMERICA OUTRAGES CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATES! — Hollow Words From An Empty Man!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-in-remarks-criticized-as-beyond-ironic-praises-martin-luther-king-jr/2018/01/16/cb3a8bd8-fae3-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html

 

Sari Horwitz reports for the Washington Post:

“All he had were his words and the power of truth,” Sessions said. “ . . . His message, his life and his death changed hearts and minds. Those changed souls then changed the laws of this land.”

But civil rights leaders criticized Sessions’s remarks, made at a time, they said, when the Justice Department is rolling back efforts to promote civil and voting rights.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Tuesday for Justice Department employees to “remember, celebrate and act” in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

“It is beyond ironic for Jeff Sessions to celebrate the architecture of civil rights protections inspired by Dr. King and other leaders as he works to tear down these very protections,” said Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama and now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“Make no mistake,” Gupta said. “If Dr. King were alive today, he would be protesting outside of Jeff Sessions’s office.”

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said that in the past year, the Justice Department under Sessions has taken action to “obstruct and reverse civil rights enforcement.”

She and others point to a new policy that calls for federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory-minimum penalties. Sessions has defended President Trump’s travel ban and threatened to take away funding from cities with policies he considers too lenient toward undocumented immigrants. The department’s new guidance and stances on voting rights and LGBT issues also might disenfranchise minorities and poor people, civil rights advocates say.

Justice officials say that Sessions’s actions reflect an aggressive, by-the-book interpretation of federal law and that his policies are geared toward fighting violent crime and drug trafficking.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

Absurd and insulting! Actions speak louder than words, Gonzo! Every day that you spend in office mocks our Constitution, the rule of law, human decency, and the legacy of MLK and others who fought for racial and social equality and social justice under the law.

I have no doubt that if Dr. King were alive today, he and his followers would be on your and Trump’s  “hit list.” Indeed, peacefully but forcefully standing up to and shaming tone-deaf, White Nationalist, racially challenged politicos like you, who lived in the past and inhibited America’s future with their racism, was one of the defining marks of MLK’s life!

How do things like increasing civil immigration detention, building the “New American Gulag,” stripping unaccompanied children of their rights to an Immigration Court hearing, mindlessly attacking so-called “sanctuary cities,” mocking hard-working pro bono immigration attorneys and their efforts, reducing the number of refugees, excluding Muslims, building a wall, stripping protections from Dreamers, reducing legal immigration, favoring White immigrants, and spreading false narratives about Latino migrants and crime “honor” the legacy of Dr. King?

Indeed, the “Sanctuary Cities Movement” appears to have a direct historical connection to King’s non-violent civil disobedience aimed at the enforcement of “Jim Crow” laws. Much as today, those on the “wrong side of history” wrapped themselves in hypocritical bogus “rule of law” arguments as they mocked and violated the civil rights of African Americans. 

At some point, America needs and deserves a real Attorney General, one who recognizes and fights for the rights of everyone in America, including minorities, the poor, the most vulnerable, and the so-called undocumented population, who, contrary to your actions and rhetoric, are entitled to full Due Process of law under our Constitution. Imagine how a real Attorney General, one like say Vanita Gupta, might act. Now that would truly honor Dr. King’s memory.

PWS

01-17-18

 

DEPORTATION TO DEATH — HOW AMERICA FAILS TO LIVE UP TO ITS HUMANITARIAN OBLIGATIONS!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/01/15/lgbt-el-salvador/

Josefina Salomon reports from Mexico fro the Washington Post:

“MEXICO CITY — Cristel woke up on the freezing floor of a tiny room in a detention center in San Diego. She was alone, dirty, hungry and exhausted. It was April. Eight days earlier, she had been arrested on the American side of the border crossing at Tijuana, where she planned to claim asylum. She had been in solitary confinement since then. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers had given her no reason for her detention.

Five years on the run had left her drained. From the floor of that San Diego cell, it seemed like she was out of options. She could not bear the thought of being forced by ICE to return to El Salvador. That would be a death sentence.

Death threats from violent gangs had chased Cristel from her native El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, up to the U.S. border. They kept her awake at night, echoing in the back of her head. In El Salvador and on her journey north, she had been bullied, threatened, robbed, beaten and raped. At one point, she had turned to sex work. She had been kidnapped and abused. She had escaped, but she still didn’t feel safe.

Cristel is not her real name. She is 25 and grew up in San Salvador. As a transgender woman, she has faced discrimination and violence nearly her entire life. My colleagues and I met Cristel half a dozen times over the last 18 months, first in San Salvador, and later at different points along her journey, as she moved toward what she hoped was salvation in the U.S.

Over time, Cristel lost weight and dark circles appeared under her eyes as fear, exhaustion and frustration took hold. Sometimes while we were talking, there would be seemingly unstoppable bursts of tears. Weeks might go by before we heard from her. Had she been hurt, or worse? The question, “What is going to happen to me?”, which she asked at every one of our meetings, became more and more urgent.\

. . . .

Starting in the 1990s, the U.S. was one of the first countries to begin admitting asylum seekers and refugees who were persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation. While the Trump administration has not sought to change U.S. asylum law, it has made it clear that it aims to decrease the overall number of refugees admitted into the country and to raise the threshold for asylum seekers’ “credible fear” of persecution as a basis for their asylum.

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of asylum claims by people from El Salvador has been increasing dramatically in the past few years. There were nearly 18,000 claims in 2016 alone. While the number of people who have secured asylum in the U.S. increased in that period, so did the number of claims that were denied, abandoned or withdrawn. Many prospective asylum seekers and analysts have said this is because of the arduous process and the harsh detention conditions asylum seekers are forced to endure. The most vulnerable, like Cristel, often have few options but return to the danger they were desperately trying to escape in the first place.

In San Diego, after first being confined to solitary, Cristel was transferred to a cell that she shared with eight men. She was kept there for a month and a half. At her hearing, when it eventually came, she was appointed a pro bono lawyer, but her claim for asylum was denied. She was transferred to another detention center in Arizona, where she was handcuffed, put on a plane and sent back to a nightmare.

. . . .

She had gone back to live at her mother’s house, but the gang found her anyway. The extortion had resumed. Every time she is late with her payments, even by a day or two, gang members beat her. “I’m exhausted of being forced to pay to live. I want to leave but there’s nowhere to go.”

Sobbing, she said, “They are going to kill me.”

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Read the complete story at the link.

This is what “Trumpism” and “GOP restrictionism” are really about — turning our backs on those in the most need of protection.

One of the most disturbing things about this story is that, as noted by Solomon, the U.S. actually has been fairly routinely granting gender-based cases like this since at least the mid-1990s. See, e.g., Matter of Tobaso-Alfonso,20 I&N Dec. 819 (BIA 1990). In many U.S. Immigration Courts cases like this would routinely be granted, often with the DHS’s concurrence.

So, “Cristel” was unlucky.  She got the got the wrong Court, the wrong Judge, the wrong time, and perhaps the wrong pro bono attorney — and it’s likely to cost her life! That’s not justice, and that’s not a properly functioning U.S. Immigration Court that “guarantees fairness and due process to all.” Instead, the “captive” U.S. Immigration Court is turning into a “whistle-stop on the Trump/Sessions Deportation Railroad!” That’s something of which every true American should be ashamed. We need an independent, Due Process focused U.S. Immigration Court now!

PWS

01-16-18

CHRISTIE THOMPSON @ THE MARSHALL PROJECT: SESSIONS’S APPARENT ATTACK ON “ADMINISTRATIVE CLOSING” IN U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT COULD FURTHER SCREW UP ALREADY FAILING SYSTEM — It Wasn’t A Problem, But Is Likely To Become One By The Time He’s Finished By Stripping Judges Of Last Vestiges Of Independent Authority Over Their Mushrooming Dockets! – I’m Quoted In This Article!

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/01/09/the-doj-decision-that-could-mean-thousands-more-deportations

Christie writes

“Sessions considers tying the hands of immigration judges.

Administrative closure sounds like one of the driest bureaucratic terms imaginable, but it has huge implications for immigrants and their families. Now, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oversees immigration judges, is considering limiting that power.

Sessions wrote in a recent brief that he would review judges’ authority to administratively close immigration cases, the latest in a series of Department of Justice memos and policies that could reshape immigration courts and make it even harder for people to remain in the U.S.

Administrative closure has been used frequently by judges to drop cases against people who aren’t a priority for deportation or who have other pending legal issues. Judges under the Obama administration used this option far more than previous judges, administratively closing 180,000 cases in four years. Critics say it operates as a kind of backdoor amnesty, particularly for people who don’t qualify for other kinds of relief under immigration law.

Closed cases are in a sort of limbo: the immigrant isn’t legally in the U. S., but the government isn’t pursuing deportation. Authorities can change their mind at any time. Under Obama, this usually happened only if the immigrant went on to commit a crime or if there was a development in his or her legal status. But the Trump Administration has already begun re-openingthousands of administratively closed cases. Immigration judges under Trump have also stopped closing cases for people who didn’t used to be an enforcement priority — such as parents of U.S. citizen children who had been in the country for a long time and had no criminal record.

Judges, attorneys and advocates say that ending administrative closure entirely could have a significant impact on individual cases and the immigration court system overall. Sessions could decide to reopen as many as 350,000 closed cases, which could flood a backlogged system that has 650,000 pending cases.

“If he brings them all back into court at once, that’s going to cripple the courts even further,” said Paul Wickham Schmidt, a former immigration judge and former head of the Board of Immigration Appeals. “They can’t do the cases they have now — why is he out there looking for more?”

There are groups of immigrants for whom administrative closure is particularly important. Someone being deported for a crime but still fighting the conviction may have his or her case closed while an appeal is pending. Judges may also stop removal proceedings for immigrants with serious mental health issues or intellectual disabilities if they are found to be incompetent to go through court hearings.

Many undocumented children also ask for administrative closure while they’re applying for juvenile protected status, a legal status that can take years to wind its way through state family court and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Without administrative closure, “those children could be deported while their application for a green card is pending with another immigration agency,” said Nicholas Phillips, an immigration attorney with Prisoners Legal Services of New York.

If administrative closure isn’t an option, judges have another option of issuing a continuance, which postpones the decision. However, that practice also recently came under fire from the attorney general. Sessions’ office recently criticized the increased use of continuances by immigration judges, saying they delayed the courts.

The Justice Department has made several decisions and proposals recently that would change how immigration judges do their job.

This fall, the department proposed setting case completion quotas for judges to try to speed up decision-making. It released a memo in December that reminding judges to act “impartially” when looking at cases involving children, despite their commonly sympathetic stories. DOJ also said judges should give asylum applications more careful scrutiny and be more reluctant to postpone a case.

Sessions’ announcement of the review came when he intervened in the immigration case of a minor who arrived from Guatemala in 2014. He has asked the Department of Homeland Security and other interested groups to submit briefs on the issue of administrative closure by a February deadline.”

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

There are an estimated 350,000 pending cases currently in “administratively closed” (“AC”) status! In my extensive experience at all levels of our immigration system, there are sound reasons supporting almost all of these ACs.

If Sessions, as expected by most advocates, reaches the rather absurd conclusion that notwithstanding over three decades of use by Administrations and Attorneys General of both parties, AC is somehow “illegal” or should be “withdrawn,” these cases likely would mindlessly be thrown back into the already overwhelmed U.S. Immigration Courts on top of the 660,000 already pending cases. Over a million pending cases! That has the potential to “implode” or “explode” or “sink” (choose your favorite verb) the Immigration Court system on the spot.

In reality, AC has been nothing but a godsend for overworked, over-stressed U.S. Immigration Judges and the immigration Court system. Rather than being forced to “docket babysit” cases that can better be resolved elsewhere in the system than in Immigration Court, or that under a proper use of resources and prosecutorial discretion by the DHS never should have been placed in Immigration Court in the first place, the Immigration Judges can “clear some of the deadwood” from their dockets and concentrate on the cases that actually need their limited time and attention. No, AC by itself can’t solve the chronic backlog and due process problems currently festering in the U.S. Immigration Courts. But, reducing the active docket by a whopping one-third without treading on anyone’s due process rights was certainly a step in the right direction! 

The current backlog has been aggravated, if not actually largely created, by the practice of “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) by politicos in the DOJ and the White House going back decades. As Administrations and AG’s change, and DHS Enforcement priorities change with them, cases that were once “priorities” are shuffled off to the end of the docket to make way for the new “enforcement priority of the moment.” Other times, Immigration Judges are shuffled or detailed to the new “priority dockets” and their now “non-priority regular cases” are arbitrarily reassigned to other judges (who already are carrying full dockets themselves). Many times, this means taking cases that are “ready for trial” and replacing them with cases that aren’t ready for trial because the respondent needs to find a lawyer, file applications, and prepare the case. Other times, when dockets are shifted around largely without meaningful participation by the Immigration Judges, the DHS files or EOIR “record files” are not available, thus causing further delays.

In that manner, cases are not completed on any regular, predictable schedule, “Individual Hearing” dates become “jokes,” and U.S. Immigration Judges lose both credibility and the last vestiges of independent control over their court dockets as politicos and bureaucrats who neither fully understand nor are properly part of the Immigration Court System screw things up time after time.

Sessions appears anxious to add to and further aggravate these problems, rather than addressing them ion a reasonable and systematic manner with participation of all parties who use and rely on the U.S. Immigration Courts for due process and justice. Shame on him and on our Congress for allowing this to happen!

As I’ve said over and over: It’s past time for Congress to create an independent U.S. Immigration Court system that would be free of these types of highly politicized and totally wasteful shenanigans!

Only an independent U.S. Immigration Court will provide the “level playing field” and truly impartial administration and adjudication necessary to bring these potentially “life or death” cases to conclusion in a manner that is both efficient and in full compliance with fundamental fairness and due process (and, consequently, will find a high degree of acceptance in the U.S. Courts of Appeals, rather than generating too many “returns for redos” as happens in the current “haste makes waste” environment at EOIR.)

PWS

01-10-18

ELISE FOLEY @ HUFFPOST: TRUMP’S WHITE NATIONALIST AGENDA APPEARS ON TRACK TO SINK DREAMER AGREEMENT, PERHAPS RESULTING IN USG SHUTDOWN! – Sen. Durbin, Dems “Just Say No” To Restrictionist Measures!

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-daca-dreamers-dick-durbin_us_5a4fff0ce4b01e1a4b151ad1

Elise writes in HuffPost:

“WASHINGTON  ― President Donald Trump sent senators a lengthy set of demands on Friday that could tank a deal to help Dreamers ― young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children ― and might risk a government funding agreement in the process.

The document is essentially an immigration restrictionist wish list. It calls for a border wall, more immigration enforcement agents, punishment for so-called “sanctuary cities,” restrictions on citizens and legal residents sponsoring family members’ visas, and policies to make it easier to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. No dollar amounts were included in the list of demands, but The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Friday that Trump is seeking nearly $18 billion to pay for a border wall.

Democrats and immigrant rights activists have said they won’t accept the White House’s demands in a deal to grant legal status to Dreamers, hundreds of thousands of whom are at risk of losing deportation protections because Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program.

The list could be enough to trigger a Democratic revolt on a government funding bill that needs to pass later this month, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), whose office shared the White House’s list with reporters, said in a statement.

“President Trump has said he may need a good government shutdown to get his wall,” Durbin said. “With this demand, he seems to be heading in that direction. … It’s outrageous that the White House would undercut months of bipartisan efforts by again trying to put its entire wish-list of hardline anti-immigrant bills—plus an additional $18 billion in wall funding—on the backs of these young people.”

Trump ended DACA in September and said Congress should act to give more permanent protections to recipients of the two-year work permits and deportation relief. DACA recipients will begin to lose permits in greater numbers in March, although activists estimate they’re already losing them at a rate of about 122 per day.

In the months since Trump ended the program, the White House has put out long lists of immigration priorities, and Trump has made broad pronouncements in public comments and tweets, largely focused around building a wall, ending the diversity visa lottery and eliminating so-called “chain migration,” immigration restrictionists’ preferred term for family reunification visas.

The list of demands was initially created in October, with Stephen Miller, a Trump policy adviser, listed as the author of the document, according to the properties on the PDF file. But senators didn’t get a copy until Friday.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the document.

Democrats have said they are willing to give Trump some of what he wants on border security, such as more infrastructure, technology and funds, in exchange for legal status for Dreamers. But they, and Dreamers themselves, have argued any deal must be proportional — not everything Republicans want in exchange for legal status for one subset of the undocumented population. During comprehensive immigration reform efforts in 2013, for example, Democrats agreed to an overhaul of the legal immigration system, border security measures and enforcement as part of a package that would have also granted a path to legal status and eventual citizenship for much of the undocumented immigrant population.

Democrats, activists and even some Republicans have warned that piling on more immigration issues has the potential to sink a deal — it happened during past reform efforts and could again now.

The document the White House sent to senators on Friday could indicate the administration either thinks it can get Democrats to settle because of their desire to help Dreamers, or that it doesn’t really want a deal at all.

I am not a bargaining chip for Stephen Miller’s vendetta against brown and black people. Offering up my safety in exchange for the suffering of immigrant families is sick and we won’t stand for it. Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream

The demands include ending the diversity visa lottery and limiting refugee intake, as well as allowing citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor only minor children and spouses for green cards ― shutting out the ability to bring over adult children or siblings. Trump has disparaged both the diversity visa lottery and “chain migration” as dangerous by citing two terror incidents allegedly perpetrated by people who entered through those programs, although there is no evidence there is a greater risk of terror by immigrants with those visas.

The White House also asked for funds to hire 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and to give local police more authority to assist with deportation efforts. Another priority is to more easily penalize “sanctuary cities,” the loose term for jurisdictions that don’t fully cooperate with immigration enforcement, often because they view it as bad for community policing or because of constitutional concerns.

The list also includes changing policies for people seeking asylum and for unaccompanied children apprehended at the border, restricting relief and making it easier to quickly deport them. It would also mandate E-Verify, a system that allows employers to check immigration status of would-be hires, something immigrant advocates and some business interests oppose because there currently is no pathway for many undocumented people in the U.S. to get status and some industries say they can’t find enough willing legal workers.

The demands include ending the diversity visa lottery and limiting refugee intake, as well as allowing citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor only minor children and spouses for green cards ― shutting out the ability to bring over adult children or siblings. Trump has disparaged both the diversity visa lottery and “chain migration” as dangerous by citing two terror incidents allegedly perpetrated by people who entered through those programs, although there is no evidence there is a greater risk of terror by immigrants with those visas.

The White House also asked for funds to hire 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and to give local police more authority to assist with deportation efforts. Another priority is to more easily penalize “sanctuary cities,” the loose term for jurisdictions that don’t fully cooperate with immigration enforcement, often because they view it as bad for community policing or because of constitutional concerns.

The list also includes changing policies for people seeking asylum and for unaccompanied children apprehended at the border, restricting relief and making it easier to quickly deport them. It would also mandate E-Verify, a system that allows employers to check immigration status of would-be hires, something immigrant advocates and some business interests oppose because there currently is no pathway for many undocumented people in the U.S. to get status and some industries say they can’t find enough willing legal workers.”

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Read the rest of Elise’s report at the link.
I think that “Dreamers” are a good place for the Dems to take a stand. And, given the “Bakuninist Wing” of the GOP (who share Trump’s desire to destroy Government, but are dissatisfied with the pace of the destruction), it’s going to be very difficult for Trump to get any type of budget passed without Democratic support.
The DHS needs an additional 10,000 agents like we all need holes in our heads. They don’t have enough legitimate law enforcement functions to perform with the staff they have; that’s why they have time for chasing after kids and stuffing their generally law-abiding parents into an already overwhelmed Immigration Court system for hearings that probably won’t take place until long after this Administration is history. (And, that’s even without Gonzo’s current “plan” which appears to be intentionally “jacking up” the Immigration Court backlog to more than 1,000,000 cases overnight by “recycling” all of the currently “administratively closed” cases!)
The words of Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream,  are worth repeating and keeping in mind:
“I am not a bargaining chip for Stephen Miller’s vendetta against brown and black people. Offering up my safety in exchange for the suffering of immigrant families is sick and we won’t stand for it.”
PWS
01-06-17

LAW360: BIA REMOVES IMMIGRATION JUDGE FOR ABUSIVE CONDUCT DURING HEARING!

https://www.law360.com/articles/999284/judge-s-hostile-and-bullying-acts-prompt-new-hearing

Kevin Penton reports for Law360:

“Law360, New York (January 5, 2018, 9:27 PM EST) — The Board of Immigration Appeals has vacated an immigration judge’s denials of a Salvadoran native’s bids to secure asylum and to duck deportation, after finding that the judge used “hostile and bullying behavior” toward the individual’s attorney.

The BIA wants a different judge to review the case, essentially from scratch, after finding that the Immigration Judge Quynh V. Bain “screamed” at the lawyer for more than five minutes, mimicked her voice, called her “several disrespectful names,” said she was “unprofessional” and refused to allow a recess…”

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Those with complete Law360 access can read Penton’s full story at the link. Kudos to the BIA for “stepping up” to stop such abuses and protect due process!

Surprisingly, and sadly, Judge Quynh V. Bain is one of my former colleagues at the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, Virginia. The Arlington Immigration Court generally has had a well-deserved reputation for fairness, professionalism, respect, teamwork, and unfailing courtesy. In other words, it’s always been a court where lawyers on both sides enjoy practicing. Indeed, it often serves as a “training court” for student attorneys, interns, new Assistant Chief Counsel, and newly appointed U.S. Immigration Judges. So, I’d have to assume that this was an aberration in the context of Arlington.

Nevertheless, given the high stress levels that U.S. Immigration Judges are already working under, the plans of Attorney General Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions to “torque up” the pressure on Immigration Judges to turn our final orders of removal without much, if any regard, for due process, the counter-pressure from the U.S. Courts of Appeals for Immigration Courts to function like “real” courts, the many newly appointed inexperienced Immigration Judges, and the lack of meaningful training for Immigration Judges, I would expect such incidents to increase in the future. Just another reason why it’s past time for an independent Article I U.S. immigration Court!

Changing to the topic of Law360, one of my favorite “immigration beat” reporters, Allissa Wickham (a/k/a the fabulous “AWick”) tells me that she has left Law360 for a “new gig” with HBO, working on a show featuring Wyatt Cenac (formerly of the “Daily Show”). The show is scheduled to air this spring. Allissa says that she will continue to do original reporting, so hopefully at least some immigration topics will find their way into her “portfolio.” Good luck Allissa, and thanks for all of your great immigration reporting, clear writing, and many contributions while at Law360!

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PWS

01-06-18

 

 

 

 

TRAC: IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOG CONTINUES TO MUSHROOM TO NEARLY 660,000 CASES WITH NO END IN SIGHT!

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
==========================================
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Greetings. During the first two months of FY 2018, the Immigration Court number of pending cases climbed by an additional 30,000. According to the latest case-by-case court records, the backlog at the end of November 2017 had reached 658,728, up from 629,051 at the end of September 2017. Despite the hiring of many additional immigration judges, there has been no apparent slackening in the growth of this backlog. The rate of growth during the first two months of FY 2018 was in fact greater than the pace of growth during FY 2017.

California leads the country with the largest Immigration Court backlog of 123,217 cases. Texas is second with 103,384 pending cases as of the end of November 2017, followed by New York with 89,489 cases.

These and other findings are based upon very current case-by-case court records that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. For further highlights see:

http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/apprep_backlog.php

And for full details, go to TRAC’s online backlog tool at:

http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/

In addition, many of TRAC’s free query tools – which track the court’s overall backlog, new DHS filings, court dispositions and much more – have now been updated through November 2017. For an index to the full list of TRAC’s immigration tools go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/imm/tools/

If you want to be sure to receive notifications whenever updated data become available, sign up at:

http://tracfed.syr.edu/cgi-bin/tracuser.pl?pub=1&list=imm

or follow us on Twitter @tracreports or like us on Facebook:

http://facebook.com/tracreports

TRAC is self-supporting and depends on foundation grants, individual contributions and subscription fees for the funding needed to obtain, analyze and publish the data we collect on the activities of the U.S. federal government. To help support TRAC’s ongoing efforts, go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/cgi-bin/sponsor/sponsor.pl

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University
Suite 360, Newhouse II
Syracuse, NY 13244-2100
315-443-3563

———————————————————————————
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is a nonpartisan joint research center of the Whitman School of Management (http://whitman.syr.edu) and the Newhouse School of Public Communications (http://newhouse.syr.edu) at Syracuse University. If you know someone who would like to sign up to receive occasional email announcements and press releases, they may go to http://trac.syr.edu and click on the E-mail Alerts link at the bottom of the page. If you do not wish to receive future email announcements and wish to be removed from our list, please send an email to trac@syr.edu with REMOVE as the subject.

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Of personal interest to me, the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, Virginia now has a pending caseload approaching 40,000 cases! Yet, amazingly, the “powers that be” apparently are still detailing Arlington immigration Judges to other dockets! Talk about ADR in action! No wonder cases are being set for Individual Hearing dates 4-5 years in the future!

PWS

01-04-18

THE HILL: Nolan Says That Expedited Removal Can “Ease The Burden” Of Immigration Detention; I Don’t Think So!

http://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/365829-expedited-removal-can-solve-concerns-with-immigration-detention

Nolan Rappaport writes at The Hill:

“Earlier this month, the DHS Office of Inspector General (IG) released a report on “Concerns about ICE Detainee Treatment and Care at Detention Facilities.” According to the ACLU, the way to address the violationsdescribed in this “damning new report” is to “release people from immigration detention and prohibit ICE from using dangerous and inhumane jails.”

The IG found problems at four of the five detention centers it inspected, but it is a stretch to call the report “damning” or to claim that ICE is “using dangerous and inhumane jails.” Many of the problems were relatively minor, and, apparently, all of them are going to be corrected.

In addition to federal service centers, ICE uses facilities owned and operated by private companies and state and local government facilities. The contracts of facilities that hold ICE detainees require them to adhere to the 2000 National Detention Standards, the 2008 Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), or the 2011 PBNDS.

. . . .

The immigration court backlog is so long that, as of October 2017, the average wait for a hearing was 691 days, and Trump’s backlog reduction plan isn’t going to bring it under control.

ICE cannot release detainees because wait-times are too long. Many of them will not return for their hearings. During FY2015, 23.4 percent of the aliens who were released from custody did not return for their hearings, and releases were limited to cases in which there was reason to expect the aliens to return.

I see only two solutions, reduce the backlog by removing aliens from the immigration court and disposing of their cases in expedited removal proceedings, which do not require a hearing before an immigration judge, or have a large legalization program.

Which alternative do you expect the Republicans to choose?”

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

Why Expedited Removal Isn’t the Answer (Leaving Aside The Substantial Legal and Moral Issues Involved):

  • Under Trump, DHS has already “maxed out” the use of expedited removal at the border. 
  • While Trump’s Executive Order called for an expansion of expedited removal to individuals who have been in the country for less than two years, that requires a regulatory change which, curiously, the DH’s has failed to accomplish in the nearly one year since the Executive Order.
  • Even with expedited removal expanded to two years, the vast majority of individuals comprising the “court backlog” have been there at least that long and therefore wouldn’t be candidates for expedited removal.
  • Of those limited number who have been in the U.S. for less than two years, many have already passed “credible fear” or “reasonable fear” and are, therefore, entitled to Individual hearings.
  • Some of those removed from the docket for expedited removal could still pass the “credible fear” or “reasonable fear” process before the Asylum Office and have their cases restored to the Immigraton Court docket (with an entirely new proceedings that would have to “start from scratch”).
  • Under BIA rulings, once proceedings have commenced before the Immigration Court, the DHS can’t unilaterally remove them from the court’s docket for expedited removal. It requires a DHS motion to terminate, a chance for the respondent to be heard in opposition, and a decision  by the Immigration Judge. Given the administrative mess at both EOIR and DHS Chief Counsel, filing and responding to those motions can be an administrative problem. Moreover, although almost all motions to terminate for expedited removal ultimately are granted by the Immigraton Judges, the termination is a “final order” subject to appeal to the BIA.
  • Individuals placed in expedited removal whose “credible fear’ or “reasonable fear” claims are rejected, have a right to expedited review before an Immigraton Judge. Such reviews generally take precedence over other types of cases, but do not produce “final orders” from the Immigraton Judge. At some level, ratcheting up the expedited removal process actually inhibits the processing of previously scheduled cases before the Immigration Court.

What Does Work:

  • Alternatives to Detention (“ADT) such as ankle bracelet monitoring. See, e.g.,  http://lirs.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/The-Real-Alternatives-to-Detention-FINAL-06.27.17.pdf   
  • Government statistics show that juveniles with lawyers appear for their hearings over 95% of the time! See, e.g.https://www.justice.gov/eoir/file/852516/download
    • Recent studies of results of The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, which guarantees lawyers to respondents, showed that such represented individuals were 12 times more likely to win their cases. See https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/9/16623906/immigration-court-lawyer
    • This strongly suggests that immigration hearings conducted for unrepresented individuals are inherently unfair and a denial of due process, something that should be (but isn’t) the number one concern of the DOJ and EOIR.
    • My own experience at the Arlington Immigration court was that individuals 1) represented by counsel , and 2) with applications for relief filed showed up for their hearings nearly 100% of the time. Indeed, beyond criminal record and family ties, those were the two most significant factors for me in setting immigration bonds.

An Administration truly interested in improving the performance of the Immigration Courts, achieving due process, and lessening the need for immigration detention would be working closely with NGOs, bar associations, states and localities, and ADT providers to develop cooperative  ways of maximizing representation in Immigraton Court, But, this Administration is far more interested in advancing a xenophobic, White Nationalist agenda than it is in fairness, due process, or solving problems.

PWS

12-23-17

MICA ROSENBERG @ REUTERS ANALYZES GONZO’S LATEST ATTACK ON CHILDREN (OR, IN “GONZOSPEAK” “UNMARRIED INDIVIDUALS UNDER THE AGE OF 18”) IN US IMMIGRATION COURT – No More “Mister Nice Guy” — Show ’em The Ugly Side Of America — These Kids Are Out To Get Us (Even If They Are So Scared, Confused, and Traumatized They Barely Know The Time Of Day)

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-exclusive/exclusive-u-s-memo-weakens-guidelines-for-protecting-immigrant-children-in-court-idUSKBN1EH037

Mica reports:

“A Dec. 20 memo, issued by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) replaces 2007 guidelines, spelling out policies and procedures judges should follow in dealing with children who crossed the border illegally alone and face possible deportation.

The new memo removes suggestions contained in the 2007 memo for how to conduct “child-sensitive questioning” and adds reminders to judges to maintain “impartiality” even though “juvenile cases may present sympathetic allegations.” The new document also changes the word “child” to “unmarried individual under the age of 18” in many instances.

An EOIR official said the new memo contained “clarifications and updates” to 10-year-old guidance “in order to be consistent with the laws as they’ve been passed by Congress.” The new memo was posted on the Justice Department website but has not been previously reported.

Immigration advocates said they worry the new guidelines could make court appearances for children more difficult, and a spokeswoman for the union representing immigration judges said judges are concerned about the tone of the memo.

President Donald Trump has made tougher immigration enforcement a key policy goal of his administration, and has focused particularly on trying to curb the illegal entry of children. The administration says it wants to prevent vulnerable juveniles from making perilous journeys to the United States and eliminate fraud from programs for young immigrants.

One changed section of the memo focuses on how to make children comfortable in the court in advance of hearings. The old guidance says they “should be permitted to explore” courtrooms and allowed to “sit in all locations, (including, especially, the judge’s bench and the witness stand).”

The new guidance says such explorations should take place only “to the extent that resources and time permit” and specifically puts the judge’s bench off limits.

The new memo also warns judges to be skeptical, since an unaccompanied minor “generally receives more favorable treatment under the law than other categories of illegal aliens,” which creates “an incentive to misrepresent accompaniment status or age in order to attempt to qualify for the benefits.” It also says to be on the lookout for “fraud and abuse,” language that was not in the previous memo.

‘WOLVES IN SHEEP CLOTHING’

Immigration judges are appointed by the U.S. Attorney General and courts are part of the Department of Justice, not an independent branch. The only sitting immigration judges routinely allowed to speak to the media are representatives of their union, the National Association of Immigration Judges.

Dana Marks, a sitting judge and spokeswoman for the union, said the “overall tone” of the memo “is very distressing and concerning to immigration judges.”

“There is a feeling that the immigration courts are just being demoted into immigration enforcement offices, rather than neutral arbiters,” Marks said. “There has been a relentless beating of the drum toward enforcement rather than due process.”

Former immigration judge Andrew Arthur, who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes lower levels of immigration overall, said the new guidelines were needed.

In their previous form, he said, “so much emphasis was placed on the potential inability of the alien to understand the proceedings … that it almost put the judge into the position of being an advocate.”

The courts have had to handle a surge in cases for unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, after their numbers sky-rocketed in 2014 as violence in the region caused residents to flee north.

While illegal crossings initially fell after Trump took office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that since May, each month has seen an increase in children being apprehended either alone or with family members.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech in Boston in September that the special accommodations for unaccompanied minors had been exploited by “gang members who come to this country as wolves in sheep clothing.”

Echoing some of these concerns, the new memo notes in a preamble that not all child cases involve innocents, and that the courts might see “an adolescent gang member” or “a teenager convicted as an adult for serious criminal activity.”

Jennifer Podkul, policy director of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) said Congress included special procedural protections for immigrant children in a 2008 anti-trafficking bill to “make sure that a kid gets a fair shot in the courtroom.”

“These kids are by themselves telling a very complicated and oftentimes very traumatic story,” said Podkul. “The approach of this memo, which is much more suspicious, is not going to help get to the truth of a child’s story.”

In cases where children are called to testify, the old guidance instructed judges to “seek to limit the amount of time the child is on the stand.” The new guidance says that judges should “consider” limiting the child’s time on the stand “without compromising due process for the opposing party,” which is generally a government prosecutor.

The memo leaves in a range of special accommodations made for children, including allowing them to bring a pillow or booster seat or a “toy, book, or other personal item.” It also maintains that cases involving unaccompanied minors should be heard on a separate docket when possible and that children should not be detained or transported with adults.

Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Sue Horton and Mary Milliken”

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Yes, my dear friend Judge Dana Leigh Marks, Gonzo sees and treats the U.S. Immigration Courts as part of DHS Enforcement — “Just a Whistlestop on The Deportation Express.”

After 35 years of flawed DOJ stewardship and improper political meddling by all Administrations, the U.S. Immigration Courts are largely back in the same hopeless, understaffed, incompetently administered, enforcement-dominated mess that they were in 1983 when the Reagan Administration created EOIR to provide at least some actual and apparent separation between prosecutorial and judicial functions.

The only solution is an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court. Until that happens, failure, inefficiency, ands unfairness will continue to plague the immigration Court system.

Eventually, the Article III reviewing courts are going to have to decide whether 1) to simply put the Constitution and their judicial oaths in the drawer and give the Executive a “free pass” on immigration; or 2) do their duty, stop the train, and essentially take over the administration of the immigration Courts by ordering Immigration Judges and the BIA to conform to certain basic due process requirements or face the prospect of having almost every Petition for Review returned for a “redo.” If you think the backlog is bad now, wait till that happens.

At this point, I hope for #2, but see #1 as a distinct possibility, particularly as Trump continues to co-opt the Article III judiciary with judges for whom loyalty to Trump and his agenda appears a more important qualification that a reputation for scholarship, legal excellence, collegiality, impartiality, and fairness.

I also found the comments of my former colleague Judge (Retired) Andrew Arthur somewhat puzzling. If you are a judge in a courtroom actually trying to carry out your constitutional duty to provide due process and fairness; the DHS is represented by an experienced Assistant Chief Counsel; and you have an unrepresented kid who is scared to return his or her home country, who is going to be that child’s advocate if not the Immigration Judge?

Rather than bogus guidelines, the Administration should be doing the right thing and the smart thing — working with the private bar to insure that cases involving claims for asylum and other protection are docketed and scheduled in a manner that insures that each applicant will have reasonable access to pro bono or low bono counsel before filing the Form I-589 for asylum.

To take the most obvious example, Jennifer Podkul, Policy Director of Kids in Need of Defense (“KIND), and Wendy Young, Executive Director of KIND are as smart as any lawyers around. They want the Immigration Court system to succeed in a fair and efficient manner. They have spent more time thinking about the problems of kids in Immigraton Court and how to solve them than any individual or group of individuals now in the US. Government.

So, instead of “trashing” immigration lawyers, why don’t Sessions and his subordinates at DOJ sit down with Young, Podkul, and some of their other high-powered NGO colleagues, and Judge Marks and the NAIJ and work out a solution for getting kids through the Immigraton Court system in a fair manner consistent with Due Process? Why is Sessions so afraid to venture outside of his little “restrictionist world” in trying to solve problems?

But, unfortunately, this Administration is much more interested in forcing failure on the system and then pointing fingers at the victims, that is, the migrants seeking justice, than it is in achieving the real reforms necessary to get our U.S. Immigration Courts operating in a fair, impartial, and efficient manner, consistent with the law and Constitutional Due Process.

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

GONZO’S WORLD: JUDICIAL REBELLION – Less Than One Year Into Gonzo’s Reign at The DOJ, One of America’s Most Conservative Judiciaries Seeks Protection From His Plans to Politicize The U.S Immigration Courts!

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/12/19/immigration-judges-revolt-against-trump-administration/

Jason “The Asylumist” Dzubow writes:

“In a little noted, but quite extraordinary move, the National Association of Immigration Judges (“NAIJ”) has asked Congress to protect its members (Immigration Judges) from the Trump Administration (their employer). The reason? The Trump Administration is seeking to “evaluate judges’ performance based on numerical measures or production quotas.” According to NAIJ, “If EOIR is successful in tying case completion quotas to judge performance evaluations, it could be the death knell for judicial independence in the Immigration Courts.” “Judges can face potential termination for good faith legal decisions of which their supervisors do not approve.”

EOIR is developing a more efficient way to adjudicate cases (and it comes with a free drink!).

Let’s start with a bit of background. NAIJ is a voluntary organization of United States Immigration Judges. It also is the recognized representative of Immigration Judges for collective bargaining purposes(in other words, the IJs’ union): “Our mission is to promote the independence of Immigration Judges and enhance the professionalism, dignity, and efficiency of the Immigration Courts, which are the trial-level tribunals where removal proceedings initiated by the Department of Homeland Security are conducted.”

According to NAIJ, the most important regulation governing IJ decision-making is 8 C.F.R. § 1003.10(b). This regulation requires that immigration judges exercise judicial independence. Specifically, “in deciding the individual cases before them, and subject to the applicable governing standards, immigration judges shall exercise their independent judgment and discretion and may take any action consistent with their authorities under the Act and regulations that is appropriate and necessary for the disposition of such cases.” 8 C.F.R. §1 003.10(b).

Up until now, IJs were exempted from quantitative performance evaluations. According to NAIJ, “The basis for this exemption was rooted in the notion that ratings created an inherent risk of actual or perceived influence by supervisors on the work of judges, with the potential of improperly affecting the outcome of cases.”

The Trump Administration is now moving to change the way it evaluates IJs. The main reason for the change is the Administration’s goal of reducing the very-large backlog of cases in Immigration Court (currently, there are about 640,000 pending cases). The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR – the office that administers the nation’s Immigration Courts) recently announced a plan to “transform[] its institutional culture to emphasize the importance of completing cases.” In other words, EOIR will judge its judges based–at least in part–on the number of cases completed.

NAIJ has called this development “alarming” and a threat to judicial independence. Why? Because when judges are forced to complete a certain number of cases, they may be unable to devote the necessary time to each case. As a result, the ability to make proper, well-thought-out decisions will suffer.

This is already a problem in Immigration Court. One IJ famously quipped that his job involved adjudicating death penalty cases in a traffic court setting. And so pushing judges to do more cases in less time will potentially impact the alien’s due process rights, and the integrity of our Immigration Courts.

NAIJ has long believed that the system needs a “structural overhaul” and has advocated for converting the Immigration Courts into Article I courts. Article I refers to the first article in the U.S. Constitution, the section on legislative (i.e., Congressional) powers. The idea is that Congress would establish an independent immigration court, much like it created a tax court and a court of veterans appeal. Such a court would be independent of the Executive Branch–the branch of government tasked with enforcing immigration law (currently, IJs are employees of the Department of Justice, a part of the Executive Branch).

NAIJ recognizes that creating Article I immigration courts “may not be feasible right now,” but it nevertheless urges Congress to protect the nation’s IJs from the new Trump Administration policy:

Congress can… easily and swiftly resolve this problem through a simple amendment to the civil service statute on performance reviews. Recognizing that performance evaluations are antithetical to judicial independence, Congress exempted Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from performance appraisals and ratings by including them in the list of occupations exempt from performance reviews in 5 U.S.C. § 4301(2)(D). This provision lists ALJs as one of eight categories (A through H) of employees who are excluded from the requirement of performance appraisals and ratings. To provide that same exemption to Immigration Judges, all that would be needed is an amendment to 5 U.S.C. § 4301(2), which would add a new paragraph (I) listing Immigration Judges in that list of exempt employees.

The fact that IJs themselves are concerned about the Administration’s move is worrying. The Immigration Judges I know are conscientious and take their jobs very seriously (in contrast to the Trump Administration, which seems utterly lacking in seriousness). If EOIR is making it more difficult for IJs to do their duty, as they understand it, then something is clearly wrong.

Perhaps the IJs’ concerns are overblown. Maybe EOIR will implement the new case completion standards in a way that does not damage judicial independence or due process. But given the Administration’s track record in general, and the inexperienced acting director appointed to head EOIR, it’s difficult to have much confidence in the new policy. Since Congress is unlikely to act on NAIJ’s request for protection, I suppose we will see soon enough how these changes affect the Immigration Courts.

Finally, in my opinion, EOIR has largely misdiagnosed the problem. While some delay may be caused by IJs kicking the can down the road, or by aliens “playing” the system, most delay is systematic–it is caused by reshuffling Administration priorities, which affect how DHS and DOJ schedule cases. I doubt that imposing numerical quotas on IJs will do much to improve the situation. Other solutions–facilitating pre-trial conferences, reforming the Master Calendar system, better use of technology, imposition of costs, premium processing for certain applicants–might be more effective. Everyone agrees that reducing the backlog is a worthy goal, but case completion requirements are probably not the best way to achieve that end.”

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“Extraordinary” to be sure! Folks, this isn’t the Ninth Circuit or even the Seventh, Second, or Fourth Circuit, all of which from time to time have “stood tall” for the Due Process rights of migrants.
For those unfamiliar with the process, the U.S. immigration Court is a “captive Administrative Court” functioning as part of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) rather as an independent judiciary established under Article III or Article I of the U.S. Constitution.
For the past 17 years, the DOJ (with the exception of an ill-fated move by the Bush II Administration to hand out Immigration Judgeships as political rewards to their faithful) has gone out of its way to insure that those selected as Immigration Judges have a record demonstrating a “commitment to achieving agency priorities.” Translated from bureaucratese, that means that they understand the DHS immigration enforcement objectives and will not “rock the boat” by expanding or recognizing any new rights for migrants unless given permission to do so by the DOJ or DHS.
Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a judiciary where the overwhelming number of new U.S, immigration Judges appointed since 2000 — nearly 90% — come from “safe” government backgrounds, primarily from the DHS. Moreover, no “Appellate Immigration Judge” (or, “Board Member”) at the BIA has been appointed directly from outside the U.S. Government since the pre-21st Century “Schmidt Era” at the BIA. (For “EOIR trivia buffs,” the last two outside appointments to the BIA in 2000 were the late Hon. Juan P. Osuna and the Hon. Cecelia M. Expenoza who was exiled along with me and others during the “Ashcroft Purge” of 2003.)
So, we’re dealing with a basically conservative, government-oriented judiciary of  “non-boat rockers” who mostly achieved and retained their present judicial positions by “knowing and doing what the boss wanted” and making sure that any “deviations” were within limits that would be tolerated.
Yes, it’s OK to grant some asylum cases, particularly from Africa or the Middle East, over DHS objections; but “watch out” if you start granting lots of asylum to folks from the Northern Triangle or Mexico for whom the big “NOT WELCOME SIGN” has been hung out by the last three Administrations, or if you accept any new “particular social groups” which Administrations tend to view with fearful eyes as potentially “opening the floodgates” of protection to those who sorely need and can easily access it (in other words, to those whom the Geneva Refugee Convention actually was intended to protect.)
So, this isn’t a judiciary that normally would be expected to “buck the system.” Indeed, although the world has probably never been worse for refugees since World War II, the Immigration Courts seem to have inexplicably but dutifully reduced asylum grants since the clearly xenophobic, anti-refugee, and anti-asylum Trump Administration assumed office and Gonzo began delivering his anti-asylum, anti-lawyer, anti-immigrant rants.
Therefore, the threat to the limited judicial independence that U.S. Immigration Judges possess under the regulations (which haven’t prevented occasional “reassignments” for ideological or political reasons in the past) has to be presumed both real and immediate to prompt this group to take the risky action of publicly seeking protection. After all, Gonzo could potentially “retaliate” by further limiting the judges’ authority, further jacking up the already astronomically high stress levels under which the judges operate, or “reassigning” “unreliable” judges to more mundane or unattractive positions within the DOJ (sometimes known as “hallwalker” positions).
It’s definitely a further sign of an unhealthy judicial system on the verge of collapse. Before that happens, and 650,000+ additional cases spew forth into other parts of our justice system, it would be wise of Congress to make at least some immediate reforms to preserve independence and due process within the U.S. immigration Courts.
I also agree with Jason that attorneys and respondents are not the major problem driving uncontrolled backlogs in the U.S. immigration Courts. No, it’s all about “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) generated by EOIR itself at the behest of its political handlers at the DOJ.
But, I don’t agree with Jason’s statement that EOIR has merely “misdiagnosed” the problem. No, EOIR and DOJ know exactly what the problem is, because they created it (egged on, no doubt by DHS and sometimes the White House).
Gonzo and EOIR are intentionally misrepresenting and misusing data to hide the truth about how screwed up the system has become because of the DOJ’s toxic combination of administrative incompetence with improper political and enforcement motives. In other words, DOJ is attempting to cover up its own “fraud, waste, and abuse” of public funds.
Even worse, and more reprehensible, Gonzo is attempting disingenuously to shift the blame to respondents and their overworked attorneys who are more often than not the actual victims of the scam being pulled off by the DOJ as part of the Trump Administration’s xenophobic, White Nationalist campaign to reduce the precious rights of asylum seekers and others. We can’t let him get away with it!
JUST SAY NO TO GONZO!
PWS
12-21-17