HON. JEFFREY CHASE: Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B- & The Unresolved Tension In Asylum Adjudication! – Plus My Added Commentary On EOIR Training!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2018/2/4/the-proper-role-of-immigration-judges-as-asylum-adjudicators

The Proper Role of Immigration Judges as Asylum Adjudicators

I would like to expand on the topic raised in my response to the BIA’s recent precedent decision in Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B-.  In the U.S. system, what tensions exist between an immigration judge’s role as an independent judge within an adversarial system, and his or her overlapping role as an adjudicator of asylum claims?

As we all know, the 1980 Refugee Act was enacted to put the U.S. in compliance with the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees (to which the U.S. acceded through the 1967 Protocol).  For that reason, numerous courts through the years have found the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status to provide “significant guidance in construing the Protocol” and a useful instrument “in giving content to the obligations the Protocol establishes,” as the U.S. Supreme Court stated in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca.  The BIA has referenced the UNHCR Handbook in at least ten precedent decisions, as have numerous circuit courts.

Paragraphs 66 and 67 of the Handbook state the following:

66. In order to be considered a refugee, a person must show well-founded fear of persecution for one of the reasons stated above. It is immaterial whether the persecution arises from any single one of these reasons or from a combination of two or more of them. Often the applicant himself may not be aware of the reasons for the persecution feared. It is not, however, his duty to analyze his case to such an extent as to identify the reasons in detail.

67. It is for the examiner, when investigating the facts of the case, to ascertain the reason or reasons for the persecution feared and to decide whether the definition in the 1951 Convention is met with in this respect… (emphasis added.)

Not surprisingly, this approach is employed by the USCIS Asylum Office.  Created in the implementation of the 1990 asylum regulations, the office’s first director, Gregg Beyer, previously worked for UNHCR for more than 12 years.  The Asylum Officer Basic Training Manual (“AOBTM”) on the topic of nexus states that although the applicant bears the burden of proving nexus, the asylum officer has an affirmative duty to elicit all relevant information, and “should fully explore the motivations of any persecutor involved in the case.”  The AOBTC therefore directs the asylum officer to “make reasonable inferences, keeping in mind the difficulty, in many cases, of establishing with precision a persecutor’s motives.”

The AOBTC also cites the 1988 BIA precedent decision in Matter of Fuentes.1  In that case, the Board held that “an applicant does not bear the unreasonable burden of establishing the exact motivation of a ‘persecutor’ where different reasons for actions are possible.  However, an applicant does bear the burden of establishing facts on which a reasonable person would fear that the danger arises on account of” a protected ground.

In Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board takes the view that “it is for the Refugee Division to determine the ground, if any, applicable to the claimant’s fear of persecution.”  The U.S. is unusual, if not unique, among western nations in not also delegating this responsibility to immigration judges. Also, note that the IRB references the “Refugee Division;” like many countries, Canada’s equivalent of immigration courts is divided into immigration and refugee divisions, in recognition of the special obligations and knowledge that asylum determinations require.  The U.S. immigration court system does not have a separate refugee determination division; asylum claims are heard by the same judges and under the same conditions as all other types of immigration cases.  Furthermore, as noted above, U.S. immigration judges hear cases in an adversarial setting, in which judges assume a passive, neutral role.

The role of asylum adjudicator carries responsibilities that are at odds with the the role of neutral arbiter.  Asylum adjudicators are required to share the burden of documenting the asylum claim; the UNHCR Handbook at para. 196 states that “in some cases, it may be for the examiner to use all of the means at his disposal to produce the necessary evidence in support of the application.”2  And, as discussed above, once the facts are ascertained, it is the adjudicator who should identify the reasons for the feared persecution and determine if such reasons bear a nexus to a protected ground.

During the Department of Justice’s asylum reform discussions in the early 1990s, Gregg Beyer stated that the idea of separate asylum judges was considered, but ultimately rejected.  To my knowledge, EOIR has never conducted an in-depth analysis of the conflicts between the judge’s responsibilities as an asylum adjudicator and his or her role as a neutral arbiter in adversarial proceedings.  I discussed the Board’s incorrect holding in Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B- under which genuine refugees may be ordered returned to countries where they will face persecution because the asylum applicants lacked the sophistication to properly delineate a particular social group, a complex legal exercise that many immigration attorneys (and immigration judges) are unable to do.  The problem also extends to other protected grounds.  Would an unrepresented asylum applicant (who might be a child) understand what an imputed political opinion is?  Would most asylum applicants be able to explain that actions viewed as resisting the authority of a third-generation gang such as MS-13 might constitute a political opinion?  Regulations should be enacted making it the responsibility of immigration judges to consider these questions.  Additionally, immigration judges, BIA Board Members and staff attorneys should be required to undergo specialized training to enable them to identify and properly analyze these issues.

Notes:

1. 19 I&N Dec. 658 (BIA 1988).

2. See also the BIA’s precedent decision in Matter of S-M-J-, 21 I&N Dec. 722 (BIA 1997), which I have referenced in other articles.

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

 

 

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

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Jeffrey points out the pressing need for better “specialized training” in asylum adjudication for Immigration Judges at both the BIA and Immigration Court levels. Sadly, however, DOJ & EOIR appear to be moving in exactly the opposite direction.

  • Last year, notwithstanding the addition of many new Immigration Judges and retirement of some of the most experienced Immigraton Judges, DOJ cancelled the nationwide Immigration Judge Conference, the only “off the bench” training that most Judges get.
  • Cancellation of the annual training conference or resort to ridiculously amateurish “CD training” was a fairly regular occurrence in the “Post-Moscato Era” (post-2000) of EOIR.
  • Too often so-called “asylum training” at EOIR was conducted by DOJ Attorneys from the Office of Immigration Litigation (“OIL”), Board Members, or Board Staff. The emphasis was basically on “how to write denials that will stand up on appeal” rather than how to recognize and grant legally required protection.
  • Immigration Judges with “special insights” into the situation of asylum seekers seldom were invited to be speakers. For example, one of my most distinguished colleagues was Judge Dana Leigh Marks of the San Francisco Immigration Court. Judge Marks successfully represented the applicant in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987)  (as the INS Deputy G.C. & Acting G.C. I was helping the Solicitor General with the “losing argument” in behalf of my “client.”) Cardoza-Fonseca established the “well founded fear” standard for asylum and probably is the most important case in the history of U.S. asylum law. Yet, I never remember hearing Judge Marks on any panel at the Annual Conference, let alone one dealing with asylum.
  • One notable exception were the “mandatory” presentations by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (“USCIRF”), an independent Government agency. Led by Senior Advisor on Refugee Issues Mark Hetfield (now President and CEO of HIAS) the USCIRF provided examples of bias in asylum adjudication and explained how Immigration Judges and the BIA sometimes erred by filtering religious claims through our “Americanized Judeo-Christian prism” instead of taking time to understand the unique conditions affecting religion and religious freedom in each country.
  • There was never much positive follow-up on the USCIRF observations. I was probably one of the few Immigration Judges who regularly consulted and discussed the reports and findings of the USCIRF in my decision-making (even many experienced asylum advocates often overlooked this invaluable resource).
  • I remember at my “Immigration Judge Basic Training” in 2003 being told to prepare for the fact that most of my “oral decisions” would be asylum denials. I was skeptical then and found that quite to the contrary, the majority of asylum cases that got to Individual Hearing in Arlington were eminently “grantable.” Pretty much as I had unsuccessfully argued for years with my colleagues while I was on the BIA. For the most part, the U.S. Courts of Appeals eventually reaffirmed much of what my long-since banished “dissenting colleagues” and I had been saying all along about the overly restrictive application of U.S. asylum law by the BIA and many U.S. Immigration Judges.
  • There is absolutely nothing in the recent anti-asylum campaign (based on distorted narratives, no facts, or just plain intentional misinformation) by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and EOIR leadership that would lead me to believe that any type of fair, professional, properly balanced asylum training for Immigration Judges and BIA Appellate Immigration Judges is in the offing.
  • All of this adds up to the pressing need for the elimination of USDOJ control over the U.S. Immigration Courts, the creation of an independent U.S. Immigration Court, and the restructuring of the Immigration Courts into a true Due Process oriented court system, rather than a mere “whistle-stop on the deportation railroad!”

PWS

02-05-18

CORRUPT ADMINISTRATION: When USG’s Own Studies Prove The Economic Benefits Of Refugees, Those Seeking To Further The White Nationalist False Narrative Do The Obvious — Suppress The Facts & Lie About It! — Anyway, Refugee Admissions Aren’t About Making Money — The Immorality Of The Trump Administration Runs Deep!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/us/politics/refugees-revenue-cost-report-trump.html

Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Somini Sengupta report for the NYT:

“WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.
The draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times, contradicts a central argument made by advocates of deep cuts in refugee totals as President Trump faces an Oct. 1 deadline to decide on an allowable number. The issue has sparked intense debate within his administration as opponents of the program, led by Mr. Trump’s chief policy adviser, Stephen Miller, assert that continuing to welcome refugees is too costly and raises concerns about terrorism.
Advocates of the program inside and outside the administration say refugees are a major benefit to the United States, paying more in taxes than they consume in public benefits, and filling jobs in service industries that others will not. But research documenting their fiscal upside — prepared for a report mandated by Mr. Trump in a March presidential memorandum implementing his travel ban — never made its way to the White House. Some of those proponents believe the report was suppressed.
The internal study, which was completed in late July but never publicly released, found that refugees “contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government” between 2005 and 2014 through the payment of federal, state and local taxes. “Overall, this report estimated that the net fiscal impact of refugees was positive over the 10-year period, at $63 billion.”
But White House officials said those conclusions were illegitimate and politically motivated, and were disproved by the final report issued by the agency, which asserts that the per-capita cost of a refugee is higher than that of an American.
“This leak was delivered by someone with an ideological agenda, not someone looking at hard data,” said Raj Shah, a White House spokesman. “The actual report pursuant to the presidential memorandum shows that refugees with few skills coming from war-torn countries take more government benefits from the Department of Health and Human Services than the average population, and are not a net benefit to the U.S. economy.”
John Graham, the acting assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the health department, said: “We do not comment on allegedly leaked documents” and that no report had been finalized. He noted that Mr. Trump’s memorandum “seeks an analysis related to the cost of refugee programs. Therefore, the only analysis in the scope of H.H.S.’s response to the memo would be on refugee-related expenditures from data within H.H.S. programs.”
The three-page report the agency ultimately submitted, dated Sept. 5, does just that, using government data to compare the costs of refugees to Americans and making no mention of revenues contributed by refugees.
“In an average year over the 10-year period, per-capita refugee costs for major H.H.S. programs totaled $3,300,” it says. “Per-person costs for the U.S. population were lower, at $2,500, reflecting a greater participation of refugees in H.H.S. programs, especially during their first four years” in the United States.
It was not clear who in the administration decided to keep the information out of the final report. An internal email, dated Sept. 5 and sent among officials from government agencies involved in refugee issues, said that “senior leadership is questioning the assumptions used to produce the report.” A separate email said that Mr. Miller had requested a meeting to discuss the report. The Times was shown the emails on condition that the sender not be identified. Mr. Miller personally intervened in the discussions on the refugee cap to ensure that only the costs — not any fiscal benefit — of the program were considered, according to two people familiar with the talks.
He has also played a crucial role in the internal discussions over refugee admissions, which are capped by an annual presidential determination that is usually coordinated by the National Security Council and led in large part by the State Department.
This year, officials at the State Department as well as the Department of Defense have argued vociferously that the United States should admit no fewer than the 50,000-refugee cap that Mr. Trump imposed in January as part of the travel ban, but Mr. Miller has advocated for a much lower number — half or less, according to people familiar with the internal talks who described them on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to detail them. The Department of Homeland Security last week proposed a cap of 40,000. The limits being debated would be the lowest in more than three decades.
“We see an administration that’s running a program that it’s intent on destroying,” said Mark Hetfield, the president of HIAS, one of nine refugee resettlement agencies opposing the cut in admissions. “We do have champions in the White House and in the administration, but they’re not being given a voice in this.”
The issue is coming to a head as Mr. Trump attends the United Nations General Assembly this week for the first time as president. The United Nations has repeatedly appealed to nations to resettle 1.2 million refugees fleeing war and persecution from all over the world, and former President Barack Obama used the gathering last year to tout his goal of admitting 110,000 refugees in the fiscal year that ends this month, and to pressure other countries to follow the lead of the United States in embracing more displaced people.
Mr. Trump, by contrast, has highlighted his goal of radically cutting refugee admissions. The president moved swiftly after taking office to crack down on refugees, issuing his original ban against travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries only a week after taking office.
Facing legal challenges to that order, his administration released a second travel ban two months later against six countries, along with a presidential memorandum in which Mr. Trump called on the secretary of state to consult with the secretaries of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security and his White House budget director and submit within 180 days “a report detailing the estimated long-term costs of the United States Refugee Admissions Program at the federal, state, and local levels, along with recommendations about how to curtail those costs.”
The budget Mr. Trump released in May argued that refugees and other immigrants were a fiscal drain. “Under the refugee program, the federal government brings tens of thousands of entrants into the United States, on top of existing legal immigration flows, who are instantly eligible for time-limited cash benefits and numerous noncash federal benefits, including food assistance through SNAP, medical care and education, as well as a host of state and local benefits,” the document said.
It would be less costly, it argued, if there were fewer refugees, since “each refugee admitted into the United States comes at the expense of helping a potentially greater number out of country.” Inside the administration, those who espouse this view argue that any research purporting to illustrate fiscal benefits of refugees is flawed and reflects only wishful thinking.
As Mr. Trump deliberates privately about the issue, a coalition of human rights and religious groups as well as former national security officials in both parties has formed to encourage him not to allow the refugee cap to plummet.
“From a national security standpoint, while we can’t take an unlimited number of refugees, we need to show our friends and allies that we stand with them and this is a shared burden,” said Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush.
“They’ve generated a lot of economic value,” Mr. Chertoff added in an interview. “I don’t think refugees are coming to take American jobs.”
Get politics and Washington news updates via Facebook, Twitter and the Morning Briefing newsletter.
Julie Hirschfeld Davis reported from Washington, and Somini Sengupta from New York.”

 

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Get a complete copy of the report the Administration is trying so hard to suppress at the NYT link above.

In the Trump Administration “truth” has become a “political agenda” of those who aren’t willing to skew facts and tell lies in support of a bankrupt White Nationalist restrictionist agenda. It’s telling that the DOD is one of the agencies pushing for more refugee admissions.

Moreover, as has been pointed out in previous blogs, admitting refugees is not simply a question of “what can they do for our economy” (although the answer to that is “amazing things”). It’s also about our international obligations, our obligations to the world community, and our obligations as human beings to other humans in need. In other words, simple decency and morality, concepts that guys like Trump, Sessions, and Miller consistently sweep under the rug as they roll out their false political narrative.

PWS

09-20-17

 

The Nation: Ivanka’s Husband, Beloved Son-In-Law, Trusted Advisor — Jared Kushner Probably Wouldn’t Here Under His Father-In-Law’s Restrictive Policies!

Read the moving story of Jared Kushner’s ancestors and how an eventual thaw in America’s anti-immigrant attitudes and rabidly anti-semitic policies saved the family.

https://www.thenation.com/article/nobody-wanted-to-take-us-in-the-story-of-jared-kushners-family-and-mine/

“Although the specific targets have changed, some of the language and much of the vitriol spewed at immigrants some 100 years ago wouldn’t be out of place at one of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rallies, or tumbling from the mouth of his chosen national-security adviser or attorney general. Then, as now, hypernationalistic figures raged against religious minorities they deemed suspicious, scheming, and potentially disloyal. Then, as now, war abroad stirred up refugee phobias at home. And while there are differences, to be sure—while the past is never simple prelude—then, as is happening again now, the ugly rhetoric quickly gave way to ugly policy.”

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So why don’t folks like Jared and Ivanka, who seem like decent people, have had the good fortune to live privileged lives in the United States, and have influence with the President, stand up for the vulnerable and less privileged?  Why don’t they “just say no” to President Trump’s rekindling of the types of policies and attitudes that might have condemned Jared’s family to eternal agony with nowhere to turn for salvation and refuge?

PWS

01/27/17

Sunny Thoughts On A Dreary Day In DC — Read More From WNYC/NPR Reporter Beth Fertig — The “New Due Process Army” Takes the Field — Bronx Defenders and Courtney M. Lee (Former Arlington Immigration Court Intern And Star Georgetown CALS Asylum Clinic & RLP Student) Work To Save Lives & Insure Due Process In Our Immigration Courts Every Day!

https://www.wnyc.org/story/free-lawyers-provided-city-help-more-immigrants-detention-win-cases/

Beth Fertig writes:

“Arturo had his most recent hearing in December, in front of Judge Patricia Buchanan. He wore an orange jumpsuit with the initials of the Hudson County Department of Correction on the back, and his hands were shackled. The 31-year-old is five-foot-three and slim, and appeared very nervous. He sat with his team from Bronx Defenders, [Supervisory Attorney Sarah Deri] Oshiro and Law Graduate Courtney Lee, and a court-appointed translator. There was also an attorney from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, James McCarthy.

Arturo’s case is very complicated and his team has a few different claims. They are asking the court to withhold his deportation on the grounds that he’ll be persecuted or tortured if he goes back to Mexico.

“His stepfather subjected him to — during his entire childhood and adolescence — to really severe constant and consistent sexual, physical and psychological abuse,” Lee explained.

In court, she asked Arturo to recall some of the beatings and how his mother and siblings are still living in terror. He said the abuse continued even after he arrived in New York and sent his mother money to leave the man. He described in Spanish how he feared his stepfather would kill him if he moved back to Mexico, because he was the one who helped his mother escape. And he said he had no other place to live except for the town in which they reside. But Judge Buchanan appeared skeptical. She asked if he had any family in New York when he first arrived in 2004, and he said no.

Arturo’s legal team is also seeking to halt his deportation by arguing his two young children would be harmed. Immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally for at least 10 years can apply for a cancellation of removal if an American citizen would suffer “exceptional and unusual hardship.”

It’s a tough bar to meet, and it doesn’t help Arturo’s case that he has a few convictions for misdemeanors, including breaking a store window when he was drunk and possession of marijuana. But his advocates argued that these are minor and were related to the traumas he suffered as a child. He told the court he stopped using marijuana and alcohol after his children were born, to set a “good example.” His advocates said he also has an employer who believes in him, and wants to hire him back.

Because Arturo is the primary breadwinner, they argued deporting him would put the children at risk of homelessness. His partner, the children’s mother, is already fighting eviction proceedings. And Arturo said the stress from his detention has caused his seven year-old son to wet the bed and barely eat. But McCarthy, of I.C.E., argued that the children seem healthy and are not experiencing “exceptional and unusual hardship.”

The judge had to stop the proceedings at noon because she had too many other cases that day. She scheduled Arturo’s next hearing in February, almost a year after he was sent to detention.”

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Go to Beth’s full article at the link for a fantastic picture of Courtney and her Supervisory Attorney Sarah Deri Oshiro.  Way to go, Courtney and Sarah!

These days, in retirement, in addition to writing, I attend many events, give lots of speeches, and guest lecture at law schools and colleges, all largely directed at pointing out why refugees and other migrants make America great, the sad state of our United States Immigration Court System, the overwhelming importance of working to force our Immigration Courts to live up to their unfulfilled promise to “guarantee fairness and due process for all,” and the compelling need for reforms to make the Immigration Courts independent from the Executive Branch.

Almost everywhere I go, I run into great attorneys who once were Judicial Law Clerks or interns for the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, appeared in Immigration Court under clinical practice programs sponsored by local law schools (like Georgetown’s famous CALS Asylum Clinic), or are former students who took my Refugee Law and Policy (“RLP”) course at Georgetown Law in 2012-14.  There are all, without exception, doing absolutely wonderful things to advance the cause of fairness and due process for migrants.

They are all over:  projects like Bronx Defenders, NGOs, pro bono organizations, big law, small law, public interest law, courts, government agencies, Capitol Hill, academia, journalism, management, and administrative positions.  I call them the “New Due Process Army” and they are going to keep fighting the “good fight” to force the Immigration Courts and the rest of our justice system to live up to the promise of “fairness and due process for all” whether that takes two years, ten years, twenty years, or one hundred years.  If we all keep at it and support one another it will eventually happen!

Last night, I was at a very moving retirement ceremony for Shelly Pitterman, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Representative for the United States and the Caribbean.  Fortunately, Shelly is going to remain in the human rights field, joining Mark Hetfield and the other wonderful folks over at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (“HIAS”).  I wish I had gotten to know Shelly better.  He was repeatedly described as a dynamic leader who inspired everyone around him to perform at a higher level (just like Aaron Rodgers of the Pack), apparently even on the softball field!

In attendance were two of our “total superstar” former Arlington Immigration Court legal interns, Katie Tobin and Lindsay Jenkins, both Assistant Protection Officers (one of the most coveted jobs) with the UNHCR.  Accomplished attorneys,  dynamic leaders, and terrific role models in they own rights, Katie and Lindsay are using their education and experience to live out their deeply held values every day and to help make the world a fairer, more humane, and better place for all of us.  Both of them represent the true values of the real America:  fairness, scholarship, respect, teamwork, and industriousness (not to mention a sense of humor).

To Courtney, Katie, Lindsay, and all the other “soldiers” of the “New Due Process Army” thanks for what you are doing for all of us every day!  It is an honor to know you and to have played a role, however modest, in your quest to make the world an even greater place.

PWS

01/20/17