“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

 

 

 

 

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

TAL @ CNN: DREAMERS, DEMS FACING UP TO HARD POLITICAL REALITY – NO PRESIDENCY, NO LEGISLATIVE MAJORITY = LITTLE LEVERAGE – Acceptable Compromise Appears Doomed To Remain “Dream” – For Now!

 

http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/30/politics/democrats-vent-daca-frustrations-hispanic-caucus/index.html

“Hispanic Caucus vents at Democratic leadership over shutdown, DACA strategy

By: Tal Kopan, CNN

Hispanic Democrats on Tuesday had a combination venting and strategy session with Democratic congressional leaders as they expressed frustration that there still has not been a resolution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer got an earful about the handling of the recent government shutdown and recent comments about future strategy, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said.

“I think there’s a lot of conversations about, where is our leverage and how are we going to use it?” said California Democrat Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán.

Barragán said she specifically raised comments Schumer made in The Washington Post that “can’t just let (DACA) occupy the whole stage,” referring to Democratic strategy in red states. She said she told Schumer her community felt that sent a message they weren’t a priority.

“He stood by his comment,” Barragán said of his response. Generally, she added, “He said, ‘I can understand the pain people are feeling and the frustration’ and certainly understood why people felt disappointed in where we are today. Although I think the message is, ‘We’re better off than we were.’ So I’m not sure there’s complete agreement on all fronts.”

The “tension,” as Barragán put it, was indicative of raw nerves among the Democratic caucus about whether leadership is fully committed to using all points of leverage to push for a solution on DACA, the program being ended by President Donald Trump that protected young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

One source in the room speaking anonymously to be candid called the meeting a “waste of time” that was “all filler.”

Another called it equal parts frustration and cheerleading, with an understanding that Republicans remain the main obstacle to deal with.

Shutdown strategy

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer called the meeting “candid,” saying the caucus is “correctly frustrated” about the situation for recipients of DACA.

“I think there were obviously some sentiments in the meeting, as you well know, that were, ‘I’m not sure we’re following the right strategy here,'” Hoyer told reporters after the meeting. “There was a candid discussion about why the strategy was being pursued and what was being pursued and what opportunities and challenges were, I think people came out with some degree of appreciation.”

Multiple lawmakers said there was frustration as Democrats rejected government funding on a Friday but voted to reopen the government on Monday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to open debate on immigration on the Senate floor in February.

Barragán noted there is no commitment to an immigration vote in the House.”It’s very frustrating on the House side because it appears there’s a different situation in the House than in the Senate, we haven’t gotten any kind of commitment on the House side,” Barragán said. “And so even though on the Senate side, Sen. Schumer talks about how they have that commitment and he believes they’re going to get a vote, I think it still fails to take into consideration that strategy on the House side.”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who has long served as a voice for immigration advocates in the House, said many in the room “were disappointed” in a “lack of communication” regarding the shutdown. But he also said the focus was on moving forward.

“Democrats, we’re good at fighting and I also think we’re good at mending fences, and that’s what we’re doing here,” Gutierrez told reporters. “We’re trying to figure out a way forward. … I think (Dem leaders) are committed and this isn’t over. Look, trip, you get up and you go back to fight, but we have a clear determination, we’re going to fight for the Dreamers.”

The chairwoman of the Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, called the session a combination of strategy and “venting, productively.”

“I didn’t see it as being negative,” she said. “It was an important place to come back after a week for folks to talk about their frustrations, to talk about what they think we haven’t done well, to talk about things that we think are working and to talk about all eyes on the House. What is the House going to do, how are we going to get them to do it and where are we?”

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I think the hard answer to Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s question is “You won’t get the House to ‘do what you want.'” Not as long as the GOP is in the majority, the White Nationalist/Bakuninist Block of the House GOP remains intact, and “Spineless Paul” Ryan (or any other GOP Representative) remains Speaker.

In simple terms, Dems and Dreamers, you’re going to have to win some elections and get some control to bring this to a conclusion that won’t involve “giving in” to the whole (or huge chunks of the) White Nationalist, anti-American, anti-growth restrictionist agenda! Minority parties pushing minority platforms seldom get what they want. 

Instead of uselessly “ranting” and “venting”  at each other, Dreamers and Dems need to work harder to get out the vote (a few more well-placed Hispanic, African-American, and other minority votes could have changed the results of the last election) and eventually win control of something on the national level!

Clearly, while Dreamers and their cause remain popular with the overall public, there is a “vocal minority” essentially White, racist, xenophobic “core” out there that is vehemently opposed to progress and a diverse society and puts their “hate/turn back the clock agenda” at the top of their “issues list.” That’s why most GOP legislators, particularly in the House, see little or no “downside risk” to “stiffing” Dreamers — particularly if the only “downside” is an unpopular and unsustainable “Government shutdown” by the Senate Dems.

Internal bickering is not a useful substitute for putting energy and talent into “grass-roots” organizations that appeal to voters, incorporate solutions to local and regional issues, and thereby win elections! Without “victories in the political arena,” there will be no “magic strategies” that will produce decent immigration reform — for the Dreamers or anyone else who cares about America’s future as a vibrant, forward-looking “nation of immigrants.”

 

PWS

01-31-18

MAKING GONZO PROUD: BIA TRASHES DUE PROCESS FOR PSG ASYLUM SEEKERS IN NEW PRECEDENT Matter of W-Y-C-& H-O-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA Jan. 19, 2018) — Read Hon. Jeffrey’s Chase’s Commentary Here!

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Matter of W-Y-C-& H-O-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA Jan. 19, 2018)

BIA HEADNOTE:

“(1) An applicant seeking asylum or withholding of removal based on membership in a particular social group must clearly indicate on the record before the Immigration Judge the exact delineation of any proposed particular social group.

(2) The Board of Immigration Appeals generally will not address a newly articulated particular social group that was not advanced before the Immigration Judge.”

PANEL: BIA Appellate Immigraton Judges MALPHRUS, MULLANE, and LIEBOWITZ

OPINION BY: Judge Garry D. Malphrus

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The Impact of the BIA’s Decision in Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B-

In Matter of W-Y-C-& H-O-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA Jan. 19, 2018), the Board of Immigration Appeals held that “an applicant seeking asylum…based on membership in a particular social group must clearly indicate on the record before the Immigration Judge the exact delineation of any proposed particular social group.”  My question is: “why?”

Delineating a particular social group is very complicated, even for experienced immigration lawyers.  When I put together the advanced asylum panel for the 2016 Immigration Judges’ legal training conference, an asylum specialist from the Department of Justice’s Office for Immigration Litigation (“OIL”) chose to lecture the immigration judges on a common error in the crafting of proposed social groups.  It is worth noting that OIL (which defends immigration judge decisions when they are appealed to the U.S. circuit courts) felt that immigration judges needed such instruction.   Prior to this decision, the BIA had issued 8 precedent decisions defining particular social groups since 2006.  Two of those decisions (issued in 2014) were required in order to clear up confusion caused by the language of the previous four decisions on the topic.

When describing the concept of asylum to non-attorney clients, I have completely given up on trying to explain to them what a particular social group is.  I’ve noticed that during asylum interviews, the DHS asylum officers have reached the same conclusion; they simply ask the asylum applicants if they were a member of “a group,” with no attempt to explain the unique properties of particular social groups.  Let’s also remember that there are many unaccompanied children applying for asylum, and that some are not represented because EOIR has opposed efforts to require the agency to assign them counsel.

The impact of requiring asylum applicants to clearly delineate such a complex term of art is significant.  Many of the “surge” cases filed by individuals fleeing violence in Central America are asylum claims based on membership in a particular social group.  With some 660,000 cases presently overwhelming the immigration court system, the decision in W-Y-C- & H-O-B- should help speed adjudication by allowing immigration judges and the BIA to issue boilerplate denials where social groups are not clearly delineated, and further prevent time-consuming remands where better defined groups are proposed on appeal (perhaps after a pro se respondent was able to obtain counsel).  But at what cost is this efficiency achieved?

Our adversarial system presents court decisions as entailing a winner and loser.  However, there are no winners when someone entitled to asylum is nevertheless denied and ordered deported.  This point was underscored by a recent article in The New Yorker, documenting that for many, deportation is truly a death sentence (Sarah Stillman, “When Deportation is a Death Sentence,” Jan.18,2018 https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/when-deportation-is-a-death-sentence).

In a recent blog post concerning the treatment of children in immigration court, I referenced Matter of S-M-J-, a BIA precedent decision from 1997 (21 I&N Dec. 722).  The decision contains the following words of wisdom:  “Although we recognize that the burden of proof in asylum and withholding of removal cases is on the applicant, we do have certain obligations under international law to extend refuge to those who qualify for such relief.”  Noting the shift from the non-adversarial nature of affirmative Asylum Office  interviews (then a part of the INS, now within DHS) to the adversarial immigration court proceedings, the Board concluded that “a cooperative approach in Immigration Court is particularly appropriate.”

This approach underscores a major difference between asylum and other types of legal status.  A person applying for lawful permanent status through, for example, cancellation of removal or via an immigrant visa is not an LPR until they are granted such status by an immigration judge or DHS.  However, as the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status states at paragraph 28, “A person is a refugee within the meaning of the 1951 Convention as soon as he fulfills the criteria contained in the definition…Recognition of his refugee status does not therefore make him a refugee but declares him to be one.  He does not become a refugee because of recognition, but is recognized because he is a refugee.”

Paragraph 205 of the UNHCR Handbook delineates the duties of the asylum applicant and the adjudicator.  While the applicant’s duties involve truthfully providing detailed facts, supporting evidence where available, and “a coherent explanation of all of the reasons invoked” in his asylum application, the adjudicator, in addition to ensuring that the applicant presents his or her claim as fully as possible and then assessing credibility and evaluating the evidence, must also “relate these elements to the relevant criteria of the 1951 Convention, in order to arrive at the correct conclusion as to the applicant’s refugee status.”

It is this last requirement upon the adjudicator that is at odds with the Board’s decision in W-Y-C- & H-O-B-.  Under the decision, an asylum applicant may already have satisfied all of the refugee requirements (which of course includes establishing a well-founded fear of suffering persecution if returned to their country of nationality), yet be denied asylum and ordered deported to suffer serious harm simply because they lacked the legal sophistication to articulate a very complicated formula for delineating a particular social group.  Why wouldn’t the present Board invoke a cooperative approach as required by the nature of asylum and its international law obligations, as an earlier BIA did in Matter of S-M-J-?  Why shouldn’t the immigration judge (perhaps with assistance from the DHS attorney) step in where the applicant is not able and analyze the facts presented pursuant to the relevant case law to help formulate a particular social group (as some IJs do at present)?

In summary, the Board’s recent decision will allow immigration judges to deny asylum to credible applicants who clearly meet the refugee criteria.  By setting a nearly impossible standard for non-attorneys (including children) to meet, it can result in those deserving of protection being sent to countries where they may face rape, torture, or death.

Why?

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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OK. Let’s make this real simple. As opposed to asylum, which is discretionary, withholding of removal based on fear on account of a “particular social group” is mandatory relief under the Act.  The BIA is saying that even if the Respondent were entitled to mandatory withholding of removal based on a “particular social group,” they will refuse that mandatory protection if the respondent failed to articulate each and every specific element of the “PSG” before the Immigration Judge!

And, just how would unrepresented children and other unrepresented individuals, many in detention, be able to articulate all of the complex elements of a PSG? (And that’s even before the Trump/Gonzo/White Nationalist proposal to illegally strip undocumented children of any Due Process rights and let them be deported at will by CBP!)

Clearly, in Matter of W-Y-C-& H-O-B-, the BIA has abandoned any pretense its essential mission of “guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.” I’m sure that becoming “Conductors on Gonzo’s Deportation Railroad” will be career enhancing for the BIA Judges. But, in actuality, they should be ashamed!

And, what are the views of the other dozen or so BIA Appellate Judges who weren’t on this panel. Do they all agree with this travesty of justice? Is there nobody in this “Gang of 15” willing to stand up for Due Process and fairness for vulnerable asylum seekers? It raises the question of “Why have a BIA at all if it can’t and won’t protect fairness and due process for asylum seekers?”

I dissent!

PWS

01-26-18

 

 

HON. JEFFREY CHASE COMMENTS ON THE DISINGENUOUS ABSURDITY OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S LATEST ATTACK ON CHILDREN IN U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/12/28/lawyer-files-disciplinary-complaint-against-chief-immigration-judge

 

Dec 28 Lawyer Files Disciplinary Complaint Against Chief Immigration Judge
On December 22, New York attorney Bryan S. Johnson filed a complaint with the Assistant Chief Immigration Judge for Conduct and Professionalism against Chief Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller. The basis for the complaint was the Chief Judge’s issuance of guidelines to immigration judges on the handling of cases involving juveniles, including unaccompanied children (OPPM 17-03, Dec. 20, 2017). In that directive, Judge Keller instructed immigration judges that in spite of the sympathetic factors involved in children’s cases, “judges must remain neutral and impartial when adjudicating juvenile cases and shall not display any appearance of impropriety when presiding over such cases.” The complaint argues that such directive instructs immigration judges to violate federal statute, specifically the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”), which requires the Attorney General to train immigration judges to “work with unaccompanied alien children, including identifying children who are victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons, and children for whom asylum or special immigrant relief may be appropriate.” 8 U.S.C. § 1232(e).

Instructing judges to “remain neutral and impartial,” while open to interpretation, will be perceived by many as requiring passivity. As one senior judge explained to me when I was new to the bench, judges should consider themselves blank slates and only consider what the parties have chosen to write on that slate. However, exceptions exist. In a precedent decision issued 20 years ago, the BIA held that in asylum cases in which the parties have not presented enough evidence to provide an adequate record, immigration judges should themselves present country condition evidence into the record. The Board cited favorably to the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status which defines the role of the adjudicator as to “ensure that the applicant presents his case as fully as possible and with all available evidence.” Matter of S-M-J-, 21 I&N Dec. 722, 729 (BIA 1997). Decided by a BIA that possessed some brilliant minds and courage, the Board in S-M-J- established that there are times that an immigration judge must not remain neutral when doing so will deny an asylum seeker justice.

Ten years later, the Chief Immigration Judge issued guidance to immigration judges handling juvenile cases to take a proactive approach, due to the vulnerability of the child respondents. It bears noting that the 2007 guidelines were issued under a Republican administration. Obviously, a neutral, passive approach by the judge will not ensure a fair hearing where the two parties involved are the Department of Homeland Security, represented in court by one of its attorneys, and a young (and possibly unrepresented) child. In such circumstances, the judge must to some degree advocate for the child to “ensure that the applicant presents his case as fully as possible and with all available evidence,” to use the language of S-M-J-. In response to this need, EOIR created special juvenile dockets, and provided specialized training to the immigration judges chosen to preside over them. In 2008, Congress passed the TVPRA, the statute relied upon by attorney Johnson in his complaint. In 2013, EOIR created an Assistant Chief Immigration Judge position specifically dedicated to “vulnerable populations.”

EOIR has the additional opportunity to create a more level playing field by assigning counsel to all unrepresented juveniles appearing in immigration court. Yet the agency strongly opposed this solution in a class-action lawsuit filed by advocacy groups (including the ACLU and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project), J.E.F.M. v. Lynch. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the case last year, finding that the court lacked jurisdiction to decide the issue. However, the court’s majority opinion emphasized that it was not ruling on the merits of the claim, and in a concurring opinion, two of the three judges on the case’s panel acknowledged that “thousands of children are left to thread their way alone through the labarynthine maze of immigration laws, which, without hyperbole, ‘have been termed second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity.’” The judges continued that “given the onslaught of cases involving unaccompanied minors, there is only so much the most dedicated and judicious immigration judges…can do.” The court called on Congress and the Executive branch to take action to provide government-funded counsel to all children appearing in immigration court. The judges concluded that “to give meaning to “Equal Justice Under Law,” the tag line engraved in the U.S. Supreme Court building, to ensure the fair and effective administration of our immigration justice system, and to protect the interests of children who must struggle through that system, the problem demands action now.”

Democratic lawmakers have introduced draft legislation, entitled the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, that would remedy this situation. Versions of the bill went nowhere in 2016; a 2017 version sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.) and 31 co-sponsors was introduced on April 6, 2017 and has made no progress since. The website GovTrack.us states that the bill has a 3 percent chance of being enacted. In the meantime, the Chief Immigration Judge’s latest memo signals a move in the opposite direction under the present administration. Last week, the Trump administration confirmed that it is considering a policy of separating children from their parents upon arrival at the U.S. border. While the administration claims that the policy is designed to discourage Central Americans from making the dangerous journey north, it ignores the fact that those making such journey are refugees fleeing the threat of death in what has become one of the most violent and dangerous regions in the world.

The administration has not explained what alternatives exist to parents seeking to save their children from being murdered and raped by violent gangs, including MS-13, whose members Trump himself has referred to as “animals.” As reported by the New York Post, Trump stated during a speech last July in Long Island, NY of MS-13 members: “They kidnap. They extort. They rape and they rob. They prey on children. They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs. They slash them with machete. They stab them with knives.” It would therefore seem that the current administration should be seeking to do everything in its power to provide children fleeing the above-described treatment to have their claims for asylum considered as fully and fairly as possible. Restoring the 2007 guidelines, respecting the TVPRA requirements, refusing to separate children from their parents, and providing counsel at government expense to unrepresented children would all be welcome steps towards that goal.

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.
JEFF CHASE
Dec 8 The Impact of Returning Children on Well-Founded Fear
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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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I appreciate Judge Chase’s kind reference to Matter of S-M-J-, 21 I&N Dec. 722 (BIA 1997). I was on the en banc BIA that decided S-M-J-. (Yes, unlike now, most precedents were issued en banc, so that each Appellate Judge was required to take a public vote on the outcome. Something known as “transparency and accountability” that has disappeared from today’s BIA.)

Forget all the legal gobbledygook in the “Keller Memorandum.” Here’s what a straightforward policy from an Attorney General actually committed to upholding the Constitution and the “Rule of Law” might look like:

  • The first duty of a Judge is to insure Constitutional Due Process for each individual coming before the court.
  • A Judge should not conduct a merits hearing for any unrepresented child, including any individual the Judge reasonably believes to be a child.
  • The Judge and all court personnel should work cooperatively with nongovernmental organizations, bar associations, legal services groups, and community officials to insure that cases involving children are placed on the docket and scheduled in a manner that insures representation in each case
  • When in doubt, a Judge should always act in a manner that maximizes Due Process protections for each individual coming before the court.

PWS

12-29-17

LAW YOU CAN USE: HON. JEFFREY CHASE ANALYZES EFFECT OF SENDING CHILDREN TO COUNTRY OF ASYLUM – POTENTIALLY PROBLEMATIC, BUT NOT NECESSARILY FATAL!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/12/8/the-impact-of-returning-children-on-well-founded-fear

The Impact of Returning Children on Well-Founded Fear

I received a request to discuss the following hypothetical: an asylum-seeking couple has a U.S. citizen child.  Because of the need for both parents to work, they send the child to their country of origin.  The question is what impact the asylum seekers’ decision to send the child to the country of feared persecution has on their well-founded fear of persecution.  If the asylum claim is based on past persecution, does the decision in any way rebut the presumption of a future fear of persecution?  In claims based solely on prospective persecution, does the decision impact whether the parents have a genuine subjective fear of persecution?

  1. Applicants who suffered past persecution

Where the parents suffered past persecution, the sending of the child to the parents’ country of origin does not rebut the presumption of future fear as a matter of law.  8 C.F.R. § 1208.16(b)(1)(i) provides two ways in which the presumption may be rebutted: through a showing (by a preponderance of evidence) of (1) “a fundamental change in circumstances such that the applicant’s life or freedom would not be threatened,” or (2) the applicant’s ability to avoid the threat of future harm by relocating to another part of the country.  I am not aware of binding case law addressing children sent to the country of origin.  However, circuit case law has considered the return of the asylum seekers themselves.  In Kone v. Holder, 596 F.3d 141 (2d Cir. 2010), an immigration judge had ruled that the asylum seeker’s own return to the country of origin rebutted the presumption of well-founded fear arising from the past persecution.  The circuit court reversed, noting that the IJ’s “cursory analysis” failed to make a finding of either a fundamental change in circumstances or the possibility of internal relocation as required for a rebuttal finding by 8 C.F.R. §1208.16(b)(1)(i).  The circuit court thus concluded that the IJ’s finding “suggests the erroneous belief that voluntary return trips are sufficient, as a matter of law, to rebut the presumption of future persecution to which [the asylum seeker] is entitled.”  The court referenced the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Boer-Sedano v. Gonzales, 418 F.3d 1082.  In that case, the Ninth Circuit held that “the existence of return trips standing alone” could not rebut the presumption; such return trips could be considered “as one factor, among others, to rebut the presumption.”

If the presumption of well-founded fear is not rebutted by the return of the asylum seeker, it certainly is not rebutted by the return of the child.  The decision to send the child, and the manner in which the child was treated, could be considered as a possible factor in determining whether a fundamental change in circumstances occurred or the possibility of internal relocation exists.  However, it is a factor that must be considered in the context of the feared harm.  For example, where the feared persecution is specific to the asylum applicant alone, or of a type that could not be visited on the child (i.e. the return of a male child where the feared harm is female genital cutting or forcible abortion), the return is not likely to have much significance.  But the factfinder may find greater meaning where the claimant fears widespread attacks on members of her race, tribe, or religion, yet sends a child possessing the same trait to stay with family members similarly at risk.

However, even then, the courts have looked at the specific circumstances involved.  In Mukamusoni v. Ashcroft, 390 F.3d 125-26 (1st Cir. 2004), a rape victim returned to Rwanda to pursue the free education available to her in that country; after departing, she returned one more time to obtain her transcript to allow her to continue her studies in the U.S.  The court concluded that under the circumstances, the returns did not undermine the applicant’s claimed fear of future persecution, noting that “[f]aced with no viable means of support otherwise, people take risks in the face of their fears.”

2.  Applicants whose fear is prospective only

The USCIS Asylum Officer Training materials on “well-founded fear” do not mention the return of children.  However, they do address two related topics:  the impact of the return of the asylum seeker him/herself to the country of feared persecution; and the persecution (or lack thereof) of individuals closely related to the applicant.  Regarding the former, the USCIS materials rely on circuit court decisions to conclude that whether the applicant’s own return indicates a lack of subjective fear of persecution or alternatively “does not necessarily defeat the claim” is circumstance-specific, and depends on why the applicant returned, and what occurred when they did.  See USCIS, RAIO Combined Training Course, Well-Founded Fear Training Module (June 15, 2014) Section 9, pp.22-24.  The USCIS training materials note that the Ninth Circuit has held that the return of an asylum seeker “did not undercut the genuineness of her fear” where the purpose of the return was to retrieve her child after the death of the child’s custodian, or, in another case, to aid his uncle and sister who had been arrested.  Id. at 22.  The USCIS materials also look to what happened upon the asylum seeker’s return.  The materials reference yet another Ninth Circuit case, Karouni v. Gonzales, 399 F.3d 1163 (9th Cir. 2005), in which an asylum applicant returned once to his country to attend to his dying father, but cut his trip short because of his fear of persecution, leaving before the father’s funeral.  The applicant returned a second time to attend to his dying mother, but had to delay the trip due to a fear of persecution so that he did not return until the mother had already passed away.  The court concluded that these visits did not undermine the applicant’s fear.

Regarding the treatment of relatives, the USCIS training materials provide a hypothetical in which an asylum applicant’s sister is arrested based on her political opinion.  The materials state that such arrest should be considered in determining the applicant’s own fear where, e.g. the sister lived in the same city and was active in the same political party as the applicant.  However, the sister’s arrest need not be considered if the two were not close, lived in different regions, and were not members of the same party.  See Id. section 6, pp. 18-19.

In transposing this approach to the example of children sent to the country of feared persecution, the inquiry would be into whether a connection exists between the child and the applicant’s reason for fearing persecution.  When I was an immigration judge, ICE trial attorneys would sometimes comment in such cases that “no refugees sent their children back to Nazi Germany.”  Of course, if the asylum applicant based his or her fear on a comparably extreme situation, i.e. that anyone who was a member of their race, nationality/ethnicity/tribe, or religion would be at grave risk, and that family remaining in the country were hiding in fear of discovery, then sending one’s child back to that country to stay with those relatives could open an inquiry into whether the applicant possessed a genuine subjective fear of persecution.  However, where that is not the basis of the fear, the question would be what, if any, risk extends to the child?  Furthermore, even if such risk was found to exist, as noted above, the reason for sending the child would be weighed against the risk.  Whether the feared persecutors were aware of the children’s return, and if so, what their reaction was might also be considered, depending on the specific circumstances.

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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HON. JEFFREY CHASE DISCUSSES ASYLUM BASED ON FEAR OF HONOR KILLINGS!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/12/2/honor-killings-and-particular-social-group

Honor Killings and Particular Social Group

The threat of honor killing may form the basis of an asylum claim.  While men may be targeted as well,1 honor killings are a gender-based form of persecution, as the underlying basis is the view in certain societies that a woman’s failure to strictly adhere to a rigid moral code imposed upon her brings such dishonor on her family in the eyes of the community that nothing short of her murder (at the hands of her own family) can restore the family’s “honor.”  The BIA has issued no precedent decisions relating to these types of claims; there are not many published circuit court decisions.  In a recent published decision, Kamar v. Sessions, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the BIA’s incorrect determination that a woman from Jordan who credibly fears an honor killing was not genuinely at risk, and did not show that the government of Jordan was unwilling or unable to protect her.  However, I would like to focus in this article on the particular social group aspects of such claims.

As I have stated in other posts, the BIA established a requirement in its 1985 precedent decision Matter of Acosta that members of a particular social group must share an immutable characteristic.  In a series of later decisions beginning with it’s 2006 precedent  Matter of C-A-, the BIA additionally required cognizable social groups to satisfy its particularity and social distinction requirements.  The former requires that there be a clear benchmark of who is and is not included in the group.  The latter requires that the society in question (i.e. not the persecutors alone) view the members as forming a distinct group.  It is not easy for a group to meet all three of these requirements.

However, I believe that women (and sometimes men) targeted for honor killings must be found to meet all three of these requirements, as they are inextricably built into the social code which gives rise to such horrific actions.  First, being targeted for an honor killing is clearly an immutable characteristic.  The entire reason the society in question requires an act as drastic as murder is that nothing short of eliminating the individual will undo the perceived shame on the family.  There is no lesser form of rehabilitation or restitution available.  Nor will the passage of time or the target’s departure from the society suffice.  USCIS itself states in its own training materials for asylum officers on gender-based persecution that “the family may go to great lengths to pursue women (and men) accused of violating the family’s honor.  Families employ bounty hunters, private detectives and social networks to pursue victims and searches may persist over years.  In cultures with extended family networks over a large geographic area, relocation may offer no real protection.”2  This is the definition of an immutable characteristic.

Additionally, the group satisfies the particularity requirement.  The code giving rise to honor killings (a term which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has called “an oxymoron if we’ve ever heard one”)3 specifies who must be targeted.  In societies in which such killings take place, if a family that adheres to a rigid moral code believes that a female member of the family has behaved in a way that tarnished its reputation to the point that an honor killing is required, the family cannot decide to kill, e.g., the third person that walks down the street, or a more distant relative, or the gardener to achieve the goal of restoring honor.  The code governing such killings is specific as to who must be targeted.

Furthermore, social distinction is a given in such cases, as it is the perception of the society in question itself that is entirely responsible for both the family’s perceived loss of honor and for the “need” to carry out the murder.  It is  the society’s moral code that has been violated by the group member’s behavior; it is the society that has distinguished the violator in a manner that brings shame on her family; and it is the society’s perception that the honor killing is intended to appease.  Therefore, while the asylum officer, immigration judge, or BIA may deny asylum for another reason, if credible, an asylum applicant who fears an honor killing should not be denied based on a failure to meet her burden of establishing membership in a cognizable particular social group.

In order to avoid the Board’s prohibition against the group being defined in a circular manner, it is best not to include the term “honor killing” in the definition of the proposed group itself.  The membership in the group is the reason the person fears persecution.  The definition should therefore generally not include the actual harm feared, because a person is not targeted for an honor killing because they are targeted for an honor killing- this is what the Board terms a circular argument.  However, a person may be targeted for persecution because they are a member of the group consisting of, for example, “women from country X whose behavior is perceived to have brought dishonor on their family by flouting repressive moral norms.”  The honor killing is the type of persecution that the applicant fears as a result of their membership in the group.

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

Notes:

1.  On the topic of males targeted for honor killings, see Caitlin Steinke, Male Asylum Applicants Who Fear Becoming the Victims of Honor Killings: The Case for Gender Equality, 17 CUNY L.Rev. 233,(2013).

2.  See USCIS, RAIO Directorate, Combined Training Course, Gender Related Claims Training Module, p. 24 (Rev. 9/26/2011)https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/About%20Us/Directorates%20and%20Program%20Offices/RAIO/Gender%20Related%20Claims%20LP%20%28RAIO%29.pdf.

3.  Sarhan v. Holder, 658 F.3d 649 (7th Cir. 2011).

 

 

 

 

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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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My recent blog blog on this same case is here:

https://wp.me/p8eeJm-1IB

Instead of being on the wrong side of the law and history here, why hasn’t the BIA taken the lead in issuing a precedent establishing protection under the INA and the Conventions for these vulnerable individuals?

The was a time when the BIA had the courage to stand up for the rights of the oppressed and take a leadership role in recognizing legal protections.  See Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996). Decisions like Kasinga both saved lives and promoted the fair and orderly administration of immigration, refugee, and asylum laws in accordance with Due Process.

Today’s BIA appears more interested in serving as an apologist for the extreme anti-immigrant policies of Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration and helping the DOJ’s OIL justify legally questionable positions in the U.S. Courts of Appeals than in standing up for the Due Process and statutory rights of migrants. What’s the purpose of a supposedly deliberative body that seldom visibly “deliberates” and all too often fails to perform its SOLE FUNCTION of “guaranteeing fairness and Due Process for all?”

PWS

12-04-17

 

 

HON. JEFFREY CHASE SPEAKS OUT AGAINST EXPEDITED REMOVAL!

Expedited Removal is Not the Answer to the Backlog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

 

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

11-24-17

 

HON. JEFFREY CHASE COMMENTS ON THE BIA’S RECENTLY WITHDRAWN AMICUS INVITATION ON THE ONE-YEAR BAR!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/11/16/the-bias-withdrawn-amicus-invitation

Jeffrey writes:

The BIA’s Withdrawn Amicus Invitation

The BIA recently withdrew as moot its invitation for amicus briefs on the following issue: whether an applicant who filed a late application for asylum based on two separate grounds (i.e. religion and coercive population control), and who demonstrated changed conditions as to the religion-based claim to allow for late filing, could have their asylum claim considered as to both grounds.  My question is why the Board felt the need to invite briefing on this issue in the first place?

In the 1990s, several high profile events caused Congress to address the issue of asylum reform.  An early version of a House bill addressing the subject would have required an asylum application to be filed within 30 days of arrival in this country.  The bill’s sponsors believed that asylum applications filed by individuals who had been in this country several years lacked legitimacy, and were being filed as a dilatory tactic in removal proceedings, or affirmatively simply as a way to obtain employment authorization.   I remember explaining to members of Congress (including one of the three sponsors of the bill) that it took potential asylum seekers well in excess of 30 days just to get an initial appointment with pro bono groups such as the one I volunteered with at the time.  If the organization accepted the case, it would take additional time to place it with a law firm (which would usually have to first determine that representation was free of any conflicts of interest).  That was all before the pro bono attorney had even met with the client for the first time.  Furthermore, the filing deadline was being considered in conjunction with a sped-up asylum adjudication process under which asylum officers would issue a final decision on asylum claims within 60 days of receipt.  This meant that asylum applicants really needed to file their documentation along with the application.  But for a refugee forced to suddenly flee their country, compiling supporting documentation from overseas can take time.  Advocacy efforts succeeded in persuading Congress to extend the original 30-day filing deadline to the present one year.

However, an additional concern remained.  When meeting with members of Congress on this issue in the 1990s, I raised the following hypothetical: what if a lawful F-1 student receives a call from home during their third year of college, informing the student that their brother was arrested, the police were asking about the student’s own whereabouts, and warning the student to not return home.  The student in this scenario is a legitimate refugee, but the one-year deadline has long passed.  Congress therefore created an exception to the one-year deadline for changed conditions that give rise to a well-founded fear of persecution.  And in the case before the BIA, the respondent satisfied this exception by establishing changed conditions arising more than one year after the last entry to this country that gave rise to a fear of persecution on account of the respondent’s religion.

Apparently, in addition to the new religion claim, the respondent had a preexisting basis for claiming asylum based on China’s coercive population control policies.  Having been allowed to apply for asylum, the respondent sought to include the older basis for asylum as well as the new ground.  It is not clear what the argument might be for not allowing this.  As the respondent was already found eligible to file an asylum application based on the religion claim, allowing the coercive population control claim would not bestow on the respondent any additional benefits beyond those already obtained through the accepted religion-based asylum claim.  Thus, allowing both grounds to be considered would not encourage the late filing of fraudulent applications for the purpose of obtaining employment authorization.  Furthermore, as the respondent was already pursuing the religion-based asylum claim in removal proceedings, allowing consideration of the additional ground would not serve any dilatory purpose.  The length of time required to complete the removal proceedings before the immigration judge would be the same whether the claim was based on one or two grounds.  Thus, allowing both grounds to be considered would not run afoul of either of the concerns that Congress meant to address in establishing the one year filing deadline.  It is thus entirely unclear why the BIA would consider barring the second ground from consideration.

There are legitimate reasons why one might not file an asylum claim within one year of entry.  In some instances, the refugee was simply not aware of the filing deadline; it is possible that he or she did not even learn of the relief of asylum until well after arrival.  Some refugees may be forced to stay with family or friends living in remote areas where legal advice is not readily available.  But even in urban centers, pro bono resources are presently stretched to their limits, and many lack the funds upon arrival to retain private attorneys.  Some with legitimate fears of persecution might have chosen not to apply due to unfavorable case law, a lack of supporting documentation, or a variety of other legal considerations.

The decision as to whether or not to come forward and apply for asylum, and possibly expose oneself to the risk of deportation, is a complicated one.  But once the decision has been made, it is to the advantage of all to hear any and all bases for asylum at once.  Besides from the administrative efficiency of such an approach, the Board needs to realize that a person’s fears and risks of harm are not so clearly compartmentalized.  An asylum claim begins with the applicant’s subjective fear of persecution.  Various fears may overlap or provide context.  For example, would an asylum claimant who had already experienced traumatic persecution at the hands of China’s government for violating the family planning policies be more likely to possess a genuine subjective fear of future persecution by the same governmental authorities on account of their religion?  Or would the applicant be objectively more likely to be singled out for religious persecution where the government had previously targeted them on population control grounds?

Although it became moot in the case presently before the Board, the issue is likely to be a recurring one.  As the Board’s recent asylum decisions have left much to be desired, it is hoped that when its members eventually consider this issue in a precedential decision, they will reach the correct result.

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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I believe that Jeffrey and I have both consistently made the point that the BIA’s precedent decisions all to often fail to reflect a practical understanding of how asylum practice works from the private sector perspective.  That’s probably because none of the BIA’s current Appellate Immigration Judges has any recent experience representing asylum applicants.

PWS

11-16-17

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

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

Dara Lind reports for VOX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Read Dara’s full article at the link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

11-10-17

HON. JEFFREY CHASE: SESSIONS’S PUSH FOR PERFORMANCE QUOTAS ON U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES MIGHT ACTUALLY INCREASE ASYLUM GRANTS! — But, The Real Point Is That This Type Of Inappropriate & Unnecessary Meddling & Manipulation Of The System Shows Why We Need an Independent Immigration Court!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/11/9/ijs-tiered-review-and-completion-quotas

IJs, Tiered Review, and Completion Quotas

EOIR recently announced its intent to subject immigration judges to tiered performance reviews.  Most notably, EOIR plans to impose case completion quotas on the individual judges.  The American Bar Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) were among the many organizations to express their strong  objection to the proposal.

Immigration judges have always been exempt from the tiered reviews that other Department of Justice attorneys undergo each year.  The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge deserves credit for understanding that it is not possible to impose any type of review criteria without impeding on judges’ neutrality and independence.  To begin with, how many cases should a judge complete in a given period of time?  Are the judges with the most completions affording due process to the respondents?  Are they identifying all of the issues, spending enough time reviewing the records, and giving proper consideration and analysis to the facts and the law?  Do their decisions provide sufficient detail for meaningful review?  Are those at the other end of the scale completing less cases because they are working less hard, or to the contrary, because they are delving deeper into the issues and crafting more detailed and sophisticated decisions?  Or is it because they are granting more continuances out of a sense of fairness to the parties, or to allow further development of the record in order to allow for a more informed decision?  And regardless of the reasons, might they be prejudicing some respondents by delaying their day in court?  How would management turn all of these factors into an objective grade?

In terms of completion quotas, all cases are not equal.  A respondent who has no relief and simply wants to depart can have his or her case completed in minutes, whereas a respondent seeking relief in New York will presently be scheduled for a merits hearing in the Spring of 2020, at which time the lengthy testimony of multiple witnesses, disputes over the admissibility of evidence, the need to wait for DHS to adjudicate pending petitions for relief, etc. might result in months or even years of additional continuances.  Decisions in some cases are delivered orally in just a few sentences; others require 25 written pages.  Yet all count the same in EOIR’s completion ledger.

I am pretty certain that the move for tiered review is not coming from the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge,  but from higher up – either the new Acting Director of EOIR, or Main Justice.  Even under more liberal administrations, the Department of Justice never really understood the IJs, who are the only judges within a predominantly enforcement-minded department.  The need for neutrality and fairness is further lost on the present Attorney General, who has made his anti-immigrant agenda clear.  IJs are in an interesting position: they represent the Attorney General (i.e. are acting as the AG’s surrogates, where the statute delegates authority to make determinations or grant relief to the AG).  Yet in spite of such posture, IJs often reach decisions that are at odds with the AG’s own views.  For example, does Jeff Sessions, who last month issued a memo allowing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals under the guise of protecting the discriminators’ “religious liberty,”, approve of his immigration judges granting asylum claims based on sexual orientation or sexual identity?  In light of Sessions’ recent charges of widespread asylum fraud, does he agree with his judges’ high asylum grant rates?

It is probably this tension that provides the impetus for the Department’s  present proposal.  The tiered criteria and completion quotas are likely designed to pressure judges with more liberal approaches into issuing more removal orders.  They would also provide the department with a basis to take punitive action against judges who resist such pressures.  Given the high percentage of immigration judges who are retirement eligible, the department might be counting on judges targeted under the new review criteria to simply retire, allowing them to be replaced with more enforcement-minded jurists.

It should be noted that the changes are at this point proposals.  The immigration judge corps is represented by a very effective union.  As the present leadership within the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge is fair minded, there is hope that reason will prevail.  However, in a worst-case scenario in which the plan is implemented, what should immigration judges do?

Having worked both as an IJ and a BIA staff attorney subjected to both quotas and tiered review, I can state that there are big differences.  BIA staff attorneys draft decisions that Board members then have to approve, whereas immigration judges are in complete control of the case outcome.  Furthermore, unlike BIA attorneys who are dealing with records of completed decisions, immigration judges are conducting proceedings in which the protection of due process must be safeguarded above all, as the Chief Immigration Judge pointed out in her July 31, 2017 memo on continuances.  Circuit courts are not going to excuse due process violations because immigration judges have to meet arbitrary completion goals.

Although the intent may be to create more removal orders, completion quotas can prove to be a two-edged sword.  Should the ICE attorney not have the file at the first Master Calendar hearing, or should they lack a certified copy of the conviction record or proof of service of the NTA, will the IJ feel compelled to terminate proceedings (which constitutes a completion) rather than grant the government a continuance?  Many hearings turn on credibility findings, but credibility findings take time to get right.  The Second Circuit, for example, has held that an immigration judge should probe for additional details to clear up doubts about credibility.1  As Deborah Anker has pointed out in her Law of Asylum in the United States, “Federal courts have overturned adverse credibility findings where an immigration judge has interrupted an applicant repeatedly, rushed the hearing, and then criticized an applicant’s testimony for lacking specificity.”2  But won’t completion quotas likely encourage exactly such prohibited behavior?  In order to avoid reversal on appeal, judges who are forced to rush or curtail hearings will may need to give the benefit of the doubt to respondents and find them credible.  Additionally, judges may no longer be able to continue cases to allow DHS to subject documents to forensic examination, or to conduct consular investigations in the applicants’ home countries.  Under pressure to complete cases, judges may be forced to credit witness affidavits as opposed to allowing DHS to subject those witnesses to cross-examination.

For the above reasons, it is not impossible that completion quotas might actually result in more grants of relief and terminations of proceedings, resulting in fewer removal orders.  Like so many of the poorly thought out policies of the current administration seeking to erode individual protections, completion quotas (if implemented) may just be the latest that will fail to achieve its intended result.  The proposal provides further evidence of the need for a truly independent immigration court.

 

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

 

Notes

1.  Yang v. Board of Immigration Appeals, 440 F.3d 72, 74 (2d Cir. 2006).

2.  Anker, Law of Asylum in the United States (2017 Edition) at 199.

 

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Thanks, Jeffrey! Performance standards for Immigration Judges are a complete waste of time, an improper intrusion into judicial independence, and a diversion of time and energy from solving the many real problems facing this system — most of which relate to the DOJ and the untenable administrative structure of the U.S. Immigration Courts, not the individual IJs.
PWS
11-09-17

HON. JEFFREY CHASE WITH SOME GREAT PRACTICAL ADVICE ON HOW YOU CAN MAKE THE 1ST CIRCUIT’S RECENT DECISION IN Aguilar-Escoto v. Sessions, No. 16-1090 (1st Cir. Oct. 27, 2017) “WORK FOR YOU!”

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/11/2/1st-cir-on-why-all-evidence-must-be-considered

1st Cir. on Why All Evidence Must Be Considered

In Aguilar-Escoto v. Sessions, No. 16-1090 (1st Cir. Oct. 27, 2017), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the BIA’s erroneous decision affirming an immigration judge’s denial of withholding of removal.  The circuit court employed an interesting approach that lawyers and judges may wish to examine.

In Aguilar-Escoto, the Board upheld the immigration judge’s adverse credibility finding.  However, the petitioner also provided significant documentary evidence.  Although the IJ had considered and disposed of such evidence, the Board did not address it.  On appeal, the First Circuit adopted the view of the Eleventh Circuit in holding that “an adverse credibility determination does not alleviate the BIA’s duty to consider other evidence…”  The court concluded that remand was required “irrespective of the supportability of the adverse credibility finding” in order for the Board to consider the previously neglected evidence.  However, the court reached such conclusion in an unusual way.

Although the IJ had correctly noted that the application was for withholding of removal, the Board carelessly stated that the petitioner “failed to meet her burden of proof for asylum.”  As those of us who practice in this field all know, asylum and withholding have different burdens of proof.  As the Board is fond of saying in its decisions, if the respondent did not meet her burden of proof for asylum, “it follows that she has not satisfied the more stringent burden that applies to withholding of removal.”  The Board used similar boilerplate in this case.

However, the circuit court here stated that in one way, the burden for asylum “may be more exacting.”  The court noted that asylum has a subjective and objective component: an applicant must establish both a genuine subjective fear, and then must show that such fear is objectively reasonable.  Although withholding of removal requires a much greater probability of harm (more than 50 percent, as opposed to the 10 percent needed for asylum), the court observed that the focus is entirely on the objective; i.e. there is no inquiry into the applicant’s own subjective fear.  In other words, asylum applicants must first convince the adjudicator that  they are genuinely afraid of being persecuted, and must then provide enough objective evidence to show that such fear is reasonable.  Withholding applicants must show through objective evidence that there is a greater than 50 percent chance that they will suffer persecution; their own fear is irrelevant to the inquiry.  The reason for this distinction is that asylum requires one to meet the statutory definition of “refugee,” which involves a “well-founded fear of persecution.”   Withholding of removal does not incorporate the refugee definition, but rather prohibits removal to a country where the Attorney General decides that the individual’s freedom would be threatened on account of a protected ground.  Thus, in asylum, the adjudicator is reviewing the reasonableness of the applicant’s own fear; in withholding of removal, the A.G. is the one determining the threat to safety.

The First Circuit explains the importance of this distinction: an adverse credibility finding impacts the genuineness of the applicant’s subjective fear.  However, it does not impact the independent objective evidence regarding the likelihood of the applicant suffering harm if returned to her country.  The court noted that in mistakenly thinking it was affirming a denial of asylum based on adverse credibility, the Board then added common boilerplate language that, since the applicant did not meet the lower burden required for asylum, it follows that she did not meet withholding’s higher burden.  But the court said that logic only applies where the subjective fear element is satisfied, but the claim was denied due to a failure to provide sufficient objective evidence to support such fear.  Here, as the adverse credibility finding precluded the petitioner from establishing a genuine subjective fear of persecution, the withholding of removal application required a separate inquiry as to whether the independent objective evidence was sufficient to establish the likelihood of persecution.  The record was therefore remanded for such inquiry.

To illustrate by way of example, let’s say an applicant applies for asylum and withholding based on her Christian religion.  The applicant claims to be afraid to return to her country because she received multiple threatening phone calls and letters referencing her religion.  The applicant also submits news articles and human rights reports detailing violent attacks on Christians in her hometown.  Now, let’s assume that the immigration judge believes that the respondent is in fact a practicing Christian.  However, the IJ concludes that the claimed threats lack credibility.  Asylum requires the applicant to first demonstrate a genuine subjective fear of persecution.  The respondent testified that her fear was based on the threats.  Under the First Circuit’s holding, if the IJ finds that the threats didn’t actually occur, the IJ can determine that the respondent did not establish a genuine fear of persecution.

However, what if the reports and articles believably establish that Christians run a high risk of being persecuted on account of their religion?  The IJ did believe that the respondent was in fact a practicing Christian.  According to the First Circuit, the IJ therefore just can’t dispose of the withholding claim by stating that the respondent didn’t meet the lower burden of proof for asylum, so therefore couldn’t have met the higher burden for withholding.  The IJ would instead have to apply a separate analysis as to whether the articles and reports independently establish that it is more likely than not the respondent would be persecuted on account of her religion if removed to her country.  If so, the respondent is entitled to withholding of removal (which is a non-discretionary form of relief).

Both immigration practitioners and government adjudicators should take note, and approach their arguments and drafting of decisions accordingly.  As an aside,  the nuances and degree of analysis that the circuit court’s decision requires of adjudicators underscores the danger of the Department of Justice’s stated intent to impose case completion quotas on immigration judges.  As my good friend and fellow blogger Paul Schmidt recently wrote on the topic (and as this case clearly illustrates), immigration judges are not piece workers, and fair court decisions are not widgets (well said, Paul!).

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

Thanks much for the “shout out” in your final sentence, Jeffrey!
Here’s a link to my previous blog on Aguilar-Escoto v. Sessions

HON. JEFFREY CHASE: A.G. IS IGNORANT & BIASED — SESSIONS TRIES TO BLAME EVERYBODY BUT TRUE CULPRITS FOR ASYLUM BACKLOGS!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/10/26/in-response-sessions-claims-regarding-asylum-fraud

Jeffrey writes:

“In a recent address at EOIR headquarters, Attorney General Jeff Sessions blamed the immigration courts’ present backlog of over 600,000 cases on asylum fraud. In order to lend support to his claim, Sessions conveniently omitted some important facts.

First, Sessions somehow failed to mention that after gaining majority control in the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans in Congress forced a hiring freeze, followed by a “sequester” requiring government-wide budget cuts. EOIR was not able to hire immigration judges or other support staff, while suffering personnel departures. In 2015 testimony to Congress by EOIR’s then director, the late Juan Osuna attributed much of the 101 percent increase in the immigration court’s backlog over the preceding five years to the hiring freeze. Furthermore, the sequester’s budget cuts rendered EOIR unable to replace obsolete computer servers, which resulted in a total system failure in 2014 which wreaked havoc on the courts for more than 5 weeks. These Republican-created problems coincided with the 2014 surge along the southern border of legitimate refugees fleeing increased violence in the Northern Triangle region of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The 2014 violence was followed by a 70 percent increase in the murder rate in El Salvador the following year, which, according to a January 2016 article in The Guardian, made it the most dangerous peacetime country in the world.

EOIR publishes a statistical yearbook each year; the most recent is for fiscal year 2016. The report divides asylum claims into affirmative and defensive categories. Defensive applications are filed by individuals who find themselves in removal proceedings facing deportation from the U.S. Some are detained; some are not represented by attorneys. The majority of these individuals are eligible to apply for only one form of relief: asylum. Given the fact that most people in removal proceedings would like to remain in the U.S. and avoid deportation, it is not surprising that a number of these individuals file applications for the only form of relief that might keep them here, even if the likelihood of success is a longshot. Nevertheless, in FY 2016, 31 percent (i.e. nearly a third) of these defensive claims for asylum were granted by immigration judges, according to EOIR’s own numbers.

The second category of asylum applicants listed in EOIR’s annual report consists of affirmative applicants. These are individuals who are not detained or in imminent danger of deportation. Nevertheless, these individuals decided to come forward and apply for asylum, bringing themselves to the attention of DHS and risking deportation should their claims be denied. In FY 2016, EOIR reported that 83 percent of such claims were granted by immigration judges. It should be noted that affirmative applicants are first interviewed by asylum officers with USCIS, a component of DHS. DHS grants asylum to those applicants it deems approvable, and refers the rest to EOIR. So if the cases granted by DHS are added to the EOIR numbers, the grant rate is actually higher.

In removal proceedings, asylum applications are contested by DHS trial attorneys, who nearly always subject asylum applicants to detailed cross-examination.. DHS attorneys may send evidence submitted by asylum applicants for consular investigation in the country of origin, or for forensics examination to determine if there is evidence of fabrication or alteration. The DHS attorneys may also check other databases for evidence that may conflict with the information provided in the asylum application. DHS may offer any results that might indicate fraud into evidence. Sessions falsely claims that “there is no way to reasonably investigate the claims of an asylum applicant in their own country;” in my 12 years as an immigration judge, I was presented with the results of many such in-country consular investigations. I also commonly received reports and heard testimony from forensics examiners employed by DHS.

In addition, in response to reports of fraud, Congress included provisions in the 2005 REAL ID Act that gave immigration judges greater authority to find that asylum applicants lacked credibility. The legislation also made it more difficult to establish asylum eligibility by requiring that one of the five statutorily protected grounds (i.e. race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion) be “one central reason” for the feared persecution. Also, the BIA has spent the last 11 years issuing precedent decisions that increase the difficulty of establishing asylum eligibility.

And in spite of all of the above, immigration judges last year found more than 8 of 10 affirmative asylum applicants to be legitimate. The IJs granting these claims are employees of the Attorney General’s own Department of Justice. Immigration Judges are appointed by the Attorney General, and come from a variety of backgrounds. Many previously worked on the enforcement side; many are Republican appointees. Sessions claims that “vague, insubstantial, and subjective claims have swamped our system.” If true, how are more than 80 percent being granted by judges that he and his predecessors appointed?

So then where is the evidence of widespread asylum fraud supporting Sessions’ assertion? What support does he provide in claiming that “any adjudicatory system with a grant rate of nearly 90 percent is inherently flawed?” Why would that be true of the applicants in question chose to come forward and apply for asylum; their claims were screened and prepared by competent attorneys; and where the immigration laws contain significant penalties for filing fraudulent claims, including a lifetime bar on any and all immigration benefits?

About three years ago, while I was the country conditions expert for EOIR, I was one of a number of EOIR employees invited by DHS to attend a training session on country conditions in the Northern Triangle region of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The presenters described horrific conditions in the lawless Northern Triangle, in which murders occur with impunity, boys as young as 7 years old are recruited for gang membership, 11 year old girls are raped, and their fathers killed if they try to intervene. The presenters concluded that in spite of the danger, parents are making very informed decisions in paying to have their children smuggled north under dangerous conditions, considering the horrible conditions at home. Remember, this was not a program put on by Amnesty International; this was DHS training its asylum officers. I enlisted one of the presenters to repeat his presentation for the immigration judges at their training conference the following year. Is Sessions somehow unaware of this information when he portrays such claims as fraudulent?

In support of his fraud claim, Sessions stated that many who were found to have a credible fear of persecution and paroled into the U.S. did not subsequently apply for asylum. However, he neglected to mention that many of those parolees are unaccompanied children. He also did not mention that many parolees cannot afford attorneys, and that pro bono groups’ limited resources are completely overwhelmed by the number of asylum seekers, and that those dedicated pro bono programs who have attempted creative approaches such as providing limited pro bono assistance to pro se applicants have been hampered by EOIR itself, which issued a “cease and desist” letter to at least one such program, the highly regarded Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

Sessions referenced a 2014 investigation resulting in the arrest of 8 attorneys for engaging in asylum fraud. There are thousands of immigration attorneys in the United States. The overwhelming majority are honest, hardworking and highly respectful of our laws. Since departing the government I been inspired by the seriousness with which private immigration attorneys treat asylum matters. When attorneys speak of a client being granted asylum, they nearly always describe years of preparation, a lengthy hearing, well-researched legal theories, and loads of supporting evidence, often including expert witnesses. These are not half-hour hearings; they are exhausting, contested matters that can last many hours. The attorneys engaged in such work should be applauded for their efforts. And I can’t express enough admiration for the hundreds of immigration judges who, in spite of the pressure created by a daunting workload and biased remarks by the Attorney General they report to, nevertheless continue to afford due process and render fair and impartial judgement on those appearing before them.

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.”

Reprinted with permission.

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Right on Jeffrey!  Thanks for your incisive commentary and analysis!

Gonzo’s extensive record of lies, omissions, intentional distortions, bias, and willful ignorance make him unqualified for any position of public trust, let alone the chief legal official of the US! The inappropriateness of placing such an individual in charge of the US Immigration Courts is simply jaw dropping!

Sen. Liz Warren was right! Our country and our entire system of justice are suffering because a majority of her colleagues “tuned her out!” Speaking truth to power is seldom easy.

PWS

10-26-17

COURTSIDE BRINGS YOU “LAW YOU CAN USE!” – Hon. Jeffrey Chase Tells “Do’s and Don’t’s” Of Challenging CREDIBILITY On BIA Appeals! EXTRA BONUS! NEW PWS COMMENTARY: Don’t Let “Gonzo’s” Lies & His Agenda Of Hate & Intentional Dehumanization Of Our Most Vulnerable Populations Win — Fight His Bogus Distorted Attack On Our Humanity & Our Legal System Every Inch Of The Way!

 

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/10/12/challenging-credibility-findings-before-the-bia

Jeffrey writes:

Challenging Credibility Findings Before the BIA

“As discussed in last week’s post, in 2002, the standard under which the BIA reviews credibility determination was changed as part of the reforms instituted by then Attorney General John Ashcroft.  Furthermore, in 2005, Congress enacted the REAL ID Act, which provided immigration judges with broader grounds for determining  credibility.  These two factors combine to make it more difficult for the Board to reverse an immigration judge’s adverse credibility finding than it was prior to these changes.  The following are some thoughts on strategy when appealing credibility findings to the Board.

1. Don’t offer alternative interpretations of the record.

You cannot successfully challenge an adverse credibility finding by offering an alternative way of viewing the record.  If the IJ’s interpretation is deemed reasonable, the BIA cannot reverse on the grounds that it would have weighed the documents, interpreted the facts, or resolved the ambiguities differently.  Or as the Supreme Court has held, “[w]here there are two permissible views of the evidence, the factfinder’s choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous.”  Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573-74 (1985).

2. Does the record support the IJ’s finding?

On occasion, the discrepancy cited by the IJ is not found in the transcript.  IJs hear so many cases; some hearings are spread over months or years due to continuances; witnesses or their interpreters do not always speak clearly; documents are sometimes clumsily translated.  For all of these reasons, it is possible that the IJ didn’t quite hear or remember what was said with complete accuracy, or might have misconstrued what a supporting document purports to be or says.  It is worth reviewing the record carefully.

3. Does the REAL ID Act standard apply?

The REAL ID Act applies to applications filed on or after May 11, 2005.  With the passage of time, fewer and fewer cases will involve applications filed prior to the effective date.  However, there are still some cases which have been administratively closed, reopened, or remanded which involve applications not subject to the REAL ID Act standard.  In those rare instances, look to whether the IJ relied on factors that would not support an adverse credibility finding under the pre-REAL ID standard.  For example, did the IJ rely on non-material discrepancies to support the credibility finding?  If so, argue that under the proper, pre-REAL ID Act standard, the discrepancies cited must go to the heart of the matter in order to properly support an adverse credibility finding.

4. Did the IJ’s decision contain an explicit credibility finding?

Under the REAL ID Act, “if no adverse credibility determination is explicitly made, the applicant or witness shall have a rebuttable presumption of credibility on appeal.”  See INA section 208(b)(1)(B)(iii) (governing asylum applications); INA section 240(c)(4)(C) (governing all other applications for relief).  Therefore, review the decision carefully to determine if an explicit credibility finding was made.  In some decisions, the immigration judge will find parts of the testimony “problematic,” or question its plausibility, without actually reaching a conclusion that the testimony lacked credibility.  In such cases, argue on appeal that the statutory presumption of credibility should apply.

5. Did the credibility finding cover all or only part of the testimony?

As an IJ, I commonly stated in my opinions that credibility findings are not an all or nothing proposition.  A respondent may be credible as to parts of his or her claim, but incredible as to other aspects.  There are instances in which a single falsehood might discredit the entirety of the testimony under the doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.  However, there are variations in the application of the doctrine among the circuits, and there are exceptions.  For example, the Second Circuit in Siewe v. Gonzales, 480 F.3d 160 (2d Cir. 2007) recognized the doctrine, but laid out five specific exceptions under which a false statement will not undermine the overall credibility.  However, the Seventh Circuit, in Kadia v. Gonzales, 501 F.3d 817 (7th Cir, 2007) rejected falsus in uno,referring to it as a “discredited doctrine.”  The Ninth Circuit, in Shouchen Yang v. Lynch, 815 F.3d 1173 (9th Cir. 2016), acknowledged that an IJ may apply the doctrine, but that the Board itself could not (for example, to deny a motion to reopen based on a prior adverse credibility finding).   Therefore, determine whether under the applicable circuit case law the falsehood cited by the IJ was sufficient to undermine all of the testimony.  If not, determine whether the remainder of the testimony is sufficient to meet the burden of proof.

6. Did the IJ rely on a permissible inference, or impermissible speculation?

In Siewe v. Gonzales, supra, the Second Circuit discussed the difference between a permissible inference and impermissible “bald” speculation.  The court cited earlier case law stating that “an inference is not a suspicion or a guess.”  Rather, an inference must be “tethered to the evidentiary record:” meaning it should be supported “by record facts, or even a single fact, viewed in the light of common sense and ordinary experience.”  Generally, findings such as “no real Christian wouldn’t know that prayer” or “the police would never leave a copy of the arrest warrant” would constitute bald speculation unless there was expert testimony or reliable documentation in the record to lend support to such conclusion.

7. Did the IJ permissibly rely on an omission under applicable circuit law?

There is a body of circuit court case law treating omissions differently than discrepancies.  For example, several circuits have held that as there is no requirement to list every incident in the I-589,  the absence of certain events from the written application that were later included in the respondent’s testimony did not undermine credibility.  Look to whether the omission involved an event that wasn’t highly significant to the claim.  Also look for other factors that might explain the omission, i.e. a female respondent’s non disclosure of a rape to a male airport inspector; a respondent’s fear of disclosing his sexual orientation to a government official upon arrival in light of past experiences in his/her country.  Regarding omissions in airport statements, please refer to my prior post concerning the questionable reliability of such statements in light of a detailed USCIRF report.  See also, e.g., Moab v. Gonzales, 500 F.3d 656 (7th Cir. 2007); Ramseachire v. Ashcroft, 357 F.3d 169 (2d Cir. 2004), addressing factors to consider in determining the reliability of airport statements.

8.  Was the respondent provided the opportunity to explain the discrepancies?

At least in the Second and Ninth Circuits, case law requires the IJ to provide the respondent with the opportunity to respond to discrepancies.  The Second Circuit limits this right to situations in which the inconsistency is not “dramatic,” and the need to clarify might therefore not be obvious to the respondent.  See Pang v. USCIS, 448 F.3d 102 (2d Cir. 2006).

9. Did the “totality of the circumstances” support the credibility finding?

Even under the REAL ID Act standards, the IJ must consider the flaws in the testimony under “the totality of the circumstances, and all relevant factors.”  INA sections 208(b)(1)(B)(ii), 240(c)(4)(C).  The circuit courts have held that the standard does not allow IJs to “cherry pick” minor inconsistencies to reach an adverse credibility finding.  For a recent example, note the Third Circuit’s determination in Alimbaev v. Att’y Gen. of U.S. (discussed in last week’s post) finding two inconsistencies relied on by the BIA as being “so insignificant…that they would probably not, standing alone, justify an IJ making an adverse credibility finding…”

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.”

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION

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Don’t Let “Gonzo’s” Lies & His Agenda Of Hate & Intentional Dehumanization Of Our Most Vulnerable Populations Win — Fight His Bogus Distorted Attack On Our Humanity & Our Legal System Every Inch Of The Way!

By Paul Wickham Schmidt

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

For those of you who don’t know him, Judge Jeffrey Chase has a unique perspective starting his career in private practice, becoming a U.S. Immigration Judge in New York, and finally finishing his Government career as an Attorney Advisor writing decisions for the BIA.

Great stuff, Jeffrey!  I love being able to help folks “tune in” to things the they can actually use in the day to day practice of immigration law!

One of the best ways to fight “Gonzoism” and uphold due process is by winning the cases one at a time through great advocacy. Don’t let the “false Gonzo narrative” fool you! Even under today’s restrictive laws (which Gonzo would like to eliminate or make even more restrictive) there are lots of “winners” out there at all levels.

But given the “negative haze” hanging over the Immigration Courts as a result of Gonzo and his restrictionists agenda, the best way of stopping the “Removal Railway” is from the “bottom up” by: 1) getting folks out of “Expedited Removal” (which Gonzo intends to make a literal “killing floor”); 2) getting them represented so they can’t be “pushed around” by DHS Counsel and Immigration Judges who fear for their jobs unless they produce “Maximo Removals with Minimal Due Process” per guys like Gonzo and Homan over at DHS; 3) getting them out of the “American Gulag” that Sessions and DHS have created to duress migrants into not seeking the protection they are entitled to or giving up potentially viable claims; 4) making great legal arguments and introducing lots of corroborating evidence, particularly on country conditions, at both the trial and appellate levels (here’s where Jeffrey’s contributions are invaluable); 5) fighting cases into the U.S. Courts of Appeals (where Gonzo’s false words and perverted views are not by any means the “last word”); and 5) attacking the overall fairness of the system in both the Courts of Appeals and the U.S. District Courts — at some point life-tenured Article III have to see the absolute farce that an Immigration Judiciary run by a clearly biased xenophobic White Nationalist restrictionist like Sessions has become. Every time Gonzo opens his mouth he proves that the promise of Due Process in the Immigration Courts is bogus and that the system is being rigged against migrants asserting their rights.

Sessions couldn’t be fair to a migrant or treat him or her like a human being if his life depended on it! The guy smears dreamers, children whose lives are threatened by gangs, hard-working American families, LGBTQ Americans, and women who have been raped or are victims of sexual abuse. How low can someone go!

Virtually everything Gonzo says is untrue or distorted, aimed at degrading the humanity and legal protections of some vulnerable group he hates (Gonzo’s “victim of the week”), be it the LGBTQ community, asylum seekers, women, children, immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, attorneys, the Obama Administration, or U.S. Immigration Judges trying to do a conscientious job. Perhaps the biggest and most egregious “whopper” is his assertion that those claiming asylum at the Southern Border are either fraudsters or making claims not covered by law.

On the contrary, according to a recent analysis by the UNHCR, certainly a more reliable source on asylum applicants than Gonzo, “over 80 percent of women from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico who were screened on arrival at the U.S. border ‘were found to have a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum or protection under the Convention against Torture.'” “Majority of Asylum Seekers have Legitimate Claims: Response to Sessions Statement,” available online at https://www.wola.org/2017/10/no-basis-claims-rampant-abuse-us-asylum-system-response-sessions-statement/.

This strongly suggests that the big fraud here isn’t coming from asylum seekers. No, the real fraud is the unusually high removal rate at the border touted by Gonzo and his EOIR “patsies” — the result of improper adjudications or unlawful manipulation of the system (intentional duress – misinforming individuals about their rights) by DHS, the U.S. Immigration Court, or simply wrong constructions of protection law.

I think that the majority of Immigration Court cases are still “winners” if the respondents can get competent representation and fight at all levels. Folks, Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions has declared war on migrants and on the Due Process Clause of our Constitution.

He’s using his reprehensible false narratives and “bully pulpit” to promote the White Nationalist, Xenophobic, restrictionist “myth” that most claims and defenses in Immigration Court are “bogus” and they are clogging up the court with meritless claims just to delay removal. The next step is to eliminate all rights and expel folks without any semblance of due process because Gonzo has prejudged them in advance as not folks we want in our country. How biased can you get!

So, we’ve got to prove that many, probably the majority, of the cases in Immigration Court have merit! Removal orders are being “churned out” in “Gonzo’s world” by using devices such as “in absentia orders” (in my extensive experience, more often than not the result of defects in service by mail stemming from sloppiness in DHS and EOIR records, or failure of the DHS to explain in Spanish — as required by law but seldom actually done — the meaning of a Notice to Appear and the various confusing “reporting requirements”); blocking folks with credible fears of persecution or torture from getting into the Immigration Court system by pushing Asylum Officers to improperly raise the standard and deny migrants their “day in court” and their ability to get representation and document their claims; using detention and the bond system to “coerce” migrants into giving up viable claims and taking “final orders;” intentionally putting detention centers and Immigration Courts in obscure detention locations for the specific purpose of making it difficult or impossible to get pro bono representation and consult with family and friends; using “out-of-town” Immigration Judges on detail or on video who are being pressured to “clear the dockets” by removing everyone and denying bonds or setting unreasonable bonds; sending “messages” to Immigration Judges and BIA Judges that most cases are bogus and the Administration expects them to act as “Kangaroo Courts” on the “Removal Railroad;” taking aim at hard-earned asylum victories at all levels by attacking and trying to restrict the many favorable precedents at both the Administrative and Court of Appeals levels that Immigration Judges and even the BIA often ignore and that unrepresented aliens don’t know about; improperly using the Immigration Court System to send “don’t come” enforcement messages to refugees in Central America and elsewhere; and shuttling potentially winning cases to the end of crowded dockets through improper “ADR” and thereby both looking for ways to make those cases fail through time (unavailable witnesses, changing conditions) and trying to avoid the favorable precedents and positive asylum statistics that these “winners” should be generating.

Folks, I’ve forgotten more about immigration law, Due Process, and the Immigration Courts than Gonzo Apocalypto and his restrictionist buddies on the Hill and in anti-immigrant interest groups will ever know. Their minds are closed. Their bias is ingrained. Virtually everything coming out of their mouths is a pack of vicious lies designed to “throw dirt” and deprive desperate individuals of the protections and fairness we owe them under our laws, international law, and our Constitution. Decent human beings have to fight Gonzo and his gang of “Bad Hombres” every inch of the way so that their heinous and immoral plan to eliminate immigration benefits and truncate Due Process for all of us on the way to creating an “Internal Security Force” and an “American Gulag” within the DHS will fail.

Remember,”as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”  Gonzo’s going to have some ‘splainin top do at some point in the future!

Stand Up For Migrants’ Rights! “Gonzo and His Toxic Gang Must Go!” Sen. Liz Warren was absolutely right. Demand a “recount” on the NYT “Worst Trump Cabinet Member” poll. Gonzo is in a class by himself!

 

PWS

10-14-17