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

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

From AILA Executive Director Ben Johnson:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

12-12-17

THE GIBSON REPORT — 12-11-17 

THE GIBSON REPORT 12-12-17

HERE ARE THE HEADLINES:

“TOP UPDATES

 

Concerning I-765 form and instructions, comments open until Dec. 12

Three worrisome changes caught by KIND:

  • requirement to provide a passport or US or foreign government-issued ID applies to those with asylum-pending or withholding granted (as well as SIJs, and T & U nonimmigrants); this is a major break with past practice, and huge obstacle.
  • if asylum is pending, requires arrest and conviction records. The EAD will be denied if you have been convicted of an aggravated felony, and USCIS will evaluate the arrest records to determine that. This is a procedural due process problem in that this is an ultimate question to be determined by the adjudicator of the asylum application.
  • option of using a “Safe Mailing Address” is buried deep in the instructions where it’s easy to miss, and limits it to VAWA, T and U applicants.

 

Update on Joint Motions

From the OCC duty attorney via Make the Road:

  • she generally reviews all proposed JMTRs, and makes a decision by written letter as to whether to join, decline, or request more information
  • she has a significant backlog such that she is still reviewing proposed JMTRs filed in November of 2016… (Note from EG: when I spoke with her in April of 2017, she was doing September of 2016)
  • without an “exceptional or unusual” circumstance such as urgent need to travel because of death or illness, she wouldn’t prioritize reviewing one sooner
  • if I am concerned about the wait, she encourages me to “seek prosecutorial discretion from ERO through a stay or deferred action.”

 

Sessions outlines principles to reduce immigration case backlog

DOJ: “[DOJ aims] to reduce the so-called “backlog” by realigning the agency towards completing cases, increasing both productivity and capacity, and changing policies that lead to inefficiencies and delay justice.”

 

PRUCOL for Asylum Applicants (see attached)

Effective immediately, PRUCOL status will be granted to Asylum applicants with EAD cards for the purpose of Cash Assistance eligibility, which in turn has implications for rental assistance.

 

New Federal Lawsuit on Behalf of Lawful Permanent Residents Denied the Opportunity to Become U.S. Citizens Because of Disabilities

Legal Services NYC’s Bronx program, Immigrant Justice Corps, Alaska Immigration Justice Project, and WilmerHale filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of nine LPRs from New York, Massachusetts, and Alaska, who are statutorily eligible to apply for citizenship, but who have mental health or cognitive impairments which make it impossible for them to learn English and pass the English and civics tests ordinarily required to become U.S. citizens. The lawsuit was filed against the DHS and USCIS.

 

NIJC and Immigrant Rights Advocates Demand Civil Rights Investigation into ICE Raids that Targeted Sponsors of Unaccompanied Children

Eight immigrant rights organizations filed a complaint with DHS OIG and Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on behalf of some of the 400 people detained in raids during the summer of 2017 that used unaccompanied children to identify and target their relatives living in the United States. AILA Doc. No. 17120762

 

DOS Updates Guidance Due To New Court Orders on Presidential Proclamation

DOS provided updated guidance due to the 12/4/17 Supreme Court orders that granted the government’s motions for emergency stays of preliminary injunctions. Per the orders, restrictions will be implemented fully, in accordance with the Presidential Proclamation, around the world, beginning 12/8/17. AILA Doc. No. 17120830

 

CBP Muster: Policy Regarding Border Search of Information

CBP created a muster regarding border searches of electronic devices. Notes such searches may include searches of the information physically present on the device when presented for inspection or during its detention. Obtained by a FOIA request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. AILA Doc. No. 17120636.

 

DHS Provides ICE and CBP End of FY2017 Statistics

DHS released a summary of its end-of-the-year immigration enforcement numbers. In FY2017, CBP reported 310,531 apprehensions nationwide, 303,916 of which were along the Southwest border. In FY2017, ICE conducted 143,470 arrests and 226,119 removals. AILA Doc. No. 17120534

 

EOIR Final Rule on Denials of Suspension of Deportation and Cancellation of Removal

EOIR final rule adopting without change the rule proposed at 81 FR 86291 on 11/30/16. The final rule allows IJs and the BIA to issue final denials of suspension of deportation and cancellation of removal applications regardless of whether the annual cap has been reached. (82 FR 57336, 12/5/17) AILA Doc. No. 17120530

 

 

ACTIONS

 

  • Sign petition to Judge DiFioreon keeping ICE out of NY courts.
  • IDP Push on State Pardons: We have reason to think that the Governor’s office may be more likely to grant pending pardon applications (and more in the future) if we package together compelling cases. If you have pardon applications currently pending (or that could be submitted soon) where someone would receive some kind of immigration benefit and would like to be included in this joint advocacy effort, please email awellek@immigrantdefenseproject.org by 12/13: 1-2 paragraphs about the applicant. It should cover who the applicant is, their equities, what their convictions are, and the current posture of their immigration case and how a pardon will help.
  • NYIC and CUNY survey of gang-related issues – deadline 12/15/17

 

RESOURCES

 

·         USCIS Provides FAQs on Rejected DACA Requests”

 

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

Thanks, Elizabeth, for keeping the members of the “New Due Process Army” informed!

You’re the greatest!

 

PWS

12-12-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you’ll “tune in!”

PWS

12-07-17

 

 

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

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

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

“Introduction

Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Future Of Immigration Detention: Why Cibola Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recommendations

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

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

Specifically, Congress must:

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

 

A Note On Methodology

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

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

Acknowledgements

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

All photos credit the National Immigrant Justice Center.”

 

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

Read the complete report at the link.

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

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

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

PWS

12-05-17

GONZO’S WORLD: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A DIVERSE “NATION OF IMMIGRANTS” ANOINTS A COMMITTED XENOPHOBE AS ITS CHIEF LAW OFFICER? – Gonzo Is Deconstructing Our System Of Justice, One Day At A Time!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/while-eyes-are-on-russia-sessions-dramatically-reshapes-the-justice-department/2017/11/24/dd52d66a-b8dd-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.6b27aa9221e3

“For more than five hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat in a hearing room on Capitol Hill this month, fending off inquiries on Washington’s two favorite topics: President Trump and Russia.

But legislators spent little time asking Sessions about the dramatic and controversial changes in policy he has made since taking over the top law enforcement job in the United States nine months ago.

From his crackdown on illegal immigration to his reversal of Obama administration policies on criminal justice and policing, Sessions is methodically reshaping the Justice Department to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views — moves drawing comparatively less public scrutiny than the ongoing investigations into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.

Sessions has implemented a new charging and sentencing policy that calls for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory minimum penalties. He has defended the president’s travel ban and tried to strip funding from cities with policies he considers too friendly toward undocumented immigrants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Nov. 14. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Sessions has even adjusted the department’s legal stances in cases involving voting rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in a way that advocates warn might disenfranchise poor minorities and give certain religious people a license to discriminate.

Supporters and critics say the attorney general has been among the most effective of the Cabinet secretaries — implementing Trump’s conservative policy agenda even as the president publicly and privately toys with firing him over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia case.

. . . .

In meetings with top Justice Department officials about terrorist suspects, Sessions often has a particular question: Where is the person from? When officials tell him a suspect was born and lives in the United States, he typically has a follow-up: To what country does his family trace its lineage?

While there are reasons to want to know that information, some officials familiar with the inquiries said the questions struck them as revealing that Sessions harbors an innate suspicion about people from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement, “The Attorney General asks lots of relevant questions in these classified briefings.”

Sessions, unlike past attorneys general, has been especially aggressive on immigration. He served as the public face of the administration’s rolling back of a program that granted a reprieve from deportation to people who had come here without documentation as children, and he directed federal prosecutors to make illegal-immigration cases a higher priority. The attorney general has long held the view that the United States should even reduce the number of those immigrating here legally.

In an interview with Breitbart News in 2015, then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke favorably of a 1924 law that excluded all immigrants from Asia and set strict caps on others.

“When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy and it slowed down immigration significantly,” Sessions said. “We then assimilated through 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America.”

Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the Obama administration who now works as chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Sessions seems to harbor an “unwillingness to recognize the history of this country is rooted in immigration.”

“On issue after issue, it’s very easy to see what his worldview is of what this country is and who belongs in this country,” she said, adding that his view is “distinctly anti-immigrant.”

Those on the other side of the aisle, however, say they welcome the changes Sessions has made at the Justice Department.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for moderating levels of immigration, said she would give the attorney general an “A-plus” for his work in the area, especially for his crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” his push to hire more immigration judges and his focus on the MS-13 gang.

“He was able to hit the ground running because he has so much expertise already in immigration enforcement and related public safety issues and the constitutional issues, so he’s accomplished a lot in a very short time,” Vaughan said.”

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

Read the compete article, which deals with much more than immigration, at the link.

Immigrants, refugees, immigration advocates, and career civil servants involved in immigration at the DOJ seems to be “star-crossed.” After decades of relative indifference to the importance of immigration, an Attorney General finally shows up  who makes it his highest priority.

Only problem is that he’s a committed xenophobe and White Nationalist whose largely false and exaggerated narrative on immigration comes right from the alt-right restrictionist playbook and harks back to the Jim Crow era of the American South — only this time with Hispanics and Muslims as the primary targets.

In any “normal” American business, obsession with tracing back lineage of someone’s family would be prima facie evidence of prohibited “national origins discrimination.” But, for Gonzo, it’s just another day at the office.

Notwithstanding his less than stellar performances before Congress and that he’s fallen off Trump’s “A-Team” (notwithstanding probably doing more to deconstruct the Constitution and “Good Government” than any other cabinet officer), he’s unlikely to be going anywhere soon. So the damage will continue to add up for the foreseeable future. It’s not like Senator Liz Warren and others didn’t try to warn America about this dude!

Meanwhile, perhaps not to be outdone, over at the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is proceeding to deconstruct the Career Foreign Service and reduce the Stated Department and our Diplomatic Corps to “administrative roadkill.” You can read about that debacle in this NY Times article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/us/politics/state-department-tillerson.html

PWS

11-26-17

 

HON. JEFFREY CHASE SPEAKS OUT AGAINST EXPEDITED REMOVAL!

Expedited Removal is Not the Answer to the Backlog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

 

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

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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

 

DETENTION/BOND: THE “NEW DUE PROCESS ARMY” WINS A BIG ONE IN THE EDVA – Judge Brinkema Orders Individualized Bond Hearings For Four Individuals With “Reinstated” Removal Orders Now In “Withholding Only Proceedings!” — Romero v. Evans, ___ F. Supp. 3d ___, 2017 WL 5560659 (EDVA 11-17-17) (published)

Romero v. Evans, ___ F. Supp. 3d ___, 2017 WL 5560659 (EDVA 11-17-17) (published)

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema

ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENTS: Ivan Yacub, Yacub Law Office, Woodbridge, VA, Nicholas Cooper Marritz, Legal Aid Justice Center, Falls Church, VA, Simon Yehuda Sandoval–Moshenberg, Simon Sandoval Moshenburg, Falls Church, VA, Rachel Colleen McFarland, Legal Aid Justice Center, Charlottesville, VA, Mark Alastair Stevens, Murray Osorio PLLC, Fairfax, VA, for Cristian Flores Romero, et al., Petitioners

KEY QUOTES (From Westlaw Version):

“Moreover, Congress clearly intended to have § 1231 govern only the final logistical period, in which the government has actual authority to remove the alien and need only schedule and execute the deportation. Congress has specifically limited the normal “removal period” to 90 days, a limitation that makes sense if the removal period is only meant to govern the final logistical steps of physically removing an alien. Based on the length of petitioners’ detentions to date, it is obvious that withholding-only proceedings take substantially longer than 90 days. As such, it would be contrary to congressional intent to shoehorn a class of aliens whose proceedings will typically far exceed 90 days into the “removal period” for which Congress has specifically intended a 90–day limit.”

. . . .

All told, this petition presents a difficult question of statutory interpretation. Although respondents’ arguments have some merit, petitioners’ position, which attempts to harmonize § 1226 and § 1231 by locating the dividing line between the two sections as the moment when the government has final legal authority to remove the alien, better accords with the text, structure, and intent of the relevant provisions. Accordingly, the Court concludes that petitioners are detained under § 1226(a), not § 1231, and therefore are entitled to individualized bond hearings. For the reasons stated above, respondents’ Motion to Dismiss in Part will be granted, petitioners’ Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, and respondents’ Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied by an appropriate Order to be issued with this Memorandum Opinion.”

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Those with full Westlaw and/or PACER access can get Judge Brinkema’s full opinion at those sites.

There were quite a few of these “Withholding Only” cases on the Detained Docket when I was at the Arlington Immigration Court. I imagine there are even more now. So, this decision could have a major impact.

Judge Brinkema noted quite correctly that withholding-only proceedings take substantially longer than 90 days.” In other words, “real due process” can’t be rolled off the “judicial assembly line” like it is in some Border Detention Courts where most of the respondents are unrepresented and many are essentially “duressed” by prolonged detention in poor conditions, intentional lack of access to legal assistance, and orchestrated inaccessibility of material evidence into giving up viable claims for protection under our laws.

Nice work by the NDPA “Legal Team!” I know each of the attorneys personally from their work in my courtroom, my classroom, or my “CLE outreach” since retirement. This just continues to demonstrate how “good lawyering” from “outstanding attorneys” can turn potential losers into “winners.”

That’s why the “Sessions Proposals” to “speed up” the U.S. Immigration Judges and put more roadblocks in the way of pro bono legal representation and full due process hearings are so invidious. We need an independent Article I Immigration Court fully committed to Constitutional Due Process! And, we need it now!

PWS

11-22-17

ASYLUM: LAW YOU CAN USE: All-Star Professor Michele Pistone Of Villanova Law Writes & Directs “Must See TV” — “Best Practices in Representing Asylum Seekers”

Go on over to Dan Kowalski’s LexisNexis Immigration Community here for all the links to the 19-part series on You Tube made possible by the American Law Institute with an introduction by none other than Justice Sandra Day O’Connor:

https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/immigration/b/immigration-law-blog/archive/2017/11/16/video-series-best-practices-in-representing-asylum-seekers.aspx?Redirected=true

Thanks, Michele, for all you do for the cause of Due Process for migrants and better Immigration Court practices!

PWS

11-17-17

 

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

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

Nolan writes:

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

But would the courts stop him?”

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

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

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

PWS

11-14-17

DUE PROCESS UNDER ATTACK: ANOTHER “IMMIGRATION HARDLINER” MOVES OVER TO DOJ TO HELP GONZO TORMENT, TRASH, AND BULLY THE MOST VULNERABLE

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/27/politics/administration-immigration-official-joining-doj/index.html

Tal Kopan reports for CNN:

“Washington (CNN)One of the Trump administration’s top immigration policy staffers is leaving the Department of Homeland Security to join the attorney general’s office at the Department of Justice — reuniting him with Jeff Sessions.

Gene Hamilton, a senior counselor to the Homeland Security secretary since January and top immigration policy expert for the administration, confirmed the move to CNN.
Hamilton’s departure will be a blow to Homeland Security’s policy shop, sources familiar with the situation said. The agency is tasked with managing the vast majority of the administration’s immigration portfolio.
But the move will reunite Hamilton, a former Sessions staffer, with the Cabinet’s strongest immigration policy hardliner, an early supporter of President Donald Trump who has been a key proponent of his aggressive immigration agenda from his perch at DOJ.
Hamilton was a general counsel for Sessions on Capitol Hill and will work directly with the attorney general in his new role. The switch is tentatively expected to begin next week, the sources said.

. . . .

While the move would take Hamilton out of the development of DHS immigration policies, where the secretary’s office oversees components including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, DOJ under Sessions has been taking a stronger role in immigration policy during this administration.
Sessions himself remains a thought leader in the administration on the tough immigration agenda of the President, and DOJ manages the nation’s Immigration courts.
Justice also is charged with representing the government in litigation — which would include all the sanctuary cities litigation, DACA lawsuits and ongoing travel ban litigation.“

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Read Tal’s complete report at the link.

With the DOJ abandoning the last pretenses of objectivity and assuming the “point position” on the Administration’s xenophobic anti-immigrant agenda, how could Immigration Courts held “captive” within the DOJ possibly provide individuals with the “fair and unbiased decision-making” required by the Due Process Clause of our Constitution? Only an independent Article I Court can save this deeply compromised system!

PWS

10-27-17

 

 

LA TIMES; “DETAINED AND DEFENSELESS” – How Our Government Specifically Designed An American Gulag (Complete With “Kangaroo Courts”) To Deny Migrants Their Statutory & Due Process Rights To Counsel, & Then Simply Lies About What They Are Doing!

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/latimes/default.aspx?pubid=50435180-e58e-48b5-8e0c-236bf740270e

Kyle Kim writes:

“Judy London merges onto the freeway, heading northeast toward a high desert already baking under a recently risen sun. From West Los Angeles, she faces a two-hour, 100-mile drive to the Adelanto Detention Facility to meet a client who is being deported. The commute time can double if rush-hour traffic is particularly bad.

London arrives at the facility and walks up a concrete path flanked by gravel to the detention facility’s entrance. Once inside, rows of chairs and lockers greet her, as does a guard. She checks in but can’t meet her client yet — the facility is undergoing its daily head count, and she has to wait until it’s finished.

It can take another hour from this moment. London still has to be cleared through security and have a guard escort her client to her.

Finally, she has to wait for an interview room. Adelanto Detention Facility has an average daily population of 1,785, but only a handful of rooms designated for lawyer-client meetings. And once a room is available, she’ll have to take all her notes by hand. The facility prohibits the use of phones, laptops and other electronic devices.

London, like many immigration attorneys, spends a lot of time just trying to meet face-to-face with her clients. It’s a good day when she actually meets them. On bad days, she can spend hours traveling, only to be turned away.

The facility in recent months has refused entrance to attorneys for a variety of reasons, including a chickenpox outbreak and hunger strikes.

Generally, it is far easier for me, as an attorney, to walk into a high-security local or federal prison unannounced to visit a client than it is to get into a detention facility to see someone. And that is odd,” said London, directing attorney for Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

::

Most immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while their deportation cases are being considered don’t have an attorney.

Immigration detention is considered civil detention and, as a result, detainees do not have a right to counsel as they would in criminal cases.

Immigration attorneys say geography is a significant hurdle.

Many ICE facilities in the U.S. are located in smaller cities, hours from cities where most legal aid organizations operate. So even if the government makes legal aid resources available, they can be miles away.

About 30% of detained immigrants are held in facilities more than 100 miles from the nearest government-listed legal aid resource, according to a Times analysis of 70 ICE detention centers.

Of these, the median distance between the facilities and the nearest government-listed legal aid was 56 miles.

The farthest is Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Ala. Alabama doesn’t have an immigration court, so immigrants detained there are referred to the Loyola Law Clinic — 408 miles away in New Orleans.

Immigrants facing deportation are provided with a list of available pro bono legal aid and services. The list is administered by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which calls it an “essential tool.”

Providers on the pro bono list — mostly nonprofits — aren’t required to offer free services to every detainee, according to the Justice Department, and only a lucky few get help from pro bono lawyers.

UCLA law professor Ingrid Eagly analyzed 1.2 million deportation cases between 2007 and 2012 and found that just 2% of immigration detainees had free legal representation. Most immigrant attorneys came from solo practitioners or small firms.

The location of detention facilities in remote locations can pose a logistical challenge to the court system as well as the attorneys. Court procedure can vary by jurisdiction. Some have judges at the facility. Some conduct business by teleconference. Some use a combination of the two.

. . . . .

ICE officials did not answer specific questions about why detained immigrants are significantly less likely to obtain counsel or allegations that systemic hurdles limit access to legal representation.

The agency has previously said that it is “very supportive and very accommodating” to detainees who wish to have a lawyer. ICE spokeswoman Jennifer D. Elzea said the department maintained that position.

“ICE is committed to allowing detainees access to visits, telephones, legal counsel and law library resources. Additionally, all facilities have notifications posted throughout providing information about pro bono legal services,” Elzea said in a statement.

No attorney or legal aid group interviewed for this report agreed with ICE’s position.

The government is locking people up in remote jails and prisons hundreds of miles from attorneys, and arguing that having phones there that sometimes work is sufficient access to counsel,” National Immigrant Justice Center Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy said in response to ICE’s statement.

“The government spends billions of dollars to sustain — and expand — a system that obstructs lawyers’ ability to defend their clients’ due process rights. We’ve been told by ICE that the agency does not consider availability or proximity of counsel as any part of its assessment of the suitability of a new detention center, and we have no reason to believe that it cares at all whether people in detention have lawyers,” she said.

Immigrant rights proponents see little chance of reform under President Trump.

The administration’s executive orders on immigration have reversed enforcement priorities. Arrests increased by 37.6% during Trump’s first 100 days in office compared with the same period in 2016, according to ICE data.

The fight for reform will take place in more liberal cities and states, and through the efforts of legal aid groups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently started the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. The goal is to provide counsel to every detained immigrant in the Southeast — a region with a high number of deportation cases.

But the program, said Dan Werner, who directs the initiative, was a stopgap measure built out of necessity.

“The real solution is systemic reform of immigration policy,” he said.

In March, New York became the first state to dedicate funding to providing pro bono legal services to every detained immigrant.

And in June, California lawmakers put $45 million in the state budget to expand legal services for immigrants.

Attorneys and advocates view such measures as incremental.

“In most cases, there won’t be accountability in the government,” London said, “so there’s no incentive for them to address it.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

Next time you hear Jeff “Gonzo Apocalyto” Sessions deliver one of his self-righteous, fact-free attacks on asylum seekers and their advocates, remember that the REAL FRAUDSTER HERE IS “GONZO” HIMSELF and his knowingly false narrative about asylum seekers that he uses to “cover up” the intentional abuses of legal and human rights being carried out by ICE and EOIR under his direction. Accountability, addressing the real need for reforms in the immigration enforcement and Immigration Court systems to insure Constitutional Due Process? Not going to happen on “Gonzo’s Watch.”

PWS

10-23-17

 

GONZO’S “KANGAROO COURT PLAN” MOCKS CONSTITUTION – “Performance Metrics For Judges” Are Thinly Disguised “Deportation Quotas” for “Assembly Line Injustice” — Last Pretense Of “Fair & Impartial Adjudication” About To Disappear!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/immigration-judges-say-proposed-quotas-from-justice-dept-threaten-independence/2017/10/12/3ed86992-aee1-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?utm_term=.bcee5ec17f24

Maria Sacchetti reports for the Washington Post:

“The Trump administration is taking steps to impose “numeric performance standards” on federal immigration judges, drawing a sharp rebuke from judges who say production quotas or similar measures will threaten judicial independence, as well as their ability to decide life-or-death deportation cases.

The White House says it aims to reduce an “enormous” backlog of 600,000 cases, triple the number in 2009, that cripples its ability to deport immigrants as President Trump mandated in January.

The National Association of Immigration Judges called the move unprecedented and says it will be the “death knell for judicial independence” in courts where immigrants such as political dissidents, women fleeing violence and children plead their cases to stay in the United States.

“That is a huge, huge, huge encroachment on judicial independence,” said Dana Leigh Marks, spokeswoman and former president of the association and a judge for more than 30 years. “It’s trying to turn immigration judges into assembly-line workers.”

The White House tucked its proposal — a six-word statement saying it wants to “establish performance metrics for immigration judges” — into a broader package of immigration reforms it rolled out Sunday night.

But other documents obtained by The Washington Post show that the Justice Department “intends to implement numeric performance standards to evaluate Judge performance.”

The Justice Department, which runs the courts through the Executive Office for Immigration Review, declined to comment or otherwise provide details about the numeric standards.

The Justice Department has expressed concern about the backlog and discouraged judges from letting cases drag on too long, though it has insisted that they decide the cases fairly and follow due process. On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed concern that false asylum cases are clogging up the courts.

The judges’ union says its current contract language prevents the government from rating them based on the number of cases they complete or the time it takes to decide them.

But now, they say, the department is trying to rescind that language, and advocates say it could violate a federal regulation that requires judges to “exercise their independent judgment and discretion” when deciding cases.

Advocates and immigration lawyers say imposing numerical expectations on judges unfairly faults them for the massive backlog. Successive administrations have expanded immigration enforcement without giving the courts enough money or judges to decide cases in a timely way, they say. An average case for a non-detained immigrant can drag on for more than two years, though some last much longer.

“Immigration judges should have one goal and that goal should be the fair adjudication of cases,” said Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center, a nonprofit that provides legal services and advocacy to immigrants nationwide. “That’s the only metric that should count.”

Immigration lawyers say the proposed standards risk adding to disadvantages immigrants already face in immigration courts. Most defendants do not speak English as their first language if at all, are not entitled to lawyers at the government’s expense, and thousands end up trying to defend themselves.

Often immigrants are jailed and given hearings in remote locations, such as rural Georgia or Upstate New York, which makes it difficult to gather records and witnesses needed to bring a case.

“People’s lives are at risk in immigration court cases, and to force judges to complete cases under a rapid time frame is going to undermine the ability of those judges to make careful, well thought-out decisions,” said Gregory Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which has 15,000 members.

Traditional federal judges are not subject to quotas.

The rare public dispute between the immigration judges and the Justice Department comes as the Trump administration is demanding a commitment to increased enforcement and other immigration restrictions in exchange for legal status for 690,000 young undocumented immigrants who, until recently, were protected from deportation under an Obama-era program. Sessions announced the end of the program last month, and the young immigrants will start to lose their work permits and other protections in March.

In January, Trump issued a slate of executive orders that sought to crack down on immigration. He revoked President Barack Obama’s limits on enforcement and effectively exposed all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to arrest.

On Sunday, Trump also called for more immigration-enforcement lawyers and more detention beds, which would further increase the caseloads of the courts.

He is also planning to seek congressional funding for an additional 370 immigration judges, which would more than double the current number.

Immigration arrests are up more than 40 percent since Trump took office, and deportation orders are also rising. From Feb. 1 to August 31, judges have issued 88,383 rulings, and in the majority of cases — 69,160 — immigrants were deported or ordered to voluntarily leave the country, a 36 percent increase over the corresponding period in 2016.

The immigration courts have clamored for greater independence from the Justice Department for years and also have sought greater control over their budget. They have long complained about a lack of funding, burnout rates that rival that of prison wardens, and caseloads exceeding 2,000 each. Some judges are scheduling cases into 2022.

On Sunday, Sessions — who appoints the immigration judges and is the court’s highest authority — called the White House’s broad immigration proposals “reasonable.”

“If followed, it will produce an immigration system with integrity and one in which we can take pride,” he said.”

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Will the stunningly xenophobic “Gonzo Apocalypto” get away with his lawless plan to strip migrants of the last vestiges of their already restricted Constitutional rights to due process? Or, will the Article III Courts step in, assert themselves, insist on due process and fair and impartial adjudication in Immigration Court, and throw the already staggering Immigration Court System into complete collapse, thereby stopping the “Removal Railway?”

The showdown is coming. I think the eventual outcome is “too close to call.”  So far, Sessions is well on his way to co-opting the Immigration Court as just another “whistle stop on the Removal Railway!”

The current backlog has multiple causes: 1) failure of Congress and the DOJ to properly fund and staff the U.S. Immigration Courts; 2) poor enforcement strategies by DHS resulting in too many “low priority” cases on the dockets; 3) often politicized, always changing, sometimes conflicting “case priorities and goals” established by DOJ and EOIR; 4) lack of authority for Immigration Judges to control their own dockets; 5) outdated technology resulting in a “paper heavy” system where documents are often misfiled or missing from the record when needed by the Judges;  and 6) “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” caused by moving cases around to fit DHS Enforcement priorities and ill-conceived and poorly planned details of Immigration Judges away from their normal dockets. “Productivity,” which consistently far exceeds the “optimal” 500 completions per Judge annually (currently approximately 770 per Judge) is not one of the primary factors causing the backlog.

Overall, the current backlog is the product of mismanagement of the Immigration Courts by the DOJ spanning multiple Administrations. No wonder the politos at the Sessions DOJ are trying to shift blame to the Immigration Judges, hapless migrants struggling to achieve justice in an “intentionally user unfriendly system,” and stressed out private attorneys, many serving pro bono or for minimal compensation. How would YOU like to be a migrant fighting for your life in a so-called “court system” beholden to Jeff Sessions?

We’re starting to look pretty “Third World.” Sessions and the rest of the “Trump Gang” operate much like corrupt Government officials in “Third World” countries where the rulers control the courts, manipulation of the justice system for political ends is SOP, and claims to aspire to “fairness” ring hollow.

PWS

10-13-17

 

BRINGING OUR CONSTITUTION BACK TO LIFE — AN IMPORTANT FIRST STEP: “JAYAPAL, SMITH INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO REFORM IMMIGRATION DETENTION SYSTEM!”

https://www.theindianpanorama.news/unitedstates/jayapal-smith-introduce-legislation-reform-immigration-detention-system/

From Indian Panorama:

“WASHINGTON (TIP): Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) and Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) introduced, on Oct 3, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, legislation to reform the systemic problems in immigration detention system. This bill will end the use of private facilities and repeal mandatory detention, while restoring due process, oversight, accountability, and transparency to the immigration detention system.

“The high moral cost of our inhumane immigration detention system is reprehensible. Large, private corporations operating detention centers are profiting off the suffering of men, women and children. We need an overhaul,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “It’s clear that the Trump administration is dismantling the few protections in place for detained immigrants even as he ramps up enforcement against parents and vulnerable populations. This bill addresses the most egregious problems with our immigration detention system. It’s Congress’ responsibility to step up and pass this bill.”

“We must fix the injustices in our broken immigration detention system,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “As the Trump administration continues to push a misguided and dangerous immigration agenda, we need to ensure fair treatment and due process for immigrants and refugees faced with detention. This legislation will address some of the worst failings of our immigration policy, and restore integrity and humanity to immigration proceedings.”

In addition to repealing mandatory detention, a policy that often results in arbitrary and indefinite detention, the legislation creates a meaningful inspection process at detention facilities to ensure they meet the government’s own standards. The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish legally enforceable civil detention standards in line with those adopted by the American Bar Association. With disturbing track records of abuse and neglect, DHS has a responsibility to ensure that facilities are held accountable for the humane treatment of those awaiting immigration proceedings.

Individuals held in immigration detention system are subject to civil law, but are often held in conditions identical to prisons. In many cases, detained people are simply awaiting their day in court. To correct the persistent failures of due process, the legislation requires the government to show probable cause to detain people, and implements a special rule for primary caregivers and vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and people with serious medical and mental health issues.”

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Since these guys are Democrats, their bill is obviously DOA. But, it is important to start “laying down markers” — even symbolic ones — for the future.

As a  former administrative judge who was required to administer and enforce mandatory detention (under DOJ rules, we were not permitted to consider the constitutionality of the mandatory detention statutes and the DHS implementing regulations) for the better part of two decades, I can assure you that it was a totally unnecessary, grossly wasteful, and stunningly unhumane blot on our national conscience and our reputation as a nation that adheres to principles of simple human decency.

There is absolutely no reason why U.S. Imigration Judges cannot determine who needs to be detained as a flight risk or a danger to the community and who doesn’t! But, for that to happen, we also need an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court not beholden to the Attorney General (particularly one like Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions with a perverse ignorance of Constitutional protections, an overwhelming bias against immigrants, and a record largely devoid of notable acts of human decency.)

Every study conducted during the last Administration, including DHS’s own Advisory Committee, found serious problems and inadequate conditions in private detention and recommended that it be eliminated. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch actually announced an end to private detention for criminals. Yet, remarkably and unconscionably, the response of the Trump Administration, led by Gonzo Apocalypto, was to double down and expand the use of expensive, inhumane private detention for convicted criminals and for “civil” immigration detainees whose sole “crime” is to seek justice from the courts in America.

Thanks much to Nolan Rappaport for sending this in!

PWS

10-06-17

 

LA TIMES: SUPREMES MUST DELIVER ON PROMISE OF DUE PROCESS FOR IMMIGRANTS! — “[T]oo often immigrants haven’t received fair treatment from the courts.“ — Is Justice Gorsuch About To Make Good On His Oath To Uphold The Constitution By Standing Up For Due Process For Migrants?

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-scotus-immigrants-20171005-story.html

“This week the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases that pose the question of whether noncitizens should be afforded at least some of the due process of law that Americans take for granted. The answer in both cases should be a resounding yes.

On Monday, the justices considered whether a Filipino legal immigrant convicted of two home burglaries in California could be deported even if the wording of the federal law used to determine whether he could be removed from the U.S. was so unconstitutionally vague that it could not be enforced in a criminal court. On Tuesday, lawyers for a group of noncitizens detained by immigration authorities asked the court to rule that detainees are entitled to a bond hearing after six months of confinement.

Although the circumstances and legal issues in the two cases differ, the common denominator is the importance of affording due process to noncitizens.

James Garcia Dimaya, who was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident at the age of 13, pleaded no contest in 2007 and 2009 to two charges of residential burglary. Concluding that one of the convictions was an “aggravated felony,” the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed with the Homeland Security Department that Dimaya should be deported.

The United States is often called “a nation of immigrants.” But too often immigrants haven’t received fair treatment from the courts.
But the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision. It said the definition of “aggravated felony” in immigration law incorporated a definition of “crime of violence” that was similar to language in a different law the Supreme Court had concluded in 2015 was too vague to be constitutional.

At Monday’s oral argument, Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler said the law at issue in Dimaya’s case didn’t suffer from the same vagueness problem. But even if it did, Kneedler told the court, “immigration is distinctive” and deportation “is not punishment for [a] past offense.” In other words, even if the law was too vague to be used for the purposes of criminal punishment, it could still be used for the purposes of deportation.

This brought a devastating rejoinder from Justice Neil Gorsuch. “I can easily imagine a misdemeanant who may be convicted of a crime for which the sentence is six months in jail or a $100 fine, and he wouldn’t trade places in the world for someone who is deported,” Gorsuch said. He questioned the soundness of the “line that we’ve drawn in the past” between criminal punishment and civil penalties such as deportation.

We agree. If the court decides that the wording of the law that triggered Dimaya’s removal order was unconstitutionally vague, he should be entitled to relief. A law that is too vague to justify a criminal sentence shouldn’t be a good enough reason to expel someone from the country.

 

In the case argued Tuesday, a class-action lawsuit, noncitizens detained by immigration authorities asked the court to rule that they should receive bond hearings if their detention lasts for six months. The lead plaintiff is Alejandro Rodriguez, who grew up in Los Angeles as a lawful permanent resident. After Rodriguez was sentenced to five years’ probation on a misdemeanor drug possession conviction, he was detained and targeted for deportation to Mexico, the country he had left as a baby two decades earlier. He remained locked up as his legal battle dragged on for years.

The 9th Circuit ruled not only that detainees were entitled to bond hearings but also that they should be released unless the government could demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they were dangerous or a flight risk. But on Tuesday Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart told the court that detainees “have no such right.” He later said that insofar as foreigners arriving in the U.S. are concerned, the Supreme Court has made it clear that “whatever process Congress chooses to give is due process.”

Yet in recent years the court has recognized not only that noncitizens have constitutional rights but that deportation can be a catastrophic experience. In June, the court overturned the guilty plea of an immigrant from South Korea because his lawyer wrongly told him he wouldn’t be deported as a consequence of a plea bargain.

The United States is often called “a nation of immigrants.” But too often immigrants haven’t received fair treatment from the courts. The cases argued this week offer the Supreme Court an opportunity to rectify that injustice.”

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”Mouthing” due process for migrants is easy; the BIA does it all the time — so does EOIR.  But, actually providing due process for migrants is something totally different. Most courts, and particulately the BIA, routinely sign off on unfair procedures and interpretations that would never be considered “Due Process” in any other context.

I’m “cautiously heartened” by Justice Gorsuch’s apparent realization of the potentially catastrophic real human consequences of removal (often blithely ignored or downplayed by the BIA, Sessions, restrictionists, and Federal Courts) and recognition that the “civil-criminal” distinction is totally bogus — designed to sweep Constitutional violations under the rug — and needs to be eliminated.

As an Immigration Judge, when I was assigned to the “Detained Docket” in Arlington, I had case after case of green card holders who had minor crimes for which they paid fines or got suspended sentences — in other words, hadn’t spent a day in jail — “mandatorily detained” for months, sometimes years, pending resolution of their “civil” immigration cases. In plain language, they were sentenced to indefinite imprisonment but without the protections that a criminal defendant would receive! They, their families, and their employers were incredulous that this could be happening in the United States of America. I simply could not explain it in a way that made sense.

Talk is one thing, action quote another. But, if Justice Gorsuch folllows through on his apparent inclination to make Due Process protections for migrants “a reality” rather than a “false promise,” Constitutional protections will be enhanced for every American! We are no better than how we treat the least among us.

Ultimately, full delivery on the promise of Constitutional Due Process for everyone in America, including migrants, will require the creation of an independent Article I U.S. Immigraton Court. The current “captive system” — unwilling and unable to stand up for true Due Process for migrants — is a facade behind which routine denials of Constitutional Due Process take place. As Americans, we should demand better for the most vulnerable among us.

PWS

10-06-17

DUE PROCESS IN ACTION: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN INDEPENDENT ARTICLE III COURT ACTS TO ENFORCE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS BEING IGNORED BY DHS & DOJ: Here’s One Family’s “Human Story” About How the 9th Circuit’s Decision In Jennings v. Rodriguez Saved Them (And Also Us)! — Bond Hearings Can Mean EVERYTHING To A Detained Immigrant & Family!

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2017/10/how-a-bond-hearing-saved-me-from-deportation-by-mark-hwang.html

From ImmigratonProf Blog:

The ACLU blog has an interesting post on Jennings v. Rodriguez, the immigrant detention case argued in the Supreme Court today.

How A Bond Hearing Saved Me From Deportation By Mark Hwang

Today the Supreme Court will hear Jennings v. Rodriguez, a case that will decide the fate of thousands of men and women locked up in immigration prisons across the country. The federal government is challenging a 2015 Ninth Circuit ruling, in which the American Civil Liberties Union secured the right to a bond hearing for people in deportation proceedings after six months of detention.

Bond hearings allow people to go before a judge so that he or she can decide if imprisonment is necessary, weighing factors like public safety and flight risk. It’s basic due process. Bond hearings are a vital check on our country’s rapidly-expanding immigration system. I’ve seen their power firsthand, because not too long ago, I was one of the people locked up.

In February 2013, I was driving with my one-year-old son when we were stopped by an immigration officer. He said that I hadn’t used my turn signal when changing lanes and asked to see my identification. When he came back to the car, he asked if I had ever been convicted of a crime.

I answered truthfully. More than a decade ago, when I was in my early 20s, I was convicted of marijuana possession with intent to sell. I had served a short sentence and had remained out of trouble since. Still the officers said that I needed to go with them and that I would have to explain “my situation” to a judge. I was shackled and put in the back of the car while one of the officers got into my car to drive my son home.

I thought there had to be some kind of mistake. Around two weeks earlier, my wife Sarah had given birth to our identical twin daughters. My life at the time was full, growing, and completely rooted in the United States.

When I was booked into custody, an officer told me that my drug conviction meant that my detention was “mandatory.” Nobody had ever told me that pleading guilty on a drug charge could have implications for my immigration status. I petitioned a court to vacate the marijuana conviction, but because I was locked up, I couldn’t appear at the hearing. The request was denied and I had no idea for how long I would be locked up, leaving my wife to run our business and care for our children alone. When my family came to visit me in detention, I wasn’t allowed any physical contact, so I couldn’t hold my newborn daughters or my son.

I was at a breaking point, and nearly ready to sign deportation papers when – after being locked up for six months — I finally received a bond hearing as result of the court decision in Jennings. I was granted bond and released, allowing me to return to my family. With the help of an attorney, I was able to vacate my marijuana conviction because I had never been apprised of the immigration consequences to pleading guilty. As a result, ICE no longer had a reason to try to deport me.

Before Jennings, people fighting deportation could be detained indefinitely while they defend their rights to remain in the United States. This includes lawful permanent residents like me; asylum seekers and survivors of torture; the parents of young children who are citizens; and even citizens who are wrongly classified as immigrants. Many go on to win their deportation cases, which means their detention was completely unnecessary.

Even worse, a lot of people simply give up their cases because they can’t endure the hardship of being locked up. Detention almost broke me and I could have lost my life in the only country I’ve known since I was six years old. Instead, I’m here to share my story. Through this experience, I found my faith and am now deeply involved in my church and community. My son is six years old and my twins are five. My wife and I still run our business and I thank her all the time for being a pillar of strength while I was locked up. I hope the justices make the right choice — it can make all the difference.

KJ

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We’re in “Catch 22” territory here! This respondent was locked up by DHS in “mandatory detention” because he was wrongfully convicted in state court. But, he couldn’t successfully challenge his state court conviction because he was locked up by DHS. Once he got a bond hearing, after six months, he was released, his conviction was vacated, and he and his family could go back to living their lives and being productive Americans. 

But, without the intervention of the 9th Circuit in Jennings, this individual likely would have been coerced into “voluntarily” relinquishing his Constitutional rights and accepting removal to a country where he hadn’t been since he was six years old. I can guarantee you that in jurisdictions where the Article III Courts have not intervened in a manner similar to Jennings, individuals are coerced into abandoning their Constitutional rights and foregoing potentially winning Immigration Court cases on a daily basis.

And, just think of the absurd waste of taxpayer money in detaining this harmless individual for months and forcing the legal system to intervene, rather than having both Congress and the DHS use some common sense and human decency. Few Americans fully contemplate just how broken our current immigration system is, and how we are trashing our Constitution with inane statutes enacted by Congress and poor judgment by the officials charged with administering them.

Easy to “blow off” until it’s you, a relative, or a friend whose Constitutional rights are being mocked and life ruined. But, by then, it will be too late! Stand up for Due Process and human decency now!

PWS

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