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

10

DEAN KEVIN JOHNSON SUMMARIZES ORAL ARGUMENT IN JENNINGS V. RODRIGUEZ FOR SCOTUS BLOG – Is There Some Hope For Constitutional Limits On “Gonzo” Immigration Enforcement & Mindless Imprisonment? — It’s A Nice Thought, But Too Early To Tell!

http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/10/argument-analysis-justices-seem-primed-find-constitutional-limits-detention-immigrants/

Dean Johnson writes:

Kevin Johnson Immigration

Posted Wed, October 4th, 2017 12:44 pm

“Argument analysis: Justices seem primed to find constitutional limits on the detention of immigrants

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard reargument in Jennings v. Rodriguez, a class-action constitutional challenge to a variety of provisions of the immigration laws allowing for immigrant detention. After the oral argument last term, the court asked for further briefing on the constitutionality of the detention of immigrants. With the Trump administration promising to increase the use of detention as a form of immigration enforcement, the case has taken on increasing practical significance since the court first decided to review the case in June of 2016.

As discussed in my preview of the argument, two Supreme Court cases at the dawn of the new millennium offered contrasting approaches to the review of decisions of the U.S. government to detain immigrants. In 2001, in Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court interpreted an immigration statute to require judicial review of a detention decision because “to permit[] indefinite detention of an alien would cause a serious constitutional problem.” Just two years later, the court in Demore v. Kim invoked the “plenary power” doctrine – something exceptional to immigration law and inconsistent with modern constitutional law – to immunize from review a provision of the immigration statute requiring detention of immigrants awaiting removal based on a crime.

During the oral argument last term, the justices focused on two very different aspects of the case. On the one hand, as even the government seemed to concede, indefinite detention without a hearing is difficult to justify as a matter of constitutional law. At the same time, however, some justices worried that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had acted more like a legislature than a court in fashioning an injunction requiring bond hearings every six months. The reargument yesterday focused on similar questions, although several justices expressed alarm at the U.S. government’s claim that indefinite detention of immigrants is constitutional.

Deputy Solicitor General Malcom Stewart began for the United States by “stress[ing] the breadth of Congress’s constitutional authority to establish the rules under which aliens will be allowed to enter and remain in the United States.” Focusing first on noncitizens seeking to enter the U.S., he characterized the respondents’ claim as seeking “a constitutional right to be released into this country” during the pendency of their removal proceedings.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quickly took a poke at the government’s case, noting that someone with a credible fear of persecution who is applying for asylum might be able to gain parole into the United States. Justice Sonia Sotomayor got to the crux of the case in short order: “[W]hat other area of law have we permitted a government agent on his or her own, without a neutral party looking at that decision, to detain someone indefinitely?”

Stewart had no response except to say, paraphrasing language in the Cold War case United States ex rel. Knauff v. Shaughnessy, that for “aliens arriving at our shores … , whatever Congress chooses to give is due process.” Sotomayor’s incredulous response was blunt: “[T]hat’s lawlessness.”

Rejecting Stewart’s claim that the only alternatives for arriving immigrants are detention or release, Ginsburg pointed out that “there is something in between,” and that monitoring devices could be used to keep track of an immigrant released on bond. In response, Stewart invoked Demore v. Kim, and said that due process does not require Congress to use the least restrictive means with respect to detention of immigrants.

Justice Stephen Breyer kept Stewart on the ropes by pointing out the oddity of not giving bond hearings to noncitizens when they are given to “triple ax murderers.” Justice Elena Kagan seemed to agree that the detention statute should be read to permit a hearing and possible release.

Stewart then returned to defending the plenary-power doctrine and its Constitution-free-zone for noncitizens seeking admission into the United States. In response to a question from Kagan, he admitted that his argument was premised on the claim that people at the border “have no constitutional rights at all.” Armed with hypotheticals like the former law professor she is, Kagan asked whether the government could torture arriving immigrants or subject them to forced labor. Stewart agreed that such treatment would be unconstitutional, but then had a hard time explaining why indefinite detention does not also violate the Constitution.

After getting Stewart to agree that “detention violates due process, if there is an unreasonable delay in that detention,” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether a six-month rule for a hearing, which the 9th Circuit had adopted, might be appropriate. Along similar lines, Kagan suggested that, for immigrants with ties to the country, years in detention would be problematic. Stewart persisted in his position that years of detention without a bond hearing would be permissible. Kennedy seemed troubled by the apparent inconsistency between Stewart’s admission that unreasonably prolonged detention could violate due process and his insistence that arriving immigrants lack constitutional rights.

A former Supreme Court advocate, Chief Justice John Roberts asked Stewart pointedly about a statement in the government’s supplemental reply brief that 14 months without a hearing would cause constitutional problems, noting that it “sounds close to a concession.”

Justice Samuel Alito inquired about the appropriate remedy if there was a constitutional violation, suggesting that rather than adopting a bright-line rule, the court could employ a multi-factored approach like that used in assessing constitutional speedy-trial claims.

Next up was Ahilan Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who argued the case for the class of immigrants. He stated at the outset that there are limits on the government’s power to detain immigrants, which he said were based in longstanding case law. Ginsburg quickly asked about the 9th Circuit’s requirement of a bond hearing every six months, noting that criminal defendants receive an initial bail hearing, with no more required under the Constitution.

Kagan seemed to read Demore v. Kim as allowing for detention, but only for a matter of months. Arulanantham explained that the length of detention of the class members was much longer, in part because, unlike the detainee in Demore, they are opposing their removals and seek to remain in the United States. He emphasized that a significant component of the class was seeking cancellation of removal, which allows successful applicants to remain as lawful permanent residents.

Justice Neil Gorsuch raised some jurisdictional questions based on provisions of the immigration statute (8 U.S.C. §§ 1252(b)(9), (f)(1)) that limit the courts’ jurisdiction in immigration cases. Arulanantham said that the government concedes that Section (b)(9), which allows for review of a final removal order, does not apply to detention claims, and that the government had waived any jurisdictional objection based on Section (f)(1). Gorsuch seemed satisfied with these explanations.

Returning to Ginsburg’s earlier question about the 9th Circuit’s requirement that a bond hearing be conducted every six months, Arulanantham defended the rule, noting that “this Court has never authorized detention without a hearing before a neutral decision-maker, outside of national security, beyond six months.” Alito pushed back, asking, “Where does it say six months in the Constitution? Why is it six? Why isn’t it seven? Why isn’t it five? Why isn’t it eight?”

Roberts acknowledged that the constitutional concerns increase with the length of a detention, but still asked Arulanatham to justify that specific time limit. Arulanantham responded by citing government statistics showing that 90 percent of all detention cases under mandatory detention finish in less than six months. Roberts wondered whether habeas or other relief might be a possibility. Returning to this question later, Arulanantham offered statistics showing that final adjudication of a habeas petition takes 19 months in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and 14 months in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Roberts also suggested that some of the immigrants were in detention for lengthier periods because they were preparing their cases. Pushing back, Arulanantham said in effect that an immigrant should not be penalized for seeking relief. He emphasized that the fact that an immigrant is pursuing relief does not make the person a flight risk.

Alito asked why an immediate bond hearing, as is the rule in criminal cases, was not required. Arulanantham noted that the Supreme Court had rejected that possibility in Demore. Late in the argument, Gorsuch asked about a possible remand to the 9th Circuit to decide first on constitutionality. Arulanantham admitted that could be a possibility but asked what would be gained.

As the reargument made clear, this case raises some fascinating constitutional questions, which now are squarely before the court. The justices seemed primed to find constitutional limits on the detention of immigrants. They seemed less troubled than they had been in the first argument by the six-month period for bond hearings established by the 9th Circuit, with the discussion about the reasonableness of the six-month period seeming to assuage their concerns.

Ultimately, this case offers the Supreme Court the opportunity to address the modern vitality of the plenary-power doctrine and finally decide whether, and if so how, the Constitution applies to arriving aliens. We will likely have to wait a few months longer to find out how the justices resolve that issue, which has significant implications in the immigration-law arena.

Posted in Jennings v. Rodriguez, Featured, Merits Cases

Recommended Citation: Kevin Johnson, Argument analysis: Justices seem primed to find constitutional limits on the detention of immigrants, SCOTUSblog (Oct. 4, 2017, 12:44 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/10/argument-analysis-justices-seem-primed-find-constitutional-limits-detention-immigrants/”

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We can only hope. As I’ve pointed out before, coercive detention and the building of the “American Gulag” are key parts of the Trump-Sessions-DHS “Gonzo” Immigration Enforcement Plan. I still don’t think the Supremes fully understand just how inhumane and coercive immigration detention is and how it’s used to “squeeze” the life out of a detainee’s due process rights. And, it starts with making it difficult or impossible to get a lawyer of your own choosing. You actually have to see what happens in a DHS Detention Center (many of them private, for profit enterprises, looking to minimize care, maximize profits, and keep the beds filled) to fully grasp what a mockery the detention process and the location of “Detained Courts” in Detention Centers or in far-distant Televideo Courtrooms makes of our system of justice, the U.S. Immigration Courts, and our promise of Constitutional rights.

PWS

10-04-17

NBC4 NY: FRAUD, WASTE, & ABUSE AT USDOJ — “ADR” EXPOSED! — TRUMP ADMINISTRATION KNOWINGLY RAN UP U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOGS WITH UNNEEDED REASSIGNMENT OF IMMIGRATION JUDGES TO S. BORDER — DOJ Politicos Caused 276% Jump In NY Court Adjournments! — Then, DOJ Tried To Cast False Blame On Immigration Attorneys, Judges, & Obama Administration For Wasteful Adjournments That Sessions’s Politicos Had ORDERED — More Of My Interview With NBC Investigative Reporter Jodie Fleischer As Nationwide Expose Widens! — Stop The Abuse Of Due Process & Public Purse For Political Ends! — America Needs An Independent U.S. Immigration Court NOW!

Here’s the TV clip:

http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Immigration-Court-New-York-Judge-Investigation-448498463.html

Here’s the story:

As part of a joint six-month investigation, NBC-owned television stations across the country interviewed retired and current immigration judges, some of whom said the backlog is threatening to overwhelm the court

By Chris Glorioso, Dave Manney, Erica Jorgensen and Evan Stulberger

Documents from the Trump administration show the president’s plan to ship more immigration judges for temporary assignments in border states is encountering a fundamental problem: there isn’t enough work for all the new judges to do.
According to an assessment of “Surge Hearing Locations,” dated April 4, 2017, the Department of Justice found six of the 17 immigration courts receiving transferred judges could not give those judges enough work to support a full docket.
INVESTIGATIVE’Phantom’ Judges Cause Confusion in NYC Immigration Court
In the assessment and supporting documents, DOJ staffers wrote about an immigration court in Karnes, Texas, where there was “concern regarding the lack of filings to sustain details from other courts”

Immigration: Crisis in the Courts
An overview on how immigration judges are struggling with a punishing backlog that in many cities is pushing cases far into the future, slowing deportations and leaving families in limbo.

The same assessment says another court in Texas’s Prairieland Detention Center “is not receiving enough cases to truly fill a docket or even come close to it.”
At the court inside Texas’s Dilly Family Residential Center, DOJ staffers wrote “the one judge detailed there is not occupied.”

At New Mexico’s Cibola County Detention Center, DOJ staffers found the caseload “has not been sufficient to keep the two immigration judges assigned to this docket occupied.”

Staffers also noted two empty courtrooms at New Mexico’s Otero immigration facility — and concluded there were “insufficient caseloads for further deployments.”

Scheduling records show the Justice Department repeatedly assigned five transferred judges to the immigration court in Louisiana’s LaSalle Detention Facility, even though an assessment of the court found “at this time there is not enough work for five judges. There is enough work for a reasonable docket and three judges.”

The report went on to conclude that inefficient transferring of detainees often means “there is very little work for a detailed judge to complete.”

In most cases, the transferred judges spend two weeks to a month hearing cases in out-of-state court.

The Department of Justice declined to comment for this story, but in response to a previous inquiry by Politico, an agency spokesman said “After the initial deployment, an assessment was done to determine appropriate locations to increase the adjudication of immigration court cases without compromising due process.”

While transferred judges may have had light workloads when they arrived in some of the border state courts, there is evidence the dockets they left behind suffered in their home courts.

A joint analysis by the News 4 I-Team and Telemundo 47 Investiga found case adjournments in New York City’s immigration court went up 276 percent — from an average of 139 adjournments in the three months before the judge transfers began, to 522 in the three months after judge transfers began.

Despite that, the Trump administration has increased its target from 50 judge reassignments, to at least 137 nationwide. Nineteen New York City immigration judges — more than half of the city’s 32-judge staff – participated in the temporary transfer program.

Olga Byrne, an advocate for refugees at Human Rights First, a nonprofit that represents asylum-seekers in court, said immigration attorneys at her organization have noticed the spike in adjournments and questioned whether judicial assignments border state assignments are worth the trouble.

“We’ve been in touch with a couple of judges who have expressed a lot of frustration about being sent to a detention center where they could take a long lunch break,” said Byrne. “They had only a few cases to consider for a whole week and yet they had to defer hundreds of cases from their docket in their home court.”


But it is clear the Trump Administration knew its decision to deploy more judges to border states would likely have negative impacts on dockets those judges leave behind in their home states.
In response to questions from U.S. Senate staffers, a DOJ memo concedes that “it is likely that the case backlog will increase for the locations from which an Immigration Judge is assigned.”

In New York City alone, there are more than 82,000 immigrants waiting for a court hearing. The average wait time is north of two and a half years. Nationwide, the immigration case backlog stands at more than 617,000.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D – Upper Manhattan), who came to America as an undocumented immigrant, said he fears the Trump administration is over-staffing border state courts to rapidly deport current border-crossers, while ignoring the population of non-detained immigrants who’ve been living and working in America’s big cities, hoping for a shot at citizenship for years.
“By shifting judges to the border, they are in fact maybe predicting that there will be lots of cases before them in those jurisdictions,” Espaillat said. “I am concerned this is part of a greater effort to put together a deportation machine – and proceed to arrest and deport thousands of people who are undocumented.”

This isn’t the first time a presidential initiative has been criticized for mucking up immigration court schedules and exacerbating the nationwide case backlog.
During the Obama Administration, the Justice Department launched an effort to prioritize court hearings for unaccompanied minors who enter the country illegally.

Byrne says that too was a political decision which negatively impacted the court’s ability to handle thousands of older cases languishing in the backlog.
“It’s not a new thing that they are basically fulfilling political objectives with the way that the immigration court dockets are managed,” Byrne said. “I think we should be equally critical of both [the Trump and Obama administrations] for using the immigration court to fulfill political objectives rather than focusing on making that court system work well and efficiently.”

 

Source: I-Team: Immigration Judges Sent to Courts With ‘Very Little Work’ – NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com/investigations/Immigration-Court-New-York-Judge-Investigation-448498463.html#ixzz4uXiMR2xJ
Follow us: @nbcnewyork on Twitter | NBCNewYork on Facebook“

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To put this in context, during this massive abuse of the US Immigration Courts at the direction of Sessions and his incompetent politicos at the DOJ, the Chief Immigration Judge issued the notorious “Continuance Policy.”  That document not not very subtilely implied that unjustified continuance requests by private attorneys (all of them overburdened by the effects of ADR, and many working on a pro bono or “low bono” basis) and laxity in granting continuances by overwhelmed and demoralized U.S. Immigration Judges were major contributing factors in increasing backlogs. Nothing could be further from the truth!

In fact, conscientious Immigration Judges and dedicated private attorneys are the only ones trying to make this broken system work and to maintain at least a semblance of due process. Their main obstacles: improper politically-motivated interference from the DOJ and poor administration and failure to stand up to the politicos by out of touch bureaucrats at EOIR Headquarters in Falls Church who are afraid to “blow the whistle”because they value their jobs over due process. 

What kind of incompetents would draw the bulk of unneeded judicial details from what are known to be the most seriously backlogged Immigration Courts in the US, such as New York and Arlington? What type of incompetents would “study” the impact and need for the details after the fact, rather than carefully planning in advance? Assuming they were necessary (which they weren’t) why weren’t judicial details drawn from among the Assistant Chief Immigration Judges in Falls Church Headquarters who are never assigned actual cases? They, actually have time on their hands. And why does a system in crisis with inept management have highly-paid bureaucratic administrators like the ACIJs who never do any real judging? What makes a person a “judge”if he or she never “judges” anything?

Yes, as I’ve stated before, the Obama Administration enforcement policies and political interference from the Obama DOJ helped drive the backlogs to new heights. But, after taking over an obviously broken system, rather than doing the right thing and fixing the Immigration Courts with bipartisan legislation to create an independent Immigration Court System, with adequate resources, professional court administration, and freedom from political interference in its due process functions, the Trump Administration intentionally made things much, much worse! More judges have resulted in more backlogs because of politicized, incompetent judicial administration and poorly designed enforcement policies at DHS. If that doesn’t tell you something is seriously wrong, what will?

PWS

10-04-17

 

 

 

 

SUPREMES HEAR ARGUMENTS ON LONG-TERM PRE-HEARING IMMIGRATION DETENTION! — JENNINGS V. RODRIGUEZ

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-debates-long-detentions-for-immigrants-facing-deportation/2017/10/03/a96a5300-a852-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html

Ann E. Marimow reports for the Washington Post:

“The Supreme Court’s liberal justices dominated discussion Tuesday about the prolonged detention of immigrants facing deportation, expressing concern about the government holding noncitizens indefinitely without a hearing.

At issue for the court is whether immigrants slated for deportation have the right to a bail hearing and possible release after six months if they are not a flight risk and pose no danger to the public.

The conservative justices were less vocal but expressed skepticism about whether the court should be setting firm deadlines for hearings in immigration cases.

A lawyer for the Justice Department told the high court that noncitizens — whether documented or undocumented immigrants — have no constitutional right to be in the United States.

The justices were taking a second look at the issue after an evenly divided court could not reach a decision last term and scheduled the case for reargument. With Justice Neil M. Gorsuch having joined the bench since then, he could cast the deciding vote.

[‘It will be momentous’: Supreme Court embarks on new term]

The case reached the high court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that immigrants fighting deportation are entitled to bond hearings if they have been held for more than six months. A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, representing a group of noncitizens held for more than a year without a hearing, told the Supreme Court that the outcome of the case will affect thousands of people held in jaillike detention centers.

 

The outcome takes on heightened significance as President Trump has vowed to broadly increase immigration enforcement across the United States. Immigration arrests are up sharply since he took office in January, but deportations are down this year, in part because of a significant drop in illegal crossings on the southern border with Mexico.

The Supreme Court has previously held that undocumented immigrants are entitled to some form of due process when contesting their detention but also that “brief” detentions were allowed. Courts have interpreted those rulings in different ways, with the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, for instance, requiring more procedural safeguards for those who would be held for months or even years.

The court’s liberals on Tuesday pressed Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm L. Stewart about why immigrants in detention centers are treated differently than criminal defendants, who automatically receive hearings to determine whether they remain locked up pending trial.

 

Justice Stephen G. Breyer noted that even a criminal suspect accused of “triple ax murders” is entitled to a bail hearing. “That to me is a little odd,” Breyer said, his voice rising.

Without time limits, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, noncitizens languish in detention centers, sometimes for years. “That’s lawlessness,” she said.

During the previous argument last term, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asserted that the constitutionality of the federal law was not at issue. But on Tuesday, he seemed more sympathetic to arguments in favor of a guaranteed timeline. He asked Stewart whether a lengthy delay because of a shortage of immigration judges was permissible and suggested that there should be a concretedeadline.

“Isn’t a bright line rule an easier way?” Kennedy asked.

Justice Elena Kagan followed up and asked whether a five-year backlog, for instance, was allowed. In response, Stewart said, an immigrant fighting deportation could always choose to return to his or her home country.

[Supreme Court considers whether those facing deportation can be held indefinitely]

The six-month deadline that the 9th Circuit set applies to a wide range of immigrants, from people detained after entering the United States for the first time to longtime legal residents. The case was brought by Alejandro Rodriguez, a lawful permanent resident who came to the country as an infant. The Department of Homeland Security started removal proceedings because of a conviction for drug possession and an earlier conviction for joyriding.

It can be done by Congress or by regulation, Alito said. But, he asked, “Where does it say six months in the Constitution?”

The case is Jennings v. Rodriguez.

Staff writers Maria Sacchetti and Robert Barnes contributed to this report.“

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OK, let’s get to the heart of the disingenuous argument by the Solicitor General in behalf of DHS. A respondent is entitled to due process hearing before he or she can be removed from the United States. But, according to the Government, the respondent has no Constitutional right to be in the United States for that Constitutionally-required hearing. And, as we know, Immigration Courts have backlogs of over 600,000 cases, with hearings often taking four or more years to schedule.

The SG’s position doesn’t even pass then”straight face” test. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of Justices won’t agree with it!

PWS

10-03-17

 

 

 

DUE PROCESS WINS IN 9TH CIR! – DHS & IJS REQUIRED TO CONSIDER “ABILITY TO PAY” IN SETTING BOND! – HERNANDEZ V. SESSIONS

9TH-HERNANDEZ-BOND-2017

Hernandez v. Sessions, 9th Cir., 10-02-17 (Published)

PANEL: Stephen Reinhardt, Ferdinand F. Fernandez, and Kim McLane Wardlaw, Circuit Judges.

OPINION BY: Judge Reinhardt

CONCURRING & DISSENTING OPINION: Judge Fernandez

KEY QUOTE:

“Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their challenge under the Due Process Clause to the government’s policy of allowing ICE and IJs to set immigration bond amounts without considering the detainees’ financial circumstances or alternative conditions of release. The government has failed to offer any convincing reason why these factors should not be considered in bond hearings for non-citizens who are determined not to be a danger to the community and not to be so great a flight risk as to require detention without bond. The irreparable harm to Plaintiffs of detention pursuant to bond amounts determined through a likely unconstitutional process far outweighs the minimal administrative burdens to the government of complying with the injunction while this case proceeds.

The district court’s order granting the preliminary injunction is AFFIRMED.

 29 The government also challenges the requirement that it meet and confer with Plaintiffs to develop guidelines for future immigration hearings. According to the government, this requirement gives “Plaintiffs’ counsel veto authority over the terms and guidelines to be used in those bond proceedings, [which] violates Congress’s delegation of such authority to the Executive.” To the contrary, the district court retains authority to resolve any disputes between the parties regarding implementation of the injunction. The requirement that the parties meet and confer is merely an administrative mechanism to reduce unnecessary burdens on the district court’s resources. It is an entirely ordinary exercise of the district court’s authority to manage cases and to encourage cooperation before parties resort to asking the court to resolve a dispute. See, e.g., C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-3 (requiring parties to confer prior to filing most motions and to file the motion only if the parties are “unable to reach a resolution which eliminates the necessity for a hearing”).”

KEY QUOTE FROM JUDGE FERNANDEZ, CONCURRING & DISSENTING:

“I agree that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it decided to issue a preliminary injunction requiring the consideration of “financial ability” and “alternative conditions of supervision”1 in making determinations regarding the release of aliens who have been detained pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1226(a). However, I do not agree with the breadth of the injunctive order that was issued. Thus, I respectfully concur in part and dissent in part.”

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Read the full decision at the above link.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

With an estimated 10 to 11 million “undocumented migrants” currently in the U.S., hundreds of thousands of cases annually being added to the U.S. Immigration Courts’ already out of control docket of 630,000 cases, and the Trump Administration’s “gonzo” enforcement policy where line agents often arbitrarily decide which migrants to place in Immigration Court (presumably somewhat driven by the need to show “numbers” for budget and performance purposes), one thing is obvious: The system would collapse immediately if everyone apprehended by the DHS at the border and in the interior simply insisted on a full due process “Individual Merits” hearing. Thus, the migrants’s exercise of the Constitutional right to due process and a meaningful opportunity to be heard is the enemy of DHS’s out of control, “gonzo” enforcement.

So, what is DHS to do to suppress this dangerous exercise of constitutional rights? Here are DHS’s “strategies:”

  1. Avoid the hearing process entirely by using some form of “expedited removal” which avoids Immigration Court altogether;
  2. In absentia orders, often based on incomplete address information and inadequate warnings being given to migrants by DHS and/or on sloppy address recording and hearing notice procedures by DHS and EOIR resulting in individuals being clueless about their so-called “final orders” and therefore ill-equipped to exercise their statutory right to move for reopening;
  3. Coercive detention, used to demoralize, discourage, and duress migrants into “waiving” their due process rights and agreeing to depart without a merits hearing either by so-called “voluntary departure” or an uncontested final order.

Obviously, setting reasonable bonds that allow-income migrants can actually pay interferes with the full coerciveness of detention. Once released, migrants have a better chance of locating an attorney, filing a plausible application for relief, and ultimately being granted permission to stay. Therefore, resisting and “monkey wrenching” reasonable release on bonds is a key element of the current DHS “gonzo” enforcement strategy.

One of the ways that most fair U.S. Immigration Judges combat this is by using various “arbitration and mediation skills” to encourage DHS to accept reasonable bonds and waive appeal. But, as previously reported, counsel across the country report that DHS is refusing to negotiate bonds and appealing many of those set by the IJ. In other words, DHS is hoping that the coercive effect of detention will force folks to leave without a hearing before they run out of detention space in the New American Gulag.

Thus, U.S. Immigration Judges have become somewhat feckless in the bond process. DHS simply “blows off” the IJs’ entreaties to negotiate because DHS knows that they can unilaterally block release pending appeal anyway. And, as I previously pointed out, the BIA routinely holds bond appeals pending the completion of detained  merits hearings and then simply dismisses the bond appeal as “moot.” As one (now former) Assistant Chief Counsel in Arlington undiplomatically informed me during a bond hearing shortly after I took the bench in 2003: “You can enter any order you want Judge, but the Detention Officer is going to decide whether or not this respondent gets released.” That’s the point at which I became an “Article I convert.”

Consequently, an Article III (a/k/a “Real”) Court enforcing due process and also requiring the DHS to negotiate some reasonable criteria and procedures for release on bond is both essential to our Constitutional system of due process and justice and also is a direct threat to unbridled DHS “gonzo enforcement.” As you can see from “FN 29” above, DHS has absolutely no interest in settling this case on a reasonable basis, although urged to do so by both the US District Court and the Court of Appeals. They expect and want the Article III Courts to “just roll over” like the “captive” Immigration Courts do.

Consequently, we can expect the Administration to fight tooth and nail against all efforts to put meaning in the currently largely false promise of Due Process in Immigration Court! Expect a DHS appeal to the Supremes! Stay tuned!

PWS

10-03-17

 

 

 

DEAN KEVIN JOHNSON PREVIEWS JENNINGS V. RODRIGUEZ (INDEFINITE PREHEARING IMMIGRATION DETENTION) OA IN SCOTUS BLOG

http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/09/argument-preview-constitutionality-mandatory-lengthy-immigrant-detention-without-bond-hearing/

Dean Johnson writes:

“Detention as a tool of immigration enforcement has increased dramatically following immigration reforms enacted in 1996. Two Supreme Court cases at the dawn of the new millennium offered contrasting approaches to the review of decisions of the U.S. government to detain immigrants. In 2001, in Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court interpreted an immigration statute to require judicial review of a detention decision because “to permit[] indefinite detention of an alien would cause a serious constitutional problem.” Just two years later, the court in Demore v. Kim invoked the “plenary power” doctrine – something exceptional to immigration law and inconsistent with modern constitutional law – to immunize from review a provision of the immigration statute requiring detention of immigrants awaiting removal based on a crime.

How the Supreme Court reconciles these dueling decisions will no doubt determine the outcome in Jennings v. Rodriguez. This case involves the question whether immigrants, like virtually any U.S. citizen placed in criminal or civil detention, must be guaranteed a bond hearing and possible release from custody. Relying on Zadvydas v. Davis, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed a district court injunction that avoided “a serious constitutional problem” by requiring bond hearings every six months for immigrant detainees. The court of appeals further mandated that, in order to continue to detain an immigrant, the government must prove that the noncitizen poses a flight risk or a danger to public safety.”

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Read the rest of Dean Johnson’s analysis at the link.

This is huge in human rights. A “W” for the Administration, which many observers view as likely with the advent of Justice Gorsuch, will essentially “Green Light” the Trump-Sessions-Miller plan to construct the “New American Gulag.” The Gulag’s “prisoners” will be noncriminal migrants (many of them women fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle) whose only “crime” is to assert their rights for due process and justice under our laws.

The concept that migrants have rights is something that sticks in the craws of the White Nationalists. So, punishing them for asserting their rights (with an objective of coercing them into giving up their rights and leaving “voluntarily”) is the next best thing to denying them entirely (which the Administration routinely does whenever it thinks it can get away with it — and the Article IIIs have largely, but not entirely, been asleep at the switch here).

And, make no mistake about it, as study after study has shown, the “conditions of civil detention” in the Gulag are substandard. So much so that in the last Administration DHS’s own study committee actually recommended an end to private immigration detention contracts and a phasing out of so-called “family detention.” The response of the Trump White Nationalists: ignore the facts and double down on the inhumanity.

Based on recent news reports, DHS immigration detainees die at a rate of approximately one per month.  And many more suffer life changing and life threatening medical and psychiatric conditions while in detention. Just “collateral damage” in “Gonzo speak.”

Immigration detainees are often held without bond or with bonds that are so unrealistically high that they effectively amount to no bond. And, in many cases (like the one here) they are denied even minimal access to a U.S. Immigration Judge to have the reasons for detention reviewed.

Plus, as I reported recently, across the nation DHS is refusing to negotiate bonds for those eligible. They are also appealing Immigration Judge decisions to release migrants on bond pending hearings, apparently without any regard to the merits of the IJ’s decision. In other words, DHS is abusing the immigration appeals system for the purpose of harassing migrants who won’t agree to waive their rights to a due process hearing and depart!

Also, as I pointed out, in the “no real due process” world of  the U.S. Immigration Courts, the DHS prosecutors can unilaterally block release of a migrant on bond pending appeal. In most cases this means that the individual remains in detention until the Immigration Judge completes the “merits hearing.” At that point the BIA determines that the DHS bond appeal is “moot” and dismisses it without ever reaching the merits. Just another bogus “production” statistic generated by EOIR!

Oh, and by the way, contrary to “Gonzo” Session’s false and misleading rhetoric on so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” one of the things jurisdictions that rationally choose to limit cooperation with DHS enforcement to those with significant criminal records are doing is protecting their law-abiding, productive migrant residents and migrant communities from the patent abuses of  the “American Gulag.” “Gonzo policies” predictably drive reasonable people to take protective actions.

But, some day, the bureaucrats, complicit judges (particularly life-tenured Article III Judges, like the Supremes), reactionary legislators who turn their backs on human suffering, and misguided voters who have allowed this human rights travesty to be perpetrated on American soil will be held accountable, by the forces of history if nothing else.

PWS

09-28-17

MORE IMMIGRATION COURT INSANITY! — DHS REPORTEDLY STRIPS OWN ATTORNEYS OF AUTHORITY TO NEGOTIATE BONDS, WAIVE APPEALS!

Sources from several areas of the country have informed me that there is a new, of course unpublished and unannounced, policy at DHS prohibiting ICE Assistant Chief Counsel who represent the agency in U.S. Immigraton Court from either negotiating bonds with private counsel or waiving appeals from U.S. Immigraton Judge decisions ordering release on bond.

This is just further evidence of the consequences of having ignorant proponents of “gonzo enforcement” in charge of both the DHS and the U.S. Immigraton Courts at the Department of Justice.

First, negotiated bonds are one of the key ways of making bond dockets move forward in an efficient manner in the U.S. Immigraton Courts. Bonds are initially sent by ICE Enforcement personnel, often on an arbitrary or rote basis. Without authority to negotiate bonds, particularly in advance, each bond hearing will take longer. Moreover, since bond cases take precedence in Immigraton Courts, longer bond dockets will further limit the already inadequate court time for hearing the merits of removal cases. With a growing backlog of over 600,000 cases, this appears to be an intentional effort to undermine due process in the Immigration Courts. Typically, when I served at the Arlington Immigration Court, at my encouragement, the parties agreed on most bonds in advance and neither party appealed more than 1%-2% of my bond decisions. Indeed, discussing settlement with the Assistant Chief Counsel in advance was more or less of a prerequisite for me to redetermine a bond.

Second, appealing all bond release decisions will also overburden the already swamped Appellate Division of the U.S. Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigraton Appeals (“BIA”). As in the Immigraton Courts, bond appeal cases at the BIA take precedence and will push decisions on merits appeals further back in line.

Third, Immigraton Judges usually only prepare a bond decision (known as a “Bond Memorandum”) in cases where a bond appeal is actually taken. Since that currently happens only infrequently, the process is manageable. However, if appeals are taken in more cases, and Bond Memoranda are “priorities,” Immigration Judges will have to spend more time writing or dictating Bond Memoranda, further limiting their time to hear cases on the merits. Moreover, by making it more burdensome to release individuals on bond, the system actually creates an inappropriate bias against releasing individuals on bond.

Fourth, yielding to inappropriate pressure from the “Legacy INS,” the Clinton DOJ gave Assistant Chief Counsel regulatory authority to unilaterally stay the release of a respondent on bond under an Immigraton Judge’s order provided that: 1) the Director originally had set “no bond;” or 2) the original bond was set at $10,000 or more. That means that the DHS can effectively neuter the power of the Immigraton Judge to release an individual on bond pending the merits hearing. By contrast, the respondent has no right to a stay pending a decision by the Immigraton Judge not to allow release, unless the BIA specifically grants a stay (which almost never happens in my experience).

Fifth, unlike petitions to review final orders of removal, which must be filed with the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals at the conclusion of all proceedings, judicial review of bond decisions is sought in the U.S. District Courts. More decisions denying bonds have the potential to create new workload issues for the U.S. District Court.

Fifth, the individuals in the DHS most with the most knowledge and expertise in how the U.S. Immigration Courts work are the Assistant Chief Counsel. Stripping them of their authority to control dockets and settle cases, authority possessed and exercised by every other prosecutor in America, is both dumb and insulting. In what other system do the “cops” have the authority to overrule the U.S. Attorney, the District Attorney, or the State’s Attorney on matters they are prosecuting in court? It also makes the Assistant Chief Counsel job less professional and less attractive for talented lawyers.

In short, the Trump Administration is making a concerted attack on both common sense and due process in the U.S. Immigration Court system. The results are not only unfair, but are wasting taxpayer funds and hampering the already impeded functioning of the U.S. Immigraton Court system. Unless or until the Article III Federal Courts are willing to step in and put an end to this nonsense, the quagmire in the U.S. Immigration Courts will become deeper and our overall U.S. justice system will continue to falter.

We need an independent Article I Immigraton Court now!

PWS

09-23-17

BETH FERTIG AT NPR: “ADR” Moves Into High Gear, Devastating U.S. Immigration Courts, As Half Of NY Immigration Court “Goes Dark” — U.S. Immigration Judges Become Adjuncts Of DHS Border Enforcement Program — Dockets At Interior Courts “Orbited Into Never-Never Land!”

ADR = “Aimless Docket Reshuffling”

http://www.wnyc.org/story/even-more-immigration-judges-are-reassigned-trumps-crackdown-border/

Beth reports for WNYC/NPR:

“In its crackdown on illegal immigration, the Trump administration is moving an increasing number of immigration judges closer to the border with Mexico. The practice is so widespread that half of New York City’s 30 immigration judges have been temporarily reassigned for two-to-four weeks at a time between early April and July.

The judges have been sent to hear deportation cases in Louisiana, California, New Mexico and Texas, along with Elizabeth, New Jersey, where there’s a detention center. In June, WNYC reported that at least eight of New York City’s immigration judges have been temporarily moved to Texas and Louisiana since March. New information obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request revealed the number to be much higher.

All this reshuffling causes cases to get delayed for months. And New York City’s immigration court already has a backlog of more than 80,000 cases. People wait an average of more than two years go to court to fight against deportation. Some might welcome a prolonged wait. But immigration lawyer Edain Butterfield said her clients get anxious because they’re ready to make their case, when they suddenly learn their judge has had to postpone.

“They don’t know if their judge is going to stay on their case,” she said. “They sometimes have to get new documents, ask for another day off from work, ask their family to take another day off from work.”

David Wilkins, an attorney with Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn, said he’s representing a woman seeking asylum whose hearing was recently postponed almost a year — until the summer of 2018. He said she left her children in her home country back in 2012 because of domestic abuse. “It’s extremely difficult for her,” he said. “She’s been separated from her family for so long to sort of live with the constant uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen with her immigration proceeding.”

Judges from New York City aren’t the only ones being moved. According to the latest data obtained by WNYC, 128 of the nation’s approximately 325 immigration judges have been shuffled to other locations between early April and the middle of July. Many of those judges come from Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. These assignments, known as details, last for two or four weeks. Some judges have been shifted around multiple times.

The data does not include all judges assigned to hear cases in other locations by video teleconference. A couple of judges in New York City were seeing cases by video at a Texas detention center in May and June.

The reassignments are expected to continue until early 2018, but the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the immigration courts, would not reveal the schedule beyond July.

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all adults crossing the Mexican border would be sent to detention. To support the mission, he said, the Department of Justice had “already surged 25 immigration judges to detention centers along the border.”

Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said her union remains very concerned about the situation.

“The temporary assignment of judges to border courts creates increasing backlogs in the dockets they leave behind in their home courts and may not be conducive to the overall reduction of our burgeoning caseload.”

Nationally, the backlog has surged to more than 600,000 cases and observers believe that number is growing partly because of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Moving judges south might sound counterintuitive because illegal border crossings have actually dropped since President Trump took office. But Bryan Johnson, an immigration lawyer on Long Island, has a theory about why more judges are needed down south.

“The people that are deported will be deported in less time,” he explained. “And that is the message they want to send people in the home countries from where the migrants come from.”

There is no guaranteed right to counsel in immigration court, and experts said there are few low-cost immigration attorneys near the border — making it even easier to swiftly deport someone because they are not likely to have representation.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review did not respond to a request for comment. However, the agency has said it is hiring more judges.”

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Get the accompanying audio/video report at the link.

David Wilkins from the Central American Legal Defense Center in Brooklyn, quoted in Beth’s article, is one of my former Georgetown Law Refugee Law & Policy students, a former CALS Asylum Clinic participant, and a former Legal Intern at the Arlington Immigration Court. David was also an Immigrant Justice Crops fellow. He is a “charter member” of the “New Due Process Army.” Congratulations David, we’re all proud of what you are doing!

Attorney Bryan Johnson simply restates the obvious. Under A.G. Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, the U.S. Immigration Courts are once again being used as an arm of DHS Enforcement rather than a protector and dispenser of constitutional due process. Nobody in their right mind seriously thinks that Sessions is “surging” Immigration Judges to the border to grant more bonds, reverse more “credible fear” and “reasonable fear” denials, or grant more asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the CAT.

No, the “surge” program is clearly all about detention, coercion, denial, deportation and sending a “don’t come, we don’t want you” message to folks living in fear and danger in countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America. In other words, you might as well cooperate with, support, and/or join the gangs and narco-traffickers — the U.S. has absolutely no intention of saving your life! Nice message!

Don’t be too surprised when multinational gangs and narco-traffickers eventually seize political power in Central America (they have already infiltrated or compromised many government functions). And, we will have sent away the very folks who might have helped us stem the tide. At the same time, we are destroying the last vestiges of due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts, leaving hundreds of thousands of cases and lives “up in the air” and our justice system without a fair and effective mechanism for deciding and reviewing immigration cases. At some point, somebody is going to have to fix this mess. But, you can be sure it won’t be the Trump (“We Don’t Take Responsibility For Nothin'”) Administration.

PWS

07-24-17

 

9th Circuit Upholds Judge Gee’s Order Requiring Bond Hearings For Children! — Flores v. Sessions!

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-minor-immigrants-9th-circuit-20170705-story.html

Maura Dolan reports in the LA Times

“Minors who enter the U.S. without permission must be given a court hearing to determine whether they can be released, a federal appeals court panel decided unanimously Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said immigration authorities continue to be bound by a 1997 lawsuit settlement that guaranteed court hearings for minor immigrants, set standards for their detention and established a policy in favor of their release.

Following that settlement, Congress passed two laws dealing with unaccompanied minor immigrants. The federal government argued those laws replaced the settlement and revoked the right to bond hearings.

The 9th Circuit disagreed.

“In the absence of such hearings, these children are held in bureaucratic limbo, left to rely upon the [government’s] alleged benevolence and opaque decision making,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a Carter appointee, wrote for the court.

The settlement of Flores vs. Janet Reno required that juveniles detained near the border or elsewhere without a parent must be given bond hearings.

The hearings gave minors the right to a lawyer, an opportunity to learn and challenge government evidence against them and the right to contest being locked up, the panel said.

The 9th Circuit cited evidence that the government has been holding minors for months or even years without hearings, even when parents are nearby and can care for them.

Among them was a boy identified only as Hector, who was detained in California at the age of 15 for 480 days, mostly in a locked facility in Yolo County. The ruling did not say why Hector was picked up.

In a declaration, Hector described the Yolo County facility as a prison, where minors were locked in cells at night to sleep on cement benches with mattresses.

During 16 months there, Hector was not given a lawyer or an explanation about why he was being held even though his mother in Los Angeles was seeking his release, the 9th Circuit said.

Without any explanation, the federal government released Hector in December “into the custody of the person who had been advocating for his freedom all along — his mother,” Reinhardt wrote.

The court cited evidence that some juveniles have agreed to deportation rather than face continued incarceration without their families.

“Unaccompanied minors today face an impossible choice between what is, in effect, indefinite detention in prison, and agreeing to their own removal and possible persecution” in their native countries, Reinhardt wrote.

The ruling upheld a decision by Los Angeles-based U.S. Dist. Judge Dolly M. Gee, an Obama appointee.

The government may appeal the panel’s decision to a larger 9th Circuit panel or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers in the case could not be reached for comment.”

Here’s a link to the 9th Circuit’s full 40-page opinion:

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/07/05/17-55208.pdf

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If you want to skip the legal gobbledygook (although the fact situations described are interesting and meaningful), the bottom lines are: 1) the last four Administrations have been to varying degrees tone-deaf to the needs of unaccompanied minors subject to immigration proceedings; 2) bond hearing before U.S. Immigration Judges play a critical role in protecting the rights of children and insuring due process.

PWS

07-05-17

 

TAKE 5 MINUTES TO LOOK INSIDE THE “AMERICAN GULAG” OF CIVIL IMMIGRATION DETENTION BEING PROMOTED BY TRUMP, SESSIONS, KELLY & THE HOUSE GOP!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HeV1QSrEdo#action=share

Published on Jun 26, 2017

Learn about the history, laws, and unjust realities of the U.S. immigration detention system in this short 5-minute film. Narrated by Kristina Shull. Graphics and editing by Stephanie Busing. Script by Terry Ding and Rachel Levenson at NYU’s Immigrant Rights Clinic in collaboration with CIVIC. Learn more and at www.endisolation.org.

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Talk about fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption. And, amazingly, House Republicans are pushing for yet more mandatory detention, this time for those convicted of DUIs who have already completed punishment and are now subject to case-by-case determinations by U.S. Immigration Judges as to whether or not bond should be granted.

As an Immigration Judge, I denied bond in lots of cases with multiple DUIs, probably a substantial majority. But, each case was different, and there were some where the violations were well in the past, the individual had documented freedom from alcohol or substance abuse, and had strong U.S. equities, where bond was appropriate.

And since all cases depend on facts and proof, it’s important for the Judge to listen and be empowered to make the best decision for society and the individual under all the circumstances. “One size fits all” mandatory detention is an abuse of legislative authority and a waste of taxpayer money.

While to date it has not been found unconstitutional, I daresay that’s because the Supreme Court Justices who decide such matters have never had to experience the extreme dysfunction and inherent unfairness of the current immigration detention system on a daily basis like those of us who have served as trial judges. For that matter, they don’t completely understand the total dysfunction of our current Immigration Courts, and the systemic inability to deliver due process on a consistent basis throughout the nation. 600,000 pending cases! That dwarfs the rest of the Federal Judicial system.

Perhaps what it will take to change the system is for some of the Justices to have their son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or law clerk’s spouse more or less arbitrarily tossed into the world of immigration detention. Yes, folks, it’s not just recent border crossers, dishwashers, waitresses, and gardeners who end up in the “American Gulag” that so delights Jeff Sessions. “Professionals,” kids, pregnant women, and human beings from all walks of life, many with only minor violations or no criminal record at all, can end up there too.

PWS

06-28-17

US Immigration Judge Frees Immigrant Activist — Incredulous At DHS’s Position!

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/immigration-judge-orders-release-los-angeles-woman-47945745

The AP reports:

“A Mexican woman was released from custody Friday while the U.S. government seeks to deport her after a judge rejected arguments she should wear a monitoring device because she was arrested twice while demonstrating in support of people in the country illegally.

Claudia Rueda, 22, plans to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program started in 2012 under President Barack Obama that shields immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children from being deported. Her case has drawn attention because she has no criminal record and is an immigration activist.

The immigration judge, Annie S. Garcy, said holding Rueda without bond was “unduly severe” and allowed her to be released on her own recognizance. She noted Ruedas’ academic and other achievements and was incredulous when a government attorney asked that Rueda be required to wear a monitoring device.

“Wow, an ankle bracelet? Really?” said Garcy, who is on temporary assignment from Newark, New Jersey, under an administration effort to give higher priority to cases along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The government attorney, Matthew Hanson, responded that Rueda was arrested twice, once for trespassing and once for disorderly conduct.

Her attorney, Monika Langarica, said those arrests occurred during peaceful demonstrations to support people in the country illegally. She was charged in only one case and it was dismissed.

Rueda, a student at California State University, Los Angeles, was arrested on immigration charges May 18 outside a relative’s Los Angeles home in connection with what the U.S. Border Patrol said was a drug smuggling investigation.

Her mother, Teresa Vidal-Jaime, was arrested on immigration violations in April in connection with the same investigation and later released from custody. Neither Rueda nor her mother was arrested on drug charges.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it would comply with the order to release Rueda and will consider any additional requests by her attorney.”

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Read the complete report at the link.

Under a rational policy, this respondent should have been released by DHS on recognizance and given time to apply for DACA. No wonder the U.S. Immigration Courts are near collapse when DHS wastes precious judicial time on cases that don’t belong in court in the first place.

I don’t blame the Assistant Chief Counsel, Mr Hanson. He’s probably just following instructions. The most knowledgeable folks in the DHS, their court lawyers, have been stripped of the authority to exercise sensible prosecutorial discretion. Instead, Gen. Kelly has turned line agents loose to do as they please.

In other words, he is presiding over a random enforcement system that wastes taxpayer money, abuses the courts, and harms individuals whose cases shouldn’t be in the enforcement system at all.

REALITY CHECK: According to TRAC, as of April 30, 2017, the Newark Immigration Court, where Judge Garcy normally sits, was setting “merits” cases for September 1, 2020, three plus years from now. Why on earth, then, was Judge Garcy sent to California to hear non-merits (i.e., bond) cases that didn’t even belong in court in the first place? Through a disastrous combination of “gonzo” enforcement policies and stunning incompetence the Trump Administration is destroying a key component of the US justice system. When and where will it end?

PWS

06-11-17

AMERICA’S REAL IMMIGRATION CRISIS: THE ATTACK ON DUE PROCESS IN THE UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION COURTS — Read My Keynote Speech FromThe Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center’s “Light Of Liberty Awards” Ceremony Last Night!

AMERICA’S REAL IMMIGRATION CRISIS: THE ATTACK ON DUE PROCESS IN THE UNITED STATES IMMIGRATON COURTS

 

Keynote Address by

 

Paul Wickham Schmidt

 

United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

 

LIGHT OF LIBERTY AWARDS

 

Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center

 

Heritage Hills Golf Resort

 

York, PA

 

JUNE 7, 2016

 

  1. I. INTRODUCTION

 

 

Good evening. Thank you so much for inviting me to speak at this wonderful event. I’m honored to be here. The PIRC is a terrific organization that provides critical legal services to the most vulnerable during one of the most difficult periods in our recent history.

 

The York area has a well-established tradition of humanitarian generosity and support for the most needy that was highlighted during the Golden Venture episode and described in the book Snakehead. I learned today that PIRC was formed to respond to the needs of the Golden Venture detainees. The U.S. Immigration Court in York has one of the highest representation rates for detained individuals in the nation, over 50%.

 

By contrast, the Arlington Immigration Court, where I used to sit, and the Baltimore Immigration Court had detained representation rates of around 20% and 10% respectively. And, it’s even worse in other parts of the country.

 

Back in February, I had the pleasure of working with your amazing Executive Director, Mary Studzinski, at a group session directed at improving training for non-attorney representatives authorized to practice before the U.S. Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. We bonded instantly. That’s “human bonding” rather than “immigration bonding,” of course. Mary’s kinetic energy, practical knowledge, tremendous dedication, and incisive contributions to the group were simply stunning. I must admit, I thought she was the Managing Attorney of the organization until she explained her role to me. You are so fortunate to have of someone who cares so deeply about your mission leading you. Mary is just what America needs right now.

 

Speaking of what America needs, I of course want to be the first to congratulate the five extraordinary individuals and two groups we are honoring tonight with well-deserved “Light of Liberty” Awards. Your energy, knowledge, and willingness to give of yourselves to others is making a much needed positive difference in this community and in our world. Each of you is indeed changing the course of history for the better. And, I’m pleased to announce that I have bestowed on each of tonight’s award recipients the rank of “General” in the “New Due Process Army. “

 

And, of course, thanks again to our great sponsors, mentioned by Mary, for supporting PIRCV and tonight’s awards.

 

II. THE DUE PROCESS CRISIS IN IMMIGRATON COURT

 

As most of you in this room probably recognize, there is no “immigration crisis” in America today. What we have is a series of potentially solvable problems involving immigration that have been allowed to grow and fester by politicians and political officials over many years.

 

But, there is a real crisis involving immigration: the attack on due process in our U.S. Immigration Courts that have brought them to the brink of collapse. I’m going to tell you seven things impeding the delivery of due process in Immigration Court that should be of grave concern to you and to all other Americans who care about our justice system and our value of fundamental fairness.

 

First, political officials in the last three Administrations have hijacked the noble mission of the U.S. Immigration Courts. That vision, which I helped develop in the late 1990s, is to “be the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.”

 

Instead, the Department of Justice’s ever-changing priorities, aimless docket reshuffling, and morbid fascination with increased immigration detention as a means of deterrence have turned the Immigration Court system back into a tool of DHS enforcement. Obviously, it is past time for an independent U.S. Immigration Court to be established outside the Executive Branch.

 

Second, there simply are not enough pro bono and low bono attorneys and authorized representatives available to assist all the individuals who need representation in Immigration Court. As I mentioned, this problem is particularly acute in detention courts. We know that representation makes a huge difference. Represented individuals succeed at rates four to five times greater than unrepresented individuals.

 

There have been a number of studies documenting the substandard conditions in immigration detention, particularly those run by private contractors, which in some cases prove deadly or debilitating. Some of these studies have recommended that immigration detention be sharply reduced and that so-called “family detention” be discontinued immediately.

 

A rational response might have been to develop creative alternatives to detention, and to work closely with and support efforts to insure access to legal representation for all individuals in Removal Proceedings. Instead, the response of the current Administration has been to “double down” on detention, by promising to detain all undocumented arrivals and to create a new “American Gulag” of detention centers, most privately run, along our southern border, where access to attorneys and self-help resources is limited to non-existent.

 

Third, the Immigration Courts have an overwhelming caseload. Largely as a result of “aimless docket reshuffling” by Administrations of both parties, the courts’ backlog has now reached an astounding 600,000 cases, with no end in sight. Since 2009, the number of cases pending before the Immigration Courts has tripled, while court resources have languished.

 

The Administration’s detention priorities and essentially random DHS enforcement program are like running express trains at full throttle into an existing train wreck without any discernable plan for clearing the track!” You can read about it in my article in the latest edition of The Federal Lawyer.

 

Fourth, the immigration system relies far too much on detention. The theory is that detention, particularly under poor conditions with no access to lawyers, family, or friends, will “grind down individuals” so that they abandon their claims and take final orders or depart voluntarily. As they return to their countries and relate their unhappy experiences with the U.S. justice system, that supposedly will “deter” other individuals from coming.

 

Although there has been a downturn in border apprehensions since the Administration took office, there is little empirical evidence that such deterrence strategies will be effective in stopping undocumented migration in the long run. In any event, use of detention, as a primary deterrent for non-criminals who are asserting their statutory right to a hearing and their constitutional right to due process is highly inappropriate. Immigration detention is also expensive, and questions have been raised about the procedures used for awarding some of the contracts.

 

Fifth, we need an appellate court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, that functions like a real court not a high-volume service center. Over the past decade and one-half, the Board has taken an overly restrictive view of asylum law that fails to fulfill the generous requirements of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Cardoza-Fonseca and the Board’s own precedent in Matter of Mogharrabi. The Board has also failed to take a strong stand for respondents’ due process rights in Immigration Court.

 

Largely as a result of the Board’s failure to assert positive leadership, there is a tremendous discrepancy in asylum grant rates – so-called refugee roulette.” Overall grant rates have inexplicably been falling. Some courts such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and some other major non-detained courts have ludicrously low asylum grant rates, thereby suggesting a system skewed, perhaps intentionally, against asylum seekers. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Board has become totally “government-dominated” with no member appointed from the private sector this century.

 

Sixth, the DOJ selection process for Immigration Judges and BIA Members has become both incredibly ponderous and totally one-sided. According to a recent GAO study, it takes on the average nearly two years to fill an Immigration Judge position. No wonder there are scores of vacancies and an unmanageable backlog!

 

And, it’s not that the results of this glacial process produce a representative immigration judiciary. During the Obama Administration, approximately 88% of the Immigration Judge appointments came directly from government backgrounds. In other words, private sector expertise has been almost totally excluded from the 21st Century immigration judiciary.

 

Seventh, and finally, the Immigration Courts need e-filing NOW! Without it, the courts are condemned to “files in the aisles,” misplaced filings, lost exhibits, and exorbitant courier charges. Also, because of the absence of e-filing, the public receives a level of service disturbingly below that of any other major court system. That gives the Immigration Courts an “amateur night” aura totally inconsistent with the dignity of the process, the critical importance of the mission, and the expertise, hard work, and dedication of the judges and court staff who make up our court.

 

III. ACTION PLAN

 

Keep these thoughts in mind. Sadly, based on actions to date, I have little hope that Attorney General Sessions will support due process reforms or an independent U.S. Immigration Court, although it would be in his best interests as well as those of our country if he did. However, eventually our opportunity will come. When it does, those of us who believe in the primary importance of constitutional due process must be ready with concrete reforms.

 

So, do we abandon all hope? No, of course not!   Because there are hundreds of newer lawyers out there who are former Arlington JLCs, interns, my former students, and those who have practiced before the Arlington Immigration Court.

           

They form what I call the “New Due Process Army!” And, while my time on the battlefield is winding down, they are just beginning the fight! They will keep at it for years, decades, or generations — whatever it takes to force the U.S. immigration judicial system to live up to its promise of “guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!”

           

What can you do to get involved now? The overriding due process need is for competent representation of individuals claiming asylum and/or facing removal from the United States. Currently, there are not nearly enough pro bono lawyers to insure that everyone in Immigration Court gets represented.

          

And the situation is getting worse. With the Administration’s expansion of so-called “expedited removal,” lawyers are needed at earlier points in the process to insure that those with defenses or plausible claims for relief even get into the Immigration Court process, rather than being summarily removed with little, if any, recourse.

 

Additionally, given the pressure that the Administration is likely to exert through the Department of Justice to “move” cases quickly through the Immigration Court system with little regard for due process and fundamental fairness, resort to the Article III Courts to require fair proceedings and an unbiased application of the laws becomes even more essential. Litigation in the U.S. District and Appellate Courts has turned out to be effective in forcing systemic change. However, virtually no unrepresented individual is going to be capable of getting to the Court of Appeals, let alone prevailing on a claim.

 

Obviously, the PIRC is a fantastic way to contribute to assertively protecting the due process rights of migrants. Internships and JLC positions at the Immigration Courts are also ways for law students and recent law grads to contribute to due process while learning.

 

As mentioned earlier, Mary and I have been working with groups looking for ways to expand the “accredited representative” program, which allows properly trained and certified individuals who are not lawyers to handle cases before the DHS and the Immigration Courts while working for certain nonprofit community organizations, on either a staff or volunteer basis. The “accredited representative” program is also an outstanding opportunity for retired individuals, like professors, teachers, and others who are not lawyers but who can qualify to provide pro bono representation in Immigration Court to needy migrants thorough properly recognized religious and community organizations.

 

Even if you are a lawyer not practicing immigration law, there are many outstanding opportunities to contribute by taking pro bono cases. Indeed, in my experience in Arlington, “big law” firms were some of the major contributors to highly effective pro bono representation. It was also great “hands on” experience for those seeking to hone their litigation skills.

           

Those of you with language and teaching skills can help out in English Language Learning programs for migrants. I have observed first hand that the better that individuals understand the language and culture of the US, the more successful they are in navigating our Immigration Court system and both assisting, and when necessary, challenging their representatives to perform at the highest levels. In other words, they are in a better position to be “informed consumers” of legal services.

           

Another critical area for focus is funding of nonprofit community-based organizations, like PIRC, and religious groups that assist migrants for little or no charge. Never has the need for such services been greater.

 

Many of these organizations receive at least some government funding for outreach efforts. We have already seen how the President has directed the DHS to “defund” outreach efforts and use the money instead for a program to assist victims of crimes committed by undocumented individuals.

 

Undoubtedly, with the huge emphases on military expansion and immigration enforcement, to the exclusion of other important programs, virtually all forms of funding for outreach efforts to migrants are likely to disappear in the very near future. Those who care about helping others will have to make up the deficit. So, at giving time, remember your community nonprofit organizations that are assisting foreign nationals.

 

Finally, as an informed voter and participant in our political process, you can advance the cause of Immigration Court reform and due process. For the last 16 years politicians of both parties have largely stood by and watched the unfolding due process disaster in the U.S. Immigration Courts without doing anything about it, and in some cases actually making it worse.

 

The notion that Immigration Court reform must be part of so-called “comprehensive immigration reform” is simply wrong. The Immigration Courts can and must be fixed sooner rather than later, regardless of what happens with overall immigration reform. It’s time to let your Senators and Representatives know that we need due process reforms in the Immigration Courts as one of our highest national priorities.

 

Folks, the U.S Immigration Court system is on the verge of collapse. And, there is every reason to believe that the misguided “enforce and detain to the max” policies being pursued by this Administration will drive the Immigration Courts over the edge. When that happens, a large chunk of the entire American justice system and the due process guarantees that make American great and different from most of the rest of the world will go down with it.

IV. CONCLUSION

 

In conclusion, I have shared with you the U.S. Immigration Court’s noble due process vision and the ways it currently is being undermined and disregarded. I have also shared with you some of my ideas for effective court reforms that would achieve the due process vision and how you can become involved in improving the process. Now is the time to take a stand for fundamental fairness! Join the New Due Process Army! Due process forever!

            Thanks again for inviting me and for listening. Congratulations again to our award winners and newly commissioned Generals of the New Due Process Army.

 

(06-08-17)

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Congratulations to these Light of Liberty Awards winners and newly commissioned Generals in the New Due Process Army:

ATTORNEY OF THE YEAR:

Rosina Stambaugh, Esquire

LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

Asylum & Human Rights Clinic, University of Connecticut School of Law

CONTINUING COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE INDIVIDUAL:

Professor Jill Family,

Widener University Delaware Law School

INTERPRETER OF THE YEAR

Rosalyn Groff

COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR:

Dr. Anne Middaugh

CONTINUING COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE ORGANIZATION:

Philadelphia Bar Foundation

VOICE OF COURAGE:

Josia Nunes

 

Out in the audience was superstar lawyer/social worker Hannah Cartwright, a “Charter Member” of the New Due Process Army, now on the legal staff at the PIRC. Hanna, a distinguished Catholic University Law grad, served as a Legal Intern at the Arlington Immigration Court and a Judicial Law Clerk at the Philadelphia Immigration Court.

Pictures and other news from this wonderful event to follow.

PWS

06-08-17