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

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

IJs, Tiered Review, and Completion Quotas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

 

Notes

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

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

 

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

U.S. IMMIGRATON JUDGES: QUOTAS WILL SPELL THE END OF DUE PROCESS IN IMMIGRATION COURT!

HERE ARE TWO POSITION PAPERS PREPARED BY THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF IMMIGRATION JUDGES (“NAIJ”) THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING ORGANIZATION THAT REPRESENTS ALL U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES  (FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a Retired Member of the NAIJ)

NAIJ HAS GRAVE CONCERNS REGARDING IMPLEMENTATION OF QUOTAS ON IMMIGRATION JUDGE PERFORMANCE REVIEWS, October 18, 2017

“The imposition of quotas or deadlines on judges can impede justice and due process. For example, a respondent must be given a “reasonable opportunity” to examine and present evidence. Section 240(b) (4) (B) of the Act. Given that most respondents do not speak English as their primary language and much evidence has to be obtained from other countries, imposing a time frame for completion of cases interferes with a judge’s ability to assure that a respondent’s rights are respected.

Not only will individuals who appear in removal proceedings potentially suffer adverse consequences, but also the public’s interest in a fair, impartial and transparent tribunal will be jeopardized by implementation of such standards.

THE SOLUTION

While it cannot be denied that additional resources are desperately needed immediately, resources alone cannot solve the persistent problems facing our Immigration Courts. The problems highlighted by the response to the recent “surge” underscores the need to remove the Immigration Court from the political sphere of a law enforcement agency and assure its judicial independence. Structural reform can no longer be put on the back burner. Since the 1981 Select Commission on Immigration, the idea of creating an Article I court, similar to the U.S. Tax Court, has been advanced.xvi In the intervening years, a strong consensus has formed supporting this structural change.xvii For years experts debated the wisdom of far-reaching restructuring of the Immigration Court system. Now “[m]ost immigration judges and attorneys agree the long term solution to the problem is to restructure the immigration court

system….” xviii

The time has come to undertake structural reform of the Immigration Courts. It is apparent that until far-reaching changes are made, the problems which have plagued our tribunals for decades will persist. For years NAIJ has advocated establishment of an Article I court. We cannot expect a different outcome unless we change our approach to the persistent problems facing our court system. Acting now will be cost effective and will improve the speed, efficiency and fairness of the process we afford to the public we serve. Our tribunals are often the only face of the United States justice system that these foreign born individuals experience, and it must properly reflect the principles upon which our country was founded. Action is needed now on this urgent priority for the Immigration Courts. It is time to stop the cycle of overlooking this important component of the immigration enforcement system – it will be a positive step for enforcement, due process and humanitarian treatment of all respondents in our proceedings.

6

NAIJ CONCERNS RE QUOTAS

AILA Doc. No 17102062.  (Posted 10/20/17)

We realize that immediate action is needed, and that a structural overhaul and creation of an Article I Court, while the best and only durable solution, may not be feasible right now. However, Congress can act easily and swiftly resolve this problem through a simple amendment to the civil service statute on performance reviews. . Recognizing that performance evaluations are antithetical to judicial independence, Congress exempted Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from performance appraisals and ratings by including them in the list of occupations exempt from performance reviews in 5 U.S.C. § 4301(2)(D). This provision lists ALJs as one of eight categories (A through H) of employees who are excluded from the requirement of performance appraisals and ratings.xix To provide that same exemption to Immigration Judges, all that would be needed is an amendment to 5 U.S.C. § 4301(2) which would add a new paragraph (I) listing Immigration Judges in that list of exempt employees.

We urge you to take this important step to protect judicial independence at the Immigration Courts by enacting legislation as described above.

Thank you.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, CONTACT

THE HONORABLE A. ASHLEY TABADDOR, PRESIDENT NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF IMMIGRATION JUDGES C/o Immigration Court
606 S. Olive Street, 15th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90014 (310)709-3580 ashleytabaddor@gmail.com www.naij-usa.org

Read the complete memo at this link:

NAIJ2

 

Threat to Due Process and Judicial Independence Caused by Performance Quotas on Immigration Judges

“15) If EOIR is successful in tying case completion quotas to judge performance evaluations, it could be the death knell for judicial independence in the Immigration Courts. Judges can face potential termination for good faith legal decisions of which their supervisors do not approve.

16) In addition, Circuit Courts will be severely adversely impacted and we will simply be repeating history which has proven to be disastrous. One need only remember the lasting impact of Attorney General Ashcroft’s “streamlining” initiative at the Board of Immigration Appeals.

17) The United States Government Accountability Office issued its report entitled “IMMIGRATION COURTS-Actions Needed to Reduce Case Backlog and Address Long-Standing Management and Operational Challenges Report to Congressional Requesters” in June 2017, GAO-17-438, (GAO Report). This GAO Report contains a section entitled, “Comprehensive Performance Assessment Could Help EOIR Identify Effective Management Approaches to Address the Case Backlog;” however, nowhere is the suggestion made that numerical or time based criteria be added to performance evaluations for immigration judges. AILA Doc. No 17102061. (Posted 10/20/17)

18) There is no reason for the agency to have production and quantity based measures tied to judge performance reviews. The current court backlog cannot be attributed to a lack of Immigration Judge productivity. In fact, the GAO report shows that Immigration Judge related continuances have decreased (down 2 percent) in the last ten years. GAO Report at 124. The same report shows that continuances due to “operational factors” and details of Immigration Judges were up 149% and 112%, respectively. GAO Report at 131, 133. These continuances, where Judges were forced to reset cases that were near completion in order to address cases that were priorities of various administrations, have a much greater impact on case completion rates. 19) The imposition of quotas or deadlines on judges can impede justice and due process. For example, a respondent must be given a “reasonable opportunity” to examine and present evidence. Section 240(b) (4) (B) of the Act. Given that most respondents do not speak English as their primary language and much evidence has to be obtained from other countries, imposing a time frame for completion of cases interferes with a judge’s ability to assure that a respondent’s rights are respected.”

Read this entire memorandum at the following link:

NAIJ1

 

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Folks, Due Process is “on the run” at the U.S. Immigration Courts. If Congress doesn’t take at least some corrective action to protect quasi-judicial independence, our U.S. Immigration Courts will no longer be able to provide fair and impartial adjudication in accordance with Constitutional requirements. Today, the statutory and Constitutional rights of immigrants are under attack. Tomorrow it could be YOUR Constitutional rights. Who is going to speak up for YOUR RIGHTS if YOU are indifferent to the rights of others?

PWS

10-21-17

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

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

Maria Sacchetti reports for the Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional federal judges are not subject to quotas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

10-13-17

 

PARTY OF INFAMY AND GROSS INDECENCY: GOP’S WHITE NATIONALIST WING SEEKS TO DESTROY U.S. ASYLUM LAW, SCREW THE MOST VULNERABLE – Want To Turn America Into A “Rogue Nation” That Trashes Human Rights! – THEY MUST BE EXPOSED AND STOPPED!

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/trumps-immigration-proposal-could-make-it-radically-harder-to-get-asylum/

Noah Lanard reports for Mother Jones:

“When people arrive at the border seeking asylum from persecution, the United States gives them the benefit of the doubt. As long as they can show there’s a “significant possibility” that they deserve protection, they’re allowed to stay and make their case to an immigration judge. President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress want to change that.

On Sunday, the Trump administration demanded that Congress overhaul the US asylum system as part of any legislation to protect the nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation. The White House’s asylum proposal, laid out in nine bullet-pointed items as part of the broader immigration plan, appears to be modeled on the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act, a bill that Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee approved in July. The bill, which has not been passed by the full House, would make it easier for the Department of Homeland Security to quickly reject asylum claims and force most asylum seekers to remain in detention while their cases are decided. The overall effect would be to transform a system for protecting persecuted people, created in the wake of World War II, into a much more adversarial process.  

At a hearing in July, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) warned that the GOP proposal would “all but destroy the US asylum system.” Now Trump is trying to fold those changes into a deal to protect the Dreamers—undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children—who were previously covered by Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Eleanor Acer, an expert on refugees at the advocacy group Human Rights First, saidin a statement Monday that Trump’s demands will “block those fleeing persecution and violence from even applying for asylum, and punish those who seek protection by preventing their release from immigration detention facilities and jails.”

But Republicans like Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) argue that asylum reform is needed to address “pervasive” fraud, such as false claims of persecution. Asylum claims from the “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have been a major focus for Republicans. Between 2013 and 2015, there were more asylum claims from the Northern Triangle, which has been terrorized by MS-13 and other gangs, than in the previous 15 years combined. A 2015 report from the Government Accountability Office found that the United States has “limited capabilities to detect asylum fraud.” But the scope of the problem is not known. Leah Chavla, a program officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission, says going after fraud is misguided in light of the many checks and balances that are already in place. 

The real “fraudsters” here are the GOP restrictionists, led by folks like Goodlatte, Miller, and Sessions, trying to fob off their knowingly false and contrived narrative on America. Shame!

Second, the current system intentionally denies lawyers to the respondents in detention in obscure locations along the Southern Border, specifically selected to make it difficult for individuals to exercise their rights. Raising the standards would virtually guarantee rejection of all such asylum seekers without any hearing at all. The standard for having asylum granted is supposed to be a generous “well-founded fear” (in other words, a 10% chance or a “reasonable chance”). In fact, however, DHS and EOIR often fail to honor the existing legal standards. Forcing unrepresented individuals in detention with no chance to gather evidence to establish that it is “more likely than not” that they would be granted asylum is a ridiculous travesty of justice.

Third, access to lawyers, not detention, is the most cost-effective way to secure appearance at Immigration Court hearings. Individuals who are able to obtain lawyers, in other words those who actually understand what is happening, have a relatively low rate of “failure to appear.” In fact, a long-term study by the American Immigration Council shows that 95% of minors represented by counsel appear for their hearings as opposed to approximately 67% for those who are unrepresented. See,e.g., https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/taking-attendance-new-data-finds-majority-children-appear-immigration-court

Rather than curtailment of rights or expensive and inhumane detention, the best way of insure that all asylum applicants appear for their scheduled hearings and receive full due process would be to insure that the hearings take place in areas with adequate supplies of pro bono and “low bono” counsel and that hearings are scheduled in a predictable manner that does not intentionally outstrip the capabilities of the pro bono bar.

Fourth, a rational response to fraud concerns would be building better fraud detection programs within DHS, rather than denying vulnerable individuals their statutory and constitutional rights. What would a better system look like:  more traditional law enforcement tools, like undercover operations, use of informants to infiltrate smuggling operations, and much better intelligence on the operations of human trafficking rings. And, there’s plenty of resources to do it. DHS just lacks the ability and/or the motivation. Many of the resources now wasted on “gonzo” interior enforcement and mindless detention — sacking up janitors and maids for deportation and detaining rape victims applying for asylum — could be “redeployed” to meaningful, although more challenging, law enforcement activities aimed at rationally addressing the fraud problem rather than using it as a bogus excuse to harm the vulnerable.

Fifth, Goodlatte’s whole premise of fraud among Southern Border asylum applications is highly illogical. Most of the Southern Border asylum claims involve some variant of so-called “particular social groups” or “PSGs,” But, the entire immigration adjudication system at all levels has traditionally been biased against just such claims. and, it is particularly biased against such claims from Central America. PSG claims from Central America receive “strict scrutiny’ at every level of the asylum system! No fraudster in his or her right mind would go to the trouble of “dummying up” a PSG claim which will likely be rejected. No, if you’re going to the trouble of committing fraud, you’d fabricate a “political or religious activist or supporter claim”  of the type that are much more routinely granted across the board.

Don’t let Trump, Miller, Sessions, Goodlatte, and their band of shameless GOP xenophobes get away with destroying our precious asylum system! Resist now! Resist forever! Stand up for Due Process, or eventually YOU won’t any at all! Some Dude once said “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” While arrogant folks like the restrictionists obviously don’t believe that, it’s still good advice.

PWS

10-10-17

 

AMERICA’S KANGAROO COURT SYSTEM: EOIR HELPING DHS COME UP WITH WAYS TO DUMP ON UNACCOMPANIED KIDS! — THE “THE FACADE OF JUSTICE AT JUSTICE” CONTINUES WHILE CONGRESS AND ARTICLE III COURTS ABDICATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR A SYSTEM THAT MOCKS DUE PROCESS AND THE CONSTITUTION! — CNN’S Tal Kopan With The Scoop!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/11/politics/trump-administration-dhs-immigration-policies/index.html

Tal reports:

“Washington (CNN)Even as the Trump administration is asking Congress to approve a tough overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, the Department of Homeland Security is also quietly exploring ways it could transform the US immigration system on its own.

The department has been examining a range of subtle modifications to immigration policies that could have major consequences, including limiting protections for unaccompanied minors who come to the US illegally, expanding the use of speedy deportation proceedings, and tightening visa programs in ways that could limit legal immigration to the US, according to multiple sources familiar with the plans.
None of the policies being explored are finalized, according to the sources, and are in various stages of development. Any of them could change or fall by the wayside. Some of them are also included at least in part in the wish list of immigration priorities that President Donald Trump sent to Congress this week, and it’s unclear whether the administration will wait to see the results of negotiations over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that President Donald Trump has chosen to end.

Still, the proposals under consideration illustrate the extent to which the administration could attempt to dramatically change immigration in the US through unilateral executive action.
“Do you think Obama did a lot? That’s my answer,” said one former DHS official when asked how transformative the change could be. “They could do quite a bit.”
DACA itself was an example of how former President Barack Obama, frustrated with congressional inaction, sought to use executive authority to take action on immigration, putting in place the program to protect young undocumented immigrations brought to the US as children from deportation in 2012.
But the administration is now exploring rolling back more Obama-era policies, and changing even older systems.
DHS did not respond to a request for comment about the policies being explored or its process.
Targeting protections for unaccompanied minors
One effort underway is exploring what can be done about unaccompanied children (UACs), a category of undocumented immigrants who are caught illegally crossing the border into the US, are under age 18, and are not accompanied or met by a parent or guardian in the US. Those UACs, by law and legal settlement, are handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services for settling in the US, given protections from expedited removal proceedings and given special opportunities to pursue asylum cases in the US.
DHS and the Department of Justice have been exploring options to tighten the protections for UACs, including no longer considering them UACs if they’re reunited with parents or guardians in the US by HHS or once they turn 18.

In a previously unreported memo, obtained by CNN, the general counsel of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which manages the nation’s immigration courts, wrote in a legal opinion that the administration would be able to decide a UAC was no longer eligible for protections — a sea change in the way the 2008 law granting those protections has been interpreted.
The Trump administration has portrayed the UAC protections as a loophole in the law that can be exploited by gangs, though experts have testified before Congress that the minors under the program are more likely to be victimized by gangs in the US due to a lack of a support network than to be gang members. The administration also has sought to crack down on parents who pay smugglers to bring their children into the US illegally, even to escape dangerous situations in Central America.
The White House also asked Congress to amend the 2008 law to restrict UAC protections.
In previously unreported comments made last month at a security conference in Washington, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan said that ICE is actively looking at the adults HHS places UACs with, and if they are in the US illegally, they will be processed for deportation — and if a smuggler was paid, they could be prosecuted for human trafficking.
DOJ touts effects of surge of immigration judges sent to border
DOJ touts effects of surge of immigration judges sent to border
“You cannot hide in the shadows, you can’t be an illegal alien in the United States, have your undocumented child smuggled at the hands of a criminal organization, and stay in the shadows,” Homan said. “We’re going to put the parents in proceedings, immigration proceedings, at a minimum. … Is that cruel? I don’t think so. Because if that child is really escaping fear and persecution, he’s going to stand in front of an immigration judge to plead his case, his parents should be standing shoulder to shoulder with him. I call that parenting.”
DHS is also continuing to weigh its options to expand the use of expedited removal more generally — a speedier process of deportation that bypasses a lengthy court process in particular cases — as authorized by Trump’s January executive order on immigration.
Legal immigration tightening
Other efforts in the works include ways to tighten legal avenues to come to the US.
Two policies being looked at are the subject of litigation in the DC Circuit court — work authorizations for spouses of high-skilled visa holders and an expansion of a program that allows STEM students to stay in the US an extra two years for training.
Both policies were challenged in the courts, and now the administration is considering whether to roll them back.
On the spousal authorizations, DHS told the court as much in a filing last month, asking for extra time for the DHS review to finish.
That filing points to a DHS review of “all” of the agency’s immigration policies, citing the President’s Executive Order to “buy American and hire American.”
“Executive Order 13,788 is an intervening event necessitating careful, considered review of all of DHS’s immigration policies to ensure that the interests of US workers are being protected,” the attorneys wrote, citing the order’s instructions to create new rules, if necessary, “to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system.”
Trump admin quietly made asylum more difficult in the US
Trump admin quietly made asylum more difficult in the US
DHS has also moved to tighten asylum claim credibility thresholds, and is exploring asking Congress for more authority to do so. Another target is reportedly cultural exchange visas, which according to The Wall Street Journal are also under scrutiny after the “hire American” order.
Further unilateral moves wouldn’t even require policy changes, immigration attorneys fear. Attorneys who represent immigration clients fear that simply by slowing down the visa process, DHS could substantially decrease the number of immigrants admitted to the United States. US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced this summer it would begin requiring interviews for all green card applicants on employment and refugee grounds, and that it would roll out required interviews for other categories over time, adding a substantial and potentially lengthy hurdle to achieving legal permanent residency.
“If the wait time for naturalizations increases by three months, USCIS can naturalize 25% fewer people per year, which would mean millions of people over a four-year period,” said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney and former Obama administration DOJ official. “Even without a policy change, the administration (can accomplish) dramatic reductions to legal immigration through increases in processing times and taking a hawkish approach to finding reasons for denials of immigration applications.”
DHS pointed CNN to statistics showing no increase in the rate of denials of immigration applications, though the backlog of pending applications has grown steadily over the past two years.
Internal jockeying
One-quarter of DACA renewals not in on deadline day
One-quarter of DACA renewals not in on deadline day
Sources familiar with the inner workings of DHS describe an environment where political appointees and policy staff with strongly held opinions circulate ideas that sometimes reach the press before front office and secretarial staff are even aware of the discussions.
While political appointees and career officials are not described as butting heads, some of policy ideas do end up moderated by career employees on practical grounds. One source also described some employees of USCIS, which administers DACA, as getting emotional when the plan was made to end the program.
“Once it gets to a senior level, there are pretty robust discussions,” another source familiar said. “And once it gets to that level there are folks with ideas, and then folks who have been around for a while who say, ‘That won’t work.'”
Those competing ideas are then ultimately decided on by the secretary and high-level decision makers, though sources say political appointees are sometimes in a position to have influence over what information flows to the front office and top officials.
“The secretary and the decision makers end up with that (dynamic),” the source said.”

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Immigration “Courts” run and controlled by Political Enforcement Officials and actively engaged in looking for ways to diminish the rights of individuals coming before them are not “real courts” and are not capable for delivering fair, unbiased, and impartial justice in accordance with the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This kangaroo court system, operating under false premises, is unconstitutional (in addition to be incompetently administered)! 

Will the Article III Courts ever do their duty, put this corrupt and unlawful system out of its misery, and restore at least some semblance of due process and justice for immigrants? Or, will they “go along to get along” and thus make themselves part of one of the most shameful charades of justice In American Legal History?

U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS: Judge Lawrence O. “Burmanator” Burman (SOLELY In His NAIJ Officer Capacity) Gives Rare Peek Inside U.S. Immigration Courts’ Disaster Zone From A Sitting Trial Judge Who “Tells It Like It Is!”

Judge Burman appeared at a panel discussion at the Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”). CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian; Hon. Andrew Arthur, former U.S. Immigration Judge and CIS Resident Fellow; and former DOJ Civil Rights Division Official Hans von Spakovsky, currently Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation were also on the panel entitled “Immigration Court Backlog Causes and Solutions” held at the National Press Club on Aug. 24, 2017.  Here’s a complete transcript furnished by CIS (with thanks to Nolan Rappaport who forwarded it to me).

Here’s the “meat” of Judge Burman’s remarks:

“First, the disclaimer, which is important so I don’t get fired. I’m speaking for the National Association of Immigration Judges, of which I am an elected officer. My opinions expressed will be my own opinions, informed by many discussions with our members in all parts of the country. I am not speaking on behalf of the Department of Justice, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the chief judge, or anybody else in the government. That’s important.

What is the NAIJ, the National Association of Immigration Judges? We’re a strictly nonpartisan organization whose focus is fairness, due process, transparency for the public, and judicial independence. We’re opposed to interference by parties of both administrations with the proper and efficient administration of justice. We’ve had just as much trouble with Republican administrations as Democratic administrations.

It’s been my experience that the people at the top really don’t understand what we do, and consequently the decisions they make are not helpful. For example, the – well, let me backtrack a little bit and talk about our organization.

Immigration judges are the – are the basic trial judges that hear the cases. Above us is the Board of Immigration Appeals, who function as if they were an appellate court. We, since 1996, have been clearly designated as judges by Congress. We are in the statute. We have prescribed jurisdiction and powers. Congress even gave us contempt authority to be able to enforce our decisions. Unfortunately, no administration has seen fit to actually give us the contempt authority. They’ve never done the regulations. But it’s in the statute.

The Board of Immigration Appeals is not in the statute. It has no legal existence, really. It’s essentially an emanation of the attorney general’s limitless discretion over immigration law. The members of the Board of – Board of Immigration Appeals are – in some cases they’ve got some experience. Generally, they don’t have very much. They’re a combination of people who are well-respected in other parts of the Department of Justice and deserve a well-paid position. Very often they’re staff attorneys who have basically moved up to become board members, skipping the immigration judge process. Very few immigration judges have ever been made board members, and none of them were made board members because they had been immigration judges. If they were, it was largely a coincidence.

The administration of the Executive Office for Immigration Review in which we and the BIA are housed is basically an administrative agency. We are judges, but we don’t have a court. We operate in an administrative agency that’s a lot closer to the Department of Motor Vehicles than it is to a district court or even a bankruptcy court, an Article I type court.

Our supervisors – I’m not sure why judges need supervisors, but our supervisors are called assistant chief immigration judges. Some of them have some experience. Some of them have no experience not only as judges, but really as attorneys. They were staff attorneys working in the bowels of EOIR, and gradually became temporary board members, and then permanent board members.

Interestingly, when a Court of Appeals panel is short a judge, they bring up a district judge. EOIR used to do that, by bringing up an immigration judge to fill out a panel at the board. They don’t do that anymore. They appoint their staff attorneys as temporary board members, a fact that is very shocking when we tell it to federal judges. They can’t imagine that a panel would be one member short and they’d put their law clerk on the panel, but that’s what goes on.

The top three judges until recently – the chief judge and the two primary deputies – had no courtroom experience that I’m aware of. Two of them have gone on. Unfortunately, one of them has gone on to be a BIA member. The other retired.

Our direct supervisors are the assistant chief immigration judges. Some are in headquarters, and they generally have very little experience. Others are in the field, and they do have some experience – although, for example, the last two ACIJs – assistant chief immigration judges – who were appointed became judges in 2016. So they don’t have vast experience. Well, they may be fine people with other forms of experience, but this agency is not run by experienced judges, and I think it’s important to understand that.

There’s a severe misallocation of resources within EOIR. I think Congress probably has given us plenty of money, but we misuse it. In the past administration, the number of senior executive service – SES – officials has doubled. Maybe they needed some more administrative depth, although I doubt it. The assistant chief immigration judges are proliferating. I think there’s 22 of them now. These are people who may do some cases. Some of them do no cases. They generally don’t really move the ball when it comes to adjudicating cases. Somehow, the federal courts are able to function without all of these intermediaries and supervisory judges, and I think that we would function better without them as well.

To give you a few examples – I could give you thousands of examples, and if you want to stick around I’ll be happy to talk about it. Art was talking about the juvenile surge. I think it was approximately 50,000 juveniles came across the border. To appear to be tough, I guess, they were prioritized. The official line is, you know, we’re going to give them their asylum hearings immediately. I’m not sure what kind of asylum case that a 6-year-old might have, but we would hear the case and do it quickly, and then discourage people from coming to our country. But, in fact, what’s actually happened is the juvenile docket is basically a meet-and-greet. The judges are not – first of all, I’m not allowed to be a juvenile judge. The juvenile judges are carefully selected for people who get along well with children, I guess. (Laughter.) Really, what they do is they just – they see the kids periodically, and in the meantime the children are filing their asylum cases with the asylum office, where they’re applying for special immigrant juvenile status, various things. But judge time is being wasted on that.

Another example is the current surge. I have a really busy docket. Art was talking about cases being scheduled in 2021. The backlog for me is infinite. I cannot give you a merits hearing on my docket unless I take another case off. My docket is full through 2020, and I was instructed by my assistant chief immigration judge not to set any cases past 2020. So they’re just piling up in the ether somewhere.

As busy as I am, they send me to the border, but these border details are politically oriented. First of all, we probably could be doing them by tele-video. But assuming that they want to do them in person, you would think that they would only send the number of judges that are really needed. But, in fact, on my last detail of 10 business days, two-week detail, two days I had no cases scheduled at all. And back home having two cases off the docket, which almost never happens – or two days off the docket, which almost never happens, would be useful because I could work on motions and decisions. But when I’m in Jena, Louisiana, I can’t really work on my regular stuff. So I’m just reading email and hanging out there.

The reason for that is because there’s been no attempt to comply with the attorney general’s request that we rush judges to the border with, at the same time, making sure that there’s enough work or not to send more judges than is really necessary to do the work. I assume the people that run our agency just want to make the attorney general happy, and they send as many judges to the border as possible.

One particularly bizarre example was in San Antonio. The San Antonio judges were doing a detail to one of the outlying detention facilities by tele-video. But they wanted to rush judges to the border, so they assigned a bunch of judges in the country that had their own dockets to take over that docket by tele-video on one week’s notice. Well, one week’s notice meant that the judges in San Antonio couldn’t reset cases. You’ve got to give at least 10 days’ notice of a hearing by regulation. So we had judges taken away from their regular dockets to do that; judges who normally would have done that who already were on the border – San Antonio is pretty closer to the border – didn’t have anything to do.

Now, those may be extreme cases, but this happens all too much, and it’s because of political interference. And like I say, it’s got nothing to do with party. We’ve had the same problem with Democratic and Republican administrations. It comes from political decisions animating the process and people who don’t really understand what they’re managing, just attempting to placate the guy on the top. So that’s basically what’s been happening.

Am I over my 10 minutes here?

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. Well, I mean, you’re right at it. If you’ve got a couple more minutes, that’s fine.

JUDGE BURMAN: Well, let me just go over some possible suggestions.

Let judges be judges – immigration judges that control their own courts and their own dockets. We should be able to supervise our own law clerks and our own legal assistants, which currently we don’t. And the contempt authority we were given in 1996 should eventually – should finally get some regulations to implement it.

EOIR’s overhead needs to be reduced. There’s too many positions at headquarters and too few positions in the field. When EOIR was originally set up, the idea was that each judge would need three legal assistants to docket the cases and find the files and make copies and all that. At one point last year we were down to less than one legal assistant per judge in Arlington, where I am, and in Los Angeles it was even worse. When you do that, the judge is looking for files, the judge is making copies, the judge doesn’t have the evidence that’s been filed. There’s nothing more annoying than to start a hearing and to find that evidence was filed that I don’t have. The case has to be continued. I have to have a chance to find the evidence and review it.

It would be nice if our management were more experienced than they are, or at least have some more courtroom experience.

We need an electronic filing system like all the other courts have. Fortunately, that’s one thing that Acting Director McHenry has said is his top priority, and I think that he will take care of that.

The BIA is a problem. The BIA doesn’t have the kind of expertise that the federal courts would defer to. Consequently, I think a lot of the bad appellate law that Art was referring to is caused by the fact that the BIA really doesn’t have any respect in the federal court system. They’re not immigration experts. They want their Chevron deference, but they are not getting it. They’re not getting it from the Court of Appeals. They’re not getting it from the Supreme Court, either.

The BIA also remands way too many cases. When we make a decision, we send it up to the BIA. We don’t really care what they do. They could affirm us. They could reverse us. We don’t want to see it back. We’ve got too much stuff to see them back. And this happens all the time. If they remand the case, they don’t ever have to take credit for the decision that they make. I assume that’s why they’re doing it, to try to make us do it.

We need a proper judicial disciplinary system. Starting in 2006, which is where the backlog problem began, the attorney general first of all subjected us to annual appraisals, evaluations, which previously OPM had waived due to our judicial function. So that’s a waste of time. Judges were punished for the – for things that are not punishment. Judges were punished because a Court of Appeals would say that you made a mistake or he was rude or – it’s just crazy. Judges were punished or could be punished for granting – for not granting continuances. No judge was ever punished for granting a continuance. So it’s no surprise that, as I pointed out, continuances have been granted at a much greater level – in fact, too great a level. But when in doubt, we continue now because if we don’t do that we’re subject to punishment, and nobody really wants that.

And finally, the ultimate solution, I think, is an Article I court like the bankruptcy court – a specialized court, could be in the judicial branch, could be in the executive branch – to give us independence, to ensure that we have judges and appellate judges who are appointed in a transparent way, being vetted by the private bar, the government, and anybody else.

And I’m way over my 10 minutes, so I’ll be – I’ll be sure to babble on later if you want me to. Thank you.”

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Judge Arthur’s kind opening words about the late Juan Osuna were a nice touch. One of Juan’s great strengths as person, executive, judge, and teacher was his ability to maintain good friendships with and respect from folks with an assortment of ideas on immigration.

Judge Burman’s “no BS” insights are as timely as they are unusual. That’s because U.S. Immigration Judges are not encouraged to speak publicly and forthrightly about their jobs.

The Supervisory Judge and the EOIR Ethics Office must approve all public appearances by U.S. Immigration Judges including teaching and pro bono training. A precondition for receiving permission is that the judge adhere to the DOJ/EOIR “party line” and not say anything critical about the agency or colleagues. In other words, telling the truth is discouraged.

As a result, most Immigration Judges don’t bother to interact with the public except in their courtrooms. A small percentage of sitting judges do almost all of the outreach and public education for the Immigration Courts.

While EOIR Senior Executives and Supervisors often appear at “high profile events” or will agree to limited press interviews, they all too often have little if any grasp of what happens at the “retail level” in the Immigration Courts. Even when they do, they often appear to feel that their job security depends on making things sound much better than they really are or that progress is being made where actually regression is taking place.

In reality, the system functioned better in the 1990s than it does two decades later. Due Process protection for individuals — the sole mission of EOIR — has actually regressed in recent years as quality and fairness have taken a back seat to churning numbers, carrying out political priorities, not rocking the boat, and going along to get along. Such things are typical within government agency bureaucracies, but atypical among well-functioning court systems.

I once appeared on a panel with a U.S. District Judge. After hearing my elaborate, global disclaimer, he chuckled. Then he pointedly told the audience words to the effect of  “I’m here as a judge because you asked me, and I wanted to come. I didn’t tell the Chief Judge I was coming, and I wouldn’t dream of asking his or anyone else’s permission to speak my mind.”

I hope that everyone picked up Judge Burman’s point that “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” or “ADR” is still in full swing at EOIR. Cases are shuffled, moved around, taken off docket, and then restored to the docket to conceal that the backlog in Arlington goes out beyond the artificial “2020 limit” that Judge Burman has been instructed to use for “public consumption.” But there are other cases out there aimlessly “floating around the ether.” And, based on my experience, I’m relatively certain that many courts are worse than Arlington.

Judge Burman also makes another great  “inside baseball” point — too many unnecessary remands from the BIA. Up until the very ill-advised “Ashcroft Reforms” the BIA exercised de novo factfinding authority. This meant that when the BIA disagreed with the Immigration Judge’s disposition, on any ground, they could simply decide the case and enter a final administrative order for the winning party.

After Ashcroft stripped the BIA of factfinding  authority, nearly every case where the BIA disagrees with the lower court decision must be returned to the Immigration Court for further proceedings. Given the overloaded docket and lack of e-filing capability within EOIR, such routine remands can often take many months or even years. Sometimes, the file gets lost in the shuffle until one or both parties inquire about it.

The Immigration Courts are also burdened with useless administrative remands to check fingerprints in open court following BIA review. This function should be performed solely by DHS, whose Counsel can notify the Immigration Court in rare cases where the prints disclose previously unknown facts. In 13 years as an Immigration Judge, I had about 3 or 4 cases (out of thousands) where such “post hoc” prints checks revealed previously unknown material information. I would would have reopened any such case. So, the existing procedures are unnecessary and incredibly wasteful of limited judicial docket time.

I agree completely with Judge Burman that the deterioration of the Immigration Courts spans Administrations of both parties. Not surprisingly, I also agree with him that the only real solution to the Courts’ woes is an independent Article I Court. Sooner, rather than later!

PWS

09-03-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTN RETIRED US IMMIGRATION JUDGES: EOIR Wants YOU!

Here is the link from OCIJ with complete information. Good luck!

 

https://www.justice.gov/legal-careers/job/immigration-judge-1

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Seems like a good idea (and one that most past Administrations have failed to take advantage of — I was able to use it at the BIA when I was Chair).

REMEMBER, DUE PROCESS FOREVER!

PWS

08-30-17

TIME MAGGIE: DUE PROCESS TAKES ANOTHER HIT IN IMMIGRATION COURT WITH EOIR’S DISINGENUOUS MEMO DISCOURAGING CONTINUANCES IN IMMIGRATION COURT! — When Will The Article III Courts & Commentators Expose The REAL Fraud Being Fobbed Off On The Public By The Sessions DOJ & EOIR? — The DOJ Is Trying To Blame The “Champions Of Due Process” (Private Lawyers) For The “ADR” — Aimless Docket Reshuffling — That The DOJ Created And Actually Mandated— Hold The DOJ Fully Accountable For The Failure Of The U.S. Immigration Courts!

http://time.com/4902820/immigration-lawyers-judges-courts-continuance/

Tessa Berenson writes in Time:

“The president and attorney general have vowed to crack down on illegal immigration, and the new directive could help move cases through the system at a faster clip. Most immigration lawyers agree that the overloaded courts are a major issue. But they fear the end result will be more deportations as judges use the wide discretion afforded to them to curtail continuances. The Immigration and Nationality Act doesn’t establish a right to a continuance in immigration proceedings, Keller’s letter notes. They’re largely governed by a federal regulation which says that an “immigration judge may grant a motion for continuance for good cause shown.”

Immigration lawyers often rely heavily on continuances for their prep work because immigration law grants limited formal discovery rights. Unlike in criminal cases, in which the prosecution is generally required to turn over evidence to the defense, immigration lawyers often have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to find out what the government has on their client. These can take months to process.

“If their priority is speed, we all know that sounds really good, to be more efficient, but usually due process takes a hit when your focus is efficiency,” says Andrew Nietor, an immigration attorney based in San Diego. “By the time we are able to connect with our clients, that first court appearance might be the day after we meet somebody, so we haven’t had the opportunity to do the investigation and do the research. And up until several months ago, it was standard to give immigration attorneys at least one continuance for what they call attorney preparation. Now it’s not standard anymore.”

The Justice Department’s guidance says that “the appropriate use of continuances serves to protect due process, which Immigration Judges must safeguard above all,” and notes that “it remains general policy that at least one continuance should be granted” for immigrants to obtain legal counsel.

But the memo is more skeptical about continuances for attorney preparation. “Although continuances to allow recently retained counsel to become familiar with a case prior to the scheduling of an individual merits hearing are common,” it says, “subsequent requests for preparation time should be reviewed carefully.”

It remains to be seen if this careful review will streamline the ponderous system or add another difficulty for the harried lawyers and hundreds of thousands of immigrants trying to work their way through it. For Jeronimo, it may have been decisive. In mid-August, the judge found that the defense didn’t adequately prove Jeronimo’s deportation would harm his young daughter and gave him 45 days to voluntarily leave the United States. Now Jeronimo must decide whether to appeal his case. But he’s been held in a detention center in Georgia since March, and his lawyers worry that he has lost hope. He may soon be headed back to Mexico, five months after he was picked up at a traffic stop in North Carolina.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

OK, let’s have a reality check here. The tremendous backlog is NOT caused by giving respondents time to find an attorney in an already overwhelmed system or by giving those overworked and under-compensated private attorneys time to adequately prepare their clients’ cases.

No, it’s caused by two things both within the control of the Government. The first is the abuse of the system, actively encouraged by this Administration, for cases of individuals who are law abiding members of the U.S. community, helping our nation prosper, who either should be granted relief outside the Immigrant Court process, or whose cases should be taken off the docket by the reasonable use of prosecutorial discretion (something that the Trump Administration eliminated while outrageously calling it a “return to the rule of law” — nothing of the sort — it’s a return to docket insanity enhanced by intentional cruelty).

Your tax dollars actually pay for the wasteful and counterproductive abuses being encouraged by the Trump Administration! Eventually, Congress will have to find a solution that allows all or most of these folks to stay. But, mindlessly shoving them onto already overwhelmed Immigration Court dockets is not that solution.

The second major cause is even more invidious: Aimless Docket Reshuffling (“ADR”) by the Government! The problematic continuances being given in this system — those of many months, or even many years — are forced upon Immigration Judges by EOIR and the DOJ, usually without any meaningful input from either the sitting Immigration Judges or the affected public. Immigration Judges are required to accommodate politically-motivated “changes in priorities” and wasteful transfer of Immigration Judges wth full dockets (which then must be reset, usually to the end of the docket, sometimes to another Immigration Judge) to other locations, often in detention centers, to support enforcement goals without any concern whatsoever for due process for the individuals before the court or the proper administration of justice within the U.S. Immigration Court system.

There is only one real cure for this problem: removal of the U.S. Immigration Courts from the highly politicized U.S. Department of Justice to an independent Article I Court structure that will focus  on due process foremost, and efficient, but fair, court administration. But, until then, it’s up to the press to expose what’s really happening here and to the Article III Courts to call a halt to this travesty.

The “heroes” of the U.S. Immigration Court system, dedicated NGOs and attorneys, many of them acting without compensation or with minimal compensation, are under attack by this Administration and the DOJ. Their imaginary transgression is to insist on a fair day in court for individuals trying to assert their constitutional right to a fair hearing. They are being scapegoated for problems that the U.S. Government has caused, aggravated, and failed to fix, over several Administrations.

The DOJ is creating a knowingly false narrative to cover up their failure to deliver due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts and to shift the blame to the victims and their representatives. A simple term for that is “fraud.”

If we allow this to happen, everyone will be complicit in an assault not only on American values but also on the U.S. Constitution itself, and the due process it is supposed to guarantee for all. If it disappears for the most vulnerable in our society, don’t expect it to be there in the future when you or those around you might need due process of law. And, when you don’t get due process, you should also expect the Government to blame you for their failure.

PWS

08-19-17

 

U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS: LATEST JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS SHOW MORE DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS — MORE SUPERVISORY JUDGES ASSIGNED TO LOCAL COURTS!

In what should be a positive development for all who care about the future of our U.S. Immigration Courts, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s latest group of nine new U.S. Immigaration Judge appointees includes seven new judges with “outside” experience in either defending migrants or judging in other systems, or both.

Judge Katherine L. Hansen, Bloomington, MN, most recently served as a senior staff attorney at Iowa Legal Aid and also spent 12 years as a Michigan State District Court Judge.

Judge Jose A. Sanchez, Boston, spent the last 22 years as an Associate Justice for the Trial Court of Massachusetts.

Judge Christopher R. Seppanen, Cleveland, was a Supervisory Administrative Law Judge in Michigan for the past 15 years.

Judge Charlotte D. Brown, Harlingen, most recently spent seven years as a North Carolina State District Court Judge.

Judge Charles R. Conway, New York City, spent the last two years as a Supervising Attorney in the Immigration Unit of the Legal Aid Society in New York. Prior to that, he had his own immigration law practice and also was an Immigration Staff Attorney at Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem.

Judge Maria E. Navarro, New York City, had been an attorney with the  Legal Aid Society in New York for 21 years, the last nine years as a Supervising Attorney and ultimately Acting Attorney-in-Charge.

Judge Charles M. McCullough, San Antonio, served as the Senior Assistant Chief Industrial Appeals Judge in Washington State for the past 15 years.

Judge Patrick O’Brien, San Francisco, was an Assistant Chief Counsel for ICE in San Francisco for the past eight years.

Judge Joseph Y. Park, San Francisco, was the Deputy Chief Counsel for ICE in San Francisco for the past six years.

Additionally, EOIR announced that Judge Daniel Weiss has been appointed Assistant Chief Immigration Judge (“ACIJ”) in Dallas and Judge Clay Martin has been appointed ACIJ in San Antonio.

I have been a frequent critic of Sessions, his “over the top” rhetoric and actions on immigration enforcement, his undermining of important civil rights protections, and his previous record of appointing Immigration Judges solely from the ranks of government attorneys, almost all former prosecutors.

But, I have to say that this is one of the most diverse and well-balanced group of appointments that I have seen coming from an Attorney General in many years, including, for the most part, the Obama Administration.

I believe that having judges who have served in other systems and who have both defended and prosecuted migrants in the mix should generate some new perspectives and, hopefully, some practical, realistic solutions to the many problems facing the Immigration Courts on a daily basis.

I know that as a judge I always appreciated getting insights from my colleagues who came from different backgrounds and had different experiences and often different views on how to approach an issue. Sometimes, I tried out several approaches before finding the one that worked best in my courtroom.

My colleagues also frequently consulted me behind the scenes. I was happy to share perspectives I had gained as an appellate judge, private practitioner, Senior Executive, and professor. Indeed discussing legal and administrative issues “in chambers” with my colleagues and often our wonderful JLCs and legal interns was one of the highlights of the job, and certainly helped relieve the otherwise unrelenting stress of having people’s lives and futures in your hands continually.  (We tried, not always successfully, to steer our daily lunch discussions away from “work” to topics like sports, politics, history, theology, family, travel, etc.)

I also applaud the decision to place more ACIJs in the local courts rather than at HQ in Falls Church. Hopefully, they will handle at least partial dockets to have a better idea of the reality facing their colleagues.

A continuous complaint from sitting Immigration Judges and Court Administrators has been OCIJ’s attempt to micromanage and solve problems “from afar.” Many times we thought or said to ourselves “if they were here doing cases they wouldn’t have to ask that question.” Over many years in many different legal positions, I have found that “working supervisors” who are actively involved in the substantive work of the office, and accessible to their colleagues, do far better in solving problems, and achieving respect and cooperation from their colleagues than those who remain “above the fray.” A leader, particularly among judges, is more likely to develop a timely and effective solution to a problem if she or he faces that very problem on a daily basis and gets constant input from colleagues.

Of course, as with most things, “the devil is in the details.” It depends on what the local ACIJ’s mission is. If he or she is there to work collectively with colleagues, staff, the local bar, and ICE to solve problems, improve due process, and serve as a resource for other courts and for OCIJ in developing sound nationwide policies that support and improve due process, that would be a very positive development. On the other hand, if the ACIJ is an “emissary from on high” sent to crack the whip and enforce unrealistic or inappropriate policies developed at the DOJ or OCCIJ without appropriate input from Immigration Judges and local stakeholders, that’s going to be a nasty failure that will actually make an already bad situation even worse.

The latest appointments list could well be a fluke. Some have suggested that it is just the function of most of the “outside” appointments in the “pipeline” being tied up with (unnecessarily) long background clearances which finally came through in group. If so, the appointments could return to the “insiders only” practice.

But, for the reasons I have outlined above, more diverse and balanced selections for the Immigration Judiciary would well-serve the courts, due process, and the public interest in fair and efficient hearings in U.S. Immigration Court.

By no means am I suggesting that a few outside appointments and local ACIJs can solve the dysfunction now gripping the U.S. Immigration Court system. Only an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court can do that. But, more diverse judicial appointments and constructive local court management involving sitting judges would be small steps in the right direction.

I am republishing below the complete EOIR press release on the new appointments, giving more detailed information on their backgrounds and qualifications. Congratulations to each of the new U.S. Immigration Judges. Due Process Forever!

PWS

08-16-17

U.S. Department of Justice

Executive Office for Immigration Review

Office of the Director
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2600 Falls Church, Virginia 22041

Contact: Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

Phone: 703-305-0289 Fax: 703-605-0365 PAO.EOIR@usdoj.gov @DOJ_EOIR

www.justice.gov/eoir

Aug. 14, 2017

Executive Office for Immigration Review Swears in Nine Immigration Judges

FALLS CHURCH, VA – The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has invested nine immigration judges to fill positions in Bloomington, Minn.; Boston; Cleveland; Harlingen, Texas; New York; San Antonio; and San Francisco.

The nine new immigration judges were selected from all qualified U.S. citizen applicants. Each must demonstrate appropriate temperament to serve as an immigration judge, and three of the following: knowledge of immigration laws and procedures, substantial litigation experience, experience handling complex legal issues, experience conducting administrative hearings, and knowledge of judicial practices and procedures.

Last Friday’s investiture brings the size of the immigration corps to 334. EOIR is continuing to employ its newly streamlined hiring process to reach its fully authorized level of 384 immigration judges. As the agency increases the number of immigration judges hearing cases, it is also expanding the number of supervisory immigration judges in the field. On Aug. 20, Daniel Weiss and Clay Martin will begin work as assistant chief immigration judges in Dallas and San Antonio, respectively.

Immigration judges preside over formal, quasi-judicial immigration court hearings and make decisions regarding the removability of aliens whom the Department of Homeland Security charges with violations of U.S. immigration law.

Biographical information follows.

Katherine L. Hansen, Immigration Judge, Bloomington Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Katherine L. Hansen to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Hansen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986 from Morningside College, a Juris Doctor in 1991 from Drake University School of Law, and a Master of Laws degree in 1997 from Wayne State University School of Law. From 2016 to 2017, she served as a senior staff attorney for Iowa Legal Aid. From 2004 to 2016, she served as a district court judge for Michigan’s 36th District Court, in Detroit, Mich. From 2000 to 2004, she served as an

Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

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EOIR Swears in Nine Immigration Judges Page 2

assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan. From 1993 to 1999, she served as a member of the Michigan Employment Security Board of Review for the State of Michigan, in Lansing, Mich. Judge Hansen is a member of the Iowa and Michigan State Bars.

Jose A. Sanchez, Immigration Judge, Boston Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Jose A. Sanchez to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Sanchez earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1984 from Fordham University at Lincoln Center and a Juris Doctor in 1987 from Northeastern University School of Law. From 1995 to 2017, he served as an associate justice of the trial court for the Trial Court of Massachusetts, in Lawrence, Mass. From 1987 to 1995, he served as a trial attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, in Cambridge, Mass. From 1976 to 1981, he served as an air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration, in New York, N.Y. Judge Sanchez is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar.

Christopher R. Seppanen, Immigration Judge, Cleveland Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Christopher R. Seppanen to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Seppanen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990 from Alma College and a Juris Doctor in 1993 from the University of Kentucky College of Law. From 2002 to 2017, he worked for the State of Michigan, in Lansing, Mich., serving as a supervisory administrative law judge, 2002 to 2012; a deputy chief administrative law judge, 2012 to 2014; and a chief administrative law judge, 2014 to 2017. From 1997 to 2002, he served as an administrative law judge for the State of Michigan, in Manistee, Mich. From 1996 to 1997, he served as a trial attorney for the Office of Public Advocacy, in Alpena, Mich. Judge Seppanen is a member of the Michigan State Bar.

Charlotte D. Brown, Immigration Judge, Harlingen Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Charlotte D. Brown to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Brown earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979 from The City University of New York, York College, a Juris Doctor in 1990 from St. John’s University School of Law, and a Master of Divinity in 2001 from Hood Theological Seminary. From 2009 to 2016, she served as a district court judge for North Carolina’s 26th District Court, in Charlotte, N.C. From 2001 to 2008 and previously 1994 to 1997, she was an attorney at Charlotte D. Brown, in Rockingham, N.C. From 1998 to 2001, she was an executive assistant to the president and general counsel at Livingston College, in Salisbury, N.C. From 1991 to 1992, she served as a public defender at the Public Defender’s Office, in Fayetteville, N.C. From 1990 to 1991, she was an associate attorney at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, in New York, N.Y. Judge Brown is a member of the Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina State Bars.

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Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

EOIR Swears in Nine Immigration Judges Page 3

Charles R. Conroy, Immigration Judge, New York City Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Charles R. Conroy to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Conroy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1993 from St. Michael’s College and a Juris Doctor in 1999 from Vermont Law School. From 2016 to 2017 he was a supervising attorney in the Immigration Law Unit of The Legal Aid Society, in New York, N.Y. From 2013 to 2016, he was an immigration attorney at the Law Offices of Charles R. Conroy, PLLC, in New York. From 2012 to 2013, he was an immigration staff attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem, also in New York. From 2006 to 2012, he was an immigration staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association Inc., in Orlando, Fla. From 2005 to 2006, he was a securities attorney in the Corporate Law Department of AEGON USA Inc., in St. Petersburg, Fla. In 2004, he was an associate attorney at Tabas Freedman, in Miami, Fla. From 2001 to 2004, he was a securities enforcement attorney at Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, in Montpelier, Vt. From 2000 to 2001, he was an associate attorney at Wick and Maddocks P.C., in Burlington, Vt. From 2008 to 2011, he was an adjunct professor of law at the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, Barry University, in Orlando. Judge Conroy is a member of the Florida, New York, and Vermont State Bars, and the District of Columbia Bar.

Maria E. Navarro, Immigration Judge, New York City Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Maria E. Navarro to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Navarro earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1985 from Fordham University and a Juris Doctor in 1992 from New York University School of Law. From 1996 to 2017, she worked at The Legal Aid Society, in New York, N.Y., serving as a staff attorney, 1996 to 2008; a supervising attorney, 2008 to 2016; and an acting attorney-in-charge, 2016 to 2017. From 2008 to 2016, she was a supervising attorney at The Legal Aid Society. From 1994 to 1996, she was a staff attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services, Corporation B, in Brooklyn, N.Y. From 1992 to 1994, she was a tax associate at Coopers & Lybrand, in New York, N.Y. From 1996 to 2016, she was an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School. Judge Navarro is a member of the New York State Bar.

Charles M. McCullough, Immigration Judge, San Antonio Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Charles M. McCullough to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge McCullough earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982 from the College of the Holy Cross and a Juris Doctor in 1985 from the Gonzaga University School of Law. From 1991 to 2017 he worked for the Washington State Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, in Olympia, Wash., serving as a hearings industrial appeal judge, 1991 to 1992; a mediation and review judge, 1992 to 1998; a review assistant chief industrial appeals judge, 1998 to 2002; and a senior assistant chief industrial appeals judge, 2002 to 2017. From 1988 to 1991, he served as an assistant attorney general for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, in Tacoma, Wash. Judge McCullough is a member of the Washington State Bar.

Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

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Patrick S. O’Brien, Immigration Judge, San Francisco Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Patrick S. O’Brien to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge O’Brien earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1995 from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a Juris Doctor in 2000 from University of California, Hastings College of the Law. From 2009 to 2017, he served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in San Francisco. From 2001 to 2017, he worked for the U.S. Army Judge

Advocate General’s Corp, entering as a student in 2001; serving as a legal assistance attorney in Korea, 2002 to 2003; trial counsel in Fort Lewis, Wash., and Iraq, 2003 to 2004; as trial defense counsel in Fort Lewis and Afghanistan, 2004 to 2007; special assistant U.S. attorney in Fort Lewis, 2007 to 2008; senior defense counsel, U.S. Army Reserve, 2009 to 2014; a brigade judge advocate, U.S. Army Reserve, 2014 to 2016; and currently as an adjunct professor of international and operational law. Judge O’Brien is a member of the California State Bar.

Joseph Y. Park, Immigration Judge, San Francisco Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Joseph Y. Park to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Park earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1994 from Amherst College and a Juris Doctor in 2002 from the University of Washington School of Law. From 2003 to 2017, he worked for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in San Francisco, serving as an assistant chief counsel, 2003 to 2007; a senior attorney, 2007 to 2011; and a deputy chief counsel, Office of Chief Counsel, 2011 to 2017. From 2002 to 2003, he served as an assistant district counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice, in San Francisco, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. Judge Park is a member of the California State Bar.

— EOIR —

Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

NEW JUDICIAL APPOINTMENT: JUDGE JAMES M. McCARTHY JOINS U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT IN NEW YORK

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 13, 2017

Executive Office for Immigration Review Swears in Immigration Judge

FALLS CHURCH, VA – The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today announced the investiture of a new immigration judge. Chief Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller presided over the investiture during a ceremony held this afternoon at EOIR headquarters in Falls Church, Va.

After a thorough application process, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed James M. McCarthy to his new position.

“We welcome Judge McCarthy to the ranks of immigration judges at EOIR,” said Acting Director James McHenry. “EOIR is committed to reducing its significant pending caseload, and Judge McCarthy’s presence augments our ability to do that in one of our highest-volume courts.”

Biographical information follows.

James M. McCarthy, Immigration Judge, New York City Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed James M. McCarthy to begin hearing cases in July 2017. Judge McCarthy earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1983 from St. John’s University and a Juris Doctor in 1995 from Brooklyn Law School. From 2014 to 2017, he served as a senior attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in New York, N.Y. From 2011 to 2014, he served as a deputy chief counsel for the Office of Chief Counsel, ICE, DHS, also in New York. From 2009 to 2011, he served as a senior attorney for ICE, DHS, in Eloy, Ariz. From 2004 to 2009, he served as an assistant chief counsel for ICE, DHS, in Eloy and Florence, Ariz. From 2000 to 2004, he served as an examining attorney for the Mayoral Commission to Combat Police Corruption, New York City Department of Investigations. From 1995 to 2000, he served as an assistant district attorney, and later as a senior assistant district attorney, at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Judge McCarthy is a member of the New York State Bar.

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Congratulations and good luck to Judge McCarthy.

PWS

08-04-17

HON. JEFFREY CHASE RESPONDS TO CHIEF JUDGE KELLER’S OPPM: Continuances Promote Due Process — U.S. Immigration Judges Should Be Free To Exercise Discretion — Memo Fails To Recognize Dire Straits Of NGOs And Asylum Seekers Largely Caused By DOJ & EOIR’s Own Policies!

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2017/8/3/in-support-of-continuances

Jeffrey writes:

“The chief judge’s memo correctly states that “at least one continuance should be granted” in order to allow a respondent to obtain counsel.  However, the memo raises concerns about granting additional adjournments, “particularly when all respondents are initially provided a list of pro bono legal services…”  However, the memo fails to mention the strain the same backlog has put on the limited resources of the listed pro bono representatives.  Therefore, denying additional continuances will require more applicants to proceed without counsel.  At present, many cases pending before the courts involve asylum seekers (including minors) fleeing gang violence in Central America and Mexico.  Many of these claims are based on the claimants’ membership in a particular social group, a still-evolving area of the law.  BIA precedent requires an asylum applicant to “delineate and establish to the Immigration Judge any particular social group he claims.”  See Matter of A-T-, 25 I&N Dec. 4, 10 (BIA 2009).  “Particular social group” is a term of art that a pro se applicant would not understand.  Furthermore, a knowledge of existing case law is essential in crafting a proposed social group to present to the immigration judge.  In other words, the denial of additional continuances to allow an asylum applicant to obtain representation in order to move a case along can be fatal to an individual’s chances for obtaining relief, and can further undermine the applicant’s chance of success on appeal.

Hopefully, judges will continue to consider all of the above in their application of the Chief Judge’s memo.”

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Read Jeffrey’s complete commentary at the link.

I agree entirely with Jeffrey that continuances play a critical role in maintaining due process.  I also agree that memos such as this OPPM show a total misunderstanding and lack of appreciation for the situation of NGOs — who are basically keeping the system afloat — and the due process need for counsel in asylum cases. See my comments from yesterday on the OPPM:

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/08/02/eoir-issues-oppm-on-continuances-apparent-attempt-to-shift-focus-away-from-politically-motivated-adr-that-is-causing-massive-backlogs/.

Contrary to the Chief Judge’s tone, problems caused by DOJ and EOIR management have basically tied the individual Immigration Judges’ hands in granting continuances. Let’s face it, after DOJ and EOIR arbitrarily “orbit” ready for trial non-detained cases for their own political goals, individual Immigration Judges lose both credibility and effective control of their dockets. How can a judge in good conscience deny most motions to continue when cases are intentionally left pending for years:  attorneys change, the law changes, country conditions change, witnesses change or become unavailable, and other forms of relief pop up.

Moreover, as pointed out by Jeffrey, rather than simplifying the system so that protection could be quickly granted in more straightforward cases, the BIA has intentionally made the process more complicated — to the extent that it is virtually impossible to imagine that any unrepresented asylum applicant could document a PSG case to the BIA’s hyper-technical specifications.

And, Congress also shares responsibility for the current untenable situation. During several relatively recent “contrived” Government shutdowns, the Immigration Court’s entire non-detained docket and the the vast majority of Immigration Judges who staffed them were determined to be “nonessential” and therefore “furloughed,” leaving active dockets “to rot.” Non-detained cases were cancelled en masse and the court system never really recovered. For all I know, some of those cases are still “off docket.”

Also, these actions sent a strong message that the politicos in both the Legislative and Executive branches neither respected the work of U.S. Immigration Judges nor considered it important. The “non-detained docket” basically became the “who cares docket.”

The Obama Administration then further aggravated the problem by unwisely (and without consulting “line” U.S. Immigration Judges) prioritizing new “Not Quite Ready For Prime Time” Southern Border cases over regularly scheduled non-detained cases, thus sending  the non-detained docket further into complete chaos: “Aimless Docket Reshuffling.” Now, the Trump Administration’s “gonzo, anything goes, show no judgement, exercise no prosecutorial discretion” regime is pushing the courts over the brink.

We need bipartisan legislation to get the U.S. Immigration Courts out of the DOJ and into an independent judicial structure where they can focus on providing high quality due process in an efficient, predictable, and systematic manner.

PWS

08-03-17

EOIR ISSUES “OPPM” ON CONTINUANCES — APPARENT ATTEMPT TO SHIFT FOCUS AWAY FROM POLITICALLY MOTIVATED “ADR” THAT IS CAUSING MASSIVE BACKLOGS!

Here is the text of the OPPM:

oppm_17-01

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My Comments:

  1. There are lots areas where U.S. Immigration Judges, particularly new ones, could use training. Applying the asylum standards of proof set forth in Cardoza-Fonseca and Mogharrabi, properly applying the presumption based on past persecution in 8 CFR 1208.13, adjudicating “other serious harm” claims, insuring that requests for corroboration are “reasonable,” making credibility determinations on the basis of the record as a whole and all relevant factors, and understanding and properly applying the complex concepts of “divisibility,” categorical approach,” and “modified categorical approach” in criminal-related cases immediately come to mind. Adjudicating motions to continue doesn’t jump out at me as an area where guidance is particularly necessary. In fact, I never really met an Immigration Judge who didn’t have a pretty good sense of what the criteria were for continuances.
  2. The OPPM blows by the real reason why the dockets are a mess: politically motivated “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) caused by ever changing political priorities in Immigration Court. Shifting Immigration Judges from previously-scheduled “Merits Hearings” to “Master Calendars” for recently arrived aliens, detainees who needn’t be in detention, and juveniles, has resulted in perhaps hundreds of thousands of “ready for trial” cases being “orbited” to largely imaginary merits hearing dates years from now.
  3. The OPPM falsely suggests that Immigration Judges have control over their dockets. But, individual Immigration Judges were stripped of any real semblance of docket control years ago. That’s the major problem causing backlogs. It’s not uncommon for Immigration Judges to find themselves detailed to other courts or shifted to other priorities without any meaningful input and sometimes with minimal advance notice. Ask the many private attorneys in New York, Chicago, and other major locations who arrive at long-ago-scheduled merits hearing, witnesses in tow, only to find out the Immigration Judge has been “reassigned” without advance notice, and that their cases are likely to go back to Master Calendar again for assignment of yet another Merits Hearing date with another judge years in the future. And, given the documented inconsistencies in adjudication results, particularly in asylum cases, among U.S. Immigration Judges, don’t think that re-assignment to a “new” Immigration Judge is a “neutral” occurrence. In all too many cases, it’s “outcome determinative.”
  4. The OPPM falsely suggests that continuances are largely a “scheme” by private attorneys to “game the system.” Undoubtedly, respondents sometimes do benefit by delays — many of which are actually caused not by them but by the internal procedures of EOIR and DOJ. They just take advantage of that which the system at the administrative/political level of DOJ/EOIR offers them. But, there are probably just as many private attorneys who have been trying for years to get their clients’ cases to trial, only to be “stiffed” by the politicos ultimately in charge of the system. Individual Immigration Judges are more often than not merely the “bearers of bad news” over which they have no personal control (but do get some of the flack).
  5. The OPPM appears to be directed at overburdened, overworked, under-appreciated NGOs who have been “hosed around” by the politicos at DOJ and EOIR Headquarters. They have been forced to race to cover “new priority” cases at the border, in detention, or on accelerated dockets while back at the “home court” their non-detained “ready for trial” cases are being “orbited” to dockets years in the future. Moreover, it is well-known the there is a high rate of turnover among NGO and pro bono group attorneys. Therefore the DOJ/EOIR tactics are designed to “wear down” pro bono representatives, thus forcing individuals to abandon representation or go unrepresented. This, in turn, all but guarantees failure of their claims. Indeed, the recent NWIRP litigation has made it clear that DOJ and EOIR are willing to bend the existing regulations to threaten or penalize those trying to provide pro bono assistance. http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/07/29/eoir-pro-bono-representation-u-s-district-judge-richard-m-jones-rips-eoirs-violation-of-1st-amendment-common-sense-nwirp-v-sessions-wd-wa/.
  6. The OPPM also falsely suggests that DHS only rarely asks for continuances. Not true! DHS has a steady stream of reasons for requesting continuances including such “administratively fixable” things as: lost or missing files, sick attorneys, shortage of staff, missing fingerprints, changing priorities, ongoing investigations, new charges of removability, training, details, need to review exhibits lost in the mail, etc. Moreover, as recently documented by TRAC, the Trump Administration’s abandonment of a sensible use of “prosecutorial discretion” to get low priority cases off the Immigration Court docket is compounding the backlog issue. Additionally, the reported DHS unwillingness to stipulate to issues and grants of relief has caused many cases that could have been completed at Master Calendar or on “short docket” to be set for 3-4 hour merits hearing blocks instead.
  7. Oh, and lets not forget that docket problems are also aggravated by the byzantine, glacial, yet one-sided hiring process for Immigration Judges developed and administered by DOJ largely in response to political abuse of the hiring system by the Bush-era DOJ. Additionally, DOJ & EOIR have failed to anticipate problems caused by predictable loss of experienced judges to retirement, and they have failed to fill the additional positions allocated by Congress in a timely fashion.
  8. NOTE TO REPORTERS IN THE AUDIENCE: Don’t be fooled or “taken in” by this smokescreen. Faced with exposure of chronic problems, it’s a “bureaucratic norm” within DOJ and EOIR, as well as a specialty of the Trump Administration, to attempt to shift attention and blame elsewhere. Don’t fall for it! The “real story” here is in the absolute mess that political meddling at the DOJ has made, and continues to make, out of sound docket management and due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts and the unwillingness and inability of the politicos to fix the problems they have created or aggravated. No OPPM or series of “administrative band aids” is going to fix this broken system. We need an Article I U.S. Immigration Court now!
  9. Other than that, I loved the OPPM.

PWS

08-02-17

HuffPost: Sessions Reinstates Dangerous Private Prisons — Health & Safety of Inmates Takes Back Seat to Expediency And Profits For Private Prison Industry!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doj-private-prisons-sessions_us_58af529ce4b0a8a9b780669a

Ryan J. Reilly a Ben Walsh report:

“WASHINGTON ― Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday withdrew an Obama-era Justice Department memo that set a goal of reducing and ultimately ending the Justice Department’s use of private prisons.

In a one-page memo to the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons, Sessions wrote that the August 2016 memo by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates “changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”

A Justice Department spokesman said Sessions’ memo “directs the Bureau of Prisons to return to its previous approach to the use of private prisons,” which would “restore BOP’s flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs.”

BOP currently has 12 private prison contracts that hold around 21,000 inmates. Yates had said that private prisons compared “poorly” to BOP prisons. Her memo followed a damning report from the Justice Department’s inspector general which found that privately run facilities were more dangerous than those run by BOP.

The two largest private prison companies have told investors that they have room to accommodate increased use of their prisons by federal or state and local authorities. On an earnings call with stock analysts this week, executives at GEO Group emphasized that their company has a total of 5,000 spots in its prisons that are presently either unused or underutilized.

GEO senior vice President David Donahue put it fairly bluntly, telling analysts that their idle and underutilized cells are “immediately available and meet ICE’s national detention standards.”

CoreCivic, formerly known as CCA, told investors on Feb. 17 that the company has nine idle prisons that can hold a total of 8,700 people. Those prisons are ready to accept inmates on short notice. “All of our idle facilities are modern and well maintained, and can be made available to potential state and federal partners without much, if any capital investment or the lead-time required for new construction,” CEO Damon Hininger said.

Indeed, Haninger said that CoreCivic was already holding more detained immigrants for the federal government than they anticipated. “Our financial performance in the fourth quarter of 2016 was well above our initial forecast due, in large part, to heightened utilization by ICE across the portfolio,” he said.

And, Haninger said, the Trump administration’s actions could boost financial performance even further. “When coupled with the above average rate crossings along the Southwest border, these executive orders appear likely to significantly increase the need for safe, humane and appropriate detention bed capacity that we have available in our existing real-estate portfolio,” he said. “We are well positioned,” to get more business from ICE, Haninger said.

David C. Fathi, who directs the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said that giving for-profit companies control of prisons is “a recipe for abuse and neglect.” He said the Sessions memo was a further sign the U.S. “may be headed for a new federal prison boom” under the Trump administration.”

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The disaster of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General continues to unfold. Contrary to what he told Senators during his contentious confirmation hearings, he’s the same old tone-deaf, insensitive, hard-liner he’s always been. There will be wrongful death suits in Sessions’s future naming him personally. While these so-called “Bivens actions” are usually a steep uphill climb for plaintiffs, given that Sessions acted with knowledge of both the Inspector General’s highly negative findings and his predecessor’s resulting action to curb private prison use, there could be a case there. I hope he took out personal liability insurance and got the highest amount of coverage. He might need it before his tenure is up.

And, as for the inmates and civil immigration detainees who are going to be kept in substandard conditions, I guess it’s just “tough noogies” as far as Sessions is concerned.

PWS

 

Zoe Tillman on BuzzFeed: U.S. Immigration Courts Are Overwhelmed — Administration’s New Enforcement Priorities Could Spell Disaster! (I’m Quoted In This Article, Along With Other Current & Former U.S. Immigration Judges)

https://www.buzzfeed.com/zoetillman/backlogged-immigration-courts-pose-problems-for-trumps-plans?utm_term=.pokrzE6BW#.wcMKevdYG

Zoe Tillman reports:

“ARLINGTON, Va. — In a small, windowless courtroom on the second floor of an office building, Judge Rodger Harris heard a string of bond requests on Tuesday morning from immigrants held in jail as they faced deportation.
The detainees appeared by video from detention facilities elsewhere in the state. Harris, an immigration judge since 2007, used a remote control to move the camera around in his courtroom so the detainees could see their lawyers appearing in-person before the judge, if they had one. The lawyers spoke about their clients’ family ties, job history, and forthcoming asylum petitions, and downplayed any previous criminal record.
In cases where Harris agreed to set bond — the amounts ranged from $8,000 to $20,000 — he had the same message for the detainees: if they paid bond and were set free until their next court date, it would mean a delay in their case. Hearings set for March or April would be pushed back until at least the summer, he said.
But a couple of months is nothing compared to timelines that some immigration cases are on now. Judges and lawyers interviewed by BuzzFeed News described hearings scheduled four, five, or even six years out. Already facing a crushing caseload, immigration judges are bracing for more strain as the Trump administration pushes ahead with an aggressive ramp-up of immigration enforcement with no public commitment so far to aid backlogged courts.
Immigration courts, despite their name, are actually an arm of the US Department of Justice. The DOJ seal — with the Latin motto “qui pro domina justitia sequitur,” which roughly translates to, “who prosecutes on behalf of justice” — hung on the wall behind Harris in his courtroom in Virginia. Lawyers from the US Department of Homeland Security prosecute cases. Rulings can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is also part of the Justice Department, and then to a federal appeals court.
As of the end of January, there were more than 540,000 cases pending in immigration courts. President Trump signed executive orders in late January that expanded immigration enforcement priorities and called for thousands of additional enforcement officers and border patrol officers. But the orders are largely silent on immigration courts, where there are dozens of vacant judgeships. And beyond filling the vacancies, the union of immigration judges says more judges are needed to handle the caseload, as well as more space, technological upgrades, and other resources.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly acknowledged the immigration court backlog in a memorandum released this week that provided new details about how the department would carry out Trump’s orders. Kelly lamented the “unacceptable delay” in immigration court cases that allowed individuals who illegally entered the United States to remain here for years.
The administration hasn’t announced plans to increase the number of immigration judges or to provide more funding and resources. It also isn’t clear yet if immigration judges and court staff are exempt from a government-wide hiring freeze that Trump signed shortly after he took office. There are 73 vacancies in immigration courts, out of 374 judgeships authorized by Congress.
“Everybody’s pretty stressed,” said Paul Schmidt, who retired as an immigration judge in June. “How are you going to throw more cases into a court with 530,000 pending cases? It isn’t going to work.”

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Zoe Tillman provides a well-reaserched and accurate description of the dire situation of justice in the U.S. Immigration Courts and the poorly conceived and uncoordinated enforcement initiatives of the Trump Administration. Sadly, lives and futures of “real life human beings” are at stake here.

Here’s a “shout out” to my good friend and former colleague Judge Rodger Harris who always does a great job of providing due process and justice on the highly stressful Televideo detained docket at the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, VA. Thanks for all you do for our system of justice and the cause of due process, Judge Harris.

PWS

02/24/17

U.S. Immigration Courts: 12 New U.S. Immigration Judges Invested — Here Are Their Bios!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 6, 2017
Executive Office for Immigration Review Swears in 12 Immigration Judges

FALLS CHURCH, VA – The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today announced the investiture of 12 new immigration judges. Chief Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller presided over the investiture during a ceremony held Feb. 3, 2017, in the ceremonial courtroom of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, in Washington, D.C.

After a thorough application process, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Victoria L. Argumendo, Steven D. Caley, Ila C. Deiss, Delia I. Gonzalez, Deborah K. Goodwin, Stephanie E. Gorman, Richard A. Jamadar, Julie Nelson, Emmett D. Soper, Jem C. Sponzo, Arwen Ann Swink, and Veronica S. Villegas to their new positions.

“On Jan. 8, 2017, we welcomed these 12 appointees to our growing immigration judge corps,” said Keller. “With this investment, EOIR has for the first time in its history exceeded 300 immigration judges. The agency recognizes that we must continue hiring immigration judges in order to address the pending caseload.”

Biographical information follows.

Victoria L. Argumendo, Immigration Judge, San Francisco Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Victoria L. Argumendo to begin hearings cases in February 2017. Judge Argumendo earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1995 from the University of Vermont and a Juris Doctor in 2000 from the Golden Gate University School of Law. From 2012 to January 2017, she was in private practice at Argumendo Garzon Law Group, in San Francisco. From 2010 through 2012, she was in private practice at Surowitz & Argumendo, in San Francisco. From 2002 through 2010, she was in private practice at the Law Office of Victoria L. Argumendo, in San Francisco. From 2001 through 2002, she was an associate attorney at the Law Offices of Walter R. Pineda, in Redwood City, Calif. From May 2001 to September 2001, she served as a contract attorney for the Law Office of Enrique Ramirez, in San Francisco. From February 2001 to May 2001, she served as a contract attorney for Minami, Lew & Tamaki. Judge Argumendo is a member of the State Bar of California.

Steven D. Caley, Immigration Judge, Aurora Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Steven D. Caley to begin hearings cases in February 2017. Judge Caley earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1977 from Hanover College and a Juris Doctor in 1980 from the New York University School of Law. From 2012 to January 2017, he served as a senior attorney for GreenLaw, in Atlanta. From 2000 through 2012, he was a partner and senior associate for Weissman, Nowack, Curry & Wilco, in Atlanta. From 2005 through 2006, and previously from 1996 through 1999, he served as a special administrative law judge for the Office of State Administrative Hearings, in Atlanta. From 1998 through 2000, he served as regional director for Legal Aid Services of Oregon, in Portland, Ore. From 1990 through 1998, he served as director of litigation for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc., in Atlanta. From 1980 through 1990, he served in various capacities for the Legal Services Corporation of Alabama, in Dotham, Ala., including as managing attorney, senior staff attorney, and staff attorney. From 2003 through 2007, he served on the faculty of the Georgia State University College of Law as an adjunct professor. Judge Caley is a member of the Alabama State Bar, Florida Bar, State Bar of Georgia, and Oregon State Bar.

Ila C. Deiss, Immigration Judge, San Francisco Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Ila C. Deiss to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Deiss earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1991 from the University of California at Davis, a Master of Public Administration in 1996 from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School for Public Service, and a Juris Doctor in 1999 from the City University of New York School of Law. From 2005 to January 2017, she served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California, Department of Justice (DOJ). From 2003 through 2005, she served as a staff attorney for the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, DOJ. From 2001 through 2002, she served as a senior court counsel for the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau. From April 2001 to August 2001, she served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Richard M. Berman, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. From 1999 through 2001, she served as a judicial law clerk for the Staff Attorney’s Office, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, DOJ. Judge Deiss is a member of the Connecticut and New York state bars.

Delia I. Gonzalez, Immigration Judge, Harlingen Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Delia I. Gonzalez to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Gonzalez earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1993 from the University of Houston and a Juris Doctor in 2001 from the Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. From 2006 through 2016, she served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. From 2001 through 2006, she served as a trial attorney for the Antitrust Division, Department of Justice, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. Judge Gonzalez is a member of the State Bar of Texas.

Deborah K. Goodwin, Immigration Judge, Miami Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Deborah K. Goodwin to begin hearings cases in February 2017. Judge Goodwin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986 from Wilson College and a Juris Doctor in 2000 from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law. From 2015 to January 2017, she served as an associate legal advisor for the District Court Litigation Division, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in Washington, D.C. From 2007 through 2015, she served as an associate counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS, in San Francisco. From 2002 through 2007, she served as an assistant chief counsel for ICE, DHS, in San Francisco. Judge Goodwin is a member of the Florida Bar.

Stephanie E. Gorman, Immigration Judge, Houston Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Stephanie E. Gorman to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Gorman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996 from California State University Sacramento, a Juris Doctor in 2002 from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and a Master of Laws degree in 2005 from the University of San Diego School of Law. From 2014 to January 2017, she served as an attorney and legal instructor for the Office of the Chief Counsel, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security (DHS). From 2008 through 2014, she served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS. From 2009 through 2012, she also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida, Department of Justice (DOJ), in Orlando, Fla. From 2007 through 2008, she served as a federal law clerk for the Honorable M. James Lorenz, U.S. District Court for the Ninth Circuit, Southern District of California, DOJ, in San Diego. From March 2007 to September 2007, she served as a federal law clerk for the Honorable Roger T. Benitez, U.S. District Court for the Ninth Circuit, Southern District of California, in San Diego. From 2006 through 2007, she served as an assistant state attorney for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, in Sarasota, Fla. From 2003 through 2006, she served in various capacities on the faculty of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, including as visiting assistant professor of law and senior legal writing instructor and adjunct professor. From 2002 through 2004, she served as an associate attorney for the Law Office of Matthew P. Rocco, in Carlsbad, Fla. Judge Gorman is a member of the State Bar of California and the Florida Bar.

Richard A. Jamadar, Immigration Judge, Houston Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Richard A. Jamadar to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Jamadar earned a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1987 from the University of the West Indies Faculty of Law and a Juris Doctor in 1996 from the Washington University School of Law. From 2004 to January 2017, he served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in Orlando, Fla. During this time, from 2011 through 2013, he served as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida, Department of Justice, in Orlando, Fla. From 2003 through 2004, he served as a senior attorney for the Department of Children and Families, Tenth Judicial Circuit, in Bartow, Fla. From 1999 through 2002, he served as an assistant state attorney for the State Attorney’s Office, Ninth Judicial Circuit, in Orlando, Fla. From 1996 through 1998, he served as an associate attorney for Polatsek and Scalfani, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Judge Jamadar is a member of the Florida Bar.

Julie Nelson, Immigration Judge, San Francisco Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Julie Nelson to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Nelson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2003 from Biola University and a Juris Doctor in 2006 from California Western School of Law. From December 2014 to January 2017, and previously from 2009 through May 2014, she served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. From June 2014 to November 2014, she served as a law clerk for the Honorable Steven P. Logan, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Department of Justice (DOJ). From 2008 through 2009, she served as an attorney advisor for the Los Angeles Immigration Court, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), DOJ. From 2007 through 2008, she served as a judicial law clerk for the San Diego Immigration Court, EOIR, DOJ, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. From 2007 through 2009, she served on the faculty of Biola University as an adjunct professor. Judge Nelson is a member of State Bar of California.

Emmett D. Soper, Immigration Judge, Arlington Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Emmett D. Soper to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Soper earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1998 from Carleton College and a Juris Doctor in 2005 from the University of Oregon School of Law. From 2012 to January 2017, he served as an associate general counsel for the Office of the General Counsel, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), Department of Justice (DOJ), in Falls Church, Va. From 2010 through 2012, he served as an attorney advisor for the Office of Legal Policy, DOJ, in Washington, D.C. From 2006 through 2010, he served as an attorney advisor for the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, EOIR, DOJ, in Falls Church, Va. From 2005 through 2006, he served as a judicial law clerk for the Buffalo Immigration Court, EOIR, DOJ. Judge Soper is a member of the Oregon State Bar.

Jem C. Sponzo, Immigration Judge, New York City Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Jem C. Sponzo to begin hearings cases in February 2017. Judge Sponzo earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2003 from Hamilton College and a Juris Doctor in 2006 from the University of Connecticut School of Law. From 2007 to January 2017, she served as a trial attorney for the Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation, Department of Justice (DOJ), in Washington, D.C. From January 2015 to July 2015, she also served as a clearance counsel for the Office of Presidential Personnel, White House. From 2006 through 2007, she served as a judicial law clerk for the New York City Immigration Court, Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. Judge Sponzo is a member of the New York State Bar.

Arwen Ann Swink, Immigration Judge, San Francisco Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Arwen Ann Swink to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Swink earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2002 from California State University San Marcos and a Juris Doctor in 2006 from the University of California Hastings College Of Law. Prior to this post, she served as a staff attorney in the motions unit of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, beginning in 2010. From 2006 through 2010, she served as an associate attorney for the Law Office of Robert B. Jobe, in San Francisco. Judge Swink is a member of the State Bar of California.

Veronica S. Villegas, Immigration Judge, Los Angeles Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Veronica S. Villegas to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Villegas earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1996 from California State University Fullerton and a Juris Doctor in 1999 from the Loyola Law School. From 2012 to January 2017, and previously from 2004 through 2005, she was in private practice at the Law Office of Veronica S. Villegas, in West Covina, Calif. From 2005 through 2012, she was a partner at Hill, Piibe & Villegas, in West Covina, Calif. From 2003 through 2004, she served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. From 1999 through 2003, she served as an assistant district counsel for the former Office of the District Counsel, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice. Judge Villegas is a member of the State Bar of California.

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02/07/17