GONZO’S WORLD: TRUMP & SESSIONS ARE SYSTEMATICALLY DISMANTLING OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM – THE “BOGUS FOCUS” ON IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT IS KEY TO THEIR DESTRUCTIVE STRATEGY! — “Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/17/opinion/sunday/donald-trump-and-the-undoing-of-justice-reform.html

The New York Times Editorial Board writes:

“In the decade or so before Donald Trump became president, America’s approach to criminal justice was changing fast — reckoning with decades of destructive and ineffective policies that had ballooned the prison population and destroyed countless lives. Red and blue states were putting in place smart, sensible reforms like reducing harsh sentencing laws, slashing prison populations and crime rates, and providing more resources for the thousands of people who are released every week.

President Obama’s record on the issue was far from perfect, but he and his first attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., took several key steps: weakening racially discriminatory sentencing laws, shortening thousands of absurdly long drug sentences, and pulling back on the prosecution of low-level drug offenders and of federal marijuana offenses in states that have legalized it. This approach reflected state-level efforts and sent a message of encouragement to those still leery of reform.

Within minutes of taking office, Mr. Trump turned back the dial, warning darkly in his Inaugural Address of “American carnage,” of cities and towns gutted by crime — even though crime rates are at their lowest in decades. Things only got worse with the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, along with Mr. Trump, appears to be stuck in the 1980s, when politicians exploited the public’s fear of rising crime to sell absurdly harsh laws and win themselves re-election. Perhaps that’s why both men seem happy to distort, if not outright lie about, crime statistics that no longer support their narrative.

Last February, Mr. Trump claimed that “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” Wrong: The national rate remains at an all-time low. It’s true that the 10.8 percent increase in murders between 2014 and 2015 was the largest one-year rise in more than four decades, but the total number of murders is still far below what it was in the early 1990s.

 

As bad as the dishonesty is the fact that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions have managed to engineer their backward worldview largely under the public’s radar, as a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice documents. Last May, Mr. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to charge as aggressively as possible in every case — reversing a policy of Mr. Holder’s that had eased up on nonviolent drug offenders and others who fill the nation’s federal prisons. In January, Mr. Sessions rescinded another Obama-era policy that discouraged federal marijuana prosecutions in states where its sale and use are legal. (Mr. Sessions has long insisted, contrary to all available evidence, that marijuana is “a dangerous drug” and “only slightly less awful” than heroin.)

These sorts of moves don’t get much attention, but as the report notes, they could end up increasing the federal prison population, which began to fall for the first time in decades under Mr. Obama.

The reversal of sensible criminal justice reform doesn’t stop there. Under Mr. Trump, the Justice Department has pulled back from his predecessor’s investigations of police abuse and misconduct; resumed the use of private, for-profit prisons; and stopped granting commutations to low-level drug offenders who have spent years or decades behind bars.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sessions, who as a senator was one of the most reliable roadblocks to long-overdue federal sentencing reform, is still throwing wrenches into the works as Congress inches toward a bipartisan deal. Mr. Sessions called the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a sweeping bill that would reduce some mandatory-minimum sentences, and that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, a “grave error.” That earned him a rebuke from the committee’s chairman, Senator Charles Grassley, who pointed out that the attorney general is tasked with enforcing the laws, not writing them. “If General Sessions wanted to be involved in marking up this legislation, maybe he should have quit his job and run for the Republican Senate seat in Alabama,” Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Grassley is no one’s idea of a justice reformer, but he supports the bill because, he said, it “strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system.”

So what has this administration done right? The list is short and uninspiring. In October, Mr. Trump declared the epidemic of opioid abuse a national emergency, which could be a good step toward addressing it — but he’s since done almost nothing to combat a crisis that killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016.

In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Trump promised to “embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” It’s great if he really means that, but it’s hard to square his assurance with his own attorney general’s opposition to a bill that includes recidivism-reduction programs intended to achieve precisely this goal.

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

The rhetoric from the White House and the Justice Department has emboldened some state and local officials to talk tougher, even if just as ignorantly, about crime. The good news is that it’s not working as well anymore. In Virginia’s race for governor last fall, the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, attacked his opponent, Ralph Northam, with ads blaming him for violence by the MS-13 gang.

It was a despicable stunt, its fearmongering recalling the racist but effective Willie Horton ad that George H. W. Bush ran on in his successful 1988 presidential campaign. Thankfully, Virginia’s voters overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Gillespie, another sign that criminal justice reform is an issue with strong support across the political spectrum. In the era of Donald Trump, candidates of both parties should be proud to run as reformers — but particularly Democrats, who can cast the issue not only as a central component of a broader progressive agenda, but as yet another example of just how out of touch with the country Mr. Trump and his administration are.”

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I know it’s quoted above, but two paragraphs of this article deserve re-emphasis:

Perhaps the most insidious part of the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice lies in its efforts to link crime to its broader crackdown on immigration. In a speech last month, Mr. Sessions said undocumented immigrants are far more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, a claim he found in a paper by John Lott, the disreputable economist best known for misusing statistics to suit his own ideological ends. In this case, it appears Mr. Lott misread his own data, which came from Arizona and in fact showed the opposite of what he claimed: Undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens, as the vast majority of research on the topic has found.

But no matter; Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions don’t need facts to run their anti-immigrant agenda, which has already resulted in more than double the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions as in 2016, as the Brennan Center report noted. Soon after taking office, Mr. Trump issued an executive order cutting off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A federal judge blocked the order in November for violating the Constitution.

Gonzo consistently uses bogus statistics, fear-mongering, racial innuendo, and outright slurs of immigrants, including Dreamers, and their advocates to advance his White Nationalist agenda at Justice.

At the same time, he largely ignores or proposes laughably inadequate steps to address the real justice problems in America: Russian interference, the opioid crisis, uncontrolled gun violence (much of it involving mass shootings by disgruntled White Guys with assault-type weapons), overcrowded prisons, lack of an effective Federal community-based anti-gang effort in major cities, hate crimes committed by White Supremacists, grotesquely substandard conditions in civil immigration detention, and the uncontrolled backlogs and glaring denials of Due Process and fairness to migrants in our U.S. Immigration Court System.

How long can America go without a real Attorney General who acknowledges the rights of all people in America? How will we ever recover from the damage that Gonzo does every day he remains in the office for which he is so supremely unqualified?

PWS

02-19-18

 

SEE, HEAR, READ TAL’S ANALYSIS OF LATEST GOP IMMIGRATION PROPOSAL ON CNN!

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/11/politics/republican-senators-white-house-framework/index.html

“GOP senators introduce version of White House immigration framework

By Tal Kopan, CNN
Updated 6:13 PM ET, Sun February 11, 2018
Trump proposes path to citizenship for 1.8M

Washington (CNN)A group of Republican senators on Sunday night released a version of President Donald Trump’s immigration proposal ahead of a floor debate on immigration this week.

The proposal is expected to be one of several amendments the Senate will consider this week as it debates immigration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has used a bill unrelated to immigration as the starting point for the debate, which will allow senators to offer proposals that can compete for 60 votes to advance.
The bill from Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, James Lankford, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst largely resembles what Trump has proposed.
At its base is still a resolution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Trump has decided to terminate the Obama-era program.
With DACA left out again, advocates figure out their next move
With DACA left out again, advocates figure out their next move
The White House proposal offered a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million eligible immigrants, more than the 800,000 of whom registered for DACA in the five years of the program. In exchange, the White House sought upwards of $25 billion for border security and a wall, a number of changes to laws to make it easier to deport and detain immigrants, a substantial cut to legal immigration based on family relationships and an end to the diversity visa lottery.
The Grassley bill essentially makes those bullet points a reality, including the proposals that would toughen immigration enforcement and limiting family-based visas only to spouses and children under 18 years old — a vastly reduced number of eligible immigrants from the current system.
As proposed by the White House, the cuts to the family system and diversity lottery would be used to allow in the 4 million to 5 million immigrants already waiting years — and in some cases decades — in the backlog for visas. Cuts to yearly visas would only occur after that backlog is cleared, allowing Congress time to make reforms, the lawmakers said.
McConnell officially tees up immigration debate next week
McConnell officially tees up immigration debate next week
The bill is not expected to have 60 votes in support of it, the threshold required to advance legislation in the Senate. Democrats have uniformly objected to the cuts to family migration and have issues with the ending of the diversity visa without another way to support immigrants from countries that are otherwise underrepresented in immigration to the US. The so-called reforms to current immigration laws also face steep opposition.“

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Click the above link to see Tal on TV!

Unfortunately, “closing loopholes” is a euphemism for increasing unnecessary, expensive, and inhumane civil immigration detention (the “New American Gulag”).

It also involves denying due process to tens of thousands of “unaccompanied children” seeking protection for which many should qualify were they given a fair opportunity to obtain counsel, adequate time to document applications, and truly fair hearings in Immigration Court.

In plain terms, it’s a cowardly and disingenuous attack on the rights of the most vulnerable migrants. Hopefully there are enough legislators on both sides of the aisle committed to due process, human rights, and just plain human decency to expose and defeat these highly abusive and dishonest parts of the GOP proposal.

PWS

02-11-18

AILA URGES CONGRESS TO CREATE INDEPENDENT ARTICLE I U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT TO REPLACE CURRENT DUE PROCESS TRAVESTY! – “In fact, instead of working to improve the system, DOJ recently announced initiatives that severely jeopardize an immigration judge’s ability to remain independent and impartial. These new policies are designed only to accelerate deportations, further eroding the integrity of the court system.”

RESOLUTION ON IMMIGRATION COURT REFORM AILA Board of Governors Winter 2018

PROPONENT: AILA Executive Committee and AILA EOIR Liaison Committee

Introduction:

Our immigration court system does not meet the standards which justice demands. Chronic and systemic problems have resulted in a severe lack of public confidence in the system’s capacity to deliver just and fair decisions in a timely manner. As a component of the Department of Justice (DOJ), EOIR has been particularly vulnerable to political pressure. Immigration judges, who are currently appointed by the Attorney General and are DOJ employees, have struggled to maintain independence in their decision making. In certain jurisdictions, the immigration court practices and adjudications have fallen far below constitutional norms. Years of disproportionately low court funding levels – as compared to other components of the immigration system such as ICE and CBP – have contributed to an ever-growing backlog of cases that is now well over 600,000.

Despite the well-documented history of structural flaws within the current immigration court system, DOJ and EOIR have failed to propose any viable plan to address these concerns. In fact, instead of working to improve the system, DOJ recently announced initiatives that severely jeopardize an immigration judge’s ability to remain independent and impartial. These new policies are designed only to accelerate deportations, further eroding the integrity of the court system.

RESOLUTION: The Board hereby reaffirms and clarifies its position on immigration court reform as follows:

In its current state, the immigration court system requires a complete structural overhaul to address several fundamental problems. AILA recommends that Congress create an independent immigration court system in the form of an Article I court, modeled after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Such an entity would protect and advance America’s core values of fairness and equality by safeguarding the independence and impartiality of the immigration court system.

Below is an outline of the basic features that should be included in the Article I court.

Independent System: Congress should establish an immigration court system under Article I of the Constitution, with both trial and appellate divisions, to adjudicate immigration cases.

This structural overhaul advances the immigration court’s status as a neutral arbiter, ensuring the independent functioning of the immigration judiciary.

Appellate Review:

AILA recommends that the new Article I court system provide trial level immigration courts and appellate level review, with further review to the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. To prevent overburdening Article III courts, it is necessary to include an appellate court within the Article I court system.

Judicial Appointment Process:

AILA recommends the appointment of trial-level and appellate-level judges for a fixed term of no less than 10 years, with the possibility of reappointment. These judges would be appointed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit in which the immigration court resides. The traditional Article I judicial appointment process, which relies on Presidential appointment with Senate confirmation, would be unworkable for the immigration court system and could easily create a backlog in judicial vacancies. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court system, which uses a different appointment process than other Article I courts, is a better model for the immigration court system, due to the comparable size and the volume of cases. Like the U.S. Bankruptcy Court System, which has 352 judges, the immigration court currently has over 300 judges. Traditional Article I courts have far fewer judges than that of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court System. Therefore, AILA recommends a judicial appointment system that closely resembles that of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Hiring Criteria for Judges:

Trial and appellate judges that are selected should be highly qualified, and well-trained, and should represent diverse backgrounds. In addition to ensuring racial ethnic, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religious, and geographic diversity, AILA advocates for a recruitment and selection process that is designed to ensure that the overall corps of immigration judges is balanced between individuals with a nongovernment, private sector background, and individuals from the public sector. We believe this balance best promotes the development of the law in the nation’s interest.

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Read the complete report here:

AILA Resolution Passed 2.3.2018

The proposal that U.S. Immigration Judges be appointed by the U.S. Courts of Appeals for renewable 10 year terms is particularly salutary. The current process needs to be professionalized and de-politicized. The U.S. Courts of Appeals are the “primary professional consumers” of the work product of the U.S. Immigration Judges. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court Appointment System recommended by AILA has earned high praise for producing  a fair, impartial, merit-based, apolitical judiciary.

The current ridiculous selection and appointment process within the DOJ has two stunning deficiencies.

First, it has become an “insider-only” judiciary. Over the past three Administrations nearly 90% of the newly appointed U.S. Immigration Judges have been from government backgrounds, primarily DHS/ICE prosecutors. Outside expertise, including that gained from representing individuals in Immigration Court, clinical teaching, and working for NGOs and pro bono groups has been systematically excluded from the Immigration Court judiciary, giving it a built-in “one-sided” appearance.

Remarkably, the situation at the appellate level, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) has been even worse! No Appellate Immigration Judge/Board Member has been appointed from “outside Government” since 2000, and both of those have long since been removed or otherwise moved on.

Indeed, even sitting (as opposed to “administrative”) U.S. Immigration Judges are seldom appointed or even interviewed for BIA vacancies. There is only one current Appellate Immigration Judge who was appointed directly from the trial court, and that individual had only a modest (approximately three years) amount of trial experience. Thus, a number of sources of what would logically be the most expert and experienced appellate judicial candidates have been systematically excluded from the appointment process at the DOJ.

Second, while the results produced are highly problematic, the DOJ hiring process for U.S. Immigration Judges has been amazingly glacial! According to the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) the Immigration Judge appointment process during the last Administration took an average of two years! That’s longer than the Senate confirmation process for Article III Judges!

Much of the delay has reportedly been attributed to the slowness of the “background check process.” Come on man! Background checks are significant, but are essentially ministerial functions that can be speeded up at the will of the Attorney General.

It’s not like Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, or Jeff Sessions were willing to wait two years for background clearance for their other high-level appointees in the DOJ. No, it’s simply a matter of screwed up priorities and incompetence at the highest levels of the DOJ. And, let’s not forget that most of the appointees are already working for the DHS or the DOJ. So they currently have high-level background clearances that merely have to be “updated.”

It should be “child’s play” — a “no-brainer.” When Anthony C. “Tony” Moscato was the Director and Janet Reno was the Attorney General, background checks often were completed for Immigration Judges and BIA Members in less than 60 days. And, if Tony really needed someone on board immediately, he picked up the phone, called “downtown,” and it happened. Immediately! Competence and priorities!

Our oldest son Wick has been private bar member of the U.S. Magistrate Judge Recommendation Committee for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Their process was much more open, timely, and merit-focused than the current DOJ hiring process (whatever that might actually be) and fairly considered candidates from both inside and outside government.

Also, the slowness of the background check process unfairly prejudices “outside applicants.” Sure, it’s annoying for a “Government insider” to have to wait for clearance. But, his or her job and paycheck continue without problem during the process.

On the other hand, “outside applicants” have to make “business decisions,” — whether to take on additional employees or accept new clients; whether to commit to another year of teaching; whether to accept promotions, etc — that can be “deal breakers” as the process creeps along without much useful feedback from EOIR.

Attorney General Sessions has  claimed that he has a “secret process” for expediting appointments. But, so far, except for a “brief flurry” of appointments that were reportedly “already in  the pipeline” under Lynch, there hasn’t been much noticeable change in the timelines. Additionally, the process is often delayed because DOJ and EOIR have not planned adequately, and therefore have not acquired adequate space and equipment for new judges to actually start hearing cases.

Government bureaucrats love acronyms (so do I, in case you hadn’t noticed)! There is only one acronym that can adequately capture the current sorry state of administration of the U.S Immigration Courts under DOJ and EOIR administration: “FUBAR!”

And that’s without even getting to the all-out assault on Due Process for vulnerable respondents in the U.S. Immigration Courts being carried out by Jeff Sessions and his minions. According to my information, DOJ/EOIR “management” is pushing Immigration Judges to render twenty-minute “oral decisions;” complete “quotas” of 4-5 cases a day to get “satisfactory” ratings; and not include bond cases, administrative closure, Change of Venue, Credible Fear Reviews, or Motion to Reopen rulings in completions.

Since it takes an experienced Immigration Judge 3-4 hours to do a good job on a “fully contested” asylum decision with oral decision, that’s a “designed to fail” proposal that will undoubtedly lead to cutting of corners, numerous denials of Due Process, and remands from the U.s. courts of Appeals. But despite some disingenuous “rote references” to Due Process, it’s not even an afterthought in Sessions’s plan to turn Immigration Court into “Just Another Whistle Stop on The Deportation Railroad.”

As I say, “Bad ideas never die; they have a life of their own within the bureaucracy.” That’s why we need to get Immigration Courts out of the bureaucracy!
This Congress, which “can barely even tie its own  shoes,” so to speak, isn’t likely to get around to creating an Article I Immigration Court. But, every day that the current mal-administered and unfair  system remains within the DOJ is a Due Process and fairness disaster. That’s something that even Congress should be concerned about!   
Thanks to Attorney (and former Immigraton Judge) Sue Roy of New Jersey for  sending me the AILA Resolution.

PWS

02-07-18

 

 

 

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

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

The Proper Role of Immigration Judges as Asylum Adjudicators

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

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

Paragraphs 66 and 67 of the Handbook state the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase.  All rights reserved.

 

 

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

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

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

PWS

02-05-18

MANUEL MADRID @ AMERICAN PROSPECT: Sessions Relishes Chance To Turn U.S. Immigration Courts Into “Whistle Stops On His Deportation Railway!” – Administrative Closing Likely Just To Be The First Casualty – I’m Quoted!

http://theprosp.ec/2E3a315

Manuel writes:

“Jeff Sessions Is Just Getting Started on Deporting More Immigrants

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department

This could be Jeff Sessions’s year.

Not that he wasn’t busy in 2017, a year marked by his rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), attacking sanctuary cities, reinstating debtors’ prisons, and cracking down on recreational marijuana. Indeed, over these last few months Sessions appears to have been working with the single-minded focus of a man who reportedly came within inches of losing his job in July after falling into President Trump’s bad graces for recusing himself from the Mueller probe.

But 2018 will provide him his best chance yet at Trumpian redemption.

Sessions has long railed against the United States’ “broken” asylum system and the massive backlog of immigration court cases, which has forced immigrants to suffer unprecedented wait times and has put a significant strain on court resources. But the attorney general’s appetite for reform has now grown beyond pushing for more judges and a bigger budget, both largely bipartisan solutions. The past few months have seen Sessions begin to attempt to assert his influence over the work of immigration courts (which, unlike other federal courts, are part of the Executive Branch) and on diminishing the legal protections commonly used by hundreds of thousands of immigrants—developments that have alarmed immigration judges, attorneys, and immigrant advocacy groups alike.

Earlier this month, Sessions announced that he would be reviewing a decades-old practice used by immigration judges and the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals to shelve cases without making a final ruling. Described by judges as a procedural tool for prioritizing cases and organizing their case dockets, the practice—“administrative closure”—also provides immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation while their cases remain in removal proceedings. Critics argue that administrative closure, which became far more frequent in the later years of the Obama administration, creates a quasi-legal status for immigrants who might otherwise be deported.

There are currently around 350,000 administratively closed cases, according to according to the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal.

Should Sessions decide to eliminate administrative closures—a decision many observers describe as imminent—those cases could be thrown into flux. The move would be in line with previous statements from various figures in the Trump administration and executive orders signed by the president himself—namely, that no immigrant is safe from deportation; no population is off the table.

Beyond creating chaos for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the premature recalendaring of cases could also lead to erroneous deportations. For instance, in the case of unaccompanied minors applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a humanitarian protection granted by Citizenship and Immigration Services, an untimely return to court could be the difference between remaining or being ordered to leave the country. Even if a minor has already been approved by a state judge to apply for a green card, there is currently a two-year visa backlog for special visa applicants from Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras and more than a one-year backlog for those from from Mexico. Administrative closures allow these children to avoid deportation while they wait in line for a visa to become available.

But if judges can no longer close a case, they will either have to grant a string of continuances, a time-consuming act that requires all parties (the judge, defendant, and government attorney) to show up to court repeatedly, or simply issue an order of removal—even if the immigrant has a winning application sitting on a desk in Citizenship and Immigration Services. Under the Trump administration, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has been actively filing to recalendar cases of non-criminals that had been administratively closed for months, including those of children whose applications had already been approved. Now Sessions, who as a senator zealously opposed immigration reforms that would benefit undocumented immigrants, could recalendar them all.

Unshelving hundreds of thousands of cases would also further bog down an already towering backlog of approximately 650,000 immigration court cases, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse—a policy result that at first seems antithetical to Sessions’s rhetoric about cutting the backlog and raising efficiency. That is unless, as some suggest, the backlog and efficiency were never really his primary concerns to begin with.

“When [Sessions] says he wants to decrease the court backlog and hire more immigration judges, what he really means is he wants more deportation orders, whatever the cost,” says Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

 Removing a judge’s ability to close a case would be the second in a one-two punch aimed at knocking down avenues of relief for cases that remain in the system for long periods of time.

Sessions’s decision to review administrative closure surprised few who had been following his rhetoric over the past few weeks. In a December memo detailing plans to slash the backlog, the attorney general said that he anticipated “clarifying certain legal matters in the near future that will remove recurring impediments to judicial economy and the timely administration of justice.” The Justice Department had already largely done away with allowing prosecutors to join in motions to administratively close a case that didn’t fall within its enforcement priorities. Removing a judge’s ability to close a case would be the second in a one-two punch aimed at knocking down avenues of relief for cases that remain in the system for long periods of time.

And it’s unlikely that Sessions will stop there. As attorney general, he is free to review legal precedents for lower immigration courts. In changing precedential rulings, he could do away with a multitude of other legal lifelines essential to immigrants and their attorneys.

. . . .

“Administrative closure makes a good starting point for Sessions, because the courts likely won’t be able stop it,” says Paul Schmidt, a former immigration judge and former head of the Board of Immigration Appeals. “Administrative closure was a tool created by the Justice Department and therefore it can be dismantled by the Justice Department.”

“After all, the bad thing about the immigration courts is that they belong to the attorney general,” Schmidt adds.

Unlike other federal judges, immigration judges are technically considered Justice Department employees. This unique status as a judicial wing of the executive branch has left them open to threats of politicization. In October, it was revealed that the White House was planning on adding metrics on the duration and quantity of cases adjudicated by immigration judges to their performance reviews, effectively creating decision quotas. A spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges described the proposal as a worrying encroachment on judicial independence. “Immigration judge morale is at an all time low,” says Dana Marks, former president of the association and a judge for more than 30 years. Other federal judges are not subject to any such performance evaluations.

It’s no coincidence that a review of administrative closure was announced just a few months after it was discovered that the Justice Department was considering imposing quotas on judges. Streamlining deportations has proven an elusive goal, even for Sessions: Deportations in 2017 were down from the previous year, according to DHS numbers. Meanwhile, arrests surged—up 42 percent from the same period in 2016. Flooding already overwhelmed immigration courts with even more cases would certainly cause chaos in the short-term, but wouldn’t necessarily lead to deportations by itself. If an end to administrative closures is paired with decision quotas on immigration judges, however, a surge in deportations seems inevitable.”

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Read Manuel’s complete article at the above link.

As I’ve noted before, Due Process clearly is “on the run” at the U.S. Immigration Courts. It will be up to the “New Due Process Army” and other advocates to take a stand against Sessions’s plans to erode Constitutional Due Process and legal protections for immigrants of all types. And don’t think that some U.S. citizens, particularly Blacks, Latinos, and Gays, aren’t also “in his sights for denial of rights.” An affront to the rights of the most vulnerable in America should be taken seriously for what it is — an attack on the rights of all of us as Americans! Stand up for Due Process before it’s too late!

PWS

01-23-18

MICHELLE BRANE @ WOMEN’S REFUGEE COMMISSION — “Why I March!”

“Dear Paul,

Today, my daughter Marisa and I joined thousands of women, men, and children in Washington, DC and other cities around the country to march for equality and for justice.

First and foremost on my mind while I marched with my daughter were the migrant and refugee women, children, and families for whom I advocate every day. With each step, I thought about the brave mothers who escape danger in their home countries because, like all mothers, they want a bright future for their children. Expecting to find safety at our border, these women and children are instead met by the Trump administration’s policies of ripping families apart.

I decided to march today in honor of the women and children who reach for safety but are instead betrayed.

The Women’s Refugee Commission will march forward with our important work supporting women and children seeking safety at our border. We will continue to utilize the court systems, inform the press and public, and hold the Trump administration accountable until asylum seekers have the protection and services they need to be safe, healthy, and to rebuild their lives. But there is strength in numbers.

In the spirit of the Women’s March, and the women for whom we march, please join us by donating today.

We can accomplish so much more together than we can alone.

In solidarity,

Michelle Brané
Director, Migrant Rights and Justice Program

DONATE

© 2017 Women’s Refugee Commission. All rights reserved.
The Women’s Refugee Commission is a 501(c)(3) organization.
Donations are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations.
15 West 37th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10018 • Tel. (212) 551-3115”

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Like me, my friend Michelle began her career as an Attorney Advisor at the BIA. She is also a distinguished alum of Georgetown Law where I am an Adjunct Professor.

The Women’s Refugee Commission does some fantastic work in behalf of vulnerable women and children who arrive at our border seeking refuge and justice, only to be detained and railroaded back to life-threatening conditions by the anti-refugee, anti-Due-Process, White Nationalist regime of Trump, Sessions, Miller, Nielsen, and their complicit minions.

Michelle was named one of the “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s e-News.

Imagine what a great country this could be if our Government and our justice system were led by smart, courageous, principled, values-driven, humane leaders like Michelle and her colleagues, rather than by a cabal of morally bankrupt White Nationalist men and their sycophantic subordinates.

PWS

01-22-18

 

JULIA PRESTON: CHAOS IN COURT! – TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S MAL-ADMINISTRATION OF IMMIGRATION COURTS RUINS LIVES, FRUSTRATES JUDGES!

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/01/19/lost-in-court

Julia writes for The Marshall Project:

“. . . .

And so in this gateway city on the Rio Grande [Laredo], inside a building rimmed with barbed wire, past security guards and locked doors, immigration judges on short details started hearing cases in a cramped courtroom that was hastily arranged in March.

But seven months later, the case of Oscar Arnulfo Ramírez, an immigrant from El Salvador, was not going quickly. He was sitting in detention, waiting for a hearing on his asylum claim. And waiting some more.

The court files, his lawyer discovered, showed that Ramírez’s case had been completed and closed two months earlier. Since the case was closed, the court clerk couldn’t schedule a new hearing to get it moving again. In fact, the clerk didn’t even have a record that he was still detained.

“It’s as if he’s non-existent,” his lawyer,, said. “He’s still in a detention center. He’s still costing the government and the American people tax dollars. But there’s no proceeding going on. He’s just sitting there doing completely nothing.”

Ramírez’s case was one of many signs of disarray in the improvised court in Laredo, which emerged during a weeklong visit in late October by a reporter from The Marshall Project and a radio producer from This American Life. Instead of the efficiency the Trump administration sought, the proceedings were often chaotic. Hearing schedules were erratic, case files went missing. Judges were exasperated by confusion and delays. Like Ramírez, detainees were lost in the system for months on end.


For a view of the border crossing in Laredo and the grinding process migrants begin there, check out Kirsten Luce’s photosfrom the gateway on the Rio Grande.


With the intense pressure on the court to finish cases, immigrants who had run from frightening threats in their home countries were deported without having a chance to tell the stories that might have persuaded a judge to let them stay.

. . . .

For Paola Tostado, the lawyer, Ramírez was not the first client to fall through the cracks in Laredo. Even though she is based in Brownsville, three hours away, Tostado was making the pre-dawn drive up the highway as many as three times a week, to appear next to her clients in court in Laredo whenever she could.

Another Salvadoran asylum-seeker she represented, whose case was similarly mislaid, had gone for four months with no hearing and no prospect of having one. Eventually he despaired. When ICE officers presented him with a document agreeing to deportation, without consulting Tostado he had signed it.

“I’ve had situations where we come to an individual client who has been detained over six months and the file is missing,” she said. “It’s not in San Antonio. It’s not in Laredo. So where is it? Is it on the highway?”

In her attempts to free Ramírez, Tostado consulted with the court clerk in San Antonio, with the ICE prosecutors and officers detaining him, but no one could say how to get the case started again.

Then, one day after reporters sat in the courtroom and spoke with Tostado about the case, ICE released him to pursue his case in another court, without explanation.

But by December Tostado had two other asylum-seekers who had been stalled in the system for more than seven months. She finally got the court to schedule hearings for them in the last days of the year.

“I think the bottom line is, there’s no organization in this Laredo court,” Tostado said. “It’s complete chaos and at the end of the day it’s not fair. Because you have clients who say, I just want to go to court. If it’s a no, it’s a no. If it’s a yes, it’s a yes.”

Unlike criminal court, in immigration court people have no right to a lawyer paid by the government. But there was no reliable channel in Laredo for immigrants confined behind walls to connect with low-cost lawyers. Most lawyers worked near the regular courts in the region, at least two hours’ drive away.

Sandra Berrios, another Salvadoran seeking asylum, learned the difference a lawyer could make. She found one only by the sheerest luck. After five months in detention, she was days away from deportation when she was cleaning a hallway in the center, doing a job she had taken to keep busy. A lawyer walked by. Berrios blurted a plea for help.

The lawyer was from a corporate law firm, Jones Day, which happened to be offering free services. Two of its lawyers, Christopher Maynard and Adria Villar, took on her case. They learned that Berrios had been a victim of vicious domestic abuse. A Salvadoran boyfriend who had brought her to the United States in 2009 had turned on her a few years later when he wanted to date other women.

Once he had punched her in the face in a Walmart parking lot, prompting bystanders to call the police. He had choked her, burned her legs with cigarettes, broken her fingers and cut her hands with knives. Berrios had scars to show the judge. She had a phone video she had made when the boyfriend was attacking her and records of calls to the Laredo police.

The lawyers also learned that the boyfriend had returned to El Salvador to avoid arrest, threatening to kill Berrios if he ever saw her there.

She had started a new relationship in Texas with an American citizen who wanted to marry her. But she’d been arrested by the Border Patrol at a highway checkpoint when the two of them were driving back to Laredo from an outing at a Gulf Coast beach.

After Berrios been detained for nine months, at a hearing in July with Maynard arguing her case, a judge canceled her deportation and let her stay. In a later interview, Berrios gave equal parts credit to God and the lawyers. “I would be in El Salvador by this time, already dead,” she said. “The judges before that just wanted to deport me.”

. . . .

We have heard frustration across the board,” said Ashley Tabaddor, a judge from Los Angeles who is the association [NAIJ] president. She and other union officials clarified that their statements did not represent the views of the Justice Department. “We’ve definitely heard from our members,” she said, “where they’ve had to reset hundreds of cases from their home docket to go to detention facilities where the docket was haphazardly scheduled, where the case might not have been ready, where the file has not reached the facility yet.”

Another association official, Lawrence Burman, a judge who normally sits in Arlington, Va., volunteered for a stint in a detention center in the rural Louisiana town of Jena, 220 miles northwest of New Orleans. Four judges were sent, Burman said, but there was only enough work for two.

“So I had a lot of free time, which was pretty useless in Jena, Louisiana,” Burman said. “All of us in that situation felt very bad that we have cases back home that need to be done. But in Jena I didn’t have any of my files.” Once he had studied the cases before him in Jena, Burman said, he was left to “read the newspaper or my email.”

The impact on Burman’s case docket back in Arlington was severe. Dozens of cases he was due to hear during the weeks he was away had to be rescheduled, including some that had been winding through the court and were ready for a final decision. But with the enormous backlog in Arlington, Burman had no openings on his calendar before November 2020.

Immigrants who had already waited years to know whether they could stay in the country now would wait three years more. Such disruptions were reported in other courts, including some of the nation’s largest in Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.

“Many judges came back feeling that their time was not wisely used,” Judge Tabaddor, the association president, said, “and it was to the detriment of their own docket.”

Justice Department officials say they are pleased with the results of the surge. A department spokesman, Devin O’Malley, did not comment for this story but pointed to congressional testimony by James McHenry, the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. “Viewed holistically, the immigration judge mobilization has been a success,” he said, arguing it had a “positive net effect on nationwide caseloads.”

Justice Department officials calculated that judges on border details completed 2700 more cases than they would have if they had remained in home courts. Officials acknowledge that the nationwide caseload continued to rise during last year, reaching 657,000 cases by December. But they noted that the rate of growth had slowed, to .39 percent monthly increase at the end of the year from 3.39 percent monthly when Trump took office.

Judge Tabaddor, the association president, said the comparison was misleading: cases of immigrants in detention, like the ones the surge judges heard, always take priority and go faster than cases of people out on release, she said. Meanwhile, according to records obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center, as many as 22,000 hearings in judges’ home courts had to be rescheduled in the first three months of the surge alone, compounding backlogs.

. . . .”

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

Read Julia’s complete article at the above link. Always enjoy getting quotes from my former Arlington colleague Judge Lawrence O. (“The Burmanator”) Burman. He tends to “tell it like it is” in the fine and time-honored Arlington tradition of my now retired Arlington colleague Judge Wayne R. Iskra. And, Judge Iskra didn’t even have the “cover” of being an officer of the NAIJ. Certainly beats the “pabulum” served up by the PIO at the “Sessionized” EOIR!

Also, kudos to one of my “former firms” Jones Day, its National Managing Partner Steve Brogan, and the Global Pro Bono Counsel Laura Tuell for opening the Laredo Office exclusively for pro bono immigration representation, As firms like jones Day take the “immigration litigation field,” and give asylum applicants the “A+ representation” they need and deserve, I predict that it’s going to become harder for the Article III U.S. Courts to ignore the legal shortcomings of the Immigration Courts under Sessions.

A brief aside. My friend Laura Tuell was  a “Guest Professor” during a session of my Immigration Law & Policy class at Georgetown Law last June. On the final exam, one of my students wrote that Laura had inspired him or her to want a career embodying values like hers! Wow! Talk about making a difference on many levels!And talk about the difference in representing real values as opposed to the legal obfuscation and use of the legal system to inflict wanton cruelty represented by Sessions and his restrictionist ilk.

We also should recognize the amazing dedication and efforts of pro bono and “low bono” lawyers like Paola Tostado, mentioned in Julia’s report. “Even though she is based in Brownsville, three hours away, Tostado was making the pre-dawn drive up the highway as many as three times a week, to appear next to her clients in court in Laredo whenever she could.” What do you think that does to her law practice? As I’ve said before, folks like Paola Tostado, Christopher Maynard, Adria Villar, and Laura Tuell are the “real heroes” of Due Process in the Immigraton Court system. 

Compare the real stories of desperate, bona fide asylum seekers and their hard-working dedicated lawyers being “stiffed” and mistreated in the Immigration Court with Sessions’s recent false narrative to EOIR about an asylum system rife with fraud promoted by “dirty attorneys.” Sessions’s obvious biases against migrants, both documented and undocumented, and particularly against Latino asylum seekers on the Southern Border, make him glaringly unqualified to be either our Attorney General or in charge of our U.S. Immigration Court system.

No amount of “creative book-cooking” by EOIR and the DOJ can disguise the human and due process disaster unfolding here. This is exactly what I mean when I refer to “”Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”), and it’s continuing to increase the Immigration Court backlogs (now at a stunning 660,000) notwithstanding that there are now more Immigration Judges on duty than there were at the end of the last Administration.

I’ll admit upfront to not being very good at statistics and to being skeptical about what they show us. But, let’s leave the “Wonderful World of EOIR” for a minute and go on over to TRAC for a “reality check” on how “Trumpism” is really working in the Immigration Courts. http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/apprep_backlog.php

On September 30, 2016, near the end of the Obama Administration, the Immigration Court backlog stood at a whopping 516,000! Not good!

But, now let go to Nov. 30, 2017, a period of 14 months later, 10 of these full months under the policies of the Trump Administration. The backlog has mushroomed to a stunning 659,000 cases — a gain of 153,000 in less than two years! And, let’s not forget, that’s with more Immigration Judges on board!

By contrast, during the last two full years of the Obama Administration — September 30, 2014 to September 30, 2016 —  the backlog rose from 408,000 to 516,000. Nothing to write home about — 108,000 — but not nearly as bad as the “Trump era” has been to date!

Those who know me, know that I’m no “fan” of the Obama Administration’s stewardship over the U.S. Immigration Courts. Wrongful and highly politicized “prioritization” of recently arrived children, women, and families from the Northern Triangle resulted in “primo ADR” that sent the system into a tailspin that has only gotten worse. And, the glacial two-year cycle for the hiring of new Immigration Judges was totally inexcusable.

But, the incompetence and disdain for true Due Process by the Trump Administration under Sessions is at a whole new level. It’s clearly “Amateur Night at the Bijou” in what is perhaps the nation’s largest Federal Court system. And, disturbingly, nobody except a few of us “Immigration Court Groupies” seems to care.

So, it looks like we’re going to have to stand by and watch while Sessions “implodes” or “explodes” the system. Then, folks might take notice. Because the collapse of the U.S. Immigration Courts is going to take a big chunk of the Article III Federal Judiciary with it.

Why? Because approximately 80% of the administrative review petitions in the U.S. Courts of Appeals are generated by the BIA. That’s over 10% of the total caseload. And, in Circuits like the 9th Circuit, it’s a much higher percentage.

The U.S. Immigration Judges will continue to be treated like “assembly line workers” and due process will be further short-shrifted in the “pedal faster” atmosphere intentionally created by Sessions and McHenry.  The BIA, in turn, will be pressured to further “rubber stamp” the results as long as they are removal orders. The U.S. Courts of Appeals, and in some cases the U.S. District Courts, are going to be left to clean up the mess created by Sessions & co.

We need an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court with competent, unbiased judicial administration focused on insuring individuals’ Due Process now! We’re ignoring the obvious at our country’s peril!

PWS

01-20-18

 

 

DISORDER IN THE U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS: SESSIONS “DECLARES WAR” ON HIS OWN IMMIGRATION JUDGES! — JUDGES’ ASSOCIATION (“NAIJ”) REPORTS MEMBERS REACTING WITH “DISBELIEF, SHOCK, CONFUSION, AND OUTRAGE” TO THE CONDESCENDING “McHENRY MEMO!” — NAIJ DEMANDS BARGAINING ON CASE QUOTAS!

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a retired member of the National Association of Immigration Judges (“NAIJ”). In that capacity, I received the following e-mail from our President, The Honorable A. Ashley Tabaddor (who is resident in the U.S. Immigration Court in Los Angeles California), acting in her NAIJ capacity. I republish that e-mail below with Judge Tabaddor’s permission. 

“Dear NAIJ Members,

 

We have been hearing much from our members regarding the recent Director’s email, dated January 17, 2018, publishing purported “Case Priorities and Immigration Court Performance Measures.”  Many have expressed their disbelief, shock, confusion, and outrage as to the published standards, in light of the severe backlogs in our courts.  We share your concerns.  NAIJ has demanded to bargain on implementation of “numeric based performance measures on Immigration Judges”, and the Agency had provided assurances to NAIJ that no individual IJ based quotas and deadlines will be imposed until they have fulfilled their obligation under labor law to bargain with us.  And under the law, the Agency is prohibited from imposing such standards until all our bargaining rights have been properly exhausted.   NAIJ is also fighting any infliction of quotas and deadlines on Immigration Judges through outreach to the public and Congress, and is investigating the possibility of legal action.

 

In addition, NAIJ is currently evaluating the memo to determine if there has been any breach in law with the issuance of this memo or any further action we can take under labor law with respect to it.

 

NAIJ is working diligently to fight the implementation of any “numeric based performance measures” on Judges, and ensure that any future standards that may be imposed on Judges or the Immigration Courts are legally defensible, fair, and would not encroach on our independent decision making authority.  Please stay tuned for further development.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to myself or any of our NAIJ representatives.

The Honorable A. Ashley Tabaddor, President

National Association of Immigration Judges

DISCLAIMER:  The author is the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges.  The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the official position of the United States Department of Justice, the Attorney General, or the Executive Office for Immigration Review.   The views represent the author’s personal opinions, which were formed after extensive consultation with the membership of NAIJ.”

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I’ve already noted the total preposterousness and tone-deafness of setting arbitrary “case completion goals” for a court system that is already working overtime but crumbling under incredible backlogs and outdated procedures and technology.

Make no mistake about it: those backlogs are not because of Judges, immigrants, or immigrants’ attorneys. They are the direct result of: 1) years of mismanagement and continuing improper political meddling by Sessions and his predecessors going back over several Administrations; and 2) an irresponsible lack of restraint and common sense priorities by DHS enforcement that has been encouraged, aided, and abetted by this Administration.

Under the Trump Administration, DHS line enforcement agents have been freed from any semblance of priorities and given essentially carte blanche to arrest anyone they feel like arresting and placing them into an already overwhelmed and crumbling U.S. Immigration Court System. Meanwhile, the Immigration Judges, who are struggling to provide due process, and have been stripped of any meaningful control over their own dockets, are treated like “assembly line workers” subject to “production quotas.” That’s no way to run a Due Process Court System, and it’s showing in some of the incorrect and unfair results that I report on regularly!

We need an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court, now! But Congress, which can’t perform the basic functions of governance, apparently isn’t interested in cleaning up the mess they created and enabled. So, with the system fast heading for complete collapse, it looks to me like, willing or not, the Article III U.S. Courts will be stuck with effectively placing the U.S. Immigration Courts in “judicial receivership” until some future Congress addresses the situation in a way that insures Constitutional Due Process of law for all.

A very bad day for the U.S. Justice System and for all who care about upholding Due Process under our Constitution.

 

PWS

01-19-20

MORE NONSENSE FROM EOIR: NEW “PRIORITIES & TIMETABLES” WON’T HELP RESOLVE 660,00 CASE BACKLOG, BUT WILL MINDLESSLY INCREASE STRESS, CAUSE MORE “ADR,” & IMPEDE DUE PROCESS!

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/01/17/doj-issues-new-immigration-court-policies-addressing-obama-era-caseload-backup.html

Brooke Singman reports for Fox News:

“The Justice Department issued new measures on Wednesday that will prioritize certain immigration cases in an effort to streamline a system that nearly tripled the caseload of judges during the Obama administration.

A memo listing guidelines for all new cases filed and an order that all immigration court cases that are reopened must establish case priorities was sent by John [sic] McHenry, the director of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, to the Office of Chief Immigration Judge, all immigration judges, all court administrators and all immigration court staff.

“In 2010, immigration court benchmarks for non-detained cases were abruptly abandoned, and since that time — perhaps non-coincidentally — the caseload has tripled,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement to Fox News, noting that the reintroduction of court-based goals and benchmarks would “assist in properly managing cases, increase productivity, and reduce the pending caseload.”

“Some policies implemented in the immigration court system in recent years have contributed to a three-fold increase of the courts’ pending caseload,” O’Malley said to Fox News, noting that certain “prioritization practices” made the caseload “worse” by continuing cases that could be resolved more quickly in favor of cases that often took longer to complete.

It was “the immigration court equivalent of fiddling while Rome burned,” O’Malley said.

“Some policies implemented in the immigration court system in recent years have contributed to a three-fold increase of the courts’ pending caseload.”

– Devin O’Malley, DOJ spokesman

McHenry’s memo is part of a larger push led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who issued a broader memo late last year outlining principles to ensure that the “adjudication of immigration court cases serves the national interest,” and gave McHenry the “authority” to set time frames for the resolution of cases, and to evaluate the performance of immigration judges and “take corrective action where needed.”

Currently, less than 10 percent of immigration cases pending meet the definition of “priority,” according to McHenry, leading him to address “confusion” and “clarify” the department’s priorities. That statistic, however, conveys a “potentially mistaken impression” of the importance of completing the other 600,000-plus pending cases that do not bear a “priority” designation, according to McHenry.

“All cases involving individuals in detention or custody, regardless of the custodian, are priorities for completion,” McHenry wrote, but noted that “the designation of a case as a priority is not intended to mandate a specific outcome in any particular case.”

Other measures McHenry ordered were new benchmarks for courts, and for immigration judges.

The new measures require that 85 percent of all non-status detained removal cases be completed within 60 days of filing; 85 percent of all non-status non-detained removal cases be completed within 1 year of filing; and 85 percent of all motions adjudicated within 14 days of the request.

McHenry also required 90 percent of custody redeterminations to be completed within 14 days of the request, and 95 percent of all hearings to be completed on their initial scheduled hearing date.

Another new rule requires 100 percent of “all credible fear reviews” to be completed within seven days.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.”

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Thanks to Dan Kowalski over at LexisNexis for sending this item my way.

Inane memos like this, issued without consultation and meaningful input from either the U.S. Immigration Judges who actually decide the cases or the attorneys who litigate in immigration Court, are basically “DOA.” Significantly, both the BIA and the Federal Courts have made it clear that compliance with bureaucratic “timeframes” can’t overrule the legal requirements of Due Process in an individual case. Even assuming that Sessions can “co-opt” the BIA, the Federal Courts will be sending back cases in which it appears that the Immigration Judge has elevated the desire to meet timeframes over the requirements of fundamental fairness and Due Process.

But, quite contrary to Acting Director James (not “John” as the article states) McHenry’s bogus claim that the memo does not suggest any particular outcome, the memo clearly suggests that U.S. Immigration Judges should cut corners and deny Due Process to meet these artificial guidelines or risk having their performance judged “deficient.” For example, most detained cases with asylum applications that go to an “Individual Merits” hearing are going to take more than 60 days for the Respondent to locate a pro bono attorney and for that attorney to complete the application and prepare for what often can be a very complex and hotly contested hearing.  It’s an open invitation, if not an actual directive, to engage in sloppy, unprofessional judging.

Moreover, the tone of the memo insultingly suggests that the problem is that  in the absence of this type of sophomoric “guidance from above” U.S. Immigration Judges haven’t been working very hard or effectively to complete cases. Therefore, “cracking the administrative whip” — by folks that by and large are not and never have actually been sitting U.S. immigration Judges — will somehow motivate them to “pedal faster.” What a crock! Almost any executive or manager worth his or her salt knows that this type of “scare tactic” applied to a senior professional workforce accomplishes nothing besides ratcheting up already astronomically high stress levels and unnecessarily diminishing already low morale.

This memorandum is, however, yet another key exhibit on how and why the current U.S. Immigration Court is being incompetently administered by the DOJ and their “gofors” over at EOIR Headquarters in Falls Church. With the likes of Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions in charge of the U.S. Immigration Courts, things are only going to get worse. American needs an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court now! 

PWS

01-18-18

 

 

 

MORE DEADLY MISTAKES: 6TH CIR. FINDS BIA’S ERROR-RIDDLED DECISION WRONGLY SENT WOMAN BACK TO FACE CARTEL THREATS IN MEXICO – TRUJILLO DIAZ V. SESSIONS!

18a0012p-06-6thGangs

Trujillo Diaz v. Sessions, 6th Cir., 01-17-18, published

PANEL: MERRITT, MOORE, and BUSH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION  BY: Judge Bush.

SUMMARY (FROM OPINION):

“In this immigration case, Maribel Trujillo Diaz petitions for review of an order denying her motion to reopen removal proceedings. The United States Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) ruled that Trujillo Diaz failed to establish a prima facie case of eligibility for asylum or withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA” or “Act”) because she failed to show that she would be singled out individually for persecution based on her family membership. The BIA reiterated this finding in ruling that Trujillo Diaz failed to establish a prima facie case of eligibility for protection under the Convention Against Torture. Because the BIA failed to credit the facts stated in Trujillo Diaz’s declarations, and this error undermined its conclusion as to the sufficiency of Trujillo Diaz’s prima facie evidence, we hold that the BIA abused its discretion. We further hold that the BIA abused its discretion in summarily rejecting Trujillo Diaz’s argument that she could not safely relocate internally in Mexico for purposes of showing a prima facie case of eligibility for relief under the Convention Against Torture. Thus, we vacate the order of the BIA and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

KEY QUOTATION:

“The BIA’s abuse of discretion in failing to credit Trujillo Diaz’s father’s affidavit undermined its conclusion that Trujillo Diaz had not made a prima facie showing of eligibility for asylum and withholding of removal under the INA. This conclusion also affected the BIA’s analysis of whether Trujillo Diaz made a prima facie showing of eligibility for protection under the Convention Against Torture. Further, the BIA abused its discretion in summarily rejecting Trujillo Diaz’s argument that she could not safely relocate internally in Mexico for purposes of showing prima facie eligibility under the Convention Against Torture. Accordingly, we GRANT the petition and REMAND to the BIA for reconsideration consistent with this opinion.”

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

Following the denial of her original claim for asylum, Trujillo Diaz was allowed by the Obama Administration as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion to remain in the United States with work authorization and faithfully checked in with the DHS. However, the Trump Administration arbitrarily targeted her for removal. Although many in the community, including the Catholic Church, protested, the Administration nevertheless removed Trujillo Diaz to Mexico while this motion was pending.

Our tax dollars are being squandered for this type of useless, immoral, and in this case ultimately wrongful removal. At no time has Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions shown any concern whatsoever for the significant  number of mistaken asylum denials and improper deportations taking place as a result of poor quality decision-making taking place in the over-stressed and overwhelmed U.S. Immigration Courts operating under his administration. Nor has he shown any appreciation for the obvious fact that rather than more speed in deporting individuals, this court system is badly in need of better representation for asylum seekers, more careful decision-making that complies with the law, and measures to insure Due Process as required by the U.S. Constitution. 

Sessions’s anti-due-process administration of the U.S. Immigration Courts is a national disgrace! We need an independent United States Immigration Court dedicated to insuring Due Process and protecting vulnerable individuals from wrongful removals like this! Now! 

PWS

01-18-18

 

DEPORTATION TO DEATH — HOW AMERICA FAILS TO LIVE UP TO ITS HUMANITARIAN OBLIGATIONS!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/01/15/lgbt-el-salvador/

Josefina Salomon reports from Mexico fro the Washington Post:

“MEXICO CITY — Cristel woke up on the freezing floor of a tiny room in a detention center in San Diego. She was alone, dirty, hungry and exhausted. It was April. Eight days earlier, she had been arrested on the American side of the border crossing at Tijuana, where she planned to claim asylum. She had been in solitary confinement since then. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers had given her no reason for her detention.

Five years on the run had left her drained. From the floor of that San Diego cell, it seemed like she was out of options. She could not bear the thought of being forced by ICE to return to El Salvador. That would be a death sentence.

Death threats from violent gangs had chased Cristel from her native El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, up to the U.S. border. They kept her awake at night, echoing in the back of her head. In El Salvador and on her journey north, she had been bullied, threatened, robbed, beaten and raped. At one point, she had turned to sex work. She had been kidnapped and abused. She had escaped, but she still didn’t feel safe.

Cristel is not her real name. She is 25 and grew up in San Salvador. As a transgender woman, she has faced discrimination and violence nearly her entire life. My colleagues and I met Cristel half a dozen times over the last 18 months, first in San Salvador, and later at different points along her journey, as she moved toward what she hoped was salvation in the U.S.

Over time, Cristel lost weight and dark circles appeared under her eyes as fear, exhaustion and frustration took hold. Sometimes while we were talking, there would be seemingly unstoppable bursts of tears. Weeks might go by before we heard from her. Had she been hurt, or worse? The question, “What is going to happen to me?”, which she asked at every one of our meetings, became more and more urgent.\

. . . .

Starting in the 1990s, the U.S. was one of the first countries to begin admitting asylum seekers and refugees who were persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation. While the Trump administration has not sought to change U.S. asylum law, it has made it clear that it aims to decrease the overall number of refugees admitted into the country and to raise the threshold for asylum seekers’ “credible fear” of persecution as a basis for their asylum.

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of asylum claims by people from El Salvador has been increasing dramatically in the past few years. There were nearly 18,000 claims in 2016 alone. While the number of people who have secured asylum in the U.S. increased in that period, so did the number of claims that were denied, abandoned or withdrawn. Many prospective asylum seekers and analysts have said this is because of the arduous process and the harsh detention conditions asylum seekers are forced to endure. The most vulnerable, like Cristel, often have few options but return to the danger they were desperately trying to escape in the first place.

In San Diego, after first being confined to solitary, Cristel was transferred to a cell that she shared with eight men. She was kept there for a month and a half. At her hearing, when it eventually came, she was appointed a pro bono lawyer, but her claim for asylum was denied. She was transferred to another detention center in Arizona, where she was handcuffed, put on a plane and sent back to a nightmare.

. . . .

She had gone back to live at her mother’s house, but the gang found her anyway. The extortion had resumed. Every time she is late with her payments, even by a day or two, gang members beat her. “I’m exhausted of being forced to pay to live. I want to leave but there’s nowhere to go.”

Sobbing, she said, “They are going to kill me.”

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

Read the complete story at the link.

This is what “Trumpism” and “GOP restrictionism” are really about — turning our backs on those in the most need of protection.

One of the most disturbing things about this story is that, as noted by Solomon, the U.S. actually has been fairly routinely granting gender-based cases like this since at least the mid-1990s. See, e.g., Matter of Tobaso-Alfonso,20 I&N Dec. 819 (BIA 1990). In many U.S. Immigration Courts cases like this would routinely be granted, often with the DHS’s concurrence.

So, “Cristel” was unlucky.  She got the got the wrong Court, the wrong Judge, the wrong time, and perhaps the wrong pro bono attorney — and it’s likely to cost her life! That’s not justice, and that’s not a properly functioning U.S. Immigration Court that “guarantees fairness and due process to all.” Instead, the “captive” U.S. Immigration Court is turning into a “whistle-stop on the Trump/Sessions Deportation Railroad!” That’s something of which every true American should be ashamed. We need an independent, Due Process focused U.S. Immigration Court now!

PWS

01-16-18

CHRISTIE THOMPSON @ THE MARSHALL PROJECT: SESSIONS’S APPARENT ATTACK ON “ADMINISTRATIVE CLOSING” IN U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT COULD FURTHER SCREW UP ALREADY FAILING SYSTEM — It Wasn’t A Problem, But Is Likely To Become One By The Time He’s Finished By Stripping Judges Of Last Vestiges Of Independent Authority Over Their Mushrooming Dockets! – I’m Quoted In This Article!

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/01/09/the-doj-decision-that-could-mean-thousands-more-deportations

Christie writes

“Sessions considers tying the hands of immigration judges.

Administrative closure sounds like one of the driest bureaucratic terms imaginable, but it has huge implications for immigrants and their families. Now, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oversees immigration judges, is considering limiting that power.

Sessions wrote in a recent brief that he would review judges’ authority to administratively close immigration cases, the latest in a series of Department of Justice memos and policies that could reshape immigration courts and make it even harder for people to remain in the U.S.

Administrative closure has been used frequently by judges to drop cases against people who aren’t a priority for deportation or who have other pending legal issues. Judges under the Obama administration used this option far more than previous judges, administratively closing 180,000 cases in four years. Critics say it operates as a kind of backdoor amnesty, particularly for people who don’t qualify for other kinds of relief under immigration law.

Closed cases are in a sort of limbo: the immigrant isn’t legally in the U. S., but the government isn’t pursuing deportation. Authorities can change their mind at any time. Under Obama, this usually happened only if the immigrant went on to commit a crime or if there was a development in his or her legal status. But the Trump Administration has already begun re-openingthousands of administratively closed cases. Immigration judges under Trump have also stopped closing cases for people who didn’t used to be an enforcement priority — such as parents of U.S. citizen children who had been in the country for a long time and had no criminal record.

Judges, attorneys and advocates say that ending administrative closure entirely could have a significant impact on individual cases and the immigration court system overall. Sessions could decide to reopen as many as 350,000 closed cases, which could flood a backlogged system that has 650,000 pending cases.

“If he brings them all back into court at once, that’s going to cripple the courts even further,” said Paul Wickham Schmidt, a former immigration judge and former head of the Board of Immigration Appeals. “They can’t do the cases they have now — why is he out there looking for more?”

There are groups of immigrants for whom administrative closure is particularly important. Someone being deported for a crime but still fighting the conviction may have his or her case closed while an appeal is pending. Judges may also stop removal proceedings for immigrants with serious mental health issues or intellectual disabilities if they are found to be incompetent to go through court hearings.

Many undocumented children also ask for administrative closure while they’re applying for juvenile protected status, a legal status that can take years to wind its way through state family court and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Without administrative closure, “those children could be deported while their application for a green card is pending with another immigration agency,” said Nicholas Phillips, an immigration attorney with Prisoners Legal Services of New York.

If administrative closure isn’t an option, judges have another option of issuing a continuance, which postpones the decision. However, that practice also recently came under fire from the attorney general. Sessions’ office recently criticized the increased use of continuances by immigration judges, saying they delayed the courts.

The Justice Department has made several decisions and proposals recently that would change how immigration judges do their job.

This fall, the department proposed setting case completion quotas for judges to try to speed up decision-making. It released a memo in December that reminding judges to act “impartially” when looking at cases involving children, despite their commonly sympathetic stories. DOJ also said judges should give asylum applications more careful scrutiny and be more reluctant to postpone a case.

Sessions’ announcement of the review came when he intervened in the immigration case of a minor who arrived from Guatemala in 2014. He has asked the Department of Homeland Security and other interested groups to submit briefs on the issue of administrative closure by a February deadline.”

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

There are an estimated 350,000 pending cases currently in “administratively closed” (“AC”) status! In my extensive experience at all levels of our immigration system, there are sound reasons supporting almost all of these ACs.

If Sessions, as expected by most advocates, reaches the rather absurd conclusion that notwithstanding over three decades of use by Administrations and Attorneys General of both parties, AC is somehow “illegal” or should be “withdrawn,” these cases likely would mindlessly be thrown back into the already overwhelmed U.S. Immigration Courts on top of the 660,000 already pending cases. Over a million pending cases! That has the potential to “implode” or “explode” or “sink” (choose your favorite verb) the Immigration Court system on the spot.

In reality, AC has been nothing but a godsend for overworked, over-stressed U.S. Immigration Judges and the immigration Court system. Rather than being forced to “docket babysit” cases that can better be resolved elsewhere in the system than in Immigration Court, or that under a proper use of resources and prosecutorial discretion by the DHS never should have been placed in Immigration Court in the first place, the Immigration Judges can “clear some of the deadwood” from their dockets and concentrate on the cases that actually need their limited time and attention. No, AC by itself can’t solve the chronic backlog and due process problems currently festering in the U.S. Immigration Courts. But, reducing the active docket by a whopping one-third without treading on anyone’s due process rights was certainly a step in the right direction! 

The current backlog has been aggravated, if not actually largely created, by the practice of “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) by politicos in the DOJ and the White House going back decades. As Administrations and AG’s change, and DHS Enforcement priorities change with them, cases that were once “priorities” are shuffled off to the end of the docket to make way for the new “enforcement priority of the moment.” Other times, Immigration Judges are shuffled or detailed to the new “priority dockets” and their now “non-priority regular cases” are arbitrarily reassigned to other judges (who already are carrying full dockets themselves). Many times, this means taking cases that are “ready for trial” and replacing them with cases that aren’t ready for trial because the respondent needs to find a lawyer, file applications, and prepare the case. Other times, when dockets are shifted around largely without meaningful participation by the Immigration Judges, the DHS files or EOIR “record files” are not available, thus causing further delays.

In that manner, cases are not completed on any regular, predictable schedule, “Individual Hearing” dates become “jokes,” and U.S. Immigration Judges lose both credibility and the last vestiges of independent control over their court dockets as politicos and bureaucrats who neither fully understand nor are properly part of the Immigration Court System screw things up time after time.

Sessions appears anxious to add to and further aggravate these problems, rather than addressing them ion a reasonable and systematic manner with participation of all parties who use and rely on the U.S. Immigration Courts for due process and justice. Shame on him and on our Congress for allowing this to happen!

As I’ve said over and over: It’s past time for Congress to create an independent U.S. Immigration Court system that would be free of these types of highly politicized and totally wasteful shenanigans!

Only an independent U.S. Immigration Court will provide the “level playing field” and truly impartial administration and adjudication necessary to bring these potentially “life or death” cases to conclusion in a manner that is both efficient and in full compliance with fundamental fairness and due process (and, consequently, will find a high degree of acceptance in the U.S. Courts of Appeals, rather than generating too many “returns for redos” as happens in the current “haste makes waste” environment at EOIR.)

PWS

01-10-18

THE NY TIMES TAKES YOU INSIDE THE “NERVE CENTER” OF THE WHITE NATIONALIST EMPIRE: TRUMP’S “GONZO” IMMIGRATION POLICIES DRIVEN BY XENOPHOBIA, RACISM, IRRATIONAL FEAR, FAKE NEWS, MISINFORMATON, AND BIAS! – Trump & Cronies Deny Our Nation’s Immigrant Past While Seeking To Destroy Our Future As A Powerful and Diverse Democracy!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/23/us/politics/trump-immigration.html?_r=0

 

Michael D. Shear & Julie Hirschfield Davis report for the NY Times:

“WASHINGTON — Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June, plainly enraged.

Five months before, Mr. Trump had dispatched federal officers to the nation’s airports to stop travelers from several Muslim countries from entering the United States in a dramatic demonstration of how he would deliver on his campaign promise to fortify the nation’s borders.

But so many foreigners had flooded into the country since January, he vented to his national security team, that it was making a mockery of his pledge. Friends were calling to say he looked like a fool, Mr. Trump said.

According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.

More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

As the meeting continued, John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, and Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, tried to interject, explaining that many were short-term travelers making one-time visits. But as the president continued, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Miller turned their ire on Mr. Tillerson, blaming him for the influx of foreigners and prompting the secretary of state to throw up his arms in frustration. If he was so bad at his job, maybe he should stop issuing visas altogether, Mr. Tillerson fired back.

Tempers flared and Mr. Kelly asked that the room be cleared of staff members. But even after the door to the Oval Office was closed, aides could still hear the president berating his most senior advisers.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied on Saturday morning that Mr. Trump had made derogatory statements about immigrants during the meeting.

“General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims,” she said, referring to the current White House chief of staff, the national security adviser and the secretaries of state and homeland security. “It’s both sad and telling The New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous ‘sources’ anyway.”

While the White House did not deny the overall description of the meeting, officials strenuously insisted that Mr. Trump never used the words “AIDS” or “huts” to describe people from any country. Several participants in the meeting told Times reporters that they did not recall the president using those words and did not think he had, but the two officials who described the comments found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time.

The meeting in June reflects Mr. Trump’s visceral approach to an issue that defined his campaign and has indelibly shaped the first year of his presidency.

How We Reported This Story

The Times conducted over three dozen interviews with current and former administration officials, lawmakers and others close to the process.

Seizing on immigration as the cause of countless social and economic problems, Mr. Trump entered office with an agenda of symbolic but incompletely thought-out goals, the product not of rigorous policy debate but of emotionally charged personal interactions and an instinct for tapping into the nativist views of white working-class Americans.

Like many of his initiatives, his effort to change American immigration policy has been executed through a disorderly and dysfunctional process that sought from the start to defy the bureaucracy charged with enforcing it, according to interviews with three dozen current and former administration officials, lawmakers and others close to the process, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private interactions.

But while Mr. Trump has been repeatedly frustrated by the limits of his power, his efforts to remake decades of immigration policy have gained increasing momentum as the White House became more disciplined and adept at either ignoring or undercutting the entrenched opposition of many parts of the government. The resulting changes have had far-reaching consequences, not only for the immigrants who have sought to make a new home in this country, but also for the United States’ image in the world.

“We have taken a giant steamliner barreling full speed,” Mr. Miller said in a recent interview. “Slowed it, stopped it, begun to turn it around and started sailing in the other direction.”

It is an assessment shared ruefully by Mr. Trump’s harshest critics, who see a darker view of the past year. Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group, argues that the president’s immigration agenda is motivated by racism.

“He’s basically saying, ‘You people of color coming to America seeking the American dream are a threat to the white people,’” said Mr. Sharry, an outspoken critic of the president. “He’s come into office with an aggressive strategy of trying to reverse the demographic changes underway in America.”

. . . .

Even as the administration was engaged in a court battle over the travel ban, it began to turn its attention to another way of tightening the border — by limiting the number of refugees admitted each year to the United States. And if there was one “deep state” stronghold of Obama holdovers that Mr. Trump and his allies suspected of undermining them on immigration, it was the State Department, which administers the refugee program.

At the department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, there was a sense of foreboding about a president who had once warned that any refugee might be a “Trojan horse” or part of a “terrorist army.”

Mr. Trump had already used the travel ban to cut the number of allowable refugees admitted to the United States in 2017 to 50,000, a fraction of the 110,000 set by Mr. Obama. Now, Mr. Trump would have to decide the level for 2018.

At an April meeting with top officials from the bureau in the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room, Mr. Miller cited statistics from the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies that indicated that resettling refugees in the United States was far costlier than helping them in their own region.

Mr. Miller was visibly displeased, according to people present, when State Department officials pushed back, citing another study that found refugees to be a net benefit to the economy. He called the contention absurd and said it was exactly the wrong kind of thinking.

But the travel ban had been a lesson for Mr. Trump and his aides on the dangers of dictating a major policy change without involving the people who enforce it. This time, instead of shutting out those officials, they worked to tightly control the process.

In previous years, State Department officials had recommended a refugee level to the president. Now, Mr. Miller told officials the number would be determined by the Department of Homeland Security under a new policy that treated the issue as a security matter, not a diplomatic one.

When he got word that the Office of Refugee Resettlement had drafted a 55-page report showing that refugees were a net positive to the economy, Mr. Miller swiftly intervened, requesting a meeting to discuss it. The study never made it to the White House; it was shelved in favor of a three-page list of all the federal assistance programs that refugees used.

At the United Nations General Assembly in September, Mr. Trump cited the Center for Immigration Studies report, arguing that it was more cost-effective to keep refugees out than to bring them into the United States.

“Uncontrolled migration,” Mr. Trump declared, “is deeply unfair to both the sending and receiving countries.”

. . . .

As the new year approached, officials began considering a plan to separate parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally, a move that immigrant groups called draconian.

At times, though, Mr. Trump has shown an openness to a different approach. In private discussions, he returns periodically to the idea of a “comprehensive immigration” compromise, though aides have warned him against using the phrase because it is seen by his core supporters as code for amnesty. During a fall dinner with Democratic leaders, Mr. Trump explored the possibility of a bargain to legalize Dreamers in exchange for border security.

Mr. Trump even told Republicans recently that he wanted to think bigger, envisioning a deal early next year that would include a wall, protection for Dreamers, work permits for their parents, a shift to merit-based immigration with tougher work site enforcement, and ultimately, legal status for some undocumented immigrants.

The idea would prevent Dreamers from sponsoring the parents who brought them illegally for citizenship, limiting what Mr. Trump refers to as “chain migration.”

“He wants to make a deal,” said Mr. Graham, who spoke with Mr. Trump about the issue last week. “He wants to fix the entire system.”

Yet publicly, Mr. Trump has only employed the absolutist language that defined his campaign and has dominated his presidency.

After an Uzbek immigrant was arrested on suspicion of plowing a truck into a bicycle path in Lower Manhattan in October, killing eight people, the president seized on the episode.

Privately, in the Oval Office, the president expressed disbelief about the visa program that had admitted the suspect, confiding to a group of visiting senators that it was yet another piece of evidence that the United States’ immigration policies were “a joke.”

Even after a year of progress toward a country sealed off from foreign threats, the president still viewed the immigration system as plagued by complacency.

“We’re so politically correct,” he complained to reporters in the cabinet room, “that we’re afraid to do anything.”

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

Read the full, much more comprehensive and detailed, article at the link.

Disturbing for sure, but unfortunately not particularly surprising for those of us who have watched the Administration roll out its toxic, ill-informed immigration policies. Perhaps ironically, while the immigration issue has certainly allowed Trump to capture and control the GOP, polls show that his extreme restrictionist, xenophobic views on immigration are generally out of line with the majority of Americans (although not necessarily the majority of GOP voters).

PWS

12-23-17

THE HILL: Nolan Says That Expedited Removal Can “Ease The Burden” Of Immigration Detention; I Don’t Think So!

http://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/365829-expedited-removal-can-solve-concerns-with-immigration-detention

Nolan Rappaport writes at The Hill:

“Earlier this month, the DHS Office of Inspector General (IG) released a report on “Concerns about ICE Detainee Treatment and Care at Detention Facilities.” According to the ACLU, the way to address the violationsdescribed in this “damning new report” is to “release people from immigration detention and prohibit ICE from using dangerous and inhumane jails.”

The IG found problems at four of the five detention centers it inspected, but it is a stretch to call the report “damning” or to claim that ICE is “using dangerous and inhumane jails.” Many of the problems were relatively minor, and, apparently, all of them are going to be corrected.

In addition to federal service centers, ICE uses facilities owned and operated by private companies and state and local government facilities. The contracts of facilities that hold ICE detainees require them to adhere to the 2000 National Detention Standards, the 2008 Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), or the 2011 PBNDS.

. . . .

The immigration court backlog is so long that, as of October 2017, the average wait for a hearing was 691 days, and Trump’s backlog reduction plan isn’t going to bring it under control.

ICE cannot release detainees because wait-times are too long. Many of them will not return for their hearings. During FY2015, 23.4 percent of the aliens who were released from custody did not return for their hearings, and releases were limited to cases in which there was reason to expect the aliens to return.

I see only two solutions, reduce the backlog by removing aliens from the immigration court and disposing of their cases in expedited removal proceedings, which do not require a hearing before an immigration judge, or have a large legalization program.

Which alternative do you expect the Republicans to choose?”

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

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

Why Expedited Removal Isn’t the Answer (Leaving Aside The Substantial Legal and Moral Issues Involved):

  • Under Trump, DHS has already “maxed out” the use of expedited removal at the border. 
  • While Trump’s Executive Order called for an expansion of expedited removal to individuals who have been in the country for less than two years, that requires a regulatory change which, curiously, the DH’s has failed to accomplish in the nearly one year since the Executive Order.
  • Even with expedited removal expanded to two years, the vast majority of individuals comprising the “court backlog” have been there at least that long and therefore wouldn’t be candidates for expedited removal.
  • Of those limited number who have been in the U.S. for less than two years, many have already passed “credible fear” or “reasonable fear” and are, therefore, entitled to Individual hearings.
  • Some of those removed from the docket for expedited removal could still pass the “credible fear” or “reasonable fear” process before the Asylum Office and have their cases restored to the Immigraton Court docket (with an entirely new proceedings that would have to “start from scratch”).
  • Under BIA rulings, once proceedings have commenced before the Immigration Court, the DHS can’t unilaterally remove them from the court’s docket for expedited removal. It requires a DHS motion to terminate, a chance for the respondent to be heard in opposition, and a decision  by the Immigration Judge. Given the administrative mess at both EOIR and DHS Chief Counsel, filing and responding to those motions can be an administrative problem. Moreover, although almost all motions to terminate for expedited removal ultimately are granted by the Immigraton Judges, the termination is a “final order” subject to appeal to the BIA.
  • Individuals placed in expedited removal whose “credible fear’ or “reasonable fear” claims are rejected, have a right to expedited review before an Immigraton Judge. Such reviews generally take precedence over other types of cases, but do not produce “final orders” from the Immigraton Judge. At some level, ratcheting up the expedited removal process actually inhibits the processing of previously scheduled cases before the Immigration Court.

What Does Work:

  • Alternatives to Detention (“ADT) such as ankle bracelet monitoring. See, e.g.,  http://lirs.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/The-Real-Alternatives-to-Detention-FINAL-06.27.17.pdf   
  • Government statistics show that juveniles with lawyers appear for their hearings over 95% of the time! See, e.g.https://www.justice.gov/eoir/file/852516/download
    • Recent studies of results of The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, which guarantees lawyers to respondents, showed that such represented individuals were 12 times more likely to win their cases. See https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/9/16623906/immigration-court-lawyer
    • This strongly suggests that immigration hearings conducted for unrepresented individuals are inherently unfair and a denial of due process, something that should be (but isn’t) the number one concern of the DOJ and EOIR.
    • My own experience at the Arlington Immigration court was that individuals 1) represented by counsel , and 2) with applications for relief filed showed up for their hearings nearly 100% of the time. Indeed, beyond criminal record and family ties, those were the two most significant factors for me in setting immigration bonds.

An Administration truly interested in improving the performance of the Immigration Courts, achieving due process, and lessening the need for immigration detention would be working closely with NGOs, bar associations, states and localities, and ADT providers to develop cooperative  ways of maximizing representation in Immigraton Court, But, this Administration is far more interested in advancing a xenophobic, White Nationalist agenda than it is in fairness, due process, or solving problems.

PWS

12-23-17

MICA ROSENBERG @ REUTERS ANALYZES GONZO’S LATEST ATTACK ON CHILDREN (OR, IN “GONZOSPEAK” “UNMARRIED INDIVIDUALS UNDER THE AGE OF 18”) IN US IMMIGRATION COURT – No More “Mister Nice Guy” — Show ’em The Ugly Side Of America — These Kids Are Out To Get Us (Even If They Are So Scared, Confused, and Traumatized They Barely Know The Time Of Day)

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-exclusive/exclusive-u-s-memo-weakens-guidelines-for-protecting-immigrant-children-in-court-idUSKBN1EH037

Mica reports:

“A Dec. 20 memo, issued by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) replaces 2007 guidelines, spelling out policies and procedures judges should follow in dealing with children who crossed the border illegally alone and face possible deportation.

The new memo removes suggestions contained in the 2007 memo for how to conduct “child-sensitive questioning” and adds reminders to judges to maintain “impartiality” even though “juvenile cases may present sympathetic allegations.” The new document also changes the word “child” to “unmarried individual under the age of 18” in many instances.

An EOIR official said the new memo contained “clarifications and updates” to 10-year-old guidance “in order to be consistent with the laws as they’ve been passed by Congress.” The new memo was posted on the Justice Department website but has not been previously reported.

Immigration advocates said they worry the new guidelines could make court appearances for children more difficult, and a spokeswoman for the union representing immigration judges said judges are concerned about the tone of the memo.

President Donald Trump has made tougher immigration enforcement a key policy goal of his administration, and has focused particularly on trying to curb the illegal entry of children. The administration says it wants to prevent vulnerable juveniles from making perilous journeys to the United States and eliminate fraud from programs for young immigrants.

One changed section of the memo focuses on how to make children comfortable in the court in advance of hearings. The old guidance says they “should be permitted to explore” courtrooms and allowed to “sit in all locations, (including, especially, the judge’s bench and the witness stand).”

The new guidance says such explorations should take place only “to the extent that resources and time permit” and specifically puts the judge’s bench off limits.

The new memo also warns judges to be skeptical, since an unaccompanied minor “generally receives more favorable treatment under the law than other categories of illegal aliens,” which creates “an incentive to misrepresent accompaniment status or age in order to attempt to qualify for the benefits.” It also says to be on the lookout for “fraud and abuse,” language that was not in the previous memo.

‘WOLVES IN SHEEP CLOTHING’

Immigration judges are appointed by the U.S. Attorney General and courts are part of the Department of Justice, not an independent branch. The only sitting immigration judges routinely allowed to speak to the media are representatives of their union, the National Association of Immigration Judges.

Dana Marks, a sitting judge and spokeswoman for the union, said the “overall tone” of the memo “is very distressing and concerning to immigration judges.”

“There is a feeling that the immigration courts are just being demoted into immigration enforcement offices, rather than neutral arbiters,” Marks said. “There has been a relentless beating of the drum toward enforcement rather than due process.”

Former immigration judge Andrew Arthur, who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes lower levels of immigration overall, said the new guidelines were needed.

In their previous form, he said, “so much emphasis was placed on the potential inability of the alien to understand the proceedings … that it almost put the judge into the position of being an advocate.”

The courts have had to handle a surge in cases for unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, after their numbers sky-rocketed in 2014 as violence in the region caused residents to flee north.

While illegal crossings initially fell after Trump took office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that since May, each month has seen an increase in children being apprehended either alone or with family members.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech in Boston in September that the special accommodations for unaccompanied minors had been exploited by “gang members who come to this country as wolves in sheep clothing.”

Echoing some of these concerns, the new memo notes in a preamble that not all child cases involve innocents, and that the courts might see “an adolescent gang member” or “a teenager convicted as an adult for serious criminal activity.”

Jennifer Podkul, policy director of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) said Congress included special procedural protections for immigrant children in a 2008 anti-trafficking bill to “make sure that a kid gets a fair shot in the courtroom.”

“These kids are by themselves telling a very complicated and oftentimes very traumatic story,” said Podkul. “The approach of this memo, which is much more suspicious, is not going to help get to the truth of a child’s story.”

In cases where children are called to testify, the old guidance instructed judges to “seek to limit the amount of time the child is on the stand.” The new guidance says that judges should “consider” limiting the child’s time on the stand “without compromising due process for the opposing party,” which is generally a government prosecutor.

The memo leaves in a range of special accommodations made for children, including allowing them to bring a pillow or booster seat or a “toy, book, or other personal item.” It also maintains that cases involving unaccompanied minors should be heard on a separate docket when possible and that children should not be detained or transported with adults.

Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Sue Horton and Mary Milliken”

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

Yes, my dear friend Judge Dana Leigh Marks, Gonzo sees and treats the U.S. Immigration Courts as part of DHS Enforcement — “Just a Whistlestop on The Deportation Express.”

After 35 years of flawed DOJ stewardship and improper political meddling by all Administrations, the U.S. Immigration Courts are largely back in the same hopeless, understaffed, incompetently administered, enforcement-dominated mess that they were in 1983 when the Reagan Administration created EOIR to provide at least some actual and apparent separation between prosecutorial and judicial functions.

The only solution is an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court. Until that happens, failure, inefficiency, ands unfairness will continue to plague the immigration Court system.

Eventually, the Article III reviewing courts are going to have to decide whether 1) to simply put the Constitution and their judicial oaths in the drawer and give the Executive a “free pass” on immigration; or 2) do their duty, stop the train, and essentially take over the administration of the immigration Courts by ordering Immigration Judges and the BIA to conform to certain basic due process requirements or face the prospect of having almost every Petition for Review returned for a “redo.” If you think the backlog is bad now, wait till that happens.

At this point, I hope for #2, but see #1 as a distinct possibility, particularly as Trump continues to co-opt the Article III judiciary with judges for whom loyalty to Trump and his agenda appears a more important qualification that a reputation for scholarship, legal excellence, collegiality, impartiality, and fairness.

I also found the comments of my former colleague Judge (Retired) Andrew Arthur somewhat puzzling. If you are a judge in a courtroom actually trying to carry out your constitutional duty to provide due process and fairness; the DHS is represented by an experienced Assistant Chief Counsel; and you have an unrepresented kid who is scared to return his or her home country, who is going to be that child’s advocate if not the Immigration Judge?

Rather than bogus guidelines, the Administration should be doing the right thing and the smart thing — working with the private bar to insure that cases involving claims for asylum and other protection are docketed and scheduled in a manner that insures that each applicant will have reasonable access to pro bono or low bono counsel before filing the Form I-589 for asylum.

To take the most obvious example, Jennifer Podkul, Policy Director of Kids in Need of Defense (“KIND), and Wendy Young, Executive Director of KIND are as smart as any lawyers around. They want the Immigration Court system to succeed in a fair and efficient manner. They have spent more time thinking about the problems of kids in Immigraton Court and how to solve them than any individual or group of individuals now in the US. Government.

So, instead of “trashing” immigration lawyers, why don’t Sessions and his subordinates at DOJ sit down with Young, Podkul, and some of their other high-powered NGO colleagues, and Judge Marks and the NAIJ and work out a solution for getting kids through the Immigraton Court system in a fair manner consistent with Due Process? Why is Sessions so afraid to venture outside of his little “restrictionist world” in trying to solve problems?

But, unfortunately, this Administration is much more interested in forcing failure on the system and then pointing fingers at the victims, that is, the migrants seeking justice, than it is in achieving the real reforms necessary to get our U.S. Immigration Courts operating in a fair, impartial, and efficient manner, consistent with the law and Constitutional Due Process.

PWS

12-23-17