THE ASYLUMIST, JASON DZUBOW ON GONZO’S “WAR ON ASYLUM APPLICANTS & DUE PROCESS” – “His maliciousness is exacerbated by his incompetence.”

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/10/17/the-attorney-generals-jaundiced-and-inaccurate-view-of-asylum/

Jason writes:

“The Attorney General’s Jaundiced–and Inaccurate–View of Asylum

by JASON DZUBOW on OCTOBER 17, 2017

In a speech last week to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (the office that administers the nation’s immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals), Attorney General and living Confederate Civil War monument, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, set out his views on the asylum system, asylum seekers, and immigration attorneys.

Jeff Sessions speaks to an audience at the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Sad to say, Mr. Sessions described the asylum system in largely negative terms, and said not a word about the benefits that our country derives from offering asylum.

While he views our asylum policy as “generous,” and designed to “protect those who, through no fault of their own, cannot co-exist in their home country no matter where they go because of persecution based on fundamental things like their religion or nationality,” Mr. Sessions feels that our generosity is being “abused” and that “smart attorneys have exploited loopholes in the law, court rulings, and lack of resources to substantially undermine the intent of Congress.”

Mr. Sessions also lambasts “dirty immigration lawyers who are encouraging their otherwise unlawfully present clients to make false claims of asylum providing them with the magic words needed to trigger the credible fear process.”

Indeed, Mr. Sessions believes that our asylum system is “subject to rampant abuse and fraud.” Because the system is “overloaded with fake claims, it cannot deal effectively with just claims.”

First, it’s quite sad that our nation’s chief law enforcement officer would have such a jaundiced view of asylum. The idea that asylum is merely a generous benefit we offer to refugees, and that we receive nothing in return, is simply false. I’ve written about this point before, but it bears repeating. Asylum was created during the Cold War as a tool against the Soviet Union. We offered refuge to people fleeing Communism, and each person who defected to the West served as a testament to our system’s superiority over our adversary.

Now that the Cold War has ended, asylum still serves our strategic interests. It demonstrates our commitment to those who support and work for the values we believe in. It is tangible evidence that America stands with our friends. It gives our allies confidence that we will not let them down when times become tough. It shows that our foundational principles–free speech, religious liberty, equality, rule of law–are not empty words, but are ideals we actually stand behind.

And of course, there are the asylees themselves, who contribute to our country with their energy, enthusiasm, and patriotism, often born of their experience living in places that are not safe, and that are not free.

None of this came up during Mr. Sessions’s talk. Perhaps he does not know how our nation has benefited from the asylum system. Or maybe he doesn’t care. Or–what I suspect–he views asylum seekers as a threat to our security and a challenge to our country’s (Christian and Caucasian) culture.

The shame of it is that Mr. Sessions is demonstrably wrong on several points, and so possibly he reached his conclusions about asylum based on incorrect information.

The most obvious error is his claims that “dirty immigration lawyers… are encouraging their otherwise unlawfully present clients to make false claims of asylum providing them with the magic words needed to trigger the credible fear process.” Aliens who are “unlawfully present” in the U.S. are not subject to the credible fear process. That process is generally reserved for aliens arriving at the border who ask for asylum. Such applicants undergo a credible fear interview, which is an initial evaluation of eligibility for asylum. While this may be a technical point, Mr. Sessions raised the issue in a talk to EOIR, and so his audience presumably understands how the system works. That Mr. Sessions would make such a basic mistake in a speech to people who know better, demonstrates his ignorance of the subject matter (or at least the ignorance of his speech writers), and casts doubt on his over-all understanding of the asylum system.

Mr. Sessions also says that our asylum system is “overloaded with fake claims.” But how does he know this? And what exactly is a fake claim? In recent years, something like 40 to 50% of asylum cases have been granted. Are all those adjudicators being fooled? And what about denied cases? Are they all worthy of denial? There is, of course, anecdotal evidence of fraud—and in his talk, Mr. Sessions cites a few examples of “dirty” attorneys and applicants. But a few anecdotes does not compel a conclusion that the entire system is “subject to rampant abuse and fraud.” I can point to anecdotes as well. I’ve seen cases granted that I suspected were false, but I’ve also seen cases denied that were pretty clearly grant-worthy. While I do think we need to remain vigilant for fraud, I have not seen evidence to support the type of wide-spread fraud referenced by the Attorney General.

Finally, Mr. Sessions opines that “smart attorneys have exploited loopholes in the law, court rulings, and lack of resources to substantially undermine the intent of Congress.” So court rulings undermine the intent of Congress? Any attorney who makes such a statement casts doubt on that lawyer’s competence and devotion to the rule of law, but when the Attorney General says it, we have real cause for concern. Thousands of federal court rulings—including from the U.S. Supreme Court—have interpreted our nation’s immigration laws (and all our other laws too). That is what courts do, and that is how the intent of Congress is interpreted and implemented in real-world situations. Attorneys who rely on court decisions are not “exploit[ing] loopholes in the law,” we are following the law.

These are all pretty basic points, and it strikes me that when it comes to asylum, Mr. Sessions doesn’t get it. He seems not to understand the role of Congress, the courts, and lawyers in the asylum process. And he certainly doesn’t understand the benefits our country receives from the asylum system.

I’ve often said that President Trump’s maliciousness is tempered by his incompetence. With Attorney General Sessions, it is the opposite: His maliciousness is exacerbated by his incompetence. And I fear that asylum seekers–and our country’s devotion to the rule of law–will suffer because of it.”

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Yup, sure got this one pegged right, Jason! “Maliciousness and incompetence” seem to be two of the key requirements for political appointees in the Trump Administration. I’ve pointed out before that Sessions demonstrates little legal knowledge — his memos, which disingenuously claim to be “law not policy,” are in fact almost pure policy largely devoid of legal reasoning.

Gonzo obviously arrived at the DOJ with a briefcase full of homophobic, xenophobic, White Nationalist memos already “pre-drafted” for him by folks like Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council and restrictionist immigration groups. In addition to lack of legal knowledge and basic honesty (his explanation today to Senator Franken about how his “Russia lie” during confirmation didn’t pass the “straight face” test), Sessions shows no visible signs of compassion, humanity, understanding of other viewpoints, fairness, or objectivity. He consistently smears immigrants (and by extension the entire Hispanic community), denies their achievements and contributions to America, and, like any bully, picks on the already limited rights of the most vulnerable in our community, gays, children, women, and asylum seekers.

Sessions doesn’t understand asylum because he makes no attempt to understand it.  He merely approaches it from a position of bias, fear, and loathing.

PWS

10-18-17

 

 

THE WORLD HAS MORE REFUGEES THAN AT ANY TIME SINCE WWII; REFUGEES NEED THE U.S. TO SAVE THEM & WE NEED REFUGEES’ ENERGY, BRAVERY, & TALENTS! — THE RESPONSE OF WHITE NATIONALISTS LIKE MILLER & SESSIONS IS TO RECOMMEND CUTTING REFUGEE ADMISSIONS TO AN ALL-TIME LOW OF 15,000! — Don’t Let These Racist Xenophobes Get Away With It!

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/09/trump-considers-cutting-refugee-cap-to-lowest-in-decades.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Intelligencer%20-%20September%2013%2C%202017&utm_term=Subscription%20List%20-%20Daily%20Intelligencer%20%281%20Year%29

Adam K. Raymond reports in New York Magazine:

“In 2016, the last year of President Obama’s administration, the U.S. accepted 85,000 refugees and set a goal of bumping that number up to 110,00 this year. Those plans changed with President Trump’s so-called travel ban, which set the refugee limit at 50,000 for 2016. Now, the administration is considering setting that number even lower for 2018, despite the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The President has until October 1 to set a refugee ceiling and, the Times reports, there’s a debate raging in the White House about whether the number should be reduced to numbers not seen in decades. Leading the arguments against cutting the totals is Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hawk and ally of Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Miller has reportedly produced cutting the number all the way to 15,000. The Department of Homeland Security has proposed its own cut to 40,000.

The Times explains their purported thinking:

 

Two administration officials said those pushing for a lower number are citing the need to strengthen the process of vetting applicants for refugee status to prevent would-be terrorists from entering the country. Two others said another factor is a cold-eyed assessment of the money and resources that would be needed to resettle larger amounts of refugees at a time when federal immigration authorities already face a years long backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.
This reasoning doesn’t align with the facts. Refugees are far more likely to be victims of politically motivated attacks than perpetrators. Limiting refugees does not keep America safer because refugees are not dangerous. It’s difficult not to see nativism as the motive behind pretending that they are: fear makes it easier to convince people that suffering people should be excluded from the United States. As for the cost concerns, the GOP’s feigned fiscal prudence should never be taken seriously.

By setting the refugee cap at 50,000 this year, Trump has already pushed the number lower than it’s been in decades. In the 37 years since the Refugee Act of 1980 gave the president a role in setting the cap, it hasn’t slipped lower than the 67,000 President Reagan set in 1987.

Cutting the refugee ceiling would leave tens of thousands of vulnerable people out in the cold, the International Rescue Committee said in a report last month. The humanitarian organization advocates for a ceiling no lower than 75,000 people. “An admissions level of at least 75,000 is a critical signal to the world that the United States remains a safe haven for those fleeing persecution, terror and ideologies antithetical to American democratic values,” the report says. “Anything less would be to turn our backs on the United States’ humanitarian tradition and global leadership.”

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Under the last three Administrations, the US has made an absolute muddle out of two ill-advised wars and Middle East policies in general. The idea that guys like Trump, Tillerson, Miller, Bannon, Sessions, and even “the Generals” can come up with a constructive solution borders on the ludicrous. Nope. They going to to fight the 21st Century version of the “100 Years War” with similar results.

If there is a solution out there that will help achieve stability and provide a durable solution to the terrorist threats, it’s more likely going to be coming from one of today’s refugees who have a better idea of what’s actually going on and how we might become part of the solution rather than making the problems worse.

Refugees represent America’s hope. The Sessions-Miller-Bannon cabal represents America’s darkest side — one that threatens to drag us all into the abyss of their dark, distorted, and fundamentally anti-American world view.

PWS

09-13-17

 

 

THE ASYLUMIST — JASON DZUBOW: AS TRUMP FANS THE FLAMES OF FEAR, HATE, & DESPAIR, IMMIGRANTS & REFUGEES INSPIRE & GIVE US HOPE FOR A BETTER FUTURE!

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/08/17/in-a-time-of-hate-my-refugee-clients-give-me-hope/

Jason’s complete blog is reprinted below:

“In a Time of Hate, My Refugee Clients Give Me Hope

by JASON DZUBOW on AUGUST 17, 2017

As an ordinary citizen, it is not easy to decide the best way to confront a Nazi march. Show up to peacefully protest? That might give additional attention to the other side. Protest violently? Not only could that elevate the Nazis, it might also de-legitimize the resistance to the Nazis (even those who peacefully resist). Ignore them? That might be viewed as condoning their views. Reasonable people can differ about what to do, at least as far as the peaceful responses are concerned.

As a great American philosopher once said, “I hate Nazis.”

But when you are a public figure, especially an elected official, the decision about how to respond is clear: First, ensure safety and free speech. Second, denounce the evils of Nazism and make it plain that Nazis, Klan members, and anyone who might march side-by-side with such people are un-American, illegitimate, and unworthy of a seat at the table of public discourse.

Fortunately, the vast majority of our country’s elected leaders knew what to say in response to the Nazi march last weekend. But unfortunately, there was one important exception–our President, Donald J. Trump. To me, Mr. Trump’s contemptible silence, followed by a reluctant “denunciation” of the Nazis, followed by a denunciation of the “denunciation” is an utter disgrace. It is a green light to Nazis. It is yet another attack on common decency and on our shared national values. It is complicity with Nazism. By the President of the United States. (As an aside, one of my lawyer-friends at the Justice Department told me–perhaps half jokingly–that she wanted to post a sign in her office that reads, “Nazis are bad,” but she feared it might get her into trouble–that is where we are under Mr. Trump.)

Frankly, I am not particularly worried about the Nazis themselves. They certainly can do damage–they murdered a young woman and injured many others. But they do not have the power or support to threaten our democracy. This does not mean we should take them for granted (few would have predicted Hitler’s rise when he was sitting in prison after the Beerhall Putsch), but we should not be unduly fearful either.

On the other hand, I am very worried about our President’s behavior. His governing philosophy (perhaps we can call it, “trickle down histrionics”) is poisoning our public debate, and it weakens us domestically and internationally. Thus far, his incompetence has served as a bulwark against his malevolence, but that can only go on for so long (see, e.g., North Korea). So there is much to be concerned about.

Here, though, I want to talk about hope. Specifically, the hope that I feel from my clients: Asylum seekers, “illegals,” and other immigrants. There are several reasons my clients give me hope.

One reason is that they still believe in the American Dream. Despite all of the nastiness, mendacity, and bigotry coming from the White House, people still want to come to America. They are voting with their feet. Some endure seemingly endless waits, often times separated from their loved ones, in order to obtain legal status here. Others risk their lives to get here. They don’t do this because (as Mr. Trump suggests) they want to harm us. They do it because they want to join us. They want to be part of America. My clients and others like them represent the American ideal far better than those, like our embattled President and his racist friends, who disparage them. When I see my country through my clients’ eyes, it gives me hope.

My clients’ stories also give me hope. Most of my clients are asylum seekers. They have escaped repressive regimes or failing states. Where they come from, the government doesn’t just tweet nasty comments about its opponents, it tortures and murders them. The terrorist groups operating in my clients’ countries regularly harm and kill noncombatants, women, children, and even babies. My clients have stood against this depravity, and many of them continue to fight for democracy, justice, and human rights from our shores. My clients’ perseverance in the face of evil gives me hope.

Finally, I have hope because I see the courage of my clients, who refuse to be cowed by the hateful rhetoric of our Commander-in-Chief. Since the early days of his campaign, Mr. Trump has demonized foreigners and refugees, and after he was sworn in as President, these individuals were the first to come into his cross hairs. If he can defeat people like my clients, he can move on to new targets. But many refugees and asylum seekers have been subject to far worse treatment than Mr. Trump’s bluster, and they are ready to stand firm against his bullying. Their fortitude encourages others to stand with them. And stand with them we will. The fact that vulnerable, traumatized people are on the front lines of this fight, and that they will not surrender, gives me hope.

I have written before about the tangible benefits of our humanitarian immigration system. It demonstrates to the world that our principles–democracy, human rights, freedom, justice–are not empty platitudes. It shows that we support people who work with us and who advance the values we hold dear. When such people know that we have their backs, they will be more willing to work with us going forward. And of course, that system helps bring people to the United States whose talents and energy benefit our entire nation. Add to this list one more benefit that asylees and refugees bring to our nation in this dark time–hope.”

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Thanks, Jason!

The irony and extreme contrast between those hollowly claiming to “Make America Great” and those who are actually “making America great” is simply stunning.

PWS

08-18-17

 

 

NEW FROM TAL KOPAN AT CNN: DACA ON THE ROPES — “Only Congress can enact a permanent solution to the DACA situation!”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/politics/daca-anniversary-peril/index.html

Tal reports:

“Washington (CNN)Tuesday marks the fifth anniversary of a program that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation — but supporters worry this one could be its last.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was implemented in 2012 under President Barack Obama, and President Donald Trump’s administration has continued running despite heated rhetoric against it from Trump on the campaign trail.
But DACA has arguably never been on shakier ground, and advocates for the program are desperately trying to protect it, including with a planned march Tuesday on the White House.
Nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants have benefited from DACA, which protects individuals who were brought to the US illegally as children from deportation, and offers them the ability to work, study and drive legally. Applicants must meet certain criteria, pass a background check and maintain a clean record.
But despite the fact that the administration has continued to issue permits, concerns are increasing that the program could be ended.
“DACA is under grave threat,” Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said on a conference call with reporters Monday.
Ten state attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, have issued an ultimatum to the Trump administration — sunset DACA by September 5, or we’ll challenge it in court. The attorneys general have threatened to petition a court that’s considering a similar but separate Obama administration deferred action program, for parents, to also weigh the legality of DACA.
Experts believe that given the makeup of the court hearing the case, and its previous ruling against the parents program, the judges involved would likely strike down DACA as well.
If the court allows arguments against DACA, the Justice Department would be forced to decide whether it will defend the program. While Trump has recently spoken about how sympathetic he is to the “Dreamers” who receive DACA, saying the choice is “very, very hard to make,” he campaigned on a pledge to immediately rescind it. And the US attorney general, former Sen. Jeff Sessions, has been a chief opponent of the program.
The White House offered a cryptic statement on the program’s future, expressing only concern with illegal immigration.
“The President’s priority remains protecting the jobs, wages and security of American workers, families and communities — including the millions of Hispanic and African American workers disadvantaged by illegal immigration,” an administration official said.
On the call with reporters and a DACA recipient, Masto and California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris extolled its virtues, citing estimates that the US economy would lose hundreds of billions of dollars without the contributions of DACA recipients.
“This is not just about what is morally right, this is not only a point about what is right in terms of fighting for the ideals of our country,” Harris said. “This is also right and smart in terms of public benefits.”
Both are co-sponsors of one bipartisan proposal to make the program permanent in Congress, the Dream Act, which also has three Republican co-sponsors. It’s one of four proposed bills that would codify DACA if the administration were to rescind it or the courts were to strike it down.
The Department of Justice did not respond to a CNN request for comment.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the division of the Department of Homeland Security, said the program remains under review.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s stance remains the same — the future of the DACA program continues to be under review with the administration,” said USCIS press secretary Gillian Christensen. “The President has remarked on the need to handle DACA with compassion and with heart. As a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending litigation, but we have said before only Congress can enact a permanent solution to the DACA situation.”
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I think the last statement in Tal’s article, from USCIS, hits the nail on the head. Congress has to come up with a solution to this issue or there will be chaos. Imagine another 800,000 cases of young people thrown into the U.S. Immigration Courts on top of the 610,000 cases already there! It’s Jason Dzubow’s vision of “Trump’s 100 year deportation plan” in action. http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/08/14/jason-dzubow-in-the-asylumist-trumps-101-year-plan-for-removals-malevolence-tempered-by-incompetence/
As Nolan Rappaport has pointed out, it’s unlikely that any of the pending bills, in their present forms, will attract enough GOP support to be enacted. http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/08/07/n-rappaport-in-the-hill-dems-dreamer-bill-offers-false-hope/
But perhaps Democrats and some willing Republicans can work on a compromise legislative solution. Otherwise, the results aren’t likely to be pretty — for the Dreamers or for our country’s future.
PWS
08-15-17

JASON DZUBOW IN THE ASYLUMIST: TRUMP’S 101 YEAR PLAN FOR REMOVALS! — “Malevolence tempered by incompetence!”

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/07/27/president-trumps-101-year-deportation-plan/

Jason writes:

“Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong had their five-year plans. Nikita Khrushchev had his seven-year plan. And now President Trump has a 101-year plan. That’s how long it will take to deport the country’s 11 million undocumented residents if current trends continue.

Happy Birthday! Now, get the hell out of my country!

The most recent statistics on case completions in Immigration Court show that the Trump Administration has issued an average of 8,996 removal (deportation) orders per month between February and June 2017 (and 11,000,000 divided by 8,996 cases/month = 1,222.8 months, or 101.9 years). That’s up from 6,913 during the same period last year, but still well-below the peak period during the early days of the Obama Administration, when courts were issuing 13,500 removal orders each month.

Of course, the Trump Administration has indicated that it wants to ramp up deportations, and to that end, the Executive Office for Immigration Review or EOIR–the office that oversees the nation’s Immigration Courts–plans to hire more Immigration Judges (“IJs”). Indeed, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the Attorney General (at least for now) announced that EOIR would hire 50 more judges this year and 75 next year.

Assuming EOIR can find 125 new IJs, and also assuming that no currently-serving judges retire (a big assumption given that something like 50% of our country’s IJs are eligible to retire), then EOIR will go from 250 IJs to 375. So instead of 101 years to deport the nation’s 11 million undocumented residents, it will only take 68 years (assuming that no new people enter the U.S. illegally or overstay their visas, and assuming my math is correct–more big assumptions).

But frankly, I’m doubtful that 68 years–or even 101 years–is realistic. It’s partly that more people are entering the population of “illegals” all the time, and so even as the government chips away at the 11,000,000 figure, more people are joining that club, so to speak. Worse, from the federal government’s point of view, there is not enough of a national consensus to deport so many people, and there is significant legal resistance to Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda.

In addition to all this, there is the Trump Administration’s modus operandi, which is best characterized as malevolence tempered by incompetence. One statistic buried in the recent deportation numbers illustrates this point. In March 2017, judges issued 10,110 removal orders. A few months later, in June, judges issued 8,919 removal orders.

This means that the number of deportation orders dropped by 1,191 or about 11.8%. How can this be? In a word: Incompetence (I suppose if I wanted to be more generous—which I don’t—I could say, Inexperience). The Trump Administration has no idea how to run the government and their failure in the immigration realm is but one example.

There are at least a couple ways the Administration’s incompetence has manifested itself at EOIR.

One is in the distribution of judges. It makes sense to send IJs where they are needed. But that’s not exactly what is happening. Maybe it’s just opening night jitters for the new leadership at EOIR. Maybe they’ll find their feet and get organized. But so far, it seems EOIR is sending judges to the border, where they are underutilized. While this may have the appearance of action (which may be good enough for this Administration), the effect—as revealed in the statistical data—is that fewer people are actually being deported.

As I wrote previously, the new Acting Director of EOIR has essentially no management experience, and it’s still unclear whether he is receiving the support he needs, or whether his leadership team has the institutional memory to navigate the EOIR bureaucracy. Perhaps this is part of the reason for the inefficient use of judicial resources.

Another reason may be that shifting judges around is not as easy as moving pieces on a chess board. The IJs have families, homes, and ties to their communities. Not to mention a union to protect them (or try to protect them) from management. And it doesn’t help that many Immigration Courts are located in places that you wouldn’t really want to live, if you had a choice. So getting judges to where you need them, and keeping them there for long enough to make a difference, is not so easy.

A second way the Trump Administration has sabotaged itself is related to prosecutorial discretion or PD. In the pre-Trump era, DHS attorneys (the “prosecutors” in Immigration Court) had discretion to administratively close cases that were not a priority. This allowed DHS to focus on people who they wanted to deport: Criminals, human rights abusers, people perceived as a threat to national security. In other words, “Bad Hombres.” Now, PD is essentially gone. By the end of the Obama Administration, 2,400 cases per month were being closed through PD. Since President Trump came to office, the average is less than 100 PD cases per month. The result was predictable: DHS can’t prioritize cases and IJs are having a harder time managing their dockets. In essence, if everyone is a deportation priority, no one is a deportation priority.

Perhaps the Trump Administration hopes to “fix” these problems by making it easier to deport people. The Administration has floated the idea of reducing due process protections for non-citizens. Specifically, they are considering expanding the use of expedited removal, which is a way to bypass Immigration Courts for certain aliens who have been in the U.S. for less than 90 days. But most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants have been here much longer than that, and so they would not be affected. Also, expansion of expedited removal would presumably trigger legal challenges, which may make it difficult to implement.

Another “fix” is to prevent people from coming here in the first place. Build the wall. Deny visas to people overseas. Scare potential immigrants so they stay away. Illegally turn away asylum seekers at the border. Certainly, all this will reduce the number of people coming to America. But the cost will be high. Foreign tourists, students, and business people add many billions to our economy. Foreign scholars, scientists, artists, and other immigrants contribute to our country’s strength. Whether the U.S. is willing to forfeit the benefits of the global economy in order to restrict some people from coming or staying here unlawfully, I do not know. But the forces driving migration are powerful, and so I have real doubts that Mr. Trump’s efforts will have more than a marginal impact, especially over the long run. And even if he could stop the flow entirely, it still leaves 11 million people who are already here.

There is an obvious alternative to Mr. Trump’s plan. Instead of wasting billions of dollars, harming our economy, and ripping millions of families apart, why not move towards a broad legalization for those who are here? Focus on deporting criminals and other “bad hombres,” and leave hard-working immigrants in peace. Sadly, this is not the path we are on. And so, sometime in 2118, perhaps our country will finally say adieu to its last undocumented resident.”

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Amen!

PWS

08-14-17

 

POLITICO HIGHLIGHTS LACK OF DUE PROCESS, CULTURAL AWARENESS, PROPER JUDICIAL TRAINING IN U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT’S HANDLING OF VIETNAMESE DEPORTATION CASE!

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/14/trump-immigration-crackdown-vietnam-241564

“Trump’s immigration crackdown hits Vietnam
Inside the case of one man who feared torture because of his Montagnard roots, but was deported last month.
By DAVID ROGERS 08/14/2017 05:39 AM EDT
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President Donald Trump’s “get tough” approach to immigration is now impacting — of all people — the Montagnard hill tribesmen who fought alongside the Green Berets in the Vietnam War.

The son of one such Montagnard veteran was deported back to Vietnam in July, a stunning move for many in the refugee community because of their history in the war and the continued evidence of political and economic mistreatment of Montagnards in Vietnam.

. . . .

The case captures all the twists and turns in the U.S. immigration system, compounded by pressure from the White House for quick results. No one emerges looking all good or all bad, but the outcome shows a remarkable blindness to history.

Nothing reveals this better, perhaps, than the exchanges between judge and defendant during a brief immigration court proceeding in June 2016, when Chuh was first ordered deported.

At that time, Chuh was being held at an ICE detention facility in Irwin County, Georgia. He had completed a state prison term for a first-time felony conviction in North Carolina related to trafficking in the synthetic drug MDMA, commonly called “ecstasy.” He remained without legal counsel and had to speak back-and forth by video conference with U.S. Immigration Court Judge William A. Cassidy of Atlanta, about 180 miles away.

POLITICO obtained a digital audiotape of the proceeding from the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act. The entire hearing ran just 5 minutes, 2 seconds, and the two men, Cassidy and Chuh, might have been ships passing in the night.

Chuh told Cassidy that he feared torture if he were sent back to Vietnam. But following the misguided advice of fellow detainees, he hurt his own cause by rejecting the judge’s offers to give him more time to find an attorney and seek protection.

On the other side, Cassidy, a former prosecutor, did not probe why Chuh feared torture. In fact, the judge showed no sign of knowing he was dealing with a Montagnard defendant and not the typical Vietnamese national.

Time and again, Cassidy incorrectly addressed Chuh as “A. Chuh” — not realizing that the A is Chuh’s single-letter last name and a telltale sign of his Montagnard heritage. The process was so rushed that Cassidy inadvertently told Chuh “Buenos dias” before correcting himself at the end.

Most striking, the word Montagnard is never heard in the entire tape. Its origins are French, a remnant of Vietnam’s colonial past and meaning, roughly, “people of the mountain.”

Over the years, the Montagnard label has been applied broadly to several indigenous ethnic groups concentrated in the Central Highlands and with their own distinct languages and customs. They share a hunger for greater autonomy in Vietnam and have been willing to side with outsiders, like the French and later Americans, to try to get it. At the same time, Vietnam’s dominant ethnic Kinh population has long treated the hill tribes as second-class citizens. Regardless of who has ruled Vietnam, the record is often one of suspicion and mistreatment toward the Montagnards.

The Montagnards’ strategic location in the Highlands, however, has long made them an asset in times of war. And beginning early in the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency and Green Berets recruited tribesmen to collect intelligence and disrupt enemy supply lines.

Chuh’s 71-year-old father, Tony Ngiu, assisted in this U.S. effort, but paid dearly later when he was sentenced to nine years in reeducation camps and hard labor by the victorious North. He was able to come to the U.S. in 1998 with much of his family, including Chuh, then a boy of about 13.

Like many Montagnards, he settled in North Carolina, which is also home to military installations used by the Green Berets, more formally known as U.S. Army Special Forces. But because Chuh was 18 by the time his father became a full citizen, he did not derive automatic citizenship himself.

“I am very, very sad,” Ngiu said. “I want them to send my son home so he can take care of his children.”

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Read Rogers’s much longer full article at the link.

It’s not surprising that this case arose in the oft-criticized Atlanta Immigration Court where due process is routinely subordinated to achieving high levels of rapid removals. Unfortunately, as Jason Dzubow pointed out in a blog on The Asylumist that I previously featured, “We are all in Atlanta now!”

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/07/20/in-immigration-circles-the-atlanta-court-is-known-as-where-due-process-goes-to-die-will-it-be-the-new-norm-the-asylumist-jason-dzubow-says-were-all-in-atlanta-now/

Additionally, the SPLC has documented that notwithstanding earlier complaints, EOIR has done little or nothing to stop the unprofessional conduct and anti-migrant bias demonstrated by some of the U.S. Immigration Judges at the Stewart, GA Immigration Court.

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/08/10/normalizing-the-absurd-while-eoir-touts-its-performance-as-part-of-trumps-removal-machine-disingenuously-equating-removals-with-rule-of-law-the-ongoing-assault-on-due-process-in-us-immig/

Indeed, it appears that the Trump-Sessions group actually likes the focus on assembly-line removals without much regard for fairness or due process that they have seen coming out of the Atlanta Court. After all, it produces high numbers of final orders of removal which, according to the latest EOIR press release, has replaced guaranteeing fairness and due process as the objective of the U.S. Immigration Courts. As Jason Dzubow noted in the above-linked blog, the Administration has rewarded those who have learned how due process is denied in Atlanta with key positions at DHS and EOIR.

And, training and continuing legal education for Immigration Judges was one of the earliest casualties of the “Sessions era” at the DOJ. If the message from on high is “move ’em all out asap” — preferably by in absentia hearings without any due process or in hearings conducted in detention with the migrants unrepresented — why would any judge need training in the law, due process, or preparing carefully constructed judicial opinions?

Harken back to the days of the Bush II Administration. After Ashcroft’s “purge of the BIA” and following 9-11, some Immigration Judges and Board Members assumed that it was “open season” on migrants. How many removal orders were being churned out and how fast they were being completed became more important that what was being done (or more properly, what corners were being cut) to produce the final orders.

As the work of the BIA and the Immigration Courts deteriorated and became sloppier and sloppier, and as the incidents of Immigration Judges’ being rude, belligerent, and generally unprofessional to the individuals and private attorneys coming before them mounted, the Article III Federal Courts pushed back. Published opinions began “blistering” the performance of individual Immigration Judges and BIA Members by name, some prominent Federal Judges on both the conservative and liberal sides of the equation began speaking out in the media, and the media and the internet featured almost daily stories of the breakdown of professionalism in the U.S. Immigration Courts. The Courts of Appeals also remanded BIA final orders, many of which summarily affirmed problematic Immigration Court rulings, by the droves, effectively bringing the Bush Administration’s “deportation express” to a grinding halt as the BIA was forced to further remand the cases to the Immigration Courts for “do-overs.”

Finally, it became too much for then Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Although Gonzalez will hardly go down in history as a notable champion of due process, he finally issued what was basically a “cease and desist order” to the BIA and the Immigration Judges. Unfortunately, rather than admitting the primary role of the DOJ and the Administration in the disaster, and changing some of the DOJ policies and procedures that contributed to the problem, Gonzalez effectively chose to blame the whole debacle on the Immigration Judges, including those who didn’t participate in the “round ’em up and move ’em out” spectacle spawned by Administration policies. Gonzalez ordered some reforms in professionalism, discipline, and training which had some shot term effects in improving due process, and particularly the results for asylum seekers, in Immigration Court.

But, by the present time, EOIR has basically returned to the “numbers over quality and due process” emphasis. The recent EOIR press release touting increased removals (not surprisingly grants of relief to migrants decreased at the same time) in response to the President’s immigration enforcement initiatives clearly shows this changed emphasis.

Also, as Rogers notes in his article, the BIA and some Immigration Judges often apply an “ahistorical” approach under which the lessons of history are routinely ignored. Minor, often cosmetic, changes such as meaningless or ineffective reforms in statutes and constitutions, appointment of ombudsmen, peace treaties, cease fires, and pledges to clean up corruption and human rights abuses (often issued largely to placate Western Governments and NGOs to keep the foreign aid money flowing) are viewed by the BIA and Immigration Judges as making immediate “material improvements” in country conditions in asylum cases, although the lessons of history and common sense say otherwise.

Sadly, the past appears to be prologue in the U.S. Immigration Courts. It’s past time for Congress to create and independent, Article I U.S. Immigration Court.

PWS

08-14-17

 

 

 

IN IMMIGRATION CIRCLES, THE ATLANTA COURT IS KNOWN AS “WHERE DUE PROCESS GOES TO DIE” –WILL IT BE THE “NEW NORM?” — The Asylumist, Jason Dzubow, Says “We’re All In Atlanta Now!”

We’re All in Atlanta Now
by JASON DZUBOW on JULY 19, 2017
Atlanta, Georgia is generally considered to have the most difficult Immigration Court in the country. Now, the Trump Administration has tapped attorneys from the Atlanta Office of the Chief Counsel (the “prosecutors” in Immigration Court) to take charge of the Immigration Courts and the “prosecutors” offices for the entire United States. A third Atlanta attorney has been appointed to a key policy-making position at the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

 

If you’re feeling down about Georgia exports, here’s something to love.
Before we get to those attorneys, let’s first talk about Atlanta. The average grant rate for asylum cases across the U.S. is just under 50%. The asylum grant rate at the Atlanta Immigration Court is less than 9%. Also, immigrant advocates have frequently complained about due process issues and the treatment of litigants in the Atlanta court.

It’s true that the Office of the Chief Counsel (“OCC”) and the Immigration Court are independent of each other, but I think we can safely glean a few things about the Atlanta OCC from what we know of the Court.

For one, since Immigration Judges will usually grant cases where the parties agree on relief, it seems likely that OCC attorneys in Atlanta rarely determine that a case should be approved for asylum. Of course, we do not know about the quality of the asylum cases in Atlanta—maybe they are unusually weak (a real possibility since sophisticated litigants will avoid Atlanta due to its low grant rate). But it would be strange indeed if almost no cases there meet the relatively low threshold required for asylum. The fact that the OCC is not stipulating to asylum on occasion indicates that they are taking a very hard line against such cases (this contrasts with many other jurisdictions, where the local OCCs regularly conclude that applicants qualify for asylum). The job of OCC attorneys is not merely to deport as many people as possible; they are supposed to do justice. This means agreeing to relief where it is appropriate. The low grant rate in Atlanta may indicate that OCC lawyers there are prioritizing “winning” over doing justice, and ideology above the law—all worrying signs as these attorneys move into national leadership positions.

Second, whether the asylum cases in Atlanta are strong or weak, I suspect that the high denial rate there colors the view of the OCC attorneys. If those attorneys believe that over 90% of asylum seekers are unworthy of relief—either because they do not meet the requirements for asylum or because they are lying about their claims—it seems likely that these attorneys will develop a jaundiced view of such cases, and maybe of immigrants in general.

Finally, there exists at least one instance of the Atlanta OCC taking an overly-aggressive position in a case involving alleged racial profiling by ICE (if OCC attorneys are the prosecutors, ICE officers are the police). In that case, an Immigration Judge in Atlanta ordered the OCC to produce an ICE agent accused of racial profiling. The OCC refused to produce the agent, and ultimately, the Judge ruled that the agents had engaged in “egregious” racial profiling and the OCC attorneys had committed “willful misconduct” by refusing to bring the agents to court. While the three OCC attorneys at issue here had left the Atlanta office by the time of this case, the OCC’s position again points to an agency willing to put “winning” ahead of justice.

With this background in mind, let’s turn to the alumnus of the Atlanta OCC who will be taking charge of our immigration system.

Tracy Short – ICE Principal Legal Advisor: Tracy Short is the new Principal Legal Advisor for ICE. In that capacity, he “oversees the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, the largest legal program within the Department of Homeland Security, comprised of more than 1,100 attorneys and 300 support professionals throughout the United States.” These are the attorneys who serve as “prosecutors” in Immigration Court, among their other tasks. According to his ICE biography, “From 2009 to 2015, Mr. Short served as the Deputy Chief Counsel in the ICE Atlanta Office of Chief Counsel.” Mr. Short also served on the committee staff for Congressman Bob Goodlatte, the staunch anti-immigration representative from Virginia.

While Mr. Short has impressive litigation experience, he has almost no management experience (as Deputy Chief Counsel, he might have supervised a few dozen people, at most). But now, under the Trump Administration, he is overseeing more than 1,400 lawyers and staff. Like his fellow veterans of the Atlanta OCC, I suspect he was chosen more for his ideological views than for his management background.

James McHenry – Acting Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”): In a move characterized as “unusual” by retired Immigration Judge and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt, the Attorney General has appointed James McHenry as the new Acting Director of EOIR, the office that oversees the nation’s immigration court system. Judge Schmidt notes that, “While Judge McHenry has stellar academic and professional credentials, and is an ‘EOIR vet,’ having served as a Judicial Law Clerk/Attorney Adviser in the Buffalo and Baltimore Immigration Courts, it is unusual in my experience for the acting head of EOIR to come from outside the ranks of current or former members of the Senior Executive Service, since it is a major executive job within the DOJ.” In other words, while Judge McHenry has had significant legal experience, he has very little leadership experience, especially at EOIR.

Indeed, Judge Schmidt’s characterization of Judge McHenry as an “EOIR vet” seems overly generous. He served as a Judicial Law Clerk, which is basically a one or two year gig for new law school graduates working as an assistant to Immigration Judges (I myself was a JLC back in the prediluvian era) and he has a few months experience as an Administrative Law Judge for the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, an office at EOIR that reviews certain employment cases involving immigrants.

Like Mr. Short, Judge McHenry worked for the Atlanta OCC. He served as an Assistant Chief Counsel for ICE in that office from 2005 to 2010.

Whether Judge McHenry’s “acting” role as Director of EOIR will become permanent, we do not know. But I agree with Judge Schmidt that it is highly unusual for a person with such limited management experience to be picked to head our country’s immigration court system, with hundreds of judges and support personnel to oversee.

Gene Hamilton – Counsel to DHS Secretary: Gene Hamilton was appointed as counsel to DHS Secretary John Kelly. Along with Stephen Miller, he was apparently a key architect of the Trump Administration’s travel ban against people from several majority-Muslim countries. He also served as a trial attorney at the Atlanta OCC in about 2014 and 2015, though I could not verify his length of service there. In addition, Mr. Hamilton served on the staff of Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions before he was appointed Attorney General. Mr. Sessions, of course, is well known for his regressive views on immigration, civil rights, and just about everything else.

So there you have it. Three veterans of the Atlanta OCC who together will be exercising significant control over our country’s immigration system. Given their backgrounds and experience (or lack thereof), it’s difficult to be optimistic about how that system will fare under their watch.

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

Somewhat predictable for an Administration that has little or no regard for Constitutional Due Process. That’s why folks need to join the “New Due Process Army” and carry on the fight until better times arrive (and they eventually will)!

As always, thanks to Jason for his incisive analysis!

PWS

07-20-17

 

 

THE ASYLUMIST: Jason Dzubow Wins Key “Firm Resettlement” Case — Wonders Why BIA Won’t Publish When Failing System Cries Out For More Consistency!

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/06/22/the-bia-on-firm-resettlement-2/

“Ultimately, the BIA accepted one of several arguments we presented. The Board held:

The intent of the firm resettlement bar is to disqualify asylum applicants who have previously found another country of refuge, not another country in which he or she faces a danger of persecution…. Given respondent’s situation with regard to [the third country], we conclude that, even assuming she otherwise would be viewed as having firmly resettled in that country, she is not barred from asylum.

Id. (emphasis in original). Thus, the Board went beyond the analysis of Matter of A-G-G- and looked to the intent of the firm resettlement bar. The intent, the BIA says, was only to bar “aliens who had already found shelter and begun new lives in other countries.” Id. (emphasis in original) (citing Rosenberg v. Yee Chien Woo, 402 U.S. 49, 56 (1971)).

It seems to me that the Board’s emphasis on the intent of the bar is significant. If you only read the firm resettlement bar (INA § 208(b)(1)(B)(2)(vi)) and Matter of A-G-G-, you could reasonably conclude–like the DHS attorney and the IJ in my case–that once a person is firmly resettled, she is forever barred from asylum. But that is not the conclusion the Board has now reached.

I am glad for the result and for my clients, but I am disappointed that the BIA chose not to publish this decision. The issue that my clients faced–where the country of resettlement is unsafe–is not uncommon. A number of my clients have faced similar situations, and I suspect that they are not unique. A published decision would have helped clarify matters and provided better guidance to our country’s Immigration Judges.

Maybe I am asking for too much. Maybe I should just be happy with what we got. Maybe I am being a big jerk for looking this gift horse in the mouth. But I can’t help but think that if the BIA would publish more decisions–especially in cases where there is no existing precedent–our Immigration Court system would be more consistent and more efficient. And so while I am thankful that we received a good decision from the Board in this particular case, I am also thinking about how much more good the Board could do if it made a concerted effort to fulfill its role as “the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws,” and if it would publish more cases.”

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

I agree, Jason. As you know from our Asylumist interviews last summer, there was a time when the BIA published more cases. It was during the era of the “Schmidt Board.”

Many of the precedents involved controversial issues of first impression under IIRIRA. There was open dialogue with some separate opinions. Sometimes, the dissent better predicted the future development of the law than the majority opinion. Most were en banc, so every Board Appellate Judge had to take a public vote. And, some of them actually granted relief to the respondent.

But those days are long gone. Today’s Board exists 1) to push cases through the system to final orders of removal on more or less of an assembly line, 2) not to rock the boat, 3) to provide OIL with ways to defend the Government’s “party line” under Chevron, and 4) to preserve the institution and the jobs of the Appellate Judges.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention anything about due process, fairness, best practices, consistency, law development, informative dialogue, justice, or even practicality.  And, Jason, let’s face it. Who would want to publish a decision favorable to a respondent with Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions — a guy who basically never has a kind, humane, or generous word to say about any migrant, legal or not — as your boss?

In a functioning system, an appellate court that stood for fairness, due process, and best practices could be part of the solution. But, our current U.S. Immigration Court system is dysfunctional. And, mostly, the Board is just another part of the problem. Basically, if you don’t stand up for anything or anybody, you stand for nothing.

PWS

06-28-17

THE ASYLUMIST: The Importance Of Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect & Collegiality In Immigration Court

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/06/08/us-versus-them-in-immigration-court/#comments

Jason Dzubow writes in The Asylumist:

“Unlike perhaps some areas of law, immigration law has a strong ideological component. Many of the attorneys who represent immigrants do so because they believe in human rights and they want to keep families together. For such attorneys—and I include myself among them—our work represents an expression of our moral and/or religious values. In other words, it’s more than just a job; it’s a mission.

Does this make it harder for us to work cooperatively with opposing counsel (DHS)? Is it more urgent that we do so? For me, the answer to both these questions is yes. When our clients’ lives and futures are on the line, it can be very difficult to maintain a cordial relationship with a government attorney who is fighting to have that client deported. But even in the hardest-fought case, there is value in maintaining lines of communication. For example, even where the DHS attorney will not compromise and is fighting all-out for removal, there still exists the possibility of stipulating to evidence and witnesses, and of a post-order stay of removal. Severing the connection does not serve the client (though it may satisfy the ego), and certainly won’t help future clients, and so to me, there is little value in burning bridges, even when I believe DHS’s position is unjust.

All that said, there is no doubt that we will often disagree with our opposing counsel, and that we will fight as hard as we can for our clients. This is also a duty under the Rules of Professional Conduct (zealous advocacy), and for many of us, it is an expression of our deeply held belief in Justice.

With the ascension of the Trump Administration, and its more aggressive approach towards non-citizens, I believe it is more important than ever for us lawyers to keep good relationships with our DHS counterparts. While some government attorneys are glad to be “unleashed” and to step-up deportation efforts, many others are uncomfortable with the Administration’s scorched-Earth strategy. These DHS attorneys (and I suspect they are the majority) take seriously their obligation to do justice; not simply to remove everyone that ICE can get their hands on.

While the environment has become more difficult, I plan to continue my Old School approach. It works for me, it has worked for my clients, and I think it is particularly crucial in the current atmosphere. We lawyers–the immigration bar and DHS–should continue to lead by example, and continue to maintain the high ethical standards that our profession sets for us. In this way, we can help serve as a counter-balance to our country’s leaders, whose divisive, ends-justify-the-means approach has no use for the basic principles of morality or comity that have long served our profession and our democracy.”

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

Read Jason’s complete blog at the link.

This is terrific advice for lawyers and judges, particularly those just starting out.

Fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect and teamwork are the things I have tried to promote throughout my career. I found all of them at the Arlington Immigration Court. “No way” I would have lasted 13 years on the trial bench  without lots of help and cooperation from the whole “court team.”

PWS

06-14-17

 

Georgetown Law Journal Of National Security Law & Policy Announces Annual Symposium: The Border and Beyond: The National Security Implications Of Migration Refugees And Asylum Under U.S. And International Law, Feb. 28, 2017 — Elisa Massimino Of Human Rights First To Be Keynote Speaker — See Agenda And Register (Free) Here!

Share this:
Please Save the Date for the Journal of National Security Law & Policy annual symposium!
This year’s symposium is The Border and Beyond: The National Security Implications of Migration, Refugees, and Asylum under U.S. and International Law.
Please join us on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at Georgetown Law.
In addition to the following three panels, the symposium will also feature a lunchtime keynote speech by Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, one of the nation’s preeminent human rights advocacy organizations.
Panel 1: Immigration, Homeland Security, and the Constitution (9:05 – 10:30 AM)
Panelists will engage in debate on various constitutional issues, such as the separation of powers and the protection of civil liberties, in the context of recent events in the U.S. in which both migration and national security have been implicated.
Panelists:
Jen Daskal, Professor of Criminal, National Security, and Constitutional Law at American University Washington College of Law; former Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice
Lucas Guttentag, Professor of the Practice of Law at Stanford Law School; Founder and former National Director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
Marty Lederman, Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University Law Center; former Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice’s Office Legal Counsel
Moderator: William Banks, Professor of Law and Founder of Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, Syracuse University College of Law

Panel 2: The U.S. Refugee and Asylum Legal Regime (10:35 AM – 12:00 PM)
Panelists will explore the current status of U.S. asylum and refugee laws and how the screening processes factor into national concerns. The panel will also discuss the Trump administration’s recent executive orders relating to border security and refugee policy in the U.S.
Panelists:
Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS, the oldest international migration and refugee resettlement agency in the U.S.
Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration; Former Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy for the International Rescue Committee
Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at University of Maryland-College Park
Moderator: Jason Dzubow, Partner at Dzubow & Pilcher, PLLC; Adjunct Professor of Asylum Law at George Washington University Law School
Luncheon and Keynote Address by Elisa Massamino (12:30 pm – 1:05 pm)
Panel 3: Migration and Security Threats Abroad (1:15 PM – 2:40 PM)
Panelists will discuss the security implications of the refugee crisis in Europe and the potential legal obligations that the U.S. might have under international law to assist its allies in handling the situation.
Panelists:
Bec Hamilton, Professor of National Security, International, and Criminal Law at American University Washington College of Law
Karin Johnston, Professor of International Politics at the American University School of International Service
A. Trevor Thrall, Senior Fellow for the Cato Institute’s Defense and Foreign Policy Department; Associate Professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government
Mark Iozzi, Democratic Counsel at the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Moderator: David Stewart, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

A reception will follow the event.

Please RSVP for the symposium here.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSclFTIhYVbMzFNC5BHRIuTWrGgBNte_dVzmzcSe4vL5i59i1w/viewform

Thank you!
– The 2017 JNSLP Symposium Team

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Looks like a great program! And, with free lunch (just for you, Judge Larry Burman) and a free reception thrown in, what’s not to like about that!

Some of you might have seen Elisa Massimino on TV as she and Ashton Kutcher testified on human trafficking before a Senate Committee on Wednesday. These are all-star panels with my good friends Professor David Stewart and Adjunct Professor, blogger, and immigration practitioner Jason “The Asylumist” Dzubow serving as panel moderators.

See you there!

PWS

02/16/17

Read The Winter 2017 Edition Of “The Green Card” From The FBA — Includes My Article “Immigration Courts — Reclaiming the Vision” (P. 15) & “The Asylumist” Jason Dzubow’s Reprise Of The “Schmidt Interviews” (See “Immigration Rant,” P. 2)!

Green Card Winter 2017 Final

Here are some excerpts:

“Our Immigration Courts are going through an existential crisis that threatens the very foundations of our American Justice System. I have often spoken about my dismay that the noble due process vision of our Immigration Courts has been derailed. What can be done to get it back on track?

First, and foremost, the Immigration Courts must return to the focus on due process as the one and only mission. The improper use of our due process court system by political officials to advance enforcement priorities and/or send “don’t come” messages to asylum seekers, which are highly ineffective in any event, must end. That’s unlikely to happen under the DOJ—as proved by over three decades of history, particularly recent history. It will take some type of independent court. I think that an Article I Immigration Court, which has been supported by groups such as the ABA and the FBA, would be best.

Clearly, the due process focus has been lost when officials outside EOIR have forced ill-advised “prioritization” and attempts to “expedite” the cases of frightened women and children from the Northern Triangle who require lawyers to gain the protection that most of them need and deserve. Putting these cases in front of other pending cases is not only unfair to all, but has created what I call “aimless docket reshuffling” that has thrown our system into chaos.

Evidently, the idea of the prioritization was to remove most of those recently crossing the border to seek protection, thereby sending a “don’t come, we don’t want you” message to asylum seekers. But, as a deterrent, this program has been spectacularly unsuccessful. Not surprisingly to me, individuals fleeing for their lives from the Northern Triangle have continued to seek refuge in the United States in large numbers. Immigration Court backlogs have continued to grow across the board, notwithstanding an actual reduction in overall case receipts and an increase in the number of authorized Immigration Judges.”

Another one:

Former BIA Chairman Paul W. Schmidt on His Career, the Board, and the Purge

“Paul Wickham Schmidt served as Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) from 1995 to 2001. He was a Board Member of the BIA from 2001 to 2003, and served as an Immigration Judge in Arlington, Virginia from 2003 until his retirement earlier this year. He also worked in private practice and held other senior positions in government, including Deputy General Counsel and Acting General Counsel at INS. The Asylumist caught up with Judge Schmidt in Maine, where he has been enjoying his retirement, and talked to him about his career, the BIA, and the “purge” of 2003.”

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Read the complete articles plus lots of other “great stuff” both practical and more philosophical at the above link.

And, for all of you “aspiring writers” out there, Green Card Editor and my good friend and former colleague from the U.S. Immigration Court In Arlington, VA, Hon. Lawrence Owen “Larry” Burman, and the Publications Director, Dr. Alicia Triche, are always looking for “new talent” and interesting articles. Instructions on how to submit manuscripts are on page one.

PWS

02/01/17

 

Looking Back At The Refugee Ball — The REAL America Celebrates What Makes America REALLY GREAT!

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/01/19/the-refugee-ball-post-game-report-why-it-matters/

Jason Dzubow (“The Asylumist”) who got the idea and made it happen (see what can be accomplished when one person energizes the many) writes:

“For me, though, the most important message of the Ball was that of the courage and perseverance displayed by the refugees and asylum seekers who I saw there. Many of the people who participated in the event were themselves victims of terrible torture and persecution. But there they were at the Ball–singing and dancing, giving speeches, making art and food for us to enjoy. Each of them provides an example of how the human spirit can survive extreme adversity and go on to create beauty, and of how life can triumph over death. I can’t help but be inspired by their examples.

So while we really do not know what to expect in the days and months ahead, we can draw strength from each other, and from the examples set by the refugees and asylum seekers themselves, who have endured great hardships, but who still have hope that America will live up to the high ideals that we have set for ourselves.

To those who participated in, supported, and attended the Refugee Ball, Thank you. Thank you for contributing your time, talent, energy, and money to supporting the cause of refugees and asylum seekers. Thank you for inspiring me, and for reminding me of why I work as an asylum attorney. I feel optimistic knowing that we are united in our goal of welcoming the stranger, and that we are all in this together to support each other.”

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Celebrate the real America and what makes us really great, every day!

Due process forever!

PWS

01/21/17

Another Installment In The Schmidt Making America Really Great Series: “Refugees And Due Process Make America Really Great” — Read My Speech From Last Night’s “Refugee Ball”

REFUGEES AND DUE PROCESS MAKE AMERICA REALLY GREAT

 

Remarks by Paul Wickham Schmidt,

Retired United States Immigration Judge

 

The Refugee Ball

 

Sixth & I Synagogue 600 I Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 from 5:00 to 9:00 PM

 

Good evening, everyone. I’m honored to be here. Lets have a big round of applause for Jason Dzubow and his staff for coming up with the idea and putting this together!

As you can probably tell, it was a battle getting into my “Jones Day Spring Prom Era Tux” tonight. As I walked out the door, my wife Cathy said: “Are you actually going to be able to breathe, let alone speak, in that thing?”

As a “regular” at the Arlington Immigration Court, Jason obviously is quite familiar with my habits. I noted that on the advance program he took the extreme precaution of not only putting me in a “10-minute slot” near the end of the program, but also adding in parentheses in big bold letters “10 minutes max.” So, I get the picture, Jason. I’m going to briefly address two things that make America great: refugees and due process.

I’m pleased to back in the old ‘hood, although it’s hard to recognize. For about twelve years in the 1970s and 1980s I worked in the General Counsel’s Office of the “Legacy INS” in the famous Chester Arthur Building – the only monument in Washington to our great 21st President –at 425 Eye St., NW, just down the street. And, one of my most memorable accomplishments during that time was being part of the “team” that helped the Refugee Act of 1980 become law. It was a chance to make a positive difference in America’s future, indeed in the world’s future, while coming into contact with some of the finest intellects in the business: David Martin, Alex Aleinikoff, Doris Meissner, the late Jerry Tinker, and the late Jack Perkins come immediately to mind. So, I have what you might call a “vested interest” in U.S. refugee and asylum system.

I worked with refugees and their cases almost every workday for more than 21 years during my tenure as a trial and appellate judge with the United States Immigration Courts. And, I’ll admit that on many of my “off days” the challenges, stories, human drama, triumph, and trauma of refugees and refugee law bounced around in my head, much to the dismay of my wonderful wife, Cathy.

Although I have the greatest respect and admiration for the inspiring life stories of refugees and their contributions to the United States, I have never, for even one second, wanted to be a refugee. Like all of the speakers tonight, I see refugees as a huge asset to our country. It says something about us as a nation that so many great people from all over the world want to make this their home and to contribute their talents, some of which were on display here tonight, to the greatness of America. So, to all of you out there who came as refugees or asylees, thank you for coming, for your service, and for your dedication to making our great country even greater.

The other topic I want to address briefly, that is near and dear to me personally, is the overriding importance of due process in our refugee and asylum system. Each of you who came as a refugee or asylee is here because an adjudicator at some level of our system carefully and fairly gave you a chance to state your claim, listened to and reviewed the support you provided for your claim, and made a favorable decision in your case.

For some of you, that decision was made by a DHS Refugee Officer or an Asylum Officer. Others of you had to rely on different levels of our system – a U.S. Immigration Judge, the Board of Immigration Appeals, or in some cases, a U.S. Court of Appeals to have your status granted. In all of these instances you received something very precious under our Constitution: due process of law.

Unfortunately, there currently is a “due process crisis” in our overloaded Immigration Court System.   With over one-half million pending cases and waiting times of many years in some courts for final hearings to be held, our Immigration Court System is under intense pressure.

Sometimes, that results in approaches that generally have a favorable impact for individuals seeking protection.   For example, grants of Temporary Protected Status and work authorization take many cases off the Immigration Court docket and legislation such as NACARA for Central Americans or HIRIFA for Haitians permanently resolves many cases favorably at the DHS without requiring a full-blown asylum hearing before an U.S. Immigration Judge.

But, when backlogs build up and enforcement pressures mount on our Government, less benign approaches and suggestions sometimes come to the fore. Adjudicators can be pressured to do counterproductive things like decide more cases in less time, limit evidence to shorten hearings, and make “blanket denials” based on supposed improvements in country conditions.

Other times, placing more individuals in civil immigration detention is looked at as a way of both expediting case processing and actively discouraging individuals from coming to the United States and making claims for refuge under our laws in the first place. Or, moving cases though the system so quickly that applicants can’t find pro bono lawyers to represent them is sometimes incorrectly viewed as an acceptable method for shortening adjudication times, thereby reducing backlogs.

Another method far too often used for discouraging asylum claims and inhibiting due process is placing asylum applicants in DHS Detention Centers, often privately operated, with “imbedded” Immigration Courts in obscure out of the way locations like Dilley, Texas and Lumpkin, Georgia where access to pro bono attorneys, family members, and other sources of support is severely limited or nonexistent.

When these things happen, due process suffers. So, while I’m always hoping for the best, it is critical for all of us in this room to zealously protect the due process rights of all migrants and insist on full due process being maintained, and, ideally, even enhanced. This includes both supporting individuals in the system by helping them obtain effective legal representation and, where appropriate, vigorously asserting the due process rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrants in the Article III Federal Courts.

Only by insisting on due process for those already in the system will we be able to insure a fair and effective system for future refugees. And, welcoming and fairly treating future refugees is a key to making and keeping America great.

So, that’s my message: due process can’t be taken for granted! It must be nurtured, protected, expanded, and vigorously and proudly asserted! Thanks for listening, good luck, do great things, and due process forever!

(Rev. 01/18/17)

 

 

 

 

First “Refugee Ball” To Be Held In DC on January 17, 2017!

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/01/06/the-refugee-ball-why-we-celebrate/

“Here, though, I want to talk about what we are celebrating, and why. The “reason for the season,” as it were. The Ball takes place a day after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Dr. King famously said, the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Of course, the arc does not bend by itself. People have to work hard to push it in the right direction.

One purpose of the Ball is to celebrate the people who help bend the arc by assisting refugees and asylum seekers: Lawyers, doctors, social workers, activists, students, and advocates.

But more than those of us who are helping refugees and asylum seekers, the purpose of the Ball is to celebrate the refugees and asylum seekers themselves; people who have worked and sacrificed and struggled for justice. Attending the Ball will be activists for democracy and peace and women’s rights, journalists who have stood up for free speech against tyrants, advocates for gay and lesbian rights, members of religious minorities who have risked their lives for their faith, members of oppressed ethnic minorities and oppressed nationalities, interpreters and aid workers who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our own country’s soldiers and diplomats in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. These people—asylum seekers and refugees—have risked their careers, their property, and their lives in order to help bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”

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For complete information on the Refugee Ball and how you can  attend and support it, go over to The Asylumist on the above link.

PWS

01/07/17

Post Editorial Decries GOP’s Unprovoked Attack On Civil Service Merit System!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-resurrected-house-rule-threatens-open-season-on-the-civil-service/2017/01/06/89881132-d448-11e6-a783-cd3fa950f2fd_story.html?utm_term=.a8262ed56f2c

“The move follows efforts by President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to identify employees in the Energy Department who work on climate change and jobs in the State Department devoted to gay and women’s rights. The combination of events underscores the inherent danger. Competence and performance — not adherence to ideology — should be the basis for federal employment. That is why the civil service replaced the system of political spoils.

If members of Congress don’t like particular programs — Mr. Griffith is apparently peeved by a federal program that pays for the care of wild horses on federal land in the West — they can choose not to appropriate funds to implement them. If they want to change civil-service rules to target poor performance or reward good work, they have that power too. If they are incapable of properly exercising these constitutional authorities, maybe it is their salaries that should be slashed to $1.”

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In the previous blog posting, http://wp.me/p8eeJm-5v Jason Dzubow (“The Asylumist”) noted the falling morale and apprehension among civil servants involved in immigration enforcement and adjudication. He urged them to  to remain at their posts and continue working for the ideals of fair and competent administration of some very difficult laws and overall “good government.”

But, as noted here and in my previous blog, http://wp.me/p8eeJm-4O these could be challenging times for the dedicated public servants whose hard work keeps our immigration system afloat and our Government functioning, in light of the unbridled hostility toward our own Government shown by the GOP at both the Congressional and Administration levels.

I agree with Jason.  I hope that the numerous great folks that I came in contact with during my many years of public service “hang in there” and continue to strive to “do the right thing” every day.  But, that’s easy for me to say from my current vantage point as a retiree.  It’s much harder for those who are actually trying to get the job done with neither support nor appreciation from those who should be most grateful.

As an Immigration Judge at both the trial and appellate levels, I was often struck with how the fundamental difference between the countries people were fleeing and the United States was honest, reliable government committed to the common good.  In most repressive countries, the government at all levels was staffed by political cronies or supporters of the ruler who viewed their government positions as a license to extort, steal, abuse, and even sometimes kill, those “on the outs” with the powers the be.  Many applicants were skeptical of all governments, including our own.  The concept that government officials would treat them fairly and listen to their claims with an open mind, rather than just seeking to carry out a political or personal agenda, simply wasn’t in their sphere of experience.

The Federal Civil Service isn’t perfect.  It can and should be improved.  But, it remains one of the “crown jewels” of our democratic republic.  The hostility of some of those who comprise the political arms of our government to the concept and operation of a merit-based, nonpartisan, nonpolitical Civil Service should be of deep concern to all of us.

PWS

01/07/16