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.”

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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!

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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

 

The Asylumist (Jason Dzubow) Urges Public Servants In Immigration Enforcement And Adjudication To “Stay” — “You Are Exactly The Type of Person We Need!”

In his “Open Letter” to Feds, Dzubow writes:

“In speaking to some DOJ and DHS attorneys and officers since the recent election, I have seen a certain level of demoralization. Some people have expressed to me their desire to leave government service. While these individuals respect and follow the law–even when the results are harsh–they are not ideological. They do not hate immigrants (or non-white people, or Muslims) and they do not want to enable or contribute to a system that they fear will become overtly hostile to immigrants that President Trump considers undesirable. I suppose if I have one word of advice for such people, it is this: Stay.

If you are a government attorney or officer and you are thinking of leaving because you fear an overtly ideological Administration, you are exactly the type of person that we need to stay. As has often been the case in recent decades, an honest, competent bureaucracy is the bulwark against our sometimes extremist politics.

It’s likely that if you are a government employee who is sympathetic to non-citizens, your job will get more difficult, the atmosphere may become more hostile. It will be harder to “do the right thing” as you see it. Opportunities for promotions may become more limited. Nevertheless, I urge you to stay. We need you to help uphold the law and ensure due process for non-citizens and their families. To a large extent, our immigration system is as good or as bad as the people who administer the law. We need the good ones to stay.”

http://www.asylumist.com/2016/12/22/an-open-letter-to-my-friends-at-dhs-and-doj/

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I blogged yesterday about the outrageous attack on the Civil Service System and career public servants by the House GOP:

http://wp.me/p8eeJm-4O

As noted by Jason, one of those urging such cowardly attacks on the fabric of our Government and those who keep it running is Newt Gingrich.  Interestingly, while in Congress, Gingrich was censored by his colleagues for ethics abuses while on the public payroll.

PWS

01/06/17