“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.
“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.
“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.
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.”
“Five years ago this week, when I was secretary of Homeland Security, we began accepting the first Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications from “dreamers” who had been brought to this country without documentation when they were children. I will never forget that day: Tens of thousands of some of the best and brightest young people in our country applied to the program and celebrated their ability to live, work and learn in the only nation most of them had ever known.
Since that time, nearly 800,000 dreamers have gone through the rigorous application process and received DACA’s protections against deportation, including more than 100,000 who have had their applications renewed by the Trump administration.
Today, however, our nation’s dreamers face an uncertain future. Ten Republican state attorneys general are threatening to sue President Trump if he does not repeal DACA by Sept. 5. Worse, it seems unlikely that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will defend the program. During his Senate confirmation hearing, he said it “would certainly be constitutional” to eliminate DACA.
. . . .
Five years ago when DACA was established, I said, “Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner, but they are not designed to be blindly enforced. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language.” For the past five years, these young dreamers have proven that, when given the opportunity to contribute, they exceed expectations. It is time to unlock the full potential of these exceptional young people by making these protections permanent.”
The “War on America’s Youth” being conducted by state GOP Attorneys General, and basically being encouraged by our white Nationalist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is unconscionable, not to mention dumb.
PRESIDENT TRUMP vowed to deport “bad hombres” — undocumented immigrants with criminal records whose presence in this country is an unquestioned burden and menace. Instead, his administration has been content to seize and expel a teenage soccer star and his brother in suburban Maryland; a mother of three in Michigan who had spent 20 years in the United States; and, now in detention pending removal, a 43-year-old janitor at MIT whose three small children are U.S. citizens and whose mother, a permanent resident, planned to sponsor him for a green card next year.
None of them had criminal records. Both the Michigan mother and the MIT janitor ran their own businesses, paying taxes and contributing to the economy. All had active, honorable lives deeply entwined with their communities. Deporting them is not only inhumane but also senseless.
So why do it? Possibly, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is simply plucking the low-hanging fruit that crosses agents’ path. Possibly, the agency is trying to please the boss in the Oval Office by juicing deportation numbers with the easiest targets of opportunity.”
Read the full editorial at the link.
Irrational enforcement against the most vulnerable makes weak leaders and bullies feel a false sense of strength, empowerment, and “being in charge.”
Read this eye opener from Maria Sacchetti in the Washington Post about how the Administration manipulates data to leave a false impression of effective law enforcement.
“By Maria Sacchetti August 10 at 9:43 PM
President Trump has vowed to swiftly deport “bad hombres” from the United States, but the latest deportation statistics show that slightly fewer criminals were expelled in June than when he took office.
In January, federal immigration officials deported 9,913 criminals. After a slight uptick under Trump, expulsions sank to 9,600 criminals in June.
Mostly deportations have remained lower than in past years under the Obama administration. From January to June, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 61,370 criminals, down from 70,603 during the same period last year.
During the election, Trump vowed to target criminals for deportation and warned that they were “going out fast.” Later, he suggested he would try to find a solution for the “terrific people” who never committed any crimes, and would first deport 2 million to 3 million criminals.
But analysts say he is unlikely to hit those targets. Since January, immigration officials have deported more than 105,000 immigrants, 42 percent of whom had never committed any crime.
Last year, a total of 121,170 people were deported during the same period, and a similar percentage had no criminal records.
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John Sandweg, the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said part of the reason for the decline is that illegal border crossings have plunged since Trump took office pledging to build a “big, beautiful” wall and crack down on illegal immigration. Immigrants caught at the border accounted for a significant share of deportations under the Obama administration.
Another factor, however, is that immigration officials are arresting more people who never committed any crime — some 4,100 immigrants in June, more than double the number in January — clogging the already backlogged immigration courts and making it harder to focus on criminals.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement released the deportation figures, which the Post had requested, late Thursday, two days after the Justice Department announced that immigration courts ordered 57,069 people to leave the United States from February to July, a nearly 31 percent increase over the previous year.
However, Justice officials have not said how many of the immigrants ordered deported were actually in custody — or if their whereabouts are even known. Every year scores of immigrants are ordered deported in absentia, meaning they did not attend their hearings and could not immediately be deported.
The deportation figures come as the Trump administration is fighting with dozens of state and local officials nationwide over their refusal to help deport immigrants, and as the administration is attempting to reduce legal and illegal immigration.”
It appears that many of the increased removal orders touted by DOJ/EOIR earlier this week might have been “in absentia” orders, issued without full due process hearings and all too often based on incorrect addresses or defective notices. Some of those orders turn out to be unenforceable. Many others require hearings to be reopened once the defects in notice or reasons for failure to appear are documented. But, since there wild inconsistencies among U.S. Immigration Judges in reopening in absentia cases, “jacking up” in absentia orders inevitably produces arbitrary justice.
The article also indicates that the Administration’s mindless overloading of already overwhelmed U.S. Immigration Courts with cases of non-criminal migrants has actually inhibited the courts’ ability to concentrate on criminals.
Taxpayer money is being squandered on “dumb” enforcement and a “captive court system” that no longer functions as a provider of fairness, due process, and justice. How long will legislators and Article III judges continue to be complicit in this facade of justice?
Maria Sacchetti reports in the Washington Post:
“Federal immigration courts ordered 57,069 people to leave the United States in the first six months of the Trump administration, up nearly 31 percent over the same period last year, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
Additionally, 16,058 people prevailed in their immigration cases, or had them closed, allowing them to stay in the United States, according to the data, which tallied orders issued from Feb. 1 to July 31. That total marked a 20.7 percent drop from the 20,255 immigrants who prevailed at the same time last year.
In a news release, the Justice Department said the notoriously backlogged court system is making a return to the “rule of law” under President Trump, who has vowed to speed deportations. But officials did not say how many of the orders were issued in absentia, meaning to immigrants who did not attend their hearings and therefore could not immediately be deported.
The Washington Post reported last week that thousands of immigrants, some seeking protection from violence in their homelands, have missed their court dates in recent years, often because they did not know about them or were afraid to show up. Advocates for immigrants have also raised concern about the lack of legal aid for immigrants, especially for those in immigration jails.
Last month, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges said courts are severely understaffed, with about 300 immigration judges juggling a quickly rising caseload. An estimated 600,000 cases are pending nationwide.
Unlike the traditional federal court system, which is independent of the executive branch of government, immigration courts are administered by the Justice Department.
That agency said that from Feb. 1 to July 31, judges issued 73,127 final immigration decisions, an increase of 14.5 percent over the same period in 2016.
Of those decisions, 49,983 were deportation orders, an increase of nearly 28 percent from the same period in 2016. The rest were orders to leave the United States voluntarily, a process by which immigrants generally face fewer barriers if they wish to apply to return to the United States in the future.
Federal officials attributed the increase in case completions to Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order dispatching more than 100 immigration judges to immigration jails across the country. More than 90 percent of cases heard in jails have led to orders to leave the United States. The department has also hired 54 new judges to work in immigration courts since Trump took office. More are being hired every month.
Dana Leigh Marks, an immigration judge based in San Francisco who heads the national association, wrote in Newsday last month that immigration courts should be separated from the Justice Department to ensure “judicial independence and protection from political influences.”
“More skilled court management, provided by experienced court administrators, rather than a law enforcement agency with priorities other than fairness and efficiency, would greatly enhance our ability to complete the tasks,” she wrote. “For example, cases would not be docketed to make political statements or serve as a show of force by the U.S. government.”
Due Process Disaster Is Brewing In The U.S. Immigration Courts — Is Anybody Paying Attention?
by Paul Wickham Schmidt
U.S. Immigration Judge (Retired)
Meanwhile, according to CQ Roll Call, arrests of undocumented individuals at the Southern Border rose 13.1% in July, the second consecutive monthly increase. Overall, DHS’s CBP reports arresting more family units and fewer unaccompanied children during the first 10 months of FY 2017.
While CBP “fobs off” the increases as “seasonal,” they do cast some doubt on whether the Trump Administration’s “send ’em all back asap” enforcement approach is really going to decrease undocumented migration in the long run. It might simply be a case of professional human smuggling operations revising their methods and raising their prices to adjust to higher risk factors and the “market” taking time to adjust to the changing practices and price increases. Moreover, to date, neither increases in removal orders, some as noted by Horwitz undoubtedly “in absentia orders” issued without full due process protections, nor increases in the number of U.S. Immigration Judges has stopped the growth of the backlog of cases before the U.S. Immigration Courts, currently estimated at more than 610,000 pending cases!
Apparently, under the Trump/Sessions regime success in the U.S. Immigration Court System is no longer measured by improvements in due process and fairness or by insuring that the individuals coming before the court get the protections and relief to which they are entitled under the law. Nope! The “rule of law” in Immigration Court now appears synonymous with turning that Court System into a “deportation mill” — just another whistle stop on the “deportation express.”
In other words, we’ve now come “full circle” since 1983. Then, EOIR was created to get the Immigration Courts out of INS to enhance due process and overcome a public perception that the courts were merely functioning as adjuncts of INS enforcement. The U.S. Immigration Courts and EOIR essentially have been “recaptured” by DHS enforcement.
EOIR has once again become an insulated “inbred” agency. Judicial appointments are made by DOJ politicos almost exclusively from the ranks of government attorneys, primarily DHS and DOJ prosecutors, just like when the “Legacy INS” ran the courts. Dockets are out of control, management is haphazard, technology is outdated and inadequate, and clerical staffing shortages are chronic. Staffing and docketing priorities are designed to accommodate enforcement priorities and to maximize removals, rather than to promote due process and fairness. Training and attention to the real “rule of law” are afterthoughts. Public service is a dirty word.
Morale among those at EOIR who care about the due process judicial mission has been steadily declining even as already sky-high stress levels continue to ratchet up. Numbers and removals have replaced fairness, professionalism, and unbiased decision making as objectives.
There are rumors that the Immigration Courts are going to be taken out of the DOJ and “reintegrated” into DHS to reflect their “true function” as part of the deportation mechanism. I think it’s unlikely unless Sessions becomes the new Secretary of DHS. But, really, what difference would it make? Sessions basically “reassumed” the immigration enforcement functions that once were in the Attorney General’s portfolio but were sent over to DHS when it was created after 9-11. Kelly merely signed off and nodded agreement to what Sessions told him to do.
A move by the DOJ apparently is afoot to revamp the judicial “evaluation system” to rate Immigration Judges more like “lower level DOJ attorneys” rather than judicial officials exercising independent judgment. Such bureaucratic ratings systems often elevate “productivity” above quality, value “following agency priorities” over exercising independent judgment, and serve to give the politicos at the DOJ more control and leverage over the day to day functioning of what is supposed to be a judiciary free from political influence or intimidation. Moreover, such ratings are often prepared by “supervisory judges” many of whom hear no cases and most of whom have little daily contact with the Immigration Judges they nominally “supervise.” In a well-functioning judicial system, the local “Chief Judge” is a leader and problem solver, not a “supervisor” of her or his peers.
At this point, the Trump Administration clearly has no interest in fixing the festering problems in the U.S. Immigration Courts; they are determined to make things worse. While there is some bipartisan support in Congress for an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court, to date it hasn’t coalesced into any specific, politically viable legislation.
That basically leaves it to the Article III Federal Courts to decide whether or not to fix the Immigration Courts. One possibility is that they will decide that it is too much: just forget due process for foreign nationals, rubber stamp the removal orders, stay above the fray, and become another “whistle stop on the deportation express.”
A more optimistic possibility is that they will draw the line on the due process nightmare in the U.S. Immigration Courts being promoted by the Administration. But, that will make the Article III Courts a major “track block” on the deportation express. The trains will derail and pile up on the doorstep, and the Article III Courts can count on little if any help or resources from Congress in untangling the mess and getting things back on track. Understandably, from a practical if not a legal point of view, some Article III Judges aren’t going to want to go there.
One thing is certain — things can’t continue they way they are going now. Something has got to give! And, when it does, the Article III Courts will be forced to do some self-examination and decide whether they are going to be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Are life-tenured Article III judgeships in essence about securing life sinecures, or about taking a perhaps unpopular and labor intensive stand for Constitutional Due Process for all, even the weakest and most vulnerable among us? We’ll soon find out!
Good morning! Happy recess.
Thought you might find a couple stories of mine that we published this morning interesting.
As always, all the best,
A storm is brewing for DACA this September
By: Tal Kopan, CNN
A suite of pressures on the policy that protects young undocumented immigrants is brewing — and it could mean the program soon either becomes permanent or disappears entirely.
Next month, the Trump administration faces both an ultimatum from challengers to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, and a potentially nasty government funding fight that could require an 11th hour deal to avert a shutdown.
Last week, the administration’s biggest defender of DACA moved much closer to the President, who has also spoken about being sympathetic to DACA recipients. Gen. John Kelly is now the White House chief of staff, and as homeland security secretary, he spoke frequently about preserving the program under this administration.
But the move also takes him out of the department that was responsible for issuing permits under the Obama administration policy — and he recently warned Democrats on the Hill that the program’s prospects are dim.
When Congress wraps up its August recess, members will return to a consequential month — one in which they may be forced to act whether they want to or not.
The earliest trigger will be September 5. That’s the deadline in an ultimatum issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other state attorneys general to the Trump administration: Rescind DACA or we will challenge it in an unfriendly court. They have already succeeded in stopping a similar program to protect the parents of childhood arrivals to the US.
Trump said the ultimate decision on what to do will be made by him.
“It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very, very hard to make. I really understand the situation now,” Trump said in a conversation with reporters on Air Force One last month. “I understand the situation very well. What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet.”
Trump has spoken recently about having compassion for recipients of the policy, which protects undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation and allows them to work and study in the US. But he also pledged to end the program “immediately” on the campaign trail, and his base strongly opposes the Obama administration policy they call an “amnesty.”
That could make punting the issue to Congress an appealing solution for the administration.
“My assumption is that the cleanest thing they can do, though they’ll take the vast majority of the blame for ending the program, is simply announce come September 5 a sunset of the program, that they’ll stop approving applications, and then invite Congress to work on legislation,” said a Democratic congressional staffer familiar with the issue who spoke on condition of anonymity to be candid.
Story continues here http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/07/politics/daca-coming-storm/index.html
At 200-day mark, Trump nominations still lag
By: Tal Kopan, CNN
On President Donald Trump’s 200th day in office, he still lags far behind his predecessors in staffing up his administration, both in terms of nominations and confirming those positions.
Any new administration has to fill roughly 4,000 positions across the government, more than 1,200 of which require Senate confirmation. While no administration can accomplish that task in 200 days, the nonprofit good-government group Partnership for Public Service recommends having the most important 300-400 confirmed by August recess.
Trump hasn’t come close.
The President got a big boost to his progress last week when the Senate confirmed en masse more than five dozen outstanding nominees — roughly doubling the number of nominees Trump has had confirmed.
But he still remains far behind.
As of August 4, when the Senate left town for its August recess, Trump has nominated 277 people for key posts, has had 124 confirmed, and has withdrawn eight of the nominations, according to CNN’s tracker.
The Partnership for Public Service has identified 577 executive branch positions as being particularly essential — and Trump has only successfully filled about a fifth of them.
Meanwhile, his predecessor fared far better at the same point in their terms. President Barack Obama had 433 nominations and 310 confirmations at the same point, President George W. Bush had nominated 414 and had 294 confirmed, and President Bill Cilnton had 345 nominations and 252 confirmed.
Trump’s rate of 45% of nominees confirmed lags behind Obama’s 72%, Bush’s 71% and Clinton’s 73%. His nominees have also taken far longer to confirm — an average of 54 days compared with 41, 35 and 30 respectively.
The White House has consistently placed blame for its slow pace on Democrats — the minority party in the Senate — arguing they’ve employed stall tactics to slow-walk Trump’s confirmations.
Indeed, before the failure of the Senate to advance a plan to repeal Obamacare, Senate Democrats were forcing Republicans to go through all procedural steps for nominees, dragging out the process.
But part of the slowness has also been due to difficulty getting paperwork in for many of the nominees, and some announced nominations were not transmitted to the Senate for formal consideration for months. Trump also lags in naming officials amid reports that Cabinet officials and the White House have butted heads over potential candidates.
Trump has had his entire Cabinet confirmed, although when he selected John Kelly as his chief of staff late last month, he created a vacancy at the Department of Homeland Security. But experts say his slowness to fill deputy positions at agencies is equally important, as those officials handle much of the day-to-day management of government.
Partnership for Public Service President Max Stier, who has advised multiple presidents and presidential candidates, including Trump, on transitioning into office, said the President should be prioritizing filling positions if he wants to execute his agenda.
“While the pace of nominations for political appointees has picked up in recent weeks, critical leadership positions remain vacant at almost every agency and department,” Stier said. “The President must prioritize getting his full team in place. Doing so will strengthen his ability to run the government, achieve his priorities and deal effectively with the inevitable crises that will take place in our complicated and dangerous world.”
Thanks, Tal, for your incisive and timely reporting and for making it readily available to us.
“This week the Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia introduced a bill that they said would cut legal immigration to the United States by 50 percent. They are right about that, but nearly everything else that they have said about their bill is false or misleading.
The senators, whose bill is endorsed by President Trump, argue that America is experiencing abnormally high immigration; that these immigrants are hurting American wages; and that their bill would prioritize skilled immigrants, the way Canada does, thus making the United States more competitive internationally. These talking points are pure fiction.
They have justified this drastic cut in immigration by stating that the bill will, as they put it in February when announcing an earlier version, bring “legal immigration levels” back down to “their historical norms.” But the senators fail to consider the impact of population growth. A million immigrants to the United States in 2017 isn’t equivalent to the same number in 1900, when there were a quarter as many Americans.
Controlling for population, today’s immigration rate is nearly 30 percent below its historical average. If their bill becomes law, the rate would fall to about 60 percent below average. With few exceptions, the only years with such a low immigration rate were during the world wars and the Great Depression. Surely, these are not the “norms” to which the senators seek to return.
Senator Cotton is trying to connect a slow increase in the immigration rate in recent decades to declining wages for Americans without a college degree, implying that low-skilled workers are facing more competition for jobs than in earlier years. But this correlation is spurious, because it ignores the size of the overall labor pool.
. . . .
Rather than cutting immigration, Congress should raise the employment-based quotas, which it has not adjusted since 1990 — when the United States had some 77 million fewer people and the economy was half the size it is now. A smart reform would double green cards and peg future work visas to economic growth, responding to market forces rather than political whims.
Smart reforms, however, require that Congress first understand the basic facts: America has not seen a deluge of immigration. Low-skilled American-born workers have not faced more competition for jobs. Other countries accept more immigrants per capita. Until these facts penetrate the halls of the Capitol, the immigration debate will continue to be mired in ignorant proposals like this.
Read Bier’s complete op-ed at the above link.
Raising legal immigration to more realistic levels, consistent with market forces, would also facilitate “smart” law enforcement. Fewer needed workers would have to come “outside” the system. Once there is a realistic “line” the threat of being “sent to the end of the line” or even taken out of “the line” would become more effective in deterring unauthorized entries. Immigration enforcement could concentrate on a fewer number of folks trying to evade the system, rather than, as is the case now, concentrating largely on “busting” those who are coming to take jobs that play a constructive and expansive role in the American economy.
The workforce age individuals within the 10 –11 million undocumented individuals here now are almost all working in jobs that help support the American economy. Indeed, removing them all tomorrow would “tank” many American businesses and likely send the entire economy into a tailspin. Legalizing them would insure that they all pay takes and prevent them from being exploited by unscrupulous employers.
Legalization + more legal immigration is a “win-win” for America and its workers of all types and statuses.
In an Editorial today, the NY Times was equally unimpressed with the Trump/GOP proposal for cutting immigration, calling it “senseless:”
“The issue of immigration in America is volatile and complex and thus vulnerable to seductive promises. This bill falls into that category. Its central premise — that it would help American workers — is false. It’s true that an influx of workers can cause short-term disruptions to the labor market, but the impact on the wages of native workers over a period of 10 years or more is “very small,” according to a comprehensive National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reportpublished last year.
Moreover, as studies have repeatedly shown, immigration boosts productivity and economic growth; restricting it would have the opposite effect. Growth is determined by the changes in productivity — how much each worker produces — and the size of the work force. Productivity in recent decades has been growing more slowly than in the past for reasons that economists do not fully understand. The labor force is also growing slowly as baby boomers retire. Restricting immigration would reinforce both trends.
Mr. Trump and the senators behind this bill seem to believe that immigrants who are admitted to America because they have family ties possess few skills and are of little value to the country. That’s simply not so. About 41 percent of legal immigrants, the large majority of whom are relatives of citizens, have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center report.
Hostility to immigration was a pillar of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and he has surrounded himself with like-minded officials, so it’s no surprise that he likes this bill. But it is a bridge too far for Republicans like Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, which makes it unlikely to go anywhere. The right approach to immigration reform would be bipartisan and comprehensive. It would include stronger enforcement, better worker protections and a pathway to citizenship for the country’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants.
A Quinnipiac poll released last week showed the president’s job approval ratings at a new low, even among demographic groups that make up his base. About 61 percent of voters disapproved of the way Mr. Trump was doing his job, including half of whites without a college degree. Mr. Trump’s recent messages opposing transgender people in the armed forces and encouraging aggressive behavior by the police have been seen as efforts to recapture that base. His support for this immigration bill is more of the same.”
Read the complete editorial at this link:
Ignorance, arrogance, while nationalism, racism, xenophobia are a dangerous combination.
David Nakamura reports in the Washington Post:
“Trump’s appearance with the senators came as the White House moved to elevate immigration back to the political forefront after the president suffered a major defeat when the Senate narrowly rejected his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The president made a speech last Friday on Long Island in which he pushed Congress to devote more resources to fighting illegal immigration, including transnational gangs.
The event on Wednesday illustrated the president’s efforts to broaden his push to reform border control laws beyond illegal immigration. Trump called the changes to legal immigration necessary to protect American workers, including racial minorities, from rising competition for lower-paid jobs.
“Among those who have been hit hardest in recent years are immigrants and minority workers competing for jobs against brand new arrivals,” Trump said. “It has not been fair to our people, our citizens and our workers.”
But the bill’s prospects are dim in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority and would have difficulty getting 60 votes to prevent a filibuster. The legislation is expected to face fierce resistance from congressional Democrats and immigrant rights groups and opposition from business leaders and some moderate Republicans in states with large immigrant populations.
Opponents of slashing immigration levels said immigrants help boost the economy and that studies have shown they commit crimes at lower levels than do native-born Americans.
“This is just a fundamental restructuring of our immigration system which has huge implications for the future,” said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies. “This is part of a broader strategy by this administration to rid the country of low-skilled immigrants they don’t favor in favor of immigrants in their image.”
Other critics said the Raise Act, which maintains the annual cap for employment-based green cards at the current level of 140,000, would not increase skilled immigration and could make it more difficult for employers to hire the workers they need. And they noted that Canada and Australia admit more than twice the number of immigrants to their countries as the United States does currently when judged as a percentage of their overall population levels.
“Just because you have a PhD doesn’t mean you’re necessarily more valuable to the U.S. economy,” said Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy. “The best indication of whether a person is employable is if someone wants to hire them.”
Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the CATO Institute, wrote in a blog that the bill “would do nothing to boost skilled immigration and it will only increase the proportion of employment-based green cards by cutting other green cards. Saying otherwise is grossly deceptive marketing.”
Groups that favor stricter immigration policies hailed the legislation as a step in the right direction. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, said the Raise Act “will do more than any other action to fulfill President Trump’s promises as a candidate to create an immigration system that puts the interests of American workers first.”
If Stephen Miller and Roy Beck favor it, you can be sure that it’s part of a racist agenda.
Rachel Chason reports for the Washington Post:
“Foster McCune will play Division I soccer at Georgetown University this fall. Matt and Ben Di Rosa, twins from the District’s Chevy Chase neighborhood, will play for the University of Maryland.
On Monday night, they stood with other members of their elite Bethesda Soccer Club outside Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Northwest Washington, protesting the arrest and pending deportation of a beloved teammate: Lizandro Claros Saravia.
Claros Saravia, 19, who had a scholarship to play college soccer in North Carolina, was detained along with his older brother, Diego, in Baltimore on Friday following one of their regular check-ins with immigration officials.
They entered the United States illegally in 2009, fleeing violence in their native El Salvador. Lizandro Claros Saravia graduated from Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg this past spring and was planning to attend the two-year Louisburg College in North Carolina on a soccer scholarship this fall.
“He’s one of the hardest-working people on our team,” Matt Di Rosa said at the protest, which drew about 50 people, including family, teammates and immigration advocates. “He has a bright future, and that’s something he actively sought.”
Diego Claros Saravia, 22, graduated from high school a few years ago and works in a car repair shop.
Neither brother has a criminal record, said Nick Katz, senior manager of legal services at the immigration advocacy organization CASA de Maryland, who is representing the pair.
They would not have been priorities for deportation under the Obama administration, according to a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But President Trump’s administration has made clear that any undocumented immigrant is vulnerable to deportation, and there has been a steady increase in the number of people detained after otherwise routine check-ins, advocates say.
The brothers, who were detained by immigration officers when they arrived in the United States, were issued final removal orders by an immigration judge in November 2012, but were released pursuant to an order of supervision, ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke said.
They were both granted a stay of removal in 2013. But their two subsequent applications for stays were denied. Since 2016, Bourke said, ICE deportation officers have instructed the brothers to purchase tickets for departure.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Katz said. “These are the kids who we want to stay.”
Fatima Claros Saravia, 25, cried as she held up a sign she had made for her brothers. “Stop separating families,” she wrote under photos of Lizandro playing soccer. “Let my brothers live their American dream.”
“They wanted to study and to work,” she said. “We are heartbroken — this is not fair, and it is not right.”
Read the full story at the link.
This is an example of the type of “order” and “rationality” that Gen. John Kelly brought to DHS. That’s why I’m not as sanguine as some that he will bring any sense of order and decency to the gonzo crew in the West Wing.
“Dumb, divisive, and cruel” enforcement by DHS is likely to be the norm unless and until the majority of U.S. voters who don’t believe that this is the best use of taxpayer dollars rise up and put more responsible politicians in office.
Tom Dart reports from Houston:
“Donald Trump’s immigration policies are likely to encourage migrants to risk more dangerous routes into the US, like the journey which this week ended with the death of ten people in a sweltering truck, border security experts have warned.
Dozens of people from Mexico and Central America were found packed into a non-air-conditioned cargo container in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio at about 12.30am last Sunday.
The deaths are thought to have been caused by heat exposure, dehydration and suffocation. About 30 people were hospitalised.
As part of its campaign to crackdown on undocumented migration, the Trump administration wants to force so-called “sanctuary cities” to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, beef up frontier security and surveillance, and – eventually – build a wall along the border with Mexico.
But Alonzo Peña, a former deputy director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), said simplistic strategies would not deter people desperate to join family or seek a better life. Instead, closing off simpler routes would prompt migrants to attempt more dangerous crossings.
“I call it an unfortunate collateral consequence,” he said. “They will put themselves in the hands of unscrupulous criminals that see them as just a commodity.”
Asked if a wall would help, Peña, now a consultant in San Antonio, said: “Absolutely not – it probably will contribute to more tragedies.”
He said building better binational relationships, encouraging information-sharing and more use of informants were key to breaking up networks of smugglers and traffickers.
In recent years, stepped-up frontier security has meant that smuggling activities once orchestrated by small, loosely organised enterprises are being run by bigger, more ruthless and profit-oriented criminal gangs with indirect links to drug cartels.
Packing many people into a truck is a profitable strategy for such smugglers. A large vehicle is a better hiding place than smaller alternatives and reduces the number of trips, making evading detection more likely at busy interior US Border Patrol checkpoints placed along highways near the frontier.
“The policies to enforce the border have the unintended consequence of strengthening transnational smuggling networks and the connection of business with transnational criminal organisations. There’s money there,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who studies migration and trafficking. “You are increasing the incentives for corruption on both sides of the border.”
. . . .
Texas this year passed a law banning so-called sanctuary cities – places that offer little or no cooperation with federal immigration agents. “Border security will help prevent this Texas tragedy,” John Cornyn, a US senator from Texas, wrote on Twitter.
But critics say that such enforcement does nothing to remove the “push factors” behind migration from Mexico and Central America, such as the lack of economic opportunity and violence by street gangs, security forces and crime groups.
A report published in March by the risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft termed Trump’s crackdown “a gift to human traffickers” by driving undocumented workers in the US deeper into the shadows, while a wall “would increase criminal trafficking fees, leaving migrants more deeply mired in debt and vulnerable to exploitation”.
But even this week’s deaths would not curtail demand, Correa-Cabrera said.
“They will still take trucks. They have been taking the journey and nothing has stopped them,” she said. “How many women are willing to take the journey even though they know there is a very high possibility of being raped?”
Folks are going to keep coming and keep dying until we make the needed, realistic changes to our legal immigration system. The smugglers will up their profits and expand their operations, making and taking more money than ever from already stressed individuals seeking to come. And the bodies will continue to pile up as a testament to the failed White Nationalist agenda of Trump and Sessions.
What “gonzo enforcement” has done, however, is to cut or eliminate the incentive for folks to use the legal system by coming to the border and presenting themselves for protection or by turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. Knowing that their rights under the law and as human beings will not be respected by the likes of Trump, Sessions, and Kelly’s replacement will merely put more individuals at the mercy of the smugglers. The smugglers are likely to get so good that we won’t have the faintest idea anymore how many forks are coming without documents until they wind up dead in a parking lot or a field. And, I suppose that CBP will come up with some formula like “for every dead body we figure there are 1,000 who made it into the interior.”
“From: Greg Chen [mailto:GChen@aila.org]
Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2017 10:06 AM
To: AILA Interior Enforcement List
Cc: AILA Interior Enforcement List; Kate Voigt; Laura Lynch; Kerri Talbot
Subject: [interiorenforcement] AILA shifted position on IJ funding – CJS approps
AILA’s board just voted to change our position on the funding of immigration judges: in brief, AILA will no longer be supporting increased funding for IJs. The change in position was motivated by two principal concerns: 1) additional funding for judges will enable this administration to deport more people more rapidly; and 2) increased judges will not necessarily promote due process and fairness for those appearing in proceedings, esp under the current administration.
We will convey this to key friends on the Hill, but we haven’t decided how actively we plan to push this.
Here’s what the House FY18 CJS bill includes, according to the summary posted by House approps:
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) – Funding for the EOIR is increased by $64.5 million, for a total of $505 million. This increase will provide for 65 additional immigration judge teams to process immigration reviews more quickly, and reduce the backlog of pending cases.
Gregory Z. Chen, Esq.
Director of Government Relations
Direct: 202-507-7615 I Cell: 202.716-5818 I Email: firstname.lastname@example.org American Immigration Lawyers Association
Main: 202.507.7600 I Fax: 202.783.7853 I www.aila.org<http://www.aila.org/>
1331 G Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005″
I can understand the sentiment that brought this about. I’m not sure, however, that this isn’t an exercise in “kicking the cat.” The real problem here is lack of independence and the highly inappropriate, facially unethical, role of the DOJ, which Congress created, allowed to fester, and failed to date to fix. And the type of misguided GOP agenda behind an atrocity like H.R. 391 also doesn’t help.
Interesting that the last several Administrations have mismanaged the Immigration Courts to the point where they appear to be doing exactly the opposite of their single mission: guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!
With this particular Congress and Administration, AILA’s change in position probably won’t mean much. Only White Nationalist and restrictionist groups seem to have any influence.
Sadly, years of hard-won progress in establishing due process in the Immigration Court system have now been squandered. EOIR and the Immigration Courts have returned to the mess that they were before EOIR was created.
Bad time to be seeking justice in America! Thanks to my former Georgetown Law Refugee Law & Policy student Shaw Drake for sending me this item!
Nick Visser reports in HuffPost:
“The Department of Justice argued in a legal brief on Wednesday that the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers no protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, a position advocacy groups condemned as “shameful” and “politically driven.”
DOJ lawyers, arguing under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in which they said the department did not believe the law ― which bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin ― applied to lesbian and gay people. The brief was filed as part of a lawsuit filed by a now-deceased skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, who said he was fired for his sexual orientation. His lawyers contend the dismissal violated of the act’s Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination.
“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” the Justice Department brief says. “It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.” It adds: “The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect.”
Read the full report at the link.
One of many unfortunate aspects of Trump’s churlish, unprovoked, dumb, and downright nasty attack on Sessions is that it makes the A.G. look like a hero for merely doing what any other public servant would be required to do under the circumstances.
This should not deflect attention from Sessions’s truly reprehensible record as AG. In a short time in office, he has undermined civil rights, voting rights, minority protections, protections from unconstitutional policing, due process and rationality in immigration enforcement, LGBT rights, community law enforcement efforts, forensic science, prosecutorial discretion, private property rights in civil forfeitures, and prison reform. I’m probably leaving some out. And, while doing it he has advanced a false White Nationalist agenda about immigrants and migrants (indeed, his agenda targets just about all Americans except straight, white, GOP males).
Sessions’s tenure at the U.S. Justice Department has been an unmitigated disaster from a Constitutional, due process, and institutional standpoint. That he is now being bullied and publicly shamed and humiliated by the totally unqualified President whom he supported and helped put in Office should not in any way detract from his abysmal record as a public servant. And, let’s not forget that despite his supposed recusal, Sessions could barely wait to help give Trump some cover for the firing of James Comey. Just happened to blow up in his face when Trump himself made it clear that Sessions and his Deputy Rod Rosenstein had tried to take a dive for the “team.” (Something folks should also keep in mind before falsely idolizing Rosenstein. What kind of guy would sign on to being “Gonzo Apocalypto’s” Deputy in the first place.)
Indeed, in most ways, Sessions is merely receiving the type of boorish cowardly treatment at Trump’s own hands that he (Sessions) was and still is happy to abet and assist by implementing Trump’s gonzo White Nationalist agenda of destroying our Constitutuonal system and the rule of law. Sessions’s own cowardly attacks on the transgender and LGBT communities are illustrated by his latest actions. Not an ounce of humanity or decency in the man. For that, and all of the other ways he has tried to undermine the American system during his many years in Washington, he deserves to be charged with full responsibility in the pages of history.
Human Rights First reports:
HOME / PRESS RELEASE / HOUSE BILL WOULD RETURN PERSECUTED REFUGEES TO DANGER
July 26, 2017
House Bill Would Return Persecuted Refugees to Danger
RELATED CAMPAIGNS & TOPICS
Immigration Detention, Refugee Protection
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged members of the House Judiciary Committee to reject the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act when it marks up the legislation today. The bill would severely undermine access to protection for genuine refugees.
“The proposed legislation does nothing to enhance the integrity of our asylum system, but instead puts individuals, particularly women and children, at grave risk of return to persecution, trafficking, and death in their home or third countries,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Instead, this bill is a disgraceful attempt to evade U.S. refugee protection responsibilities and foist them on to other countries. Not only would this effort undermine U.S. global leadership, but it would set a poor example for the countries hosting the vast majority of the world’s refugees. The bill would make it even more difficult for refugees to receive asylum in our already rigorous asylum system and leave vulnerable children, families, and other individuals at risk of severe harm or death.”
The bill seeks to make it harder for those fleeing persecution and torture to file for asylum in the United States, a process already fraught with obstacles. Several groups of particularly vulnerable individuals—including children, women, and LGBTQ asylum seekers—would be disproportionately impacted by certain provisions, which essentially eliminate protection for refugees who have been victims of crimes in their home countries. The bill attempts to eliminate the statutory basis for release on parole, which would leave asylum seekers detained in violation of U.S. treaty obligations, and held in jails and facilities with conditions similar to jails despite the existence of more cost-effective and humane alternative measures that result in compliance and appearance at hearings. The bill also seeks to ban federal government-funded counsel, including for unaccompanied children, some of whom are toddlers or even younger.
Human Rights First, along with 73 other rights and immigration groups, sent a letter to members of the committee today urging them to reject the legislation. Among many changes to law, the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2017 would:
Raise the expedited removal screening standard to an unduly high level. The bill would require that an asylum seeker—in order to even be allowed to apply for asylum—not only show a “significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum” but also prove it is more likely than not that his or her statements are true—the standard for a full adjudication, not a summary screening interview.
Appear to prevent arriving asylum seekers who have passed the credible fear screening process from being paroled from immigration detention, instead leaving them in jails and jail-like facilities for months or longer, even though there are more fiscally-prudent and humane alternatives that have been proven effective.
Deny asylum to large numbers of refugees based on transit or stays in countries where they had no legal status, or no lasting legal status, and to which they cannot be returned in most cases. This provision would seek to deny asylum to many refugees who have passed through Mexico, despite the risks and severe protection deficiencies there. In addition, refugees—who may have languished in a refugee camp for decades without the ability to legally work, access education or secure legal permanency—with valid claims would be left in a state of uncertainty, with no prospects for a durable solution and no secure future for themselves and their children.
Allow asylum applicants and unaccompanied children to be bounced to third countries (such as Mexico) despite the dangers and lack of protection from return to persecution there, and in the absence of any agreement between the United States and the countries in question for the reception of asylum seekers.
Categorically deny asylum and withholding of removal to refugees targeted for criminal harm—including rape and killing—based on their membership in a particular social group in their countries of origin. This extraordinarily broad provision would deny protection to asylum seekers who have been beaten for being gay, who have suffered horrific domestic abuse, or who have been treated as property by virtue of their status as women, to name but a few examples. It would also effectively eliminate asylum eligibility or withholding of removal for asylum seekers who have been victims of or who fear persecution related to gang violence in their home country.
State that the government not bear expense for counsel. The bill also states that in no instance will the federal government bear expense for counsel for anyone in removal or appellate proceedings. Children – including toddlers – the mentally disabled, and other vulnerable people cannot represent themselves in our complex immigration system.
Last week Human Rights First released a new report assessing the dangers facing refugees in Mexico in the wake of proposals from the Trump Administration and Congress to block refugees passing through Mexico from seeking protection in the United States. The analysis, “Dangerous Territory: Mexico Still Not Safe for Refugees” finds that migrants and refugees in Mexico face risks of kidnapping, disappearance, sexual assault, and trafficking, and that Mexican authorities routinely deport individuals to their home countries regardless of whether they fear return to persecution and the country’s human rights obligations.
Human Rights First notes that when Congress—with strong bipartisan support—passed the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States codified its commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol. Under those treaties, states can’t return refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened or reject potential refugees at the border. The United States is also a party to the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits governments from sending people to places where they would be in danger of being tortured, and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and migrants. Instead of turning away those seeking protection, the United States should be doing more to ensure their protection claims are properly assessed and due process is safeguarded.
“At a time when the world faces the largest refugee crisis in history, this bill sends a dangerous message to other nations, including those who host the overwhelming majority refugees: that the United States intends to shirk its responsibility to those fleeing violence and persecution,” added Acer.
For more information or to speak with Acer, contact Corinne Duffy at 202-370-3319 or DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org.
Senior Director, Refugee Protection
RELATED PRESS RELEASES
I also highly recommend this “spot on” analysis by David Bier of the Cato Institute of this warped and misguided attempt by GOP restrictionists in the House to destroy Due Process in the U.S. Asylum system without in any way addressing the real issues — conditions in foreign countries and our outdated and unuduy restrictive legal immigration system.
I Bier writes:
NOTE: The charts and formatting are much better if you go to,the link than on the reprinted version below.
Statement for the Record of David Bier of the Cato Institute* Submitted to House Committee on the Judiciary Markup of “H.R. 391 – Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act” July 26, 2017
The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act (H.R. 391) would undermine the individual rights of people fleeing persecution and violence to seek asylum in the United States. The bill would obliterate the current asylum standards and now require asylum seekers to prove their claims to an impossible degree immediately upon their arrival at the border—without access to the documents or witnesses that they would need to do so. The government would then promptly deport without a hearing before an immigration judge those who fail this unattainable requirement, possibly to endure violence or persecution. The authors claim that this radical change is necessary due to an unprecedented surge of asylum applicants. In the 1990s, however, a similar surge of asylum seekers arrived in the United States, and Congress adopted much less severe reforms than those proposed in this bill. Even assuming that the applicants are submitting asylum applications for the sole purpose of gaining entrance to the United States, the bill does nothing to address the underlying cause of the problem: the lack of a legal alternative to migrate. As long as legal immigration remains impossible for lesser- skilled workers and their family members, unauthorized immigration of various kinds will continue to present a challenge. Asylum rule change will result in denials of legitimate claims Current law requires that asylum seekers at the border assert a “credible fear” of persecution.1 Asylum officers determine credibility based on whether there is a “significant possibility” that, if they allow the person to apply, an immigration judge would find that the fear is “well-founded,” a higher standard of proof. The credible fear interview screens out only the claims that obviously have “no possibility, or only a minimal or mere possibility, of success,” as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) puts it.2 If the USCIS asylum officer rejects the claim as not credible, the applicant may ask an immigration judge to review the determination the next day but is not granted a full hearing. Customs and Border Protection removes those who fail to assert or fail to articulate a credible fear. H.R. 391 would impose a much higher standard simply to apply for asylum in the United States. In addition to demonstrating that they had significant possibility of successfully proving their claim to an immigration judge, it would require applicants to prove that it is “more probable than
* The Cato Institute is a libertarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit think tank founded in 1977 and located in Washington D.C.
not” that their claims are true—a preponderance of the evidence standard.3 This standard eviscerates the lower bar that Congress established. The committee simply cannot expect that asylum seekers who may have had to sneak out of their country of origin in the dead of night or swim across rivers to escape persecution will have sufficient evidence the moment they arrive in the United States to meet this burden. In 2016, a group of Syrian Christians who traveled thousands of miles across multiple continents and then up through Mexico to get to the United States arrived at the border to apply for asylum.4 Thankfully, they met the credible fear standard and were not deported, which enabled them to hire an attorney to help them lay out their claim, but this new standard could endanger anyone who follows their path. An inability to provide sufficient evidence of their religion, nationality, residence, or fear would result in deportation immediately after presenting themselves at the border. The authors imply that requiring them to prove their statements are true is not the same as requiring them to prove their entire asylum case, but this is a distinction without a difference.5 Asylum applicants must state a “credible fear” of persecution. Those statements would then be subject to the much more stringent standard. Of course the government should demand the truth from all applicants, but this is a question of the standard by which asylum officers should use to weed truth from falsehood. It is virtually impossible that, by words alone, asylum seekers could prove that it is “more probable than not” that their statements are true. The committee should consider this fact: in 2016, immigration judges reversed nearly 30 percent of all denials of credible fear that came to them on appeal.6 This means that even under the current law, asylum officers make errors that would reject people with credible claims of persecution. If Congress requires an even greater burden, many more such errors will occur, but faced with the higher evidentiary requirement, immigration judges will have little choice but to ratify them. Here is another sign that the truth is not enough: asylum applicants with attorneys were half as likely to have their asylum denied by immigration judges in 2016 as those without attorneys. Indeed, 90 percent of all applicants without counsel lose their case, while a majority with counsel win theirs.7 This demonstrates that people need more than just honesty—they also need to understand what evidence is relevant to their case and need help to gather documents, witnesses, and other evidence to support their claim. For these reasons, Congress never intended the credible fear interview as a rigorous adversarial process because it wanted to give people who could credibly articulate a fear of persecution an opportunity to apply. It knew that while some people without legitimate claims would be able to apply, the lower standard of proof would protect vulnerable people from exclusion. As Senator Alan Simpson, the sponsor of the 1996 bill that created the credible fear process, “it is a significantly lesser fear standard than we use for any other provision.”8 Indeed, during the debate over the compromise version of the bill, proponents of the legislation touted that the fact that they had dropped “the more probable than not” language in the original version.9
Asylum surge is not unprecedented People can either apply for asylum “affirmatively” to USCIS on their own or they can apply “defensively” after they come into the custody of the U.S. government somehow, such as at the border or airport, to an immigration judge, which would include the credible fear process. If USCIS denies an “affirmative” applicant who is in the country illegally, the government places them in removal proceedings before an immigration judge where they can present their claim again. Reviewing the data on asylum claims, two facts become clear: total asylum claims peaked in the 1990s, and a substantial majority of claims are affirmative—that is, done voluntarily, not through the credible fear process or through removal proceedings. Although credible fear claims—a process that was first created in 1997—have increased dramatically, the overall number of asylum claims has still not reached the highs of the early 1990s. Unfortunately, the immigration courts have not published the number of cases that they received before 1996, but as Figure 1 shows, the United States has experienced similar surges of asylum seekers to 2016.10
Figure 1 Asylum Applications Received and Credible Fear Claims Approved, 1985-2016 160,000 140,000 120,000 100,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0 USCIS Asylum Cases Immigration Judge Asylum Cases Credible Fear Approvals Sources: Department of Justice; Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services It is noteworthy that in the midst of the surge in the 1990s, Congress did not adopt the draconian approach that this bill would require. Rather, it created the credible fear process that the bill would essentially eliminate. The authors of the legislation, however, argue that the Obama administration turned the credible fear process into a rubber stamp, allowing applicants to enter regardless of the credibility of their claims. But again a look at the numbers undermines this 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
It is noteworthy that in the midst of the surge in the 1990s, Congress did not adopt the draconian approach that this bill would require. Rather, it created the credible fear process that the bill would essentially eliminate. The authors of the legislation, however, argue that the Obama administration turned the credible fear process into a rubber stamp, allowing applicants to enter regardless of the credibility of their claims. But again a look at the numbers undermines this
narrative. As Figure 2 highlights, the Obama administration denied an average of about 25 percent of all asylum seekers from 2009 to 2016.11
Figure 2 Credible Fear of Persecution Claims, FY 1997 to 2017 120,000 100,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0 Completed Cases (left) Approval Share (Rate) Sources: Rempell (1997-2008); USCIS (2009-2016)
Despite fluctuations of up to 35 percentage points during this time, there is simply no relationship at all between the rate of approval and the number of claims being made. Factors other than the approval rate must be driving the number of applications. Some of these claims are undoubtedly invalid or even fraudulent, but given that a majority of claims by individuals with representation in immigration court win their asylum claims, it is obvious that the credible fear process has protected many people from deportation to persecution abroad.12 If fraudulent claims are a concern, Congress can best address it in the same way that it has successfully addressed other aspects of illegal immigration from Mexico: through an expansion of legal immigration. During the 1950s and again recently in the 2000s, Congress expanded the availability of low-skilled guest worker visas, which led to a great reduction in the rate of illegal immigration. Figure 3 presents the number of guest workers entering each year and the number of people each border agent apprehended each year—the best available measure of illegal immigration. It shows that the period of high illegal immigration occurred almost exclusively during the period of restrictive immigration.13 Most guest workers today are Mexicans.14 This is largely due to the fact that the current guest worker programs are limited to seasonal temporary jobs and Mexico is closer to the United
States, which makes trips to and from the United States easier. By comparison, most asylum seekers are from Central America. Assuming that a significant portion of these asylum seekers are either reuniting with illegal residents already in the United States or are seeking illegal residence themselves, these seasonal programs are unavailable to them.
Figure 3 Guest Worker Entries and Apprehensions of Illegal Aliens per Border Patrol Agent, 1946-2015 1,200 500,000 1,000 800 600 400 200 400,000 300,000 200,000 100,000 00 Apprehensions Per Agent (left) Guest Workers (Right) Sources: Border Patrol; Immigration and Naturalization Service; Department of Homeland Security 1946 1948 1950 1952 1954 1956 1958 1960 1962 1964 1966 1968 1970 1972 1974 1976 1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014
Congress should create a temporary work visa program for low-skilled workers in year-round jobs, similar to the H-1B visa for high-skilled workers.15 This would cut down on asylum fraud and illegal immigration without the downsides that this bill presents.
1 8 U.S. Code § 1225 2 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Lesson Plan Overview – Credible Fear,” February 28, 2014, http://cmsny.org/wp-content/uploads/credible-fear-of-persecution-and-torture.pdf. 3 P. 2 Justia, “Evidentiary Standards and Burdens of Proof,” https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/evidentiary-standards- burdens-proof/ 4 Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Who were the Syrians who showed up at the Texas border? Some are Christians,” Los Angeles Times, December 7, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-syrian-texas-christians-20151207- story.html 5 “Markup of H.R. 1153, The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act,” House Judiciary Committee, March 4, 2015, https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/03.04.15-Markup-Transcript.pdf. 6 U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, “FY 2016 Statistics Yearbook,” March 2017, https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/fysb16/download. 7 TracImmigration, “Continued Rise in Asylum Denial Rates,” Syracuse University, December 13, 2016, http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/448/. 8 142 Cong. Rec. S4492 (1996) https://www.congress.gov/crec/1996/05/01/CREC-1996-05-01-pt1-PgS4457.pdf 9 142 Cong. Rec. H11081 (1996) https://www.congress.gov/crec/1996/09/25/CREC-1996-09-25-pt1-PgH11071- 2.pdfhttps://www.congress.gov/crec/1996/09/25/CREC-1996-09-25-pt1-PgH11071-2.pdf 10 U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, “Statistics Yearbook,” https://www.justice.gov/eoir/statistical-year-book Department of Homeland Security, “Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2004,” https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Yearbook_Immigration_Statistics_2004.pdf U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Asylum Division Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting,” https://search.uscis.gov/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=uscis_gov&query=Asylum+Division+Quarterly+Stak eholder+Meeting&commit= 11 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Asylum Division, “Credible Fear Data,” https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Outreach/PED- Credible_Fear_Workload_Report_Summary_POE_and_Inland_Caseload_through_2015-09.pdf https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Outreach/Upcoming%20National%20Engagements/PED_CredibleF earReasonableFearStatisticsNationalityReport.pdf https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Outreach/PED- Credible_Fear_Workload_Report_Summary_POE_and_Inland_Caseload_through_2015-09.pdf https://www.chapman.edu/law/_files/publications/clr-18-rempell.pdf https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Outreach/PED- _Credible_Fear_and_Reasonable_Fear_Statistics_and_Nationality_Report.pdf 12 http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/448/ 13 Alex Nowrasteh, “Guest Worker Visas Can Halt Illegal Immigration,” Cato Institute, May 5, 2014, https://www.cato.org/blog/guest-worker-visas-can-halt-illegal-immigration. 14 Alex Nowrasteh, “H-2B Expansion Doubles Down on Successful Border Control Strategy,” Cato Institute, December 23, 2015, https://www.cato.org/blog/h-2b-expansion-doubles-down-successful-border-control-strategy. 15 Alex Nowrasteh, “How to Make Guest Worker Visas Work,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis 719, January 31, 2013, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/how-make-guest-worker-visas-work.
Bier’s report notes that U.S. Immigration Judges overruled approximately 30% of credible fear denials by the DHS Asylum Office. Although I did a modest number of credible/fear reasonable fear reviews, including some in temporary assignments to “detained courts” on the Southern Border, I found the number of erroneous credible/reasonable fear denials to be in the 80% to 90% range, including a number of cases that were “clear grants” under Fourth Circuit case law. The idea that Border Patrol Officer could fairly make these determinations is beyond preposterous!
Chairman Goodlatte and his GOP buddies seek nothing less than the end of a fair asylum adjudication system that fulfills our international mandates. H.R. 391 also makes a mockery of due process. In other words, the Goodlatte GOP crowd seeks to turn the U.S. into a “Third World” imitation of a democracy. These types of legislative tactics are exactly what I saw for 21 years of adjuducating claims from countries where the rule of law had broken down.
Whether immigration/refugee advocates or not, every American Citizen who cares about our Constitution and the rule of law should be fighting measures like this tooth and nail. If Goodlatte & Co. win, we all lose, and America will be well on its way to becoming just another third world facade of a democratic republic.
Rather than the totally bogus restrictionist agenda being pushed by Goodlatte and the GOP, here’s what REALLY should concern us as a nation, taken from one of my recent speeches:
“Our Government is going to remove those who lose their cases to countries where some of them undoubtedly will suffer extortion, rape, torture, forced induction into gangs, and even death. Before we return individuals to such possible fates, it is critical that they have a chance to be fully and fairly heard on their claims for protection and that they fully understand and have explained to them the reasons why our country is unwilling and unable to protect them. Neither of those things is going to happen without effective representation.
We should always keep in mind that contrary to the false impression given by some pundits and immigration “hard liners,” losing an asylum case means neither that the person is committing fraud nor that he or she does not have a legitimate fear of return. In most cases, it merely means that the dangers the person will face upon return do not fall within our somewhat convoluted asylum system. And, as a country, we have chosen not to exercise our discretion to grant temporary shelter to such individuals through Temporary Protected Status, Deferred Enforced Departure, or prosecutorial discretion (“PD”). In other words, we are returning them knowing that the effect might well be life threatening or even fatal in many cases.”
Picking on the already vulnerable, disposed, and endangered is what the Goodlatte/GOP restrictionist program is really about.