MICA ROSENBERG, READE LEVINSON, & RYAN McNEILL EXPOSE UNEQUAL JUSTICE & ABUSE OF VULNERABLE ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM “COURT” SYSTEM LACKING BASIC JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE! Sessions’s Chilling Response: Speed Things Up, Establish Deportation Quotas, Strip Asylum Seekers Of Rights To Due Process, Eliminate Professional Judicial Training, & Aimlessly Throw More Inexperienced, Untrained Judges Into This Mess! – Will He Get Away With His Atrocious Plan To Make Immigration Courts The “Killing Floor?” — AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE UNFOLDING IN U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT ON A DAILY BASIS!

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-immigration-asylum/

Mica Rosenberg, Read Levinson, & Ryan McNeill report:

“They fled danger at home to make a high-stakes bet on U.S. immigration courts

Threatened by gangs in Honduras, two women sought asylum in the United States. Their stories illustrate what a Reuters analysis of thousands of court decisions found: The difference between residency and deportation depends largely on who hears the case, and where.

Filed

OAKLAND, California – The two Honduran women told nearly identical stories to the immigration courts: Fear for their lives and for the lives of their children drove them to seek asylum in the United States.

They were elected in 2013 to the board of the parent-teacher association at their children’s school in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. They hoped that mothers working together could oust the violent gangs that plagued the campus.

Instead, they became targets. Weeks apart, in the spring of 2014, each of the women was confronted by armed gang members who vowed to kill them and their children if they didn’t meet the thugs’ demands.

Unaware of each other’s plight, both fled with their children, making the dangerous trek across Mexico. Both were taken into custody near Hidalgo, Texas, and ended up finding each other in the same U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. There, they applied for asylum.

That’s when their fates diverged.

Sandra Gutierrez joined her husband in California, where her case was heard by a San Francisco immigration court judge. At the end of her asylum hearing in September 2016, she received a one-page form, with an “X” in the box next to “granted.” She was free to settle into life with her family in the United States.

The other woman, Ana, joined her daughter’s father in the southeastern United States, and her case was assigned to an immigration court in Charlotte, North Carolina. The judge denied her petition and ordered her deported. She is now awaiting a court date after new lawyers got her case reopened.

Ana declined to be interviewed for this article. Through her lawyers, she asked that her full name not be used because of her uncertain status and her fear that Honduran gangs could find her.

The women’s lawyers framed their respective cases with some important differences. However, the women said their reasons for seeking asylum were the same: Gangs had targeted them because of their involvement in the parent-teacher association, and for that, they and their families had been threatened.

Taken together, the two cases – nearly indistinguishable in their outlines but with opposite outcomes – illustrate a troubling fact: An immigrant’s chance of being allowed to stay in the United States depends largely on who hears the case and where it is heard.

Judge Stuart Couch, who heard Ana’s case in Charlotte, orders immigrants deported 89 percent of the time, according to a Reuters analysis of more than 370,000 cases heard in all 58 U.S. immigration courts over the past 10 years. Judge Dalin Holyoak, who heard Gutierrez’s case in San Francisco, orders deportation in 43 percent of cases.

In Charlotte, immigrants are ordered deported in 84 percent of cases, more than twice the rate in San Francisco, where 36 percent of cases end in deportation.

Couch and Holyoak and their courts are not rare outliers, the analysis found. Variations among judges and courts are broad.

Judge Olivia Cassin in New York City allows immigrants to remain in the country in 93 percent of cases she hears. Judge Monique Harris in Houston allows immigrants to stay in just four percent of cases. In Atlanta, 89 percent of cases result in a deportation order. In New York City, 24 percent do.

The Reuters analysis used data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the U.S. Justice Department unit that oversees immigration courts. The count of deportations included cases in which judges allowed immigrants to leave the country voluntarily.

The analysis excluded immigrants who were in detention when their cases were heard because such cases are handled differently. It also excluded cases in which the immigrant did not appear in court, which nearly always end in a deportation order, and cases terminated without a decision or closed at the request of a prosecutor.

About half the cases in the analysis were filed by asylum seekers like the two Honduran women. The rest were requests for cancellation of deportation orders or other adjustments to immigration status.

“GROSS DISPARITIES”

Of course, other factors influence outcomes in immigration court.  For example, U.S. government policy is more lenient toward people from some countries, less so for others.

Also, immigration judges are bound by precedents established in the federal appeals court that covers their location. Immigration courts in California and the Pacific Northwest fall under the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and they rule in favor of immigrants far more often than courts in the 4th Circuit, which includes North and South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, Reuters found.

Even so, the Reuters analysis determined that after controlling for such factors, who hears a case and where it is heard remain reliable predictors of how a case will be decided. An immigrant was still four times as likely to be granted asylum by Holyoak in San Francisco as by Couch in Charlotte.

The Reuters analysis also found that an immigration judge’s particular characteristics and situation can affect outcomes. Men are more likely than women to order deportation, as are judges who have worked as ICE prosecutors.  The longer a judge has been serving, the more likely that judge is to grant asylum.

“These are life or death matters. … Whether you win or whether you lose shouldn’t depend on the roll of the dice of which judge gets your case.”

Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings School of the Law in San Francisco

The findings underscore what academics and government watchdogs have long complained about U.S. immigration courts: Differences among judges and courts can render the system unfair and even inhumane.

“It is clearly troubling when you have these kinds of gross disparities,” said Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings School of the Law in San Francisco. “These are life or death matters. … Whether you win or whether you lose shouldn’t depend on the roll of the dice of which judge gets your case.”

EOIR spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly said the agency does not comment on external analyses of its data.

Devin O’Malley, a Department of Justice spokesman, challenged the Reuters analysis, citing “numerous conflicting statements, miscalculations, and other data errors,” but declined to elaborate further.

Immigration judges, appointed by the U.S. attorney general, are not authorized to speak on the record about cases.

Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said each case is like “a 1,000 piece puzzle.” While two cases might look identical on the surface, she said, each judge has to weigh the nuances of immigration law to allow someone to stay in the country, which could lead to different outcomes.

The question of equality of treatment among judges has gained urgency as the number of cases in immigration court has ballooned to record highs. Under President Barack Obama, the courts began efforts to hire more immigration judges to reduce the system’s burgeoning backlog, which now stands at more than 620,000 cases, nearly 100,000 of them added since last December.

The administration of President Donald Trump is continuing the effort. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April that the Justice Department planned to hire more than 50 judges this year and 75 in 2018, which would put the total number of sitting judges above 400.

Of the 28 immigration judges Sessions has appointed so far, 16 are former ICE prosecutors. That experience, the Reuters analysis found, makes them 23 percent more likely to order deportation. (Neither Holyoak nor Couch worked as an ICE prosecutor, according to their EOIR biographies.)

In a wish list of immigration proposals sent to Congress on Oct. 8, the White House said that “lax legal standards” had led to the immigration court backlog and that “misguided judicial decisions have prevented the removal of numerous criminal aliens, while also rendering those aliens eligible to apply for asylum.” Among the proposals offered in exchange for a deal with Congress on the roughly 800,000 “dreamers” – children brought to the country illegally by their parents – the Trump administration said it wanted to hire even more immigration judges and 1,000 ICE attorneys, while “establishing performance metrics for Immigration Judges.”

Video: High-stakes game of chance in U.S. immigration courts

CRISIS AT THE BORDER

In 2014, an unprecedented 68,000 parents and children, most of them fleeing violence and lawlessness in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, crossed into the United States from Mexico – a refugee crisis that has contributed to the bloated backlog of asylum petitions. Many of the migrants, including Gutierrez and Ana, convinced initial interviewers that they had a “credible fear” of returning home, the first step in filing an asylum claim.

Having come from a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world may have helped establish “credible fear.” But the two women were already at a disadvantage – precisely because they came from Honduras.

Country of origin is a big factor in determining who gets to stay in the United States because immigrants from some countries are afforded special protections. For example, courts ruled in favor of Chinese immigrants 75 percent of the time, the Reuters analysis found. A 1996 law expanded the definition of political refugees to include people who are forced to abort a child or undergo sterilization, allowing Chinese women to claim persecution under Beijing’s coercive birth-control policies.

Hondurans enjoy no special considerations. They were allowed to stay in the United States in just 16 percent of cases, the Reuters analysis found.

The mass exodus from Central America was under way when Gutierrez and Ana were elected to the board of the parent-teacher association at their children’s school in spring 2013.

Two rival gangs – the Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13 – were operating brazenly in the neighborhood. The year before, according to police records in Honduras, gang members killed a school security guard. Now, they were extorting teachers, selling drugs openly and assaulting or killing anyone who confronted them.

The new six-member association board set about trying to improve security at the school, which sits on a dirt road behind a high wall topped with razor wire.

“Before, no one wanted to say anything about the gangs,” Gutierrez said. “We were the brave ones. The previous president was a man, so we thought, ‘We are women, they won’t do anything to us.’ ”

The school’s principal, who asked that he and the school not be identified out of fear of retaliation, worked with the board. They had early success, he said, when they persuaded police to provide officers to guard the school. But the patrols left after a few weeks, probably intimidated by the gangs.

One evening in April 2014, Gutierrez was watching television at home with her two sons, ages 5 and 11, when she heard banging at the front door. Her older boy recognized the three armed and heavily tattooed young men on the stoop as the same ones who had thrown him to the ground earlier that day, telling him, not for the first time, that they wanted him to join their ranks. Now they had come to deliver a message to Gutierrez.

“They said they knew I was involved in the parents’ association,” Gutierrez said. “They said they would kill me and my children.

“I began to panic and shake,” she said. “I thought, ‘I have to go now. I am not going to risk my child’s life.’ ”

She quickly packed some backpacks for her and her children and called the only friend she knew who had a car. They drove all night to her friend’s mother’s house in another town.

“NO POLICE HERE”

Two months later, according to court documents, Ana was walking her 7-year-old daughter home from school when three members of a rival gang confronted them. Two of them grabbed Ana and her daughter, pinned their wrists behind their backs, and pointed a gun at the child’s head. The third pointed a gun at Ana’s head. They demanded that a payment of more than $5,000 be delivered in 24 hours, a huge sum for a woman who sold tortillas for a living.

Ana testified in her asylum hearing that she knew they were gang members “because they were dressed in baggy clothing and they also had ugly tattoos … all over their bodies and faces.”

Ana and her daughter ran home and then, fearing the gang would come after them, fled out the back door. “We had to jump over a wall, and I hurt my foot doing so,” she said in an affidavit. “I was desperate and knew that I had to leave – my daughter’s life and mine were in danger.”

The school principal said he understands why Gutierrez and Ana left Honduras. “Because there were no police here, (the gangs) did what they wanted,” he said. “They said, ‘We’re going to kill the members of the parent-teacher association to get them out of here.’ So the women fled.”

Gutierrez hid for two months at her friend’s mother’s house outside Tegucigalpa. She joined another woman and, with their children, they set out to cross Mexico. On the journey, they were kidnapped – common for Central American migrants – and held for a $3,500 ransom. Gutierrez contacted relatives who wired the money. The kidnappers released her and her two sons near the U.S. border.

There they piled with another group of migrants into an inflatable raft and crossed the Rio Grande, the border between Mexico and the United States. They landed near Hidalgo, Texas.

After walking for an hour and a half, lost and desperate, Gutierrez and her sons sat down in the middle of a dirt road and waited for someone to pass. Two officials in uniforms picked them up. They were eventually transferred to the ICE detention center in Artesia.

Ana fled with her daughter the night the gang members threatened them on the street. “We bought a bus pass to go to Guatemala and from Guatemala to Mexico and to the U.S.-Mexico border,” according to her court testimony. The journey took three weeks. In Mexico, she hired a coyote – a smuggler – to help them cross into the United States and then turned herself in to Border Patrol agents near Hidalgo. She arrived at the Artesia detention center just weeks after Gutierrez.

“The other women in the center told me that there was someone else from Honduras who I might know, but I wasn’t sure who they were talking about,” Gutierrez said. “And then one day we went to lunch, and there they were.”

Gutierrez said that was when she first learned that her fellow parent-teacher association board member had been threatened and had fled from home.

Volunteer lawyers helped the women prepare and submit their applications for asylum.

In late 2014, the two women were released on bond. Gutierrez moved with her boys to Oakland, California, to join her husband, and petitioned to have her case moved to San Francisco. Ana moved with her daughter to live with her daughter’s father and petitioned to have her case moved to Charlotte.

“ASYLUM FREE ZONES”

Many immigrants released on bond before their cases are heard have no idea that where they settle could make the difference between obtaining legal status and deportation.

People familiar with the system are well aware of the difference. When Theodore Murphy, a former ICE prosecutor who now represents immigrants, has a client in a jurisdiction with a high deportation rate but near one with a lower rate, “I tell them to move,” he said.

The Charlotte court that would hear Ana’s case was one of five jurisdictions labeled “asylum free zones” by a group of immigrant advocates in written testimony last December before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The courts in Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas and Atlanta also received the designation.

The advocates testified that, while asylum is granted in nearly half of cases nationwide, Charlotte judges granted asylum in just 13 percent of cases in 2015. The Charlotte court was singled out for displaying a particular “bias against Central American gang and gender-related asylum claims.”

Couch is the toughest of Charlotte’s three immigration judges, according to the Reuters analysis.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research organization at Syracuse University in New York, first sounded the alarm about disparities in immigration court decisions in 2006. The next year, researchers at Temple University and Georgetown Law School concluded in a study titled “Refugee Roulette” that “in many cases, the most important moment in an asylum case is the instant in which a clerk randomly assigns an application to a particular asylum officer or immigration judge.” In 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found similar disparities in its own study.

In response to the rising criticism, the Executive Office for Immigration Review began tracking decisions to identify judges with unusually high or low rates of granting asylum. Mattingly, the EOIR spokeswoman, said the agency held training sessions for judges to address the disparities in 2008 and 2009. It then created a system for the public to file complaints against immigration judges.

In a 2016 report, the GAO found that little had changed. EOIR held a two-day training session last year. There is no training on the 2017 calendar.

From 2012 to 2016, EOIR received 624 complaints against judges. The 138 complaints lodged in 2016 alone included allegations of bias, as well as concerns about due process and judges’ conduct within the courtroom. Of the 102 complaints that had been resolved when the data were published, only three resulted in discipline, defined as “reprimand” or “suspension” of the judge. “Corrective actions” such as counseling or training were taken in 39 cases. Close to half the complaints were dismissed.

The agency does not identify judges who were the subjects of complaints.

Mattingly, the EOIR spokeswoman, said the agency “takes seriously any claims of unjustified and significant anomalies in immigration judge decision-making and takes steps to evaluate disparities in immigration adjudications.”

DAY IN COURT

Asylum applicants cannot gain legal U.S. residency because they fled their countries in mortal fear of civil strife or rampant crime or a natural disaster. They must convince the court that they have well-founded fears of persecution in their country because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinions or membership in a particular social group. The definition of a “particular social group” has been subject to conflicting interpretations in the courts, but in general, such a group comprises people who share basic beliefs or traits that can’t or shouldn’t have to be changed.

In the San Francisco court, Gutierrez’s lawyers argued that she qualified for asylum because as a leader of the parent-teacher association, she was at risk for her political opinion – her stand against gangs – and for belonging to a particular social group of Hondurans opposed to gang violence and recruitment in schools. The lawyers also argued that she was part of another particular social group as the family member of someone under threat, since the gangs had terrorized her son in trying to recruit him.

Holyoak was convinced. Gutierrez told Reuters that during her final hearing, the judge apologized for asking so many questions about what had been a painful time in her life, explaining that he had needed to establish her credibility.

In the Charlotte court, Ana’s lawyer focused more narrowly on her political opinion, arguing that she was at risk of persecution for her opposition to gangs in her position on the parent-teacher association board.

After hearing Ana’s case, Couch concluded in his written opinion that Ana was not eligible for asylum because she had “not demonstrated a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of a statutorily protected ground.” He wasn’t convinced that she risked persecution in Honduras because of her political opinion.

Well-established law recognizes family as a protected social group, according to the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. Cases that claim opposition to gangs as a protected political opinion, the center says, have generated fewer precedent-setting decisions, making that argument a more difficult one to win in court, though it has prevailed in some cases.

Ana’s response to Couch’s extensive questioning played a part in the decision. In immigration court, the asylum seeker is typically the only witness.  As a result, “credibility is really the key factor. Persecutors don’t give affidavits,” said Andrew Arthur, a former immigration judge who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit organization that supports lower levels of immigration.

Couch wrote in his opinion that Ana’s difficulty recounting the names of the women on the association board weighed against her credibility. He noted that she testified about her fears of the gang “with a flat affect and little emotion,” displaying a “poor demeanor” that “did not support her credibility.”

The judge also questioned why, in an early interview with an asylum officer, Ana never mentioned threats to the parent-teacher association, and instead said she thought the gangs were targeting her for the money her daughter’s father was sending from the United States to build a house in Honduras.

Ana’s assertion that she learned from Gutierrez in detention about gang threats to the parent-teacher association was not “persuasive,” Couch wrote. “The evidence indicates this is a case of criminal extortion that the respondent attempts to fashion into an imputed political opinion claim.”

“SOMEONE WANTS TO KILL THEM”

Gutierrez said Ana told her in one of their occasional phone conversations that she felt intimidated by the intense questioning of the ICE attorney. Gutierrez also said her friend “is very forgetful. … It’s not that she is lying. It’s just that she forgets things.”

Lisa Knox, the lawyer who represented Gutierrez, said judges where she practices tend to give applicants the benefit of the doubt. “They have more understanding of trauma survivors and the difficulty they might have in recounting certain details and little discrepancies,” she said.

Further, Knox said, asylum seekers aren’t thinking about the finer points of U.S. asylum law when they are fleeing persecution. “People show up in our office (and) they have no idea why someone wants to kill them. They just know someone wants to kill them.”

Ana’s lawyer appealed her case to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the first step in the appellate process. This time, her lawyer included arguments about her membership in a particular social group. She lost. In a three-page ruling, one board member said Ana’s lawyer could not introduce a new argument on appeal and agreed with Couch that Ana hadn’t proved a political motive behind the gang members’ attack.

Ana missed the deadline to appeal the BIA decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because her lawyer confused the deadline. She petitioned the BIA through new lawyers to reopen her case and send it back to the immigration court to allow her to present new evidence of her persecution. The new lawyers argued that her previous representation had been ineffective.

In July, the BIA granted Ana the right to a rehearing in immigration court, sending her case back to Charlotte, where it could be heard again by Couch.

Gutierrez can live and work legally in the United States and will ultimately be able to apply for citizenship. The 43-year-old, who worked as a nurse in Honduras, lives in a small one-bedroom apartment with her husband, her two sons – now 15 and 8 – her adult daughter and her grandson. She works as an office janitor and is taking English classes. Her boys are in school. The older one, once threatened by gangs in Honduras, likes studying history and math and is learning to play the cello.

Ana, 31, has had a baby since arriving in the United States and has been granted work authorization while she awaits a final decision on her case. She and her lawyers declined to share more detailed information about her situation because she remains fearful of the gangs in Honduras.

“I am very worried about her,” Gutierrez said. “The situation in our country is getting worse and worse.”

Last February, a 50-year-old woman and her 29-year-old son who were selling food at the school Gutierrez and Ana’s children attended were kidnapped from their home and decapitated, according to police records.

The head of the son was placed on the body of the mother and the head of the mother was placed on the body of the son. The murders, like more than 93 percent of crimes in Honduras, remain unsolved.

Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia and Kristina Cooke

U.S. immigration courts are administrative courts within the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. Unlike federal court judges, whose authority stems from the U.S. Constitution’s establishment of an independent judicial branch, immigration judges fall under the executive branch and thus are hired, and can be fired, by the attorney general.

More than 300 judges are spread among 58 U.S. immigration courts in 27 states, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. Cases are assigned to an immigration court based on where the immigrant lives. Within each court, cases are assigned to judges on a random, rotational basis.

The courts handle cases to determine whether an individual should be deported. Possible outcomes include asylum; adjustments of status; stay of deportation; and deportation. Decisions can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, an administrative body within the Department of Justice. From there, cases can be appealed to federal appeals court.

The Federal Bar Association and the National Association of Immigration Judges have endorsed the idea of creating an immigration court system independent of the executive branch. The Government Accountability Office studied some proposals for reform in 2017, without endorsing any particular model.

Reade Levinson

Heavy Odds

By Mica Rosenberg in Oakland, California, and Reade Levinson and Ryan McNeill in New York, with additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco

Data: Reade Levinson and Ryan McNeill

Graphics: Ashlyn Still

Photo editing: Steve McKinley and Barbara Adhiya

Video: Zachary Goelman

Design: Jeff Magness

Edited by Sue Horton, Janet Roberts and John Blanton”

Go to the link at the beginning to get the full benefit of the “interactive” features of this report on Reuters.

Also, here is an interactive presentation on the Trump Administration’s overall immigration policies:

http://www.reuters.com/trump-effect/immigration

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

Great reporting by Mica and her team!

Interesting to note that the Arlington Immigration Court, where I sat for 13 years, has one of the most consistent “grant rates” in the country, ranging from approximately 54% to 60% grants. Compare that with the Charlotte Immigration Court at 11% to 28% grants within the same judicial circuit (the Fourth Circuit). Something is seriously wrong here. And, Jeff Sessions has absolutely no intent of solving it except by pushing for 100% denials everywhere! That’s the very definition of a “Kangaroo Court!”

It’s time for an Article I Court. But, not sure it will happen any time soon. Meanwhile Sessions is making a mockery out of justice in the Immigration Courts just as he has in many other parts of the U.S. Justice system.

PWS

10-17-17

 

FIRST SHE WAS SCREWED BY THE U.S. ASYLUM SYSTEM, THEN SHE WAS TORTURED AND RAPED IN EL SALVADOR! — This Is What Trump & GOP Politicos Encourage & Now Seek To Actively Promote With Their Proposals To Shaft Asylum Seekers Even More — It’s Against The Law — Is This YOUR America? — What If It Were YOU Or One Of YOUR Family Members?

https://www.buzzfeed.com/johnstanton/a-young-woman-was-tortured-and-raped-after-being-turned

John Stanton reports for BuzzFeed News:

CHAPARRAL, New Mexico — The freckled 22-year-old never wanted to come to the United States. Her mother had made a good life in their village in El Salvador, and though they were poor, they were happy.

“There were just a few houses in the town, really. It was very peaceful. Very quiet,” the young woman, who asked not to be identified for her protection, recalled, speaking through an interpreter.

But in 2014, the US-based gang Mara 18 came to town with demands for protection payments and dark threats against anyone who stood up to them. Within months, Mara 18 had taken control of the town, and the young woman found herself t

CHAPARRAL, New Mexico — The freckled 22-year-old never wanted to come to the United States. Her mother had made a good life in their village in El Salvador, and though they were poor, they were happy.

“There were just a few houses in the town, really. It was very peaceful. Very quiet,” the young woman, who asked not to be identified for her protection, recalled, speaking through an interpreter.

But in 2014, the US-based gang Mara 18 came to town with demands for protection payments and dark threats against anyone who stood up to them. Within months, Mara 18 had taken control of the town, and the young woman found herself the object of the gang leader’s unwanted attention.

“I promise you, I would have never come here. I miss [my family] a lot. But here I am. I couldn’t stay,” she said, rubbing away the tears running down her face.

So she fled north, seeking asylum in the US. But once she arrived, instead of a safe haven she found a skeptical immigration system that rejected her request and deported her back to El Salvador, in part because she couldn’t prove she faced persecution back home — something that would only change after she’d been tortured and raped.

Within months, she had been brutally beaten and raped by the gang leader, who declared her his property. The attack meant she could finally return to the US and prove her asylum case.

“We can’t give them legal protection until they’re raped.”
Almost 10 months after returning, she is free, but only after struggling against immigration laws that weren’t written with victims like her — a target of an international criminal gang — in mind, and that make it nearly impossible for someone who has been deported to ever gain asylum. It took three tries to gain asylum, three times paying smugglers to take her on the dangerous journey across the border; finally in August, a judge blocked her deportation under an international treaty typically used to give criminal snitches sanctuary for their cooperation. But even that didn’t end things: The Trump administration made her wait in jail nearly a month before agreeing to not appeal her case.

Nancy Oretskin, the Salvadoran woman’s attorney and the director of the Southwest Asylum & Migration Institute, says changes to asylum law are needed to eliminate a perverse incentive for persecuted people to wait until they are tortured or raped before coming to the United States. “We can’t give them legal protection until they’re raped,” Oretskin said. “And even then, we deport many of them after they’ve been raped, and they’re killed. How does that happen in a civilized society?”

Change is unlikely under the current administration. A few months after President Trump was sworn in, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued new guidance to Department of Justice attorneys that emphasized the need to use prosecutions to “further reduce illegality” and that instructed them to pursue more criminal charges against undocumented immigrants.

he object of the gang leader’s unwanted attention.

“I promise you, I would have never come here. I miss [my family] a lot. But here I am. I couldn’t stay,” she said, rubbing away the tears running down her face.

So she fled north, seeking asylum in the US. But once she arrived, instead of a safe haven she found a skeptical immigration system that rejected her request and deported her back to El Salvador, in part because she couldn’t prove she faced persecution back home — something that would only change after she’d been tortured and raped.

Within months, she had been brutally beaten and raped by the gang leader, who declared her his property. The attack meant she could finally return to the US and prove her asylum case.

“We can’t give them legal protection until they’re raped.”
Almost 10 months after returning, she is free, but only after struggling against immigration laws that weren’t written with victims like her — a target of an international criminal gang — in mind, and that make it nearly impossible for someone who has been deported to ever gain asylum. It took three tries to gain asylum, three times paying smugglers to take her on the dangerous journey across the border; finally in August, a judge blocked her deportation under an international treaty typically used to give criminal snitches sanctuary for their cooperation. But even that didn’t end things: The Trump administration made her wait in jail nearly a month before agreeing to not appeal her case.

Nancy Oretskin, the Salvadoran woman’s attorney and the director of the Southwest Asylum & Migration Institute, says changes to asylum law are needed to eliminate a perverse incentive for persecuted people to wait until they are tortured or raped before coming to the United States. “We can’t give them legal protection until they’re raped,” Oretskin said. “And even then, we deport many of them after they’ve been raped, and they’re killed. How does that happen in a civilized society?”

Change is unlikely under the current administration. A few months after President Trump was sworn in, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued new guidance to Department of Justice attorneys that emphasized the need to use prosecutions to “further reduce illegality” and that instructed them to pursue more criminal charges against undocumented immigrants.“

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Read the complete, compelling but disturbing, report at the above link.

This illustrates the ugly results of immigration policies pushed by Trump, Sessions, Miller, and tone deaf GOP Legislators like Rep. Bob Goodlatte.  They are part of the outrageous Trump Immigration ”Deform” Program drafted by Miller. And this unholy and inhumane group seeks to make things even worse for scared asylum applicants like this. They should be held morally accountable for their behavior, even if they can’t be held legally responsible for the gross abuses of human rights they promote. They seek to turn the U.S. legal system into a major human rights violator. And, it’s not that some of these practices didn’t originate during the Obama Administration. Trump and his White Nationalist cronies have just tripled down on pre-existing abuses.

In fact, many of the women being imprisoned in the American Gulag then turned away are either entitled to asylum or would be if the DOJ-controlled BIA had not intentionally distorted asylum law to deny them protection. In any event, almost all of them should be offered protection under the mandatory Convention Against Torture. TPS or some other form of prosecutorial discretion would also be potential solutions.

But, sending young women back to be tortured and raped, the Trump Administration’s “solution,” is not acceptable. 

PWS

101-10-17

 

 

 

CNN’S TAL KOPAN: WHITE HOUSE RESTRICTIONIST AGENDA THREATENS DREAMER DEAL!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/08/politics/white-house-daca-deal-principles/index.htm

Tal reports:

“Washington (CNN)The White House on Sunday night is expected to release an aggressive list of priorities for any deal to protect young undocumented immigrants in limbo — a list that could make a deal almost impossible to reach if it is strictly followed.

According to documents obtained by CNN, the Trump administration is expected to ask lawmakers to include tough border security and immigration enforcement measures in any deal to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the administration is ending. Those measures would include provisions to make it harder for unaccompanied minors to enter the country illegally, money for the President’s border wall and cuts to legal immigration.
Trump announced he would end the Obama-era DACA program, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, at the beginning of last month, but gave Congress a six-month window in which to act to make the program permanent. Trump has repeatedly said he wanted border security measures as part of a deal, but Sunday night was the first time lawmakers were able to see the full list of the White House asks.
The list represents Republican priorities for immigration and border security, such as tightening the standard for asylum protections, beefing up staffing, cracking down on sanctuary cities, expanding the ways would-be immigrants can be rejected and cutting back significantly on the number of ways that immigrants can obtain green cards in the US by restricting family categories and transforming the employment-based system.
While Democrats have signaled an openness to some deal on DACA and border security, many of the proposals alone would be deal-breakers. Democrats are almost certainly needed to pass a bill to clear the filibuster threshold of 60 votes in the Senate and to make up for Republicans in both chambers who may decline to vote for any path to citizenship or legalization for DACA recipients.
close dialog
What will be key, one Democratic congressional staffer said, is how hard the White House pushes for the wish list.
“Depends on whether they’re serious or just positioning,” the staffer said. “If it’s the latter, and they leave themselves a lot of room to move, then maybe we can still negotiate something. The problem is that they could lock themselves in politically and then not be able to bend.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were quick to pan the list, saying it shows Trump “can’t be serious” about reaching a deal if they start with a list that is “anathema” to immigrants and Democrats.
“We told the President at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable,” the Democratic leaders said in a statement, referring to discussions over dinner at the White House last month. “This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise. The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”
While Trump has Republican supporters on Capitol Hill who have endorsed a similar wish list of measures, even among his own party, lawmakers have pleaded with the White House not to seek a comprehensive immigration reform package before dealing with DACA — for which permits begin expiring March 6.
At a hearing in the Senate last week with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, both Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who have proposed different DACA measures, implored the officials not to seek a complete immigration deal before any action. Durbin said it was “too much” to “put the burden” on a DACA bill to answer all of the issues on the table.
“It’s too much to ask … and I hope you’ll take that message back,” Durbin said.
Responding to the general principles articulated at the hearing, Tillis said: “It reads like a laundry list for comprehensive immigration reform, and if Congress has proven an extraordinary ability to do anything, it’s to fail at comprehensive immigration reform.”
*************************************************
As I’ve said before, this “proposal” — obviously the work of White Nationalist racists like Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions influenced by Steve Bannon — is DOA. And, it’s certainly not an outline for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” No, it’s actually “Regressive Racist Anti-Americanism.” Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that that America has used immigration laws to advance a despicable racist agenda. But, in the 21st Century all decent Americans have to take a strong stand against “neo-racists” of the GOP and the “neo-fascists” of the Alt Right. And, a guys like Miller, Gonzo, and Bannon fit both of those categories. They, along with Trump and “Looney White Guys With Guns,” pose the biggest threats to America’s safety and security.
PWS
10-08-17

 

BRINGING OUR CONSTITUTION BACK TO LIFE — AN IMPORTANT FIRST STEP: “JAYAPAL, SMITH INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO REFORM IMMIGRATION DETENTION SYSTEM!”

https://www.theindianpanorama.news/unitedstates/jayapal-smith-introduce-legislation-reform-immigration-detention-system/

From Indian Panorama:

“WASHINGTON (TIP): Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) and Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) introduced, on Oct 3, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, legislation to reform the systemic problems in immigration detention system. This bill will end the use of private facilities and repeal mandatory detention, while restoring due process, oversight, accountability, and transparency to the immigration detention system.

“The high moral cost of our inhumane immigration detention system is reprehensible. Large, private corporations operating detention centers are profiting off the suffering of men, women and children. We need an overhaul,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “It’s clear that the Trump administration is dismantling the few protections in place for detained immigrants even as he ramps up enforcement against parents and vulnerable populations. This bill addresses the most egregious problems with our immigration detention system. It’s Congress’ responsibility to step up and pass this bill.”

“We must fix the injustices in our broken immigration detention system,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “As the Trump administration continues to push a misguided and dangerous immigration agenda, we need to ensure fair treatment and due process for immigrants and refugees faced with detention. This legislation will address some of the worst failings of our immigration policy, and restore integrity and humanity to immigration proceedings.”

In addition to repealing mandatory detention, a policy that often results in arbitrary and indefinite detention, the legislation creates a meaningful inspection process at detention facilities to ensure they meet the government’s own standards. The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish legally enforceable civil detention standards in line with those adopted by the American Bar Association. With disturbing track records of abuse and neglect, DHS has a responsibility to ensure that facilities are held accountable for the humane treatment of those awaiting immigration proceedings.

Individuals held in immigration detention system are subject to civil law, but are often held in conditions identical to prisons. In many cases, detained people are simply awaiting their day in court. To correct the persistent failures of due process, the legislation requires the government to show probable cause to detain people, and implements a special rule for primary caregivers and vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and people with serious medical and mental health issues.”

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

Since these guys are Democrats, their bill is obviously DOA. But, it is important to start “laying down markers” — even symbolic ones — for the future.

As a  former administrative judge who was required to administer and enforce mandatory detention (under DOJ rules, we were not permitted to consider the constitutionality of the mandatory detention statutes and the DHS implementing regulations) for the better part of two decades, I can assure you that it was a totally unnecessary, grossly wasteful, and stunningly unhumane blot on our national conscience and our reputation as a nation that adheres to principles of simple human decency.

There is absolutely no reason why U.S. Imigration Judges cannot determine who needs to be detained as a flight risk or a danger to the community and who doesn’t! But, for that to happen, we also need an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court not beholden to the Attorney General (particularly one like Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions with a perverse ignorance of Constitutional protections, an overwhelming bias against immigrants, and a record largely devoid of notable acts of human decency.)

Every study conducted during the last Administration, including DHS’s own Advisory Committee, found serious problems and inadequate conditions in private detention and recommended that it be eliminated. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch actually announced an end to private detention for criminals. Yet, remarkably and unconscionably, the response of the Trump Administration, led by Gonzo Apocalypto, was to double down and expand the use of expensive, inhumane private detention for convicted criminals and for “civil” immigration detainees whose sole “crime” is to seek justice from the courts in America.

Thanks much to Nolan Rappaport for sending this in!

PWS

10-06-17

 

DUE PROCESS IN ACTION: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN INDEPENDENT ARTICLE III COURT ACTS TO ENFORCE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS BEING IGNORED BY DHS & DOJ: Here’s One Family’s “Human Story” About How the 9th Circuit’s Decision In Jennings v. Rodriguez Saved Them (And Also Us)! — Bond Hearings Can Mean EVERYTHING To A Detained Immigrant & Family!

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2017/10/how-a-bond-hearing-saved-me-from-deportation-by-mark-hwang.html

From ImmigratonProf Blog:

The ACLU blog has an interesting post on Jennings v. Rodriguez, the immigrant detention case argued in the Supreme Court today.

How A Bond Hearing Saved Me From Deportation By Mark Hwang

Today the Supreme Court will hear Jennings v. Rodriguez, a case that will decide the fate of thousands of men and women locked up in immigration prisons across the country. The federal government is challenging a 2015 Ninth Circuit ruling, in which the American Civil Liberties Union secured the right to a bond hearing for people in deportation proceedings after six months of detention.

Bond hearings allow people to go before a judge so that he or she can decide if imprisonment is necessary, weighing factors like public safety and flight risk. It’s basic due process. Bond hearings are a vital check on our country’s rapidly-expanding immigration system. I’ve seen their power firsthand, because not too long ago, I was one of the people locked up.

In February 2013, I was driving with my one-year-old son when we were stopped by an immigration officer. He said that I hadn’t used my turn signal when changing lanes and asked to see my identification. When he came back to the car, he asked if I had ever been convicted of a crime.

I answered truthfully. More than a decade ago, when I was in my early 20s, I was convicted of marijuana possession with intent to sell. I had served a short sentence and had remained out of trouble since. Still the officers said that I needed to go with them and that I would have to explain “my situation” to a judge. I was shackled and put in the back of the car while one of the officers got into my car to drive my son home.

I thought there had to be some kind of mistake. Around two weeks earlier, my wife Sarah had given birth to our identical twin daughters. My life at the time was full, growing, and completely rooted in the United States.

When I was booked into custody, an officer told me that my drug conviction meant that my detention was “mandatory.” Nobody had ever told me that pleading guilty on a drug charge could have implications for my immigration status. I petitioned a court to vacate the marijuana conviction, but because I was locked up, I couldn’t appear at the hearing. The request was denied and I had no idea for how long I would be locked up, leaving my wife to run our business and care for our children alone. When my family came to visit me in detention, I wasn’t allowed any physical contact, so I couldn’t hold my newborn daughters or my son.

I was at a breaking point, and nearly ready to sign deportation papers when – after being locked up for six months — I finally received a bond hearing as result of the court decision in Jennings. I was granted bond and released, allowing me to return to my family. With the help of an attorney, I was able to vacate my marijuana conviction because I had never been apprised of the immigration consequences to pleading guilty. As a result, ICE no longer had a reason to try to deport me.

Before Jennings, people fighting deportation could be detained indefinitely while they defend their rights to remain in the United States. This includes lawful permanent residents like me; asylum seekers and survivors of torture; the parents of young children who are citizens; and even citizens who are wrongly classified as immigrants. Many go on to win their deportation cases, which means their detention was completely unnecessary.

Even worse, a lot of people simply give up their cases because they can’t endure the hardship of being locked up. Detention almost broke me and I could have lost my life in the only country I’ve known since I was six years old. Instead, I’m here to share my story. Through this experience, I found my faith and am now deeply involved in my church and community. My son is six years old and my twins are five. My wife and I still run our business and I thank her all the time for being a pillar of strength while I was locked up. I hope the justices make the right choice — it can make all the difference.

KJ

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

We’re in “Catch 22” territory here! This respondent was locked up by DHS in “mandatory detention” because he was wrongfully convicted in state court. But, he couldn’t successfully challenge his state court conviction because he was locked up by DHS. Once he got a bond hearing, after six months, he was released, his conviction was vacated, and he and his family could go back to living their lives and being productive Americans. 

But, without the intervention of the 9th Circuit in Jennings, this individual likely would have been coerced into “voluntarily” relinquishing his Constitutional rights and accepting removal to a country where he hadn’t been since he was six years old. I can guarantee you that in jurisdictions where the Article III Courts have not intervened in a manner similar to Jennings, individuals are coerced into abandoning their Constitutional rights and foregoing potentially winning Immigration Court cases on a daily basis.

And, just think of the absurd waste of taxpayer money in detaining this harmless individual for months and forcing the legal system to intervene, rather than having both Congress and the DHS use some common sense and human decency. Few Americans fully contemplate just how broken our current immigration system is, and how we are trashing our Constitution with inane statutes enacted by Congress and poor judgment by the officials charged with administering them.

Easy to “blow off” until it’s you, a relative, or a friend whose Constitutional rights are being mocked and life ruined. But, by then, it will be too late! Stand up for Due Process and human decency now!

PWS

10

TIRED OF READING ABOUT THE ANTICS OF BOZOS 🤡 IN THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION? —Here’s The Story Of Cristian Minor, A “Good Guy” Making America Great!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/casa-san-jose-lawyer-undocumented-immigrants_us_596fc5dfe4b0110cb3cb6e94

Sarah Ruiz-Grossman reports for HuffPost:

“With immigrants living in a climate of fear under President Donald Trump, lawyers like Cristian Minor are stepping up to help undocumented I families.
Minor volunteers at a Pittsburgh legal clinic run by local nonprofit Casa San Jose, where he provides free counsel to Latino immigrants. One of the most difficult matters he deals with is helping parents designate a guardian to care for their U.S.-born children in case the parents are detained or deported.
“The fears of the community are that at any moment ― when they go to work ― they could be detained by ICE,” Minor said, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “Can you imagine that you live every day of your life and you don’t know if you’re going to come back and see your kids? I became a father recently ― and I cannot imagine my life being away from my child.”
Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies ― including cracking down on undocumented immigrants and rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program ― have generated great worry in immigrant communities. He has repeatedly referred to undocumented immigrants as criminals, while ICE is making headlines with its blunt enforcement efforts.
 In early February in Austin, Texas, ICE stopped undocumented immigrants in traffic, attempted to arrest them in their homes and patrolled around a grocery store. Later that month, school kids in the area told HuffPost that their parents were afraid to go food shopping or drop them off at school.
Casa San Jose started the legal clinic in November after Trump’s election.
Minor is an immigrant himself. Arriving in the U.S. from Mexico eight years ago, he considers himself “lucky” to have come here “with documents.” He initially attended law school in Mexico, ultimately earned his law degree in the U.S. and today is a lawyer focused on oil and gas consulting, immigration and family law. He’s now a U.S. citizen and is married to a woman from Pennsylvania.
Minor told HuffPost he wants to “destroy the image of the immigrant” as a criminal. Research has shown that immigrants — both documented and undocumented — are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens.
“I can attest to the good faith of the immigrants who come here,” he said. “They don’t come to steal jobs. They just come for a better life.” 

Navigating the complexities of the U.S. immigration system can be a challenge, particularly if English is not your first language. Attorneys and law students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Immigration Law Clinic participate in Casa San Jose’s near-monthly event, helping usually more than a dozen people, the nonprofit’s executive director Julian Asenjo told HuffPost. The four-hour sessions are generally booked solid, he said.
With undocumented parents, Minor raises this question: If they are deported and choose not to take their U.S.-born children back to their home country ― which the children may never have visited and whose language they may not speak ― who will take care of the kids? He helps the parents to prepare a document that names their choice for their kids’ guardian.
But the documents are no guarantee. In Pennsylvania, Minor said, any final decision on guardianship is up to a judge, who must consider the best interest of the child. Even if the mother wants her sister to take care of her kid, for example, the judge could decide that the child is better off in foster care.
Minor’s clients are not alone: While custody rules vary by state, undocumented parents across the country have been developing plans for guardianship since Trump became president. Minor doesn’t know of any instance yet in which a parent getting deported had to leave kids behind without another parent or legal guardian. But he and others are seeking to avoid that worst-case scenario.
“The system of immigration is destroying these families,” Minor said. “They are people who came to this country fleeing situations of poverty, violence in their home countries.”
Although President Barack Obama carried out a record number of deportations and was even dubbed the “deporter-in-chief,” Trump’s policies have generated more fear because of their sweeping nature, Minor said.
Under Obama, there were clear priorities: People with criminal records or gang affiliation were at higher risk for deportation, while those with no criminal records or with U.S.-born children were lower on the list. Under Trump, however, most undocumented immigrants are at risk.
They come here, they work really hard to provide for their family, they pay taxes, they do everything right, they have not committed crimes,” Minor said. “Suddenly you have the risk that the father can be deported, or the mother, and the kids are probably going to end up in the foster care system. It’s a very difficult thing.”
A video of a 13-year-old girl crying over her father, who was detained as he was driving her to school, garnered widespread attention earlier this year.

Besides guardianship, Minor has counseled undocumented individuals on a range of issues, from a domestic worker who was being abused by her employers to a woman whose partner was beating her. In both cases, the victim was afraid to turn to authorities for fear of being deported.
In an April survey, immigration attorneys and advocates reported that immigrants are increasingly reluctant to complain to authorities about domestic violence and sexual assault.

“This is what’s happening right now, what the Trump administration’s rhetoric is creating: marginalization of immigrants, specifically Latinos, driving people underground for fear of deportation,” Minor said. “These policies create fear and empower individuals who use this rhetoric to oppress the immigrant populations here.”
For people who want to support undocumented families, Minor suggests donating to or volunteering at a community center, like Casa San Jose. If you have language or legal skills, one of these groups might welcome your time.”

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

Sarah’s article does a great job of illustrating the bogus narrative, wanton cruelty, and just plain “dumb” gonzo enforcement being promoted by Trump, Sessions, Miller and the White Nationalists, and being mindlessly carried out by DHS/ICE.

One of the worst aspects is that rather than making America safer, “gonzo enforcement,” empowers gangs, drug traffickers, domestic abusers, extorters, rapists, and sex abusers who have been essentially “turned loose” on ethnic communities by the Trump Administration with little chance being apprehended by law enforcement. That’s exactly what so-called sanctuary cities are organizing to resist.

Since DHS is prone to go for “low hanging fruit,” collaterals, minor criminals, and immigration violators, to build up bogus stats, that in turn justify their existence, the chances of the real ”bad guys” being taken off the streets by these tactics are likely reduced.

In the meantime, thank goodness for the real “good guys” like Cristian Minor who are working hard to limit and wherever possible repair the human, economic, social, and moral carnage being inflicted on America by the Trump Administration.

PWS

09-30-17

 

 

 

 

 

“Warren Buffett on Immigration Reform: Buffett feels that immigrants (including undocumented ones) have been and continue to be a key part of our prosperity — not a part of the problem.“

https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/09/29/warren-buffett-on-immigration-reform.aspx

Matthew Frankel reports for The Motley Fool:

“Immigration reform has been a hot-button issue long before President Trump pledged to build a wall along our border. And while there’s certainly an argument to be made that we need to do a better job of controlling illegal immigration, there’s also a strong case to be made that immigrants are a big driving force behind America’s growth — past, present, and future.

Warren Buffett has been very outspoken in recent years about America and its amazing economic story. Not only does Buffett feel that immigrants have led us to where we are today, but he also thinks that immigrants are an essential component of our country’s future success.

Here’s what Warren Buffett thinks of immigrants
In a nutshell, Buffett feels that immigrants (including undocumented ones) have been and continue to be a key part of our prosperity — not a part of the problem. “This country has been blessed by immigrants,” Buffett said in February at Columbia University. “You can take them from any country you want, and they’ve come here and they found something that unleashed the potential that the place that they left did not, and we’re the product of it.”

Referring to Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard, both of whom were immigrants themselves, Buffett said, “If it hadn’t been for those two immigrants, who knows whether we’d be sitting in this room.”

In his most recent letter to Berkshire Hathaway’s (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) shareholders, Buffett specifically mentioned immigrants as one of the major components of America’s success story. “From a standing start 240 years ago — a span of time less than triple my days on earth — Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers.”

On a pathway to citizenship
Buffett is an outspoken Democrat who actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Buffett doesn’t want to deport millions of illegal immigrants who are currently in the United States.

In a 2015 interview with Fox Business, Buffett said

People should be able to earn citizenship who are here. You know, I do not think we should deport millions of people. So, I think we should have a real path to citizenship.

Buffett was then asked specifically about the DREAM Act and its 800,000 minors who are in the country illegally and now face an uncertain future after the end of DACA, from the perspective of a successful American businessman. Buffett replied:

It is a question of being a human being not really a businessman. Immigrants came, our forefathers came as immigrants, they got here anyway they could. And who knows what I would have done if I were in some terrible situation in a country and wanted to come here…a great percentage of them are good citizens. I would have a path to citizenship for them, I would not send them back.

 

On immigration policy and reform
As we all know, the immigration debate has been going on for a long time. And Buffett’s stance hasn’t changed much over the past several years. In a 2013 interview with ABC’s This Week, Buffett said:

I think we should have a more logical immigration policy. It would mean we would attract a lot of people, but we would attract the people we want to attract in particular — in terms of education, tens or hundreds of thousands of people. We enhance their talents and have them stick around here.

Buffett went on to say that any reform package should “certainly offer [undocumented immigrants] the chance to become citizens,” and one main reason for doing so would be to deepen the talent pool of the labor force.

Buffett’s stance on immigration in a nutshell
Warren Buffett believes that allowing immigrants who are already in the country to stay and pursue citizenship is not only the right thing to do, but is essential to America’s continued economic prosperity. Buffett certainly sees the need for immigration reform, as most Americans of all political affiliations do, but wants to encourage and simplify the legal pathways to immigration.”

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

Buffet speaks simple truth: Immigrants, both documented and undocumented are not threats, but rather are a necessary ingredient for America’s greatness. We need to bring law-abiding undocumented individuals into our society in some type of legal, work authorized status. We also need substantial across the board increases in legal immigration, so that in the future the immigrants we need can come through the legal system (or wait in a realistic line) rather than coming through an underground system and working and living in the shadows.

The lies, misrepresentations, and false narratives being peddled by Trump, Sessions, Bannon, Miller, Kobach, Cotton, Perdue, King, Goodlatte, Labrador, the so called “Freedom” Caucus, and the rest of their White Nationalist restrictionist cronies are a path to national disaster. Removing existing non-criminal migrants who happen to be working here in undocumented status is a colossal waste of limited Government resources that actually hurts our country in numerous ways.

Time to stand up against the restrictionist, White Nationalist, xenophobic, anti-American blather. Demand that your Congressional representatives back sane, humane immigration reform that takes care of those already here and recognizes their great contributions while appropriately and significantly expanding future legal immigration opportunities so that we don’t keep repreating our mistakes over and over.

Let’s be honest about it. If the time, money, and resources that the U.S. Government is currently spending on the counterproductive aspects of immigration enforcement and inhumane immigration detention were shifted into constructive areas, there would be no “disaster relief crisis” in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands right now, and we’d have more money to spend on heath care, job training and retraining, infrastructure, addressing the opioid crisis, and many more legitimate national priorities!

PWS

09-30-17

DEAN KEVIN JOHNSON PREVIEWS JENNINGS V. RODRIGUEZ (INDEFINITE PREHEARING IMMIGRATION DETENTION) OA IN SCOTUS BLOG

http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/09/argument-preview-constitutionality-mandatory-lengthy-immigrant-detention-without-bond-hearing/

Dean Johnson writes:

“Detention as a tool of immigration enforcement has increased dramatically following immigration reforms enacted in 1996. Two Supreme Court cases at the dawn of the new millennium offered contrasting approaches to the review of decisions of the U.S. government to detain immigrants. In 2001, in Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court interpreted an immigration statute to require judicial review of a detention decision because “to permit[] indefinite detention of an alien would cause a serious constitutional problem.” Just two years later, the court in Demore v. Kim invoked the “plenary power” doctrine – something exceptional to immigration law and inconsistent with modern constitutional law – to immunize from review a provision of the immigration statute requiring detention of immigrants awaiting removal based on a crime.

How the Supreme Court reconciles these dueling decisions will no doubt determine the outcome in Jennings v. Rodriguez. This case involves the question whether immigrants, like virtually any U.S. citizen placed in criminal or civil detention, must be guaranteed a bond hearing and possible release from custody. Relying on Zadvydas v. Davis, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed a district court injunction that avoided “a serious constitutional problem” by requiring bond hearings every six months for immigrant detainees. The court of appeals further mandated that, in order to continue to detain an immigrant, the government must prove that the noncitizen poses a flight risk or a danger to public safety.”

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Read the rest of Dean Johnson’s analysis at the link.

This is huge in human rights. A “W” for the Administration, which many observers view as likely with the advent of Justice Gorsuch, will essentially “Green Light” the Trump-Sessions-Miller plan to construct the “New American Gulag.” The Gulag’s “prisoners” will be noncriminal migrants (many of them women fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle) whose only “crime” is to assert their rights for due process and justice under our laws.

The concept that migrants have rights is something that sticks in the craws of the White Nationalists. So, punishing them for asserting their rights (with an objective of coercing them into giving up their rights and leaving “voluntarily”) is the next best thing to denying them entirely (which the Administration routinely does whenever it thinks it can get away with it — and the Article IIIs have largely, but not entirely, been asleep at the switch here).

And, make no mistake about it, as study after study has shown, the “conditions of civil detention” in the Gulag are substandard. So much so that in the last Administration DHS’s own study committee actually recommended an end to private immigration detention contracts and a phasing out of so-called “family detention.” The response of the Trump White Nationalists: ignore the facts and double down on the inhumanity.

Based on recent news reports, DHS immigration detainees die at a rate of approximately one per month.  And many more suffer life changing and life threatening medical and psychiatric conditions while in detention. Just “collateral damage” in “Gonzo speak.”

Immigration detainees are often held without bond or with bonds that are so unrealistically high that they effectively amount to no bond. And, in many cases (like the one here) they are denied even minimal access to a U.S. Immigration Judge to have the reasons for detention reviewed.

Plus, as I reported recently, across the nation DHS is refusing to negotiate bonds for those eligible. They are also appealing Immigration Judge decisions to release migrants on bond pending hearings, apparently without any regard to the merits of the IJ’s decision. In other words, DHS is abusing the immigration appeals system for the purpose of harassing migrants who won’t agree to waive their rights to a due process hearing and depart!

Also, as I pointed out, in the “no real due process” world of  the U.S. Immigration Courts, the DHS prosecutors can unilaterally block release of a migrant on bond pending appeal. In most cases this means that the individual remains in detention until the Immigration Judge completes the “merits hearing.” At that point the BIA determines that the DHS bond appeal is “moot” and dismisses it without ever reaching the merits. Just another bogus “production” statistic generated by EOIR!

Oh, and by the way, contrary to “Gonzo” Session’s false and misleading rhetoric on so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” one of the things jurisdictions that rationally choose to limit cooperation with DHS enforcement to those with significant criminal records are doing is protecting their law-abiding, productive migrant residents and migrant communities from the patent abuses of  the “American Gulag.” “Gonzo policies” predictably drive reasonable people to take protective actions.

But, some day, the bureaucrats, complicit judges (particularly life-tenured Article III Judges, like the Supremes), reactionary legislators who turn their backs on human suffering, and misguided voters who have allowed this human rights travesty to be perpetrated on American soil will be held accountable, by the forces of history if nothing else.

PWS

09-28-17

NO MORE BUREAUCRATIC BS – AMERICA NEEDS AN INDEPENDENT ARTICLE I IMMIGRATION COURT NOW — A RESPONSE TO THE DOJ’S ATTEMPT TO “COVER UP” THE SCANDALOUS, SELF-CREATED, DUE-PROCESS DENYING IMMIGRATON COURT BACKLOG EXPOSED BY NBC 4 DC’S I-TEAM — By Paul Wickham Schmidt, United States Immigration Judge (Retired)

  • NO MORE BUREAUCRATIC BS – AMERICA NEEDS AN INDEPENDENT ARTICLE I IMMIGRATION COURT NOW
  • A RESPONSE TO THE DOJ’S ATTEMPT TO “COVER UP” THE SCANDALOUS, SELF-CREATED, DUE-PROCESS DENYING IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOG EXPOSED BY NBC 4 DC’S I-TEAM
  •  
  • By Paul Wickham Schmidt
  • United States Immigration Judge (Retired
  • Let’s look at a few pieces of the EOIR “response” to the I-Team’s Recent Expose. You can read that full exercise in bureaucratese in a separate blog right here:  http://wp.me/p8eeJm-1tn

First, the EOIR bureaucracy has no coherent plan to address the backlog that now has risen to more than 628,000 pending cases (even more than at the time Jodie interviewed me) notwithstanding more U.S. Immigration Judges on board! The agency is “studying” the matter. Usually that means that politicos at the DOJ are looking for ways to further truncate Due Process and fairness for respondents in the Immigration Courts.

 

“Studying” the matter. Oh, please! Let’s look at the most glaring failure highlighted by Jodie, the failure to have even a rudimentary e-filing system. Back in 2001, a group of us, including computer wonks, field personnel, and Senior Executives were assigned to an e-filing project. We submitted a detailed report, complete with plans for a pilot program to the EOIR Executive Group, where it promptly was buried. More than 15 year later, and following several more waste of time studies, there still is no e-filing system in the U.S. Immigration Courts! Not even a viable pilot program! In the meantime, almost every other court system in America has implemented e-filing. For heaven’s sake, even the local courts in Wisconsin have e-filing capability!

 

Second, EOIR makes the totally disingenuous statement that: “Although multiple factors may have contributed to this caseload, immigration judges must ensure that lower productivity and adjudicatory inefficiency do not further exacerbate this situation. To this end, EOIR recently issued Operating Policies and Procedures Memorandum 17-01: Continuances (available at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/oppm-log), which provides guidance on the fair and efficient handling of motions for continuance.”

 

This is a blatant misrepresentation of what caused the real problem and a grotesque failure to accept responsibility! The current crisis has little, if anything, to do with Immigration Judge productivity (at an average of 750 completions per judge, U.S. Immigration Judges are already working 50% above the recommended maximum level for their positions — if anything, as shown by some of the recent gross errors exposed by U.S. Circuit Courts, both the Immigration Judges and the BIA Judges should be slowing down to get things right — “haste makes waste”).

 

No the real problem here is quite simple: bureaucrats at EOIR, the politicos at DOJ, and Congress. Let’s start with Congress. While Congress has belatedly provided some extra positions and funding for the Immigration Courts, for years Congress has been responsible for overfunding DHS enforcement while underfunding the Immigration Court system.

 

Moreover, the idiotic Government shutdown during the Obama Administration hurt immeasurably. During at least one such shutdown, the vast majority of Immigration Judges, those assigned to the non-detained dockets, were determined by the DOJ to be “nonessential,” sent home on “furlough,” and our dockets were cancelled. When we finally returned to court, there was docket chaos. The system really never has recovered from that man-made disaster. Moreover, both Congress’s failure to fund and DOJ’s idiotic designation of us as “nonessential” sent strong messages that the entire Immigration Court is a “who cares” operation from both a Congressional and an Administration standpoint. And mindless hiring freezes resulting from incompetence in Congress and the Executive Branch didn’t help either.

 

Then, years of “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” at the behest of DOJ politicos carrying out improper enforcement initiatives through the courts turned chaos into absolute bedlam! Senior Immigration Judges were reassigned from “Merits Dockets” to “meet and greets” for Unaccompanied Minors who really belonged before the DHS Asylum Office. Other judges were taken off of “ready for trial” merits dockets and assigned to hear cases of recently arrived “Adults With Children,” many of whom had not received sufficient time to find lawyers and whose cases were often “Not Quite Ready For Prime Time.” Judges were detailed from full “home” dockets to the Southern Border where they often weren’t needed or didn’t have enough work to keep busy. Then, the Trump Administration took judges off of Merits Dockets that had been pending for years and reassigned them to obscure detention courts, where they often were not fully occupied or were taking over dockets from other judges who were left with nothing to do.

 

The DOJ/EOIR bureaucracy long ago deprived sitting Immigration Judges of any meaningful control over their local dockets. To now insinuate that Immigration Judge “productivity” or “continuances granted by local Immigration Judges” are significant causes of the problem is an outrageous attempt to cover up the sad truth. Additionally, over the past four Administrations, the DOJ has refused to implement Congress’s statutory grant of contempt authority to U.S. Immigration Judges. This deprives Immigration Judges of even the most rudimentary tools possessed by judges of comparable authority for maintaining order and control of their courts.

 

Then there are continuances. As Hon. Jeffrey Chase and I have both pointed out in our separate blogs, the attempt to blame judges and overwhelmed private counsel, particularly those serving for NGSs or pro bono, for requesting too many continuances is totally bogus. The majority of the lengthy continuances in Immigration Court are the result of Aimless Docket Reshuffling imposed by the politicos at DOJ and carried out by compliant administrators at EOIR who have lost sight of their due process mission but not of the need to save their jobs by cooperating with the politicos.

 

As Jodie pointed out, there are lots of folks out there, many with potentially winning cases, who are ready and would like their “day in court.” But, the system is too busy shuffling things around to satisfy the President’s Executive Orders and trying to fulfill the Attorney General’s enforcement priorities to deliver justice in a reasonable, predictable, and orderly manner.

 

The private bar and NGO attorneys, many of whom serve pro bono or low bono, are the unsung heroes of this system. They are the only reason the system hasn’t completely collapsed yet! Their intentional mistreatment and the disrespect showered on them by spineless bureaucrats at EOIR and the cowardly politicos at DOJ is nothing short of a national disgrace!

 

Then, let’s take a closer look at the DOJ/EOIR hiring fiasco! According to a recent GAO study recommending improvements at the Immigration Courts, Immigration Judge hiring has taken an astounding average of two years! That’s longer than it takes for a Senate-confirmed political appointment or than it took the Roosevelt Administration to build the Pentagon during the New Deal! But, the results of this glacial, “Rube-Goldberg” process are disturbingly predictable and pedestrian. Nearly 90% of the Immigration Judges hired over this and the past Administration came from prosecutorial or other government backgrounds. With due respect, one could probably have produced similar results by “blind drawing” applications from senior government attorneys from a box. Neither EOIR nor DOJ has put forth an efficient, transparent, merit-based program to replace this mess, although many worthy models exist — such as the merit hiring procedures for U.S. Bankruptcy Judges and Magistrates which usually involve widespread input from leading practitioners in the areas they will be serving.

 

Notwithstanding the current “crisis,” EOIR and DOJ are sitting on an Immigration Judge vacancy rate of 15%! There are currently 55 judicial vacancies! EOIR was only able to hire and bring on 64 new Immigration Judges during the entire past year. That will barely be enough to fill the currently vacant positions and any retirements or other departures. So, the idea that a DOJ plan to budget for more judges is going to solve this crisis any time in the foreseeable future is nonsense.

 

 

Let’s take a quick look at the numbers in the DOJ “never-never land.” They project 449 Immigration Judges by the end of FY 2018, which is September 30, 2018, one year from now. Let’s also assume the highly unlikely: that Congress grants the request, the money is appropriated, additional courtrooms are built, additional staff is hired, all the judicial positions are filled, and the additional Immigration Judges are all on board and up to speed by September 30, 2018.

 

449 Immigration Judges could at most, complete approximately 337,000 cases without impeding due process. Therefore, using the DOJ’s own figures, and giving the most optimistic outlook possible, it would take nearly two years, practically to the end of this Administration, just to complete all of the cases currently on docket if no additional cases were filed! The idea that 449 Immigration Judges could do that plus handle incoming cases without creating a new backlog is facially absurd. DOJ’s own numbers refute it. What is clear is that neither the politicos at DOJ nor the bureaucrats at EOIR have any idea of how to actually solve the backlog problem and reestablish order in the Immigration Courts.

 

So, what really needs to be done!

 

First and foremost, we need an independent U.S. Immigration Court outside the DOJ. And that means a return to Due Process as the sole function and guiding light of the Immigration Court just like it is for all other independent courts. DHS Enforcement priorities should be considered and accommodated where possible without compromising due process. But, they are just one of many factors that go into running an efficient due process court system. DHS Enforcement should not be “driving the train.”

Given that approximately half of the individuals now in Immigration Court appear to be entitled to some form of relief, independent U.S. Immigration Judges could develop ways to force the DHS to identify these cases and either resolve them outside of court or move them up to “short dockets” for quick resolutions based largely on stipulations and focused testimony or legal arguments.

 

Moreover, I know from hard experience that even though independent Article III judges were technically not supposed to review “prosecutorial discretion“ they had many creative ways to basically tell the INS (now DHS) to get certain low priority or extreme humanitarian cases off the docket — or else. The current Administration’s abusive removal of prosecutorial discretion from local DHS prosecutors is a major contributing factor in the current docket mess. An independent court would be able to stand up to this kind of nonsense, rather than “going along to get along.” No court system in American operates without a heavy dose of PD from the prosecutors.

 

Additionally, implementation of contempt authority, extending to both private attorneys and Government prosecutors, would give Immigration Judges real clout in stopping abuses of the court’s docket and moving cases along in a failure and reasonable manner.

 

Second, the EOIR bureaucracy needs to be replaced with a real court structure patterned on other Federal Courts. I’d hazard to say that no other functioning court system in America has as Byzantine and as bloated a bureaucracy as EOIR. Far too many of the positions and resources are in “Headquarters” in Falls Church rather than in the local courts where they belong. Docket control needs to be returned to sitting Immigration Judges who are in the best position to work with the local bar, pro bono providers, the DHS Office of Chief Counsel, and the Court Administrator to establish the most efficient and fair ways of scheduling cases and moving along dockets given local conditions and limitations.

 

And “Job One” at the local Immigration Court level should be to work with all parties to insure that Immigration Court cases are docketed and scheduled in a manner that insures, to the maximum extent humanly possible, that no individual who wants a lawyer is required to appear without one. Representation by competent counsel is the single most important ingredient of achieving due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts.

 

Third, the U.S. Immigration Courts need a new professional Administrative Office patterned on the Administrative Office for U.S. Courts and responsible to a Judicial Council, not politicos at the DOJ. Courtroom planning, technology, security, files management, training, planning for the future, and hiring are all not up to professional court management standards in the current system. In particular, the outdated, often unreliable technology and inadequate space are glaring issues in a high volume system like the Immigration Courts.

 

Also, the current judicial selection system is a bad joke. It is neither transparent nor timely, and it totally lacks credibility in the “real world” of immigration practice. The Immigration Courts need a non-partisan, merit-based, efficient hiring system that gives local practitioners and judges as well as government counsel some meaningful input while producing results in a timely fashion. There are many merit-based models out there like those for hiring U.S. Bankruptcy Judges, U.S. Magistrates, and Judges for the Superior Court of DC.

 

Fourth, the system needs an Appellate Court that acts like an independent appellate court not a service center catering to the politicos at the DOJ. The current BIA’s lack of diverse backgrounds among its Appellate Immigration Judges and glaring lack of Immigration Court or asylum expertise has resulted in a weak body of asylum law and insufficient control over wayward judges who are unwilling to grant relief in appropriate situations. There are many asylum cases out there in the backlog that should and could be rapidly granted. Moreover, many of them probably should have been granted at the DHS Asylum Office. The current Board has failed to take appropriate corrective action in those courts where hostility to or misinterpretation of laws favorable to respondents has resulted in indefensibly low rates of granting relief. This, in turn, encourages the DHS to keep cases on the court docket that properly should be settled out of court, returned to the Asylum Office, or sent to the USCIS.

 

The current Board “is what it is,” It can’t really help itself, as a result of questionable choices outside of its control made by the politicos at the DOJ over several Administrations. I’m not suggesting that current BIA Judges should not be “grandfathered” into an independent Appellate Division of the Immigration Court. But future Appellate Judge appointments should be strictly merit-based and should be focused on recognizing proven expertise and fairness in applying asylum laws and expertise gained in activities beyond just government service, particularly those in clinical academic practices or serving the pro bono community through NGOs.

 

Fifth, and finally, the U.S. Immigration Courts need e-filing now! The time for “study” is long over! Existing systems in other courts can be tailored for U.S. Immigration Court use. It’s no longer “rocket science.” It’s “Basic Professional Court Management 101.” It’s time for action, not more studies, unfulfilled promises, and bureaucratic smokescreens! If nothing else, the failure of the DOJ over a number of Administrations to accomplish this very basic ministerial task demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt its incompetence and inability to administer the U.S. Immigration Courts in anything approaching a minimally professional manner.

 

Yup, I’ve set forth an ambitious agenda. But, unlike the “DOJ/EOIR BS,” it’s based on real life experience and decades of observation at all levels inside and outside this broken system. If Congress and the Administration can’t get their collective acts together and establish an Independent Article Immigration Court now, there will be a “lock-up” point at which almost everything will stop functioning. There is no way that the current EOIR technology and inadequate planning can keep on absorbing even more cases and even more positions.

 

And if, as I predict, rather than doing the right thing, this Administration responds with mindless hurry up denials of due process, the cases will start piling up in the Article III Courts and being returned to the Immigration Courts for “do-overs” in droves. I’ve actually seen it happen before in the Bush Administration. But, this is much worse because there are many more cases and this Administration is even more clueless about how to deal with immigration enforcement and the Immigration Court system. In the end, it’s the folks who depend on the Immigration Court system for justice and the overall concept of our courts being able to deliver even-handed justice in a fair and reasonable manner that will be hurt. And, folks, that’s going to affect all of us at some point in the future.

 

Don’t accept more ridiculous shameful bureaucratic, “do nothing” BS from the DOJ! It’s time to hold DOJ and EOIR fully accountable for their failure to provide basic Due Process in the U.S. Immigration Courts and for Congress to accept their fair share of the blame!

 

Tell your Senators and Representatives that you’ve had enough of this nonsense and gross waste and mismanagement of government resources! Fixing the U.S. Immigration Courts now must be one of our highest national priorities! Those who would continue to sweep this problem under the rug deserve to be voted out of office! No more BS and excuses; Article I now! Due Process Now!

Other than the above, of course, I think the current system is great!

PWS

09-26-17

 

HERE’S PT. I OF NBC4’s “CRISIS IN THE IMMIGRATION COURTS,” FEATURING JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS & ME DISCUSSING BACKLOGS!

SEE THE I-TEAM’S JODIE FLEISCHER’S REPORT HERE (PT I):

http://www.nbcwashington.com/investigations/Crisis-in-the-Courts-DMV-Immigration-Courts-Scheduling-Hearings-for-2021-446917903.html

“Crisis in the Courts: DC-Area Immigration Courts Scheduling Hearings for 2021

“Immigration is clearly an issue that divides the nation. Who should be allowed to stay in the US? Who should have to go?

Whether you support immigration or oppose it, the backlog in our nation’s immigration courts will disturb you.

People who shouldn’t be here, get to stay for years and build a life while they wait. And those who do legally deserve to stay may have family in danger back home, while their cases face delay after delay.

The News4 I-Team spent months working with NBC investigative teams across the country to examine our nation’s immigration case backlog.

In Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia the number of cases has more than tripled in past five years, with some cases taking more than four years to be heard.

“The quality of their lives are deeply affected by whether or not they’re allowed to stay,” said National Association of Immigration Judges President Dana Leigh Marks, adding that the decisions are incredibly tough.

They often involve people who faced violent assaults, religious persecution, even government oppression and torture in their home country.

“The cases that we hear, they are death penalty cases,” said Marks. “A lot of people tell us that they fear for their very life if they’re sent back to their home country.”

And by the time many of them make it into a courtroom, their definition of “home” has likely changed.

‘I Consider Myself American’

Jonathan Claros was born in El Salvador, but his home is now Montgomery County, Maryland.

“I consider myself American. I know some people are against that,” he said.

At 29, he’s been here almost half his life. He taught himself English, graduated from high school in Gaithersburg and works in construction.

“This country is made of immigrants,” Claros said. “It doesn’t matter what color they are, or race or ethnicity.”

What does matter is whether you come here legally.

Just last month, ICE deported Jonathan’s brothers, the youngest was a 19-year-old soccer star who was set to start college on a scholarship.

“They came here when they were little. They know better this country than where they were born,” Claros said.

Their parents and sister are all in Maryland and equally worried about the current state of the U.S. immigration system.

“What they’re doing right now for me is, you know, it’s devastating,” Claros told the News4 I-Team. “A lot of families have been separated from their loves.”

Three years ago he married a U.S. citizen and filed paperwork to get legal status.

“It’s been kind of hard; it’s been almost a year waiting for an answer,” he said of the delay.

US Immigration by the NumbersUS Immigration by the Numbers

An overview of immigration in the U.S., by the numbers.

(Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017)

‘It’s a Disaster. I Think It’s Moving Toward Implosion’

 The nationwide backlog of immigration cases topped 617,000 this summer. The courts in Arlington and Baltimore handle all of the cases for D.C., Maryland and Virginia — more than 58,000 of them as of July. And that doesn’t even include immigrants who are here illegally and completely undocumented.

The News4 I-Team found a new immigrant walking into the Arlington court today could have to wait until December 2021 for a hearing; that’s the second longest delay in the nation.

“It’s a disaster. I think it’s moving toward implosion,” said Judge Paul Wickham Schmidt, who retired last year from Arlington’s immigration court, after 13 years on the bench.

“We probably had 9 to 10,000 each on our dockets,” said Schmidt. “I think sometimes we minimize the difficulty of having your life on hold.”

He said the system is painfully slow for several reasons, and the first is really basic: The entire system operated on paper. With no way to e-file cases or review briefs or documents online.

“They don’t let you see the inside of an immigration court. If they did, they’d clean it up! But there are files piled all over: They’re in the corridors, they’re all over the desks, they’re under desks,” said Schmidt, who can speak freely since he’s retired.

He said judges have to physically be in their offices to review files, which is especially difficult with a new administration policy that reassigns some judges to hear cases at the border.

That leaves courtrooms empty back in their home court and a full docket of cases that get pushed to the back of the line.

During the delay, witnesses who could help the immigrant’s case might disappear, and attorneys and judges could move or retire, causing more delay.

“The cases that are actually ready to go are being put to the end, and the judges are being assigned to cases of recently arrived individuals, many of whom haven’t had time to get lawyers. So I think it’s a misuse of resources,” said Schmidt.

He said there aren’t enough attorneys to keep the system moving, and having representation significantly impacts someone’s chance of staying.

The new administration has also eliminated prosecutors’ discretion to dismiss or delay thousands of low priority cases: People who haven’t committed a crime or have family members who are citizens.

“There’s only so much judge time,” said Schmidt, “and if you use it for people who are low priorities, then there’s some other person who isn’t getting a hearing.”

He added that with political priorities constantly shifting, judges should have control over which cases to call first.

‘People Are Being Hurt by These Delays’

“Unfortunately despite our best efforts, there are people being hurt by these delays, and they can be avoided if we would get sufficient resources,” said Judge Marks.

She said the court needs twice as many judges to tackle that backlog. But right now, the court’s budget and its management are within the Department of Justice, which is another major issue for the judges association.

“The way to assure stakeholders, the people who come before us, that they are being treated fairly is that we should be taken out of the Department of Justice and made a neutral court system,” said Marks.

She said Congress needs to look at the whole system and take action so the political climate surrounding immigration doesn’t impact whether or when people get their day in court.

“It is not a Democratic or Republican issue,” said Marks. “If you want to have increased focus on the border courts, fine. But build courts, hire judges and put them there before you start that program.”

The Justice Department told the News4 I-Team it’s committed to increasing the number of judges; an additional 65 judge positions are already budgeted for next year.

But that still doesn’t solve the problem of dozens of vacant positions, and sitting judges retiring.

There’s also an agency-wide review already underway which aims to identify ways to increase efficiency, through changes to court procedures and technology.

The DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which manages the court system, says its mission is to fairly, expeditiously and uniformly interpret and administer the nation’s immigration laws.

‘You’re Not Going to Get Every Single One Right’

Like Jonathan Claros, nearly half of all of the immigrants caught in the backlog in our area are from El Salvador — more than 28,760 people. But Judge Schmidt said the courts do not treat all nationalities equally.

“The law is sort of tough on Central American cases. Some of them can make it, some of them don’t,” said Schmidt, “An Ethiopian with an asylum claim, they almost always get granted.”

The court data shows the location also factors into whether an immigrant has a better chance of being able to stay.

The national average is just over 56 percent. Here in the D.C. area, it’s 61 percent. Los Angeles is 70 percent.

“Clearly, the attitudes of the judges and how they feel about asylum law has quite a bit to do with it,” said Schmidt, “If I were an immigrant, I’d rather be in California than Atlanta, Georgia. Any day.”

In one Georgia court, only 13 percent of people are allowed to stay in the U.S.

Schmidt said the appellate boards also lack consistency in their decisions.

“As a result, judges don’t get the guidance they need. The board doesn’t crack down on judges who are way out of line with what the law should be,” he said, adding that immigrants deserve to know their fate sooner.

Our system simply doesn’t allow for that.

Schmidt said with the volume of cases, the gravity of his difficult decisions was often emotional.

“You’re not going to get every single one right, and you think about the lives that you might have destroyed that you could have saved, and of course that weighs on you,” he said.

Jonathan Claros said he still believes in the American dream. He’s just worried his family’s heartache will keep growing while he waits for an answer.

“Everybody’s afraid,” he said. “They go out, but they don’t know if they are going to come back home again. It’s hard to live like that.”

Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, shot and edited by Steve Jones.

Source: Crisis in the Courts: DC-Area Immigration Courts Scheduling Hearings for 2021 – NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/investigations/Crisis-in-the-Courts-DMV-Immigration-Courts-Scheduling-Hearings-for-2021-446917903.html#ixzz4tjp7to2P
Follow us: @nbcwashington on Twitter | NBCWashington on Facebook”

See Part II on News4 at 11:15 tonight!

PWS

09-25-17

MUST SEE TV FROM PBS: Judge Dana Leigh Marks Explains The Dire Backlogs In U.S. Immigration Courts & Why They Are Becoming Worse Every Day!

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/dire-immigration-court-backlog-affects-lives/

Click the above link to see John Yang of PBS interview United States Immigration Judge Dana Leigh Marks of the U.S. Immigration Court in San Francisco, speaking in her capacity as President of the National Association of Immigration Judges (“NAIJ”).

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a “retiree member” of the NAIJ.

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

As this interview shows, this problem has been building steadily under the past three Administrations. However, the “gonzo enforcement” policies of the Trump Administration, combined with “ADR” (“Aimless Docket Reschuffling”) caused by poorly planned, and in many cases unneeded, details of Immigration Judges from backlogged “home dockets” to obscure detention centers along the Southern Border in response to Trump’s Executive Orders on enforcement, made worse by constant threats to mindlessly throw DACA individuals and TPS holders into the already overwhelmed system have greatly and unnecessarily aggravated an already bad situation.

Judge Marks points out that nearly 40% of the current U.S. Immigration Judiciary, including all of the most experienced judges, are eligible or nearly eligible to retire. That would mean a whopping 140 new Immigration Judge hires in a short period of time in addition to filling the current approximately 50 vacancies and any other positions that might become available. That adds up to approximately 200 new judicial vacancies, not counting any additional positions that Congress might provide.

No Administration has been able to competently hire that many new judges using a proper merit selection process. Indeed, the last Administration, using a system that could hardly be viewed as ”merit based,” took an astounding average of nearly two years to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Immigration Court! That’s amazing considering that these are administrative judges who do not require Senate confirmation.

The total unsuitability of the U.S. Justice Department to be administering the U.S. Immigration Courts has been demonstrated not only in terns of misuse of the courts for politicized law enforcement objectives, but also in terms of poor planning and stunningly incompetent judicial administration.

We need an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court, and we need it now!

PWS

09-20-17

 

 

CAL LAW PLEASES LA LAW ENFORCEMENT BUT “PO’S” ADMINISTRATION! — LA Says, “We are committed to reducing crime through community partnerships and constitutional policing!” — If only “Gonzo” Shared Those Objectives!

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-mcdonnell-immigration-20170916-story.html

Gale Holland reports for the LA Times:

“California’s new “sanctuary state” bill limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents drew support Saturday from Los Angeles officials, but a stinging rebuke from the Trump administration, whose Justice Department said the measure “undermines national security and law enforcement.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was “grateful” to the legislature, while Police Chief Charlie Beck said the bill built on 40 years of the city’s efforts to foster trust in immigrant communities.

“We are committed to reducing crime through community partnerships and constitutional policing,” said Beck.

The legislation passed early Saturday drastically scaled back the version first introduced, the result of tough negotiations between Gov. Jerry Brown and the bill’s author, Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), in the final weeks of the legislative session. The bill, SB 54, must still be signed by the governor.

 

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, an early and prominent opponent of the bill, said the changes had satisfied his concerns that it would hurt immigrants more than it would help them.

“While not perfect, [the bill] kept intact our ability to maintain partnerships with federal law enforcement officials who help us in the fight against gangs, drugs and human trafficking,” McDonnell said in a written statement. “It also retains the controlled access that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has to our jails.”

The Trump administration, which earlier threatened to withhold federal grants from sanctuary cities, warned that the bill threatened public safety.

“Just last month another illegal alien allegedly killed a community volunteer, yet state lawmakers inexplicably voted today to return criminal aliens back onto our streets,” said Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the U.S Department of Justice. “This abandonment of the rule of law by the Legislature continues to put Californians at risk, and undermines national security and law enforcement.”

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

Read the rest of the article at the link.

As usual, the DOJ’s inflammatory reference to “another illegal alien” is totally counterproductive and spreads the “Sessions myth” that that the migrant community is synonymous with a crime wave and that gonzo law enforcement is good law enforcement.

But, the Trump Administration actually spends more time and effort removing so-called “collaterals” — individuals with no criminal record — from their communities — than it does either solving or preventing serious crime. And, it is destroying hard-earned trust between local communities and police while further and unnecessarily destroying the already overburdened U.S. Immigration Courts in the process. Now, that’s what I call “gonzo enforcement.” Everybody loses, including the Feds.

Obviously, communities want to remain safe from dangerous individuals. The overwhelming number of undocumented individuals in the community are law abiding residents who share the desire for a safe community in which to raise their families and are more likely to be victims of crime, key witnesses, or police informants than they are to be criminals.

From what I can see, the California law, at the insistence of Governor Brown (who helped out the GOP and the Administration when they punted), has preserved large areas of cooperation between the Feds and locals in taking dangerous individuals who happen to be foreign nationals off the streets. Rather than building upon this, and expressing some appreciation for the work of the Governor’s office in adjusting the bill to meet the legitimate needs for cooperation between state and local authorities, the DOJ just keeps reading from its shopworn (largely imaginary) “parade of horribles” that is intended to scapegoat migrant communities, and even ethnic Americans, many of whom live in those communities, without addressing the realistic needs for cooperative community policing or serious immigration reform.

We’ll see what happens. But, what California has come up with could conceivably serve as a model for smart local-federal cooperation on immigraton enforcement with a future and “smarter” and less ideologically driven DOJ and Administration.

PWS

09-16-17

 

 

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S “GONZO” IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT THREATENS TO DESTROY KEY INDUSTRY IN “RED STATE” — Spreading Myth That Migrants Are Bad & Steal Jobs From Americans Has Dire “Real Life” Consequences!

 

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/16/trump-immigration-crackdown-idaho-dairy-industry-215608?cid=apnJazmine Ulloa

Susan Ferriss reports in Politico:

“JEROME, IDAHO —In the Magic Valley of southern Idaho, milk is money.

Over 400,000 cows reside in this area, where the miracle of modern irrigation from the Snake River fed pioneer farming. Bovines now outnumber humans by more than two to one. Workers in rubber boots pull long shifts feeding livestock, clearing mountains of manure and extracting millions of pounds of milk all day, every day, all year, on ranches tucked into the rock and sagebrush-studded landscape. Sleek silver tankers filled with milk barrel down Interstate 84 toward dairy processing plants, among them one owned by Chobani, which opened the world’s biggest yogurt factory five years ago just down the road in Twin Falls. Since 2000, milk production has doubled in Idaho, providing the state with $10.4 billion in direct sales, according to University of Idaho economists. Chobani’s gleaming $750 million, cream-colored plant is just one of the many big businesses linked to Idaho’s voluminous milk production, now around third- or fourth-largest among states.

 

In short, the Magic Valley’s dairy boom is a contemporary rural American success story—the kind that President Donald Trump railed as a candidate is too often missing across the country. Unemployment here was less than 3 percent this summer, about as good as it gets, and optimism should be high. Yet on dairy farms, among both owners and workers, a sense of dread hangs in the dry southern Idaho air.

Dairy farmers lean heavily Republican in this deeply red state of only 1.7 million people, where 88 percent of the voting-age population are non-Hispanic whites. But in the age of Donald Trump—who won Idaho handily —even the farmers who supported the new president fear their businesses are about to run headlong into a harsh political reality. They’re frightened that Trump’s aggressive deportation policies will soon start to pick off or push away the mostly Hispanic immigrants who do the gritty work that Americans aren’t interested in doing. Many of these workers are probably undocumented, farmers acknowledge, yet they’re the sturdy backbone of a surging industry. Here in the Magic Valley, the farmers’ perspective is starkly different from the president’s claim that undocumented workers “compete directly against vulnerable American workers.”

An immigrant woman attaches cleans cows’ teats and attaches pumps in a state-of-the art milking parlor. Hundreds of cows file in and instinctively turn around to be milked, three times a day. Sometimes the animals kick and defecate, milkers say.
An immigrant woman attaches cleans cows’ teats and attaches pumps in a state-of-the art milking parlor. Hundreds of cows file in and instinctively turn around to be milked, three times a day. Sometimes the animals kick and defecate, milkers say. | Joy Pruitt for the Center for Public Integrity
And the farmers’ view is pitting them against a vocal contingent of neighbors who’ve responded both to Trump’s rhetoric and far-right media that has targeted immigrants as a threat. Southern Idaho, in fact, became a flashpoint for xenophobia this past year when outlets like Breitbart and InfoWars, seized on false reports about Muslim refugees—accusing them of gang rapes and the spread of fatal diseases like tuberculosis—and turned the remote area into an anti-immigrant cause celebre. But locally, it’s starting to sink in that Trump’s vows to oust undocumented workers—whom he claims are a drain on the economy—could actually kick the legs out from under the “Made in America” model the Magic Valley exemplifies.

Idaho dairy industry representatives estimate that between 85 to 90 percent of on-site dairy workers in the state are foreign-born. The U.S. Department of Labor and other estimates suggest that nearly half to 70 percent of all U.S. farm laborers are undocumented—certainly enough to shut down many of the milk pumps here if workers are ousted as a result of Trump’s policies.

That’s why farmers’ groups have for years pushed Congress, unsuccessfully, to make it possible for them to legally employ immigrants they say are desperately needed. Prospects don’t look any rosier now. In recent months, anti-immigrant rhetoric has only grown more vitriolic, and Trump supporters—including some here—are expecting the president to follow through on campaign promises and deport more people.

Those who understand the dairy business here fear that a political solution won’t materialize before it’s too late, if ever. And that means businesses could struggle due to labor shortages and plummeting production.

Shannon Perez, an American who was married to Mexican dairy worker who was deported, believes Americans don’t understand that the current immigration system doesn’t allow immigrant workers to “get legal.”
Shannon Perez, an American who was married to Mexican dairy worker who was deported, believes Americans don’t understand that the current immigration system doesn’t allow immigrant workers to “get legal.” | Susan Ferriss for the Center for Public Integrity
“The dairy industry is a big money maker. But without workers, without somebody that’s going to be there 12 hours a day, milking your cows, getting dirty, there’s no business,” said Shannon Pérez, a non-Hispanic Anglo, as people here say, who’s worked on dairy and calf ranches. She’s already watched helplessly as her own family was split by deportation.”

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Read the entire article at the above link.

For those of us who have worked in the field of immigration for decades, it is hardly surprising that policies driven by White Nationalism, xenophobia, and just plain old racism and meanness would hurt a wide and diverse swarth of Americans, including many of those same misguided souls who ignored the facts and voted Trump into office.

We need to screen the undocumented folks who are here now, remove those who are criminals or engaging in socially destructive conduct, and give some type of legal status to the rest. Then, we need to significantly expand the number of legal immigrants we accept each year to more closely match market demand, save more lives of those fleeing harm, harness the energy, skills, and talents that will allow us to prosper and lead in the future, and make future immigration enforcement rational, efficient, and effective (by not wasting time arresting, detaining, and deporting those who actually are here to help us).

Folks like Jeff Sessions are pushing an irrational program that if it actually were achievable (which is isn’t) would cripple and perhaps destroy both the economy and the social fabric of our great nation.

It’s time for the majority of “rationalists” (regardless of party affiliation) to band together and defeat the attack of a well-organized minority that is out to harm our country and endanger our future.

PWS

09-16-17

 

WHAT DO YOU CALL SOMEONE WHO ENJOYS INFLICTING GRATUITOUS PAIN AND SUFFERING ON VULNERABLE PEOPLE? — Jeff Sessions

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/category/the-daily-202/?utm_term=.c4e82aca4268&wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

James Hohmann writes in then”Daily 202″ in the Washington Post:

“THE BIG IDEA: Photographers caught a giddy Jeff Sessions cracking a satisfied smile last week as he prepared to announce that 690,000 undocumented immigrants who had been brought into the United States as minors would no longer be shielded from deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “is being rescinded,” the attorney general declared in the first line of his statement. “There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. … Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism. … The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” Fact checkers called these and other claims Sessions made about the immigrants known as “dreamers” dubious or outright false. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t take questions afterward. Regardless, the speech was widely covered as a triumph for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and a sign that he was out of President Trump’s doghouse. Not only did Sessions get the outcome he wanted; he also got to deliver the news from the Justice Department briefing room. Trump’s DACA decision last week seemed to validate Sessions’s decision to slog on through the summer even after being frozen out of the inner circle. From interviews to tweets, Trump repeatedly attacked his attorney general throughout July as “weak” and “beleaguered.” The main reason Sessions chose to put up with indignities that might cause most people to quit was because he believed he could make a difference on immigration policy. That has always been his signature issue and animated his two decades in the Senate.

— But it took less than 10 days for Trump to once again undercut Sessions. The president on Thursday signaled his embrace of granting permanent legal status to these “dreamers” as part of a deal with Democrats that he said is close to being finalized. He also acknowledged that he’s not going to make a deal to save DACA contingent on getting funding for the wall he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Discussing the exact same group of people that Sessions painted with such a sinister brush one week earlier, Trump tweeted yesterday: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” Trump tweeted yesterday. “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at young age.”

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Read the rest of Hohmann’s always-entertaining column at the above link.

Quite simply, Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions is a poor excuse for a human being and a disgrace to the U.S. Department of Justice. What kind of person is motivated by a desire to destroy our society by hurting fine American young people and smearing them with lies and innuendo?

But, let’s not forget who empowered his message of hate and fear by appointing him, and who “blew by” his long record of racial problems while silencing the opposition that told truth. And, a special “shout out” should go to those who voted to put this intentionally divisive Administration in office and to the unapologetically racially challenged white GOP voters of Alabama who elected this leftover of the Jim Crow era time and time again.

Jeff Sessions does not represent the values of the majority of Americans. We must get it together at the ballot box to insure that he (and those like him) never again happen to us and to our country!

PWS

09-15-17

“DREAM DEAL” DESCENDS INTO TYPICAL TRUMP CHAOS WITHIN 24 HOURS! — Who REALLY Knows What’s On His Mind?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-border-wall-daca_us_59ba570ee4b0edff971983ee?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

Elise Foley and Willa Frej report for HuffPost:

“WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump gave a series of conflicting statements on Thursday about how he hopes to deal with young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, muddying the waters over whether he will support their bid to gain eventual citizenship and whether he will demand a border wall in exchange.

Trump’s comments, made both to reporters and on Twitter, came after leading Democrats in Congress said they had reached an informal deal with the president on legislation to help so-called Dreamers, or undocumented young people who entered the country as children.

Last week, Trump put the fates of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers up in the air by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which granted two-year work permits and deportation relief.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that they had reached an agreement with Trump to tie measures to grant Dreamers legal status to border security measures, but not to a wall. They said Trump had made clear he would continue to demand a wall, and that they had told him they would oppose it.

Trump denied that a deal had been made, although he initially did not dispute key details of what the Democrats had said. But later, he said Dreamers’ fates would be tied to the construction of a border wall, even if it’s not part of legislation that addresses Dreamers.

“We have to be sure the wall isn’t obstructed, because without the wall, I wouldn’t do anything. … It doesn’t have to be here but they can’t obstruct the wall if it’s in a budget or anything else,” Trump told reporters in Florida, according to a pool report.

He added that he would “only do it if we get extreme security, not only surveillance but everything that goes with surveillance,” Trump said. “If there’s not a wall, we’re doing nothing.”

The president also created more confusion by suggesting that he might not support allowing Dreamers to eventually gain citizenship. That would destroy any hope of a deal with Democrats, who want Trump to support the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children to eventually become citizens.

“We’re not looking at citizenship,” he said. “We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.”

That doesn’t necessarily preclude eventually supporting Dream Act-style measures, however. The bill would not grant citizenship immediately; it would allow Dreamers to gain legal status that would make them eligible for eventual citizenship ― so there’s potential that Trump could eventually back such measures and still claim they were not the “amnesty” he opposes.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump said in a series of tweets that any deal on Dreamers would be contingent on “massive border security,” although he didn’t specify that it had to include a wall. He added that the wall is “already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls” and would proceed.”

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And, the beat goes on! I knew that sanity couldn’t last long in the “Age of Trump.”

PWS

09-14-17