READ THE DOJ/EOIR’S (HIGHLY BUREAUCRATIC) RESPONSE TO THE NEWS 4 I-TEAM — The DOJ/EOIR “Plan” Is “No Plan” Because They Are Clueless As To How To Solve The Self-Created Court Backlog Problem Without Stomping All Over Due Process!

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/US-Department-of-Justice-Executive-Office-for-Immigration-Review-Responses-to-I-Team-Immigration-Backlog-Report-446936203.html

“U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review Responses to I-Team Immigration Backlog Report

 

What steps have been taken by DOJ/EOIR to combat the backlog?

EOIR is committed to a multi-level strategy to maximize our adjudicatory capacity, including the hiring of more judges, working with our federal partners to make the immigration process more efficient, and the increased use of video-teleconference capabilities. EOIR is undertaking a broad, agency-wide effort to review and reform its internal practices, procedures, and technology in order to enhance immigration judge productivity and ensure that cases are adjudicated in a fair and timely manner across all of the agency’s courts. EOIR records show that through the end of August 2017, the immigration courts had 628,698 pending cases. 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.

How many immigration judges have retired and how many have been sworn in the last two years?

The number of immigration judges who retired or separated during each of the following fiscal years (FY) is as follows: FY 2016, 13, and FY 2017 (through Sept. 15, 2017) 21. EOIR hired 56 immigration judges during FY 2016, and 64 immigration judges during FY 2017 (through Sept. 15, 2017).

How many open positions are there currently for immigration judges?

There are currently 329 immigration judges nationwide, out of EOIR’s current authorized level of 384.

Judge Marks discussed how she thinks the number of immigration judges should be doubled. Is there a goal by EOIR on how many new judges to hire?

As noted in EOIR’s FY 2018 budget request (available here: https://www.justice.gov/jmd/page/file/968566/download), the largest challenge facing the immigration courts is the growing pending caseload. The agency’s FY 2018 budget strategy is a sustained focus on increasing adjudicative capacity in order to meet EOIR’s mission to adjudicate immigration cases by fairly, expeditiously, and uniformly interpreting and administering the nation’s immigration laws.

To implement EOIR’s strategy, EOIR’s FY 2018 budget request includes a requested increase in immigration judge teams (each team consists of one immigration judge and five support staff) that would increase EOIR’s immigration judge corps to 449 and provide 225 additional full-time employees for mission support.”

Source: U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review Responses to I-Team Immigration Backlog Report – NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/US-Department-of-Justice-Executive-Office-for-Immigration-Review-Responses-to-I-Team-Immigration-Backlog-Report-446936203.html#ixzz4toZyt2D9
Follow us: @nbcwashington on Twitter | NBCWashington on Facebook

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No guys, I’m sorry! Much as I love you, and much as I realize that it was was a bunch of meddling politicos and out of touch bureaucrats, with lots of help from a willfully blind Congress, that created these problems over the past 15 years, it’s going to take more than politicos at the DOJ and bureaucrats in Falls Church to solve it.
Committing “to a multi-level strategy to maximize our adjudicatory capacity,” whatever that primo piece of bureaucratic gobbledygook might mean in plain English, isn’t going to cut it. Nor is just throwing more judges and more money at it going to do the trick.
And the answer certainly isn’t more truncation of due process and typical bureaucratic “haste makes waste bogus efficiencies and streamlining” which actually wastes massive amounts of time and money while not getting the job done. The courts are already in a due process crisis. “Speeding up the assembly line” or setting bogus production goals is not the answer. However, some “smart court administration” and “smart enforcement” are part of the solution. Sadly, it’s just not within the “skill set” of the group at DOJ and EOIR who are flailing away at court administration.
Nor, frankly, does it appear to be within the expertise of current DHS/ICE management without some Congressional oversight and accountability (things that have been remarkably absent in this Congress). Old saying:  Garbage In = Garbage Out, and right now ICE Enforcement, Detention, and Legal Counsel Programs are in “Garbage Truck Mode.” If Congress doesn’t step in, I think the Article III Courts eventually will, if only as an act of self-defense. Nor is evading the Immigration Court system with unconstitutional proposals for expanding “expedited removals” the answer. 
The DHS Enforcement System and the Immigration Courts are already squandering resources and wasting the taxpayers money at alarming rates. “Big-time reforms” must precede the injection of massive resources into a totally broken system. And that goes for putting some Congressional brakes on the “gonzo” enforcement now being carried out by DHS, and their mismanagement of the ICE Legal Program, which is a key part of the problem.
Next up: My Response:  I take on the DOJ/EOIR Bogus  “Strategy” and tell you what really needs to be done to restore due process to a broken court system.
PWS
09-26-17

SEE PT. II OF NBC4’S “CRISIS IN THE IMMIGRATION COURTS” FEATURING INTERVIEWS WITH ME — Understand Why This System Must Be Changed NOW!

Here’s a link to the video of Jodie Fleischer’s “Late Night Report on the Crisis in the Immigration Courts” from last night’s 11PM Version of News 4:

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Massive-Immigration-Case-Backlog-Takes-Years_Washington-DC-447835143.html

Here’s an updated story from the I-Team on the human costs of the backlog and the mindless policies of the Trump ‘administration that are making things even worse. Includes comments from superstar local practitioner Christina Wilkes, Esq.:

“Deportation rates of undocumented immigrants have ticked up in the federal Immigration Court for the first time in eight years as President Donald Trump starts to make good on his promise to expel millions of people. But even as the Trump administration expands its dragnet, the court is so backlogged that some hearings are being scheduled as far in the future as July 2022.

The long delays come as immigration courtrooms struggle with too few judges, only 334 for a backlog of more than 617,000 cases, and scant resources on par with a traffic court, said Judge Dana Leigh Marks of San Francisco, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

Delays are the longest in San Francisco, where the court is setting dates more than four years out. Courts in Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle and Arlington, Virginia are right behind with dates in 2021.

Immigration law is complex and the overloaded judges are making decisions about men and women who may have been tortured or raped, their children abused or forced to witness horrible acts, or who fear they will be killed if they return home.

“I compare the immigration courts to traffic courts and the cases that we hear – they are death penalty cases.”
Judge Dana Leigh Marks

“I compare the immigration courts to traffic courts and the cases that we hear – they are death penalty cases,” said Marks, a judge for 30 years who was speaking in her capacity as association president. “And I literally get chills every time I say that because it’s an incredibly – it’s an overwhelming job.”

The backlog in Immigration Court, which unlike other courts is not independent but part of the U.S. Justice Department, has been growing for nearly a decade, up from about 224,000 cases in fiscal year 2009. The average number of days to complete a deportation case has risen from 234 in 2009 to a projected 525 this year.

A couple in Immigration Court in New York City for the first time on Sept. 21 came to the United States to escape violence in Ecuador, they said, overstaying a visa as they applied to remain permanently in 2013. They were expecting to finally to explain their circumstances to a judge, but instead they were out the door in less than five minutes with a return date in 2020.

“I don’t even know, how do I feel,” said the woman, who did not want to give her name. “I feel frustrated.”

The logjam began during the Obama administration as President Barack Obama boosted immigration enforcement while a divided Congress cut spending. The Justice Department saw a three-year hiring freeze from 2011 to 2013, which then became even worse when tens of thousands of women and children came across the border escaping violence in Central America.

“I don’t even know, how do I feel,” said the woman, who did not want to give her name. “I feel frustrated.

“The problem was years in the making but this administration is making it much, much worse,” said Jeremy McKinney of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Obama was famously called the “deporter-in-chief” after he not only targeted immigrants with criminal records for deportation but also instituted formal removal proceedings for an increased number of unauthorized border crossers, according to a January study by the Migration Policy Institute. At the same time, fewer people were crossing the border because of a better economy in Mexico and fewer jobs in the U.S. after the recession.

The focus on criminals — whose hearings, when they were detained, were either short or waived — resulted in quick deportations, McKinney said. The Trump administration is targeting a much broader group and includes people who might be eligible to stay and that puts more strain on the courts, McKinney said.

“They will arrest anyone that has a pulse and that they suspect is in the United States without permission regardless of if that person poses a risk to our community,” he said.

To clear the backlog, the Trump administration has proposed hiring 75 new Immigration Court judges plus staff, a number the House has reduced to 65, and it has considered expanding the use of deportations without court approval. In the meantime it has moved some judges closer the border temporarily, but that leaves behind even greater backlogs in their home courts.

But the job of an immigration judge is difficult and those in the courts warn that hires are not keeping up with departures. Long background checks dissuade many except for attorneys already working for the government from applying, they say.

The government is trying to quicken the process by resisting delays it formerly acceded to, McKinney said. For example, he said, government lawyers are now opposing a temporary halt to deportation cases to allow an immigrant who might be eligible to remain in the United States to take the steps that are necessary.

“So you’ve got people that are eligible for green cards but are not able to pursue it because suddenly the government is opposing the motion to close those cases,” he said.

And it is also reopening cases that were closed during the previous administration, a move that could add to the delays, McKinney said.

“They’re taking old cases and dumping those into current dockets that are already overflowing,” he said. “These individuals are ones that were previously determined that they were not priorities for deportation.”

One consequence of the logjam until recently had been that judges were deporting fewer immigrants. Last year, just 43 percent of all cases ended with a deportation removal, down from 72 percent in 2007.

That downward trend is beginning to reverse this year. The deportation rate rose slightly over the first 10 months of the 2017 fiscal year, to 55 percent, from 43 percent for all of the previous fiscal year. Among immigrants in detention, the deportation rate rose to 72.3 percent.

The outcome of a case can depend on the location of a court. Georgia has deported the vast majority of immigrants in court this year, New York ousted less than a third. Houston has expelled 87 percent of the immigrants, while Phoenix is at the low end with 20 percent.

You appear to be in Virginia. Not your state?

In Virginia, 56.0% of immigrants who go to court are deported.

See the rates of deportation in state immigration courts across the country:

Fiscal year 2017 (October through July); Source: TRAC

WHO ARE THESE IMMIGRANTS?

More than half of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States are from Mexico but their number has declined by about 1 million since 2007. They have been replaced by those fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, plus immigrants from elsewhere. They live mostly in California, Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey though the state with the highest percentage of undocumented immigrants is Nevada.

Nearly 60 percent arrived in the U.S. before 2000 and a third have been here for more than 20 years. Eight million of the 11 million have jobs. They make up 5 percent of the country’s labor force, mostly in agriculture, construction and the hospitality industry. They are much younger and somewhat more male than the population as a whole.

The long delays in Immigration Court are jeopardizing some immigrants’ chances. They risk losing touch with witnesses they will need or the death of relatives who would enable them to stay. They may have children back in their home country who are in danger. And although they are entitled to lawyers, they must pay for them.

“And so it is very frustrating and stressful frankly for the litigants in our courts to be in that limbo position for such a long period of time,” Marks said.

The couple who fled violence in Ecuador has built a new life in the U.S. She is now a teacher, he works with hazardous materials and they have three American-born children. With no resolution of their case, they remain in that limbo.

“We’re stuck here,” she said.

Christina Wilkes, an immigration lawyer at Grossman Law in Rockville, Maryland, is representing a mother, identified as Z.A., who arrived with her daughter and son from El Salvador in 2014 after a gang tried to recruit the daughter.

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 daughter’s application for permanent residency has been pending since the beginning of the year when a judge granted her asylum, Wilkes said. But the mother still does not have a date for a judge to hear her asylum case, though the facts for both are nearly identical.

“For her, where her likelihood of success is relatively high, it’s really frustrating because she wants a resolution,” Wilkes said.

Andres, whose last name NBC is witholding, left Guatemala in August 2014, because he was discriminated against there, he said. He speaks Mam, a Mayan language, and dressed in traditional clothing, both of which made him a target.

“Because I’m indigenous, that’s why they discriminated against me,” he said. “A policeman would beat me, and we don’t have any rights because they rule. The Spanish speakers are the ones who rule all parts of the country.”

He has a work permit, he said, and is employed in construction. But he has twice had his asylum hearing postponed in Immigration Court in San Francisco and says he is scared that as he waits for his new date in January he will detained and deported.

Those waiting to have their asylum cases heard find the reality that there currently aren’t enough judges and staff to handle the demand leaving some applicants forced to wait for years while their witnesses and key evidence disappear.

“Because that is happening where I live in Oakland,” he said.

Shouan Riahi, an attorney with the non-profit Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn, New York, said that the delays are causing particular problems for those seeking asylum. If a court date is set years in the future, they might not think it’s important to meet with a lawyer immediately or know they face a one-year deadline for asylum applications.

“So that creates a whole host of issues because a lot of people that are applying for asylum now are people who didn’t have their hearing scheduled within a year,” he said. “And never went to see an attorney because why would you if your case is in 2019 and now their cases are being denied because they haven’t filed for asylum within a year.”

Some judges are counting the delays as an exceptional circumstance and are accepting the applications as filed on time, but others are turning immigrants away. Riahi’s office is appealing those cases and he expects some to end up in federal circuit court.

Other who are getting caught up in the delays are children who have been neglected, abused or abandoned and are eligible for special immigrant juvenile status. In some courts they are being deported before they receive their visas, he said.

Paul Wickham Schmidt, a retired immigration judge who served in Arlington, Virginia, for 13 years, said that the delays do not serve due process or justice.

“It’s not fair either way,” he said. “It’s not fair to keep people with good claims waiting, but it’s not really fair that if people have no claim their cases sort of aimlessly get shuffled off also. That leads to loss of credibility for the system.”

ABOUT THE DATA

These stories are based on enforcement, budget and demographic data from the federal government and nonprofit groups.

Our primary source for information on operations of the Immigration Court was the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. TRAC, a nonprofit at Syracuse University, has collected and organized data from federal law enforcement agencies for decades and makes that data available to the public. Its website is trac.syr.edu. TRAC is funded by grants and subscription fees; NBC subscribed to TRAC during this project.

Information about the size and demographics of the undocumented immigrant population came from two primary sources: the Pew Research Center and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Both groups use a roughly similar technique, the residual method, to estimate the undocumented population, and reach similar estimates of its size. For a brief description of the residual method, go here.

Some of the best information on the immigrant population as a whole as well as historic perspective on immigration enforcement comes from the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. It is available here. The most recent year for which statistics are available is 2015, though 2016 statistics should be provided shortly.”

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

Here’s a link that will get you a version where all the links graphs,  and charts work: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/national-international/Immigration-Crisis-in-the-Courts-446790833.html

Next up, the EOIR/DOJ response!

PWS

09-26-16

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

WASHPOST: TRUMP/SESSIONS/KELLY “GONZO” IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT DEPORTS THE “GOOD GUYS!” — WHY? — BECAUSE THEY CAN!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-administration-is-deporting-a-lot-of-good-people/2017/08/12/42c6bb96-7eba-11e7-a669-b400c5c7e1cc_story.html?utm_term=.8d4182d7737e

August 12 at 2:12 PM

PRESIDENT TRUMP vowed to deport “bad hombres” — undocumented immigrants with criminal records whose presence in this country is an unquestioned burden and menace. Instead, his administration has been content to seize and expel a teenage soccer star and his brother in suburban Maryland; a mother of three in Michigan who had spent 20 years in the United States; and, now in detention pending removal, a 43-year-old janitor at MIT whose three small children are U.S. citizens and whose mother, a permanent resident, planned to sponsor him for a green card next year.

None of them had criminal records. Both the Michigan mother and the MIT janitor ran their own businesses, paying taxes and contributing to the economy. All had active, honorable lives deeply entwined with their communities. Deporting them is not only inhumane but also senseless.

So why do it? Possibly, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is simply plucking the low-hanging fruit that crosses agents’ path. Possibly, the agency is trying to please the boss in the Oval Office by juicing deportation numbers with the easiest targets of opportunity.”

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Read the full editorial at the link.

Irrational enforcement against the most vulnerable makes weak leaders and bullies feel a false sense of strength, empowerment, and “being in charge.”

PWS

08-13-17

 

 

4TH CIRCUIT SHRUGS OFF VIOLATION OF REFUGEE’S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS! — MEJIA V. SESSIONS

http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/161280.P.pdf

All the quote your really need to understand how far into the sand the Article III Judges on this panel were willing to stick their heads to avoid upholding the Constitution:

“Calla Mejia warns that our interpretation of § 1252(b)(1) contravenes the REAL ID Act and effectively “abolish[es] review of all underlying orders in reinstatement,” thereby raising “‘serious constitutional problems’”—namely, Suspension Clause concerns.12 Pet’r’s Opp’n to Resp’t’s Mot. to Dismiss, at 12, 17 (quoting INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289, 300 (2001)). Not so. Rather, we think it more than feasible that an individual removed to her home country could illegally re-enter the United States, have the original removal order reinstated by DHS, and petition for review—all within a month’s time.”

Ah, according to the judges who joined the majority here, the respondent’s mistake was that she waited several months before reentering the U.S. illegally,  instead of reentering illegally within 30 days. Of course, the trauma caused by her having been raped by her husband upon return, after being improperly duressed by a U.S. Immigration Judge in a detention facility (who seriously misrepresented the law) into abandoning what should have been a “slam dunk” asylum grant under Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014), might have had something to do with it. But, if you’re a life-tenured judge in the “ivory tower” who cares? And, of course, unrepresented aliens subject to reinstated orders in detention  centers would have little trouble filing a petition for review in a U.S. Court of Appeals. Com’ On, Man!

But, wait a minute! Judge Traxler, in his separate opinion, had an even better idea: let’s find no jurisdiction over everything so we can completely wash our hands of what we’re doing to this undisputed “refugee.”

Well, the good news here is that the Respondent did end up with a basically uncontested grant of mandatory withholding of removal to Peru, so her life is saved. That’s because, unlike the four other U.S. Judges who heard her case, the second Immigration Judge to hear the case, in Maryland, was actually interested in making the law work to grant protection. Lucky for the respondent she wasn’t sent to Charlotte, Atlanta, or Stewart!

But, as a result of the due process violations by the first Immigration Judge who heard (but didn’t take the time to understand)  the case (probably one of those who can “really crank out the removal orders” for unrepresented individuals at detention centers) and the unwillingness of the Fourth Circuit Panel that reviewed this case to uphold the Constitution, this respondent will be condemned to “limbo” in the U.S., unable to qualify for the green card or the eventual chance to become a U.S. citizen that she otherwise should have had.

Read the full decision and understand my point that some, or perhaps the majority, of Article III Judges who are the only hope for due process for many refugees and others entitled to remain in the U.S. will be happy to sign on as “station masters” on the “Trump-Sessions Deportation Express.” It’s the easiest path to take.

PANEL: CIRCUIT JUDGES TRAXLER, DIAZ, and FLOYD

OPINION BY: JUDGE DIAZ

CONCURRING AND DISSENTING OPINION: JUDGE TRAXLER

PWS

08-11-17

ATTN NEW DUE PROCESS ARMY: Apply for an Equal Justice Works Fellowship, Host Organization: University of Maryland SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors Deadline: Wednesday, August 9, 2017!

The University of Maryland Support, Advocacy, Freedom, and Empowerment (SAFE) Center for Human Trafficking Survivors is seeking a candidate to apply for a SAFE Center-hosted Equal Justice Works Fellowship. Third-year law students, recent law school graduates, and experienced attorneys with a demonstrated commitment to public interest law are eligible to apply. About the University of Maryland SAFE Center (Host Organization) The University of Maryland SAFE Center is a direct services, research, and advocacy center on human trafficking. Through in-house service provision and collaboration with partners, the Center provides comprehensive social, legal, mental health, medical, and economic empowerment services to sex and labor trafficking survivors regardless of nationality, age, or gender. The SAFE Center is located in College Park, Maryland. Learn more on our website: www.umdsafecenter.org. About the Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellowship Program The Equal Justice Works Fellowship program funds public interest attorneys for two years at a host organization in an effort to close the justice gap on pressing social issues. The host organization provides training, support, supervision, and health insurance and other standard employee benefits. The Application Process Candidates who are interested in applying for an EJW Fellowship to work at the SAFE Center must apply to the SAFE Center by August 9, 2017. The SAFE Center will choose a candidate with whom to apply for an EJW fellowship. The candidate and the SAFE Center will work together to develop the project listed below, and will collaborate on the EJW application. The candidate will submit that application to EJW by September 27, 2017. If the application is successful, the EJW Fellow will begin work on the project at the SAFE Center in September 2018. For more information on the EJW application process, please see http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/post-grad/equal-justice-works-fellowships/apply. Proposed Project Outreach and Legal Services for Forced Labor Victims: This project focuses on survivors of labor trafficking in Maryland and the metropolitan Washington DC area. Labor trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that involves forcing, coercing, or defrauding a person into involuntary servitude in restaurants, factories, farms, hotels, beauty salons, private homes as domestic workers, family-run businesses, and other industries. Victims are typically forced to work extremely long hours under inhumane conditions, with few or no days off, for little or no money. They are controlled by threats, violence, fake debts, isolation, and other methods. Labor trafficking is occurring in Maryland and the metropolitan DC area but it is largely under-identified, underreported and under-prosecuted. This project will involve direct legal immigration services, outreach, and advocacy on labor trafficking. The EJW Fellow will represent labor trafficking victims in applying for T visas and other forms of immigration relief. The EJW Fellow will create Know Your Rights materials and conduct presentations for relevant community organizations and agencies in the metropolitan DC area in order to increase identification of labor trafficking victims. The EJW Fellow will also identify legislative and policy gaps on labor trafficking in the DC metropolitan area and assist in proposing solutions. Candidate Qualifications:  Demonstrated commitment to public interest law.  Demonstrated interest in human trafficking, immigration, civil rights, labor rights, women’s rights, or other social issues.  Excellent research, writing, and oral communication skills.  Highly self-motivated, well organized, detail-oriented, and flexible.  Ability to work well with culturally diverse populations.  Have a strong work ethic and a positive attitude.  Agree to sit for the Bar Exam the summer after graduating law school.  Foreign language ability preferred but not required. To apply, please send a resume, cover letter, 5-10 page writing sample, and a copy of your academic transcript (unofficial) to safecenter@umd.edu by Wednesday, August 9, 2017.

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GO FOR IT!

Thanks to Professor Alberto Benitez of GW Law for sending this my way.

 

PWS

08-04-17

JOIN THE NEW DUE PROCESS ARMY! — Kids In Need Of Defense (“KIND”) Has Two FANTASTIC Opportunities In Baltimore!

Carly Sessions of KIND and Professor Alberto Benitez of GW Law provided me the following:

From: Carly Sessions <csessions@supportkind.org>
Date: Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 8:58 AM
Subject: Openings at the KIND Baltimore Office
To: “abenitez@law.gwu.edu” <abenitez@law.gwu.edu>

Hi Professor Benitez,

Hope all is well. I’m writing to let you know that the KIND Baltimore office has two really great opportunities right now. One for a Senior Direct Representation Attorney and one to head up our Pro Bono Program. Those jobs and other openings are posted here: https://supportkind.org/jobs/. Would you share with your network? If anyone has questions they are welcome to reach out to me. Thanks!

 

Carly Sessions, Esq.*

Interim Staff Attorney

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

1800 N. Charles St, Ste. 810

Baltimore, MD 21201

Tel:  (443) 961-7365 Fax:  (410) 646-8019

E-mail: csessions@supportkind.org

 

*Licensed to practice law in the state of Maryland.

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These are great opportunities. And, a huge additional benefit is that the successful candidates will be working with two of the “Charter Enlistees in the New Due Process Army,” the wonderful Carly Sessions and the amazing Jennifer Jaimes, Supervising Attorney.  Both Jennifer and Carly were Legal Interns at the Arlington Immigration Court. I can attest that they are two of the smartest, nicest, and most dedicated lawyers anyone could ever want as colleagues. So, don’t wait, sign up now!

NOT GONZO ENOUGH: AG Jeff Sessions Has Faithfully Advanced The White House’s White Nationalist Agenda At The DOJ — But The Donald Also Wanted Someone Who Would “Throw” The Russia Investigation — Expects “Cabinet Of Toadies”

In a far ranging interview with the NY Times that some would call “unhinged,” President Trump trashed Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein (he’s from Baltimore, home of Democrats), James Comey, and Robert Mueller for showing any modicum of ethics and independence.

Here’s the entire article by Times reporters 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/us/politics/trump-interview-sessions-russia.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Here are some key excerpts:

“WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.

. . . .

But Mr. Trump left little doubt during the interview that the Russia investigation remained a sore point. His pique at Mr. Sessions, in particular, seemed fresh even months after the attorney general’s recusal. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy and was rewarded with a key cabinet slot, but has been more distant from the president lately.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Mr. Trump also faulted Mr. Sessions for his testimony during Senate confirmation hearings when Mr. Sessions said he had not had “communications with the Russians” even though he had met at least twice with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

A spokesman for Mr. Sessions declined to comment on Wednesday.

The president added a new allegation against Mr. Comey, whose dismissal has become a central issue for critics who said it amounted to an attempt to obstruct the investigation into Russian meddling in the election and any possible collusion with Mr. Trump’s team.

. . . .

Mr. Trump rebutted Mr. Comey’s claim that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the president asked him to end the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that Mr. Trump kicked the vice president, attorney general and several other senior administration officials out of the room before having the discussion with Mr. Comey.

“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”

He expressed no second thoughts about firing Mr. Comey, saying, “I did a great thing for the American people.”

Mr. Trump was also critical of Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, reprising some of his past complaints that lawyers in his office contributed money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He noted that he actually interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey just before his appointment as special counsel.

“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said of the predominantly Democratic city.

He complained that Mr. Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr. Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”

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I guess reversing Obama-era civil rights, voting rights, transgender rights protections, switching sides in several lawsuits to oppose plaintiffs seeking to vindicate Constitutional rights, turning local police loose on minorities, trashing forensic science, firing U.S. Attorneys, going to war with states and localities over immigration enforcement, re-instituting the use of private prisons operated by those with political ties, rearranging U.S. Immigration Court Dockets to support more or less random DHS enforcement priorities, defending some over the top positions on immigration in court, seizing property from non-criminals, and hastily coming up with some contrived reasons for firing James Comey after Trump had already decided to do so aren’t enough to stay in favor with the Boss.

It’s not that one would have to be a “rocket scientist” to figure out that Sessions, a member of the campaign team, would ethically have to recuse himself from an investigation into the activities of the campaign team. And, if anyone at DOJ beyond Mueller and the now departed Comey have shown any bit of independence from the White House, it certainly hasn’t been obvious to the public. Indeed the DOJ appears to be in lockstep with the Administration’s most extreme and Constitutionally questionable plans. But, I guess “complete toadyism” requires going “an extra mile.”

The latest from the NY Times is that Sessions says he’s going to stay, at least for now.

PWS

07-20-17

WashPost: GANGS — A Complicated Problem With No Easy Solution — Budget Cuts Undermine Some Local Programs!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/ms-13-gains-recruits-and-power-in-us-as-teens-surge-across-border/2017/06/16/aacea62a-3989-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_ms-13-1240pmm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.5745c22fb3d0

Michael E. Miller, Dan Morse, and Justin Jouvenal report:

“The increasing MS-13 violence has become a flash point in a national debate over immigration. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have vowed to eradicate the gang, while immigrant advocates say the young people are being scapegoated to further an anti-immigrant agenda.

Danny’s case illustrates just how difficult the balance between compassion and safety can be. Was he a child who needed help? Or a gang member who shouldn’t have been here?

“Do you close the doors to all law-abiding folks who just want to be here and make a better life . . . and in the process keep out the handful who are going to wreak havoc on our community?” asked one federal prosecutor, who is not permitted to speak publicly and has handled numerous MS-13 cases. “Or do you open the doors and you let in good folks and some bad along with the good?”

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Read the entire, much longer, article at the link.

it does seem short sighted to save a few bucks by cutting some of the few programs specifically designed to address this issue.

PWS

06-16-17

 

NOT YOUR FATHER’S FOURTH CIRCUIT: Technology, Innovation, & A More Diverse Judiciary Change Tribunal Sitting In The Former Capital Of The Confederacy!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/after-a-ruling-on-trumps-travel-ban-all-eyes-are-on-the-4th-circuit/2017/06/02/b7a555f2-4545-11e7-bcde-624ad94170ab_story.html?utm_term=.825d55d2e2d7

Carl Tobias reports for the Washington Post.

“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is a court in transition. The Richmond-based appeals court was long considered the most ideologically conservative of the 12 regional circuits, the intermediate appellate tribunals across the country that are the courts of last resort for 99 percent of appeals. When a case heard in Maryland and Virginia federal district courts is appealed, it goes to the 4th Circuit. This is the court that has resolved appeals involving Maryland gun laws and Virginia transgender students’ rights, for example.

And change has come to the 4th Circuit.

This was recently on display when the entire court — all judges in active service who did not have conflicts of interest — substantially affirmed a Maryland district court’s nationwide injunction that blocked enforcement of President Trump’s revised travel ban. Notably, a majority of the judges proclaimed that the Constitution “protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge the Executive Order that in text speaks in vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

For decades, the 4th Circuit was a conservative stronghold. Seated in the former capital of the Confederacy, the court hears appeals in the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Courthouse, a building that served as the official headquarters for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The circuit retains Southern manners. For instance, judges descend from the bench after oral arguments to shake the hands of counsel.

President George W. Bush tried to continue the court’s conservative legacy when numerous vacancies materialized in his administration. However, the White House insisted on pressing for confirmation of nominees whom many Democratic senators considered outside the mainstream, even after Democrats had captured a Senate majority in November 2006. Political machinations left four vacancies at the Bush administration’s close, enabling President Barack Obama to appoint numerous judges. The court now has nine members whom Democratic presidents appointed, five whom Republican presidents confirmed and Chief Judge Roger Gregory, whom President Bill Clinton recess-appointed and Bush confirmed.

Two recent developments in the travel ban appeal demonstrate change in the court. First, all of the active judges without conflicts heard the appeal, called an initial en banc proceeding, which is so extraordinary that the last one was decades ago. One judge, not the parties, suggested this procedure, and the court requested the litigants’ views on an en banc process, while a circuit majority favored it apparently because of the appeal’s exceptional public importance.

Another sign of change was the court’s April 27 announcement that the argument would be livestreamed. Allowing “cameras in the courtroom” has proved extremely controversial at the Supreme Court, which has never permitted live broadcast of arguments. Indeed, since-retired Justice David Souter famously declared “over my dead body.” A few lower federal courts allow broadcasts. The 9th Circuit began livestreaming all oral arguments in 2015.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

As a U.S. Immigration Judge sitting in the Fourth Circuit, I credited the Fourth Circuit’s carefully-crafted asylum jurisprudence and overriding concern for due process and fairness for asylum seekers as reasons why asylum grant rates were relatively high in the Arlington and Baltimore Immigration Courts (of course, along with my judicial colleagues’ careful attention the what the Fourth Circuit was saying; new Fourth Circuit rulings were a frequent topic of our lunch conversations.)

Apparently, however, the word didn’t reach as far south as the Charlotte Immigration Court, where advocates regularly complain of the rights of asylum seekers being “steamrolled.” To date, the BIA has failed to step in and fix the Charlotte situation. And, I wouldn’t expect it to happen with Jeff Sessions in charge of the U.S. Immigration Courts.

PWS

06-04-17

BUST: ICE Nabs Mother Of 4 With Minor Driving Violation!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/salvadoran-mom-of-2-detained-by-ice-in-fairfax-no-criminal-record-advocates-say/2017/05/18/afcbe0ce-3bec-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html?utm_term=.92d83e15b9c6

Maria Sacchetti and Antonio Olivo Report in the Washington Post:

“Federal immigration officials detained an undocumented woman from Falls Church who came to their offices for a routine check-in on Thursday, drawing angry protests from advocates who say President Trump should focus on deporting those who pose a public-safety threat.p

The arrest of Liliana Cruz Mendez, 30, a mother of two from El Salvador, comes a day after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released statistics showing a significant increase in deportation arrests since Trump’s inauguration, mostly involving undocumented residents with criminal records.

While immigration hard-liners are applauding Trump’s efforts, advocates for those here illegally say ICE is defining the term “criminal” so broadly that many minor offenders — including Cruz Mendez, who has a misdemeanor conviction for driving without a license — are being torn from their U.S.-born children.

The agency also more than doubled the arrests of noncriminal immigrants, to nearly 11,000, about a quarter of the arrests reported Wednesday.

“This is the real face of what ICE is doing,” said George Escobar, senior director of human Services for CASA, a Maryland-based nonprofit that is aiding Cruz Mendez. “They are shattering families and children’s lives.”

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This is making America safer and better? This is a good use of enforcement resources?

PWS

05-19-17

SANCTUARY: MD AG Issues Guidance On Cooperation With ICE!

Here is the guidance memorandum published by MD Attorney General Brian Frosh on state and local cooperation with ICE:

http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Reports/Immigration_Law_Guidance.pdf

 

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Many thanks to Dan Kowalski at LexisNexis and Professor Elizabeth Keyes at the University of Baltimore School of Law for bringing this to my attention.

PWS

05-16-17

 

THE RAPE THAT WASN’T — MD Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Two Hispanic Students At Rockville High In Case That Administration “Tried” Without Facts In Attempt To “Whip Up” Xenophobia!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/rape-charge-against-immigrant-teen-in-maryland-case-will-be-dropped-defense-lawyer-says/2017/05/05/a4806c02-312f-11e7-8674-437ddb6e813e_story.html?utm_term=.cc30dc476886&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

The Washington Post reports:

“Maryland prosecutors said they will drop rape and sex offense charges against two immigrant teens accused of attacking a 14-year-old classmate in a high school bathroom stall in a case that attracted international and White House attention and stoked the debate about illegal crossings into the United States.

After a court hearing Friday morning, prosecutors said they will drop the sex-assault case against Henry Sanchez Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17.

“The facts of this case do not support the original charges filed,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

Defense lawyers had said for weeks that the sex acts were consensual and that text messages and school surveillance videos did not substantiate the girl’s claims she had been pushed from a hallway into a bathroom at Rockville High School on March 16 and that the suspects took turns assaulting her as she tried to break free.

As prosecutors moved to dismiss the rape cases, they began pursuing cases of child pornography charges related to images discovered on cellphones during the course of the investigation, according to court records and defense attorneys.

Prosecutors did not describe the content or path of the exchanges of the images. Defense attorneys said they were willingly shared by the girl with one defendant, who passed them along to the other.

Sanchez Milian’s attorney, Andrew Jezic, called the charges “selective prosecution of elective promiscuity,” adding that “it is hardly uncommon behavior for teenagers.”

Montano’s attorney, Maria Mena, said the child pornography laws are made to go after adults. She called the new charges “egregious.”

The developments Friday stood in stark contrast to the reports that pushed the case onto the national platform.

The severity of the reported assault — the girl originally told police the suspects held her down as she cried and repeatedly told them to stop — and that the two accused teens had entered the United States illegally only months earlier drew heated comments from the White House to the Maryland State House and to activists in the county.

Montano came to the United States from El Salvador, and Sanchez Milian from Guatemala. They were stopped at the border, detained, then allowed to continue on to relatives before they enrolled at Rockville at a ninth-grade level.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked at a daily briefing about the cases in its early days and said, “The idea that this occurred is shocking, disturbing, horrific.”

“Part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this. . . . Immigration pays its toll on our people if it’s not done legally, and this is another example,” Spicer said.”

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Read the entire article at the above link.

Always a good idea to wait for the legal system to operate before passing judgment. And, the idea that anyone in the Trump Administration would give “two hoots and a holler” about a rape victim is facially absurd.

Nope.  It’s all about revving up xenophobia. And, the targets aren’t just those who arrived recently and made claims for protection. Xenophobia, like racism, is an ugly phenomenon. In the end, the Administration’s “white nationalist” agenda threatens all Americans in one way or another (ironically, it even threatens those who think that they stand to benefit from it).

PWS

05-07-17

“GONZO-APOCALYPTO:” The Ominous Cloud Hanging Over American Justice — In Good Friday Editorials, Both NYT & WashPost Blast Sessions’s Dark, Distorted, “Gonzo-Apocalypto” Vision Of America!

First, the Washington Post ripped Sessions’s “embarrassing” withdrawal of support from African Americans and other minorities challenging the State of Texas’s scheme to disenfranchise them. A Federal Judge has twice found in favor of the plaintiffs — once with the DOJ’s support and once without!

“BLASTING “A PATTERN of conduct unexplainable on nonracial grounds, to suppress minority voting,” U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos on Monday repudiated Texas’s voter-ID law, the strictest in the country. Asked by appeals court judges to reconsider her expansive 2014 ruling against the law using slightly different evidence, Ms. Ramos reaffirmed her previous determination that “the law places a substantial burden on the right to vote, which is hardly offset by Texas’s claimed benefits to voting integrity.” She found that racial discrimination was at least a partial motivation for the law, a step toward reestablishing federal supervision over Texas’s voting procedures, per the Voting Rights Act.

Given the ruling and the mountain of evidence, it is embarrassing that the Trump Justice Department dropped its support for the contention that the Texas voter law is purposely discriminatory.

The legal question is not close. “There has been a clear and disturbing pattern of discrimination in the name of combating voter fraud,” Ms. Ramos wrote in 2014. The only type of fraud the law could combat — voter impersonation — hardly ever happens. Meanwhile, the law’s backers knew it would disproportionately impact minority voters; in fact, they designed it so. “The Texas Legislature accepted amendments that would broaden Anglo voting and rejected amendments that would broaden minority voting,” Ms. Ramos found in her 2014 examination. Texas accepts relatively few forms of identification at the polls, and those it does accept, such as gun licenses, are those white Texans tend to hold. Unlike many voter-ID states, Texas does not relax ID rules much for the elderly or the indigent, though obtaining an accepted ID can be surprisingly time-consuming and expensive.”

Read the complete editorial here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/its-time-for-the-justice-department-to-disown-texass-discriminatory-voting-law/2017/04/13/ee63a0e0-1ef7-11e7-ad74-3a742a6e93a7_story.html

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Meanwhile, A NY Times editorial slammed Session’s disingenuous plan to make immigrants the “#1 target” of law enforcement in the “Trump era.” The emphasis is mine.

Here’s the full editorial:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to the border in Arizona on Tuesday and declared it a hellscape, a “ground zero” of death and violence where Americans must “take our stand” against a tide of evil flooding up from Mexico.

It was familiar Sessions-speak, about drug cartels and “transnational gangs” poisoning and raping and chopping off heads, things he said for years on the Senate floor as the gentleman from Alabama. But with a big difference:  Now he controls the machinery of federal law enforcement, and his gonzo-apocalypto vision of immigration suddenly has force and weight behind it, from the officers and prosecutors and judges who answer to him.

When Mr. Sessions got to the part about the “criminal aliens and the coyotes and the document forgers” overthrowing our immigration system, the American flag behind him had clearly heard enough — it leaned back and fell over as if in a stupor. An agent rushed to rescue it, and stood there for the rest of the speech: a human flag stand and metaphor. A guy with a uniform and gun, wrapped in Old Glory, helping to give the Trump administration’s nativist policies a patriotic sheen.

It was in the details of Mr. Sessions’s oratory that his game was exposed. He talked of cities and suburbs as immigrant-afflicted “war zones,” but the crackdown he seeks focuses overwhelmingly on nonviolent offenses, the document fraud and unauthorized entry and other misdeeds that implicate many people who fit no sane definition of brutal criminal or threat to the homeland.

The problem with Mr. Sessions’s turbocharging of the Justice Department’s efforts against what he paints as machete-wielding “depravity” is how grossly it distorts the bigger picture. It reflects his long fixation — shared by his boss, President Trump — on immigration not as an often unruly, essentially salutary force in American history, but as a dire threat. It denies the existence of millions of people who are a force for good, economic mainstays and community assets, less prone to crime than the native-born — workers, parents, children, neighbors and, above all, human beings deserving of dignity and fair treatment under the law.

Mr. Sessions is ordering his prosecutors to make immigration a priority, to consider prosecution in any case involving “transportation and harboring of aliens” and to consider felony charges for an extended menu of offenses, like trying to re-enter after deportation, “aggravated identity theft” and fraudulent marriage.

He said the government was now detaining every adult stopped at the border, and vowed to “surge” the supply of immigration judges, to increase the flow of unauthorized immigrants through the courts and out of the country. He has ordered all 94 United States attorney’s offices to designate “border security coordinators,” no matter how far from “ground zero” they are.

Mr. Sessions and the administration are being led by their bleak vision to the dark side of the law. The pieces are falling into place for the indiscriminate “deportation force” that the president promised. Mr. Sessions and the homeland security secretary, John Kelly, have attacked cities and states that decline to participate in the crackdown. Mr. Sessions has threatened these “sanctuary” locales with loss of criminal-justice funding, on the false assertion that they are defying the law. (In fact, “sanctuary” cities are upholding law and order. They recognize that enlisting state and local law enforcement for deportation undermines community trust, local policing and public safety.)

Mr. Kelly recently told a Senate committee that all unauthorized immigrants are now potential targets for arrest and deportation. And so an administration that talks about machete-waving narco killers is also busily trying to deport people like Maribel Trujillo-Diaz, of Fairfield, Ohio, the mother of four citizen children, who has no criminal record.

“Be forewarned,” Mr. Sessions said in Arizona. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era.”

Let’s talk about this era. It’s an era when the illegal border flow, particularly from Mexico, has been falling for 20 years. When many of those arriving from Central America immediately surrender to border agents — having fled to the United States to find safety, not to do it harm. When American border cities enjoy safety and vitality, thanks to immigrants. When a large portion of the unauthorized population has lived here for years, if not decades, with clean records and strong roots. When polls show that Americans back reasonable and humane immigration policies giving millions a chance to get right with the law.

President Trump has shown his mind to be a place where ideas and principles can morph without warning or explanation. It is a vacuum that allows ideologues like Mr. Sessions — who know their minds — to do their worst. On immigration, that is a frightening thing to contemplate.

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“Gonzo-Apocalypto” has to be the “word of the day.” What a perfect term to describe Jeff Sessions.

In a grotesque display of disingenuous hypocrisy, Sessions referred to “drug cartels and ‘transnational gangs’ poisoning and raping and chopping off heads.” These are exactly the things causing scared, defenseless women and children to flee for their lives from the Northern Triangle and seek refuge in the U.S. But, instead of refuge they find: well, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Gen. John Kelly and others anxious to stomp out their humanity in the false name of “law enforcement.”

Turning to civil rights, I watched on the TV news last night two clips of brutal beatings and stompings of African Americans by white police officers. One victim was accused of “jaywalking”  — that’s right, “jaywalking.” The other was “driving without a license plate.” I was wondering how, after all the recent publicity, those officers could have engaged in such conduct, “on camera” no less.

Unfortunately, the answer is pretty simple “Black Lives Don’t Matter,” an attitude that obviously has just become instinctive for too many U.S. police officers. I couldn’t imagine a white pedestrian or a white motorist being treated that way in our multi-racial but predominantly white neighborhood.

Yes, the officers involved were disciplined. I believe that most or all of them were either fired, prosecuted, or both. But, that’s not the point!

The object is to prevent misuse of force by police, not to fire, prosecute, or otherwise discipline more policemen. And, prevention without compromising effectiveness of policing is exactly what the carefully crafted “consent decrees” with some problematic cities developed by the Civil Rights Division under AGs Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder achieved.

Those are the very decrees that Sessions immediately announced an intent to “review” with an obvious eye toward withdrawing or undermining them. Look at the childish behavior in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, MD, when DOJ attorneys, acting on Sessions’s behalf, withdrew their support from the consent decree and basically refused to participate in a long-scheduled public hearing. Fortunately, the judge has the good sense to go ahead and approve and finalize the consent decree without any participation by DOJ, leading to even more childish whining from Sessions about the horrors of infringing on local law enforcement in the name of African American citizen’s constitutional rights.

The very public “green light” that Sessions has given to law enforcement to run over citizen’s rights as they please, without any fear of DOJ intervention, so long as they are “enforcing the law” — like busting jaywalkers, license plate violators, and presumably undocumented aliens — no doubt plays a role in the continuing anti-minority policing being conducted by some law enforcement agencies.

Sessions “bristles” when anyone uses the term “racist” to describe him. Sessions was given a chance to make good on his (obviously false) promise during his confirmation hearings to turn over a new leaf and look at the responsibilities of being Attorney General for all Americans differently from representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

Unfortunately,  his actions have proved that all of the charges his detractors made against him are as true now as they were when he was, quite properly, denied a U.S. judgeship many decades ago. If the shoe fits, wear it. And, sadly, this “shoe” fits Sessions “like a glove.” Liz was “right on.”

Finally, DHS Secretary John Kelly will see his distinguished career in public service end in ignomany if he continues “toadying up” to the ethno-nationalist views of the Sessions-Bannon-Miller crowd on immigration enforcement. Most of the arrests, deportations, detentions, denials of asylum, and removals Sessions is touting in his haste to become the new “Immigration Czar,” actually are within the jurisdiction of DHS. But, these days, you’d hardly know that Sessions isn’t in charge of DHS enforcement as well as Justice. If Kelly isn’t careful, he’s going to develop a neck injury from constantly nodding his head to every absurd “gonzo-apocalypto” immigration enforcement initiative announced by Sessions.

PWS

04-14-17

DUE PROCESS CRISIS IN THE U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS: New Report Finds That Detained Migrants In The Arlington & Baltimore Courts Face Severe Access To Counsel Problems Which Can Be “Outcome Determinative!”

https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/DC_Access_to_Counsel_rev4_033117 (1).pdf

This report (see link) was prepared and issued by the Center For Popular Democracy. Here are some key findings:

  • Every year, nearly 4,000 people in Washington, D.C. metropolitan area courts, Arlington, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, face deportation in civil immigration court without the assistance of a lawyer. Based on original data analysis of Department of Justice records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, seven out of ten detained individuals in immigration court removal proceedings in Arlington, VA and eight out of ten in Baltimore, MD did not have any legal representation.
    • ■  People without lawyers faced enormous odds in fighting their deportation cases. Among detained immigrants without lawyers, people in Arlington were only successful in their cases 11 percent of the time and unrepresented people in Baltimore only successful 7 percent of the time.
    • ■  Having a lawyer in Arlington more than doubled a person’s chances of being able to remain in the U.S. and quadrupled a person’s chance of obtaining relief in Baltimore.
  • ■  Between 2010 and 2015, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained nearly 15,000 people in local and county jails2 throughout the states of Maryland and Virginia. In both regions, people who did not have lawyers were more than twice as likely to remain detained during the entirety of their immigration case, even if they may have been eligible for release on bond.
  • **************************************

Read the entire report which has some case histories in addition to charts and graphs.

The findings are disturbing because the Arlington and Baltimore Immigration Courts generally are considered among the best in the nation in striving to provide due process. The judges in each court are committed to representation and often go out of their way to encourage and facilitate the appearance of counsel. The ICE Chief Counsel’s Offices also appreciate and support pro bono representation.

Additionally, as noted in the report, the DC-Baltimore metropolitan area has a number of great organizations dedicated to providing pro bono lawyers, as well as local practitioners, “big law” firms, and numerous outstanding law school clinics, all of which support the pro bono program.

Yet even under these generally favorable conditions, the overwhelming majority of individuals on the detained dockets in both courts appear pro se, without a lawyer. And, the results with a lawyer are very significantly better than for those forced to represent themselves.

I fear that the new program of expanded immigration detention being planned by DHS, with courts operating in obscure, out of the way locations along the Southern Border, will further impede already limited access to counsel and therefore further degrade due process in our U.S. Immigration Courts.

Frankly, I have not seen any mention of the importance of due process or facilitating access to counsel in any of the many Trump Administration pronouncements on immigration. It’s all about enforcement, detention, removals, and prosecutions. Fairness and due process, which should always be paramount concerns, appear to be ignored.

In the end, it likely will be up to the already overworked and stressed pro bono bar, human rights groups, and community-based NGOs to enforce immigrants’ rights to counsel and to full due process. And, ultimately, that’s probably going to require litigation and intervention by the Article III Courts.

Thanks to Adina Appelbaum, who worked on this report, for bringing it to my attention.

PWS

04/13/17