Uddin v. Attorney General, 3rd Cir., Sept. 6, 2017
BEFORE: GREENAWAY, JR., SHWARTZ, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges
OPINION BY: Judge Rendell
“While we will deny the petition for review challenging the Board’s ruling dismissing Uddin’s Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) claim, we will grant the petition in part and remand on his withholding of removal claim. The Board has pointed to terrorist acts by BNP members. But it did not find that BNP leadership authorized any of the terrorist activity committed by party members. Today, we join the reasoning of the Seventh Circuit and the Board in many of its own opinions by holding as follows: unless the agency finds that party leaders authorized terrorist activity committed by its members, an entity such as the BNP cannot be deemed a Tier III terrorist organization.
. . . .
Second, the rule we announce mirrors the Board’s own reasoning in the mine-run of its cases involving the BNP’s status as a Tier III organization. In fact, in some cases where IJs did not make a finding as to BNP leaders’ authorization of allegedly terrorist acts, the Board found error in the IJs’ omissions, and remanded to the IJs to take up that very question of authorization. In such cases, the Board bolstered
used the RAB to conduct numerous extra-judicial killings of BNP members. Thus, for purposes of the BNP’s status as a terrorist organization, the RAB’s conduct cannot be ascribed to that group during the time period relevant to Uddin’s case.
its reasoning by referencing Seventh Circuit opinions suggesting that some finding on authorization is necessary to assign a group Tier III status. See Khan v. Holder, 766 F.3d 689, 699 (7th Cir. 2014) (“An entire organization does not automatically become a terrorist organization just because some members of the group commit terrorist acts. The question is one of authorization.”); Hussain v. Mukasey, 518 F.3d 534, 538 (7th Cir. 2008) (“An organization is not a terrorist organization just because one of its members commits an act of armed violence without direct or indirect authorization . . . .”).
. . . .
Further, today’s ruling should help provide the Board a principled method of adjudicating Tier III cases, an area of law with little guidance from the Courts of Appeals. This dearth of precedential opinions has resulted in highly inconsistent results regarding the BNP’s status as a terrorist organization: our preliminary research in preparation for oral argument turned up several Board rulings concluding that the BNP was not in fact a terrorist organization. These conclusions were in stark contrast to the Board’s finding in Uddin’s case.
Faced with these contradictory opinions, in advance of oral argument we asked the Government to submit all Board opinions from 2015-2017 addressing the terrorism bar as it applies to the BNP. (Those opinions are not all publicly available.) The Government’s submission—fifty-four opinions in total—did not bolster our confidence in the Board’s adjudication of these cases.
In six of the opinions, the Board agreed with the IJ that the BNP qualified as a terrorist organization based on the record in that case. But in at least ten, the Board concluded that the BNP was not a terrorist organization. In at least five cases, the Government did not challenge the IJ’s determination that the BNP is not a terrorist organization. And in one case, the Board reversed its own prior determination, finding that that “the Board’s last decision incorrectly affirmed the Immigration Judge’s finding that the BNP is a Tier III terrorist organization.” Many of the cases discussed the BNP’s terrorist status during the same time periods, reaching radically different results.
We recognize that the Board’s decisions are unpublished, and thus lack precedential value. We also note the Government’s argument that the BNP’s status as an undesignated terrorist organization is a “case-specific” determination based on the facts presented. That said, something is amiss where, time and time again, the Board finds the BNP is a terrorist organization one day, and reaches the exact opposite conclusion the next.
Even more concerning, the IJ in this case stated that he was “aware of no BIA or circuit court decision to date which has considered whether the BNP constitutes a terrorist organization.” AR 68. At the time the IJ ruled, there were several such decisions, and now there are dozens. When asked at oral argument whether the IJ could access unpublished Board decisions regarding BNP’s terrorist status, the Government’s Attorney responded that he did not know. This is a troubling state of affairs.”
Gee whiz, the Article III’s are finally starting to figure out some of the problems with having a supposedly due-process focused Appellate Court resident in an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. And the quality and consistency of administrative justice in immigration is hardly likely to improve under the Sessions “just peddle faster and deport more folks while we mindlessly fill the system with DACA immigrants” program.
The Third Circuit arguably now knows more about what the BIA is doing in this area than then BIA itself. And, I can guarantee that they know more than Jeff Sessions or anyone at the DOJ.
Oh yeah, and hiring more Immigration Judges, giving them less training, moving them around for enforcement purposes, and giving them less time to turn out quality decisions isn’t likely to improve this “troubling state of affairs.” Moreover, by failing to provide and enforce uniform guidance, the BIA encourages the DHS to abuse the system by “rolling the dice” on cases (like this one) they clearly should lose, but could win, at the Immigration Court, rather than being required to settle cases and exercise prosecutorial discretion in the way almost all other prosecutors do, on every level of the U.S. system except the Immigration Court. What Sessions disingenuously calls “enforcing the rule of law” is actually, in the words of Jason Dzubow, a “mixture of cruelty and incompetence” (with some just plain old stupidity thrown in).
The only thing that will improve the quality of justice in the U.S. Immigration Court system is to get it out of the Executive Branch and into an independent structure forthwith. Otherwise, the Article III’s are going to find themselves between a rock an a hard place: rubber stamp the BIA’s questionable work product or take over the BIA’s function and insist that constitutional due process be satisfied.