GONZO’S WORLD: THE “KING OF OBFUSCATION” “STONEWALLS” THE US SENATE! — “He Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout Nothin’” — But He Can’t Tell You Why He Can’t Talk About Why He Doesn’t Know! — And, He Bristles With Righteous Indignation If Anyone Accuses Him Of Not Being Very Forthcoming!

What Jeff Sessions wouldn’t say was more revealing than what he did
How the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Jeff Sessions

THE BIG IDEA: Jeff Sessions was the personification of a hostile witness whenever a Democratic lawmaker questioned him during a contentious five-hour oversight hearing on Wednesday.

The attorney general set the tone early in his first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee since his January confirmation. “I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president,” Sessions said in his opening statement.

There were several yes-or-no questions that should have been easy for Sessions to answer, but he refused. Sometimes what someone will not say is more interesting than what they do.

THE SPECIAL COUNSEL:

— Sessions said he has not been interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But has his team requested an interview? “I don’t think so,” the attorney general told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), reflecting the cautiousness he showed all day. “I don’t know … I don’t want to come in here and be trapped. … I will check and let you know.” Later, Sessions announced: “My staff handed me a note that I have not been asked for an interview at this point.”

— The attorney general declined to express personal confidence in Mueller, a former FBI director: “I think he will produce the work in a way he thinks is correct and history will judge,” Sessions said.

— He also declined to say whether he would resign if President Trump tried to fire Mueller. Sessions said getting rid of Mueller would be up to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because he has recused himself. (Rosenstein was interviewed by Mueller’s team this summer.)

Sessions says he can’t disclose ‘confidential conversations’ with Trump

“THE CLOUD”:

— Sessions declined to discuss anything the president told him before firing James Comey. He pointedly refused to answer multiple questions about whether Trump told him that getting rid of the FBI director would “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation. “I do not confirm or deny the existence of any communication with the president,” Sessions replied. Yet he didn’t hesitate to defend the president’s dubious rationale for axing Comey, which was the former FBI director’s alleged mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

— If Trump hadn’t mentioned “the cloud,” why not just say so? In sworn testimony this June, Comey recounted a phone call he received from Trump at the FBI on March 30: “He described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’ … He finished by stressing ‘the cloud’ was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated.”

Trump called again on April 11 to ask for an update on when Comey was going to announce publicly that he was not personally under investigation. “I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back,” the former FBI director said. “He replied that ‘the cloud’ was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. … That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.”

— Sessions also would not say whether he was aware of Trump’s draft letter detailing some of the real reasons that he wanted to remove Comey, which Mueller has been reviewing.

Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio campaign together in Iowa last year. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio campaign together in Iowa last year. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

PARDONS:

— Can the president pardon someone under investigation by Mueller before they’ve been charged? “Well, the pardon power is quite broad,” Sessions replied. “I have not studied it. I don’t know whether that would be appropriate or not, frankly.” Pressed further, he added later: “My understanding is a pardon can be issued before a conviction has occurred.” (He said that he’d like to reply with more detail in writing. That was one of his go-to lines throughout the day, though Democrats have complained for months that the Justice Department doesn’t respond to their letters.)

— Could the president pardon himself? Sessions again said he hadn’t studied the issue.

— Did Trump discuss pardoning Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio with Sessions before he announced it? “I cannot comment on the private conversations I’ve had with the president,” he replied.

— What was the process that led to Arpaio’s pardon? “I don’t know that I remember or I know it precisely,” Sessions dodged.

Sessions: ‘I don’t know that I can make a blanket commitment’ to not jail reporters

JAILING REPORTERS:

— Will he commit to not putting reporters in jail for doing their jobs? “Well, I don’t know that I can make a blanket commitment to that effect,” Sessions replied to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). “But I would say this: We have not taken any aggressive action against the media at this point. But we have matters that involve the most serious national security issues, that put our country at risk, and we will utilize the authorities that we have, legally and constitutionally, if we have to.”

Durbin slams Sessions for wanting safer cities, withholding police grants

LGBT DISCRIMINATION:

— Two weeks ago, Sessions sent a memo to all federal agencies on “protections for religious liberty.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked about it: “Could a Social Security Administration employee refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse?

After four seconds of silence, Sessions replied: “That is something I have never thought would arise, but I would have to give you a written answer to that, if you don’t mind.”

Durbin followed up: Would the guidance Sessions released permit a federal contractor to “refuse to provide services to LGBTQ people, including in emergencies, without risk of losing federal contracts?”

“I’m not sure that is covered by it,” Sessions said, “but I will look.”

“The questions were hardly out of left field — or unfamiliar to the Justice Department,” BuzzFeed notes, adding that the Justice Department has been declining to answer them for weeks.

— The evasiveness played out on a host of other policy questions:

Did Sessions talk with the Texas attorney general about DACA before convincing Trump to end the program? He said such a conversation, if it happened, would be tantamount to “work product” and thus privileged.

Is there any evidence to support Trump’s claim on Monday that the Cuban government was behind the sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana? “I’m just not able to comment,” Sessions replied.

Democrats noted that Sessions, when he was a member of the committee, would never have tolerated one of Barack Obama’s appointees being so evasive.

— Republicans mostly rallied to Sessions’s defense. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, noted that Eric Holder refused to turn over documents relating to the Fast and Furious program by asserting executive privilege. Though, Grassley added, “The American people have a right to know why (Comey) was fired.”

Jeff Sessions testifies. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jeff Sessions testifies. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sessions stumbles through questions about communicating with Russia

RUSSIA CONTACTS:

— The main headline out of the hearing is that the nation’s chief law enforcement officer is still getting his story straight on his interactions with the Russians: “Sessions offered a slightly new wrinkle Wednesday, asserting that he may have discussed Trump campaign policy positions in his 2016 conversations with (Ambassador Sergey) Kislyak,” Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett report. “The attorney general said it was ‘possible’ that ‘some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were,’ though he also said, ‘I don’t think there was any discussion about the details of the campaign.’The Post reported in July that Kislyak reported back to his superiors in the Kremlin that the two had discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow. Sessions has previously said he did not ‘recall any specific political discussions’ …”

— Another significant admission: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) asked whether the U.S. government is doing enough to prevent Russian interference in future elections. “We’re not,” Sessions responded.

— In the testiest exchange of the day, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sparred with Sessions over whether he told the truth during his confirmation hearing:

Al Franken Cross-Examines Jeff Sessions On Lying About Russian Meeting

HOW IT’S PLAYING:

— On the left:

  • Slate: “Jeff Sessions Is Using Phony Executive Privilege to Shield Trump, and GOP Senators Are Letting Him.”
  • Esquire: “Jeff Sessions Is Not Donald Trump’s Lawyer. And that suggestion could be a license for corruption.”
  • Mother Jones: “Justice Department Has Communicated With Controversial Election Commission, Sessions Confirms. The revelation fuels concerns over voter suppression efforts and could raise legal questions.”
  • The Nation: “Jeff Sessions Keeps Lying to the Senate. Sessions once claimed he never met with the Russians. Well, sorta, kinda, maybe. It depends…”
  • Los Angeles Times editorial page: “Trump and Sessions are still telling different stories about Comey.”

— On the right:

  • Daily Caller: “Sessions Admits The Wall Won’t Run Full Length Of The Border.”
  • Breitbart: “Sessions: ‘We’re Not’ Doing Enough to Prepare for Future Info Interference By Russia and Other Countries.”
  • Fox News: “Sessions tangles with Durbin over Chicago violence.”
  • Washington Examiner: “Sessions is confident Trump’s travel ban will win in Supreme Court.”
  • Washington Free Beacon: “Franken, Sessions Spar Over Time Restrictions During Russia Hearing: ‘No, No, No.’”

— All politics is local:

Here’s a link to Hohmann’s complete rundown, which contains lots of other news beyond today’s “Gonzo Report:”

https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?e=amVubmluZ3MxMkBhb2wuY29t&s=59e886a9fe1ff6159ed350e0

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Gonzo would have been a “perfect fit” in the Nixon Administration which gave birth to the term, “stonewalling!”

Let’s see, Gonzo’s “progressed” from saying under oath that he had no contact whatsoever with any Russians during the campaign, to later “clarifying” that he met with none other than the Russian Ambassador during the campaign (while at least implying that these meetings were in his capacity as a Senator, not a campaign official), to saying that he “may have discussed Trump campaign policy positions in his 2016 conversations with (Ambassador Sergey) Kislyak.” Gosh, that sounds to me like enough to sustain an “adverse credibility finding” in U.S. Immigration Court if said by an immigrant!

But, Gonzo says it’s all the fault of bullies like Sen. Al Franken for springing “trick” questions on him. After all, who would have thought that a major figure in the Trump Campaign (one of his earliest, most vocal, and proudest supporters) would be asked nasty questions about the Russia probe?

Gonzo basically refused to discuss the dark implications of his war on LGBTQ Americans, while allowing as how he might target reporters in the future (this Dude recently made speeches on the First Amendment?) if necessary to stop national security leaks.

And, on DACA, Tal Kopan reports for CNN:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told senators they have an “opportunity to do something historic” on immigration on Wednesday as he was pressed repeatedly on the administration’s move to terminate a popular protection for young undocumented immigrants.

“We have got to have more than just an amnesty,” Sessions said in his opening remarks. “We need a good improvement in the illegality that’s going on, and there is an opportunity right now, I’m telling you, an opportunity to do something historic.”

Despite multiple follow-ups, Sessions did not diverge much from the remarks, repeatedly telling lawmakers the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was in their hands.

Testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, the longtime immigration hardliner was asked by senators from both parties about the administration’s plans for DACA, which President Donald Trump has opted to end, citing Sessions’ recommendation.

. . . .

Sessions did not lay out details of what the administration may want to do for the Obama-era program, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Sessions has long railed against the program and once again expressed his belief that the executive action was unconstitutional.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, though, who has pursued legislation that would offer DACA-like protections for nearly two decades, pressed Sessions on how he could recommend to Trump that the program is unconstitutional and would be found the same in the courts when the Justice Department still maintains a 2014 Office of Legal Counsel memo on its website that found DACA would be constitutional.

“I believe this is accurate, that the so-called approval of DACA by OLC, Office of Legal Counsel, was based on the caveat or the requirement that any action that’s taken be done on an individual basis,” Sessions said, then appeared to mix up court precedent on the issue.

Sessions said a court had struck down the program because individual decisions were not made, but was seemingly referring to a decision made about an expansion of the program to parents. Courts have not found DACA to be unconstitutional to date. 

Durbin noted that each DACA applicant is evaluated individually. All go through background checks before receiving the two-year permits.

Growing frustrated at Session’s answers, Durbin referenced his former colleague’s past on the other side of the dais. “I believe this is just about the moment that Sen. Sessions would have blown up,” Durbin said. 

Later in the hearing, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, also a lawyer, asked Sessions if he considered any due process or “bait and switch” issues in recommending the program be ended, since DACA recipients willingly gave the Department of Homeland Security their information in exchange for protection when the program was created. Sessions said he didn’t believe it was discussed.

“It’s a valid issue,” Sessions said. “You’re right to raise it.”

But when Hirono pressed Sessions on what might happen to the individuals covered under the program if it ends in six months, Sessions deflected.

“The answer to that is in your hands,” he said. “Congress has the ability to deal with this problem in any number of ways.” He reiterated he did not support “simply an amnesty” without additional anti-illegal immigration measures, but said “if we work together, something can be done on that.”

Here’s the link to Tal’s report:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/18/politics/jeff-sessions-hearing-daca-remarks/index.html

In other words, Sessions continued to assert his conclusory, essentially “law free” position that DACA is unconstitutional. He didn’t even know which case he’s talking about (and it’s not that he didn’t have any idea that Durbin and others were going to quiz him on DACA). At the same time, he can’t bring himself to acknowledge that the DACA young people have been a great boon to the US and to our economy and that they deserve a path to citizenship. Indeed, if Gonzo had his way and the “Dreamers” were actually removed from the US, it would actually “TANK” our economy by reducing our GNP by nearly one-half trillion dollars! See CNBC, John W. Schoen, “DACA deportations could cost US economy more than $400 billion,” available at this link:

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/05/daca-deportations-could-cost-us-economy-more-than-400-billion.html

And, Gonzo goes on to press his absurd demand that any relief from “Dreamers” be “offset” by  Trump’s “off the wall” immigration restrictionist program. Dreamers are contributing over $400 billion to our GNP, so what’s there to “offset?” We should be happy to have them as permanent members of our society.

No, the real problem here is that the Dreamers and their families (who also are contributing to our society and economy) should have been screened and admitted through our legal immigration system. The solution isn’t to extract a “penalty” from the Dreamers, but rather to expand our legal immigration system so that future Dreamers and their hard-working productive families can be properly screened and legally admitted into the United States in the first place!

That Gonzo, others in the Administration, and the “restrictionist wing” of the GOP keep pushing in exactly the opposite direction is truly reprehensible. The real  “national debate” that we should be having on immigration is how to get Dreamers and other law-abiding undocumented residents on a track to full integration into our society, how many MORE legal immigrants we should admit each year, and how we should select them to achieve both the most for our country’s future and for those vibrant, hard-working, and much-needed future immigrants that we should be attracting! Legal immigration is a good thing, to be valued and welcomed! It’s NOT something to be feared and restricted as Gonzo and his cronies would have us believe! And, by converting most of the flow of “undocumented migrants” into “legal immigrants” we would reduce the need for DHS enforcement directed at the immigrant community. Those resources could be redirected at removing the “real bad guys.”

 

PWS

10-19-17

THE BIGGEST LOSER: US Judge In MD Also Slams Travel Ban 3.0 (Again)! No Matter What Ultimately Happens, Trump & Our Country Are The Big Losers From His Determination To Be Petty & Discriminatory!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/second-judge-rules-against-latest-travel-ban-saying-trumps-own-words-show-it-was-aimed-at-muslims/2017/10/18/5ecdaa44-b3ed-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html

Matt Zapotosky reports for the Washington Post:

“A federal judge in Maryland early Wednesday issued a second halt on the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban, asserting that the president’s own comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter convinced him that the directive was akin to an unconstitutional Muslim ban.

U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang issued a somewhat less complete halt on the ban than his counterpart in Hawaii did a day earlier, blocking the administration from enforcing the directive only on those who lacked a “bona fide” relationship with a person or entity in the United States, such as family members or some type of professional or other engagement in the United States.

But in some ways, Chuang’s ruling was more personally cutting to Trump, as he said the president’s own words cast his latest attempt to impose a travel blockade as the “inextricable re-animation of the twice-enjoined Muslim ban.”

Omar Jadwat, who directs of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and represented those suing in Maryland over the ban, said: “Like the two versions before it, President Trump’s latest travel ban is still a Muslim ban at its core. And like the two before it, this one is going down to defeat in the courts.”

The third iteration of Trump’s travel ban had been set to go fully into effect early Wednesday, barring various types of travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Even before Chuang’s ruling, though, a federal judge in Hawaii stopped it — at least temporarily — for all of the countries except North Korea and Venezuela.

That judge, Derrick K. Watson, blocked the administration from enforcing the measure on anyone from the six countries, not just those with a “bona fide” U.S. tie. But his ruling did not address whether Trump’s intent in imposing the directive was to discriminate against Muslims. He said the president had merely exceeded the authority Congress had given him in immigration law.

The Justice Department already had vowed to appeal Watson’s ruling, which the White House said “undercuts the President’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States.” Both Watson’s temporary restraining order and Chuang’s preliminary injunction are also interim measures, meant to maintain the status quo as the parties continue to argue the case.

The administration had cast the new measure as one that was necessary for national security, implemented only after officials conducted an extensive review of the information they needed to vet those coming to the United States. Those countries that were either unwilling or unable to produce such information even after negotiation, officials have said, were included on the banned list.

“These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our Nation,” the White House said after Watson’s ruling. “We are therefore confident that the Judiciary will ultimately uphold the President’s lawful and necessary action and swiftly restore its vital protections for the safety of the American people.”

Like Watson’s order, Chuang’s 91-page ruling also found Trump had exceeded his authority under immigration law, but only partially.

The order — which has “no specified end date and no requirement of renewal” — violated a nondiscrimination provision in the law in that it blocked immigrants to the United States based on their nationality, Chuang wrote.

But Chuang said he could not determine, as Watson did, that Trump had violated a different part of federal immigration law requiring him to find entry of certain nonimmigrant travelers would be “detrimental” to U.S. interests before blocking them.

Chuang instead based much of his ruling on his assessment that Trump intended to ban Muslims, and thus his order had run afoul of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. When Trump was a presidential candidate in December 2015, Chuang wrote, he had promised a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and all of his comments since then seemed to indicate his various travel bans were meant to fulfill that promise.

After his second ban was blocked, Chuang wrote, Trump described the measure as a “watered down version” of his initial measure, adding, “we ought go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.” The president had then revoked and replaced his first travel ban, which had also been held up in court.

In August, with courts still weighing the second version, Chuang noted that Trump “endorsed what appears to be an apocryphal story involving General John J. Pershing and a purported massacre of Muslims with bullets dipped in a pig’s blood, advising people to ‘study what General Pershing . . . did to terrorists when caught.’ ”

In September, as authorities worked on a new directive, Trump wrote on Twitter “the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”

Chuang had pressed challengers at a hearing this week on what the government would have to do to make the new ban legal, and he noted in his ruling that the new directive had changed from the previous iterations. The government, for example, had undertaken a review process before inking the new measure, and had added two non-Muslim majority countries to the banned list.

But Chuang wrote that he was unmoved that government had simply relied on the results of their review, and instead believed they made “certain subjective determinations that resulted in a disproportionate impact on majority-Muslim nations.” He wrote that the government offered “no evidence, even in the form of classified information submitted to the Court, showing an intelligence-based terrorism threat justifying a ban on entire nationalities,” and asserted that even the new measure “generally resembles President Trump’s earlier description of the Muslim ban.”

“The ‘initial’ announcement of the Muslim ban, offered repeatedly and explicitly through President Trump’s own statements, forcefully and persuasively expressed his purpose in unequivocal terms,” Chuang wrote.

The suits in federal court in Maryland had been brought by 23 advocacy groups and seven people who said they would be negatively impacted by the new ban.”

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Yes, the Trump Administration might ultimately prevail on appeal on this one. But, that won’t change the fact that they are “losers.” And, a country that chooses biased, incompetent, and petty leadership like this is also a “Big Loser.”

PWS

10-18-17

TRUMP BLOCKED AGAIN: US JUDGE IN HAWAII BLOCKS MOST OF TRAVEL BAN 3.0!!

Zoe Tillman reports for BuzzFeed News.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/zoetillman/a-judge-just-blocked-the-trump-administration-from?utm_term=.bxgjqJApzp#.bxgjqJApzp

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Unconstitutional discrimination as well as dumb and unnecessary policy. When will they ever learn?

PWS

10-17-17

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

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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

 

NICKOLE MILLER IN THE WASHPOST: The Truth About Vulnerable Asylum Seekers Refutes Sessions’s False Narrative!

Safari – Oct 16, 2017 at 10:17 AM

Inaccurate claims from Mr. Sessions

The Oct. 13 news article “Citing ‘rampant abuse and fraud,’ Sessions urges tighter asylum rules” quoted Attorney General Jeff Sessions as saying that many asylum claims “lacked merit” and are “simply a ruse to enter the country illegally.” As one of the “dirty immigration lawyers” who has represented hundreds of asylum seekers, I find these claims wildly inaccurate and dangerous. When I ask my clients, the majority of them children, why they came to the came to the United States, they invariably tell me the same thing: I had no choice — I was running for my
life. Indeed, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 58 per cent of Northern Triangle and Mexican children displaced in the United States suffered or faced harms that indicated need for international protection. These children are not gaming the system; they are seeking refuge from rampant gender based violence, MS-13 death threats and child abuse.
While I like to think I am a “smart” attorney, even immigrants represented by the smartest attorneys do not stand a chance in places such as Atlanta, where the asylum grant rate is as low as 2 per cent. Yes, reform is needed, but the only reform we should consider is one that provides more robust protections and recognizes our moral and legal obligation to protect asylum seekers.

Nickole Miller, Baltimore The writer is a lawyer with the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

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Nickole speaks truth.  Almost all of the “credible fear” reviews involving folks from the Northern Triangle that I performed as a U.S. Immigration Judge, both at the border and in Arlington, presented plausible claims for at least protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) if the rules were properly applied (which they often are not in Immigration Court — there is a strong bias against granting even the minimal protection that CAT provides). Many also had plausible gender-based, religious, or political asylum claims if they were allowed to gather the necessary evidence.

Whether ultimately successful or not, these individuals were clearly entitled to their day in court, to be listened to by an unbiased judicial decision maker, to have the reasons for the decision to accept or reject them carefully explained in language they can understand, and to have a right to appeal to a higher authority.

Of course, without a lawyer and some knowledge of the complicated CAT regulations and administrative and Federal Court case-law, a CAT applicant would have about “0 chance” of success. The same is true of asylum which requires proof not only of the possibility of future harm, but also proof of causal relationship to a “protected ground” an arcane concept which most unfamiliar with asylum law cannot grasp.

In other words, our system sends back individuals who have established legitimate fears of death, rape, or torture, just because they fail to show that it is “on account” of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. These concepts are often applied, particularly in Immigration Court where respondents are unrepresented, in the manner “most unfavorable” to the claimant.  This is in direct violation of the U.N. guidance which holds that credible asylum seekers should be given “the benefit of the doubt.”

Moreover, assuming that we have the “right” to send good folks, who have done no wrong, back to be harmed in the Northern Triangle, that doesn’t mean that we should be doing so as either a legal or moral matter. That’s what devices like Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”), Deferred Enforced Departure (“DED”), and just “plain old Prosecutorial Discretion (“PD”) are for: to save lives and maintain the status quo while deferring the more difficult decisions on permanent protection until later. Obviously, this would also allow  at least minimal protections to be granted by DHS outside the Immigration Court system, thus relieving the courts of thousands of cases, but without endangering lives, legal rights, or due process.

I agree with Nickole that the “asylum reform” needed is exactly the opposite of that being proposed by restrictionist opportunists like Trump and Sessions. The first step would be insuring that individuals seeking protections in Immigration Court have a right to a hearing before a real, impartial judicial official who will apply the law fairly and impartially, and who does not work for the Executive Branch and therefore is more likely to be free from the type of anti-asylum and anti-migrant bias overtly demonstrated by Sessions and other enforcement officials. 

PWS

10-16-17

GONZO’S WORLD: Jeff Sessions Is The New Jim Crow – Public Officials Using Bogus “Rule Of Law” and False “Christian Values” To Advance An Agenda of Hate, Bigotry, Intolerance, and Resentment Is (Sadly) Nothing New In America – The Main Difference: African-Americans Aren’t Gonzo’s Only Targets! — LGBTQ Americans Last Week, Hispanic Asylum Seekers This Week, Who’s Next: Latino Communities, Minority Voters, Dreamers, Children, Women, Muslims, Democrats, Obama, Poor People, Property Owners, Marihuana Farmers, The Sick & Disabled? – The Majority of Americans Are Somewhere On Gonzo’s “Hit List!” – When Will It Be YOUR Turn? — Who Will Defend YOUR Rights Against Gonzo’s Nasty Crusade Of “Injustice At Justice?”

http://www.newsweek.com/sessions-deals-another-blow-lgbt-community-684572

Marci A. Hamilton writes in Newsweek:

“I never expected to speak the phrase: “As Mississippi goes, so goes the federal government.” But when it comes to demeaning and disempowering LGBT, it is now apropos.

The self-righteous drive to make others suffer for not living Evangelical beliefs appears to be unstoppable with Trump in power and with Sessions as his henchman for civil rights. They are taking their cues from the Deep South and particularly Mississippi.

Mississippi is the national leader on religiously-motivated discrimination against LGBT and generating divisiveness on these issues, as I discussed here.

Mississippi continues to aspire to fomenting the most discrimination against LGBT with HB 1523, which explicitly permits business owners to refuse service to LGBT for religious reasons. The trial court correctly held that it was unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction.

In June, the Fifth Circuit let the law go into effect, holding that the challengers lacked standing. On further review, the Fifth Circuit refused to vacate the ruling, which let the law stand. Now perhaps it goes to the Supreme Court.

Its sponsors put it into place so that Evangelicals can legally exclude LGBT from the marketplace. They say it’s about their “religious liberty,” by which they mean not the right to observe their own practices, but rather their supposed right to judge and condemn others before doing business with them.

The whole anti-LGBT project is so unbelievably hypocritical: they aren’t fighting to bar liars, adulterers, rapists, or pedophiles from their businesses, all of whom who violate plain biblical commands.

GettyImages-646266774Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice on February 28, 2017 in Washington, D.C. ZACH GIBSON/GETTY

What they are engineering is lives without having to associate with “those people.” One can only hope that good, old-fashioned profit motives enrich those businesses that provide service to LGBT and put out of business those who prefer the Jim Crow life.

Trump Administration Follows Mississippi’s Lead

Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has piled onto this administration’s obsession with humiliating and harming transgender Americans here and here with a new document interpreting federal law to require accommodation of those in the government who believe LGBT are sinful.

That’s right, the drive is to accommodate the ones who cannot tolerate those who aren’t like them. This is all about deconstructing the LGBT civil rights the Obama administration put into place as discussed here and here.

For good measure, the administration is also rolling back protections intended to ensure LGBT are not discriminated against in long-term care facilities. (The administration also went after women’s rights to contraception as fellow columnist Joanna Grossman explains, again an issue where it is in lock step with Evangelical lobbyists.)

Where Did This Intolerance Come From?

The push to inflict exclusion and suffering on LGBT for religious reasons owes its origins to the working out of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in American culture. Whether you have read Hegel or Calvin, this is what happens when you put into place a “right” that has no natural limit.

The religious lobbyists, including knowing conservatives and some truly naïve liberals, backed this benighted law in 1993. It was declared unconstitutional in 1997 in Boerne v. Flores, because it was so far removed from anything that the First Amendment had ever required .

What was unleashed with this federal statute, which morphed into state laws and later federal law, was a theory that the default position for religious liberty should be that a religious believer has a right to overcome any law that burdens religiously-motivated conduct.

Many laws exist to protect the vulnerable. When religious believers seize a “right” to trump the law, they in effect hurt the vulnerable. That is true here.

This power grab—particularly by religious organizations who believe in imprinting their beliefs on the culture—paved the way for the depraved arguments now being made for “religious liberty” that amount to exclusion and harm to an entire category of citizens defined solely by their sexual orientation. They have falsely claimed the mantle of victimhood while making victims of others.

The powerful choose the labels and the vulnerable suffer. If you have not seen this power maneuver elsewhere in history or in the Trump Administration’s dealings with race, you are not paying attention.

Marci A. Hamilton is the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania; the founder, CEO, and Academic Director of the nonprofit think tank to prevent child abuse and neglect, CHILD USA, and author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She also runs two active websites covering her areas of expertise, the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, www.RFRAperils.com, and statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, www.sol-reform.com.”

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While the Evangelical right wages a bogus war against the non-existent “Sharia law in America,” the real threat to our freedoms, our Constitution, and the rule of law is posed by these very same right wingers. Led by folks like Gonzo who have moved from the “wacko fringe” to positions of power, they are forcing their false interpretation of Christianity down the throats of the rest of us who don’t share their “Gospel of Hate & Intolerance.”

From a theological standpoint (after all, it is Sunday), Jesus’s ministry was not to the rich, powerful, rulers, or Pharisees enforcing the Jewish Law; no, Jesus’s ministry was one of love, compassion, forgiveness, and eternal hope  for the outsiders, the outcasts, the poor, and the “rejected” of Jewish and Roman society. If Jesus were among us today, he would much more likely be found “rubbing shoulders” and preaching to the gay community or the undocumented than he would wandering the halls of Jeff Sessions’s Department of (In)Justice.

 

PWS

10-15-17

 

IN TIMES OF DISASTER, AS USUAL, AMERICA WILL RELY ON HER UNDOCUMENTED POPULATION TO REBUILD! — “Gonzo Enforcement” Is Just Plain Dumb (In Addition To Wasteful And Inhumane)!

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=46301428-7f08-4ddd-9a61-ba495f303a3f

Saket Soni reports for the LA Times:

“In Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, mammoth hurricanes have left behind a colossal amount of work. The cleanup and reconstruction efforts are going to take years. That means a severe demand for salvage and demolition crews, roofers, carpenters, IMMIGRANT workers at a makeshift camp in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press) drywall installers, painters, plumbers and workers in all manner of other trades and skills. And if recent history tells us anything, much of this demand will be met by immigrants — migrant laborers, many of them highly skilled, and many of them lacking legal status.

. . . .

This wasn’t a problem only for immigrants. As long as labor was exploitable and cheap, American-born workers and local businesses suffered too, as conditions and wages slid toward rock bottom.

If we had a federal government sensitive to these issues, the solution would be a moratorium on immigration enforcement in disaster zones. This would ensure that the rebuilders could keep working, and that those depending on them could return home as soon as possible. Given the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on immigrants, there’s little hope for this sensible fix. In the absence of such a moratorium, governors and mayors should insist that federal labor laws be enforced in these areas while reconstruction is underway. Labor laws guarantee workers payment, safe working conditions and the ability to report mistreatment, among other things.

When workers are vulnerable and afraid, aware that their immigration status can be used against them, they are easy targets for abuse. They know that one complaint could mean a quick call to immigration. Their fear of being deported and losing everything shackles them to bad employers.

. . . .

Diaz and the other workers organized, protesting the discrimination and illegal treatment. In retaliation, the employer evicted them without compensation. When they demanded their pay, the employer called local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which arrested the workers immediately. After spending 78 days in jail, Diaz convinced the district attorney that the workers had been the victim of employer retaliation. The D.A. withdrew the charges, but ICE still detained the workers and sought to deport them.

These abuses, and the exploitation that took place after Katrina, occurred during the George W. Bush administration, which supported comprehensive immigration reform. The climate of fear is far worse today, with agents and officers from ICE and the Border Patrol running roughshod over immigrant communities, goaded by President Trump’s toxic rhetoric.

Nevertheless, immigrants will still risk their lives to come here. Their need is that dire — and our demand is that urgent. The credit rating company Moody’s estimates that the damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could total $150 billion to $200 billion — considerably more than the $108 billion or so in damage left by Katrina. Irma destroyed an estimated 25% of homes in the Florida Keys. In Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, more than 136,000 homes and other structures were flooded by Harvey. In the aftermath of these disasters, there has been talk of rebuilding homes and cities with greater attention to long-term sustainability and resilience.

Some have even called for a “green New Deal” that marries these goals with stronger social safety nets for storm victims. This worthy vision can and should take into account the people who are doing the rebuilding, making sure they are safe, secure and paid a fair wage. And that means starting with meaningful protections for the immigrant workers who help storm victims return home.

Saket Soni is executive director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and the National Guestworker Alliance

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Read the entire report at the above link.

Just another example of how White Nationalist inspired “Gonzo Enforcement” is not only wasteful, impractical, and inhumane, but also just plain dumb! The Trump Administration degrades America and our values with each day it is in office. When your “worldview” is driven by prejudice, bias, and political pandering, you’re bound to make lots of bad decisions!

PWs

10/12/17

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.“

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

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

 

 

 

AMERICA THE UGLY: THESE WOMEN SURVIVED DOMESTIC ABUSE, FLED TO THE US SEEKING REFUGE, WERE IMPRISONED IN THE “AMERICAN GULAG,” RAILROADED THROUGH SESSIONS’S KANGAROO COURTS WITHOUT DUE PROCESS, AND NOW FACE RETURN TO MORE ABUSE AND POSSIBLY DEATH – IS THIS THE AMERICA YOU WANT TO LIVE IN? IS THIS THE “LEGACY” YOU WANT TO LEAVE TO FUTURE GENERATIONS?

The well-respected Women’s Refugee Commission just issued Prison For Survivors, a stunning indictment of the Trump Administration’s plans for a New American Gulag and “Gonzo” Immigration Enforcement intended to punish asylum seekers for asserting their statutory and Constitutional rights to protection.

Full report:

https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/rights/resources/document/download/1528

Fact sheet:

Prison-for-Survivors-Oct2017-Fact-Sheet

“Prison for Survivors
By Katharina Obser, Senior Program Officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission
Earlier this year, a woman named Clara arrived at the United States border seeking protection from gender-based harm she faced in West Africa. She had endured an arduous journey trying to reach the U.S. border, where officials registered her claim for asylum. Rather than release her to pursue her case, however, officials sent Clara into the vast network of immigration detention facilities across the U.S. Since arriving in this country, she has been treated like a criminal, shackled and transferred multiple times between different detention facilities, awaiting a final decision on her request for protection that will determine her fate.
Alarmed at the increase in the detention of women seeking asylum, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) set out to tell the story of what was happening to women like Clara who came to the U.S. seeking protection under our asylum laws. When we began our research, in 2016, the Obama administration had been prioritizing the detention of border crossers — regardless of any humanitarian consideration. Asylum seekers who crossed the border ended up in detention, often with no hope for release unless they could pay increasingly high bonds, find an attorney to represent them, or both. The Trump administration has only made the situation worse for those seeking asylum, adding as enforcement targets countless other immigrants already living in the U.S. A whole disturbing new chapter is beginning in immigration detention, one that exacerbates the inhumanity and ineffectiveness of our current immigration system.
My colleagues and I spoke with approximately 150 women in detention, nearly all of whom were seeking asylum in the U.S. In the seven detention centers we visited, we heard about women who had clearly been traumatized by their experience of coming to the U.S. expecting protection but, instead, found themselves in jail, deprived of their rights and sometimes separated from their children. I heard story after story of vastly deficient conditions and inadequate medical treatment made even more difficult by a fundamental inability to navigate an immigration case because it is all but impossible to do so from detention without an attorney. Imagine being locked up after fleeing for your life and then not being able to communicate your needs because no interpreter is available. Women reported being shackled while in transit, for hours on end without a break. For example, imagine what it was like for Clara, who like other women reported being shackled while in transit when outside the facility, in her case when coming back from a painful medical procedure
Many of the women we spoke with felt — as anyone would — humiliated at having virtually no privacy when using the toilet in front of others in their dorms, being forced to wear used underwear that was often visibly stained, or having insufficient access to sanitary napkins. “I don’t have money to buy pads,” Iliana told us at the Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield, CA. “I would rather use that money to call my kids.”
The experiences these women shared with my colleagues and me took place against a backdrop of an immigration detention system that continues to be fueled by political motivations and profit-driven decisions and that has seen a dramatic rise in the proportion of women in ICE detention. In 2009, approximately nine percent of those in ICE detention were adult women. In April 2016 that proportion had grown to 14.6 percent (including in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s family detention centers). At the same time, the number of women and girls going through an initial asylum screening — likely from detention — nearly quadrupled between 2013 and 2016. The detention system as a whole grew from 34,000 detention beds in early 2016 to over 40,000 detention beds by the end of that year. Now, the Trump Administration is proposing to expand the system to more than 50,000 beds while simultaneously rolling back key detention standards.
As the 150 women who spoke to my colleagues and me make clear, the U.S. immigration detention system is in dire need of fundamental reform. A vital part of that reform needs to include an assurance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that immigration detention facility standards are universally strong and that facilities are actually held to account when those standards are not meaningfully implemented.
Yet, the system continues to fail. Just this week, several civil and human rights organizations, including WRC, filed an administrative complaint with DHS on behalf of women who are or were detained by ICE, women who received grossly inadequate medical care and treatment, exacerbating the trauma that many already experience in detention.
Unfortunately, eliminating the indignities of the current system will not fully address the despair that asylum-seeking women experience when facing the unbelievable cards stacked against them because of their detention. “It’s pointless,” said Clara. “It’s just punishment. The U.S. should just say it’s not accepting refugees.”
The Trump administration and Congress face a choice. Continue to feed more money into a broken immigration detention system that criminalizes and demoralizes vulnerable women immigrants and refugees, or direct ICE to make more humane and smarter choices about immigration enforcement that include release or community support for those seeking asylum in the U.S. Only one choice proves to Clara and so many others like her that, ultimately, the U.S. still does respect the right to seek asylum.”

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

Sorry, Katharina, but the Trump Administration has no intention of being deterred by the law, Constitution, or human decency from turning the U.S. into a third world country. And so far, most Article III Courts have simply looked the other way rather than taking on these clearly unconstitutional practices (which, I might add were also carried out by the Obama Administration which also had little regard for the lives or rights of women and children seeking protection). After all, it’s not the Article III Judges’ daughters and granddaughters who are being intentionally abused by the U.S. immigration authorities with a green light from a complicit Congress.

PWS

10-10-17

WHAT’S TRUMP REALLY UP TO ON DACA? — NOBODY SEEMS TO KNOW — CNN’S TAL KOPAN REPORTS!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/09/politics/congress-daca-reaction-white-house-trump/index.html

Tal reports:

“Washington (CNN)The Trump administration dropped a potential bomb into negotiations on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy on Sunday night — but key players on the Hill still aren’t sure yet whether the fuse is actually lit.

Reaction to the administration’s priorities list of tough border security and immigration enforcement measures ranged from dismissal as “noise,” to skepticism about the President’s commitment level, to declarations of it being a “nonstarter” by Democrats.
Ultimately, most agree, President Donald Trump himself will have to say what his red lines are.
The White House late Sunday released a wish list of items for any potential deal to preserve DACA — the Obama administration policy that protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Those measures 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.
But the administration is already sending mixed messages about how intensely it is getting behind the list of priorities, which were developed in part by Stephen Miller, a White House policy adviser and longtime immigration hardliner.
An administration source told CNN that it was too early to tell whether the priorities are a firm line in the sand, saying there remains a “White House divided” on the issue — but emphasizing Trump “still wants to cut a deal.”
On a call with reporters on Sunday night, a senior administration official declined to say whether the list should be read as a veto threat.
“We’re not discussing what’s a veto threat right now, or we’re not looking to negotiate with ourselves,” the official said, adding the priorities are “all important.”
On Capitol Hill, most players are taking a wait-and-see approach.
White House lays out DACA deal asks
White House lays out DACA deal asks
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office was noncommittal. “The House immigration working group will review these principles and continue to consult with our conference and the administration to find a solution,” spokesman Doug Andres said.
Other sources pointed to the timing of the release — the Sunday night before a federal holiday — as a possible indication the White House is not as serious about the list.
“Like they’re trying to bury it,” one congressional aide said. Administration sources, for their part, said the list had been in the works for some time and was simply ready to be released.
A Republican consultant familiar with the discussions on the Hill about DACA downplayed the release altogether as “noise” — saying not much matters until the date draws nearer to December 8, when government funding runs out and any potential shutdown talk could get serious if progress hasn’t been made.
“I just don’t take this as that serious a proposal,” the consultant said. “One given what’s in there, that it’s everything under the sun. And two, when they released it.”
At the same time, one senior Democratic aide called it “most disheartening” that in the letter Trump sent to congressional Democratic leadership, he said the list “must” be passed.
Miller’s involvement has been a source of frustration for some negotiators on both sides of the aisle who have perceived him as trying to scuttle talks.
Top WH aide's DACA demands threaten to scuttle legislative fix
Top WH aide’s DACA demands threaten to scuttle legislative fix
“This isn’t an opening bid that anyone’s going to respond to,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy, a nonpartisan group, business-linked group backed by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg that advocates for moderate immigration policies. “There’s just this laundry list of deal breakers, each one of which is a poison pill in its own right. … But that doesn’t change the fact that the President, if he wants to protect Dreamers and get some border security, he can do that today.”
Hill work continues
Sources familiar with negotiations in Congress say they have been progressing slowly.
According to multiple sources familiar, the working group organized by Ryan, which includes key Republicans on different sides of the ideological spectrum, has met at least four times. The bare bones of a deal have yet to take shape, the sources said.
Further details remain on close hold. Members and their staffs have agreed to maintain silence on the substance of the discussions to avoid negotiations leaking to the press.
On the Senate side, sources familiar say conversations are happening, mostly among staff, but the process is less formal than on the House side.
One-quarter of DACA renewals not in on deadline day
Democrats maintain substantial leverage in the negotiations. Not only would any immigration deal require Democratic votes to pass — both to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate and to make up for Republican holdouts who would never support a DACA fix — but Democrats are already signaling they could withhold support for must-pass bills like government funding if progress isn’t made.
“That is definitely on the table, and we are working to make sure that it’s not just a Hispanic Caucus effort, but it’s the entire Democratic caucus,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham in a CHC call with reporters on Monday. “If we can’t get movement on a productive strategy that gives us a vote — and we’re open to considering reasonable, effective border security issues — then yes, … we’re going to use every leverage point at our disposal.”
A deal is still attainable, added Vice Chairman Joaquin Castro, but only if the White House is “reasonable.”
“This was a long laundry list of hardline immigration policies including things that we’ve specifically said our members cannot support, including a wall,” Castro said. “So we’re looking for a serious proposal from the President. This is not serious. … I would suggest the President look at this list more himself, get more personally involved, rather than assign it to a 30-year-old hardline zealot,” he added, referring to Miller.”

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

Any idea promoted by Miller has to be bad for America!

PWS

10-10-17

NEW FROM THE HILL: N. RAPPAPORT SAYS “NO” TO MOST OF CAL SB 54, BUT WOULD LIKE TO FIND A COMPROMISE LEGISLATIVE SOLUTON TO HELP DREAMERS AND OTHER UNDOCUMENTED RESIDENTS!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59dad902e4b08ce873a8cf53

In encourage you to go over to The Hill at the above link and read Nolan’s complete article. As always, whether you agree with Nolan or not, his articles are always thought-provoking and timely. Nolan is definitely a “player” in the immigration dialogue! (And, frankly, by going over to The Hill, Nolan gets a few more “hits” which give him a few more “hard-earned nickels” in his pockets. Gotta help out my fellow retirees!)

I can agree with Nolan’s bottom line:

“It would be better to help undocumented aliens by working on comprehensive immigration reform legislation that meets essential political needs of both parties.”

The challenge will be figuring out what those points might be. So far, the GOP “Wish List” is basically an “incendiary White Nationalist screed” drafted by notorious racist xenophobe Stephen Miller (probably with backing from Sessions and certainly incorporating parts of Steve Bannon’s alt-right White Nationalist world view) that contains virtually nothing that any Democrat, or indeed any decent person, could agree with. Indeed, the very involvement of Miller in the legislative process is a “gut punch” to Democrats and whatever “moderate GOP” legislators remain.

What are some “smart enforcement” moves that Democrats could agree with: more funding for DHS/ICE technology; improvements in hiring and training for DHS enforcement personnel; U.S. Immigration Court reforms;  more attorneys and support (including paralegal support) for the ICE Legal Program; more funding for “Know Your Rights” presentations in Detention Centers.

But more agents for “gonzo enforcement,” more money for immigration prisons (a/k/a the “American Gulag”), and, most disgustingly, picking on and targeting scared, vulnerable kids seeking protection from harm in Central America by stripping them of their already meager due process protections: NO WAY!

Although “The Wall” is a money wasting folly with lots of negative racial and foreign policy implications, it probably comes down to a “victory” that Democrats could give to Trump and the GOP without actually hurting any human beings, violating any overriding principles of human rights law, or diminishing Constitutional Due process. It also inflicts less long-term damage on America than a racially-oriented “point system” or a totally disastrous and wrong-headed decrease in legal immigration when the country needs the total opposite, a significant increase in legal immigration opportunities, including those for so-called “unskilled labor.”

While this GOP Congress will never agree to such an increase — and therefore workable “Immigration Reform” will continue to elude them — the Democrats need to “hold the line” at current levels until such time as Americans can use the ballot box to achieve a Congress more cognizant of the actual long-term needs of the majority of Americans.

PWS

10-09-17

 

LEGACY OF HATE – TRUMP’S APPOINTMENT OF HOMOPHOBIC JUDGES LIKELY TO TORMENT LGBTQ AMERICANS FOR DECADES TO COME! — Elections Have Consequences!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-judicial-nominee-abortion-rights_us_59d67a63e4b046f5ad96e117?feh

Jennifer Bendery reports for Huff Post:

WASHINGTON ― Thursday was a good day for Amy Coney Barrett. A Senate committee voted to advance her nomination to be a federal judge.

It wasn’t a pretty vote. Every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee opposed her nomination. They scrutinized her past writings on abortion, which include her questioning the precedent of Roe v. Wade and condemning the birth control benefit under the Affordable Care Act as “a grave infringement on religious liberty.” One Democrat, Al Franken (Minn.), called her out for taking a speaking fee from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit that’s defended forced sterilization for transgender people and has been dubbed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But Republicans don’t need Democrats’ votes, and now Barrett, a 45-year-old law professor at the University of Notre Dame, is all but certain to be confirmed to a lifetime post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit — a court one level below the Supreme Court.

Barrett is the model judicial candidate for this White House: young, conservative, and opposed to abortion and LGBTQ rights. For all the stories about President Donald Trump using his executive power to roll back civil rights protections — in the past day, his administration axed the ACA birth control benefit and ended workplace protections for transgender people — it is here, on the courts, where his team is working most aggressively to reshape the country.

“Trump’s speed in nominating judges has been perhaps the most successful aspect of his presidency,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who specializes in judicial nominations. “Trump has easily surpassed Obama, Bush and Clinton at this point in the first year of their presidencies in terms of the sheer number nominated.”

He has. Ten months in, Trump has nominated 17 circuit court judges and 39 district court judges. That’s far more than former President Barack Obama’s seven circuit court nominees and four district court nominees by this point in his first year of office. Former President George W. Bush had nominated 11 circuit judges and 31 district judges by this point.

He’s also got more court seats to fill. He inherited a whopping 108 court vacancies when he became president ― double the number of vacancies Obama inherited when he took office. That’s largely due to Republicans’ years-long strategy of denying votes to Obama’s court picks to keep those seats empty for a future GOP president to fill. It worked.

If Trump’s current judicial nominees are a preview of the kinds of judges he plans to nominate in the coming years, prepare for a significantly more socially conservative group of people shaping the nation’s laws.

Consider John Bush. The Senate confirmed him in July, on a party-line vote, to a lifetime post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Bush, 52, has compared abortion to slavery and referred to them as “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” He has also said he strongly disagrees with same-sex marriage, mocked climate change and proclaimed “the witch is dead” when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted.

The Senate also confirmed Kevin Newsom, 44, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in August. He wrote a 2000 law review article equating the rationale of Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott v. Sandford, the 1857 decision upholding slavery. He also argued in a 2005 article for the Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization, that Title IX does not protect people who face retaliation for reporting gender discrimination. The Supreme Court later rejected that position.

Ralph Erickson, 58, was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in September. As a district judge in 2016, he was one of two judges in the country who ordered the federal government not to enforce health care nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.

 

CSPAN
Here’s U.S. circuit court judge John Bush testifying in his Senate confirmation hearing in June. He thinks abortion is like slavery, and they are “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” 

These are just judges that have been confirmed. Nominees in the queue include Leonard Grasz, Trump’s pick for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Grasz, 56, proposed amending the Omaha City Charter in 2013 to let employers discriminate against LGBTQ people. He has also compared the “personhood” of fetuses to the civil rights of Native Americans and African-Americans, according to an exhaustive report issued by the Alliance for Justice, a left-leaning advocacy group that focuses on the federal judiciary.

Trump’s effort to shift the federal bench to the right isn’t just aimed at district and circuit courts. He nominated Damien Schiff, a 37-year-old attorney, to a 15-year gig on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Schiff has criticized efforts to prevent bullying of LGBTQ students, referring to messages of equality as “teaching ‘gayness’ in schools.” He also argued that states should be allowed to criminalize “consensual sodomy.”

Part of the reason the White House has been able to nominate so many judges, so quickly, is because it’s been focused on filling court vacancies in states represented by two Republican senators. It’s easier for Trump’s team to work with Republicans in picking nominees, and then in moving them forward in committee, where it takes both home-state senators turning in a “blue slip” to get the hearing process going.

Trump has been less successful in confirming nominees, though. That’s partly because in the mad rush to fill courts seats, the White House isn’t reviewing nominees’ records as thoroughly as, say, the Obama administration did. That means more controversial nominees and more scrutiny. Democrats aren’t exactly eager to cooperate, either, given the way Republicans treated Obama’s judicial nominees (remember Merrick Garland?).

But as Trump plows through judicial nominations that will be a part of his legacy for decades, the only thing Democrats can do while they’re in the minority, for the most part, is make noise.

If they want real change, says Tobias, “Democrats need to win elections.”

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

Homophobe Jeff Sessions’s time as Attorney General won’t extend beyond the Trump Administration, if that long. However, the damage he has done to the U.S. legal system, our Constitution, the Department of Justice, and LGBTQ Americans won’t be easily repaired, if ever.

But, life tenured Federal Judges are an even bigger problem. These “robed bigots” will be inflicting cruel, discriminatory, and degrading treatment on the U.S. LGBTQ Community from their benches for decades to come.

In the end, Professor Tobias is entirely correct:“Democrats need to win elections.” Otherwise, our LGBT family, colleagues, friends, and neighbors are going to continue to be targets for homophobic Federal Judges and GOP politicos for many decades.

PWS

10-08-17

BIA SAYS “NO” TO BATTERED SPOUSE WAIVER FOR THOSE ABUSED BY FOREIGN SPOUSE! — Matter of PANGAN-SIS, 27 I&N Dec. 130 (BIA 2017)

3904

Matter of PANGAN-SIS, 27  I&N Dec. 130 (BIA 2017)

BIA HEADNOTE:

An alien seeking to qualify for the exception to inadmissibility in section 212(a)(6)(A)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(A)(ii) (2012), must satisfy all three subclauses of that section, including the requirement that the alien be “a VAWA self-petitioner.”

PANEL: Appellate Immigration Judges Malphrus, Mullane & Creppy

OPINION BY: Judge Mullane

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

Let’s break this down into simple human terms. A Guatemalan woman suffered an extended period of domestic abuse in Guatemala at the hands of her husband. That caused her to flee to the United States and enter without inspection. The woman told the truth to authorities.

Rather than granting her temporary refuge, the U.S. Government sought to remove the woman. The woman was fortunate enough to get a good lawyer who made sophisticated arguments in favor of her remaining. She also was fortunate to have a U.S. Immigration Judge who listened to those arguments and granted her a humanitarian waiver. This waiver allowed her to remain in the United States, but did not give her any permanent status nor did it put her in line for a green card.

The Government (“DHS”) did not want the woman to remain, even  in a more or less “limbo status.” So, they appealed to the BIA.

The BIA agreed with the woman that the waiver statute was ambiguious and therefore the Immigration Judge had plausibly interpreted it in her favor. But, the BIA found that a “better interpretation” would impose additional requirements that woman and those similarly situated could never meet. The BIA noted that Congress was only concerned about domestic violence in the United States that was being used as “leverage” against a foreign national by his or her US citizen or green card holding spouse.

Inferentially, the BIA found that Congress could not possibly have intended to help other victims of domestic violence that occurred outside the United States. That would potentially allow every abused spouse in the world to seek a discretionary waiver that would save them from abuse by granting them limited refuge in the United States.

The BIA sent the case back to the Immigration Judge so that the DHS can continue its efforts to remove her to Guatemala where she will be further abused by her Guatemalan spouse. Her lawyer can help her apply for asylum and withholding of removal based on a prior BIA decision Matter of A-R-C-G- that benefitted victims of domestic violence.

However the DHS is likely to oppose that relief. Otherwise, the DHS would have already offered to settle the case based on A-R-C-G-. That’s what used to happen routinely in my court in Arlington prior to the Trump Administration. The woman is credible and appears to fit squarely within A-R-C-G-.

But, if the Immigration Judge grants relief under A-R-C-G- or the Convention, Against Torture (“CAT”), the DHS probably will appeal again to the BIA. As part of the Administration’s enforcement program, the DHS wants the BIA to help them “send a message” that victims of domestic violence might as well continue to suffer abuse or preferably die (thus solving the problem from a U.S. Immigration Enforcement standpoint) at the hands of their abusers rather than seeking refuge in the United States. Bad things that happen to good people in other countries are just not our problem. America First!

The BIA Appellate Judges work for Jeff Sessions. They understand even better than Immigration Judges in the field that “not getting with the Administration’s Enforcement program” of sending consistently negative messages to asylum seekers could result in their being reassigned to other jobs by Jeff Sessions. Some of those jobs have no real duties (“Hallwalkers”).

Jeff Sessions hates all migrants and particularly Hispanic migrants fleeing from Central America. He hates them almost as much as he hates LGBTQ Americans.

Jeff tells everyone who will listen that all Hispanic migrants and most Hispanic citizens who live among them are criminals, drug dealers, and gang members. Even those who aren’t actually criminals are going to take great jobs that Americans would like to have such as picking lettuce, milking cows, shucking oysters, making beds, washing dishes, climbing up trees, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping floors, removing dangerous and moldy storm damage, taking off and putting on roofs in 120 degree heat, pounding drywall, taking care of other folks’ children, mowing laws, and changing adult diapers for senior cizens who can’t do it themselves.

While the United States might sometimes claim to be a bastion of freedom and humanitarian ideals, that is usually only when lecturing other countries on their failings or touting the superiority of our system over every other system in the world. Nobody should seriously expect the United States to act on those humanitarian ideals, particularly when it comes to helping women and children from the Northern Triangle of Central America.

PWS

10-07-17

 

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.”

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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

 

LA TIMES: SUPREMES MUST DELIVER ON PROMISE OF DUE PROCESS FOR IMMIGRANTS! — “[T]oo often immigrants haven’t received fair treatment from the courts.“ — Is Justice Gorsuch About To Make Good On His Oath To Uphold The Constitution By Standing Up For Due Process For Migrants?

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-scotus-immigrants-20171005-story.html

“This week the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases that pose the question of whether noncitizens should be afforded at least some of the due process of law that Americans take for granted. The answer in both cases should be a resounding yes.

On Monday, the justices considered whether a Filipino legal immigrant convicted of two home burglaries in California could be deported even if the wording of the federal law used to determine whether he could be removed from the U.S. was so unconstitutionally vague that it could not be enforced in a criminal court. On Tuesday, lawyers for a group of noncitizens detained by immigration authorities asked the court to rule that detainees are entitled to a bond hearing after six months of confinement.

Although the circumstances and legal issues in the two cases differ, the common denominator is the importance of affording due process to noncitizens.

James Garcia Dimaya, who was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident at the age of 13, pleaded no contest in 2007 and 2009 to two charges of residential burglary. Concluding that one of the convictions was an “aggravated felony,” the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed with the Homeland Security Department that Dimaya should be deported.

The United States is often called “a nation of immigrants.” But too often immigrants haven’t received fair treatment from the courts.
But the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision. It said the definition of “aggravated felony” in immigration law incorporated a definition of “crime of violence” that was similar to language in a different law the Supreme Court had concluded in 2015 was too vague to be constitutional.

At Monday’s oral argument, Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler said the law at issue in Dimaya’s case didn’t suffer from the same vagueness problem. But even if it did, Kneedler told the court, “immigration is distinctive” and deportation “is not punishment for [a] past offense.” In other words, even if the law was too vague to be used for the purposes of criminal punishment, it could still be used for the purposes of deportation.

This brought a devastating rejoinder from Justice Neil Gorsuch. “I can easily imagine a misdemeanant who may be convicted of a crime for which the sentence is six months in jail or a $100 fine, and he wouldn’t trade places in the world for someone who is deported,” Gorsuch said. He questioned the soundness of the “line that we’ve drawn in the past” between criminal punishment and civil penalties such as deportation.

We agree. If the court decides that the wording of the law that triggered Dimaya’s removal order was unconstitutionally vague, he should be entitled to relief. A law that is too vague to justify a criminal sentence shouldn’t be a good enough reason to expel someone from the country.

 

In the case argued Tuesday, a class-action lawsuit, noncitizens detained by immigration authorities asked the court to rule that they should receive bond hearings if their detention lasts for six months. The lead plaintiff is Alejandro Rodriguez, who grew up in Los Angeles as a lawful permanent resident. After Rodriguez was sentenced to five years’ probation on a misdemeanor drug possession conviction, he was detained and targeted for deportation to Mexico, the country he had left as a baby two decades earlier. He remained locked up as his legal battle dragged on for years.

The 9th Circuit ruled not only that detainees were entitled to bond hearings but also that they should be released unless the government could demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they were dangerous or a flight risk. But on Tuesday Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart told the court that detainees “have no such right.” He later said that insofar as foreigners arriving in the U.S. are concerned, the Supreme Court has made it clear that “whatever process Congress chooses to give is due process.”

Yet in recent years the court has recognized not only that noncitizens have constitutional rights but that deportation can be a catastrophic experience. In June, the court overturned the guilty plea of an immigrant from South Korea because his lawyer wrongly told him he wouldn’t be deported as a consequence of a plea bargain.

The United States is often called “a nation of immigrants.” But too often immigrants haven’t received fair treatment from the courts. The cases argued this week offer the Supreme Court an opportunity to rectify that injustice.”

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”Mouthing” due process for migrants is easy; the BIA does it all the time — so does EOIR.  But, actually providing due process for migrants is something totally different. Most courts, and particulately the BIA, routinely sign off on unfair procedures and interpretations that would never be considered “Due Process” in any other context.

I’m “cautiously heartened” by Justice Gorsuch’s apparent realization of the potentially catastrophic real human consequences of removal (often blithely ignored or downplayed by the BIA, Sessions, restrictionists, and Federal Courts) and recognition that the “civil-criminal” distinction is totally bogus — designed to sweep Constitutional violations under the rug — and needs to be eliminated.

As an Immigration Judge, when I was assigned to the “Detained Docket” in Arlington, I had case after case of green card holders who had minor crimes for which they paid fines or got suspended sentences — in other words, hadn’t spent a day in jail — “mandatorily detained” for months, sometimes years, pending resolution of their “civil” immigration cases. In plain language, they were sentenced to indefinite imprisonment but without the protections that a criminal defendant would receive! They, their families, and their employers were incredulous that this could be happening in the United States of America. I simply could not explain it in a way that made sense.

Talk is one thing, action quote another. But, if Justice Gorsuch folllows through on his apparent inclination to make Due Process protections for migrants “a reality” rather than a “false promise,” Constitutional protections will be enhanced for every American! We are no better than how we treat the least among us.

Ultimately, full delivery on the promise of Constitutional Due Process for everyone in America, including migrants, will require the creation of an independent Article I U.S. Immigraton Court. The current “captive system” — unwilling and unable to stand up for true Due Process for migrants — is a facade behind which routine denials of Constitutional Due Process take place. As Americans, we should demand better for the most vulnerable among us.

PWS

10-06-17