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

 

BETH FERTIG AT NPR: “ADR” Moves Into High Gear, Devastating U.S. Immigration Courts, As Half Of NY Immigration Court “Goes Dark” — U.S. Immigration Judges Become Adjuncts Of DHS Border Enforcement Program — Dockets At Interior Courts “Orbited Into Never-Never Land!”

ADR = “Aimless Docket Reshuffling”

http://www.wnyc.org/story/even-more-immigration-judges-are-reassigned-trumps-crackdown-border/

Beth reports for WNYC/NPR:

“In its crackdown on illegal immigration, the Trump administration is moving an increasing number of immigration judges closer to the border with Mexico. The practice is so widespread that half of New York City’s 30 immigration judges have been temporarily reassigned for two-to-four weeks at a time between early April and July.

The judges have been sent to hear deportation cases in Louisiana, California, New Mexico and Texas, along with Elizabeth, New Jersey, where there’s a detention center. In June, WNYC reported that at least eight of New York City’s immigration judges have been temporarily moved to Texas and Louisiana since March. New information obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request revealed the number to be much higher.

All this reshuffling causes cases to get delayed for months. And New York City’s immigration court already has a backlog of more than 80,000 cases. People wait an average of more than two years go to court to fight against deportation. Some might welcome a prolonged wait. But immigration lawyer Edain Butterfield said her clients get anxious because they’re ready to make their case, when they suddenly learn their judge has had to postpone.

“They don’t know if their judge is going to stay on their case,” she said. “They sometimes have to get new documents, ask for another day off from work, ask their family to take another day off from work.”

David Wilkins, an attorney with Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn, said he’s representing a woman seeking asylum whose hearing was recently postponed almost a year — until the summer of 2018. He said she left her children in her home country back in 2012 because of domestic abuse. “It’s extremely difficult for her,” he said. “She’s been separated from her family for so long to sort of live with the constant uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen with her immigration proceeding.”

Judges from New York City aren’t the only ones being moved. According to the latest data obtained by WNYC, 128 of the nation’s approximately 325 immigration judges have been shuffled to other locations between early April and the middle of July. Many of those judges come from Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. These assignments, known as details, last for two or four weeks. Some judges have been shifted around multiple times.

The data does not include all judges assigned to hear cases in other locations by video teleconference. A couple of judges in New York City were seeing cases by video at a Texas detention center in May and June.

The reassignments are expected to continue until early 2018, but the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the immigration courts, would not reveal the schedule beyond July.

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all adults crossing the Mexican border would be sent to detention. To support the mission, he said, the Department of Justice had “already surged 25 immigration judges to detention centers along the border.”

Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said her union remains very concerned about the situation.

“The temporary assignment of judges to border courts creates increasing backlogs in the dockets they leave behind in their home courts and may not be conducive to the overall reduction of our burgeoning caseload.”

Nationally, the backlog has surged to more than 600,000 cases and observers believe that number is growing partly because of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Moving judges south might sound counterintuitive because illegal border crossings have actually dropped since President Trump took office. But Bryan Johnson, an immigration lawyer on Long Island, has a theory about why more judges are needed down south.

“The people that are deported will be deported in less time,” he explained. “And that is the message they want to send people in the home countries from where the migrants come from.”

There is no guaranteed right to counsel in immigration court, and experts said there are few low-cost immigration attorneys near the border — making it even easier to swiftly deport someone because they are not likely to have representation.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review did not respond to a request for comment. However, the agency has said it is hiring more judges.”

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Get the accompanying audio/video report at the link.

David Wilkins from the Central American Legal Defense Center in Brooklyn, quoted in Beth’s article, is one of my former Georgetown Law Refugee Law & Policy students, a former CALS Asylum Clinic participant, and a former Legal Intern at the Arlington Immigration Court. David was also an Immigrant Justice Crops fellow. He is a “charter member” of the “New Due Process Army.” Congratulations David, we’re all proud of what you are doing!

Attorney Bryan Johnson simply restates the obvious. Under A.G. Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, the U.S. Immigration Courts are once again being used as an arm of DHS Enforcement rather than a protector and dispenser of constitutional due process. Nobody in their right mind seriously thinks that Sessions is “surging” Immigration Judges to the border to grant more bonds, reverse more “credible fear” and “reasonable fear” denials, or grant more asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the CAT.

No, the “surge” program is clearly all about detention, coercion, denial, deportation and sending a “don’t come, we don’t want you” message to folks living in fear and danger in countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America. In other words, you might as well cooperate with, support, and/or join the gangs and narco-traffickers — the U.S. has absolutely no intention of saving your life! Nice message!

Don’t be too surprised when multinational gangs and narco-traffickers eventually seize political power in Central America (they have already infiltrated or compromised many government functions). And, we will have sent away the very folks who might have helped us stem the tide. At the same time, we are destroying the last vestiges of due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts, leaving hundreds of thousands of cases and lives “up in the air” and our justice system without a fair and effective mechanism for deciding and reviewing immigration cases. At some point, somebody is going to have to fix this mess. But, you can be sure it won’t be the Trump (“We Don’t Take Responsibility For Nothin'”) Administration.

PWS

07-24-17

 

BREAKING: NPR’s Beth Fertig Exposes Administration’s Immigration Court Due Process Disaster — Taxpayers Billed For Sending Judges To Hustle Detainees Through Court Without Lawyers, Leaving More Represented Cases At Home To Rot! — Backlogs Mushroom As Administration Plays Games With Human Lives!

http://www.wnyc.org/story/missing-new-york-immigration-judges/

Fertig reports:

“In the middle of May, paper notices were posted on the walls of the federal building in lower Manhattan announcing the absence of several immigration judges. Some were out for a week or two, while others were away for six weeks. The flyers said their cases would be rescheduled.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the immigration courts, would not comment on the judges’ whereabouts. It cited the confidentiality of personnel matters. But after WNYC asked about these missing judges, many of the paper notices were taken off the walls of the 12th and 14th floors, where hearings are held in small courtrooms.

It’s no secret that President Donald Trump’s administration has been redeploying judges to detention centers near the southern border to speed up the processing of cases. After contacting numerous immigration attorneys down south, as well as retired judges and others, WNYC was able to crowdsource the judges’ locations. At least eight of New York City’s 29 immigration judges had been sent to Texas and Louisiana since March to conduct hearings in person or by video. Six judges were out for different parts of the month of May, alone.

“NYC

The federal building is home to the nation’s busiest immigration court, with a backlog of 80,000 cases. By redeploying so many judges in such a short period of time, immigration lawyers fear the delays will grow even longer. Meanwhile, attorneys near the border question whether these extra judges are even necessary.

Among other matters, judges at detention courts are supposed to hear cases involving people who crossed the border illegally. Yet those numbers have declined since Trump took office. That’s why local attorneys are cynical about the surge.

“I don’t really think that they need all these judges,” said Ken Mayeaux, an immigration lawyer in Baton Rouge.

Mayeaux said what’s really needed there are more immigration attorneys. As federal agents arrest an increasing number of immigrants who are already in the U.S. without legal status, they’re sending them to southern detention centers that are pretty isolated. The ones in Oakdale and Jena, Louisiana, are hours west of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where the vast majority of the state’s immigration advocates are concentrated, said Mayreaux.

“To ramp things up in one of the places that has the lowest representation rates in the United States, that’s a due process disaster,” he said.

Data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University confirms that immigrants may only wait a couple of months for their deportation case to be completed in these detention centers near the border. But in New York, the wait to see an immigration judge is 2.4 years.

So why move judges from a clogged and busy court system in New York to the border region, where immigration cases are already moving swiftly?

“In this particular instance, it’s a virtuous circle from the perspective of the administration,” explained Andrew Arthur, a former immigration judge.

Arthur is a resident fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. It’s a think tank that wants to limit immigration, though it’s been branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. During the Obama administration, Arthur said too many immigrants were let out of detention and waited years for their cases to be heard. He said moving more judges to the border will prevent that from happening.

“Because the quicker that you hear the cases the less likely that an individual is to be released,” Arthur said. “Therefore the less likely another group of individuals are to attempt to make the journey to the United States.”

Another former immigration judge, Paul Wickham Schmidt, said the Obama administration tried something similar by fast-tracking the cases of Central American migrants in 2014. But he said it wound up scrambling the judges’ dockets and was counterproductive. He was redeployed from his home court in Virginia and estimates he had to reschedule a hundred cases in a week.

“Nobody cares what’s happening on the home docket,” he said. “It’s all about showing presence on the border.”

Not all judges assigned to the border are physically present. Mana Yegani, an immigration lawyer in Houston, said she’s seen several judges — including a few from New York — at a detention center where cases are done by video teleconference.

“We never see the prosecutor’s face, it’s just a voice in the background,” she explained. “It’s just not a fair process for our clients and I don’t think the judges can be efficient the way they’re supposed to. They take an oath to be fair and to uphold the Constitution and due process, and I think the way the system is set up it really hinders that.”

A new audit of the immigration courts by the Government Accountability Office questioned whether video teleconferences have an impact on outcomes and said more data should be collected.

Some attorneys believe the reassignments are temporary to see if border crossings continue to ebb. The Executive Officer for Immigration Review won’t comment on that, but spokesman John Martin said the agency will hire 50 new judges and “plans to continue to advertise and fill positions nationwide for immigration judges and supporting staff.”

In the meantime, there’s no question that shifting judges away from New York is having an impact on real people.”

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Read Beth’s entire article, including the story of one “real” asylum applicant waiting patiently for a hearing that almost didn’t happen.

The due process farce continues, at taxpayer expense, while the U.S. Immigration Courts are being treated as an enforcement arm of the DHS. Aimless Docket Reshuffling (“ADR”) denies due process at both the “sending courts” and “receiving courts.” When, if ever, will Congress or the Federal Courts step in and put an end to this travesty of justice and mockery of our constitutional requirement for due process! In the meantime, what’s happening in the Immigration Courts is a continuing national disgrace.

PWS

06-06-17

 

“AIMLESS DOCKET RESHUFFLING” (“ADR”) IN NEW YORK — NPR’s Beth Fertig Exposes Due Process/Management Abuses By Obama & Trump Administrations!

http://www.wnyc.org/story/why-new-yorks-immigration-court-even-busier-fewer-judges-under-trump/

Fertig reports:

“There are 29 immigration judges assigned to court rooms in the Federal Building in Lower Manhattan. But as the number of pending cases grew from about 70,000 in January to nearly 80,000 this spring, more and more people have been coming to court only to discover they don’t have judges.

On a Tuesday morning in May, Alin Guifarro expected to attend a hearing with his 18-year-old son, Jose David Rodriguez. The teen came from Honduras last year to join his father and is trying to get legal status in the U.S.

But when they went to the 12th floor and scanned the long list of names with appearances scheduled that day, Guifarro saw his son’s case wasn’t assigned to a judge. Confused, he went to the clerk’s office and was told he would eventually get a letter in the mail about a new court date.

Guifarro was frustrated. “I came over here driving 2 ½ hours for nothing,” he said, referring to his journey from his home in Mastic, Long Island.

This father and son aren’t the only ones whose immigration cases have been postponed lately.

“In the last two months this has happened every week,” said Bryan Johnson, an immigration lawyer based on Long Island. Many of his clients are seeking asylum, and he said some have already been waiting a couple of years. With extra delays, he said, “if they have children who are abroad, that will delay family unification or spousal unification if their spouse is abroad.”

On a single day in May, when almost 400 hearings were scheduled to take place in immigration court, WNYC counted 60 people who didn’t have judges.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review runs the nation’s immigration courts. It says staffers typically mail a notice if a judge is out or a case is delayed, but they don’t always go out in time. As for why people are coming to court without judges, the agency explained that they are technically assigned to ”visiting judges.” But it acknowledged these judges don’t actually exist.

“The concept of ‘visiting judges’ is for internal case management,” said E.O.I.R. spokesman John Martin. “When judges retire, or temporarily stop hearing cases due to illness, the New York City Immigration Court will assign these dockets to a ‘visiting judge’ in order to maintain continuity of these cases. As new immigration judges are hired and officially placed at their respective immigration court locations, these ‘visiting judge’ dockets in those locations are reassigned to them.”

Even after a recent hire, New York City has only 29 immigration judges, compared to 31 at this time last year.

The backlog in immigration courts isn’t new. There are almost 600,000 pending cases, nationally. The problem started well before President Donald Trump took office.”

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Read Beth’s complete article at the link.

A recent GAO report highlighted and quantified endemic management issues with the DOJ’s stewardship over the U.S. Immigration Courts, particularly in hiring new Immigration Judges which takes an astounding average of 742 days. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Uh

Then, there are the retirements. It’s hardly rocket science that an aging workforce in high-stress jobs might retire in large numbers. I ran “Immigration Judge retirements” into my search engine and got 9 articles, right off the bat. Try it yourself.

Additionally, there is the practice of both Administrations of mindlessly jamming more new cases in the front of the system without a rational plan for completing the ones already in it. That’s followed by reassigning Immigration Judges (like they were assembly line workers) from existing dockets of cases scheduled for final hearings to new dockets of Not Quite Ready For Prime Time (“NQRFPT”) cases. And to cap it off, Secretary Kelly, egged on by Jeff Sessions, has told DHS agents to arrest anyone the feel like arresting without any regard for reasonable priorities or space on already overcrowded court dockets!

And, while we’re at it, let’s stuff more non-criminals into dangerous, expensive, and unneeded immigration detention, thereby turning them into self-created emergency situations, rather than thinking creatively about cheaper, more humane, and more effective methods of getting non-dangerous folks through the system in a reasonable manner.

And you gotta love imaginary “visiting judges.”  Visiting from where, “The Twilight Zone?” Almost as good as “warehousing” tens of thousands of cases on a single day in November 2019. No wonder that once in extreme frustration I referred to this administrative morass as “Clown Court!”🤡

No, it’s not all the fault of EOIR bureaucrats, most of whom mean well and are simply caught up in a “built for failure” system. But, it is the fault of the DOJ whose politicized management of the Immigration Courts has been a disaster since the beginning of this century. And, even if you removed politics from the equation, the DOJ obviously lacks the basic administrative competence to run a complicated, high volume court system. Ultimately, Congress must assume the responsibility for allowing this travesty to continue to exist. An independent Immigration Court outside the Executive Branch is long overdue.

But, other than that, it’s a great system!

Stay tuned! Tomorrow, Beth will tell us what judges pulled off their existing dockets find when they get to their “detail courts.” I can’t wait to hear what she found out!

PWS

06-05-17

 

 

EOIR Embroiled In Controversy On Several Fronts!

Few agencies in the U.S. Government are as publicity and conflict averse as the Executive Office for Immigraton Review (“EOIR,” pronounced “Eeyore”), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice that houses the U.S. Immigration Court system. So, officials at EOIR and their DOJ handlers must be “going bananas” (when they aren’t preoccupied with the Comey firing) about several recent news items that cast an unwelcome spotlight on the agency.

First, super-sleuth NPR reporter Beth Fertig smoked out the story of ex-con Carlos Davila (12 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and  sexual abuse while on parole) who is using the EOIR “recognition and accreditation” program to practice law (without a license) under the guise of being a “nonprofit charitable organization.” Davila is apparently under investigation by EOIR, but continues to practice.

As a result of Beth’s story, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez  has asked the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the program.

As noted in the article, the “R&A” program, allows well-qualified non-attorneys working at reputable nonprofit charitable organizations to represent migrants in Immigration Court and/or before the DHS. The R&A program fills a critically important role in providing due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts. This is particularly true today, in light of increased enforcement and very limited pro bono and “low bono” immigration attorney resources.

The Davila situation, as described by Beth, sounds like a scam to me.  Under the regulations, “accredited representatives” are supposed to be working for “recognized organizations” — nonprofits that provide legal services (usually along with other types of social services) on a largely pro bono basis.

Only “nominal fees” can be charged. But the term “nominal fees” has never been defined. We worked on it, off an on, for most of my tenure as BIA Chair in the late 1990s and never could come up with a specific definition that was acceptable to both NGOs and bar associations.

From the article, it appears to me that Davila is actually running a profit-making law firm for himself and his staff under the “shell” of a non-profit.  For example, charging someone $200 for a piece of paper that basically restates their rights under the Constitution, the INA, and the regulations seems far beyond a “nominal fee.” The research is simple, and the card itself could be printed off for a few cents a copy. So, $200 seems grossly excessive.

Also, fees of $1,000 to $3,500 for asylum applications seem to be beyond “nominal fees.”  If fact, that’s probably close to what some legitimate “low bono” law firms would charge. So, it seems like Davila is really practicing law for a living without a license, rather than providing essentially pro bono services for a charitable organization.

I agree that there should be more thorough investigation and vetting of organizations and accredited representatives by EOIR. This seems like something that should be right up Attorney General Sessions’s alley.

To my knowledge, EOIR does not currently employ any “investigators” who could be assigned to the EOIR staff working on the recognition and accreditation program. But there are tons of retired FBI agents and DHS agents out there who could be hired on a contract basis to do such investigations. Given the money that this Administration is planning to throw at immigration enforcement, finding funds for a needed “upgrade” to this program should not be a problem.

Here are link’s to Beth’s initial article and the follow-up:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/felon-has-federal-approval-represent-immigrants-and-now-hes-selling-this-id

http://www.wnyc.org/story/congresswoman-calls-more-oversight-non-lawyers-representing-immigrants

The second controversial item concerns an ongoing dispute between the Federation for American Immigration Reform (“FAIR”) and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (“IRLI”) on one side and the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”)  and other immigrants’ rights groups on the other. In  2014, the SPLC and other advocacy groups requested that the BIA “strike” an amicus brief filed by FAIR and IRLI because, among other things, FAIR was a “hate group.” FAIR responded by asking EOIR to discipline the SPLC and other advocacy group attorneys involved for “unprofessional conduct.”

On March 28, 2016, the EOIR Disciplinary Counsel issued a confidential letter finding that the SPLC and related attorneys had engaged in professional misconduct. However, in lieu of formal disciplinary proceedings, the Disciplinary Counsel issued a “reminder” to the concerned attorneys “that practitioners before EOIR should be striving to be civil and professional in their interactions with each other, the public, and the Board and Immigration Courts.”

But, that was not the end of the matter. On May 8, 2017, the IRLI published the “confidential” letter of discipline on the internet, stating:

“Although the SPLC’s utter lack of ethics was thoroughly condemned by the DOJ, the agency inexplicably requested that FAIR keep their conclusions confidential. FAIR and IRLI have complied with the request for more than a year; however, in that time, the SPLC has continued and escalated its attacks on both FAIR and IRLI, likely in part in retaliation for FAIR and IRLI filing a complaint with DOJ regarding its conduct. At this time, IRLI has decided it must release the letter to defend itself and protect its charitable purposes.”

So, now, the EOIR “confidential” letter is sitting smack dab in the middle of what looks like the “Hundred Years War” between FAIR and the SPLC.  Not the kind of “stuff” that EOIR and DOJ like to be involved in!

On the plus side, perhaps in response to this situation, the BIA in 2015 changed its amicus procedures to publicly request briefing from any interested party in matters of significant importance that likely will lead to precedent decisions. Indeed, a number of such notices have been published on this blog.

Here’s a copy of the IRLI posting which contains a link to the 2014 “confidential” letter from the EOIR Disciplinary Counsel.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/irli-releases-obama-justice-department-reprimand-of-the-southern-poverty-law-center-over-its-derogatory-tactics-frivolous-behavior-300453406.html

Stay tuned.

PWS

05-10-17

 

 

 

 

 

Sanctuary Wars: The Republic, And Its Cities, Strike Back!

Immigration beat reporter Beth Fertig of WNYC/NPR reports:

“There is no single definition of a sanctuary city, and policies vary tremendously across the country. But in New York City, immigration agents are not allowed in the jails. When immigrants without legal status are arrested, they can only be detained or turned over to federal agents for deportation if there’s a warrant and they’ve been convicted of a violent crime. A 2014 local law spells out nearly 170 different offenses that meet that definition. They include various forms of assault, arson and sex crimes.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito said these limits make sense.

“If you’re committing a nonviolent offense but you’re otherwise contributing positively to the city, why should you be torn apart from your family?”

Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the argument Wednesday, saying that immigrants will be less likely to cooperate with law enforcement if they’re afraid of deportation. “We build trust,” said O’Neill. “I wouldn’t want to do anything to put that at risk.”

Trump’s order changes enforcement priorities, too. In addition to aliens convicted of criminal offenses, the Department of Homeland security will also prioritize those who have been “charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved.”

Avideh Moussavian, a policy attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, warned that this policy could lead to “gross infractions of due process protections.”

She said people could become enforcement priorities if “they have been merely charged with an offense, even if their charge is pending and turns out later to be dismissed.”

From a practical standpoint, it would be very difficult to deport more immigrants. The nation’s immigration courts have a tremendous backlog of cases. Judges who handle immigration cases estimate there are 75 vacancies among their ranks, and Trump has imposed a federal hiring freeze. However, the executive order means that the freeze on judges could be lifted in the name of national security.”

Read Beth’s complete article, including comments from Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute  in favor of the President’s crackdown at:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/why-sanctuary-city-dispute-about-safety/

Mollie Reilly, Deputy Politics Editor, and her colleagues write on HuffPost:

“Independent of the ultimate legality of the executive order, politicians from those sanctuary cities say they aren’t budging, and legal advocacy groups are gearing up for the coming legal fight.
The president is “in for one hell of a fight,” California state Sen. Scott Weiner (D), who represents San Francisco, said in a statement.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) said his city “will not retreat one inch” from its policy against holding undocumented immigrants it otherwise would not hold based on requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said his city “will not be intimidated by the authoritarian message coming from this administration.” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (D) said “nothing has changed” in his city, noting the lack of specifics in Trump’s order.
“We are going to fight this, and cities and states around the country are going to fight this,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said at a press conference Wednesday.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) already began hinting at a legal challenge, releasing a statement that Trump lacks the constitutional authority for his executive order and that he will do “everything in [his] power” to push back if the president does not rescind it.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) also warned of potential legal challenges to come, saying in a statement that the order “raises significant legal issues that my office will be investigating closely to protect the constitutional and human rights of the people of our state.”
There’s no exact definition of “sanctuary city.” Places like San Francisco and New York use the term broadly to refer to their immigrant-friendly policies, but more generally the term is applied to cities and counties that do not reflexively honor all of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests for cooperation. Many of these localities do work with ICE to detain and hand over immigrants suspected or convicted of serious crimes, but they often release low-priority immigrants requested by ICE if they have no other reason to hold them.
“The reason that many local law enforcement officers don’t honor detainers is because courts have said that they violate the Constitution, and if they violate the Constitution, the localities are on the hook financially,” said Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garcia Hernandez, a law professor at the University of Denver who teaches on the intersection of criminal law and immigration.
Just on Tuesday, a federal court in Rhode Island joined several others that have ruled in recent years that certain ICE detainers can violate people’s constitutional rights ― even those of U.S. citizens.
But Trump’s executive order seems to overlook this legal reality, and instead frames sanctuary cities with the alarmist rhetoric he used on the campaign trail.”

Read Mollie & co.’s complete report here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-sanctuary-cities_us_

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PWS

01/26/17

Sunny Thoughts On A Dreary Day In DC — Read More From WNYC/NPR Reporter Beth Fertig — The “New Due Process Army” Takes the Field — Bronx Defenders and Courtney M. Lee (Former Arlington Immigration Court Intern And Star Georgetown CALS Asylum Clinic & RLP Student) Work To Save Lives & Insure Due Process In Our Immigration Courts Every Day!

https://www.wnyc.org/story/free-lawyers-provided-city-help-more-immigrants-detention-win-cases/

Beth Fertig writes:

“Arturo had his most recent hearing in December, in front of Judge Patricia Buchanan. He wore an orange jumpsuit with the initials of the Hudson County Department of Correction on the back, and his hands were shackled. The 31-year-old is five-foot-three and slim, and appeared very nervous. He sat with his team from Bronx Defenders, [Supervisory Attorney Sarah Deri] Oshiro and Law Graduate Courtney Lee, and a court-appointed translator. There was also an attorney from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, James McCarthy.

Arturo’s case is very complicated and his team has a few different claims. They are asking the court to withhold his deportation on the grounds that he’ll be persecuted or tortured if he goes back to Mexico.

“His stepfather subjected him to — during his entire childhood and adolescence — to really severe constant and consistent sexual, physical and psychological abuse,” Lee explained.

In court, she asked Arturo to recall some of the beatings and how his mother and siblings are still living in terror. He said the abuse continued even after he arrived in New York and sent his mother money to leave the man. He described in Spanish how he feared his stepfather would kill him if he moved back to Mexico, because he was the one who helped his mother escape. And he said he had no other place to live except for the town in which they reside. But Judge Buchanan appeared skeptical. She asked if he had any family in New York when he first arrived in 2004, and he said no.

Arturo’s legal team is also seeking to halt his deportation by arguing his two young children would be harmed. Immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally for at least 10 years can apply for a cancellation of removal if an American citizen would suffer “exceptional and unusual hardship.”

It’s a tough bar to meet, and it doesn’t help Arturo’s case that he has a few convictions for misdemeanors, including breaking a store window when he was drunk and possession of marijuana. But his advocates argued that these are minor and were related to the traumas he suffered as a child. He told the court he stopped using marijuana and alcohol after his children were born, to set a “good example.” His advocates said he also has an employer who believes in him, and wants to hire him back.

Because Arturo is the primary breadwinner, they argued deporting him would put the children at risk of homelessness. His partner, the children’s mother, is already fighting eviction proceedings. And Arturo said the stress from his detention has caused his seven year-old son to wet the bed and barely eat. But McCarthy, of I.C.E., argued that the children seem healthy and are not experiencing “exceptional and unusual hardship.”

The judge had to stop the proceedings at noon because she had too many other cases that day. She scheduled Arturo’s next hearing in February, almost a year after he was sent to detention.”

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Go to Beth’s full article at the link for a fantastic picture of Courtney and her Supervisory Attorney Sarah Deri Oshiro.  Way to go, Courtney and Sarah!

These days, in retirement, in addition to writing, I attend many events, give lots of speeches, and guest lecture at law schools and colleges, all largely directed at pointing out why refugees and other migrants make America great, the sad state of our United States Immigration Court System, the overwhelming importance of working to force our Immigration Courts to live up to their unfulfilled promise to “guarantee fairness and due process for all,” and the compelling need for reforms to make the Immigration Courts independent from the Executive Branch.

Almost everywhere I go, I run into great attorneys who once were Judicial Law Clerks or interns for the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, appeared in Immigration Court under clinical practice programs sponsored by local law schools (like Georgetown’s famous CALS Asylum Clinic), or are former students who took my Refugee Law and Policy (“RLP”) course at Georgetown Law in 2012-14.  There are all, without exception, doing absolutely wonderful things to advance the cause of fairness and due process for migrants.

They are all over:  projects like Bronx Defenders, NGOs, pro bono organizations, big law, small law, public interest law, courts, government agencies, Capitol Hill, academia, journalism, management, and administrative positions.  I call them the “New Due Process Army” and they are going to keep fighting the “good fight” to force the Immigration Courts and the rest of our justice system to live up to the promise of “fairness and due process for all” whether that takes two years, ten years, twenty years, or one hundred years.  If we all keep at it and support one another it will eventually happen!

Last night, I was at a very moving retirement ceremony for Shelly Pitterman, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Representative for the United States and the Caribbean.  Fortunately, Shelly is going to remain in the human rights field, joining Mark Hetfield and the other wonderful folks over at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (“HIAS”).  I wish I had gotten to know Shelly better.  He was repeatedly described as a dynamic leader who inspired everyone around him to perform at a higher level (just like Aaron Rodgers of the Pack), apparently even on the softball field!

In attendance were two of our “total superstar” former Arlington Immigration Court legal interns, Katie Tobin and Lindsay Jenkins, both Assistant Protection Officers (one of the most coveted jobs) with the UNHCR.  Accomplished attorneys,  dynamic leaders, and terrific role models in they own rights, Katie and Lindsay are using their education and experience to live out their deeply held values every day and to help make the world a fairer, more humane, and better place for all of us.  Both of them represent the true values of the real America:  fairness, scholarship, respect, teamwork, and industriousness (not to mention a sense of humor).

To Courtney, Katie, Lindsay, and all the other “soldiers” of the “New Due Process Army” thanks for what you are doing for all of us every day!  It is an honor to know you and to have played a role, however modest, in your quest to make the world an even greater place.

PWS

01/20/17

 

Why The U.S. Immigration Court In NYC Is Overwhelmed: Listen & Read WNYC/NPR Senior Reporter Beth Fertig’s Report (Quoting Me) Here! Without Reforms, Due Process Is In Peril! Why Not “Give Due Process A Chance?”

http://www.wnyc.org/story/why-new-yorks-immigration-courts-are-so-busy/

“This is why experts say it’s hard to imagine Donald Trump deporting more criminal immigrants than Obama. “I think this administration already takes a fairly broad view of who is a criminal,” said Paul Wickham Schmidt, who was an immigration judge in Arlington, Virginia for 13 years.

Trump has claimed there are two to three million undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions. The government has said that number is actually just below 2 million and includes non-citizens who are in the country legally (like Bilanicz), as well as undocumented immigrants.

The government has put more resources into immigration enforcement. But Schmidt said it hasn’t done enough to help the court system meet the growing demand. There were fewer than 300 immigration judges for the whole country last year, and they were hearing more than 220,000 cases. Schmidt said even 100 additional judges would barely keep up with incoming cases, let alone the backlog.

“If you start doing the half million cases that are pending then you’re going to fall behind on the incoming cases,” he said.

. . . .

Judges have also complained that the government fast-tracked unaccompanied minors and families from Central America and Mexico who crossed the border in a “surge” a couple of years ago. These recent arrivals got priority over immigrants who had been waiting years for their hearings or trials, leading to bigger backlogs.

. . . .

The whole [Master Calendar] process took about five minutes for each case, and [Judge Amiena] Khan was scheduling future court appearances as late as August of 2018. This isn’t so bad given, that Schmidt said he was scheduling hearings for 2021 before retiring last summer. But one lawyer in court that morning, Shihao Bao, agreed the system couldn’t possibly handle more cases unless Trump wanted to “take away due process.”

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To paraphrase Chief Justice John Robert’s spot-on observation in the immigration case Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 421 (2009), providing due process in an individual case takes time: “[S]ometimes a little; sometimes a lot.”  As I have said numerous times on this blog, the “just peddle faster approach” to due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts, unsuccessfully tried by past Administrations, isn’t going to “cut it” for due process.

And, cutting corners is sure to be more expensive to the taxpayers in the long run when Article III U.S. Courts of Appeals inevitably intervene and use their independent authority to stop the “assembly line” approach to justice and force the return of numerous cases to the Immigration Courts for “redos,” sometimes before different Immigration Judges.

I’m relatively certain that some of the Ashcroft-era cases “bounced back” by the Courts of Appeals are still kicking around the Immigration Courts somewhere without any final resolutions.  With the help of the local immigration bar and the ICE Office of Chief Counsel I finished up a fair number of these “oldies” myself during my time at the Arlington Immigration Court.  By the time the cases finally got to my Individual Hearing calendar, most of the individuals involved had qualified for relief from removal or, alternatively, had established lengthy records of good behavior, tax payment, contributions to the community, and U.S. family ties that made them “low priorities” for enforcement and resulted in an offer of “prosecutorial discretion” from the Assistant Chief Counsel.

In the Arlington Immigration Court, the Office of Chief Counsel had a strong sense of justice and practicality and was a huge force in helping to get “low priority” cases off the docket whenever possible consistent with the needs and policies of their DHS client.  But, I know that the Offices of Chief Counsel in other areas did not perform at the same consistently high level.

Rather than having enforcement efforts stymied and having to redo cases time and time again to get them right, why not invest in providing really great fairness and due process at the “retail level” of our justice system:  the United States Immigration Courts?  Getting it right in the Immigration Courts would not only save time and money in the long run by reducing appeals, petitions for review, and actions for injunctions directed to higher courts, but would also produce a due process oriented Immigration Court system we could all be proud of, that would have great credibility,  and that would serve as an inspiring example of “best practices” to other courts and even to immigration systems in other countries.  After all, the “vision” of the U.S. Immigration Courts is supposed to be:  “Through teamwork and innovation be the world’s best tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.”  Why not “give due process a chance?”

PWS

01/17/17