GONZO’S WORLD: “MINISTRY OF INJUSTICE” — How Gonzo Is Successfully Draining Justice From The Department Of Justice

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/jeff-sessions-slowly-surely-undoing-america-s-criminal-justice-progress-ncna823126

James Braxton Peterson reports for NBC News:

“The Russia investigation may be undercutting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ credibility, but it has not undermined his efforts to take the U.S. Justice Department back in time.

The time Sessions wants to go back to features an unforgiving system of mass incarceration that disproportionately targets people of color in a legal structure too often stacked against them.

To do this, the attorney general has issued a slew of policy rollbacks — unfortunate for a Justice Department that was only incrementally making progress toward equal justice under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

In this sense, Sessions’ Justice Department might be the most effective unit of the Trump administration. If Trumpism’s goal is, at least in, part to destroy the progress achieved under the Obama administration, Sessions’ scorecard so far outstrips his GOP colleagues in the Cabinet and former colleagues in the Senate.

In March, for example, the nation’s top law enforcement officer visited St. Louis, next-door to Ferguson, ground zero for the Black Lives Matter movement. Sessions was in St. Louis talking about crime initiatives but also seeming to criticize one of the most useful tools for documenting police brutality: civilian cell phone videos. The choice of venue could not have been a coincidence. By focusing on “targeted police killings,” he deflected attention from the challenges now confronting law enforcement.

In fact, Sessions has had little to say on how the Justice Department might address matters of police brutality, much less on the matter of Black Lives Mattering. Instead, he has mostly showcased President Donald Trump’s belief that strong policing and incarceration are key to maintaining law and civil order.

. . . .

It is as if Sessions’ Justice Department is operating on a set of alternative facts. Because the statistics are well known: Whites and blacks use and sell drugs at roughly the same rates, and African Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population. Yet law enforcement records are remarkably different for each demographic. According to Human Rights Watch: “Black adults are more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white adults to be arrested for drug possession. In 2014, Black adults accounted for just 14 percent of those who used drugs in the previous year but close to a third of those arrested for drug possession.” In many states, a felony conviction also means losing the right to vote.

It is as if Sessions’ Justice Department is operating on a set of alternative facts.

Sessions looks eager to re-open the “war on drugs” — or, more appropriately, the war on poor people who use drugs. No available metric on this decades-long war shows any significant success in limiting access to drugs in the United States or in reducing addiction to controlled substances.

What the “war on drugs” has been good at is: stigmatizing poor people afflicted with the disease of addiction; profiling black and brown folks and arresting them at rates exponentially greater than their white counterparts; and creating revenue streams for the Prison Industrial Complex.

. . . .

Sessions’ success will be key if Trump wants to make good on his law-and-order promises.

Sadly, it is working. The Justice Department is slowly transforming into an injustice department right before our eyes.

Mass incarceration, its impact on families and communities and the often racially biased ways in which its policies operate is still one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. It’s a shame that, in the era of Trump, we are unable to effectively address the challenges we face.

James Braxton Peterson is the author of three books, including “Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners.”

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Read Peterson’s full article at the link.

Peterson doesn’t even get into Gonzo’s brazen attacks on justice for Latinos, immigrants, Dreamers, refugees, LGBTQ individuals, so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” lawyers, reporters, Federal Judges, critics of the Administration, forensic science, private property, or users of legalized marijuana. And, he only mentions in passing Gonzo’s disingenuous statements on Russia and his lackadaisical handling of the real threats Russia poses to our national security. Grim as Peterson’s article is, it actually substantially understates the true carnage that Gonzo is inflicting on our Constitution and our system of justice. It could turn out to be irreparable!

Senator Liz Warren was right!

PWS

11-24-17

SURPRISE: TO DATE, JEFF SESSIONS IS APPOINTING A MORE DIVERSE AND BALANCED IMMIGRATION JUDICIARY!

https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/pages/attachments/2017/11/06/ijinvestitures_11062017.pdf

In what I would consider a pleasant surprise, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to be appointing a more diverse and balanced group of U.S. Immigration Judges than his immediate predecessors.

As shown at the above link to the latest official announcement of judicial appointments, five of the seven newly appointed U.S. Immigration Judges reflect expertise developed outside the prosecutorial role. This is at least the second group of Sessions’s appointees to reflect such a diversity of backgrounds.

By contract, the Obama Administration drew nearly 90% of its appointees to the Immigration Bench from government prosecutorial backgrounds. Prosecutors of course should be a significant source of judicial appointments. But, they should not be the “sole source” as was the case prior to the creation of EOIR and a situation EOIR was returning to during the Bush and Obama Administrations.

A well-qualified, well-balanced, diverse Immigration Bench can only help the Immigration Courts in achieving Due Process. It also creates a positive and intellectually stimulating environment for the individual judges. I always learned something from my colleagues whose experiences and approaches differed from mine. Sometimes it spurred me to rethink an approach or position. Other times my reexamination convinced me I was on the right track. Either way, looking at other ways of analyzing common problems is good for sitting judges.

Congrats to all of the new Immigration Judges! And, congrats to Attorney General Sessions for looking beyond “the usual suspects” for folks who bring a variety of professional  backgrounds and experiences to the Immigration Bench!

PWS

11-08-17

 

POLITICO EXPOSES SHOCKING FRAUD, WASTE, & ABUSE IN SESSIONS’S U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS — POLITICALLY DRIVEN “ADR” FUELS UNMANAGEABLE BACKLOGS WHILE DOJ TRIES TO FOB OFF BLAME ON HARD WORKING ATTORNEYS AND US IMMIGRATION JUDGES — DUE PROCESS MOCKED & DENIED — GOP-LED CONGRESS AWOL AS DOJ SQUANDERS TAXPAYER FUNDS & ASKS FOR MORE! — JUDGES FORCED TO LEAVE BACKLOGGED DOCKETS TO TWIDDLE THUMBS AND READ NEWSPAPERS AT BORDER — INCOMPETENT DOJ POLITICOS ALLOWED TO REARRANGE COURT DOCKETS WHILE LOCAL JUDGES IGNORED — WHEN WILL THIS ABUSE END! — Plus, I Take On Former Obama Official Leon Fresco For His Tone Deaf Dissing Of Vulnerable Migrants Seeking (But Not Finding) Justice In Trump’s America!

ADR = AIMLESS DOCKET RESHUFFLING

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/27/trump-deportations-immigration-backlog-215649

Meredith Hoffman reports for Politico:

“On September 4, immigration judge Denise Slavin followed orders from the Department of Justice to drop everything and travel to the U.S.-Mexico border. She would be leaving behind an overwhelming docket in Baltimore, but she was needed at “ground zero,” as Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it—the “sliver of land” where Americans take a stand against machete-wielding, poison-smuggling criminal gangs and drug cartels.

As part of a new Trump administration program to send justices on short-term missions to the border to speed up deportations and, Sessions pledged, reduce “significant backlogs in our immigration courts,” Slavin was to spend two weeks at New Mexico’s Otero County Processing Center.

But when Slavin arrived at Otero, she found her caseload was nearly half empty. The problem was so widespread that, according to internal Justice Department memos, nearly half the 13 courts charged with implementing Sessions’ directive could not keep their visiting judges busy in the first two months of the new program.

“Judges were reading the newspaper,” says Slavin, the executive vice president of the National Immigration Judges Association and an immigration judge since 1995. One, she told POLITICO Magazine, “spent a day helping them stock the supply room because she had nothing else to do.”

Slavin ended up leaving Otero early because she had no cases her last day. “One clerk said it was so great, it was like being on vacation,” she recalls.

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the DOJ to deploy U.S. immigration judges to U.S. detention facilities—most of which are located on or near the U.S.-Mexico border. The temporary reassignments were intended to lead to more and faster deportations, as well as take some pressure off the currently overloaded immigration court system. But, according to interviews and internal DOJ memos, since the new policy went into effect in March, it seems to have had the opposite result: Judges have frequently had to cancel cases on their overloaded home dockets only to find barely any work at their assigned courts—exacerbating the U.S. immigration court backlog that now exceeds 600,000 cases.

According to internal memos sent by the DOJ’s Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) and obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) via a Freedom of Information Act request, judges delayed more than 20,000 home court hearings for their details to the border from March to May.

“I canceled about 100 cases in my home court to hear 20,” says Slavin, who was forced to postpone those Baltimore hearings by a year since her court schedule was already booked through most of 2018. In Otero, she had no more than 50 hours of work over the course of two weeks (she typically clocks 50 hours per week in Baltimore). But she couldn’t catch up on her work at home because she had no access to her files.

Her three colleagues at the facility who had also been ordered there by the DOJ were no busier. One who had been sent to Otero previously told her the empty caseloads were normal.

“Sending judges to the border has made the backlog in the interior of the country grow,” says Slavin, “It’s done exactly the opposite of what they hoped to accomplish.”

***

On April 11 in Nogales, Arizona, Sessions formally rolled out the DOJ’s judge relocation program. “I am also pleased to announce a series of reforms regarding immigration judges to reduce the significant backlogs in our immigration courts,” he told the crowd of Customs and Border Protection personnel gathered to hear him. “Pursuant to the president’s executive order, we will now be detaining all adults who are apprehended at the border. To support this mission, we have already surged 25 immigration judges to detention centers along the border.”

The idea was to send U.S. immigration court judges currently handling “non-detained” immigration cases—cases such as final asylum decisions and immigrants’ applications for legal status—to centers where they would only adjudicate cases of those detained crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, along with others who had been picked up by ICE for possible deportation. More judges would follow, the attorney general said.

But as Sessions spoke, nearly half of those 25 “surge” judges—whose deployments typically last two weeks or a month—were largely unoccupied. One week before the attorney general’s Nogales announcement, EOIR—the Justice Department office that handles immigration cases—published an internal memo identifying six of 13 detention centers as offering inadequate work for their visiting justices.

“There are not enough cases to fill one immigration judge’s docket, let alone five,” the DOJ wrote of Texas’ T. Don Hutto facility, which had been assigned five Miami judges to hold hearings via video teleconference with the women detained there.

One judge sent to the South Texas Residential Center, a family detention facility, had no cases at all; a judge at another family facility, Karnes Residential Center, had a “light” docket; and Texas’ Prairieland Detention Center, which had received a judge, also was “not receiving enough cases to fill a docket or even come close to it,” the memo stated.

The two judges assigned to New Mexico’s Cibola Detention Facility also had barely any work to do, and Louisiana’s La Salle Detention Center—not on the border but treated as such in its receipt of five “surge” judges—had similarly been overstaffed. “There is not enough work for five judges,” said one DOJ memo. “There is enough work for a reasonable docket and three judges.”

The Justice Department documents also revealed a number of logistical issues with the border courts, including a lack of phone lines or internet connectivity, and noise infiltrating the courtroom from the detention facility. “The courtrooms at Imperial Regional Detention Facility are not suitable for in-person hearings because security is wholly inadequate,” said one memo of the California facility. “The court cannot do telephonic interpreters and the request for in-person interpreters remains pending. … Last week an immigration judge was left in the courtroom without a bailiff.”

Meanwhile, the judges sent to the border were forced to abandon thousands of home court cases—which the DOJ was aware could increase pressure on the U.S. immigration court system, where a specialized cadre of judges handles questions over whether people can remain in the country or face deportation. “It is likely that the backlog will increase for the locations from which a judge is assigned,” predicted one March 29 document, which also projected the deployments would cost $21 million per fiscal year.

Within the first three months of the program, judges postponed about 22,000 cases around the country, including 2,774 in New York City alone, according to the DOJ memos. (The delays added to an already clogged system: New York City’s immigration court backlog stood at 81,842 as of July, according to the immigration data tracker TRAC Immigration.)

When asked about these FOIA documents, and why the DOJ had deployed judges where they were not needed, a Justice Department spokesmanresponded that the program had improved in recent months. “After the initial deployment, an assessment was done to determine appropriate locations to increase the adjudication of immigration court cases without compromising due process,” he said.

Immigration judges and advocates acknowledge that the program has slightly improved since May—but many say that’s largely because the DOJ is sending fewer judges on temporary missions. “Some of the least productive assignments have either been discontinued or converted to video teleconferencing hearings, and it seems that fewer judges are being sent overall,” says National Association of Immigration Judges President Dana Marks, who serves as an immigration judge in San Francisco. But, she says, “the basic problem still persists.”

More than 100 total judges have been reassigned since March, but Politico was not able to obtain data on whether deployments are declining or increasing, or how many judges are still facing empty caseloads.

The spokesperson declined to comment on Slavin’s experience at Otero. But the DOJ discontinued deployments to Otero this month, as soon as Slavin completed her assignment there.

The U.S. immigration court backlog has increased under Trump, moving from 540,000 in January to 600,000 in July. But the DOJ spokesperson denied that the deployments were responsible for the bump, instead blaming the overloaded system on the Obama administration’s policies. He noted that the first six months of the Trump administration had seen a14.5 percent increase in final immigration court rulings from the previous year, and that more than 90 percent of cases by “surge” judges had led to deportation orders.

But just because judges have ruled on more cases doesn’t mean the Trump administration hasn’t worsened the backlog, NIJC communications director Tara Tidwell Cullen says. In fact, it could likely mean the opposite. Trump’s first six months in power saw 40 percent more immigration arrests in the country’s interior than the year before, adding more cases to already overloaded dockets.

“The ‘home’ courts where judges are sent from continue to be understaffed and their caseloads are adversely impacted as judges are sent to temporary assignments,” adds Marks, the San Francisco judge. Adding to the problem, she points out, is the administration’s decision to detain immigrants without allowing the Department of Homeland Security to grant them bonds. Now, detainees have to go to immigration court to get a bond, creating extra work for those justices.

***

Not everyone thinks sending judges to the border is a bad idea.

“The best use of resources is to throw them all at detention,” says Leon Fresco, who served as deputy assistant attorney general under President Barack Obama. Judges typically release individuals detained for more than 90 days with no trial on habeas corpus, he explains, in which case the government has “wasted money in detaining them” to start. Better, then, to hear all the detained cases quickly.

Any administration will have to make tough calls, says Fresco. “You have just about 300 judges to hear more than 500,000 cases, so you have to prioritize.” Under Obama, the DOJ—while it hadn’t sent judges to the border—had also prioritized recent border crossers in order to send a message that the U.S. would immediately hear their cases, rather than allow them to “wait eight years to be adjudicated” while staying in the country, Fresco says. Trump’s priorities similarly send a message to potential border crossers that “we do have quick justice.”

The problem, Fresco adds, is that the Trump administration has been clumsy in its border deployments—sending judges to places where they aren’t needed. “There are ways to do this, but they need to be more flexible and nimble, and they’re not being as nimble as they can be,” he says. “EOIR is an agency badly in need of some sort of consulting firm. … There’s still too little rhyme or reason about how case assignments work—you shouldn’t have weeks with judges with hours of idle time.”

Chicago immigration judge Robert D. Vinikoor says his deployment went smoothly. He had a full caseload in his two-week detail at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego this April, and he maintains that the reassigned judges were necessary to get immigrants out of detention as expeditiously as possible. “DHS is detaining more and more people and keeping them in custody, so that’s the need for the judges,” says Vinikoor, who retired in June after serving 33 years as an immigration judge. “The question is: Are they over-detailing? In some cases they put the cart before the horse.”

But Marks, who has been an immigration judge for 30 years, disagrees. Even if the DOJ gets deployments right, she says, the surge policy shows the administration has the wrong priorities. She says the administration’s biggest mistake was making a “politically motivated decision” and not consulting immigration judges. “The judges weren’t asked and that’s always been our big frustration,” she says.” The judges are the ones who are the experts in handling their cases.”

Marks notes that her union had similar frustrations with the Obama administration’s prioritization of recent border crossers—predominantly Central American women and children seeking asylum—to send a message they would be deported quickly if they could not prove they qualified for asylum. That decision, she says, worsened the backlog, too.

The overloaded system jeopardizes due process for immigrants, says NIJC’s policy director Heidi Altman, who filed the FOIA for EOIR’s memos after hearing about “chaos” in the courts when the border details began.

“When the backlog is exacerbated it makes it exponentially harder for us and other legal services to take on clients,” says Altman, whose NIJC organizes pro-bono attorneys handling immigration cases, which do not guarantee legal representation. Without a lawyer handling a case, she says, it is less likely to proceed fairly.

But there’s another reason that Trump might want to reconsider the border surge, says John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE under the Obama administration: It takes the pressure off the undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for years and may be fighting to prevent an order of deportation. “They’re basically giving amnesty ironically to the non-detained docket.”

“By shifting the judges away they’ll never have their hearing so they’ll never be ordered deported,” he says. “You’re letting them stay.”

Meredith Hoffman is a freelance journalist who who has covered immigration for AP, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and VICE.
**************************************
Thanks, Meredith, for this very timely article that ties in nicely with the recent NBC 4 I-Team series on the unmitigated mess in the U.S. Immigration Courts and how Jeff Sessions’s xenophobia, patent disregard for Due Process, and gross mismanagement of the U.S. Immigration Courts is ruining lives and threatening the very underpinnings of the American Justice system.It would be nice to think that someone or somebody would hold this “Swamp Dweller” accountable for his lawless actions. But, to date, that seems unlikely as long as the GOP is in power.The judgment of history, however, is something quite different. And that’s why it is so critical that the truth be documented, especially since Sessions is wont to lie, misrepresent, and distort when it comes to furthering his White Nationalist agenda. He might get away with it in the short run, but in the end he will be held fully accountable and his memory forever tied to the false, xenophobic, White Nationalist views that he spent a lifetime trying (fortunately, usually with little success outside of Alabama) to advance.Also, my long time friend and former colleague Judge Bobby Vinakoor neglected to mention that for him to go to Otey Mesa, his previously set dockets at the Chicago Immigration Court were reset, something that the practitioners representing the respondents were less sanguine about than Bobby. I will say though, that knowing Bobby, if they had good reasons for being heard before his retirement date, he probably squeezed them in somewhere and took care of them. Bobby was never one to intentionally leave someone hanging.OK, Leon Fresco, on to you! I hope to hell that you and your fat-cat law firm Holland & Knight (which I’ll be the first to admit has been a consistent stalwart on the pro bono immigration scene going back to my days at the Legacy INS) have permanent offices somewhere down on the Southern border where you are providing free legal assistance to all the noncriminals being needlessly detained by the Administration in substandard (many would say subhuman) condititions. Your “wise-ass comments” about running folks through the courts in 90 days or less to prevent them from being properly released under court orders deserve censure.As a former head of OIL, you know better than anyone that refugees from the Northern Triangle have zip chances of winning their cases without good lawyers, adequate time to prepare, and the ability to corroborate their (often quite plausible) claims with documentation. None of that is readily available in the obscure locations where the Trump/Sessions crowd has purposely chosen  to detain immigrants. So, racing them though “court,” as your apparently advocate, in detention where there can’t get lawyers, can’t prepare, and can’t get evidence, and where they are regularly coerced by your former clients at DHS into abandoning claims, is pretty much a “death sentence” for any valid claim they might have for protection.

I also find your continuing advocacy of the misuse of the Immigration Courts to deny due process and send “enforcement messages” even more highly objectionable. As a former Immigration Judge at two levels, I can assure you that’s not what courts are for! It’s a grotesque abuse of the court system and makes a mockery of due process — exactly the things that EOIR was supposedly created to eliminate (but hasn’t been able to, thanks to “enablers” like you, Leon). You wouldn’t be so chipper if you or one of your fat cat clients were treated the way our system treats vulnerable migrants looking for justice. But, you have helped me illustrate why the U.S. Immigration Courts can’t function in a fair and impartial manner and provide due process while part of the highly politicized DOJ under Administrations of either party.  So, for that I have to thank you.

And, I’ve always maintained that the Obama Administration richly deserves a huge part of the blame for the Due Process disaster in the U.S. Immigration Courts. They took a troubled system and turned it into a disaster. Undoubtedly, your unwillingness to “just say no” to some of the unconscionable legal positions the DOJ took and their abandonment of the responsibility to create a balanced, fair, impartial, and diverse immigration judiciary played some role in that man-made disaster.

And don’t kid yourself, Leon. What you defended in the Obama Administration wasn’t “quick justice!” No, it was “little or no justice” for the majority of detainees who were railroaded through the system in detention, something that should keep you awake when you’re not out making the “big bucks practicing big law.”  

For those of you who don’t know him, Leon once made a career out of going around claiming that barely literate women and children didn’t need lawyers in Immigration Court because is would “open the floodgates.”

From NPR:

“Yet last week, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Leon Fresco appeared before a federal judge in Seattle to argue that providing legal representation for immigrant children facing deportation could create open borders and send the message that no one here illegally would be removed.

“It would create a magnet effect,” Fresco said in court.”

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/holder-says-immigrant-children-get-lawyers-department-disagrees/

Funny thing about due process and justice, Leon, sometimes they are inconvenient.

You’re not a shill for the Obama Administration any more, Leon. You’re no longer required to “defend the indefensible” (something that’s not unfamiliar to me from my INS career). Reflect on the errors of your past, leave the dark behind, and come on over to the light. The living’s better over here, and there’s plenty of room for all.  

Best wishes,

Paul

09-27

BREAKING: “GONZO APOCALYPTO” IS POLITICAL POINT MAN FOR ENDING DACA — TRUMP HIDES DURING ANNOUNCEMENT — AG Doesn’t Know Enough Law To Defend African American Voters Or American Kids — Other AGs Able To Do Both — Time For A “Competency Check?”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/05/trump-administration-announces-end-of-immigration-protection-program-for-dreamers/?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_daca-1110a-duplicate%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.7cbb30e0641e

David Nakamura reports for the Washington Post:

“In announcing the decision at the Justice Department, Attorney General Sessions said that former president Barack Obama, who started the program in 2012 through executive action, “sought to achieve specifically what the legislative branch refused to do.”

He called it an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch,” and said the program was unlikely to withstand court scrutiny.

 

The Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 dreamers. The agency said those currently enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire; those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018, will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals as long as they do so by Oct. 5.

New applications and renewal requests already received by DHS before Tuesday will be reviewed and validated on a case-by-case basis, even those for permits that expire after March 5, officials said.

Trump administration officials cast the decision as a humane way to unwind the program and called on lawmakers to provide a legislative solution to address the immigration status of the dreamers. Senior DHS officials emphasized that if Congress fails to act and work permits begin to expire, dreamers will not be high priorities for deportations — but they would be issued notices to appear at immigration court if they are encountered by federal immigration officers.

. . . .

Sessions wrote a memo Monday calling DACA unconstitutional, leading acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to issue a memo Tuesday to phase out the program. The decision came on the day set by Texas and several other states to pursue a lawsuit against the Trump administration if it did not terminate DACA.

It is unclear whether the states will still move forward with legal action.

“As a result of recent litigation,” Duke said in a statement, “we were faced with two options: wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation; or allow the judiciary to potentially shut the program down completely and immediately. We chose the least disruptive option.”

. . . .

The fight now could shift to Congress to act on a bill to grant permanent legal status to the dreamers. A bill called the Dream Act that would have offered them a path to citizenship failed in the Senate in 2010. Several new proposals have been put forward, including the Bridge Act, a bipartisan bill with 25 co-sponsors that would allow extend DACA protections for three years to give Congress time to enact permanent legislation.

But the White House and conservative Republicans could hold out for additional provisions to boost border security, such as funding for Trump’s proposed border wall or new measures to restrict legal immigration.

If DACA is shuttered next year, more than 1,000 immigrants stand to lose their work permits each day once the program is rescinded, according to a recent study by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Business leaders from major companies, including Apple, Facebook and Google, had lobbied the White House not to terminate the program, citing the economic consequences.”

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

Gee, advance concern that a Federal Court might shut down a program is a new one for Gonzo and the Trumpsters. Didn’t seem to inhibit him from arguing some pretty off the wall positions in defense of the Travel Ban, Sanctuary Cities, or why the Voting Rights Act doesn’t protect voting rights.

And we all know how statements like “they aren’t an enforcement priority” work out in practice. The majority of this Administration’s removals are folks who aren’t “priorities.”

And, notably, neither Kelly nor Duke at DHS had the courage and backbone to rein in arbitrary, wasteful enforcement by immigration agents. So, in the end, it makes no difference what the DHS “fake priorities” are; the line agents will bust anybody the feel like busting — because they can. And, after all, busting law abiding members of the community, often when they show up at DHS to check in or seek relief, is easier than tracking down real criminals. Makes the numbers look good, particularly when you obscure the fact that behind each number is a human face that belongs to a real person. Mostly ordinary people, just like the rest of us.

Also, sticking them on the already overwhelmed Immigration Court dockets without some realistic court reform aimed at restoring due process and wise use of “prosecutorial discretion” to keep cases exactly like the Dreamers off the court dockets? It’s “gonzo!” Big time!

There was a time when the Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice stood up for justice for all Americans, including the most vulnerable. But, that was then, this is now. Liz was “right on.”

PWS

09-05-17

DHS MISTREATS KIDS: U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee Finds That DHS Has Blown Off Her Prior Orders & Continues To Mistreat Children In Detention!

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/06/28/government-continues-ignore-rights-children-detention-court-finds/

Karolina Walters writes in Immigration Impact:

“Despite being among some of the most vulnerable, children seeking asylum in the United States often fare the worst. Upon entering the United States, children are often detained for extended periods in violation of a long-standing agreement known as the Flores settlement.

The Flores agreement essentially acts as a contract between the government and children held in immigration custody. On Tuesday, a federal district court judge ruled once again that the government is failing to meet its obligations to children held in immigration custody.

The court found a number of violations, including holding children too long in detention, in substandard conditions, and in non-licensed facilities. In addition, the court ruled that the government is required to look at each child’s case individually to determine whether release from custody is appropriate—the government may not rely on any blanket standard to avoid the responsibility of assessing each case individually.

The Flores agreement is a nationwide settlement reached in 1997. In this settlement, the government agreed that children taken into immigration custody would be placed in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to [their] age and special needs” and would be released “without unnecessary delay,” preferably to a parent. The settlement also requires that if a child is not released to a parent, adult relative, or an appropriate guardian, children must be placed in non-secure facilities licensed for the care of dependent children within five days of apprehension.

Two years ago, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), on behalf of immigrant children, brought suit to enforce the Flores settlement. In July and August of 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee said the government must apply the settlement to all minors, including those detained with family members. Tuesday’s order from Judge Gee outlines the particular ways in which the government is in breach of the Flores settlement and how the court seeks to ensure compliance going forward.”

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

Read the complete article at the link.

While AG Jeff Sessions is out whipping up xenophobic frenzy and promoting the need for an “American Gulag” to support his “Gonzo Apocalypto” immigration enforcement agenda, he ignores his real legal and constitutional duties: Get General Kelly and the rest of the folks over at DHS to obey the law and stop mistreating kids!

That someone like Sessions with such totally warped values and lack of any sense of justice or decency should be in charge of our supposedly due process providing U.S. Immigration Court system is a continuing travesty of justice.

PWS

06-29-17

 

EOIR INVESTS ELEVEN NEW U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES — PRIVATE SECTOR TOTALLY SHUT OUT!

Here are the bios of the new U.S. Immigration Judges:

IJInvestiture06162017

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This brings the total number of sitting U.S. Immigration Judges to 326. Congratulations to the new Judges, and please don’t forget the due process mission of the U.S. Immigration Courts!

Unfortunately, however, this continues the trend of creating a one-sided U.S. Immigration Court which basically has excluded from the 21st Century Immigration Judiciary those who gained all or most of their experience representing respondents, teaching, or writing in the public sector. It’s not particularly surprising that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has expressed a strong enforcement bias, would prefer to “go to the Government well” for all or most of his selections.

However, the real problem here is with the DOJ during the Obama Administration.  With a chance to fill perhaps a record number of U.S. Immigration Judge positions over eight years, and to create an evenly balanced, diverse Immigration Judiciary in the process, they not only turned the hiring process in to a ridiculous two-year average cycle, but also selected 88% of the candidates from Government backgrounds.

Why would someone take two years for a selection process that selects from a limited inside pool anyway? And, why would you lead outside applicants to take the time to apply, believing they had a fair chance of competing, when the process obviously was “fixed” in favor of insiders? Sort of reminds me of the discussion of the labor certification recruitment process that we recently had in my Immigration Law & Policy Class at Georgetown Law!

Just more ways in which the “Due Process Vision” of the U.S. Immigration Courts has basically been trashed by the last three Administrations!

PWS

06-19-17

Still Not Sure We Need U.S. Immigration Court Reform? Read This Explosive New OIG Report — While “Rome Was Burning” In The Immigration Courts, EOIR Senior Exec Was Busy Fiddling Around Hiring Pals, Soliciting Sexual Favors, Taking Kickbacks On Contracts, Lying To Investigators, & Retaliating Against Honest Employees!

INVESTIGATIVE SUMMARY

Findings Concerning Improper Hiring Practices, Inappropriate Interactions with Subordinates and a Contractor, and False Statements by a Senior Executive with the
Executive Office for Immigration Review

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) initiated an investigation of a senior executive with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) based on information it received from DOJ that the official engaged in inappropriate hiring practices, used non‐public information to benefit friends, solicited and accepted gifts from subordinates, maintained inappropriate relationships with subordinates, and participated in an inappropriate quid pro quo scheme with a contract company.

The OIG found that the executive engaged in improper hiring practices when, on seven separate occasions, the executive disregarded merit system principles to hire close friends and associates as DOJ employees or DOJ contract personnel over applicants with superior qualifications for the positions. The OIG also found that the executive initiated and approved the promotion of a friend before the individual was eligible for promotion, nominated a friend for a monetary award without sufficient justification, and promoted a friend who lacked qualifications for the position. The OIG further found that the executive disclosed to friends and acquaintances non‐public information about job opportunities on a pending DOJ contract, and advocated for increasing contractor salaries in support of friends. The OIG found that this conduct violated federal statutes, federal regulations, and DOJ policy.

In addition, the OIG found that the executive maintained an inappropriate personal relationship with a subordinate, and solicited and accepted gifts and donations from subordinates, in violation of federal statutes and regulations, and DOJ policy. The OIG investigation further concluded that the executive engaged in an inappropriate scheme with a DOJ contractor in which the executive sought employment and training from the contractor for personal friends in exchange for the executive actively participating in the creation and awarding of a purchase agreement of substantial monetary value to the contractor, in violation of federal statutes and regulations.

Lastly, the OIG found that the executive lacked candor and provided false statements to the OIG in relation to the executive’s conduct in the above‐described matters, in violation of federal statute and regulation. Prosecution of the executive was declined.

The OIG has completed its investigation and provided this report to EOIR for appropriate action. The OIG also referred to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel its findings that the executive retaliated against employees who refused to hire the executive’s friends.

Posted to oig.justice.gov on June 6, 2017

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The “experiment” with trying to run a major court system as an agency of the USDOJ is over. It has failed! Is Jeff Sessions going to straighten this mess out? No way! In addition to being less than candid under oath during his Senate Confirmation hearing (or perjuring himself in the view of many), the Comey testimony certainly made it appear that Sessions either was under active investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller or soon would be under such investigation.

And, it’s by no means just Sessions. Every Attorney General since Janet Reno has contributed significantly to the downward spiral in the U.S. Immigration Courts (including the BIA). Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who helped push Immigration Court backlogs to incredible new heights with poor hiring practices and politically motivated enforcement priorities, also came out of the Comey hearing looking like someone who put political loyalty before integrity. For the record, she has denied Comey’s charges. But, then so have Trump & Sessions. Not very good company, I’m afraid. And, don’t forget that the whole mess with the announcement on the Hillary Clinton investigation started because Lynch had the incredibly poor judgement to meet with Bill Clinton during the heat of his wife’s Presidential campaign.

This OIG Report comes on the heels of a GAO Report that pointed out a number of chronic management problems in EOIR, including the ridiculous 2-year hiring cycle for U.S. Immigration Judges. The GAO also discussed options for restructuring the Immigration courts as an independent agency, although the report did not make a specific recommendation on that subject. Here’s a link to my blog on the GAO report: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Uh

 

PWS

06-10-17

DHS DEATHWATCH: Another Detainee Dies In Custody! — Fatalities Likely To Increase As Trump Ramps Up Arrests & Detentions!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/adolfoflores/another-immigrant-has-died-in-ice-custody-and-critics-worry?utm_term=.nsKXk5aRM#.mjem7V6rn

Adolfo Flores reports in BuzzFeed News:

“The death of an undocumented immigrant while in the custody of federal authorities is the latest in a series of deaths that advocates worry will continue to grow as more people living illegally in the US are detained under the Trump administration.

Vicente Caceres-Maradiaga, 46, died Wednesday night from acute coronary syndrome as he was being transferred to a hospital from a private detention center in Adelanto, California. He is the ninth person to die in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1. That compares to 10 deaths for all of fiscal year 2016.

The Daily Beast was the first to report on the trend.

Christina Fialho, executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), said the deaths were disturbing.

“They also point to systemic failures that are likely to grow even starker as the Trump administration carries out its crackdown on immigration,” Fialho told BuzzFeed News. “I have no doubt that the increase in immigration detention deaths is directly connected to both the increase in the number of people detained and the effective elimination of federal standards on humane treatment.”

Operating under executive orders and memos from the Trump administration that call for an increase in arrests of people living illegally in the US, data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University found that there has already been a sharp increase in the number of detainees who are waiting for their court cases to be heard.

The rise in both the number of arrests and detainees is a change from the Obama administration, which allowed many undocumented immigrants out of detention while their legal cases played out — a practice maligned by critics as “catch-and-release.” During Obama’s tenure, 27% of people with immigration cases were kept in custody, compared to 61% under Trump, according to TRAC.”

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Read the entire article at the link.

I suppose that this Administration just looks at detainee deaths as a “cost of doing business.” Or, perhaps “collateral damage” as they say in the military. As noted in prior posts, private detention facilities had been determined by the DOJ’s Inspector General to have substandard conditions. Under then Attorney General Lynch, the DOJ was in the process of phasing private detention out of the prison system. While the DHS had not taken the same action with respect to civil immigration detention, then Secretary Johnson had received a report from an Advisory Committee noting the problems with private detention and recommending that it be phased out. The Trump Administration, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading the way, has reversed the course and intends to maximize the use of private detention while it builds it promised “American gulag” for both civil detainees and criminals. At no time that I am aware of have Trump, Sessions, or Kelly expressed any concern about detention standards or the health and safety of detainees.

PWS

06-03-17

Supremes Find GOP’s Racist Intent Drove NC Redistricting!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-rules-race-improperly-dominated-nc-redistricting-efforts/2017/05/22/c159fc70-3efa-11e7-8c25-44d09ff5a4a8_story.html

Robert Barnes reports in the Washington Post:

“The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature relied on racial gerrymandering when drawing the state’s congressional districts, a decision that could make it easier to challenge other state redistricting plans.

The decision continued a trend at the court, where justices have found that racial considerations improperly tainted redistricting decisions by GOP-led legislatures in Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina. Some cases involved congressional districts, others legislative districts.

The states contended that their efforts were partisan moves to protect their majorities, which the Supreme Court in the past has allowed, rather than attempts to diminish the impact of minority voters, which are forbidden.

But the justices declared that North Carolina had relied too heavily on race in its efforts to “reshuffle,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan, voters in two congressional districts. They were unanimous in rejecting one of the districts and split 5 to 3 on the other.

“This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering,” said former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., who is part of a Democratic effort focused on redistricting. “North Carolina’s maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation. Today’s ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country: Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.”

North Carolina leaders said the court had made the rules regarding redistricting even murkier. Lawmakers are required to consider race when drawing legislative lines so that minorities have a chance to elect candidates of their choice when the numbers are there. But the court has said racial considerations cannot predominate when drawing the districts.”

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Racism is an obvious problem in the Republican Party and particularly in the Trump Administration. The GOP publicly denies racist intent while regularly practicing it to maintain and “fire up” their electoral base. At some point, actions speak louder than words.

Contrary to the disingenuous statements by GOP leaders in North Carolina that the Court’s ruling is “confusing,” former US Attorney General Eric Holder has succinctly stated it: “Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.”

While I haven’t always agreed with him, Eric is one of the brightest guys around. But, you don’t even have to be at his intellectual level to “get the message.”

One guy who is unlikely to get the message is current US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  He has pledged to “back off” of the DOJ’s aggressive stand in protecting minority voting rights, developed under AGs Holder and Lynch, and instead to defer to racist state legislative actions designed to dilute or discourage minority voting. Not surprisingly, this happens most often in the GOP controlled areas of the South.

Liz was right!

PWS

05-23-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the full editorial:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

04-14-17

A.G. Sessions To Citizens Who Suffered Police Brutality: Go Pound Sand! — Busting Criminals, Deporting Migrants, Policing Tech Employers Takes Precedence Over Civil Rights Protections For African Americans — Baltimore Police Reformers Forced To “Stand Alone” After DOJ Pulls The Rug Out From Underneath Them!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/baltimore-police-commissioner-pledges-reform-despite-justice-dept-action/2017/04/04/5b745ce8-b88b-4b5e-a14b-4f9f84376168_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-moreheds_baltimore-130pm:homepage/story&utm_term=.3d445d2028e7

Lynh Bui and Peter Hermann report in the Washington Post:

“BALTIMORE — After the federal government released a searing 163-page report in August condemning police practices in Baltimore, the police commissioner and mayor stood with Justice Department leaders to promise sweeping reform.

Change was necessary, they all said, not only to prevent riots like those that flared after the fatal injury of Freddie Gray in police custody, but also to repair the long-standing, deep rift between the city’s crime-weary residents and its police.

Nine months later, Baltimore’s mayor and police commissioner again appeared before television cameras committing to overhaul the department.

But this time they stood by themselves.

“I’m asking the citizens of Baltimore to have faith that we will continue this work,” Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) said Tuesday. “It’s hard to deny that these kinds of reforms don’t need to take place in the city of Baltimore.”
On January 12, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Dept. reached a deal for sweeping reforms to the Baltimore Police Dept. after a federal review found officers routinely violated residents’ civil rights. (Reuters)
The pledge to move ahead came hours after the Justice Department had asked a federal judge Monday night to postpone the department’s tentative police reform agreement with the city — part of a wider review of pacts nationwide ordered by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The Baltimore consent agreement was announced days before President Trump took office and awaits a federal judge’s approval.

The request for a delay, which a judge has yet to rule on, left some Baltimore leaders and residents worried that momentum will wane and leave the city stuck in a familiar loop of unfulfilled promises.

Interim city solicitor David Ralph would not comment Tuesday on whether the city would file a response to the requested delay.

“It seemed clear that Justice was going ahead with these reforms, and now all of a sudden they don’t want to do it,” said Rebecca Nagle, co-director of the No Boundaries Coalition, a ­resident-led advocacy group.

The coalition helped organize residents to relay their experiences with city police to the Justice Department team that produced the August report, which concluded that the police department engaged in unconstitutional policing that discriminated against black residents in poor communities through illegal searches, arrests and stops for minor offenses.
“Residents invested two years doing this, and not going forward will destroy the trust that has built up,” Nagle said.

In Sessions’s two-page memo ordering the review of open and pending consent decrees, he said the department wants to guarantee the pacts are in line with Trump administration goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.

“The Federal government alone cannot successfully address rising crime rates, secure public safety, protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public, or implement best practices in policing,” the memo stated. “These are, first and foremost, tasks for state, local and tribal law enforcement.”

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Now, I might only be a retired Immigration Judge, not a civil rights expert. But, even I can tell that if “state and local law enforcement” could solve this problem, it would have been solved long ago.

In fact, until former Attorney General Lynch and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division intervened, state and local authorities had done their best to cover up the problems and avoid solving them. (And, I’m by no means a fan of Lynch. She was appropriately very interested in vindicating the civil rights of African Americans. But, she wasn’t interested in the human rights of mostly Hispanic women and children fleeing Central America. She aided and abetted a system of detention of such asylum applicants under deplorable conditions and hustling their cases through the U.S. Immigration Courts, in too many cases without full due process or even an opportunity for a fair hearing.)

No, what Sessions really means is that he has no interest whatsoever in helping the African American community vindicate their civil rights if it means clamping down on police abuses. After all, look at the “bang up” job that Session’s home state, Alabama, did on protecting its African American citizens from police abuses for most of the 20th Century. Who could ask for more? Or, perhaps we should get a “second opinion” from Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) who had his head split open by one of Sessions’s “police heroes,” an Alabama State Trooper.

That’s what often happens when the Feds rely on states and localities to vindicate citizen’s constitutional rights against the state’s own abuses. Classic “fox guarding the chicken coop.” Sort of like having Jeff Sessions protecting the rights of minorities and migrants. Yeah, the Birmingham Bridge incident was in 1965. But, Sessions and his gang have every intention of turning the clock back to those “glory days” of state’s rights.

Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was “silenced” on the Senate floor for “disparaging” a colleague, Senator Sessions, by putting the truth about his tone-deaf record on civil and human rights “in the record.” But, silenced or not, Warren spoke truth about Session’s unsuitability to serve as Attorney General. Sadly, African Americans, Hispanics, members of the LGBT community, and migrants are likely to find out first hand that “he’s still the same ol’ Jeff.”

PWS

04-04-17

HuffPost: Sessions Reinstates Dangerous Private Prisons — Health & Safety of Inmates Takes Back Seat to Expediency And Profits For Private Prison Industry!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doj-private-prisons-sessions_us_58af529ce4b0a8a9b780669a

Ryan J. Reilly a Ben Walsh report:

“WASHINGTON ― Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday withdrew an Obama-era Justice Department memo that set a goal of reducing and ultimately ending the Justice Department’s use of private prisons.

In a one-page memo to the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons, Sessions wrote that the August 2016 memo by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates “changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”

A Justice Department spokesman said Sessions’ memo “directs the Bureau of Prisons to return to its previous approach to the use of private prisons,” which would “restore BOP’s flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs.”

BOP currently has 12 private prison contracts that hold around 21,000 inmates. Yates had said that private prisons compared “poorly” to BOP prisons. Her memo followed a damning report from the Justice Department’s inspector general which found that privately run facilities were more dangerous than those run by BOP.

The two largest private prison companies have told investors that they have room to accommodate increased use of their prisons by federal or state and local authorities. On an earnings call with stock analysts this week, executives at GEO Group emphasized that their company has a total of 5,000 spots in its prisons that are presently either unused or underutilized.

GEO senior vice President David Donahue put it fairly bluntly, telling analysts that their idle and underutilized cells are “immediately available and meet ICE’s national detention standards.”

CoreCivic, formerly known as CCA, told investors on Feb. 17 that the company has nine idle prisons that can hold a total of 8,700 people. Those prisons are ready to accept inmates on short notice. “All of our idle facilities are modern and well maintained, and can be made available to potential state and federal partners without much, if any capital investment or the lead-time required for new construction,” CEO Damon Hininger said.

Indeed, Haninger said that CoreCivic was already holding more detained immigrants for the federal government than they anticipated. “Our financial performance in the fourth quarter of 2016 was well above our initial forecast due, in large part, to heightened utilization by ICE across the portfolio,” he said.

And, Haninger said, the Trump administration’s actions could boost financial performance even further. “When coupled with the above average rate crossings along the Southwest border, these executive orders appear likely to significantly increase the need for safe, humane and appropriate detention bed capacity that we have available in our existing real-estate portfolio,” he said. “We are well positioned,” to get more business from ICE, Haninger said.

David C. Fathi, who directs the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said that giving for-profit companies control of prisons is “a recipe for abuse and neglect.” He said the Sessions memo was a further sign the U.S. “may be headed for a new federal prison boom” under the Trump administration.”

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The disaster of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General continues to unfold. Contrary to what he told Senators during his contentious confirmation hearings, he’s the same old tone-deaf, insensitive, hard-liner he’s always been. There will be wrongful death suits in Sessions’s future naming him personally. While these so-called “Bivens actions” are usually a steep uphill climb for plaintiffs, given that Sessions acted with knowledge of both the Inspector General’s highly negative findings and his predecessor’s resulting action to curb private prison use, there could be a case there. I hope he took out personal liability insurance and got the highest amount of coverage. He might need it before his tenure is up.

And, as for the inmates and civil immigration detainees who are going to be kept in substandard conditions, I guess it’s just “tough noogies” as far as Sessions is concerned.

PWS

 

BREAKING NEWS: Trump (Predictably) Fires Acting AG Sally Yates For Refusing To Defend Executive Order

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/acting-attorney-general-an-obama-administration-holdover-wont-defend-trump-immigration-order/2017/01/30/a9846f02-e727-11e6-b82f-687d6e6a3e7c_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-banner-main_mobile-banledeall-917am:homepage/story&utm_term=.2bb3e1f21f15

The Washington Post reports tonight:

“President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night, after Yates ordered Justice Department lawyers Monday not to defend his immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world.

In a press release, the White House said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

The White House has named Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general. Boente told The Washington Post that he will agree to enforce the immigration order.
Earlier on Monday, Yates ordered Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world, declaring in a memo that she is not convinced the order is lawful.

Yates wrote that, as the leader of the Justice Department, she must ensure that the department’s position is “legally defensible” and “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” Yates wrote. She wrote that “for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Yates is a holdover from the Obama administration, but the move nonetheless marks a stunning dissent to the president’s directive from someone who would be on the front lines of implementing it.”

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Nothing very surprising here. As noted in the article, Yates was a holdover from the Obama Administration. I suppose it’s a nice note of protest for her to end her DOJ tenure.

Nevertheless, Yates was basically a bystander and enabler as her boss, AG Loretta Lynch, and the Obama Administration created chaos in the U.S. Immigration Court system. Lynch and Yates, who, to the best of my knowledge neither set foot inside a U.S. Immigration Court nor took the time to speak in person with sitting judges, mandated enforcement-based priorities which attempted to race vulnerable women, children, and families from Central America seeking refuge in the U.S. through the process on an expedited basis without a reasonable chance to obtain lawyers or present their claims. Indeed, while she might be having pangs of conscience about defending the Trump orders, Yates’s DOJ lawyers had little difficulty defending the facially absurd contention that children who couldn’t even speak English could represent themselves on complex asylum claims in Immigration Court. Meanwhile, those who had been patiently waiting on the Immigration Court’s docket for years and were actually ready to proceed to trial on their claims for relief were arbitrarily “orbited” to the end of the line — years in the future. Yates and Lynch inherited a court system in crisis and left it a disaster.

Then, there was judicial selection. Yates presided over a “Rube Goldberg Type” glacial, hyper-bureaucratized, opaque, hiring process that effectively excluded those outside government from the Immigration Judiciary and the Board of Immigration Appeals, while leaving approximately 75 unfilled positions at the end of the Administration and a BIA structure and system that basically institutionalized and reinforced the aggressively anti-due-process procedures put in place by Attorney General Ashcroft during the Bush Administration. She and her boss left behind total chaos and a due process train wreck that mocked the noble vision of the U.S. Immigration Courts:  through teamwork and innovation be the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.

So, forgive me if I can’t get too enthused about Yates’s belated show of backbone.  Her gesture was purely symbolic, and cost her nothing, since she was going to be replaced immediately upon Sessions’s confirmation. But, when she actually had a chance to improve due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts, she was, sadly, MIA.

PWS

01/30/17