Musings on Events in U.S. Immigration Court, Immigration Law, Sports, and Other Random Topics by Retired United States Immigration Judge (Arlington, Virginia) and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt. To see my complete professional bio, just click on the link below.
SEUNG MIN KIM, HEATHER CAYGLE and ELANA SCHOR 12/19/2017 08:40 PM EST
Top senactors and White House officials are laying the groundwork for a major immigration deal in January to resolve the fate of young undocumented immigrants whose legal protections were put in limbo by President Donald Trump.
At a Tuesday afternoon meeting with nearly a dozen senators deeply involved in immigration policy, White House chief of staff John Kelly pledged that the administration will soon present a list of border security and other policy changes it wants as part of a broader deal on so-called Dreamers, according to people who attended the meeting. The plan could come in a matter of days, senators said.
About a half-dozen senators have been negotiating a bipartisan package prompted by Trump’s decision to kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era executive action that granted work permits to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came here as minors. Yet the senators could not fully flesh out a deal before they knew what Trump was willing to sign.
“We couldn’t finish this product, this bill, until we knew where the administration was,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has been negotiating a DACA compromise for weeks, said in an interview after the meeting with Kelly. “And that’s why this meeting was so important.”
Congressional Republicans and the White House have long said any DACA deal would need to be paired with security and other enforcement measures. Democrats say that’s fine as long as the provisions weren’t too onerous. But the border security question has been a sticking point for weeks, as senators swapped proposals without cutting a deal, so far.
And while liberal Democrats and grass-roots activists are pressuring Congress to enact permanent legal protections for Dreamers this year, both Democrats and Republicans at the meeting with Kelly said there was a consensus that legislation wouldn’t pass before lawmakers leave Washington. It was one of the clearest sign yet that a Dreamers agreement won’t, to the chagrin of liberals, come before 2018.
“Our belief is that if this matter is not resolved this week — and it’s not likely to be resolved — that come the omnibus and the caps, that we have another chance to finally come up with a bipartisan package of things to include” by mid-January, said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who also attended the meeting. “The closer we get [to the March deadline], the more nervous I get, not to mention the way these young people feel. I’m sorry that it’s taken this long.”
Flake said he believes he has a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold a cloture vote on the floor on an immigration deal by mid-January, before the next likely deadline to fund the government, Jan. 19.
A spokesman for McConnell did not immediately return a request for comment. But the majority leader said during a Fox News interview that he has talked about the immigration issue with his counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
“No, we’ll not be doing DACA … this week,” McConnell said. “That’s a matter to be discussed next year. The president has given us until March to address that issue. We have plenty of time to do it.”
At the Tuesday meeting, Kelly and other administration officials went into detail about how much of the southern border is currently fenced and how much more the White House would want in exchange for a DACA deal, according to people who attended.
Senators also pressed the White House on other immigration demands, such as an overhaul of the nation’s asylum system or a change in policy toward unaccompanied minors who are apprehended at the southern border, and whether they needed to be included in the current DACA talks.
“Which of those policy items, or immigration law changes, do we need to make as part of this and what can wait for something else?” Flake said, summing up the questions from senators. “There’s a lot of nice things we need to do as part of broader comprehensive reform, but we need to have a bill in January and we need to know what has to be in it and what the administration will support.”
The bipartisan group of senators — Flake and Durbin, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — has discussed a legalization plan that would marry the DREAM Act, drafted by Durbin and Graham, with a more conservative proposal for Dreamers written by Tillis and Lankford, Flake said.
Those seven senators attended Tuesday’s meeting with Kelly, as did Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia.“I think what we’re trying to do is to get some clarity from the administration on what they require by way of border security and other enforcement measures,” Cornyn said as he left the meeting. “We got a promise to provide it to us and hopefully we’ll get that in short order. Maybe even this week.”
Republicans’ commitment to taking up a DACA deal next month won’t spare Democrats the fury of liberal groups that have demanded that any spending bill this year include a solution for Dreamers.
Democratic leaders have signaled that they won’t risk a government shutdown this month to secure relief for the Dreamers, though some lawmakers have vowed to withhold their votes for any must-pass funding measure without an immigration fix.
Durbin, the influential second-ranking Senate Democrat, is firmly in the camp of senators who won’t vote for a spending bill without help for Dreamers. That group also includes liberal Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Durbin was asked by reporters Tuesday if there was a divide between him and Schumer over where to draw the line on the issue, and acknowledged that there “may be.”
Schumer, for his part, put Republicans on notice Tuesday that they shouldn’t count on Democratic votes for a short-term funding package that includes just some of Democrats’ priorities — such as children’s health insurance — while leaving immigration for next year.
In the House, lawmakers, including several in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, privately say they don’t see a path to secure a legislative fix for Dreamers before the end of the year. They acknowledge that the sides are now positioning themselves for a fight in January.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) touched on dynamics during a private leadership meeting Monday night.
“We need to stick [together] and show that they need us,” said one Democratic member with knowledge of the strategy going into January. Republicans “are not going to be able to keep going on with the CRs. … Then we’re at an inflection point in January.”
That hasn’t stopped some members from making a last-ditch effort to reach a bipartisan agreement, in hopes Democrats can use it as leverage in the House if Republicans need their votes to pass a short-term funding bill later this week.
“I believe that my leadership is gonna close the deal and I have to believe that,” said CHC Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), noting she’s canceled all Christmas travel to stay in Washington and work on a legislative fix.
Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) are behind one effort that would pair a proposal similar to the DREAM Act with border security, according to several members.
And the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of 48 moderate Democrats and Republicans, is preparing to publicly embrace a specific proposal in the next day or two. A subset of the group has been working for weeks to hammer out an agreement and the entire caucus planned to meet again Tuesday night.
“There’s certainly scenarios where this could get done this week. I’m not an expert on how all these pieces could unfold,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a co-chairman of the group. “But everything is clearly on the table, which is why we think it’s important we move and move quickly here.”
Cristiano Lima contributed to this report
Ironically, as I’ve pointed out before, the controversial “Border Wall” seems to be the least overtly harmful to humans and the long-term interests of the US of the various unnecessary enforcement measures the GOP has put out there in negotiations. Yeah, it is a waste of money, a boondoggle for certain contractors, and makes us look like a nation of scared nincompoops.
But, ending normal family migration (or as GOP White Nationalists pejoratively have termed it “chain migration”), funding the “New American Gulag,” and/or providing more unneeded agents for the Trump-Sessions-Bannon “American Gestapo” all will do much more long-term damage to actual human beings and to the economic future and social fabric of our country,
Perhaps, at some better time in the future, we could pay a diverse group of native and immigrant workers to tear down “The Wall” as part of our gala Fourth of July celebration on TV. Or, it could work as part of the celebration of the birthday of President Ronald Reagan. Or, we could implode The Wall on national TV.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s official watchdog is accusing his own agency of slow-walking the public release of a report about confusion that ensued earlier this year after President Donald Trump issued his first travel ban executive order.
The still-unreleased inspector general report found that senior managers at Customs and Border Protection were “caught by surprise” by Trump’s order and that agency officials “violated two court orders” limiting implementation of Trump’s directive to suspend travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, according to a letter sent to lawmakers Monday and obtained by POLITICO.
The report’s conclusions appear to be sharply in tension with the picture the White House tried to paint of the execution of Trump’s Jan. 27 order, which led to confusion throughout the air travel system, protests at airports and delays at ports of entry to the U.S.
“It really is a massive success story in terms of implementation on every single level,” a senior administration official told reporters two days after Trump ordered the move.
The unusual missive to Congress on Monday from Inspector General John Roth said his 87-page report was sent to DHS leadership Oct. 6, but officials have declined to authorize its release over the past six weeks.
Roth said officials informed his office that the report is under review for information that may be subject to attorney-client privilege or to a privilege protecting the agency’s “deliberative process.”
“I am very troubled by this development,” Roth wrote, referring to the deliberate process claim. “This is the first time in my tenure as Inspector General that the Department has indicated that they may assert this privilege in connection with one of our reports or considered preventing the release of a report on that basis. In fact, we regularly have published dozens of reports that delve into the Department’s rationale for specific policies and decisions, and comment on the basis and process on which those decisions were made.”
Asked about Roth’s letter, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton defended the department’s handling of the report, as well as the travel ban Trump ordered Jan. 27.
. . . .
Despite the lack of permission to release the report, Roth’s seven-page letter does outline its key findings. He suggests that while most Customs and Border Protection staffers did their best to implement the policy humanely, the lack of advance notice caused significant problems and led to a lack of clarity on key issues, including whether so-called green card holders were covered by the ban.
“During the early period of the implementation of the order, neither CBP nor the Department was sure of the answers to basic questions as to the scope of the order, such as whether the order applied to Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), a significant percentage of the affected travelers and a fundamental question that should have been resolved early in the process,” Roth wrote.
The IG review compliments CBP personnel at various ports, saying many used their own funds to buy food and water for travelers delayed by the policy. The report also finds that officers generally complied with court orders that were quickly issued freezing efforts to expel travelers from the U.S.
However, Roth said CBP defied court orders by providing guidance to airlines not to allow travelers from certain countries to board flights bound for the U.S.
“While CBP complied with court orders at U.S. ports of entry with travelers who had already arrived, CBP was very aggressive in preventing affected travelers from boarding aircraft bound for the United States, and took actions that, in our view, violated, two separate court orders,” he wrote.
Records obtained by POLITICO through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit underscore concerns by DHS personnel that there was no clear guidance about how to interpret the first order.
“We got a memo from the White House saying one thing and now the Press Secretary said another,” a senior CBP official wrote to an American Airlines executive in a Feb. 1 email explaining why the agency just abruptly withdrew guidance sent to major international air carriers.
Former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich said a letter like Roth’s is a rarity, but so is an agency trying to block disclosure of a report on the grounds being cited by DHS.
“It’s quite unusual. If agencies asserted these privileges as broadly as the letter says DHS is doing in this case, the ability of IGs to investigate important matters would be significantly compromised,” Bromwich told POLITICO. “In my tenure as IG, I don’t recall any instances in which the attorney-client or deliberative privileges were invoked by DOJ.”
“One of the biggest future crises in U.S. health care is about to collide with the hottest political issue of the Trump era: immigration.
As the largest generation in American history – the baby boom – heads into retirement and old age, most of those aging boomers will need someone to help take care of them for at least some portion of their twilight years. Demand for home health aides is expected to outstrip the growth for nearly all other jobs in coming decades, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting the number of home health aide positions will increase 38 percent by 2024. That puts it among the top five fastest-growing U.S. occupations.
So who’s going to do it? The question is one of the biggest uncertainties looming over not only the health care, but the labor market overall. Health policy experts have been raising the alarm for some time: No matter how you look at it, the United States is going to need a lot more caretakers and home health aides. And we’re going to need them soon.
Right now, immigrant workers fill a significant share of the formal and informal caretaker workforce. In health care overall, immigrants (both legal and undocumented) make up roughly 17 percent of workers, on par with their representation in the broader labor force. When it comes to home health care, however, that figure is considerably higher: about 24 percent, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
There’s a reason foreign-born workers take so many home health jobs: they’re low-paid, low-skilled and increasingly plentiful. Barriers to entry are low; a high school degree is not usually a requirement and neither is previous work experience. Much caretaking comes from family members, of course. But with families getting smaller, more Americans living alone and chronic diseases growing more complex, a lot of that care in the future will need to come from professionals.
The job also isn’t easy. Home health aides can be tasked with bathing and feeding clients, cleaning the person’s house, driving them to doctor’s appointments and even helping with trips to the bathroom. It’s one of those occupations that comes to mind “when people say that immigrants do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do,” notes Patricia Cortés, an assistant professor of markets, public policy and law at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.
Bianca Frogner, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said the low barriers to entry make it a natural fit for immigrants who are new to the U.S. workforce. “It’s easy to get into and they’re in high demand,” she said.
This is where politics comes in: The current move to curb immigration threatens to cut off the main supply of potential new workers to care for aging Americans.
Illegal immigration isn’t the issue. The home health care immigrant workforce is vastly legal. The Pew Research Center found that just 4 percent of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides are in the country without legal status, based on an average from 2005 to 2014. Some home health aide positions require certification, which may drive down the ranks of undocumented immigrants in those positions.
The question for the health care system is what will happen to the flow of legal immigrants. Trump and immigration hawks in Congress have endorsed a bill that would cut legal immigration in half over a decade. The bill would also refocus the immigration system to prize better-educated and more highly skilled immigrants — potentially choking off the supply of lower-skilled workers who are the likeliest candidates to fill the home health aide jobs of the future.
In theory, native-born Americans could take some of those jobs, but there are reasons to assume they won’t.
. . . .
The strange thing about home health care work is that immigrants don’t appear to drive down wages, as happens in some other fields. If anything, they tend to push wages higher. Naturalized citizens who worked as nursing, psychiatric and home health aides earned 22 percent more than their U.S.-born counterparts, according to 2015 American Community Survey data analyzed by the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies.
Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration, said the wage phenomenon and the fact that the work is a natural fit for new immigrants make it a no-brainer: Immigrants are our best caretaking option for the foreseeable future. “You put all that together,” Lowell said, “and I think it’s a good thing.”
Read the complete article at the link.
In a sane system led by competent individuals with the common good in mind, this would be a “no brainer.” Legalize the existing undocumented workforce to provide some “upward and sideways” mobility to staff these jobs in the short run, while expanding legal immigration opportunities for these positions in the future. More legal immigration would also contribute to the tax coffers and add needed workers to the Social Security contribution base. Moreover, it would conserve considerable Government funds now being squandered on counterproductive immigration enforcement and unnecessary detention, as well as relieving the pressure on the overwhelmed Immigration Courts. That, in turn, would free up enforcement resources to concentrate on removing serious criminals and shutting down international smuggling cartels.
However, when policy is driven by bias, prejudice, and irrationality, as with guys like Trump, Sessions, Bannon, Miller, and the “RAISE Act Bunch” the results are a lose – lose.
“Washington (CNN)Democrats are raising alarms that more than a quarter of eligible recipients under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have not yet filed to renew their status ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
According to data provided Wednesday by a senior Democratic congressional staffer and confirmed to CNN by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, 42,669 individuals nationwide — or 27.7% of the 154,234 people eligible — had not submitted their applications. That was slightly down from roughly 48,000 that the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday hadn’t yet submitted.
When President Donald Trump announced the end of the program, known as DACA, a month ago, he put in place a six-month delay on expiring protections by allowing any recipient whose DACA expires by March 5 until Thursday to apply for a two-year renewal. Otherwise, the program that protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation will begin to end on March 5, as the two-year permits of nearly 700,000 active protectees begin to run out.
Democrats have repeatedly implored DHS to extend the deadline, saying one month to gather paperwork — and the roughly $500 application fee — is not long enough for those affected.
Trump sketches out DACA deal with Republicans at White House dinner
They’ve been especially critical of DHS for not making special consideration for DACA recipients in states hit by hurricanes Irma and Harvey, though DHS did announce Tuesday it would make case-by-case decisions for recipients in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands affected by Maria.
The frustration bubbled up at a Senate hearing Tuesday, where Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin cited considerations the Internal Revenue Service was making for Texas, Louisiana and Florida residents.
“May I implore you, implore you, to do the same thing at DHS that our own Internal Revenue Service is doing,” Durbin said to the DHS officials testifying. “If it’s good enough for our tax collectors to have a heart, isn’t it good enough for DHS to have a heart?”
Senators’ frustration with Trump on DACA bubbles up at hearing
According to the Wednesday data, more than 2,600 of eligible recipients in Texas had yet to submit renewals, 28% of the total eligible in that state. In Florida, more than 2,000, or 35% of those eligible, had yet to renew. In the US islands hit by Irma, 16 of the 37 eligible hadn’t yet renewed.
Democrats have also been frustrated with DHS over its notification process, saying without individual notifications to those eligible for renewal, the administration should extend the deadline.
“We are very concerned that because DACA recipients were not individually notified of their eligibility for renewal, tens of thousands of DACA recipients could lose their work authorization and DACA status protections,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus leaders wrote in a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke on Tuesday repeating a request to meet about extending the deadline.
Trump said he was putting in place the six-month window to give Congress a sense of urgency to put the Obama administration executive action into law.
But despite Tuesday’s hearing, multiple working groups and meetings the President has had with lawmakers at the White House, little substantive progress has been made.
The fault lines have remained consistent. Democrats support the bipartisan Dream Act that would protect eligible young immigrants who arrived as children and put them on a path to citizenship. They say they could accept border security as a compromise with it, but insist they will not vote for anything that could put the families and friends of those protected at greater risk of deportation.
DACA deal: A list of just some of the things that could go wrong
But Republicans are also insistent that any DACA deal must include border security and likely immigration enforcement measures, and the more conservative members of the party are suggesting policies — like mandatory worker verification, cuts to the legal immigration system and expanded deportation authority — that would be almost impossible to get Democrats to agree to.
Any solution would likely have to include Democrats, as they’ll be needed for passage in the Senate and to make up for Republicans in the House who would never vote for any DACA deal. But House Speaker Paul Ryan has also pledged not to move any bill that doesn’t get the votes of a majority of Republicans, limiting the options.
Durbin was joined on Tuesday at the hearing by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, in urging lawmakers and the White House to not try to concoct too big a compromise. Tillis has sponsored legislation similar to Durbin’s Dream Act that he bills as a conservative DACA solution.
Responding to a wish list articulated by a DHS senior staff member testifying about the White House’s aims, Tillis grew frustrated and urged members to focus on a narrow deal as a starting point.
“It reads like a laundry list for comprehensive immigration reform, and if Congress has proven an extraordinary ability to do anything, it’s to fail at comprehensive immigration reform,” Tillis said.”
Bad news on all fronts for Dreamers, and for America. Over at the White House, notorious White Nationalist xenophobe racist and Sessions confidante Stephen Miller is plotting to destroy any chance of compromise legislation to aid Dreamers by attaching reductions in legal Immigraton and other parts of the White Nationalist agenda to the bill.
“The White House is finalizing a plan to demand hard-line immigration reforms in exchange for supporting a fix on the DACA program, according to three people familiar with the talks — an approach that risks alienating Democrats and even many Republicans, potentially tanking any deal.
The White House proposal is being crafted by Stephen Miller, the administration’s top immigration adviser, and includes cutting legal immigration by half over the next decade, an idea that’s already been panned by lawmakers in both parties.
The principles would likely be a political non-starter for Democrats and infuriate Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who have negotiated with President Donald Trump on immigration and left a White House meeting last month indicating a solution was near. They could also divide Republicans, many of whom oppose cutting legal immigration.
Miller was upset after Trump’s dinner last month with Schumer and Pelosi and has been working since to bring the president back to the tougher stance he took during his campaign.
Miller has begun talking with Hill aides and White House officials about the principles in recent days. The administration is expected to send its immigration wish-list to Congress in the coming days, perhaps as soon as this weekend, said the people familiar with the plan, who include two administration officials. They requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing negotiations.
A White House official cautioned that the plans have not been finalized and could still change. Miller didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Unless they change dramatically from their current form, the immigration principles could short-circuit congressional negotiations aimed at finding a fix to DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the Obama-era initiative that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors.
“Handing Stephen Miller the pen on any DACA deal after the revolt from their base is the quickest way to blow it up,” said a senior Democratic Senate aide.
Lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol panned an earlier White House immigration proposal spearheaded by Miller, the RAISE Act, when the White House rolled it out in August. Republicans including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ron Johnson .)of Wisconsin all but declared the proposal dead on arrival.
Trump announced last month that he would end the DACA program, but he said he’d give Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution.
Despite Trump’s efforts to make nice with Schumer and Pelosi, Republican lawmakers signaled this week that the president is prepared to demand tough immigration measures as part of the negotiations.
In addition to provisions in the RAISE Act, the White House’s immigration principles also include parts of the Davis-Oliver Act, including measures that would give state and local law enforcement power to enforce immigration laws, allow states to write their own immigration laws and expand criminal penalties for entering the U.S. illegally.
The principles would also incorporate a provision from the Davis-Oliver Act that puts the onus on Congress to designate Temporary Protected Status, which allows immigrants to temporarily stay in the United States because they are unable to return to their home country as a result of a natural disaster or other dangerous circumstances.
The Davis-Oliver Act gives Congress 90 days to approve a measure extending TPS protections to a foreign state. If Congress does not act, the designation will be terminated. Lawmakers have raised concerns that Congress will be unable to agree on the designations, effectively killing the program.
In addition, the principles call for billions of dollars in border security, as well as money for detention beds and more immigration judges, according to the people familiar with them. Republicans are likely to support those moves.”
Miller’s proposals are right out of the White Nationalist restrictionist playbook. It will be a non-starter for Democrats. Additionally, no decent human being of any party should ever be associated, in any way, with any idea emanating from the arrogant racist Miller.
If Miller is involved, Dreamer relief is DOA. That means that Dreamers are likely to be left to fight out their future one case at a time in the Federal Courts and in the Immigraton Courts. Given the existing 630,000+ case backlog in the U.S. Imigration Courts, and the relatively cumbersome process for restoring “Dreamer” cases to the Immigraton Court Docket, not many will actually be removed from the United States before 2000.
I also think that Dreamers will have a reasonable chance of succeeding in the Article III Courts in barring DHS from relying on any evidence furnished as part of the DACA application and interview process as evidence of removability. That’s likely to throw a further monkey wrench into any enforcement initiative aimed at Dreamers.
So, the best strategy might prove to be working hard to remove the Trump regime and enough White Nationalist GOPers through the ballot box to create a climate for reasonable immigraton reform in 2021.
Sad, but probably true. A country that mistreats its youth in this manner can expect “very bad things” to happen in the future.
“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 astake some pressure off thecurrently 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 DOJwere 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 centersas 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 thatthe 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, istheadministration’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.”
“JEROME, IDAHO —In the Magic Valley of southern Idaho, milk is money.
Over 400,000 cows reside in this area, where the miracle of modern irrigation from the Snake River fed pioneer farming. Bovines now outnumber humans by more than two to one. Workers in rubber boots pull long shifts feeding livestock, clearing mountains of manure and extracting millions of pounds of milk all day, every day, all year, on ranches tucked into the rock and sagebrush-studded landscape. Sleek silver tankers filled with milk barrel down Interstate 84 toward dairy processing plants, among them one owned by Chobani, which opened the world’s biggest yogurt factory five years ago just down the road in Twin Falls. Since 2000, milk production has doubled in Idaho, providing the state with $10.4 billion in direct sales, according to University of Idaho economists. Chobani’s gleaming $750 million, cream-colored plant is just one of the many big businesses linked to Idaho’s voluminous milk production, now around third- or fourth-largest among states.
In short, the Magic Valley’s dairy boom is a contemporary rural American success story—the kind that President Donald Trump railed as a candidate is too often missing across the country. Unemployment here was less than 3 percent this summer, about as good as it gets, and optimism should be high. Yet on dairy farms, among both owners and workers, a sense of dread hangs in the dry southern Idaho air.
Dairy farmers lean heavily Republican in this deeply red state of only 1.7 million people, where 88 percent of the voting-age population are non-Hispanic whites. But in the age of Donald Trump—who won Idaho handily —even the farmers who supported the new president fear their businesses are about to run headlong into a harsh political reality. They’re frightened that Trump’s aggressive deportation policies will soon start to pick off or push away the mostly Hispanic immigrants who do the gritty work that Americans aren’t interested in doing. Many of these workers are probably undocumented, farmers acknowledge, yet they’re the sturdy backbone of a surging industry. Here in the Magic Valley, the farmers’ perspective is starkly different from the president’s claim that undocumented workers “compete directly against vulnerable American workers.”
An immigrant woman attaches cleans cows’ teats and attaches pumps in a state-of-the art milking parlor. Hundreds of cows file in and instinctively turn around to be milked, three times a day. Sometimes the animals kick and defecate, milkers say.
An immigrant woman attaches cleans cows’ teats and attaches pumps in a state-of-the art milking parlor. Hundreds of cows file in and instinctively turn around to be milked, three times a day. Sometimes the animals kick and defecate, milkers say. | Joy Pruitt for the Center for Public Integrity
And the farmers’ view is pitting them against a vocal contingent of neighbors who’ve responded both to Trump’s rhetoric and far-right media that has targeted immigrants as a threat. Southern Idaho, in fact, became a flashpoint for xenophobia this past year when outlets like Breitbart and InfoWars, seized on false reports about Muslim refugees—accusing them of gang rapes and the spread of fatal diseases like tuberculosis—and turned the remote area into an anti-immigrant cause celebre. But locally, it’s starting to sink in that Trump’s vows to oust undocumented workers—whom he claims are a drain on the economy—could actually kick the legs out from under the “Made in America” model the Magic Valley exemplifies.
Idaho dairy industry representatives estimate that between 85 to 90 percent of on-site dairy workers in the state are foreign-born. The U.S. Department of Labor and other estimates suggest that nearly half to 70 percent of all U.S. farm laborers are undocumented—certainly enough to shut down many of the milk pumps here if workers are ousted as a result of Trump’s policies.
That’s why farmers’ groups have for years pushed Congress, unsuccessfully, to make it possible for them to legally employ immigrants they say are desperately needed. Prospects don’t look any rosier now. In recent months, anti-immigrant rhetoric has only grown more vitriolic, and Trump supporters—including some here—are expecting the president to follow through on campaign promises and deport more people.
Those who understand the dairy business here fear that a political solution won’t materialize before it’s too late, if ever. And that means businesses could struggle due to labor shortages and plummeting production.
Shannon Perez, an American who was married to Mexican dairy worker who was deported, believes Americans don’t understand that the current immigration system doesn’t allow immigrant workers to “get legal.”
Shannon Perez, an American who was married to Mexican dairy worker who was deported, believes Americans don’t understand that the current immigration system doesn’t allow immigrant workers to “get legal.” | Susan Ferriss for the Center for Public Integrity
“The dairy industry is a big money maker. But without workers, without somebody that’s going to be there 12 hours a day, milking your cows, getting dirty, there’s no business,” said Shannon Pérez, a non-Hispanic Anglo, as people here say, who’s worked on dairy and calf ranches. She’s already watched helplessly as her own family was split by deportation.”
Read the entire article at the above link.
For those of us who have worked in the field of immigration for decades, it is hardly surprising that policies driven by White Nationalism, xenophobia, and just plain old racism and meanness would hurt a wide and diverse swarth of Americans, including many of those same misguided souls who ignored the facts and voted Trump into office.
We need to screen the undocumented folks who are here now, remove those who are criminals or engaging in socially destructive conduct, and give some type of legal status to the rest. Then, we need to significantly expand the number of legal immigrants we accept each year to more closely match market demand, save more lives of those fleeing harm, harness the energy, skills, and talents that will allow us to prosper and lead in the future, and make future immigration enforcement rational, efficient, and effective (by not wasting time arresting, detaining, and deporting those who actually are here to help us).
Folks like Jeff Sessions are pushing an irrational program that if it actually were achievable (which is isn’t) would cripple and perhaps destroy both the economy and the social fabric of our great nation.
It’s time for the majority of “rationalists” (regardless of party affiliation) to band together and defeat the attack of a well-organized minority that is out to harm our country and endanger our future.
“The Department of Homeland Security is “actively considering” delaying a looming deadline for so called-Dreamers to renew their status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a Justice Department attorney said at a court hearing Thursday, according to attendees and a government official.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate cited the hurricanes that recently hit Texas, Florida and nearby states as grounds for the potential delay to the Oct. 5 deadline, while noting that no final decision had been made, an official said.
Word of the possible delay came as a federal judge signaled that he might postpone the cut-off date unless the Trump administration acted first, attendees at a Thursday court hearing said.
During the session, in federal court in Brooklyn, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis repeatedly labeled the deadline “arbitrary” and said he saw little harm in pushing it back, according to advocates.
“He focused quite a bit on the October 5 deadline and called it arbitrary,” said David Chen, a Yale law student helping litigate the issue, “and said essentially that so many people who are DACA recipients would face quite a lot of harm and experience quite a lot of chaos if they were unable to renew by the deadline.”
The Trump administration announced last week that it was winding down the Obama-era program known DACA, a mechanism used to give quasi-legal status and work permits to about 800,000 undocumented foreigners who arrived in the U.S. as children.
Homeland security officials announced that people whose work permits are set to expire between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5 of next year must submit a renewal application by Oct. 5 to receive another two-year permit. After March 5, no more DACA permits will be granted, leading to a two-year phase-out of the program, officials said.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Judges hate it when they can’t talk the USG into “voluntarily” doing the right thing!
“Democrats tried attacking Donald Trump as unfit for the presidency. They’ve made the case that he’s ineffective, pointing to his failure to sign a single major piece of legislation into law after eight months in the job. They’ve argued that Trump is using the presidency to enrich himself and that his campaign was in cahoots with Russia.
None of it is working.
Data from a range of focus groups and internal polls in swing states paint a difficult picture for the Democratic Party heading into the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election. It suggests that Democrats are naive if they believe Trump’s historically low approval numbers mean a landslide is coming. The party is defending 10 Senate seats in states that Trump won and needs to flip 24 House seats to take control of that chamber.
The research, conducted by private firms and for Democratic campaign arms, is rarely made public but was described to POLITICO in interviews with a dozen top operatives who’ve been analyzing the results coming in.
“If that’s the attitude that’s driving the Democratic Party, we’re going to drive right into the ocean,” said Anson Kaye, a strategist at media firm GMMB who worked on the Obama and Clinton campaigns and is in conversations with potential clients for next year.
Worse news, they worry: Many of the ideas party leaders have latched onto in an attempt to appeal to their lost voters — free college tuition, raising the minimum wage to $15, even Medicare for all — test poorly among voters outside the base. The people in these polls and focus groups tend to see those proposals as empty promises, at best.
Pollsters are shocked by how many voters describe themselves as “exhausted” by the constant chaos surrounding Trump, and they find that there’s strong support for a Congress that provides a check on him rather than voting for his agenda most of the time. But he is still viewed as an outsider shaking up the system, which people in the various surveys say they like, and which Democrats don’t stack up well against.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Don’t forget that Trump has seldom “polled well” except among his base. He never really crossed the 50% mark in any credible polls (assuming that any polls were in fact credible, something cast into doubt by the 2016 Election) even on Election Day. But, that hasn’t stopped him from becoming President and won’t necessarily stop him from being a 2-term President.
If nothing else, Trump has proved that a fanatic base, properly distributed across the U.S., can allow him to exploit the peculiarities of the US system to win elections without ever being “the people’s choice.” According to this article, there is little reason to believe that voters will hold either Trump or the GOP accountable for their lackluster performance at governing. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that the GOP will wake up the morning after the November 2018 Elections with even bigger majorities in the House and Senate.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion Tuesday that so-called Dreamers have taken jobs away from American citizens is “wrong,” Sen. Lindsey Graham declared Wednesday morning, pushing back against his former Senate colleague and calling for compassion from Congress.
“Jeff Sessions is wrong. These kids are not taking jobs from American citizens, they’re part of our country,” Graham (R-S.C.) told NBC’s “Today” show, rebutting Sessions’ assertion from the previous day. “They’re fully employed for the most part, they’re in school, they will add great value. The president is right to want to have a heart for these kids.”
The attorney general’s comment about Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, came during his announcement that the Trump administration will rescind DACA, a program that offers work permits to Dreamers and protects them from deportation. Sessions, known as a hawk on immigration issues during his Senate tenure, blamed the program for hurting American job-seekers and for creating a “humanitarian crisis” on the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Sessions lacks credibility even with his own former colleagues from his own party.
President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm — and fulfill one of the president’s core campaign promises.
Trump has wrestled for months with whether to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. He has faced strong warnings from members of his own party not to scrap the program and struggled with his own misgivings about targeting minors for deportation.
Conversations with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that Congress — rather than the executive branch — is responsible for writing immigration law, helped persuade the president to terminate the program, the two sources said, though White House aides caution that — as with everything in the Trump White House — nothing is set in stone until an official announcement has been made.
In a nod to reservations held by many lawmakers, the White House plans to delay the enforcement of the president’s decision for six months, giving Congress a window to act, according to one White House official. But a senior White House aide said that chief of staff John Kelly, who has been running the West Wing policy process on the issue, “thinks Congress should’ve gotten its act together a lot longer ago.”
Read the complete article at the link.
This could be one of Trump’s shrewder political moves. He doesn’t really have to do anything right now, while getting the issue off his desk and putting pressure on the Dems and those more responsible Republicans who have urged him to retain the program to get their collective act together and legislate.
Now it depends on whether Trump can disengage without the usual barrage of xenophobic White Nationalist race baiting truth-challenged rhetoric that tends to accompany all of his immigration moves. That might be hard for Trump, given his normal need to pander to the basist biases of his base.
There is also the problem of what happens if Congress fails. There is no practical way of removing 800,000 American young people. It’s simply beyond the capacity of the system, not to mention that it would destroy our economy and rip apart our society.
REALITY CHECK: Many U.S. Immigration Courts are already setting “new” non-detained cases out to Individual Hearing dates in 2020 & 2021. As Judge Burman’s remarks in the preceding post suggest, those courts that claim not to be out as far might well be using ADR (“Aimless Docket Reshuffling”) techniques to mask the true extent of the backlog and docketing problem.
A few Dreamers got DACA after the entry of a final order of removal. But, the vast majority either 1) applied before being placed in Removal Proceedings; or 2) had their Removal Proceedings “Administratively Closed” (thereby removed from the Immigration Court’s “active docket”) after DACA was granted. All of these cases would have to be initially docketed or re-docketed upon DHS motion.
The US Immigration Courts’ docket already extends beyond the end of Trump’s current term in 2021. By the time “Dreamer” cases get to Individual Hearings the next Presidential term likely will have expired. After all, even without Dreamers on the docket, and with additional US Immigration Judges on the bench, backlogs have continued to rise as a result of the Administration’s “gonzo” approach to immigration enforcement.
So far, the Administration has addressed the impracticality of unlimited enforcement of a broken immigration system with a pattern of “random acts of cruelty” intended to spread fear, create unease, and keep ethnic and migrant communities on edge.
Let’s hope Congress can get its act together and solve the problem in a bipartisan manner. If not, more disruption, dislocation, disorder, and just plain downright arbitrary meanness are likely to follow.
“Bad things will happen” to a country that allows a xenophobic, racist, White Nationalist minority (two-thirds of Americans favor some type of relief for Dreamers) to overrule the majority and attack our country’s most precious asset: the young people who are America’s (and the world’s) future. It’s time for those of us in the majority who aren’t part of the “Trump base” to stand up and be heard in opposition to those who would destroy our country’s future and trash the lives of fine American young people in the process! And, politicians who oppose relief for Dreamers need to be removed from office through the electoral process.
“When President Donald Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, calling him a “patriot,” he didn’t just absolve him from the consequences of defying a federal judge. He didn’t merely excuse Arpaio’s racial profiling and illegal immigration sweeps. Trump’s pardon did do all of that. But it also did something more: It boosted a radical theory of law and American history that Arpaio supports, and which is gaining steam across the United States.
It’s called the “constitutional sheriff” movement, and as it grows, it’s increasing the risk of conflict between local law enforcement and federal authorities. Its animating idea is that a sheriff holds ultimate law-enforcement authority in his county—outranking even the federal government within its borders. Though the movement claims deep history in English law, its real roots lie in the more recent fringes of American right-wing thought. And its popularity helps explain why Arpaio’s defiance of federal law shouldn’t be seen as just one grandstanding sheriff crossing a line, but instead should be seen as part of a broader grassroots resistance to constitutional and cultural upheavals during the 20th century.
The strange idea that unites all members of this movement is that a sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer within a county’s borders—superior not only to local police, but also to officers and agents of the federal government. The actual influence of sheriff supremacy is hard to measure, but it has been growing in recent years, and today the official constitutional sheriffs’ association boasts 4,500 dues paying members and over 200 sheriffs. Its highest-profile members include Arpaio and David Clarke, who just resigned as sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, reportedly to help Trump in some capacity.
But those figures may underestimate how far its influence extends, and how fully it pervades certain regions of the country. In 2013, Arpaio joined nearly 500 other sheriffs who vowed not to obey any federal law that required them to confiscate guns from private citizens. In Utah, 28 of 30 sheriffs went even further, warning that “[n]o federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights—in particular Amendment II—has given them.”
The constitutional sheriff movement arose from the ashes of the far-right, anti-semitic Posse Comitatus movement of the 1970s and 80s, led by William Potter Gale. The insignia favored by these Christian Patriots was a redesigned sheriff’s badge containing a noose, Bible and sword, to reflect their belief that sheriffs were responsible for the armed defense of citizens and higher law (a combination of their view of the Constitution and Christian Identity teachings). Before the movement collapsed with Gale’s death, its paramilitary figures developed an anti-tax, anti-government agenda that stoked conspiracy theories that Jews were responsible for oppressing farmers through crushing taxes and exorbitant loans. Its foot soldiers gained notoriety when they tried to stop foreclosures in the Midwest and engaged in shootouts with U.S. marshals.
. . . .
Trump’s pardon of Arpaio didn’t just let the sheriff off the hook; it short-circuited the part of the American judicial process designed to hold government accountable, and resolve conflicts between levels of government. It began when a class-action lawsuit was filed in 2007 by individuals who claimed they had been racially profiled during Arpaio’s immigration raids and traffic stops. In 2012, the DOJ intervened in the case to vindicate federal interests in ending discriminatory policing, to stop Arpaio from retaliating against his critics in violation of the First Amendment, and to ensure that non-English detainees didn’t forfeit their rights without understanding them. Arpaio lost the first case and settled with DOJ, but was held in civil contempt of court for continuing to capture migrants without legal authority and for failing to turn over records of these encounters.
During the legal proceedings, Arpaio made the puzzling assertion that he had never violated his oath of office, despite having ignored direct orders from a federal judge. As far as he was concerned, the oath of office gave him the right, indeed even the responsibility, to ignore the federal court. He was merely doing the rightful job of a sheriff, enforcing the laws and Constitution as he saw them, unaccountable to anyone but himself. Now that Arpaio has been pardoned, his place in the pantheon of constitutional sheriffs is secure. And his view of American law and history—one shared by kindred spirits, and one that menaces not just federal law but the Constitution itself—just got a troubling endorsement from the president of the United States.”
“Sheriff Joe” isn’t a great American as Trump falsely claims. To use Trump’s own term, Sheriff Joe is one “bad hombre” out to destroy America. And, Trump is the biggest threat to the U.S. Constitution in my lifetime. He is a living violation of his oath of Office.
“Trump’s immigration crackdown hits Vietnam
Inside the case of one man who feared torture because of his Montagnard roots, but was deported last month.
By DAVID ROGERS 08/14/2017 05:39 AM EDT
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President Donald Trump’s “get tough” approach to immigration is now impacting — of all people — the Montagnard hill tribesmen who fought alongside the Green Berets in the Vietnam War.
The son of one such Montagnard veteran was deported back to Vietnam in July, a stunning move for many in the refugee community because of their history in the war and the continued evidence of political and economic mistreatment of Montagnards in Vietnam.
. . . .
The case captures all the twists and turns in the U.S. immigration system, compounded by pressure from the White House for quick results. No one emerges looking all good or all bad, but the outcome shows a remarkable blindness to history.
Nothing reveals this better, perhaps, than the exchanges between judge and defendant during a brief immigration court proceeding in June 2016, when Chuh was first ordered deported.
At that time, Chuh was being held at an ICE detention facility in Irwin County, Georgia. He had completed a state prison term for a first-time felony conviction in North Carolina related to trafficking in the synthetic drug MDMA, commonly called “ecstasy.” He remained without legal counsel and had to speak back-and forth by video conference with U.S. Immigration Court Judge William A. Cassidy of Atlanta, about 180 miles away.
POLITICO obtained a digital audiotape of the proceeding from the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act. The entire hearing ran just 5 minutes, 2 seconds, and the two men, Cassidy and Chuh, might have been ships passing in the night.
Chuh told Cassidy that he feared torture if he were sent back to Vietnam. But following the misguided advice of fellow detainees, he hurt his own cause by rejecting the judge’s offers to give him more time to find an attorney and seek protection.
On the other side, Cassidy, a former prosecutor, did not probe why Chuh feared torture. In fact, the judge showed no sign of knowing he was dealing with a Montagnard defendant and not the typical Vietnamese national.
Time and again, Cassidy incorrectly addressed Chuh as “A. Chuh” — not realizing that the A is Chuh’s single-letter last name and a telltale sign of his Montagnard heritage. The process was so rushed that Cassidy inadvertently told Chuh “Buenos dias” before correcting himself at the end.
Most striking, the word Montagnard is never heard in the entire tape. Its origins are French, a remnant of Vietnam’s colonial past and meaning, roughly, “people of the mountain.”
Over the years, the Montagnard label has been applied broadly to several indigenous ethnic groups concentrated in the Central Highlands and with their own distinct languages and customs. They share a hunger for greater autonomy in Vietnam and have been willing to side with outsiders, like the French and later Americans, to try to get it. At the same time, Vietnam’s dominant ethnic Kinh population has long treated the hill tribes as second-class citizens. Regardless of who has ruled Vietnam, the record is often one of suspicion and mistreatment toward the Montagnards.
The Montagnards’ strategic location in the Highlands, however, has long made them an asset in times of war. And beginning early in the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency and Green Berets recruited tribesmen to collect intelligence and disrupt enemy supply lines.
Chuh’s 71-year-old father, Tony Ngiu, assisted in this U.S. effort, but paid dearly later when he was sentenced to nine years in reeducation camps and hard labor by the victorious North. He was able to come to the U.S. in 1998 with much of his family, including Chuh, then a boy of about 13.
Like many Montagnards, he settled in North Carolina, which is also home to military installations used by the Green Berets, more formally known as U.S. Army Special Forces. But because Chuh was 18 by the time his father became a full citizen, he did not derive automatic citizenship himself.
“I am very, very sad,” Ngiu said. “I want them to send my son home so he can take care of his children.”
Read Rogers’s much longer full article at the link.
It’s not surprising that this case arose in the oft-criticized Atlanta Immigration Court where due process is routinely subordinated to achieving high levels of rapid removals. Unfortunately, as Jason Dzubow pointed out in a blog on The Asylumist that I previously featured, “We are all in Atlanta now!”
Additionally, the SPLC has documented that notwithstanding earlier complaints, EOIR has done little or nothing to stop the unprofessional conduct and anti-migrant bias demonstrated by some of the U.S. Immigration Judges at the Stewart, GA Immigration Court.
Indeed, it appears that the Trump-Sessions group actually likes the focus on assembly-line removals without much regard for fairness or due process that they have seen coming out of the Atlanta Court. After all, it produces high numbers of final orders of removal which, according to the latest EOIR press release, has replaced guaranteeing fairness and due process as the objective of the U.S. Immigration Courts. As Jason Dzubow noted in the above-linked blog, the Administration has rewarded those who have learned how due process is denied in Atlanta with key positions at DHS and EOIR.
And, training and continuing legal education for Immigration Judges was one of the earliest casualties of the “Sessions era” at the DOJ. If the message from on high is “move ’em all out asap” — preferably by in absentia hearings without any due process or in hearings conducted in detention with the migrants unrepresented — why would any judge need training in the law, due process, or preparing carefully constructed judicial opinions?
Harken back to the days of the Bush II Administration. After Ashcroft’s “purge of the BIA” and following 9-11, some Immigration Judges and Board Members assumed that it was “open season” on migrants. How many removal orders were being churned out and how fast they were being completed became more important that what was being done (or more properly, what corners were being cut) to produce the final orders.
As the work of the BIA and the Immigration Courts deteriorated and became sloppier and sloppier, and as the incidents of Immigration Judges’ being rude, belligerent, and generally unprofessional to the individuals and private attorneys coming before them mounted, the Article III Federal Courts pushed back. Published opinions began “blistering” the performance of individual Immigration Judges and BIA Members by name, some prominent Federal Judges on both the conservative and liberal sides of the equation began speaking out in the media, and the media and the internet featured almost daily stories of the breakdown of professionalism in the U.S. Immigration Courts. The Courts of Appeals also remanded BIA final orders, many of which summarily affirmed problematic Immigration Court rulings, by the droves, effectively bringing the Bush Administration’s “deportation express” to a grinding halt as the BIA was forced to further remand the cases to the Immigration Courts for “do-overs.”
Finally, it became too much for then Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Although Gonzalez will hardly go down in history as a notable champion of due process, he finally issued what was basically a “cease and desist order” to the BIA and the Immigration Judges. Unfortunately, rather than admitting the primary role of the DOJ and the Administration in the disaster, and changing some of the DOJ policies and procedures that contributed to the problem, Gonzalez effectively chose to blame the whole debacle on the Immigration Judges, including those who didn’t participate in the “round ’em up and move ’em out” spectacle spawned by Administration policies. Gonzalez ordered some reforms in professionalism, discipline, and training which had some shot term effects in improving due process, and particularly the results for asylum seekers, in Immigration Court.
But, by the present time, EOIR has basically returned to the “numbers over quality and due process” emphasis. The recent EOIR press release touting increased removals (not surprisingly grants of relief to migrants decreased at the same time) in response to the President’s immigration enforcement initiatives clearly shows this changed emphasis.
Also, as Rogers notes in his article, the BIA and some Immigration Judges often apply an “ahistorical” approach under which the lessons of history are routinely ignored. Minor, often cosmetic, changes such as meaningless or ineffective reforms in statutes and constitutions, appointment of ombudsmen, peace treaties, cease fires, and pledges to clean up corruption and human rights abuses (often issued largely to placate Western Governments and NGOs to keep the foreign aid money flowing) are viewed by the BIA and Immigration Judges as making immediate “material improvements” in country conditions in asylum cases, although the lessons of history and common sense say otherwise.
Sadly, the past appears to be prologue in the U.S. Immigration Courts. It’s past time for Congress to create and independent, Article I U.S. Immigration Court.
“President Trump’s condemnation of his own attorney general may seem bizarre and unprecedented, but here’s something many in America’s gobsmacked chattering class are forgetting: The vaunted independence of the Justice Department took over a century to build, and it’s a far more fragile institution than we realize.
The spectacle of Trump attacking Jeff Sessions, one of his earliest and most stalwart supporters, as “beleaguered” and “unfair” is certainly jarring. The president seemingly cannot help but vent his frustration over the attorney general’s decision to step aside in the Department of Justice’s probe into Russian election interference—a step that led indirectly to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. If Sessions “would have recused himself before the job,” Trump told the (“failing”) New YorkTimes. “I would have said ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’”
The prospect that the president might fire Sessions, whose immigration policies and draconian approach to law enforcement are anathema to the left, places Democrats in an unusual position. They despise the attorney general but find themselves bound to protect the independence of his office. But the real test lies with Republicans, who have largely looked the other way as Trump has laid waste to one political norm after another. Will they draw a sharp line in the sand, or bury their heads in it?
It took well over a century for the office of the attorney general to accrue the very power and independence that Trump now stands poised to blow up. Originally a minor position with little authority or autonomy, over the years the AG emerged as the nation’s top law enforcement official and a key adviser to the president. The office withstood considerable strain in the latter quarter of the 20th century. But like so many civic institutions today, it is imperiled precisely because it is largely the product of traditions, and administrative rules that capture those traditions, rather than permanent statutes or laws. Once broken, it may not be so easily reassembled.”
Read the complete article, which contains a fascinating short history of the DOJ, at the link.
Washington was, in fact, built on swampland with Tiber Creek running through it. I’m sort of expecting that the old swamp will just open up again some day and swallow Trump and the whole corrupt mess surrounding him.
“The deconstruction of the State Department is well underway.
I recently returned to Foggy Bottom for the first time since January 20 to attend the departure of a former colleague and career midlevel official—something that had sadly become routine. In my six years at State as a political appointee, under the Obama administration, I had gone to countless of these events. They usually followed a similar pattern: slightly awkward, but endearing formalities, a sense of melancholy at the loss of a valued teammate. But, in the end, a rather jovial celebration of a colleague’s work. These events usually petered out quickly, since there is work to do. At the State Department, the unspoken mantra is: The mission goes on, and no one is irreplaceable. But this event did not follow that pattern. It felt more like a funeral, not for the departing colleague, but for the dying organization they were leaving behind.
As I made the rounds and spoke with usually buttoned-up career officials, some who I knew well, some who I didn’t, from a cross section of offices covering various regions and functions, no one held back. To a person, I heard that the State Department was in “chaos,” “a disaster,” “terrible,” the leadership “totally incompetent.” This reflected what I had been hearing the past few months from friends still inside the department, but hearing it in rapid fire made my stomach churn. As I walked through the halls once stalked by diplomatic giants like Dean Acheson and James Baker, the deconstruction was literally visible. Furniture from now-closed offices crowded the hallways. Dropping in on one of my old offices, I expected to see a former colleague—a career senior foreign service officer—but was stunned to find out she had been abruptly forced into retirement and had departed the previous week. This office, once bustling, had just one person present, keeping on the lights.
This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.
When Rex Tillerson was announced as secretary of state, there was a general feeling of excitement and relief in the department. After eight years of high-profile, jet-setting secretaries, the building was genuinely looking forward to having someone experienced in corporate management. Like all large, sprawling organizations, the State Department’s structure is in perpetual need of an organizational rethink. That was what was hoped for, but that is not what is happening. Tillerson is not reorganizing, he’s downsizing.
While the lack of senior political appointees has gotten a lot of attention, less attention has been paid to the hollowing out of the career workforce, who actually run the department day to day. Tillerson has canceled the incoming class of foreign service officers. This as if the Navy told all of its incoming Naval Academy officers they weren’t needed. Senior officers have been unceremoniously pushed out. Many saw the writing on the wall and just retired, and many others are now awaiting buyout offers. He has dismissed State’s equivalent of an officer reserve—retired FSOs, who are often called upon to fill State’s many short-term staffing gaps, have been sent home despite no one to replace them. Office managers are now told three people must depart before they can make one hire. And now Bloomberg reports that Tillerson is blocking all lateral transfers within the department, preventing staffers from moving to another office even if it has an opening. Managers can’t fill openings; employees feel trapped.
Despite all this, career foreign and civil service officers are all still working incredibly hard representing the United States internationally. They’re still doing us proud. But how do you manage multimillion-dollar programs with no people? Who do you send to international meetings and summits? Maybe, my former colleagues are discovering, you just can’t implement that program or show up to that meeting. Tillerson’s actions amount to a geostrategic own-goal, weakening America by preventing America from showing up.
State’s growing policy irrelevance and Tillerson’s total aversion to the experts in his midst is prompting the department’s rising stars to search for the exits. The private sector and the Pentagon are vacuuming them up. This is inflicting long-term damage to the viability of the American diplomacy—and things were already tough. State has been operating under an austerity budget for the past six years since the 2011 Budget Control Act. Therefore, when Tillerson cuts, he is largely cutting into bone, not fat. The next administration won’t simply be able to flip a switch and reverse the damage. It takes years to recruit and develop diplomatic talent. What Vietnam did to hollow out our military, Tillerson is doing to State.”
While Trump and his cronies fabricate security threats from refugees, Muslims, and immigrants (and, I guess we can now add “grandparents” to that list), the greatest threat to our national security is the Trump Administration itself and its toxic mix of arrogance, incompetence, ignorance, and disdain for America and all it has stood for.
“An abstract, in-case-of-emergency-break-glass executive order drafted by the Trump administration in March may become real-world applicable as the president, raging publicly at his Justice Department, mulls firing special counsel Robert Mueller.
Since taking office, the Trump administration has twice rewritten an executive order that outlines the order of succession at the Justice Department — once after President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend his travel ban, and then again two months later. The executive order outlines a list of who would be elevated to the position of acting attorney general if the person up the food chain recuses himself, resigns, gets fired or is no longer in a position to serve.
In the past, former Justice Department officials and legal experts said, the order of succession is no more than an academic exercise — a chain of command applicable only in the event of an attack or crisis when government officials are killed and it is not clear who should be in charge.
But Trump and the Russia investigation that is tightening around him have changed the game.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already recused himself from overseeing the investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russian operatives, after it was revealed that he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. And Trump started his morning on Friday by appearing to take a public shot at his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who has increasingly become the target of his impulsive anger.
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” the president tweeted.
The Justice Department said in a statement on Friday that there are no current plans for a recusal, but Rosenstein has said in the past that he would back away from overseeing Mueller’s investigation if his role in the ouster of former FBI Director James Comey becomes a conflict.
That has legal experts closely examining the dry executive order to figure out who might be next up to bat, or, as Democratic lawyers and consultants view it, who might serve as Trump’s next sacrificial lamb.
“We know Rachel Brand is the next victim,” said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, referring to the former George W. Bush official who was recently confirmed as associate attorney general, the third-highest position in the Justice Department.
“For those of us who have high confidence in Rachel — the more confidence you have in someone in this role, the less long you think they’ll last,” said Wittes, who said he considers Brand a friend. “That does put a very high premium on the question of who is next.”
That question, however, has become more complicated because the Trump administration has been slow to fill government positions and get those officials confirmed. Typically, the solicitor general would be next in line after the associate attorney general, followed by the list of five assistant U.S. attorneys, the order of which would be determined by the attorney general. But none of those individuals have been confirmed by the Senate, and they would be unable to serve as acting attorney general without Senate confirmation.
Because of that, the executive order comes into play — one that puts next in line after Brand the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente. Boente, a career federal prosecutor and an appointee of former President Barack Obama, was tapped last April to serve as the interim head of the Justice Department’s national security division, which oversees the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Boente, who was briefly thrust into the no. 2 spot at the Justice Department after Yates was fired, was also tasked with phoning Preet Bharara, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to deliver the unexpected news that he was fired. At the time, Boente also vowed to defend Trump’s travel ban in the future.
Boente is followed, on the succession list, by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, John Stuart Bruce; and the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, John Parker. Both are career prosecutors who are serving in their posts on an interim basis, until a presidential appointment is made. But they would not need to be Senate confirmed to take over.”
Read Karni’s full article at the link. Meanwhile, over at Newsweek, Graham Lanktree speculates that Trump’s outside legal team is building a case against Mueller. But, that case appears to be totally bogus, a rather blatant attempt to obstruct and pervert justice, in the best (or worst) traditions of Richard Nixon. Many believe that the firing of Mueller would lead to the fall of Trump (either by impeachment or forced resignation) and the ushering in of President Mike Pence.
“Vice President Mike Pence will soon lead the U.S. if President Donald Trump fires Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller, a Bush administration ethics lawyer said Saturday.
Trump’s legal team and surrogates are “building a case for firing Mueller,” wrote Richard Painter in a tweet after he appeared on Fox News Saturday. Painter was President George W. Bush’s chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007.
“If that happens Mike Pence will soon become the 46th President,” Painter wrote. “Trump surrogates are making up Mueller ‘conflicts’ to justify firing him. That will be yet more obstruction of justice if it happens.”
. . . .
Friends of Trump said earlier this week that the president is considering firing Mueller. If that happens, legal scholars say, it would likely prompt the resignations of senior Department of Justice staff, reprisals from Congress, and resignation of White House staff. Painter argues that it could lead to impeachment.
“Mueller is absolutely not compromised by his professional relationship with Comey,” said Painter on Saturday. “This is just an effort to undermine the credibility of the special counsel.”
Stay tuned. Almost everyone except Trump and his “outside advisers” believes that firing Mueller would be suicidal. But, Trump appears to be unhinged and often doesn’t let rationality or prudence enter into his decision making. He’s managed to survive many self-destructive acts that would have spelled the end of the line for any other politician. But, this one might well bring him down.