FASCINATING “MUST READ:” “Dickie The P’s” Exit Interview With The NYT — See How Being A Judge Transformed A Conservative “Economic Analyst” Into A Pragmatic Humanist!

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/09/11/us/politics/judge-richard-posner-retirement.html?module=WatchingPortal®ion=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=thumb_square&state=standard&contentPlacement=1&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2017%2F09%2F11%2Fus%2Fpolitics%2Fjudge-richard-posner-retirement.html&eventName=Watching-article-click&_r=0&referer

KEY QUOTE:

“The basic thing is that most judges regard these people [unrepresented litigants] as kind of trash not worth the time of a federal judge,” he said.”

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Read the full, very revealing interview at the above link.

I do hope that Judge P will turn his attention and boundless energy to the way that unrepresented litigants are routinely mistreated, denied due process, and abused in our U.S. immigration Court system. Children forced to present their own asylum claims? He could also shed some needed light on how the DOJ is intentionally attacking and wearing down the NGOs and pro bono attorneys, who are indigent migrants’ sole lifeline to due process, with Aimless Docket Reshuffling (“ADR”).

I was interested in how he described the staff attorney system in the 7th Circuit as placing the real adjuducation of appeals in the hands of staff, with Article III Judges all too often merely “signing off” or “rubber stamping” results. Most Circuit Court staff attorney systems were instituted to deal with the overwhelming flow of petitions to review BIA decisions following the so-called “Ashcroft Purge and Reforms” that largely eliminated critical thinking and dialogue at the BIA and turned it into the “Falls Church Service Center.”

The current BIA is largely a staff-driven organization. That the Article III Courts have replicated the same system resulting in the same problems is disturbing, and shows why due process for migrants is being given short shrift throughout our legal system.

The good news: The New Due Process Army knows what’s going on in the system and is positioned to carry the fight to the entrenched status quo, for decades if necessary, until our legal system delivers on the constitutional guarantee of due process for all.

Many thanks to my good friend and colleague Judge Dorothy Harbeck for sending this item my way!

PWS

09-11-17

DOJ’s Location Of U.S. Immigration Courts At Obscure Detention Locations Helps DHS To Deny Due Process, Punish Lawyers!

https://www.propublica.org/article/immigrants-in-detention-centers-are-often-hundreds-of-miles-from-legal-help

Patrick G. Lee writes in ProPublica:

“One morning in February, lawyer Marty Rosenbluth set off from his Hillsborough, North Carolina, home to represent two anxious clients in court. He drove about eight hours southwest, spent the night in a hotel and then got up around 6 a.m. to make the final 40-minute push to his destination: a federal immigration court and detention center in the tiny rural Georgia town of Lumpkin.

During two brief hearings over two days, Rosenbluth said, he convinced an immigration judge to grant both of his new clients more time to assess their legal options to stay in the United States. Then he got in his car and drove the 513 miles back home.

“Without an attorney, it’s almost impossible to win your case in the immigration courts. You don’t even really know what to say or what the standards are,” said Rosenbluth, who works for a private law firm and took on the cases for a fee. “You may have a really, really good case. But you simply can’t package it in a way that the court can understand.”

His clients that day were lucky. Only 6 percent of the men held at the Lumpkin complex — a 2,001-bed detention center and immigration court — have legal representation, according to a 2015 study in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Nationwide, it’s not much better, the study of data from October 2006 to September 2012 found: Just 14 percent of detainees have lawyers.

That percentage is likely to get even smaller under the Trump administration, which has identified 21,000 potential new detention beds to add to the approximately 40,000 currently in use. In January, President Trump signed an executive order telling the secretary of homeland security, who oversees the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, to “immediately” start signing contracts for detention centers and building new ones.

If history is any guide, many of those facilities will end up in places like Lumpkin, population 2,741. The city’s small downtown has a courthouse, the police department, a couple of restaurants and a Dollar General. There’s no hotel and many of the nearest immigration lawyers are based 140 miles away in Atlanta.

“It’s been a strategic move by ICE to construct detention centers in rural areas,” said Amy Fischer, policy director for RAICES, a San Antonio-based nonprofit that supports on-site legal aid programs at two Texas facilities for detained families. “Even if the money is there, it’s very difficult to set up a pro bono network when you’re geographically three hours away from a big city.”
ICE currently oversees a network of about 200 facilities, jails, processing centers and former prisons where immigrants can be held, according to a government list from February.

Unlike criminal defendants, most immigrants in deportation proceedings are not entitled to government-appointed lawyers because their cases are deemed civil matters. Far from free legal help and with scant financial resources, the majority of detainees take their chances solo, facing off against federal lawyers before judges saddled with full dockets of cases. Frequently they must use interpreters.

An ICE spokesman denied that detention facilities are purposely opened in remote locations to limit attorney access. “Any kind of detention center, due to zoning and other factors, they are typically placed in the outskirts of a downtown area,” said spokesman Bryan Cox. “ICE is very supportive and very accommodating in terms of individuals who wish to have representation and ensuring that they have the adequate ability to do so.” At Lumpkin’s Stewart Detention Center, for instance, lawyers can schedule hourlong video teleconferences with detainees, Cox said.

But a ProPublica review found that access to free or low-cost legal counsel was limited at many centers. Government-funded orientation programs, which exist at a few dozen detention locations, typically include self-help workshops, group presentations on the immigration court process, brief one-on-one consultations and pro bono referrals, but they stop short of providing direct legal representation. And a list of pro bono legal service providers distributed by the courts includes many who don’t take the cases of detainees at all. Those that do can often only take a limited number — perhaps five to 10 cases at a time.

The legal help makes a difference. Across the country, 21 percent of detained immigrants who had lawyers won their deportation cases, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review study found, compared to just 2 percent of detainees without a lawyer. The study also found that 48 percent of detainees who had lawyers were released from detention while their cases were pending, compared to 7 percent of those who lacked lawyers.

Legal counsel can also speed up the process for those detainees with no viable claims to stay in the country, experts said. A discussion with a lawyer might prompt the detainee to cut his losses and opt for voluntary departure, avoiding a pointless legal fight and the taxpayer-funded costs of detention.

Lawmakers in some states, such as New York and California, have stepped in to help, pledging taxpayer money toward providing lawyers for immigrants who can’t afford their own. But such help only aids those detainees whose deportation cases are assigned to courts in those areas.

“What brings good results is access to family and access to counsel and access to evidence, and when you’re in a far off location without those things, the likelihood of ICE winning and the person being denied due process increase dramatically,” said Conor Gleason, an immigration attorney at The Bronx Defenders in New York.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

Lumpkin is “at the outskirts” of what “downtown area?” Don’t all major metro areas have “metropolitan correctional centers,” city jails, county jails, or some equivalent located near the courts and hub of legal activities for criminal defendants awaiting trial? Why are civil detainees allowed to be treated this way?

For far too long, under AGs from both parties, the DOJ has participated in this disingenuous charade designed to promote removals over due process. Because cases often have to be continued for lawyers, even where none is likely to be found, the procedure actually adds to detention costs in many cases.  Why not house only those with final orders awaiting removal or with pending appeals at places like Lumpkin? Why don’t the BIA and Courts of Appeals rule that intentionally detaining individuals where they cannot realistically exercise their “right to be represented by counsel of their own choosing” is a denial of due process?

Look for the situation to get much worse under Sessions, who envisions an “American Gulag” where detention rules as part of his program to demonize migrants by treating them all as “dangerous criminals.”

Meanwhile, as I pointed in a recent panel discussion at AYUDA, the only part of the immigration system over which the private sector has any control or influence these days is promoting due process by providing more pro bono lawyers for migrants. Eventually, if those efforts are persistent enough, the Government might be forced to change its approach.

PWS

05-18-17

IMMIGRATIONPROF BLOG: Three Cheers For NY! — State Becomes First To Guarantee Representation For All Detained Immigrants!

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2017/04/new-york-state-becomes-first-in-the-nation-to-provide-lawyers-for-all-immigrants-detained-and-facing.html

Dean Kevin Johnson writes:

“The Vera Institute of Justice and partner organizations today announced that detained New Yorkers in all upstate immigration courts will now be eligible to receive legal counsel during deportation proceedings. The 2018 New York State budget included a grant of $4 million to significantly expand the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), a groundbreaking public defense program for immigrants facing deportation that was launched in New York City in 2013.

New York has become the first state to ensure that no immigrant will be detained and permanently separated from his or her family solely because of the inability to afford a lawyer. Without counsel, a study shows, only 3% of detained, unrepresented immigrants avoid deportation, but providing public defenders can improve an immigrant’s chance of winning and remaining in the United States by as much as 1000%.

NYIFUP has been operating in two of the four affected upstate immigration courts on a limited basis since 2014 with funding from the New York State Assembly and the IDC. In the just-ended fiscal year, the funding was sufficient to meet less than 20% of the need upstate. In New York City, NYIFUP has been representing all financially eligible, otherwise unrepresented detained immigrants since 2014 with funding from the City Council.

Research has shown that keeping immigrant families together saves money for the state’s taxpayers in increased tax revenues and less need for families left behind to draw on the social safety net. New York State employers also receive significant economic benefits from avoiding the loss of productivity when their employees are detained and deported, and the consequent need to identify and train replacement workers.

The first public defender program in the country for immigrants facing deportation, the NYIFUP Coalition includes Vera, the Immigration Justice Clinic of Cardozo Law School, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Make the Road New York, and The Center for Popular Democracy. The Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project is a NYIFUP Coalition partner upstate. Brooklyn Defender Services, the Legal Aid Society, and The Bronx Defenders are Coalition partners in New York City.

Several cities and states, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and California have recently begun efforts to design similar programs.”

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Good for New York! I hope that other states follow suit.

Representation is the most important contribution that those “outside the system” can make to improving due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts. And, nowhere is it needed more than in often out of the way detention centers. As noted in the article, there is no doubt that representation makes a difference in outcome — a huge difference.

In fact, the statistical difference is so great that one might think that those officials responsible for the U.S. Immigration Court system would long ago have determined that no case could proceed in accordance with due process unless and until the respondent had a lawyer. But, that would be some other place, some other time.

In the meantime, let’s all be thankful for the outstanding example that New York has set!

PWS

04/10/17

 

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

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

Beth Fertig writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

01/20/17