REUTERS TV: Administration’s Newest Enforcement Tool Against Legal Workers: Use Mountains Of Bureaucratic Red Tape To Hamper The H-1B Program! — Also Welcoming Yeganeh Torbati To The Reuters Immigration Beat!

http://www.reuters.tv/v/VbW/2017/09/20/red-tape-ties-up-h-1b-visas-for-skilled-foreign-workers

Hit the above link to see and hear Yeganeh’s report!

Who would have thought that a supposedly pro-business GOP Administration would be thinking of ways to tie-up American businesses in regulatory red tape? Bureaucratic red tape is, of course, one of DHS’s traditional areas of expertise! So, the Administration has found the guys with the “right stuff” for the job!

Congrats again to Yeganeh on taking over as Reuters Immigration Reporter from Julia Edwards Ainsley, who is now over at NBC! The beat goes on! Looking forward to lots more great immigration reporting from Yeganeh!

PWS

09-20-17

 

9th Stuffs Hawaii On Travel Ban 2.0 — No Jurisdiction!

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/341072-hawaii-loses-final-appeal-to-narrow-scope-of-travel-ban

Alicia Cohn reports in The Hill:

“Hawaii must wait on the Supreme Court to rule on President Trump’s so-called travel ban after losing a Friday appeal on an emergency motion to narrow the scope of the ban.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled it does not have jurisdiction to clarify the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding the ban, Reuters reported.

The Supreme Court last month granted the Trump administration’s request to implement part of the travel ban meant to temporarily block people from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The ban as currently implemented prevents travelers from six predominately Muslim countries entering the country if they lack a “bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States.”

Trump called the Supreme Court order a “clear victory for our national security.”

Hawaii challenged the ban in its current form this week, asking the U.S. District Court of the District of Hawaii to narrow its scope to define “bona fide relationship.” The state called it “preposterous” that the phrase does not appear to include fiances or grandparents.

However, a federal court judge said the state will have to turn to the Supreme Court for clarity.

“Because plaintiffs seek clarification of the June 26, 2017 injunction modifications authored by the Supreme Court, clarification should be sought there, not here,” District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson of the District Court of the District of Hawaii wrote.

Hawaii then filed an appeal Friday that was also denied.

The Supreme Court will hear the travel ban case when it returns for the fall term, which begins in October.”

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

Looks like the DHS definitions will remain in effect at least until the Fall.

 

PWS

07-09-17

 

 

U.S. District Judge Stops DHS From Deporting Iraqis Arrested In Recent Bust!

Continue reading U.S. District Judge Stops DHS From Deporting Iraqis Arrested In Recent Bust!

REUTERS: Neither Rhyme Nor Reason Apparent In DHS Decisions to Undo Prosecutorial Discretion

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-deportations-exclusiv-idUSKBN1902I4

Mica Rosenberg and  Reade Levinson report from Reuters:

“In September 2014, Gilberto Velasquez, a 38-year-old house painter from El Salvador, received life-changing news: The U.S. government had decided to shelve its deportation action against him.

The move was part of a policy change initiated by then-President Barack Obama in 2011 to pull back from deporting immigrants who had formed deep ties in the United States and whom the government considered no threat to public safety. Instead, the administration would prioritize illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes.

Last month, things changed again for the painter, who has lived in the United States illegally since 2005 and has a U.S.-born child. He received news that the government wanted to put his deportation case back on the court calendar, citing another shift in priorities, this time by President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has moved to reopen the cases of hundreds of illegal immigrants who, like Velasquez, had been given a reprieve from deportation, according to government data and court documents reviewed by Reuters and interviews with immigration lawyers.

Trump signaled in January that he planned to dramatically widen the net of illegal immigrants targeted for deportation, but his administration has not publicized its efforts to reopen immigration cases.

It represents one of the first concrete examples of the crackdown promised by Trump and is likely to stir fears among tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who thought they were safe from deportation.

While cases were reopened during the Obama administration as well, it was generally only if an immigrant had committed a serious crime, immigration attorneys say. The Trump administration has sharply increased the number of cases it is asking the courts to reopen, and its targets appear to include at least some people who have not committed any crimes since their cases were closed.

Between March 1 and May 31, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases, according to a Reuters’ analysis of data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review, or EOIR. The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions during the same period in 2016.

Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the agency was now filing motions with immigration courts to reopen cases where illegal immigrants had “since been arrested for or convicted of a crime.”

It is not possible to tell from the EOIR data how many of the cases the Trump administration is seeking to reopen involve immigrants who committed crimes after their cases were closed.

Attorneys interviewed by Reuters say indeed some of the cases being reopened are because immigrants were arrested for serious crimes, but they are also seeing cases involving people who haven’t committed crimes or who were cited for minor violations, like traffic tickets.

“This is a sea change, said attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Before, if someone did something after the case was closed out that showed that person was a threat, then it would be reopened. Now they are opening cases just because they want to deport people.”

Elzea said the agency reviews cases, “to see if the basis for prosecutorial discretion is still appropriate.”

 

POLICY SHIFTS

After Obama announced his shift toward targeting illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes, prosecutors embraced their new discretion to close cases.

Between January 2012 and Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, the government shelved some 81,000 cases, according to Reuters’ data analysis. These so-called “administrative closures” did not extend full legal status to those whose cases were closed, but they did remove the threat of imminent deportation.

Trump signed an executive order overturning the Obama-era policy on Jan. 25. Under the new guidelines, while criminals remain the highest priority for deportation, anyone in the country illegally is a potential target.

In cases reviewed by Reuters, the administration explicitly cited Trump’s executive order in 30 separate motions as a reason to put the immigrant back on the court docket. (For a link to an excerpted document: tmsnrt.rs/2sI6aby)

Since immigration cases aren’t generally public, Reuters was able to review only cases made available by attorneys.

In the 32 reopened cases examined by Reuters:

–22 involved immigrants who, according to their attorneys, had not been in trouble with the law since their cases were closed.

–Two of the cases involved serious crimes committed after their cases were closed: domestic violence and driving under the influence.

–At least six of the cases involved minor infractions, including speeding after having unpaid traffic tickets, or driving without a valid license, according to the attorneys.

In Velasquez’s case, for example, he was cited for driving without a license in Tennessee, where illegal immigrants cannot get licenses, he said.

“I respect the law and just dedicate myself to my work,” he said. “I don’t understand why this is happening.”

Motions to reopen closed cases have been filed in 32 states, with the highest numbers in California, Florida and Virginia, according to Reuters’ review of EOIR data. The bulk of the examples reviewed by Reuters were two dozen motions sent over the span of a couple days by the New Orleans ICE office.

 

PUMPKIN SEED ARREST

Sally Joyner, an immigration attorney in Memphis, Tennessee said one of her Central American clients, who crossed the border with her children in 2013, was allowed to stay in the United States after the government filed a motion to close her case in December 2015.

Since crossing the border, the woman has not been arrested or had trouble with law enforcement, said Joyner, who asked that her client’s name not be used because of the pending legal action.

Nevertheless, on March 29, ICE filed a two-page motion to reopen the case against the woman and her children. When Joyner queried ICE, an official said the agency had been notified that her client had a criminal history in El Salvador, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The woman had been arrested for selling pumpkin seeds as an unauthorized street vendor. Government documents show U.S. authorities knew about the arrest before her case was closed.

Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said that revisiting previously closed matters will add to a record backlog of 580,000 pending immigration cases.

“If we have to go back and review all of those decisions that were already made, it clearly generates more work,” she said. “It’s a judicial do-over.”

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

I remember that during his confirmation hearings in the Senate, Secretary Kelly came across as someone who understood law enforcement priorities and the futility of “enforcement for enforcement’s sake.” But the “hallmarks” of the “Kelly DHS” have  been arbitrary and irrational enforcement, lack of transparency, lack of planning, general disregard of humane values, disrespect for migrants, waste of taxpayer dollars, and gross abuse of the U.S. Immigration Court’s docket.

PWS

06-09-17

REUTERS: Mica Rosenberg Reports On Trump’s “Under The Radar” Plan To Bar “Freedom Fighters” & “Victims Of Terrorism” From The U.S.!

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-terrorism-exceptions-idUSKBN17N13C

Mica and Yegenah Torbati report:

“Now the Trump administration is debating whether to rescind the waivers that have allowed Raj, and tens of thousands of others, to immigrate to the United States in the past decade (See graphic on waivers: tmsnrt.rs/2oPssIo). Some immigration hardliners are concerned the exemptions could allow terrorists to slip into the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump directed the secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the attorney general, to consider abolishing the waivers in an executive order in March. That directive was overshadowed by the same order’s temporary ban on all refugees and on travelers from six mostly Muslim nations.

The bans on refugees and travel were challenged in lawsuits, and their implementation has been suspended pending full hearings in court. But the waiver review was not included in the court rulings, so that part of the order remains in effect.

Rules governing the waivers have been hammered out over the last decade with both Democratic and Republican support. But in recent years they have drawn fire from some conservative lawmakers, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was a senator.

A State Department official said this week the department is working with DHS to review the waivers and is “looking at actually pulling them back in accordance with the executive order.”

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to give details on the timing of the review or its likely outcome. The Department of Justice declined to comment.

KURDS, KAREN, HMONG

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Congress expanded the definition of who could be considered a terrorist and what constituted “material support” to terrorism in rules now known as the Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds.

Those changes ensnared people like Raj who were coerced or inadvertently provided support to terrorists, as well as members of persecuted ethnic groups that supported rebel organizations, and even U.S.-allied groups fighting against authoritarian regimes.

Without an exemption, members of Kurdish groups that battled Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq, Hmong groups who fought alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam, or some Cubans who fought Fidel Castro’s regime would not be allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Under the exemptions, U.S. authorities have the discretion to grant people residency in the United States after they have passed background checks and are found to pose no threat to national security.

Congress initially passed waivers to the terrorism bars in 2007 with bipartisan support, and in the years that followed both the Bush and Obama administrations added additional groups and circumstances to the exemptions.

“PHANTOM PROBLEM”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has granted nearly 22,000 TRIG exemptions in total over the last decade, according to the latest data available, which goes through September 2016. The State Department also grants TRIG exemptions, but a spokesman could not provide data on how many.

Refugees from Myanmar are the largest single group of beneficiaries to date of TRIG exemptions granted by USCIS, with more than 6,700 waivers.

The wave of Myanmar refugees dates to 2006, when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled that thousands of members of the Karen ethnic group, then living in a camp in Thailand, could resettle in the United States, even if they had supported the political wing of an armed group that had fought the country’s military regime.

One high-profile supporter of scrapping the waivers is House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia whose staffers were instrumental in drafting Trump’s travel ban. Goodlatte told Reuters he was “pleased that the Trump Administration is reviewing the dangerous policy.”

Groups favoring stricter immigration laws have also applauded the review. Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations at NumbersUSA, called the waivers “a potential security risk.”

“I personally don’t think that a bureaucrat should be deciding how much support for terrorism is enough to be barred,” she said.

A USCIS spokeswoman, when asked if a recipient of an exemption had ever been involved in a terrorism-related case after arriving in the United States, referred Reuters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said it was a question for the State Department to answer.

“I don’t know of any cases where beneficiaries of exemptions have gotten into trouble after arriving,” the State Department official said, noting that the department does not typically track people after they arrive in the United States.

Trump’s order to review the waivers “is another example of an attempt to address a non-existent phantom problem,” said Eric Schwartz, who served in the State Department during the Obama administration.

Schwartz and immigration advocates say the waivers are granted after lengthy review and are extremely difficult to get.

“These are case-by-case exemptions for people who represent no threat to the United States but rather have been caught in the most unfortunate of circumstances,” said Schwartz.

For Raj, the initial ruling that his ransom payment supported a terrorist group led to more than two years in U.S. immigration detention, followed by more years of electronic monitoring. His waiver allowed him to bring his wife to the United States after nine years apart. She now studies nursing.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington; Additional reporting by Julia Edwards in Washington and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Editing by Sue Horton and Ross Colvin)”

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

Just to illustrate the lunacy of the already over-broad definition of “terrorist,” all of our “founding fathers” would be “terrorists” under this definition.

I heard a number of so-called”terrorist cases” over my time as a trial judge at the Arlington Immigration Court. A few of the folks on the detained docket (during the years I was assigned to that docket) might have potentially been dangerous.

But, most so-called “terrorists” were basically harmless individuals who actually appeared on my non-detained docket even during the “last years” when I was handling the “non-priority docket” (which was actually the overwhelming majority of cases at Arlington).

Most were folks who had supposedly provided “material support” like giving a ride to a rebel who commandeered the respondent’s car at gun point, carrying supply bags a few miles for guerrillas under threat of death, allowing rebels to ransack the family kitchen at gunpoint (sometimes called the “taco rule”), or giving money to a dissident group that was actually being supported by the U.S. in a battle against an oppressive government” (otherwise referred to as “freedom fighters”).

Most of them had lived in the U.S. for years without incident and were stunned to find out that being a victim of terrorism or helping a dissident group that the U.S. supported could be a bar to immigration. For example, anyone assisting rebels in the fight against the Assad Government or against ISIS would be considered a “terrorist” by our definition. And, ask yourself, why would any “real” terrorist have appeared on my non-detained, non-priority docket?

Of course, as a mere Immigration Judge I could not grant the “waiver” discussed in Mica’s article. But, I was required to make essentially an “advisory holding” that “but for” the “terrorist bar” I would have granted the respondent’s application.

I am aware that some of the cases I handled were referred to USCIS by the Office of Chief Counsel (the respondent can’t initiate the waiver process on her or his own) and eventually granted. Thereafter, I “vacated” on “joint motion” the removal order I had previously entered against the respondent. The whole process seemed convoluted.

Just another example of how the xenophobes in the Trump Administration are wasting time and taxpayer money making an already bad situation even worse.

A further example of how pointless the “terrorist bar” is in it’s current form: many of the individuals covered by the bar would also be entitled to “Deferral of Removal” under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The “terrorist bar” can’t be applied to “CAT deferral.” Therefore, individuals who are denied asylum but qualify for CAT deferral can’t be removed from the country. In effect, all that the terrorist bar does in such cases is keep individuals who are no threat to the U.S. in “limbo,” rather than allowing them to regularize their immigration status.

PWS

04-21-17

 

 

REUTERS: Has Trump Won The Border War Without Firing A Shot? — Is Discouraging Women & Children Threatened In The Northern Triangle From Seeking Refuge In The U.S. Something Of Which We Should be Proud?

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-mothers-insight-idUSKBN17F23M?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Social

Julia Edwards Ainsley reports:

“President Donald Trump has won the first major battle in his war on illegal immigration, and he did it without building his wall.

The victory was announced last week by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which released figures showing a 93 percent drop since December of parents and children caught trying to cross the Mexico border illegally.

In December, 16,000 parents and children were apprehended; in March, a month in which immigration typically increases because of temperate weather, the number was just over 1,100.

It was a remarkable decline – steeper than the 72 percent drop in overall apprehensions – but for eight DHS officials interviewed by Reuters it was not surprising.

Trump has spoken about the need to crack down broadly on all illegal immigrants. But, internally, according to the DHS officials familiar with the department’s strategy, his administration has focused on one immigrant group more than others: women with children, the fastest growing demographic of illegal immigrants. This planning has not been previously reported.

In the months since Trump’s inauguration, DHS has rolled out a range of policies aimed at discouraging women from attempting to cross the border, including tougher initial hurdles for asylum claims and the threat of prosecuting parents if they hire smugglers to get their families across the border.

The department has also floated proposals such as separating women and children at the border.

DHS Secretary John Kelly told a Senate hearing on April 5 that the sharp drop in illegal immigration, especially among women and children, was due to Trump’s tough policies.

To date, it has been the threat of new policies rather than their implementation that has suppressed family migration.

Mothers and children aren’t being separated – and DHS has shelved the plan; parents haven’t been prosecuted, and there is no wall along most of the border. Yet the number of migrants trying to cross – especially women and children – has dropped drastically.

Asked to comment on the policy of targeting women with children, DHS spokesman Jonathan Hoffman referenced the March drop, saying, “Those were 15,000 women and children who did not put themselves at risk of death and assault from smugglers to make the trip north.”

The White House declined to comment and referred Reuters to DHS.

For months, Central Americans had heard about Trump’s get-tough policies. And public service announcements on radio and television presented bleak pictures of what awaited those who traveled north. Some of the ads were funded by the United States, others by United Nations agencies and regional governments.

One radio ad in Honduras featured a mother, saying, “It’s been a year and I don’t know if she is alive or dead. I’d do anything to have her here with me. Curse the day I sent her north.”

The possibility that mothers and children might be separated at the border caused particular alarm, Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Maria Andrea Matamoros told Reuters

“That worries any mother that wants to go to the United States with their kid, and being separated drastically changes their plans,” she said.

. . . .

After Kelly’s confirmation as Homeland Security chief in late January, several members of the original working group stepped into key roles at DHS. Gene Hamilton, who had worked for then Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, became senior counselor to Kelly, and Dimple Shah, who had been staff director of the House National Security Subcommittee, became deputy general counsel.

Kathy Nuebel-Kovarik, formerly a staffer for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, became policy chief at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Julie Kirchner left her position as executive director of the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform to become a top policy adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

None of the group’s members agreed to be interviewed by Reuters. Several DHS officials said that in their new roles they continued to focus on the issue of women and child migrants. Soon, they had the bare bones of a plan: Since the court ruling on children was an obstacle to prolonged detention, why not separate them from their mothers, sending children into foster care or protective federal custody while their mothers remained in detention centers, the two DHS officials and congressional aide said.

The group also advocated two other policies directly affecting mothers and children: raising the bar for asylum and prosecuting parents as human traffickers if they hired human smugglers.

The thinking was that “if they can just implement tough policies for eight weeks – or even threaten to do that – they would see the numbers of families crossing just plummet,” said one DHS official familiar with the planning.

. . . .

When Kelly and his advisers saw the numbers dropping, they announced they were shelving the idea of separating women and children – at least for now.

Asked whether it may be revived, DHS spokeswoman Jenny Burke said, “Families caught crossing the border illegally, generally will not be separated unless the situation at the time requires it.”

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

Time will tell if this really solves the “Southern Border Problem.” It would be interesting to see a study of the fate of the individuals who stayed in the Northern Triangle after hearing the “stay home, we don’t want you” message.

This “gang of eight” working group sounds like they have the “right stuff” to go far in the Trump-Sessions regime. And, their solution was probably cheaper than the “high seas interdiction” program developed and used by prior Administrations to prevent asylum seekers from reaching the United States and asserting their legal rights under U.S. and international law.

I wake up every morning thankful that 1) I woke up, and 2) I’m not a refugee. Wonder if any of the “gang of eight” have ever thought of what it would be like to be a refugee in the world they are creating? But, I suppose that at a certain level of intellectual arrogance, folks don’t think that they will ever have to rely on the the humanity and decency of others to survive. The bad news: that’s not always a correct assumption, and sometimes folks reap what they sow.

PWS

04-13-17

 

 

REUTERS: “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) Confirmed — “Detailed” U.S. Immigration Judges Pulled From Two Border Courts For Lack Of Cases — Meanwhile, “Home” Dockets Spiral Out Of Control — Mixed Up Priorities, Poor Planning, Political Interference Waste Taxpayer’s Money, Inconvenience Public, Deny Due Process, As DOJ’s Mismanagement Of U.S. Immigration Courts Continues Under Sessions — 2 Judges, 3 Weeks, 4 Total Cases, As Backlog Hits 542,000!

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-judges-idUSKBN17D2SI

Julia Edwards Ainsley and Kristina Cooke report in Reuters:

“Two U.S. immigration judges recently sent to the Mexico border to process asylum requests from migrant women and children are being recalled as they have so few cases to hear, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The dearth of cases at two Texas facilities where the judges are based can be traced to a sharp drop in illegal border crossings by women and children since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January.

Eight immigration judges were reassigned from their regular courts to detention centers at the border beginning on March 20 as part of Trump’s executive order to curb illegal immigration.

Six of the judges have had full dockets, handling dozens of cases per week. But the two at detention centers housing women and children in Dilley and Karnes County, Texas had so few cases their presence was deemed a waste of resources by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to one of the sources.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The number of parents and children apprehended at the U.S. Mexico border in March dropped to just over 1,000, a 93 percent fall from December, the Department of Homeland Security reported last week.

The decline follows Trump’s harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration and policies which classify almost all illegal migrants as subject to deportation.

The judges were deployed to the border in an effort to quickly hear the claims of migrants seeking asylum so that those deemed ineligible could be deported.

In more than three weeks at the border, the judge in Dilley had no hearings and the judge in Karnes County had four, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review. [emphasis added].

. . . .

The judges deployed to the border left behind scheduled hearings in their home courts. As of early March, immigration courts were weighed down by a record backlog of more than 542,000 cases.”

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

Haste makes waste. Meddling by political officials with no understanding of how the Immigration Court system works and who are not committed to due process and fairness as “mission one” has no place in our U.S. Immigration Court system, or indeed in our American system of justice. America needs an independent Article I Immigration Court now!

To further illustrate how money is being misdirected and due process undermined by the DOJ’s mal-administration of the U.S. Immigration Courts, I have heard “rumors” from several sources that the annual U.S. Immigration Judge Training Conference will be cancelled this year. This is despite some obvious quality control issues, such as gross disparities in asylum grant rates and and a gradual uptick in critical comments about the legal and factual quality of decisions by both trial and appellate judges made by some U.S. Courts of Appeals as they review removal orders. Moreover, with dozens of newly-hired Immigration Judges on board who have never attended a national training conference, there has never been a more critical time for effective, in-person training. While money is being poured down the drain on expensive, unneeded, and inappropriate details of judges, the real needs of the court system are going unmet by the DOJ.

PWS

04/12/17

 

IMMIGRATION COURT REPORT: “ADR” In Full Swing Again At EOIR — Detailed U.S. Immigration Judges Twiddle Thumbs As Home Dockets Suffer!

ADR = “Aimless Docket Reshuffling,” a phenomenon that occurs when political officials at the DOJ direct EOIR to “reprioritize” existing U.S. Immigration Court dockets to meet politically-driven enforcement goals. Results in U.S. Immigration Judges being reassigned from regularly scheduled largely “ready for trial” pending cases to “priority cases” that often are NQRFPT.  Therefore almost nothing gets completed, but the court staff is overburdened and the private bar and individual respondents as well as the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel see already prepared cases reassigned to new judges who don’t have time to hear them or “orbited” to spots at the end of the docket several years from now. Results in growing backlogs even with more judges employed in the system.

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

As reported in LexisNexis Immigration https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/immigration/b/insidenews/archive/2017/03/27/eoir-posts-new-hearing-location-details.aspx?Redirected=true EOIR has announced several rounds of details of U.S. Immigration Judges to “detained locations” as part of its “implementation of President Trump’s January 25th Executive Orders.” Julia Edwards Ainsley previously reported on this development in Reuters http://wp.me/p8eeJm-vF.

However, according to several sources, once at the “detail court” these judges often have precious little to do.

To paraphrase some familiar with the system, “The only ‘surge’ happening here is a  surge of judges. There’s no surge of cases.” But, you can bet that there was a “surge in frustration” from those whose previously scheduled cases were rescheduled to accommodate these unneeded details.

Just another “keystone cops” episode at DOJ? Tempting analysis, but not so funny when you consider that human lives and futures are being affected. Also, transferring busy judges from already jam-packed dockets to do little or nothing at the border to keep the “political bosses” satisfied wastes the taxpayers’ money and undermines the credibility of the Immigration Court. That’s bad for everyone.

Most Immigration Judges I know are 1) busy all the time (unlike many other judges, Immigration Judges are expected to schedule cases eight hours/day, every work day of the week except for four hours/week of “administrative time” for case preparation, decision writing, and continuing education); 2) fanatic about wanting to complete the cases on their daily dockets.

Consequently, I doubt that any sitting Immigration Judge would have thought it was a good idea to cancel or reassign their regular dockets to do a minute number of cases as a detailed judge.

Moreover, because the Immigration Court is not “automated,” detailed Immigration Judges who have extra time have no access to pending motions that are piling up in their chambers during details. So, unlike the “home court” where a judge often can find “chambers work” to do during unanticipated “down time,” on detail “down time” is just that — wasted time.

Finally, there is the obvious question.  What is a supposedly impartial, due process oriented court system doing mindlessly carrying out the President’s Executive Order on immigration enforcement to the derogation of its own already-pending cases? We need an independent Article I United States Immigration Court!

PWS

03/28/17

 

REUTERS: More “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” Underway As U.S. Immigration Courts Shift Priorities And Detail Judges — One Certain Result: Each Detailed Judge Will Leave Behind A Wake Of Rescheduled Cases, Unmet Expectations, & Docket Chaos!

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN16O2S6

Julia Edwards Ainsley reports:

“Former immigration judge and chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Schmidt said the Trump administration should not assume that all those charged with crimes would not be allowed to stay in the United States legally.

“It seems they have an assumption that everyone who has committed a crime should be removable, but that’s not necessarily true. Even people who have committed serious crimes can sometimes get asylum,” Schmidt said.

He also questioned the effectiveness of shuffling immigration judges from one court to another, noting that this will mean cases the judges would have handled in their usual courts will have to be rescheduled. He said that when he was temporarily reassigned to handle cases on the southern border in 2014 and 2015, cases he was slated to hear in his home court in Arlington, Virginia had to be postponed, often for more than a year.

“That’s what you call aimless docket reshuffling,” he said.

Under the Obama administration, to avoid the expense and disruption of immigration judges traveling, they would often hear proceedings from other courthouses via video conference.

The judges’ reshuffling could further logjam a national immigration court system which has more than 540,000 pending cases.

The cities slated to receive more judges have different kinds of immigrant populations.”

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

Read Julia’s complete article at the above link.

I can’t point to any empirical study. But, my observation and experience as a U.S. Immigration Judge certainly was that the chance of completing  already scheduled cases on an Immigration Judge’s “home court” docket was much greater than the chance of completing randomly scheduled cases as a “visiting judge.”

The U.S. Immigration Court is a high volume operation. Therefore, the attorneys on both sides are almost always “repeat customers” on a judge’s home docket. That gave me “judicial leverage” to complete cases.

The attorneys knew me and were familiar with my expectations and my prior rulings. Because they saw me week after week, year after year, they had every incentive to work cooperatively with each other and with me to meet my expectations and keep our “joint docket” moving on a reasonable schedule. It was in everyone’s self-interest.

A visiting judge is often confronted with attorneys who are used to doing things “other ways” and have little interest in humoring or meeting the expectations of a temporary judge whom they are unlikely ever to come before again in the future. Therefore, the chances of a visiting judge not getting the extra cooperation he or she needs and not getting the types of preparation and evidence necessary to complete the cases on schedule increases. In other words, a visiting judge is deprived of the important opportunity to establish and enforce “mutual expectations.”

Then, there is the “busy work” created for the staff by having to reset already scheduled cases, answer questions from panicked or angry attorneys on both sides, and deal with the slew of motions which such rescheduling inevitably generates.

The only way to “fix” our broken U.S. Immigration Court system is to allow individual judges to control their own dockets by scheduling cases in a reasonable manner, hearing most cases at the scheduled times, thereby establishing reasonable, predictable case cycles (NOT “rocket dockets), and setting and enforcing reasonable expectations (NOT “case completion goals” set by non-judicial bureaucrats).

Having Immigration Court dockets rearranged and “reprioritized” by bureaucrats in Washington, usually to achieve highly inappropriate enforcement objectives (rather than due process) demonstrably harms the system and the delivery of justice.  The Obama Administration made things worse. The Trump Administration seems determined to make them completely untenable.

It’s time for an independent, due process oriented U.S. Immigration Court!

PWS

03/17/17

 

REUTERS: U.S. Immigration Court’s “Night Court” Plan Shows Why Due Process Is A Mirage In A “Captive” Court System — Will EOIR Cave To Administration’s Move To Put “Due Process Veneer” On Assembly Line Removals!

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN16H030

Julia Edwards Ainsley reports:

“The Department of Justice is deploying 50 judges to immigration detention facilities across the United States, according to two sources and a letter seen by Reuters and sent to judges on Thursday.

The department is also considering asking judges to sit from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., split between two rotating shifts, to adjudicate more cases, the sources said. A notice about shift times was not included in the letter.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.”

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Thanks much to Zoe Tillman over at BuzzFeed News for bringing this article to my attention.

“Judges” working “shifts” on the “removal assembly line!” “Come on, man!” A “real” court would be strongly resisting this mockery of justice and due process.

But, because the U.S. Immigration Court is a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the Administration, EOIR leadership will likely “go along to get along” with a transparent scheme to railroad human beings in real danger back to the “death zone” of the Northern Triangle with “rubber stamp” justice. In other words, the Immigration Courts are considered by the Administration and the DOJ to be part of the “enforcement team,” rather than an independent due-process focused judiciary.

Scheduling early in the AM and late at night is likely to make it more difficult to get pro bono lawyers, witnesses, interpreters, etc. It isn’t just judges.

Also, some folks don’t function very well at those hours. Sounds sort of “gulag like” to me.

And, what about court clerks and other support staff? Additionally, by putting courts in out of the way detention locations and scheduling hearings at odd times, DOJ limits transparency. It’s harder for the press and other “outsiders” to observe.

Moreover, what happens to existing dockets of those IJs who “volunteer?” Reassigning 50 currently sitting Immigration Judges to the Southern Border on a rotating basis for one year would require the rescheduling of nearly 40,000 cases from their “home” dockets. Those cases, many already years old, are likely to be sent to the end of the docket, several years out.  This is classic “aimless docket reshuffling” which increases backlogs and inhibits fairness and due process.

Finally, what’s going to happen to a “volunteer” Immigration Judge who takes due process seriously, slows down the cases so individuals can get lawyers, takes time for full presentation of the cases by both sides, and writes carefully reasoned decisions granting asylum or alternative forms of protection.  Chances are they will be considered “unproductive,” “not with the program,” “not carrying their weight,” or “not committed to carrying out the Attorney General’s priorities” (yes, folks, Immigration Judges actually are given “performance ratings,” and one of the elements has to do with supporting “agency priorities”)?  That’s likely to be “career limiting.”

Final question:  How would you like to have your life determined by a judge working (for the “chief prosecutor”) under these conditions?

PWS

03/10/17

 

 

 

REUTERS: Some Good News For The U.S. Immigration Courts: AG Sessions Exempts Immigration Courts From Hiring Freeze!

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-judges-idUSKBN16A2NI

Mica Rosenberg and Kristina Cooke report:

“President Donald Trump’s federal hiring freeze will not apply to immigration court judges under an exception for positions that are needed for national security and public safety, the Executive Office for Immigration Review told Reuters on Friday.

The Trump administration has called for faster removal of immigrants in the United States illegally, but immigration courts, which rule on asylum applications and deportation appeals, are weighed down by a record backlog of more than 542,000 cases.

On Jan. 23, Trump froze hiring for all federal government positions, except for military personnel and in some other limited circumstances.

New Attorney General Jeff Sessions “determined that Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) positions can continue to be filled,” EOIR spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly told Reuters in an email response to questions about the freeze.

“As such, EOIR is continuing to advertise and fill positions nationwide for immigration judges and supporting staff,” Mattingly said. The immigration courts are run by the Justice Department, unlike federal courts which are independent.”

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As noted in the article, there are approximately 50 individuals already in the judicial hiring process. It isn’t clear if these individuals will be appointed or whether the Administration will choose instead to start the process over again. As noted in the article, the process, as currently designed and administered, is lengthy, often taking a year or more. Interestingly, that’s probably as long or longer than it takes to get an average Article III judicial appointee through the Senate confirmation process.

PWS

03/04/17

REUTERS EXCLUSIVE: Will Administration’s Next “Border Deterrence” Plan Be To Separate Women & Their Children — Rep. Henry Ceullar (D-TX) Takes A Stand Against Violating Human Rights!

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-idUSKBN16A2ES?utm_source=applenews

Julia Edwards Ainsley reports:

“Women and children crossing together illegally into the United States could be separated by U.S. authorities under a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security, according to three government officials.

Part of the reason for the proposal is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children, said the officials, who have been briefed on the proposal.

The policy shift would allow the government to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings. Children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services, in the “least restrictive setting” until they can be taken into the care of a U.S. relative or state-sponsored guardian.

Currently, families contesting deportation or applying for asylum are generally released from detention quickly and allowed to remain in the United States until their cases are resolved. A federal appeals court ruling bars prolonged child detention.

President Donald Trump has called for ending “catch and release,” in which migrants who cross illegally are freed to live in the United States while awaiting legal proceedings.

Two of the officials were briefed on the proposal at a Feb. 2 town hall for asylum officers by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum chief John Lafferty.

A third DHS official said the department is actively considering separating women from their children but has not made a decision.

HHS and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.”

. . . .

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat whose district includes about 200 miles (320 km) of the border with Mexico, slammed the proposal. “Bottom line: separating mothers and children is wrong,” he said in a statement.

“That type of thing is where we depart from border security and get into violating human rights,” he said.”

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I agree with Rep. Cuellar. “Refugee deterrence plans” used by past Administrations of both parties involving mass detention and schemes to make things difficult for families have failed and will continue to do so. Desperate people, fleeing for their lives, will do desperate things, including putting up with detention and other inhumane treatment by the U.S.

Undoubtedly, as in the past, some individuals will be pressured by detention and family separation into giving up claims and accepting return. But, overall, most who face the real possibility of death, torture, extortion, and other abuse upon return will “wait the system out” hoping, even when the the evidence might suggest otherwise, that the U.S. will eventually live up to its ideals of fairness, due process and compliance with laws on protection.

Let’s remember that we are talking about scared refugees seeking to exercise their rights under U.S. law, the Geneva Convention on Refugees, and the Convention Against Torture, to apply for protection at the border or in the U.S., and to have those claims fairly and impartially determined.

Rep. Cuellar is someone who has taken the time to understand the problems of children and families in the U.S. Immigration Court system. I know he visited the Arlington Immigration Court on one or more occasions to observe “priority” juvenile hearings. Partially as a result, he became one of the leaders of the successful bipartisan effort to provide additional funding and judicial positions for the Immigration Court. Remarkably, the bulk of those additional positions remained unfilled or “in the pipeline” at the conclusion of the Obama Administration.

Thanks to Nolan Rappaport for sending this in.

PWS

03/04/04

 

Reuters Exclusive Report — Dreamer Arrested By ICE In Seattle — Mistake Or New Policy?

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-immigration-arrest-exclusiv-idUSKBN15T307

Daniel Levine and Kristina Cooke of Reuters San Francisco break this exclusive story:

“U.S. authorities have arrested an immigrant from Mexico who was brought to the United States illegally as a child and later given a work permit during the Obama administration in what could be the first detention of its kind under President Donald Trump.

Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old with no criminal record, was taken into custody last week at his father’s home in Seattle by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The officers arrived at the home to arrest the man’s father, though court documents did no make clear the reason the father was taken into custody.

Ramirez, now in custody in Tacoma, Washington, was granted temporary permission to live and work legally in the United States under a program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, established in 2012 by Democratic President Obama, according to a court filing.”

 

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As far as I know, the Administration has not made a final decision on whether or not to revoke, retain, or modify the Obama Administration’s DACA program. But, given the sloppiness with which this Administration has proceeded on immigration matters, who knows?

In any event, great reporting by Daniel and Kristina, and I appreciate their forwarding this to me.

PWS

02/14/17