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)”

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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: “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.”

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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

 

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 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