THE WORLD HAS MORE REFUGEES THAN AT ANY TIME SINCE WWII; REFUGEES NEED THE U.S. TO SAVE THEM & WE NEED REFUGEES’ ENERGY, BRAVERY, & TALENTS! — THE RESPONSE OF WHITE NATIONALISTS LIKE MILLER & SESSIONS IS TO RECOMMEND CUTTING REFUGEE ADMISSIONS TO AN ALL-TIME LOW OF 15,000! — Don’t Let These Racist Xenophobes Get Away With It!

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/09/trump-considers-cutting-refugee-cap-to-lowest-in-decades.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Intelligencer%20-%20September%2013%2C%202017&utm_term=Subscription%20List%20-%20Daily%20Intelligencer%20%281%20Year%29

Adam K. Raymond reports in New York Magazine:

“In 2016, the last year of President Obama’s administration, the U.S. accepted 85,000 refugees and set a goal of bumping that number up to 110,00 this year. Those plans changed with President Trump’s so-called travel ban, which set the refugee limit at 50,000 for 2016. Now, the administration is considering setting that number even lower for 2018, despite the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The President has until October 1 to set a refugee ceiling and, the Times reports, there’s a debate raging in the White House about whether the number should be reduced to numbers not seen in decades. Leading the arguments against cutting the totals is Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hawk and ally of Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Miller has reportedly produced cutting the number all the way to 15,000. The Department of Homeland Security has proposed its own cut to 40,000.

The Times explains their purported thinking:

 

Two administration officials said those pushing for a lower number are citing the need to strengthen the process of vetting applicants for refugee status to prevent would-be terrorists from entering the country. Two others said another factor is a cold-eyed assessment of the money and resources that would be needed to resettle larger amounts of refugees at a time when federal immigration authorities already face a years long backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.
This reasoning doesn’t align with the facts. Refugees are far more likely to be victims of politically motivated attacks than perpetrators. Limiting refugees does not keep America safer because refugees are not dangerous. It’s difficult not to see nativism as the motive behind pretending that they are: fear makes it easier to convince people that suffering people should be excluded from the United States. As for the cost concerns, the GOP’s feigned fiscal prudence should never be taken seriously.

By setting the refugee cap at 50,000 this year, Trump has already pushed the number lower than it’s been in decades. In the 37 years since the Refugee Act of 1980 gave the president a role in setting the cap, it hasn’t slipped lower than the 67,000 President Reagan set in 1987.

Cutting the refugee ceiling would leave tens of thousands of vulnerable people out in the cold, the International Rescue Committee said in a report last month. The humanitarian organization advocates for a ceiling no lower than 75,000 people. “An admissions level of at least 75,000 is a critical signal to the world that the United States remains a safe haven for those fleeing persecution, terror and ideologies antithetical to American democratic values,” the report says. “Anything less would be to turn our backs on the United States’ humanitarian tradition and global leadership.”

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Under the last three Administrations, the US has made an absolute muddle out of two ill-advised wars and Middle East policies in general. The idea that guys like Trump, Tillerson, Miller, Bannon, Sessions, and even “the Generals” can come up with a constructive solution borders on the ludicrous. Nope. They going to to fight the 21st Century version of the “100 Years War” with similar results.

If there is a solution out there that will help achieve stability and provide a durable solution to the terrorist threats, it’s more likely going to be coming from one of today’s refugees who have a better idea of what’s actually going on and how we might become part of the solution rather than making the problems worse.

Refugees represent America’s hope. The Sessions-Miller-Bannon cabal represents America’s darkest side — one that threatens to drag us all into the abyss of their dark, distorted, and fundamentally anti-American world view.

PWS

09-13-17

 

 

COURTSIDE COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS: AG Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions Might Be A Clown 🤡 — But His White Nationalist Plan To Destroy The American Justice System Is No Joke — He Has Already Done Untold Damage To Our Country & Our Rights — And, He And His White Supremacist Buddy Steve Bannon, The Alt-Right, And Other Haters Are Just Getting Started On Their Plan To Turn America Into A “Whites Only” Paradise!

Three articles from today show the “clear and present danger” to American democracy, our national security, and our fundamental values stemming from Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and his radical right — some would say fascist is more accurate — cabal.

While Trump increasingly appears to be a looney incompetent functioning primarily in the early morning “tweetosphere,” Sessions & Co. know a thing or two about how to take over and sabotage government of the people, by the people, and for the people. (Ironically, the “Party of Lincoln” has morphed into  the “anti-Lincoln,” opposed to equality, generosity, democracy, and inclusion.)

First, Dana Milbank in the Washington Post describes “Gonzo the Clown’s” ludicrous attempts to use and abuse criminal law to suppress free public expression of opinions:

“Did you hear the one about Jeff Sessions?

I’d like to tell you, but I can’t. You see, it’s illegal to laugh at the attorney general, the man who on Tuesday morning announced that the 800,000 “dreamers” — immigrants brought here illegally as children — could soon be deported. If you were to find my Sessions jest funny, I would be an accessory to mirth.

This is no joke, because liberal activist Desiree Fairooz is now being put on trial a second time by the Justice Department — Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department — because she laughed at Sessions during his confirmation hearing. Specifically, she laughed at a line about Sessions “treating all Americans equally under the law” (which is, objectively, kind of funny).”

Yeah, I guess what Sessions, a well-established liar, probably a perjurer, really meant was “all Americans except Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans, immigrants, migrants, Dreamers, gays, lesbians, transgendered, bisexual, criminal defendants, Democrats, non-Christians, protestors, non-GOP women, and the poor.” Read the rest of Dana’s article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/apparently-its-illegal-to-laugh-at-jeff-sessions/2017/09/05/86b6e48a-9278-11e7-aace-04b862b2b3f3_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.c6b057add449

But, the following list of hostile actions that Sessions has already taken at Justice, compiled by CNN’s Gregory Krieg, are no laughing matter:

“*Directed federal prosecutors to pursue the stiffest possible charge in every single criminal case — potentially triggering draconian mandatory minimum sentences the Obama administration tried to avoid on fairness grounds for non-violent offenders.

*Withdrawn an Obama administration directive offering protections for transgender students who wanted to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

*Reversed an Obama DOJ order that the federal Bureau of Prisons back off new deals with private facilities. “I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach,” Sessions said in a memo citing concerns that the “future needs of the federal correctional system” would be “impaired.”

*Launched a broad-based effort to reduce federal oversight of local police departments, like those put under increased scrutiny following investigations into alleged abuses. The deputy attorney general and associate attorney general were ordered to review lots of things, including all “contemplated consent decrees.”

*In a move criticized by voting rights advocates, asked state election officials in June to lay out their processes for purging voter rolls of individuals who have become ineligible due to, among other reasons, “death or change of residence.”

*Put in place a policy that could pave the way for an increase in a certain kind of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice — in this case a joint federal, state and local version that some departments were accused of using to get around state law — that allows police to seize money or property from suspects who haven’t been convicted of a crime. (The DOJ says it has put new safeguards in place to prevent abuse.)

And more.
Consider Trump’s plan to end DACA. When it came down to it, the President steered clear of the spotlight and let Sessions be the public face of a decision officials from both parties have described as unfair or even cruel.
It’s not the first time Trump has been happy enough — or detached enough, depending on your assessment of the his mindset on these issues — to defer to Sessions or, in cases where executive action is required, follow his lead. Where Trump is primarily focused on how he’s covered in the press and how his actions play with “the base,” officials like Sessions and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have shown themselves to be laser-focused on very specific policy points.

. . . .

By his side? None other than a once anonymous aide turned top Trump White House official: Stephen Miller.”

Read Gregory’s complete article here:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/06/politics/jeff-sessions-donald-trump-daca-policy/index.html

And, in the Washington Post,  Sarah Posner puts it all in scary context by describing the Bannon-led White Nationalist’s larger program to turn America into a White Theo-Fascist State:

“Now that he is out of the White House, Bannon’s ambitions, if anything, appear to seek an even more enduring footprint on Republican politics. His grand plan is to remake American conservatism, by shifting it away from its long-standing “three-legged stool” coalition of tax-cutters, defense hawks and the religious right. His strategy is to peel away Christian conservatives from that coalition, and to build a new coalition with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, far-right nationalists, in order to make the Trump revolution permanent, even after Trump has left the White House.
Consider the headline on a prominently placed “exclusive” published on the site late last night, which heaps the most coveted of Breitbartian praise on Moore: “Judge Roy Moore Embodies Jeff Sessions.” In an interview with Breitbart, Moore says he shares Sessions’s views on immigration and trade, and that he, too, is a “very strict constructionist of the Constitution.” He says he favors impeaching federal judges, even Supreme Court justices, and singles out Obergefell v. Hodges , the landmark 2015 case legalizing same-sex marriage, as warranting impeachment.
Bannon hinted at some of his designs in an interview with me last year. He said that, without the religious right, his base alone lacks the numbers to “to ever compete against the progressive left.”
In Moore, Bannon has found an unabashed proponent of “biblical law.” Bannon doesn’t appear to care much about “biblical law,” but Moore’s overheated depiction of the overreach of the federal government dovetails with the Bannon goal of “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Indeed, the Breitbart-Moore alliance is the most vivid example to date of the anti-government, white-nationalist Breitbart forces teaming up with a candidate with shared views on issues such as immigration and the role of the federal government, but which are driven by outwardly theocratic aspirations. Bannon is not seen as an overtly religious figure, but he has actively sought the religious right’s imprimatur for purely political purposes.
As Politico reports, Bannon himself is now using Breitbart to help “orchestrate the push” for Moore’s candidacy in high-level meetings with influential conservative groups.
There is a good deal of overlap between Bannon’s depiction of Trumpism as a revolt against global elites and Moore’s own rhetoric. Moore has long railed at elitists and “tyrannical” government overreach, albeit from a theocratic point of view. He first became a national hero to the religious right over a decade ago, after he was stripped of his post as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for defying a federal court order to remove a 2.6-ton Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse, because it violated the separation of church and state.
Undeterred, Moore ran unsuccessfully for governor and then again for his state’s top judicial post, regaining his seat in 2012. After a federal court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in early 2015, Moore pointedly told Alabama’s governor that complying with the federal court order could violate God’s law.
Although Breitbart hardly teems with religious language, Moore shares its conspiratorially dark vision of America, and particularly America’s perceived enemies. When I saw him speak in 2011, when Barack Obama was still president, Moore maintained: “Our government is infiltrated with communists, we’ve got Muslims coming in and taking over where we should be having the say about our principles.” On immigration, he said the government was failing “to protect against invasions” and was “letting anybody come in!”
Ultimately, the Breitbart-Moore alliance offers a hint at where the Trump base is headed. If Bannon has his way, it will evolve into a kind of coalition of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim white nationalists seeking to disrupt the GOP from within by joining forces with the Christian right, long an essential component of the GOP base. Whether or not Moore wins, if Bannon can keep pushing the Trumpist base in that direction by continuing to solidify that coalition, we can only guess at the consequences that will have for the GOP over the long term.”

Consequences for the GOP, Sarah? What about the consequences for the world and humanity of turning America into a White Fascist State incorporating the worst parts of Christian mythology, while leaving the kind, merciful, inclusive, and forgiving message of Jesus Christ in the dust?

In the first place, fortunately, only a minority of Americans share the Bannon-Sessions White Nationalist dream. So, making it come to fruition has to involve suppressing and overcoming by unlawful or unconstitutional means the will and rights of those of us in the majority.

That’s an old Bolshevik trick. And, indeed, Bannon is a self-proclaimed “Leninist revolutionary” — Sessions is his Trotsky. (Can’t really picture Stephen Miller as Stalin —  but his ability to concoct lies at a moment’s notice and his cold lack of humanity or any discernible decency or human values, along with his disdain for representative government and love of the dictatorial model certainly fits “Papa Joe” to a tee. You could definitely imagine Miller as leader of a Trump “personality cult” in a fascist regime.)

Read Sarah’s complete article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/09/05/steve-bannons-grand-disruptive-designs-are-only-getting-started/?utm_term=.80ddcfa9f294

But, that’s not all folks! Intentionally cruel, racist, and gonzo as Sessions’s grand plan of “ethnic cleansing” of Dreamers might be, it would actually cost the US economy an astounding  $215 billion, and that’s a conservative estimate that doesn’t even factor in the billions that would be wasted by DHS and EOIR in arresting and deporting America’s future stars (basically, because they aren’t White. As I’ve said before, no sane person thinks we’d be having this orchestrated “immigration debate” if the migrant population were predominantly white, English as a first language, Christians)!

According to Vanessa Wang in Buzzfeed:

“Reversing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could cost the economy $215 billion in lost GDP and cost the federal government $60 billion in lost revenue over ten years, according to the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute.
Ike Brannon, a visiting fellow at Cato, wrote in a recent blog post: “It is important to note that these estimates are conservative, as DACA recipients will likely end up being more productive than their current salaries indicate, as they complete their degrees and gain experience in the workplace. Nor does this analysis factor in the enforcement cost of physically deporting recipients should the program be eliminated, which we believe would be significant.”
California, New York and Florida would bear the greatest costs, according to the Cato Institute’s analysis.
The New American Economy — a coalition of business leaders and mayors “who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today” — estimated that the DACA-eligible population earns almost $19.9 billion in total income annually, contributes more than $1.4 billion to federal taxes, more than $1.6 billion to state and local taxes and represent almost $16.8 billion in spending power.
“Despite the rhetoric claiming undocumented youths are a drain on the U.S. economy, 90% of the DACA-eligible population who are at least 16 years old are employed” and contribute meaningfully to the economy, the coalition wrote in a brief.
“Ending DACA will disrupt hundreds of thousands of promising careers and cost the US economy dearly,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy in a statement on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it would shut down DACA in six months, potentially giving Congress some time for a legislative solution. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said there are DREAMers “who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home. And so I really do believe there that there needs to be a legislative solution.”
“Now it’s imperative for Congress to do what’s right and economically smart – protect the young achievers who know no home but America,” said Feinblatt.”

That’s right folks! The Bannon-Sessions White Nationalists would be willing to damage our economy to the the tune of probably a quarter of a trillion dollars for the sheer joy of ruining human lives and entrenching their White Power structure. In most other contexts, there would be a name for such conduct: “domestic terrorism!”

Here’s a link to Vanessa’s article:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/venessawong/scrapping-daca-could-cost-the-economy-as-much-as-215-billion?utm_term=.xdw9nKYOa#.liAZ2w8Y5

Finally, a number folks have noted that DACA is a DHS/USCIS program. So, why was the Attorney General, who pointedly was stripped of his immigration deportation functions and responsibilities by the Act creating DHS, out there acting like he is the deporter-in-chief and administrator of the DHS (which, by statute, he no longer is.)

 

Well, not suprisingly, I’m not in the Trump Administration’s “inner circle.” So, who knows for sure.

But, to me two things were evident. First, Donald Trump is a coward who didn’t have the guts to be the front man for his own inhumane policy — particularly since Sessions contradicted Trump’s public assurances that he “loved Dreamers,” understood their plight, and that they had “nothing to fear” from him and his Administration because he was going to come up with a”great solution” to their situation.

Second, Sessions has never accepted his secondary statutory and Constitutional role in immigration enforcement. With the weak Gen. Kelly in charge of DHS, Sessions simply pretended like the AG was back at the helm of immigration enforcement. After all, Sessions has spent a lifetime attempting to turn back the clock. This is just the first time that he has gotten away with it without any real opposition.

Kelly was a “bobblehead,” meekly agreeing with Sessions’s most outrageous, unlawful, and inhumane statements. He even lent his name to an infamous Sessions-Miller contrived “letter” asking the President for Travel Ban 2.0 and citing facially bogus statistics and disingenuous arguments attempting to tie individuals from Muslim countries to unrelated terrorist threats. In other words, on immigration enforcement, Kelly’s “substance” was about 1/16″ deep, and I’m being generous.

Obviously, killing the Dreamers’ future while heaping scorn on them was Session’s version of “Super Bowl Sunday:” a chance to publicly reclaim the role of deporter-in-chief, while inflicting gratuitous harm on a gallant but vulnerable (largely non-White) group of young people, and tossing in some gratuitous racist insults and nativist lies in the process. For a guy who has spent a lifetime heretofore unsuccessfully trying to “get back to Jim Crow” (where not coincentally, bogus “rule of law” arguments and “state’s rights” were used by Sessions’s Alabama antecedents to deny Black Americans not only their constitutional rights but in many cases their very lives in the process) this had to be “hog heaven.” Let’s not forget that Sessions has endorsed the blatantly racist and anti-semitic “Immigration Act of 1924” as a model for White Nationalist restrictionist policies. See, e.g.http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/09/05/jeff_sessions_praise_of_1924_eugenics_immigration_law_remains_insane.html

I’m sure Gonzo pines for the “good old days” of the Chinese Exclusion Laws when America knew how to use the “rule of law”  and just how to treat the folks who built the trans-continental railroad, most of California, lots of New York, and points in between. Declare them to be an “inferior race” — a threat to our cultural integrity —  and throw them out before they can displace the White Americans who exploited their ingenuity and hard labor.

Also, make no mistake about it, if Sessions were able to carry out his gonzo plans to deport Dreamers to foreign lands that most of them have hardly lived in, some will actually die in the process. But, hey, the lives of non-Whites are just “collateral damage” in the Bannon-Sessions world vision.

Sessions is part of our nation’s racist, White Supremacist past that we will need to get beyond to continue to prosper as a country and to lead the free world. The Dreamers can help us do that! The only question for the rest of us is what legal channels are available to move Sessions and his cohorts out of the way so that the Dreamers, along with other immigrants and minorities, can help lead us to a brighter future as a proudly diverse, humane, and powerful nation.

Liz Warren was right! America is better than Jeff Sessions! It’s time we showed it!  

PWS

09-05-17

 

 

PAUL KRUGMAN IN THE NYT: THE NEW AMERICAN FASCISTS — TRUMP & ARPAIO!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/opinion/fascism-arpaio-pardon-trump.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170828&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

Krugman writes:

As sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio engaged in blatant racial discrimination. His officers systematically targeted Latinos, often arresting them on spurious charges and at least sometimes beating them up when they questioned those charges. Read the report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and prepare to be horrified.

Once Latinos were arrested, bad things happened to them. Many were sent to Tent City, which Arpaio himself proudly called a “concentration camp,” where they lived under brutal conditions, with temperatures inside the tents sometimes rising to 145 degrees.

And when he received court orders to stop these practices, he simply ignored them, which led to his eventual conviction — after decades in office — for contempt of court. But he had friends in high places, indeed in the highest of places. We now know that Donald Trump tried to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Arpaio, a clear case of attempted obstruction of justice. And when that ploy failed, Trump, who had already suggested that Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job,” pardoned him.

By the way, about “doing his job,” it turns out that Arpaio’s officers were too busy rounding up brown-skinned people and investigating President Barack Obama’s birth certificate to do other things, like investigate cases of sexually abused children. Priorities!

Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style.

 

So how did we get to this point?

Trump’s motives are easy to understand. For one thing, Arpaio, with his racism and authoritarianism, really is his kind of guy. For another, the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.

. . . .

This bodes ill if, as seems all too likely, the Arpaio pardon is only the beginning: We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement with his actions if he does?

As I said, there’s a word for people who round up members of ethnic minorities and send them to concentration camps, or praise such actions. There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.”

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Read Krugman’s entire op-ed at the link.

A most unhappy commentary. My parents’ generation fought the fascists. Our generation appears to have handed the reins of the US Government over to them.

PWS

08-29-17

HISTORY: CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS HAVE LITTLE TO DO WITH THE REAL HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR (IN FACT, THEY WERE EXPRESSLY INTENDED TO DISTORT HISTORY) BUT LOTS TO DO WITH PROMOTING WHITE SUPREMACY!

Two very powerful stories in today’s Washington Post Outlook Section make that point.

In the first, Karen Finney, journalist and bi-racial descendent of General Lee:

“I always fiercely disagreed with my grandmother’s take. I loved her, but recognized that she simply couldn’t face the truth — the dramatically different, and all too real stories of brutal tyranny, courageously endured, during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow South that I learned from my father, his family and my own experience.

No telling of Lee’s story, however complicated, can be separated from the leading role he played in a grievous chapter of American history. That part — and the decisions by Charlottesville’s city council, New Orleans’s mayor, Baltimore’s mayor and Lexington, Kentucky’s mayor to remove Confederate statues from public spaces — isn’t complicated. The general was as cruel a slave owner as any other and fought to defend a society based on the brutal enslavement of black people that, had it persisted until today, would have included me. His cause wasn’t righteous, then or now. He’s my ancestor, but as far as I’m concerned, his statues can’t come down soon enough.

The revisionist version of his story attached to the hundreds of Confederate monuments around the country (not just in the South) is part of the most effective rebranding campaign ever implemented. Like the Lee statue at the center of the tragic, deadly violence in Charlottesville on Saturday, many, if not most, of these monuments were built — not in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War — but decades later, in the 20th century. They were erected to advance a dishonest history that claimed the war was about states’ rights and the preservation of a way of life, and to obscure the real cause at the root of the conflict: the perpetuation of white supremacy and economic hegemony through the enslavement and violent suppression of African Americans. It’s propaganda that has exploited fear, and sown division and hate, in a conscious effort to obscure our shared humanity for more than 150 years.”

Read the complete article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/15/im-black-robert-e-lee-is-my-ancestor-his-statues-cant-come-down-soon-enough/?utm_term=.56193efb1814

In the second, Professor Karen L. Cox of UNC-Charlotte points out that: “White supremacy is the whole point of confederate statutes:”

“While Confederate monuments honor their white heroes, they do not always rely on the true history of what took place between 1861 and 1865. Nor was that their intent. Rather, they served to rehabilitate white men — not as the losers of a war but, as a monument in Charlotte states, preservers of “the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South.”

Today’s defenders of Confederate monuments are either unaware of the historical context or do not care. Like generations of whites before them, they are more invested in the mythology that has attached itself to these sentinels of white supremacy, because it serves their cause.”

Read that complete article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/16/the-whole-point-of-confederate-monuments-is-to-celebrate-white-supremacy/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.a44dddf18bfe

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Trump’s lack of knowledge of history is breathtaking. Indeed, based on performance and utterances (including tweets) he would be unable to pass the basic American history and civics exam required for naturalization. Fortunatly for him, like many other things in his life, he got his citizenship purely by good fortune, not merit.

PWS

08-20-17

TIME MAGGIE: DUE PROCESS TAKES ANOTHER HIT IN IMMIGRATION COURT WITH EOIR’S DISINGENUOUS MEMO DISCOURAGING CONTINUANCES IN IMMIGRATION COURT! — When Will The Article III Courts & Commentators Expose The REAL Fraud Being Fobbed Off On The Public By The Sessions DOJ & EOIR? — The DOJ Is Trying To Blame The “Champions Of Due Process” (Private Lawyers) For The “ADR” — Aimless Docket Reshuffling — That The DOJ Created And Actually Mandated— Hold The DOJ Fully Accountable For The Failure Of The U.S. Immigration Courts!

http://time.com/4902820/immigration-lawyers-judges-courts-continuance/

Tessa Berenson writes in Time:

“The president and attorney general have vowed to crack down on illegal immigration, and the new directive could help move cases through the system at a faster clip. Most immigration lawyers agree that the overloaded courts are a major issue. But they fear the end result will be more deportations as judges use the wide discretion afforded to them to curtail continuances. The Immigration and Nationality Act doesn’t establish a right to a continuance in immigration proceedings, Keller’s letter notes. They’re largely governed by a federal regulation which says that an “immigration judge may grant a motion for continuance for good cause shown.”

Immigration lawyers often rely heavily on continuances for their prep work because immigration law grants limited formal discovery rights. Unlike in criminal cases, in which the prosecution is generally required to turn over evidence to the defense, immigration lawyers often have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to find out what the government has on their client. These can take months to process.

“If their priority is speed, we all know that sounds really good, to be more efficient, but usually due process takes a hit when your focus is efficiency,” says Andrew Nietor, an immigration attorney based in San Diego. “By the time we are able to connect with our clients, that first court appearance might be the day after we meet somebody, so we haven’t had the opportunity to do the investigation and do the research. And up until several months ago, it was standard to give immigration attorneys at least one continuance for what they call attorney preparation. Now it’s not standard anymore.”

The Justice Department’s guidance says that “the appropriate use of continuances serves to protect due process, which Immigration Judges must safeguard above all,” and notes that “it remains general policy that at least one continuance should be granted” for immigrants to obtain legal counsel.

But the memo is more skeptical about continuances for attorney preparation. “Although continuances to allow recently retained counsel to become familiar with a case prior to the scheduling of an individual merits hearing are common,” it says, “subsequent requests for preparation time should be reviewed carefully.”

It remains to be seen if this careful review will streamline the ponderous system or add another difficulty for the harried lawyers and hundreds of thousands of immigrants trying to work their way through it. For Jeronimo, it may have been decisive. In mid-August, the judge found that the defense didn’t adequately prove Jeronimo’s deportation would harm his young daughter and gave him 45 days to voluntarily leave the United States. Now Jeronimo must decide whether to appeal his case. But he’s been held in a detention center in Georgia since March, and his lawyers worry that he has lost hope. He may soon be headed back to Mexico, five months after he was picked up at a traffic stop in North Carolina.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

OK, let’s have a reality check here. The tremendous backlog is NOT caused by giving respondents time to find an attorney in an already overwhelmed system or by giving those overworked and under-compensated private attorneys time to adequately prepare their clients’ cases.

No, it’s caused by two things both within the control of the Government. The first is the abuse of the system, actively encouraged by this Administration, for cases of individuals who are law abiding members of the U.S. community, helping our nation prosper, who either should be granted relief outside the Immigrant Court process, or whose cases should be taken off the docket by the reasonable use of prosecutorial discretion (something that the Trump Administration eliminated while outrageously calling it a “return to the rule of law” — nothing of the sort — it’s a return to docket insanity enhanced by intentional cruelty).

Your tax dollars actually pay for the wasteful and counterproductive abuses being encouraged by the Trump Administration! Eventually, Congress will have to find a solution that allows all or most of these folks to stay. But, mindlessly shoving them onto already overwhelmed Immigration Court dockets is not that solution.

The second major cause is even more invidious: Aimless Docket Reshuffling (“ADR”) by the Government! The problematic continuances being given in this system — those of many months, or even many years — are forced upon Immigration Judges by EOIR and the DOJ, usually without any meaningful input from either the sitting Immigration Judges or the affected public. Immigration Judges are required to accommodate politically-motivated “changes in priorities” and wasteful transfer of Immigration Judges wth full dockets (which then must be reset, usually to the end of the docket, sometimes to another Immigration Judge) to other locations, often in detention centers, to support enforcement goals without any concern whatsoever for due process for the individuals before the court or the proper administration of justice within the U.S. Immigration Court system.

There is only one real cure for this problem: removal of the U.S. Immigration Courts from the highly politicized U.S. Department of Justice to an independent Article I Court structure that will focus  on due process foremost, and efficient, but fair, court administration. But, until then, it’s up to the press to expose what’s really happening here and to the Article III Courts to call a halt to this travesty.

The “heroes” of the U.S. Immigration Court system, dedicated NGOs and attorneys, many of them acting without compensation or with minimal compensation, are under attack by this Administration and the DOJ. Their imaginary transgression is to insist on a fair day in court for individuals trying to assert their constitutional right to a fair hearing. They are being scapegoated for problems that the U.S. Government has caused, aggravated, and failed to fix, over several Administrations.

The DOJ is creating a knowingly false narrative to cover up their failure to deliver due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts and to shift the blame to the victims and their representatives. A simple term for that is “fraud.”

If we allow this to happen, everyone will be complicit in an assault not only on American values but also on the U.S. Constitution itself, and the due process it is supposed to guarantee for all. If it disappears for the most vulnerable in our society, don’t expect it to be there in the future when you or those around you might need due process of law. And, when you don’t get due process, you should also expect the Government to blame you for their failure.

PWS

08-19-17

 

THE ASYLUMIST — JASON DZUBOW: AS TRUMP FANS THE FLAMES OF FEAR, HATE, & DESPAIR, IMMIGRANTS & REFUGEES INSPIRE & GIVE US HOPE FOR A BETTER FUTURE!

http://www.asylumist.com/2017/08/17/in-a-time-of-hate-my-refugee-clients-give-me-hope/

Jason’s complete blog is reprinted below:

“In a Time of Hate, My Refugee Clients Give Me Hope

by JASON DZUBOW on AUGUST 17, 2017

As an ordinary citizen, it is not easy to decide the best way to confront a Nazi march. Show up to peacefully protest? That might give additional attention to the other side. Protest violently? Not only could that elevate the Nazis, it might also de-legitimize the resistance to the Nazis (even those who peacefully resist). Ignore them? That might be viewed as condoning their views. Reasonable people can differ about what to do, at least as far as the peaceful responses are concerned.

As a great American philosopher once said, “I hate Nazis.”

But when you are a public figure, especially an elected official, the decision about how to respond is clear: First, ensure safety and free speech. Second, denounce the evils of Nazism and make it plain that Nazis, Klan members, and anyone who might march side-by-side with such people are un-American, illegitimate, and unworthy of a seat at the table of public discourse.

Fortunately, the vast majority of our country’s elected leaders knew what to say in response to the Nazi march last weekend. But unfortunately, there was one important exception–our President, Donald J. Trump. To me, Mr. Trump’s contemptible silence, followed by a reluctant “denunciation” of the Nazis, followed by a denunciation of the “denunciation” is an utter disgrace. It is a green light to Nazis. It is yet another attack on common decency and on our shared national values. It is complicity with Nazism. By the President of the United States. (As an aside, one of my lawyer-friends at the Justice Department told me–perhaps half jokingly–that she wanted to post a sign in her office that reads, “Nazis are bad,” but she feared it might get her into trouble–that is where we are under Mr. Trump.)

Frankly, I am not particularly worried about the Nazis themselves. They certainly can do damage–they murdered a young woman and injured many others. But they do not have the power or support to threaten our democracy. This does not mean we should take them for granted (few would have predicted Hitler’s rise when he was sitting in prison after the Beerhall Putsch), but we should not be unduly fearful either.

On the other hand, I am very worried about our President’s behavior. His governing philosophy (perhaps we can call it, “trickle down histrionics”) is poisoning our public debate, and it weakens us domestically and internationally. Thus far, his incompetence has served as a bulwark against his malevolence, but that can only go on for so long (see, e.g., North Korea). So there is much to be concerned about.

Here, though, I want to talk about hope. Specifically, the hope that I feel from my clients: Asylum seekers, “illegals,” and other immigrants. There are several reasons my clients give me hope.

One reason is that they still believe in the American Dream. Despite all of the nastiness, mendacity, and bigotry coming from the White House, people still want to come to America. They are voting with their feet. Some endure seemingly endless waits, often times separated from their loved ones, in order to obtain legal status here. Others risk their lives to get here. They don’t do this because (as Mr. Trump suggests) they want to harm us. They do it because they want to join us. They want to be part of America. My clients and others like them represent the American ideal far better than those, like our embattled President and his racist friends, who disparage them. When I see my country through my clients’ eyes, it gives me hope.

My clients’ stories also give me hope. Most of my clients are asylum seekers. They have escaped repressive regimes or failing states. Where they come from, the government doesn’t just tweet nasty comments about its opponents, it tortures and murders them. The terrorist groups operating in my clients’ countries regularly harm and kill noncombatants, women, children, and even babies. My clients have stood against this depravity, and many of them continue to fight for democracy, justice, and human rights from our shores. My clients’ perseverance in the face of evil gives me hope.

Finally, I have hope because I see the courage of my clients, who refuse to be cowed by the hateful rhetoric of our Commander-in-Chief. Since the early days of his campaign, Mr. Trump has demonized foreigners and refugees, and after he was sworn in as President, these individuals were the first to come into his cross hairs. If he can defeat people like my clients, he can move on to new targets. But many refugees and asylum seekers have been subject to far worse treatment than Mr. Trump’s bluster, and they are ready to stand firm against his bullying. Their fortitude encourages others to stand with them. And stand with them we will. The fact that vulnerable, traumatized people are on the front lines of this fight, and that they will not surrender, gives me hope.

I have written before about the tangible benefits of our humanitarian immigration system. It demonstrates to the world that our principles–democracy, human rights, freedom, justice–are not empty platitudes. It shows that we support people who work with us and who advance the values we hold dear. When such people know that we have their backs, they will be more willing to work with us going forward. And of course, that system helps bring people to the United States whose talents and energy benefit our entire nation. Add to this list one more benefit that asylees and refugees bring to our nation in this dark time–hope.”

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

Thanks, Jason!

The irony and extreme contrast between those hollowly claiming to “Make America Great” and those who are actually “making America great” is simply stunning.

PWS

08-18-17

 

 

POLITICO HIGHLIGHTS LACK OF DUE PROCESS, CULTURAL AWARENESS, PROPER JUDICIAL TRAINING IN U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT’S HANDLING OF VIETNAMESE DEPORTATION CASE!

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/14/trump-immigration-crackdown-vietnam-241564

“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!”

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/07/20/in-immigration-circles-the-atlanta-court-is-known-as-where-due-process-goes-to-die-will-it-be-the-new-norm-the-asylumist-jason-dzubow-says-were-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.

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/08/10/normalizing-the-absurd-while-eoir-touts-its-performance-as-part-of-trumps-removal-machine-disingenuously-equating-removals-with-rule-of-law-the-ongoing-assault-on-due-process-in-us-immig/

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.

PWS

08-14-17

 

 

 

“NORMALIZING” THE ABSURD: While EOIR Touts Its Performance As Part Of Trump’s Removal Machine, Disingenuously Equating Removals With “Rule of Law,” The Ongoing Assault On Due Process In U.S. Immigration Courts Continues Unabated — Read The Latest SPLC Complaint About The Judges In The Stewart Detention Facility!

What if the U.S. Supreme Court proudly announced that as part of President Trump’s initiative to deregulate it had struck down 30% more regulations since Trump took office? What if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit announced that as part of the Administrations’s War on Drugs they had reassigned more U.S. District Judges to pretrial detention facilities and had produced 30% more convictions and 40% longer sentences for drug offenders than under the previous Administration. Might raise some eyebrows! Might show a lack of independence and due process in the Courts and lead one to believe that at least some U.S. Judges were betraying their duties to act impartially and their oaths to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

But yesterday, in truly remarkable press release, America’s largest court system, the United States Immigration Court proudly announced that they had joined the President’s xenophobic crusade against foreign nationals by assigning more Immigration Judges to railroad out of the country individuals detained, mostly without counsel, in remote locations along the Southern Border. EOIR touted that over 90% of the individuals in detention facilities lost their cases and were ordered removed from the U.S. (although as anyone familiar with the system knows, many of these individuals are refugees who have succeeded at rates of 43% to 56% on their claims over the past five fiscal years). To add insult to injury, EOIR had the audacity to caption its press release “Return to Rule of Law in Trump Administration!”

Don’t believe me? Check out the full press release here:

“Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Return to Rule of Law in Trump Administration Marked by Increase in Key Immigration Statistics

The Executive Office of Immigration Review today released data on orders of removal, voluntary departures, and final decisions for the first six months of the Trump Administration.

 

The data released for Feb. 1, 2017 – July 31, 2017 is as follows:

 

  • Total Orders of Removal [1]: 49,983
    • Up 27.8 percent over the same time period in 2016 (39,113)

 

  • Total Orders of Removal and Voluntary Departures [2]: 57,069
    • Up 30.9 percent over the same time period in 2016 (43,595)

 

  • Total Final Decisions [3]: 73,127
    • Up 14.5 percent over the same time period in 2016 (63,850)

 

Pursuant to President Trump’s Jan. 25 Executive Order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” the Department of Justice mobilized over one hundred existing Immigration Judges to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detention facilities across the country. Over 90 percent of these cases have resulted in orders requiring aliens to depart or be removed from the United States. The Justice Department has also hired 54 additional Immigration Judges since President Trump took office, and continues to hire new Immigration Judges each month.

 

In addition to carrying out the President’s Executive Order, the Justice Department is also reviewing internal practices, procedures, and technology in order to identify ways in which it can further enhance Immigration Judges’ productivity without compromising due process.

 

[1] An “order of removal” by an Immigration Judge results in the removal of an illegal alien from the United States by the Department of Homeland Security.

[2] Under an order of “voluntary departure”, an illegal alien agrees to voluntarily depart the United States by a certain date. If the illegal alien does not depart, the order automatically converts to an order of removal.

[3] A “final decision” is one that ends the proceeding at the Immigration Judge level such that the case is no longer pending.

 

 

 

Topic(s):

Immigration

Component(s):

Executive Office for Immigration Review

Press Release Number:

17-889″

 

Yet, the absurdity of something that once purported to be a “court system” dedicated to guaranteeing “fairness and due process for all,” becoming part of the Administration’s border enforcement machine, stomping on the due process rights of those it was supposed to protect, went largely unnoticed in the media.

But, wait a minute, it gets worse! Recently, the widely respected journalist Julia Preston, now writing for the Marshall Project, told us how U.S. Immigration Judges in Charlotte, NC mock due process and fairness for asylum seekers.

http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/07/31/u-s-immigration-courts-apear-stacked-against-central-american-asylum-applicants-charlotte-nc-approval-rates-far-below-those-elsewhere-in-4th-circuit-is-precedent-being-misapplied/

Now, the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) details how, notwithstanding previous complaints, eyewitnesses have documented the attack on fundamental fairness and due process by U.S. Immigration Judges at the DHS Stewart Detention Facility (why would “real judges” be operating out of a DHS Detention Facility?). Here’s a summary of the report from SPLC:

SPLC DEMANDS DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE TAKE ACTION AGAINST IMMIGRATION JUDGES VIOLATING DETAINEES’ CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

Some judges at the Stewart Immigration Court in Georgia routinely break the rules of professional conduct and continue to violate the constitutional rights of detainees – failures that require action, including the possible removal of one judge from the bench, according to a complaint the SPLC lodged with the U.S. Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today.

The complaint, which comes almost a year after the SPLC and Human Rights First notified the agency about the judges, describes how they fail to explain basic legal information to immigrants, or even demonstrate the necessary dignity and courtesy the rules of conduct require.

The complaint notes that after one man told a judge that he had grown up in the United States, the judge said that if he were truly an American, he “should be speaking English, not Spanish.” The findings come after the SPLC spent a month observing the hearings of 436 people.

The federal agency has claimed that it initiated discussions with the judges after the initial complaint was filed in late August 2016, but the SPLC’s courtroom observers and its experience representing detainees continue to uncover issues at the court, which is inside the privately operated Stewart Detention Center in rural Lumpkin, Georgia.

“The people appearing before this court are already being held at the Stewart Detention Center, often far from their family and friends,” said Dan Werner, director of the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, which represents immigrants detained at Stewart. “They are scared and unsure of their rights when they go before judges whose behavior gives no assurance that they’ll receive a fair hearing. In fact, their behavior makes a mockery of the legal system.”

The SPLC’s courtroom observers found a number of issues, including judges failing to provide interpretation services for the entire court proceeding. They also failed to provide rationales for their decisions, provide written notification about future proceedings to the detainees, or grant routine procedural motions.

The complaint describes how Judge Saundra Arrington stands out for her lack of professionalism and hostility toward immigrant detainees – behavior warranting reprimand, suspension or even removal from the bench, according to the complaint.

Arrington, who goes by the last name Dempsey but is referred to as Arrington in EOIR records, began hearings with one immigrant by prejudicially noting he had a “huge criminal history,” comprised of nine convictions for driving without a license over 15 years. It was Arrington who told a detainee that he should speak English if he grew up in the United States and believed he was American.

She also refused to allow two attorneys appear on behalf of an immigrant, stating that there may be “one lawyer per case” despite attorneys explaining they had filed the necessary paperwork. Two attorneys, however, were allowed to appear on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Chief Counsel.

Judge Dan Trimble, according to the complaint, denied bond for a detainee without looking at the bond motion. He also rarely refers detainees to the detention center’s “Legal Orientation Program,” which provides information about court proceedings and offers assistance.

“The Department of Justice must take action to stop this behavior that is undermining the legal system,” said Laura Rivera, SPLC staff attorney. “Every day that this behavior is allowed to continue is a day dozens of people have their rights denied.”

The SPLC launched the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) at the detention center earlier this year to provide free legal representation to immigrants who have been detained and are facing deportation proceedings.

A recent national study found that between 2007 and 2012, only 6 percent of detainees at the Stewart Detention Center were represented by counsel – far below the national representation rate of 37 percent, according to the SPLC complaint. Immigrants with counsel are approximately 20 times more likely to succeed in their cases.

Beginning this month, SIFI will expand to other detention centers throughout the Southeast. When fully implemented, it will be the largest detention center-based deportation defense project in the country.

And, here’s a link to the complete shocking report.

eoircomplaintletter

Folks, all of the abuses detailed in this post are being carried out by U.S. government officials at EOIR charged with protecting the due process rights of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers. In other words, under pressure from the Trump Administration and the Sessions DOJ, some EOIR employees have disregarded their duty to the U.S. Constitution to provide due process for vulnerable migrants in Removal Proceedings. How long will the pathetic mockery of justice masquerading as “judicial proceedings” that is occurring in some (certainly not all) parts of the U.S. Immigration Court system be allowed to continue?

PWS

08-10-17

 

 

 

Once Upon A Time, The DOJ Intervened On Behalf Of Disadvantaged Minorities For Whom Civil Rights Protections Were Enacted — Now, Not So Much, As Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions Finds Ways To Use Civil Rights Protections Against Minorities & To Help White Establishment Cling To Power! — Switches Sides To Favor Voter Suppression Before Supremes!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-reverses-position-to-allow-ohio-to-purge-inactive-voters-from-rolls/2017/08/08/e93c5116-7c35-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.7ea94a97bc00&wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

Sari Horwitz reports in the Washington Post:

“The Justice Department has reversed its position in a high-profile voting case in Ohio, siding with the state in its effort to purge thousands of people from its rolls for not voting in recent elections.

The move is part of a broader campaign by the Trump administration to support restrictions on who is eligible to vote, a radical change in philosophy from the previous Justice Department, which sued a number of states over voting laws that it deemed discriminatory against minorities.

In a court filing late Monday, Justice Department attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involves Ohio’s removal last year of tens of thousands of inactive voters from its voting rolls.

In their brief, government lawyers say they reconsidered the Ohio vote-purging issue after the “change in Administrations,” and they argue that the state’s actions are legal under federal law. The case is headed next to the Supreme Court.

Ohio’s procedure allows the state to purge voters who meet certain criteria for being inactive. If a voter has not cast a ballot in two years, the person is sent a notice asking them to confirm their registration. If the voter does not respond and does not cast a ballot over the next four years, the person is removed from the rolls.

The Trump administration has signaled in other ways that it intends to back added requirements for voters as part of a crackdown on alleged fraud.

President Trump in May created an advisory commission on election integrity that has been tasked with determining the extent of illegal voting. The president earlier made the baseless allegation that illegal voting cost him the popular vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

The commission’s only notable act so far has been to request massive amounts of voter data from the states, a move that has provoked lawsuits accusing the panel of breaching Americans’ privacy.

The case in Ohio is not the first time the Justice Department has reversed course in a major legal battle over voting rights. In February, shortly after Jeff Sessions became attorney general, the department dropped its position in a long-running case that argued Texas intended to discriminate against minorities when it passed a strict voter-ID law.

The Texas law, passed in 2011, required that voters present certain forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or a weapons permit, but the state did not allow other forms, including IDs issued by colleges. Critics said these restrictions targeted voters, such as young people and minorities, who are more likely to vote Democratic. A number of courts found the Texas law to be unconstitutional, and a federal court in April found that the Texas legislature intentionally discriminated against black and Hispanic voters.

Voting rights advocates said the Justice Department’s action on Ohio represented a major change in direction for the U.S. government’s stance on access to the polls.

The move “signals the broader agenda of the administration to roll back voter rights in this country,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama and now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.”

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

Read the complete article at the above link.

During Sessions’s Senate Confirmation, Senator Liz Warren, Senator Corey Booker, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and my friend and former DOJ Civil Rights Attorney Jerry Hebert, among others, tried to tell the Committee and the Senators that Sessions was the same White Nationalist/racially challenged individual he had been back when he was properly rejected for a U.S. District Judge position. They were “tuned out.”

Sessions took umbrage, and then lied under oath to the Committee when he claimed to be a staunch defender of civil rights and someone who would separate his political positions as a Republican Senator from Alabama (a state with a disgraceful history of racial bias) from his new responsibilities as Attorney General for all Americans. That would include people of color, LGBT Individuals, immigrants, both legal and undocumented, women, and even Democrats. But, he’s the “same ol’ Jeff” just like his critics said he would be. And the carnage to the American justice system that he is creating probably won’t be repaired any time soon.

Gonzo’s reported next target and scheme to waste of taxpayer money: legalized marijuana. Return to “Reefer Madness!”

PWS

08-09-17

 

MY MOST RECENT SPEECHES: “MY LIFE & TIMES” — CATHOLIC LEGAL IMMIGRATION NETWORK (“CLINIC”), July 18, 2017; “JOIN THE ‘NEW DUE PROCESS ARMY’ — FIGHT FOR DUE PROCESS IN THE UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION COURTS” — HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST, JULY 19, 2017

On Tuesday July 18, 2107, I gave a luncheon address to interns and staff at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (“CLINIC”) in Silver Spring, MD. My speech entitled “My Life & Times” is at this link:

MY LIFE

On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, I delivered the a luncheon address that was part of the Frankel Lecture Series at Human Rights First in Washington, D.C. & New York, NY (by televideo). My speech entitled “Join The ‘New Due Process Army’ — Fight For Due Process In The United States Immigration Courts” is at this link:

AMERICA’S REAL IMMIGRATION CRISIS

Both speeches are also reproduced in the left menu of immigrationcourtiside.com.

 

Immigrants Bridge The Gap With Local Communities — “The Haters Are Always Wrong, And The Haters Will Eventually Lose.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/working-to-build-bridges-between-immigrants-and-their-new-communities/2017/06/23/03c1bb1a-4d2a-11e7-a186-60c031eab644_story.html?utm_term=.2bcde1762b2f

Steven V. Roberts writes in a WashPost op-ed:

“These are all good examples that will, hopefully, ease the “cultural anxiety” Noorani writes about. But he shies away from discussing a key dimension of Trump’s appeal: racism. “A significant portion of the American electorate felt their country had been taken away,” he writes, but he doesn’t complete the thought. Taken away by whom? Let’s be honest. Many of those voters believe that their country has been overrun by dark-skinned, foreign-language-speaking aliens.

While it is wildly unfair to call all Trump supporters racists, it is equally inaccurate to ignore that the president deliberately inflamed racist impulses to win the election.

 

Moreover, Noorani lacks a larger perspective. Trump is a very American figure. Anti-immigrant fears didn’t start with globalization and weren’t “triggered” by the election of Barack Obama. Throughout our history, spasms of nativist hostility have erupted against each new group arriving on our shores: Germans and Jews, Irish and Italians, Japanese and Chinese.

Hispanics and Muslims are now the objects of this animosity, and the language directed against them is the same that’s been used to demonize newcomers for more than two centuries: This group will degrade our culture and alter our identity. But today’s targets can take comfort from the clear lessons of history.

Immigrants do change our culture — for the better. They reenergize and revitalize our civic spirit. The haters are always wrong, and the haters will eventually lose. Tiwana and Noorani himself prove that truth.

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

Read the entire op-ed at the link.

Trump and his supporters might be on the right side of the political equation at this point in time, but they are squarely on the wrong side of history. Before joining up with the Trump Team, folks ought to think about being remembered by their grandchildren and great grandchildren in the same way that we think about such notorious racists as Alabama Governor George Wallace, Georgia Governor Lester “Pickax” Maddox, and Arkansas Governor Orvil Faubis, or those who engineered and championed such abominations as the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Even iconic American historical figures like President Woodrow Wilson and Gen. Robert E. Lee have recently had their racism and support for racist causes eventually catch up with them and tarnish their reputations. In the long run, the cause of intolerance, fear, and bias promoted by Trump, Pence, and today’s GOP will look pretty bad. Yeah, we’ll all be gone by then. But, our descendants and history will remember where we stood.

PWS

06-25-17

NYT: Meet The White Nativist, Anti-Democracy Politician Kris Kobach — If You’re Non-White, He’s Out To Restrict Or Eliminate Your Right To Shape America’s Future — “implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/magazine/the-man-behind-trumps-voter-fraud-obsession.html?action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=Trending&version=Full®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article

Read Ari Berman’s shocking profile of a minor politician who wields outsized influence within the GOP and is out to put a “White’s Only” sign on the American Dream. For Kobach, the “Jim Crow Era” was the glory day of the “rule of law” in the U.S. When Kobach talks about the “rule of law” it’s code for using the legal system to cement the rule of a disproportionately white GOP minority over the rest of us, and particularly Americans of color. Will the “sleeping majority” wake up before we’re all disenfranchised by this racist in a suit hiding behind his Yale law degree and ability to spin legal gobbledygook? Kobach isn’t just “the ACLU’s worst nightmare,” as he smugly touts himself. He’s American Democracy’s worst nightmare!

Here’s a sample of what Kobach has in store for the rest of us:

“Kobach’s plans represent a radical reordering of American priorities. They would help preserve Republican majorities. But they could also reduce the size and influence of the country’s nonwhite population. For years, Republicans have used racially coded appeals to white voters as a means to win elections. Kobach has inverted the priorities, using elections, and advocating voting restrictions that make it easier for Republicans to win them, as the vehicle for implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority. This has made him one of the leading intellectual architects of a new nativist movement that is rapidly gaining influence not just in the United States but across the globe.”

Read Berman’s lengthy article, and think about what YOU can do to put the kibosh on the plans of this self-proclaimed “fanatic” and his dream of turning America into a “White GOP Folks Only Club.” Even Republicans who might remember enough to know that the GOP in the far, far distant past was the “Party of Lincoln” might want to rethink their party’s support of and association with this dangerous extremist. Act before it’s too late and Kobach steals YOUR American Dream and turns it into a nightmare!

PWS

06-13-17

 

 

 

 

Here’s My Keynote Address From Today’s FBA Immigration Law Conference In Denver, CO!

LIFE AT EOIR – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

By

Paul Wickham Schmidt

Retired U.S. Immigration Judge

Keynote Address

2017 Immigration Law Conference

Denver, CO

May 12, 2017

INTRODUCTION

Good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me. Its an honor to appear before you.

Funny thing happened to me on the way to this conference. When I arrived at the airport yesterday afternoon, my good friend Judge Lory Rosenberg rushed up to me at baggage claim and said “Oh, I see we’re having you for lunch!” I said “What?” She said “You’re our keynote speaker at lunch tomorrow.” I scoffed at the idea, saying I might be on the after lunch panel with her, but that was it. However, when I actually took the time to look at the program I saw that certainly not for the first time, Lory was right. Unbeknownst to me I was, in fact, listed as the keynote speaker.

I’ve composed this speech on my I-pad, which I’m using as a teleprompter. As you know, those of us who worked at EOIR aren’t used to this new-fangled technology. So, please bear with me.

As we get started, I’d like all of you to join me in recognizing my friend and former colleague Judge Larry Burman for his tireless efforts to make the ILS the best section in the FBA. In the later years, I tried very hard to avoid being at court at nights, weekends, and holidays. But, occasionally I had to go pick up my cellphone or something else I had inadvertently left in my office. And, who should be there but Larry. And he was always working on a FBA project, the Green Card, Conference Planning, recruiting new members, etc. So, please join me in a round of applause for Judge Burman for all he has done for promoting productive dialogue and improving the practice of immigration law.

Now, this is when I used to give my comprehensive disclaimer providing plausible deniabilityfor everyone in the Immigration Court System if I happened to say anything inconvenient or controversial. But, now that Im retired, we can skip that part.

My speech is entitled: Life At EOIR, Past Present, and Future.I will start by introducing myself to you and telling you a bit about how my life and career have been intertwined with EOIR. Then I will briefly address five things: the court systems vision, the judges role, my judicial philosophy, what needs to be done to reclaim the due process vision of the Immigration Courts, and how you can get involved.

CAREER SUMMARY

I graduated in 1970 from Lawrence University a small liberal arts college in Appleton, Wisconsin, where I majored in history. My broad liberal arts education and the intensive writing and intellectual dialogue involved were the best possible preparation for all that followed.

I then attended the University of Wisconsin School of Law in Madison, Wisconsin, graduating in 1973. Go Badgers!

I began my legal career in 1973 as an Attorney Advisor at the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) at the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) under the Attorney Generals Honors Program. Admittedly, however, the BIAs Executive Assistant culled my resume from the Honors Program reject pile.One of my staff colleagues at that time, now retired U.S Immigration Judge Joan Churchill, is right here in the audience.

At that time, before the creation of the Executive Office for Immigration Review – “EOIR” for you Winnie the Pooh fans — the Board had only five members and nine staff attorneys, as compared to todays cast of thousands. Among other things, I worked on the famous, or infamous, John Lennon case, which eventually was reversed by the Second Circuit in an opinion by the late Chief Judge Irving Kaufman.[1] As an interesting historical footnote, that case was argued in the Circuit by then Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Maguire Dunne, who went on to become a distinguished Member of the BIA and one of my Vice Chairs during my tenure as Chairman.

I also shared an office with my good friend, the late Lauri Steven Filppu, who later became a Deputy Director of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) in the DOJs Civil Division and subsequently served with me on the BIA. The Chairman of the BIA at that time was the legendary immigration guru” Maurice A. “Maury” Roberts. Chairman Roberts took Lauri and me under this wing and shared with us his love of immigration law, his focus on sound scholarship, his affinity for clear, effective legal writing, and his humane sense of fairness and justice for the individuals coming before the BIA.

In 1976, I moved to the Office of General Counsel at the “Legacy” Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”). There, I worked for another legendary figure in immigration law, then General Counsel Sam Bernsen. Sam was a naturalized citizen who started his career as a 17-year-old messenger at Ellis Island and worked his way to the top of the Civil Service ranks. Perhaps not incidentally, he was also a good friend of Chairman Roberts.

At that time, the Office of General Counsel was very small, with a staff of only three attorneys in addition to the General Counsel and his Deputy, another mentor and immigration guru, Ralph Farb. At one time, all three of us on the staff sat in the same office! In 1978, Ralph was appointed to the BIA, and I succeeded him as Deputy General Counsel.   I also served as the Acting General Counsel for several very lengthy periods in both the Carter and Reagan Administrations.

Not long after I arrived, the General Counsel position became political. The incoming Administration encouraged Sam to retire, and he went on to become a name and Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C. office of the powerhouse immigration boutique Fragomen, Del Rey, and Bernsen. He was replaced by my good friend and colleague David Crosland, now an Immigration Judge in Baltimore, who selected me as his Deputy. Dave was also the Acting Commissioner of Immigration during the second half of the Carter Administration, one of the periods when I was the Acting General Counsel.

The third General Counsel that I served under was one of my most unforgettable characters:the late, great Maurice C. “Mike” Inman, Jr. He was known, not always affectionately, as Iron Mike.His management style was something of a cross between the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, and the fictional Mafia chieftain, Don Corleone. As my one of my colleagues said of Iron Mike:” “He consistently and unreasonably demanded that we do the impossible, and most of the time we succeeded.Although we were totally different personalities, Mike and I made a good team, and we accomplished amazing things. It was more or less a good cop, bad coproutine, and Ill let you guess who played which role. You can check the “Inman era” out with retired Immigration Judge William P. Joyce, who is sitting in the audience and shared the experience with me.

Among other things, I worked on the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Cuban Boatlift, the Refugee Act of 1980, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), the creation of the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL), and establishing what has evolved into the modern Chief Counsel system at Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

I also worked on the creation of EOIR, which combined the Immigration Courts, which had previously been part of the INS, with the BIA to improve judicial independence. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, the leadership and impetus for getting the Immigration Judges into a separate organization came from Mike and the late Al Nelson, who was then the Commissioner of Immigration. Prosecutors by position and litigators by trade, they saw the inherent conflicts and overall undesirability, from a due process and credibility standpoint, of having immigration enforcement and impartial court adjudication in the same division. I find it troubling that officials at todays DOJ arent able to understand and act appropriately on the glaring conflict of interest currently staring them in their collective faces.

By the time I left in 1987, the General Counsels Office, largely as a result of the enactment of IRCA and new employer sanctions provisions, had dozens of attorneys, organized into divisions, and approximately 600 attorneys in the field program, the vast majority of whom had been hired during my tenure.

In 1987, I left INS and joined Jones Days DC Office, a job that I got largely because of my wife Cathy and her old girl network.I eventually became a partner specializing in business immigration, multinational executives, and religious workers. Among my major legislative projects on behalf of our clients were the special religious worker provisions added to the law by the Immigration Act of 1990 and the “Special Immigrant Juvenile” provisions of the INA with which some of you might be familiar.

Following my time at Jones Day, I succeeded my former boss and mentor Sam Bernsen as the Managing Partner of the DC Office of Fragomen, Del Rey & Bernsen, the leading national immigration boutique, where I continued to concentrate on business immigration. You will note that immigration is a small community; you need to be nice to everyone because you keep running into the same folks over and over again in your career. While at Fragomen, I also assisted the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) on a number of projects and was an adviser to the LawyersCommittee, now known as Human Rights First.

In 1995, then Attorney General Janet Reno appointed me Chairman of the BIA. Not surprisingly, Janet Reno, who recently died, was my favorite among all of the Attorneys General I worked under. I felt that she supported me personally, and she supported the concept of an independent judiciary, even though she didnt always agree with our decisions and vice versa.

She was the only Attorney General who consistently came to our Investitures and Immigration Judge Conferences in person and mixed and mingled with the group. She was also kind to our clerical staff and invited them downtown to meet personally with her. She had a saying equal justice for allthat she worked into almost all of her speeches, and which I found quite inspirational. She was also hands down the funniest former Attorney General to appear on Saturday Night Live,doing her famous Janet Reno Dance Partyroutine with Will Farrell immediately following the end of her lengthy tenure at the DOJ.

Among other things, I oversaw an expansion of the Board from the historical five members to more than 20 members, a more open selection system that gave some outside experts a chance to serve as appellate judges on the Board, the creation of a supervisory structure for the expanding staff, the establishment of a unified Clerks Office to process appeals, implementation of a true judicial format for published opinions, institution of bar coding for the tens of thousands of files, the establishment of a pro bono program to assist unrepresented respondents on appeal, the founding of the Virtual Law Library, electronic en banc voting and e-distribution of decisions to Immigration Judges, and the publication of the first BIA Practice Manual, which actually won a Plain Language Awardfrom then Vice President Gore.

I also wrote the majority opinion in my favorite case, Matter of Kasinga, establishing for the first time that the practice of female genital mutilation (“FGM”) is persecution” for asylum purposes.[2] As another historical footnote, the losingattorney in that case was none other than my good friend, then INS General Counsel David A. Martin, a famous immigration professor at the University of Virginia Law who personally argued before the Board.

In reality, however, by nominally losingthe case, David actually won the war for both of us, and more important, for the cause of suffering women throughout the world. We really were on the same side in Kasinga. Without Davids help, who knows if I would have been able to get an almost-united Board to make such a strong statement on protection of vulnerable women.

During my tenure as Chairman, then Chief Immigration Judge (now BIA Member) Michael J. Creppy and I were founding members of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (“IARLJ”). This organization, today headquartered in The Hague, promotes open dialogue and exchange of information among judges from many different countries adjudicating claims under the Geneva Convention on Refugees. Since my retirement, I have rejoined the IARLJ as a Vice President for the Americas.

In 2001, at the beginning of the Bush Administration, I stepped down as BIA Chairman, but remained as a Board Member until April 2003. At that time, then Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was not a fan of my opinions, invited me to vacate the Board and finish my career at the Arlington Immigration Court, where I remained until my retirement on June 30 of last year. So, Im one of the few ever to become an Immigration Judge without applying for the job. Or, maybe my opinions, particularly the dissents, were my application and I just didnt recognize it at the time. But, it turned out to be a great fit, and I truly enjoyed my time at the Arlington Court.

I have also taught Immigration Law at George Mason School of Law in 1989 and Refugee Law and Policyat Georgetown Law from 2012 through 2014. Ive just agreed to resume my Adjunct position with Georgetown Law for a compressed summer course” in “Immigration Law & Policy.

Please keep in mind that if everyone agreed with me, my career wouldnt have turned out the way it did. On the other hand, if nobody agreed with me, my career wouldnt have turned out the way it did. In bureaucratic terms, I was a “survivor.” I have also, at some point in my career, probably been on both sides of many of the important issues in U.S. immigration law.

One of the challenges that lawyers will face in Immigration Court is that different judges have distinct styles, philosophies, and preferences.   I always felt that although we might differ in personality and approach, at least in Arlington we all shared a commitment to achieving fairness and justice.

As a sitting judge, I encouraged meticulous preparation and advance consultation with the DHS Assistant Chief Counsel to stipulate or otherwise narrow issues. In Arlington, for example, even with a new high of 10 Immigration Judges, the average docket is still 3,000 cases per judge. There currently are more than 30,000 pending cases at the Arlington Court. Because of this overwhelming workload, efficiency and focusing on the disputed issues in court are particularly critical. 

THE DUE PROCESS VISION

Now, lets move on to the other topics: First, vision.   The “EOIR Vision” is: “Through teamwork and innovation, be the worlds best administrative tribunals, guaranteeing fairness and due process for all.In one of my prior incarnations, I was part of the group that developed that vision statement. Perhaps not surprisingly given the timing, that vision echoed the late Janet Reno’s “equal justice for alltheme.

Sadly, the Immigration Court System is moving further away from that due process vision. Instead, years of neglect, misunderstanding, mismanagement, and misguided priorities imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice have created judicial chaos with an expanding backlog now approaching an astounding 600,000 cases and no clear plan for resolving them in the foreseeable future.   There are now more pending cases in Immigration Court than in the entire U.S. District Court System, including both Civil and Criminal dockets, with fewer than half as many U.S. Immigration Judges currently on board as U.S. District Judges.

And, the new Administration promises to add hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new cases to the Immigration Court docket, again without any transparent plan for completing the half million already pending cases consistent with due process and fairness. In fact, notably, and most troubling, concern for fairness and due process in the immigration hearing process has not appeared anywhere in the Administrations many pronouncements on immigration.

Nobody has been hit harder by this preventable disaster than asylum seekers, particularly scared women and children fleeing for their lives from the Northern Triangle of Central America. In Immigration Court, notwithstanding the life or death issues at stake, unlike criminal court there is no right to an appointed lawyer. Individuals who cant afford a lawyer must rely on practicing lawyers who donate their time or on nonprofit community organizations to find free or low cost legal representation. Although the Government stubbornly resists the notion that all asylum seekers should be represented, studies show that represented asylum seekers are at least five times more likely to succeed than those who must represent themselves. For recently arrived women with children, the success differential is an astounding fourteen times![3]

You might have read about the unfortunate statement of an Assistant Chief Judge for Training who claimed that he could teach immigration law to unrepresented toddlers appearing in Immigration Court. Issues concerning representation of so-called vulnerable populationscontinue to challenge our Court System. Even with Clinics and Non-Governmental Organizations pitching in, there simply are not enough free or low cost lawyers available to handle the overwhelming need. In fact, soon to be former EOIR Director Juan Osuna once declared in an officially-sanctioned TV interview that the current system is “broken.”[4]

Notwithstanding the admitted problems, I still believe in the EOIR vision. Later in this speech Im going to share with you some of my ideas for reclaiming this noble due process vision.

THE ROLE OF THE IMMIGRATION JUDGE

Changing subjects, to the role of the Immigration Judge: Whats it like to be an Immigration Judge? As an Immigration Judge, I was an administrative judge. I was not part of the Judicial Branch established under Article III of the Constitution. The Attorney General, part of the Executive Branch, appointed me, and my authority was subject to her regulations.

We should all be concerned that the U.S. Immigration Court system is now totally under the control of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has consistently taken a negative view of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, and has failed to recognize the many essential, positive contributions that immigrants make to our country.  

Perhaps ironically, the late Judge Terence T. Evans of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals offered one of the best descriptions of what its like to be an Immigration Judge. Judge Evans was not one of us, but saw plenty of our work during his lifetime. Judge Evans said:

“Because 100 percent of asylum petitioners want to stay in this country, but less than 100 percent are entitled to asylum, an immigration judge must be alert to the fact that some petitioners will embellish their claims to increase their chances of success. On the other hand, an immigration judge must be sensitive to the suffering and fears of petitioners who are genuinely entitled to asylum in this country. A healthy balance of sympathy and skepticism is a job requirement for a good immigration judge. Attaining that balance is what makes the job of an immigration judge, in my view, excruciatingly difficult.”[5]

My Arlington Immigration Court colleague Judge Thomas G. Snow also gives a very moving and accurate glimpse of an Immigration Judges life in a recent article from USA Today:

” Immigration judges make these decisions alone. Many are made following distraught or shame-filled testimony covering almost unimaginable acts of inhumanity. And we make them several times a day, day after day, year after year.

We take every decision we make very seriously. We do our best to be fair to every person who comes before us. We judge each case on its own merits, no matter how many times weve seen similar fact patterns before.

We are not policymakers. We are not legislators. We are judges. Although we are employees of the U.S. Department of Justice who act under the delegated authority of the attorney general, no one tells us how to decide a case. I have been an immigration judge for more than 11 years, and nobody has ever tried to influence a single one of my thousands of decisions

And finally, because we are judges, we do our best to follow the law and apply it impartially to the people who appear before us. I know I do so, even when it breaks my heart.[6]

My good friend and colleague, Judge Dana Leigh Marks of the San Francisco Immigration Court, who is the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, offers a somewhat pithier description: [I]mmigration judges often feel asylum hearings are like holding death penalty cases in traffic court.’”[7]

Another historical footnote: as a young lawyer, then known as Dana Marks Keener, Judge Marks successfully argued the landmark Supreme Court case INS v. Cardoza Fonseca, establishing the generous well-founded fearstandard for asylum, while I helped the Solicitor Generals office develop the unsuccessful opposing arguments for INS.[8] Therefore, I sometimes refer to Judge Marks as one of the founding mothers” of U.S. asylum law.

From my perspective, as an Immigration Judge I was half scholar, half performing artist. An Immigration Judge is always on public display, particularly in this age of the Internet.His or her words, actions, attitudes, and even body language, send powerful messages, positive or negative, about our court system and our national values. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of those who fail at the job do so because they do not recognize and master the performing artistaspect, rather than from a lack of pertinent legal knowledge.

One of the keys to the Immigration Judges job is issuing scholarly, practical, well-written opinions in the most difficult cases. That ties directly into the job of the Immigration Courts amazing Judicial Law Clerks (“JLCs”) assisted by all-star legal interns from local law schools. The JLC’s job is, of course, to make the judge look smart,no matter how difficult or challenging that might be in a particular case.  

MY JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY

Next, I’ll say a few words about my philosophy. In all aspects of my career, I have found five essential elements for success: fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect, and teamwork.

Obviously, fairness to the parties is an essential element of judging. Scholarship in the law is what allows us to fairly apply the rules in particular cases. However, sometimes attempts to be fair or scholarly can be ineffective unless timely. In some cases, untimeliness can amount to unfairness no matter how smart or knowledgeable you are.

Respect for the parties, the public, colleagues, and appellate courts is absolutely necessary for our system to function. Finally, I view the whole judging process as a team exercise that involves a coordinated and cooperative effort among judges, respondents, counsel, interpreters, court clerks, security officers, administrators, law clerks and interns working behind the scenes, to get the job done correctly. Notwithstanding different roles, we all share a common interest in seeing that our justice system works.

Are the five elements that I just mentioned limited to Immigration Court? They are not only essential legal skills, they are also necessary life skills, whether you are running a courtroom, a law firm, a family, a PTA meeting, a book club, or a soccer team. As you might imagine, I am a huge fan of clinical experience as an essential part of the law school curriculum. Not only do clinical programs make important actual contributions to our justice system due process in action but they teach exactly the type of intellectual and practical values and skills that I have just described.

RECLAIMING THE VISION

Our Immigration Courts are going through an existential crisis that threatens the very foundations of our American Justice System. Earlier, I told you about my dismay that the noble due process vision of our Immigration Courts has been derailed. What can be done to get it back on track?

First, and foremost, the Immigration Courts must return to the focus on due process as the one and only mission. The improper use of our due process court system by political officials to advance enforcement priorities and/or send “don’t comemessages to asylum seekers, which are highly ineffective in any event, must end. Thats unlikely to happen under the DOJ as proved by over three decades of history, particularly recent history. It will take some type of independent court. I think that an Article I Immigration Court, which has been supported by groups such as the ABA and the FBA, would be best.

Clearly, the due process focus was lost during the last Administration when officials outside EOIR forced ill-advised prioritizationand attempts to “expedite” the cases of frightened women and children from the Northern Triangle who require lawyers to gain the protection that most of them need and deserve. Putting these cases in front of other pending cases was not only unfair to all, but has created what I call aimless docket reshuffling— “ADR” — that has thrown the Immigration Court system into chaos and dramatically increased the backlogs.  

Although those misguided Obama Administration priorities have been rescinded, the reprieve is only fleeting. The Trump Administration has announced plans to greatly expand the prioritytargets for removal to include even those who were merely accused of committing any crime. The Administration also plans a new and greatly expanded immigration detention empire,likely to be situated in remote locations near the Southern Border, relying largely on discredited private for profitprisons. The Administration also wants to make it more difficult for individuals to get full Immigration Court hearings on asylum claims and to expand the use of so-called expedited removal,thereby seeking to completely avoid the Immigration Court process.

Evidently, the idea, similar to that of the Obama Administration, is to remove most of those recently crossing the border to seek protection, thereby sending a “don’t come, we dont want youmessage to asylum seekers.

Second, there must be structural changes so that the Immigration Courts are organized and run like a real court system, not a highly bureaucratic agency. This means that sitting Immigration Judges, like in all other court systems, must control their dockets. The practice of having administrators in Falls Church and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., none of whom are sitting judges responsible for daily court hearings, manipulate and rearrange local dockets in a vain attempt to achieve policy goals unrelated to fairness and due process for individuals coming before the Immigration Courts must end.  

If there are to be nationwide policies and practices, they should be developed by an Immigration Judicial Conference,patterned along the lines of the Federal Judicial Conference. That would be composed of sitting Immigration Judges representing a cross-section of the country, several Appellate Immigration Judges from the BIA, and probably some U.S. Circuit Judges, since the Circuits are one of the primary consumersof the court’s “product.”

Third, there must be a new administrative organization to serve the courts, much like the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. This office would naturally be subordinate to the Immigration Judicial Conference. Currently, the glacial hiring process, inadequate courtroom space planning and acquisition, and unreliable, often-outdated technology are simply not up to the needs of a rapidly expanding court system.  

In particular, the judicial hiring process over the past 16 years has failed to produce the necessary balance because judicial selectees from private sector backgrounds particularly those with expertise in asylum and refugee law have been so few and far between. Indeed, during the last Administration nearly 90% of the judicial appointments were from Government backgrounds. And, there is no reason to believe that pattern will change under the current Administration. In fact, only one of the seven most recent appointments by Attorney Generals Sessions came from a private sector background.

Fourth, I would repeal all of the so-called Ashcroft reformsat the BIA and put the BIA back on track to being a real appellate court.   A properly comprised and well-functioning BIA should transparently debate and decide important, potentially controversial, issues, publishing dissenting opinions when appropriate. All BIA Appellate Judges should be required to vote and take a public position on all important precedent decisions. The BIA must also “rein in” those Immigration Courts with asylum grant rates so incredibly low as to make it clear that the generous dictates of the Supreme Court in Cardoza-Fonseca[9] and the BIA itself in Mogharrabi[10] are not being followed.

Nearly a decade has passed since Professors Andy Schoenholtz, Phil Shrag, and Jaya Ramji-Nogales published their seminal work Refugee Roulette, documenting the large disparities among Immigration Judges in asylum grant rates.[11] While there has been some improvement, the BIA, the only body that can effectively establish and enforce due process within the Immigration Court system, has not adequately addressed this situation.

For example, let’s take a brief “asylum magical mystery tour” down the East Coast.[12] In New York, 84% of the asylum applications are granted. Cross the Hudson River to Newark and that rate sinks to 48%, still respectable in light of the 47% national average but inexplicably 36% lower than New York. Move over to the Elizabeth Detention Center Court, where you might expect a further reduction, and the grant rate rises again to 59%. Get to Baltimore, and the grant rate drops to 43%. But, move down the BW Parkway a few miles to Arlington, still within the Fourth Circuit like Baltimore, and it rises again to 63%. Then, cross the border into North Carolina, still in the Fourth Circuit, and it drops remarkably to 13%. But, things could be worse. Travel a little further south to Atlanta and the grant rate bottoms out at an astounding 2%.

In other words, by lunchtime some days the Immigration Judges sitting in New York granted more than the five asylum cases granted in Atlanta during the entire Fiscal Year 2015!   An 84% to 2% differential in fewer than 900 miles! Three other major non-detained Immigration Courts, Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas, have asylum grants rates at or below 10%.

Indeed a recent 2017 study of the Atlanta Immigration Court by Emory Law and the Southern Poverty Law Center found:

[S]ome of the Immigration Judges do not respect rule of law principles and maintain practices that undermine the fair administration of justice. During the course of our observations, we witnessed the following [issue, among others]. Immigration Judges made prejudicial statements and expressed significant disinterest or even hostility towards respondents in their courts. In at least one instance, an Immigration Judge actively refused to listen to an attorney’s legal arguments. In another instance, an Immigration Judge failed to apply the correct standard of law in an asylum case. [13]

This is hardly “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!” These unusually low asylum grant rates are impossible to justify in light of the generous standard for well-founded fear established by the Supreme Court in Cardoza-Fonseca and the BIA in Mogharrabi, and the regulatory presumption of future fear arising out of past persecution that applies in many asylum cases.[14] Yet, the BIA has only recently and fairly timidly addressed the manifest lack of respect for asylum seekers and failure to guarantee fairness and due process for such vulnerable individuals in some cases arising in Atlanta and other courts with unrealistically low grant rates.[15]    

Over the past 16 years, the BIA’s inability or unwillingness to aggressively stand up for the due process rights of asylum seekers and to enforce the fair and generous standards required by American law have robbed our Immigration Court System of credibility and public support, as well as ruined the lives of many who were denied protection that should have been granted.   We need a BIA which functions like a Federal Appellate Court and whose overriding mission is to ensure that the due process vision of the Immigration Courts becomes a reality rather than an unfulfilled promise.

Fifth, and finally, the Immigration Courts need e-filing NOW! Without it, the courts are condemned to files in the aisles,misplaced filings, lost exhibits, and exorbitant courier charges. Also, because of the absence of e-filing, the public receives a level of service disturbingly below that of any other major court system. That gives the Immigration Courts an amateur nightaura totally inconsistent with the dignity of the process, the critical importance of the mission, and the expertise, hard work, and dedication of the judges and court staff who make up our court. 

GETTING INVOLVED 

Keep these thoughts in mind. Sadly, based on actions to date, I have little hope that Attorney General Sessions will support due process reforms or an independent U.S. Immigration Court, although it would be in his best interests as well as those of our country if he did. However, eventually our opportunity will come. When it does, those of us who believe in the primary importance of constitutional due process must be ready with concrete reforms.

So, do we abandon all hope? No, of course not!   Because there are hundreds of newer lawyers out there who are former Arlington JLCs, interns, my former student, and those who have practiced before the Arlington Immigration Court.       

They form what I call the New Due Process Army!And, while my time on the battlefield is winding down, they are just beginning the fight! They will keep at it for years, decades, or generations — whatever it takes to force the U.S. immigration judicial system to live up to its promise of guaranteeing fairness and due process for all!        

What can you do to get involved now? The overriding due process need is for competent representation of individuals claiming asylum and/or facing removal from the United States. Currently, there are not nearly enough pro bono lawyers to insure that everyone in Immigration Court gets represented.     

And the situation is getting worse. With the Administrations expansion of so-called expedited removal,lawyers are needed at earlier points in the process to insure that those with defenses or plausible claims for relief even get into the Immigration Court process, rather than being summarily removed with little, if any, recourse.

Additionally, given the pressure that the Administration is likely to exert through the Department of Justice to movecases quickly through the Immigration Court system with little regard for due process and fundamental fairness, resort to the Article III Courts to require fair proceedings and an unbiased application of the laws becomes even more essential. Litigation in the U.S. District and Appellate Courts has turned out to be effective in forcing systemic change. However, virtually no unrepresented individual is going to be capable of getting to the Court of Appeals, let alone prevailing on a claim.

I have been working with groups looking for ways to expand the accredited representativeprogram, which allows properly trained and certified individuals who are not lawyers to handle cases before the DHS and the Immigration Courts while working for certain nonprofit community organizations, on either a staff or volunteer basis. Notwithstanding some recently publicized problems with policing the system, which I wrote about on my blog immigrationrcourtside.com, this is a critically important program for expanding representation in Immigration Courts. The accredited representativeprogram is also an outstanding opportunity for retired individuals, like professors, who are not lawyers to qualify to provide pro bono representation in Immigration Court to needy migrants thorough properly recognized religious and community organizations.        

Even if you are not practicing or do not intend to practice immigration law, there are many outstanding opportunities to contribute by taking pro bono cases. Indeed, in my experience in Arlington, big lawfirms were some of the major contributors to highly effective pro bono representation. It was also great hands onexperience for those seeking to hone their litigation skills.

Those of you with language and teaching skills can help out in English Language Learning programs for migrants.   I have observed first hand that the better that individuals understand the language and culture of the US, the more successful they are in navigating our Immigration Court system and both assisting, and when necessary, challenging their representatives to perform at the highest levels. In other words, they are in a better position to be informed consumersof legal services.        

Another critical area for focus is funding of nonprofit community-based organizations and religious groups that assist migrants for little or no charge. Never has the need for such services been greater.

But, many of these organizations receive at least some government funding for outreach efforts. We have already seen how the President has directed the DHS to “defund” outreach efforts and use the money instead for a program to assist victims of crimes committed by undocumented individuals.

Undoubtedly, with the huge emphases on military expansion and immigration enforcement, to the exclusion of other important programs, virtually all forms of funding for outreach efforts to migrants are likely to disappear in the very near future. Those who care about helping others will have to make up the deficit. So, at giving time, remember your community nonprofit organizations that are assisting foreign nationals. 

Finally, as an informed voter and participant in our political process, you can advance the cause of Immigration Court reform and due process. For the last 16 years politicians of both parties have largely stood by and watched the unfolding due process disaster in the U.S. Immigration Courts without doing anything about it, and in some cases actually making it worse.

The notion that Immigration Court reform must be part of so-called comprehensive immigration reformis simply wrong. The Immigration Courts can and must be fixed sooner rather than later, regardless of what happens with overall immigration reform. Its time to let your Senators and Representatives know that we need due process reforms in the Immigration Courts as one of our highest national priorities.

Folks, the U.S Immigration Court system is on the verge of collapse. And, there is every reason to believe that the misguided enforce and detain to the maxpolicies being pursued by this Administration will drive the Immigration Courts over the edge. When that happens, a large chunk of the entire American justice system and the due process guarantees that make American great and different from most of the rest of the world will go down with it.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I have introduced you to one of Americas largest and most important, yet least understood and appreciated, court systems: the United States Immigration Court. I have shared with you the Courts noble due process vision and my view that it is not currently being fulfilled. I have also shared with you my ideas for effective court reform that would achieve the due process vision and how you can become involved in improving the process. Now is the time to take a stand for fundamental fairness’! Join the New Due Process Army! Due process forever!        

Thanks again for inviting me and for listening. Have a great conference!

 

 

(05/12/17)

        

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Matter of Lennon, 15 I&N Dec. 9 (BIA 1974), rev’d Lennon v. INS, 527 F.2d 187 (2d Cir. 1975).

[2] Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996).

[3] TRAC Immigration, “Representation is Key in Immigration Proceedings Involving Women with Children,” Feb. 18, 2015, available online at http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/377/.

[4] “Immigration Director Calls for Overhaul of Broken System,” NBC Bay Area News, May 27, 2015, available online.

[5] Guchshenkov v. Ashcroft, 366 F.3d 554 (7th Cir. 2004) (Evans, J., concurring).
[6] Hon. Thomas G. Snow, “The gut-wrenching life of an immigration judge,” USA Today, Dec. 12, 2106, available online at http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/12/12/immigration-judge-gut-wrenching-decisions-column/95308118/

[7] Julia Preston, “Lawyers Back Creating New Immigration Courts,” NY Times, Feb. 6, 2010.

[8] INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

[9] INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

[10] Matter of Mogharrabi, 19 I&N Dec. 4379(BIA 1987).

[11] Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Andrew I. Schoenholtz, and Philip G. Schrag, Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, 60 Stan. L. Rev. 295 (2007);

[12] All statistics are from the EOIR FY 2015 Statistics Yearbook, available online at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/fysb15/download,

[13] See Emory Law/SPLC Observation Study Rips Due Process Violations At Atlanta Immigration Court — Why Is The BIA “Asleep At The Switch” In Enforcing Due Process? What Happened To The EOIR’s “Due Process Vision?” in immigrationcourtside.com, available online at http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/03/02/emory-lawsplc-observation-study-rips-due-process-violations-at-atlanta-immigration-court-why-is-the-bia-asleep-at-the-switch-in-enforcing-due-process-what-happened-to-the-eoirs-due-proces/

[14] See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1).

[15] See, e.g., Matter of Y-S-L-C-, 26 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2015) (denial of due process where IJ tried to bar the testimony of minor respondent by disqualifying him as an expert witness under the Federal Rules of Evidence). While the BIA finally stepped in with this precedent, the behavior of this Judge shows a system where some Judges have abandoned any discernable concept of “guaranteeing fairness and due process.” The BIA’s “permissive” attitude toward Judges who consistently deny nearly all asylum applications has allowed this to happen. Indeed the Washington Post recently carried a poignant story of a young immigration lawyer who was driven out of the practice by the negative attitudes and treatment by the Immigration Judges at the Atlanta Immigration Court. Harlan, Chico, “In an Immigration Court that nearly always says no, a lawyer’s spirit is broken,” Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2016, available online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-an-immigration-court-that-nearly-always-says-no-a-lawyers-spirit-is-broken/2016/10/11/05f43a8e-8eee-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

How does this live up to the EOIR Vision of “through teamwork and innovation being the world’s best administrative tribunals guaranteeing fairness and due process for all?”   Does this represent the best that American justice has to offer?

EOIR Embroiled In Controversy On Several Fronts!

Few agencies in the U.S. Government are as publicity and conflict averse as the Executive Office for Immigraton Review (“EOIR,” pronounced “Eeyore”), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice that houses the U.S. Immigration Court system. So, officials at EOIR and their DOJ handlers must be “going bananas” (when they aren’t preoccupied with the Comey firing) about several recent news items that cast an unwelcome spotlight on the agency.

First, super-sleuth NPR reporter Beth Fertig smoked out the story of ex-con Carlos Davila (12 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and  sexual abuse while on parole) who is using the EOIR “recognition and accreditation” program to practice law (without a license) under the guise of being a “nonprofit charitable organization.” Davila is apparently under investigation by EOIR, but continues to practice.

As a result of Beth’s story, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez  has asked the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the program.

As noted in the article, the “R&A” program, allows well-qualified non-attorneys working at reputable nonprofit charitable organizations to represent migrants in Immigration Court and/or before the DHS. The R&A program fills a critically important role in providing due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts. This is particularly true today, in light of increased enforcement and very limited pro bono and “low bono” immigration attorney resources.

The Davila situation, as described by Beth, sounds like a scam to me.  Under the regulations, “accredited representatives” are supposed to be working for “recognized organizations” — nonprofits that provide legal services (usually along with other types of social services) on a largely pro bono basis.

Only “nominal fees” can be charged. But the term “nominal fees” has never been defined. We worked on it, off an on, for most of my tenure as BIA Chair in the late 1990s and never could come up with a specific definition that was acceptable to both NGOs and bar associations.

From the article, it appears to me that Davila is actually running a profit-making law firm for himself and his staff under the “shell” of a non-profit.  For example, charging someone $200 for a piece of paper that basically restates their rights under the Constitution, the INA, and the regulations seems far beyond a “nominal fee.” The research is simple, and the card itself could be printed off for a few cents a copy. So, $200 seems grossly excessive.

Also, fees of $1,000 to $3,500 for asylum applications seem to be beyond “nominal fees.”  If fact, that’s probably close to what some legitimate “low bono” law firms would charge. So, it seems like Davila is really practicing law for a living without a license, rather than providing essentially pro bono services for a charitable organization.

I agree that there should be more thorough investigation and vetting of organizations and accredited representatives by EOIR. This seems like something that should be right up Attorney General Sessions’s alley.

To my knowledge, EOIR does not currently employ any “investigators” who could be assigned to the EOIR staff working on the recognition and accreditation program. But there are tons of retired FBI agents and DHS agents out there who could be hired on a contract basis to do such investigations. Given the money that this Administration is planning to throw at immigration enforcement, finding funds for a needed “upgrade” to this program should not be a problem.

Here are link’s to Beth’s initial article and the follow-up:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/felon-has-federal-approval-represent-immigrants-and-now-hes-selling-this-id

http://www.wnyc.org/story/congresswoman-calls-more-oversight-non-lawyers-representing-immigrants

The second controversial item concerns an ongoing dispute between the Federation for American Immigration Reform (“FAIR”) and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (“IRLI”) on one side and the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”)  and other immigrants’ rights groups on the other. In  2014, the SPLC and other advocacy groups requested that the BIA “strike” an amicus brief filed by FAIR and IRLI because, among other things, FAIR was a “hate group.” FAIR responded by asking EOIR to discipline the SPLC and other advocacy group attorneys involved for “unprofessional conduct.”

On March 28, 2016, the EOIR Disciplinary Counsel issued a confidential letter finding that the SPLC and related attorneys had engaged in professional misconduct. However, in lieu of formal disciplinary proceedings, the Disciplinary Counsel issued a “reminder” to the concerned attorneys “that practitioners before EOIR should be striving to be civil and professional in their interactions with each other, the public, and the Board and Immigration Courts.”

But, that was not the end of the matter. On May 8, 2017, the IRLI published the “confidential” letter of discipline on the internet, stating:

“Although the SPLC’s utter lack of ethics was thoroughly condemned by the DOJ, the agency inexplicably requested that FAIR keep their conclusions confidential. FAIR and IRLI have complied with the request for more than a year; however, in that time, the SPLC has continued and escalated its attacks on both FAIR and IRLI, likely in part in retaliation for FAIR and IRLI filing a complaint with DOJ regarding its conduct. At this time, IRLI has decided it must release the letter to defend itself and protect its charitable purposes.”

So, now, the EOIR “confidential” letter is sitting smack dab in the middle of what looks like the “Hundred Years War” between FAIR and the SPLC.  Not the kind of “stuff” that EOIR and DOJ like to be involved in!

On the plus side, perhaps in response to this situation, the BIA in 2015 changed its amicus procedures to publicly request briefing from any interested party in matters of significant importance that likely will lead to precedent decisions. Indeed, a number of such notices have been published on this blog.

Here’s a copy of the IRLI posting which contains a link to the 2014 “confidential” letter from the EOIR Disciplinary Counsel.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/irli-releases-obama-justice-department-reprimand-of-the-southern-poverty-law-center-over-its-derogatory-tactics-frivolous-behavior-300453406.html

Stay tuned.

PWS

05-10-17

 

 

 

 

 

DR. NO? — DHS Appoints Restrictionist To “Ombudsman” Position!

https://thinkprogress.org/uscis-ombudsman-877d18a67d97

Dan Kowalski at LexisNexsis Immigration Community forwards the following item from Think Progress:

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is set to announce the appointment of a controversial former leader of an anti-immigrant policy center to be its ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Monday, according to two sources aware of the news.

Between 2005 and 2015, Julie Kirchner worked first as its director of government relations then as executive director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization founded by an alleged white nationalist who advocates for stricter immigration. During her time at FAIR, the organization proposed efforts to end birthright citizenshipand reduce legal immigration levels. She left FAIR in 2015 to become an immigration adviser on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.

Immigrant advocates are worried Kirchner’s role as ombudsman will give her direct access to include or exclude stakeholders with an immigration nexus who may shape her formal recommendations based on how the agency should exercise authority over policy implementation.

“The appointment of Kirchner to the position of CIS ombudsman is extremely troubling when you consider the fact that she spent 10 years working for FAIR, a group founded on racist principals that has spent decades demonizing and vilifying immigrants,” Heidi Beirich, the director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, told ThinkProgress in an email.

USCIS public affairs officer Katie Tichacek told ThinkProgress the agency “does not comment on potential personnel announcements. The two people who confirmed information of Kirchner’s appointment were one current DHS employee and one former DHS employee.

Congress created the role of the USCIS ombudsman under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 as an “impartial and independent perspective” to the agency housed within DHS, according to a DHS agency website. Among tasks like meeting with external stakeholders, ombudsman are responsible for resolving problems with pending immigration cases, sharing feedback on emerging trends in migration patterns, and issuing formal recommendations and proposals to address concerns. They cannot make or change USCIS decisions.

In her 2016 annual report to Congress, former USCIS Ombudsman Maria M. Odom said engaging with external stakeholders was “integral to our full understanding of the issues and their impact on the USCIS customer.”

January Contreras, a former USCIS ombudsman between 2009 and 2012 described her role as a DHS “watchdog.” She now works as the CEO of Arizona Legal Women and Youth’s Services (ALWAYS), which provides pro bono legal services for trafficking survivors and young people.

During her time, Contreras met with a wide variety of people that spanned the immigration spectrum, including human resource and vice presidents looking to expand high-tech visas, undocumented immigrants, and former refugees who pointed out which processes they had trouble with.

“[The role] is someone who is listening outside the DHS bubble,” Contreras told ThinkProgress Friday. “My job, when I was the ombudsman, was to listen to people who were dissatisfied at what was going on at the DHS. Sometimes people would bring complaints, sometimes they would bring ideas, sometimes they were long-simmering issues and sometimes they were rather new issues.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled FAIR as a hate group, pointing to a series of racist memos written by the organization’s founder John Tanton warning of a “Latin onslaught.” In the past, Tanton and other supporters promoted radical population control measures like sterilizing Third World women and making wider use of an abortion pill. FAIR has received $1.5 million from the pro-eugenics organization Pioneer Fund. Tanton also founded NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), two organizations that consulted Trump or senior administration officials during his campaign.

“At the end of the day, the ombudsman is still accountable to Congress to improve services, not restrict services,” Contreras said. “So in fact if there’s an ombudsman in place interested only in restricting immigration I hope that Congress will have some conversations, whether privately or publicly, to make sure they’re doing the job they’re hired to do.”

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

Wishful thinking on Contreras’s part, I’m afraid. With the GOP firmly in control of the political branches of Government, and Secretary Kelly proving to be a “shill” for Sessions and the restrictionists, I wouldn’t bet on any meaningful oversight of the Ombudsman position.

Quite to the contrary, I expect the Ombudsman to become an extension of the VOICE program for “victims of crime” or, perhaps, a conduit for anonymous “tips” on how to locate individuals who potentially are removable from the U.S.

PWS

04-30-17