GOP’S WAR ON OUR GOVERNMENT CONTINUES — FEDS’ COMPENSATION, RETIREMENT PROGRAMS TARGETED! — GOP WOULD SOCK IT TO MIDDLE CLASS TO GIVE UNNEEDED TAX CUTS TO RICH CRONIES!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/07/18/gop-again-hits-federal-retirement-in-latest-budget-plan/?utm_term=.4446f1d6d7d6&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

Joe Davidson & Eric Yoder report in the Washington Post:

“The House budget proposal released Tuesday continues Republican efforts to cut federal employees’ compensation by making them pay more for retirement benefits.

Saying they seek “reforms to civil service pensions to put them on a better fiscal path,” the spending plan released by the House Budget Committee calls on staffers “to make greater contributions to their own defined benefit retirement plans.”

While the Republican’s “Plan for Fiscal Responsibility” did not provide details, it echoes previous proposals, including one offered by President Trump this year. He proposed increasing individual out-of-pocket payments toward retirement by 1 percentage point each year until they equal the government’s contribution for those in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).

Over a six-year period, this would result in increased payments of about 6 percent. With no increase in benefits, that would equal a 6 percent drop in pay.

The budget “blueprint” assumes that the main panel overseeing federal employment in the House will take those steps to find the $32 billion in savings over 10 years that the blueprint would require.

The budget plan released by Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) also would end the “special retirement supplement,” which pays FERS employees “the equivalent of their Social Security benefit at an earlier age.”

“These plans put the ownership, flexibility, and portfolio risk on the employee as opposed to the employer,” the GOP document says. “Similarly, federal employees would have more control over their own retirement security under this option.”

Federal employee leaders sharply disagree.

“Slashing the pay and benefits of America’s civil servants while lining the pockets of the wealthiest of the wealthy is a shameful way to govern the country and is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with this horrible budget,” said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees.”

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Read the complete article with charts at the above link.

These guys are shameless. The USG’s career civil service was once a “model program” that states, private employers, and even other countries sought to emulate. It produced an overall talented, motivated, honest, and effective workforce. And, the promise of an adequate, stable, and predictable retirement program underwritten by Uncle Sam was an important part of that success.

The GOP proposes to end all of that and turn the USG into just another lousy employer more interested in his or her own welfare than the well-being of the employees who are the heart and soul of the business. Shifting risk from the “big guys” like the Government, who can actually leverage investment and insurance markets and raise revenues when necessary, to individual employees who are much less well positioned to bear that risk is immoral, not to mention stupid. You get what you pay for. Reducing government employment to the lowest common denominator will essentially make us a third world country.

I dealt with this in Immigration Court all the time. The main difference between the U.S. and countries folks were fleeing (many of which had plenty of natural and human resources) was the lack of government structure and the inability or unwillingness of government to be an “honest broker” serving the needs of the people at large. In too many countries, corrupt governments are seen as primarily furthering the power and interests of those at the “top of the pile” and keeping everyone else in line.

We once had a President who sought to create a U.S. Government of “the best and the brightest.” Sadly, those days are long gone. Ultimately, all of us, and particularly those who come after us, will pay the price for the GOP’s endemic lack of vision and decency and their failure to honor and appreciate the massive contributions of career civil servants to to overall success of our nation.

PWS

07-18-17

 

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

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

Mica Rosenberg and Kristina Cooke report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

PWS

03/04/17

WALTER PINCUS IN THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS: The Coming Immigration Court Disaster!

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/03/01/trump-us-immigration-waiting-for-chaos/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NYR Dennett immigration reform Chopin&utm_content=NYR Dennett immigration reform Chopin+CID_c0a3091a06cff6ddbb541b093215f280&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_term=US Immigration Waiting for Chaos

“One thing however is clear. Trump’s recent efforts to use blunt executive power to close our borders and prepare the way for deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants are confronting far-reaching problems. Not only is there opposition from federal judges, the business sector, civil liberties groups, and others. There is also a major roadblock from another quarter: our already broken system of immigration laws and immigration courts.

The nation’s immigration laws needed repair long before Trump came to office. Even without the measures taken by the new administration, immigration courts face a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases, while the existing detention system is plagued, not just by arbitrary arrests, but also by deep problems in the way immigrant detainees are handled by our courts, one aspect of which is the subject of a Supreme Court challenge.

But will the potential Trump excesses—driven by the president’s fear mongering about immigrant crimes and the alleged potential for terrorists to pose as refugees—be enough to light a fire under a Republican-led Congress that has for years balked at immigration reform?

. . . .

For better or worse—and it may turn out to be worse if Congress continues to refuse to act—the Trump administration’s determination to enforce current laws has pushed long-standing inequities in immigration justice onto the front pages.

Take the matter of those immigration judges, who now number some three hundred and are scheduled to grow substantially under the Trump administration. In April 2013, the National Association of Immigration Judges issued a scathing report pleading for omnibus immigration reform. Describing the morale of the immigration judge corps as “plummeting,” the report found that “the Immigration Courts’ caseload is spiraling out of control, dramatically outpacing the judicial resources available and making a complete gridlock of the current system a disturbing and foreseeable probability.”

The judges also noted that, “as a component of the DOJ [Department of Justice], the Immigration Courts remain housed in an executive agency with a prosecutorial mission that is frequently at odds with the goal of impartial adjudication.” For example, the judges are appointed by the Attorney General and “subject to non-transparent performance review and disciplinary processes as DOJ employees.” As a result, “they can be subjected to personal discipline for not meeting the administrative priorities of their supervisors and are frequently placed in the untenable position of having to choose between risking their livelihood and exercising their independent decision-making authority when deciding continuances”—the postponement of a hearing or trial.

The immigration judges writing this complaint were working under the Obama administration Justice Department, with Eric Holder as attorney general. What will their situation be like with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a believer in tighter immigration controls, as their boss?

As it is now, an immigration judge’s job is exhausting. They carry an average load of 1,500 cases, but have minimal staff support. In the 2013 report, the immigration judges noted that they have no bailiffs, no court reporters, and only one quarter of the time of a single judicial law clerk. The backlog of immigration cases in the United States now stands at roughly 542,000. Most important, the immigration judges claim some 85 percent of detained immigrants appearing before them are unrepresented by counsel.

Meanwhile, another pending lawsuit highlights a different long-running problem concerning our nation’s immigration judges. In June 2013, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, along with Public Citizen and the American Immigration Council (AIC) filed a case in federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeking documents that would disclose whether the federal government adequately investigated and resolved misconduct complaints against immigration judges.

Such complaints have been widespread enough that the Justice Department reports annually on the number. In fiscal 2014, the latest figures published, there were 115 complaints lodged against 66 immigration judges. Although 77 were listed as resolved, the outcomes are not described.”

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This timely article was brought to my attention by my good friend and former colleague retired U.s. Immigration Judge (NY) Sarah Burr. Walter Pincus is a highly respected national security reporter. He’s not by any means an “immigration guru.”

As I have pointed out in previous blogs and articles, this problem is real! In the absence of sensible, bipartisan immigration reform by Congress, which must include establishing an independent immigration judiciary, our entire Federal Justice System is at risk of massive failure.

Why? Because even now, immigration review cases are one of the largest, if not the largest, components of the civil dockets of the U.S. Courts of Appeals. As due process in the Immigration Courts and the BIA (the “Appellate Division” of the U.S. Immigration Courts) deteriorates under excruciating pressure from the Administration, more and more of those ordered removed will take their cases to the U.S. Courts of Appeals. That’s potentially hundreds of thousands of additional cases. It won’t be long before the Courts of Appeals won’t have time for anything else but immigration review.

In my view, that’s likely to provoke two responses from the Article III Courts. First, the Circuits will start imposing their own minimum due process and legal sufficiency requirements on the Immigration Courts. But, since there are eleven different Circuits now reviewing immigration petitions, that’s likely to result in a hodgepodge of different criteria applicable in different parts of the country. And, the Supremes have neither the time nor ability to quickly resolve all Circuit conflicts.

Second, many, if not all Courts of Appeals, are likely to return the problem to the DOJ by remanding thousands of cases to the Immigration Courts for “re-dos” under fundamentally fair procedures. Obviously, that will be a massive waste of time and resources for both the Article III Courts and the Immigration Courts. It’s much better to do it right in the first place. “Haste makes waste.”

No matter where one stands in the immigration debate, due process and independent decision making in the U.S. Immigration Courts should be a matter of bipartisan concern and cooperation. After all, we are a constitutional republic, and due process is one of the key concepts of our constitutional system.

PWS

03/02/17

 

Zoe Tillman on BuzzFeed: U.S. Immigration Courts Are Overwhelmed — Administration’s New Enforcement Priorities Could Spell Disaster! (I’m Quoted In This Article, Along With Other Current & Former U.S. Immigration Judges)

https://www.buzzfeed.com/zoetillman/backlogged-immigration-courts-pose-problems-for-trumps-plans?utm_term=.pokrzE6BW#.wcMKevdYG

Zoe Tillman reports:

“ARLINGTON, Va. — In a small, windowless courtroom on the second floor of an office building, Judge Rodger Harris heard a string of bond requests on Tuesday morning from immigrants held in jail as they faced deportation.
The detainees appeared by video from detention facilities elsewhere in the state. Harris, an immigration judge since 2007, used a remote control to move the camera around in his courtroom so the detainees could see their lawyers appearing in-person before the judge, if they had one. The lawyers spoke about their clients’ family ties, job history, and forthcoming asylum petitions, and downplayed any previous criminal record.
In cases where Harris agreed to set bond — the amounts ranged from $8,000 to $20,000 — he had the same message for the detainees: if they paid bond and were set free until their next court date, it would mean a delay in their case. Hearings set for March or April would be pushed back until at least the summer, he said.
But a couple of months is nothing compared to timelines that some immigration cases are on now. Judges and lawyers interviewed by BuzzFeed News described hearings scheduled four, five, or even six years out. Already facing a crushing caseload, immigration judges are bracing for more strain as the Trump administration pushes ahead with an aggressive ramp-up of immigration enforcement with no public commitment so far to aid backlogged courts.
Immigration courts, despite their name, are actually an arm of the US Department of Justice. The DOJ seal — with the Latin motto “qui pro domina justitia sequitur,” which roughly translates to, “who prosecutes on behalf of justice” — hung on the wall behind Harris in his courtroom in Virginia. Lawyers from the US Department of Homeland Security prosecute cases. Rulings can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is also part of the Justice Department, and then to a federal appeals court.
As of the end of January, there were more than 540,000 cases pending in immigration courts. President Trump signed executive orders in late January that expanded immigration enforcement priorities and called for thousands of additional enforcement officers and border patrol officers. But the orders are largely silent on immigration courts, where there are dozens of vacant judgeships. And beyond filling the vacancies, the union of immigration judges says more judges are needed to handle the caseload, as well as more space, technological upgrades, and other resources.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly acknowledged the immigration court backlog in a memorandum released this week that provided new details about how the department would carry out Trump’s orders. Kelly lamented the “unacceptable delay” in immigration court cases that allowed individuals who illegally entered the United States to remain here for years.
The administration hasn’t announced plans to increase the number of immigration judges or to provide more funding and resources. It also isn’t clear yet if immigration judges and court staff are exempt from a government-wide hiring freeze that Trump signed shortly after he took office. There are 73 vacancies in immigration courts, out of 374 judgeships authorized by Congress.
“Everybody’s pretty stressed,” said Paul Schmidt, who retired as an immigration judge in June. “How are you going to throw more cases into a court with 530,000 pending cases? It isn’t going to work.”

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Zoe Tillman provides a well-reaserched and accurate description of the dire situation of justice in the U.S. Immigration Courts and the poorly conceived and uncoordinated enforcement initiatives of the Trump Administration. Sadly, lives and futures of “real life human beings” are at stake here.

Here’s a “shout out” to my good friend and former colleague Judge Rodger Harris who always does a great job of providing due process and justice on the highly stressful Televideo detained docket at the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, VA. Thanks for all you do for our system of justice and the cause of due process, Judge Harris.

PWS

02/24/17

Sessions Confirmed As AG On Party Line Vote Following Contentious Process — Sen. Warren (D-MA) Silenced By GOP!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/amid-deep-partisan-rancor-a-sharply-divided-senate-barrels-toward-sessions-vote/2017/02/08/d848d4fa-ee15-11e6-b4ff-ac2cf509efe5_story.html?utm_term=.b888cc34bb55

“A sharply divided Senate confirmed President Trump’s nominee for attorney general Wednesday, capping an ugly partisan fight and revealing how deep the discord has grown between Republicans and Democrats at the dawn of Trump’s presidency.

The day after an unusually tense conflict on the Senate floor, the chamber voted 52 to 47 on Wednesday evening to clear Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose record on civil and voting rights as a federal prosecutor and state attorney general has long been criticized. Sessions won confirmation almost exclusively along party lines. Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) was the only Democrat who supported him, and no Republican voted against him. Sessions voted present.

In remarks after his confirmation, Sessions mentioned the “heated debate” surrounding him and said he hoped “the intensity of the last few weeks” would give way to better relations in the Senate.”

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PWS

02/08/17

From “Sputnik News:” “Trump Selects Three Legal Veterans for Senior Justice Department Posts”

https://sputniknews.com/us/201702011050221283-trump-three-candidates-justice-dept-posts/

“WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Trump announced he is going to nominate Rod J. Rosenstein of Maryland to be Deputy Attorney General, Rachel B. Brand of Iowa to be Associate Attorney General and Steven Andrew Engel of the District of Columbia to be Assistant Attorney General, according to the release.

Rosenstein was previously US Attorney for the federal, or District Court of Maryland, Brand served as an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush and Engel was a successful litigator who had served previously as a deputy assistant attorney general.”

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Sounds like the type of candidates most any Republican President would appoint.  The “real question” is will they have any real influence on policy at the DOJ or will they be confined to “working out the Xs and Os of daily agency operations” while aides at the White House “pull the strings” with Attorney General Sessions on major legal and policy issues (like the operation of the U.S. Immigration Courts).

Too early to tell, of course.  But, it’s something that Democrats should at least raise during the confirmation process.  I wouldn’t expect any of these candidates to have difficulty getting confirmed.

PWS

01/01/17

BREAKING: From “The Hill” — Sessions Nomination As AG Approved By Senate Judiciary Committee — Moves To Full Senate Where Approval Is A Foregone Conclusion!

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/317035-sessions-approved-by-senate-committee

The Hill writes:

“A Senate committee voted to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general on Wednesday, two days after the growing controversy surrounding President Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim nations led to the firing of an acting attorney general for insubordination.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sessions 11-9 along party lines. His nomination now goes to the floor, where he is widely expected to be confirmed given the GOP’s 52-seat majority.

The committee vote comes as Senate Democrats have sought to slow progress on other Trump nominees, including Steve Mnuchin, the pick at the Treasury Department, and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump’s pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department.

The Alabama senator’s already difficult path to confirmation was made more contentious by Trump’s firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who deemed the president’s order illegal and said she would not have Justice attorneys defend it.”

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As we have known for weeks, Jeff Sessions will soon be the Attorney General of the United States.  What exactly does that mean for our justice system and particularly for the beleaguered and backlogged United States Immigration Courts which he will now control?

Among the most immediate questions:

Will he exempt the Immigration Courts from the Administration’s hiring freeze?

If so, what will he do with the many “pipeline candidates” for existing Immigration  Judge vacancies who were “caught in limbo” when the hiring freeze went into effect?

Will he continue with the existing DOJ hiring process for the Immigration Judiciary, or will he establish his own recruitment and hiring system for Immigration Judges and BIA Judges.

We’ll soon find out.  Stay tuned to immigrationcourtside.com for all the latest!

PWS

02/01/17

Read The Winter 2017 Edition Of “The Green Card” From The FBA — Includes My Article “Immigration Courts — Reclaiming the Vision” (P. 15) & “The Asylumist” Jason Dzubow’s Reprise Of The “Schmidt Interviews” (See “Immigration Rant,” P. 2)!

Green Card Winter 2017 Final

Here are some excerpts:

“Our Immigration Courts are going through an existential crisis that threatens the very foundations of our American Justice System. I have often spoken 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 come” messages to asylum seekers, which are highly ineffective in any event, must end. That’s 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 has been lost when officials outside EOIR have forced ill-advised “prioritization” and 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 is not only unfair to all, but has created what I call “aimless docket reshuffling” that has thrown our system into chaos.

Evidently, the idea of the prioritization was to remove most of those recently crossing the border to seek protection, thereby sending a “don’t come, we don’t want you” message to asylum seekers. But, as a deterrent, this program has been spectacularly unsuccessful. Not surprisingly to me, individuals fleeing for their lives from the Northern Triangle have continued to seek refuge in the United States in large numbers. Immigration Court backlogs have continued to grow across the board, notwithstanding an actual reduction in overall case receipts and an increase in the number of authorized Immigration Judges.”

Another one:

Former BIA Chairman Paul W. Schmidt on His Career, the Board, and the Purge

“Paul Wickham Schmidt served as Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) from 1995 to 2001. He was a Board Member of the BIA from 2001 to 2003, and served as an Immigration Judge in Arlington, Virginia from 2003 until his retirement earlier this year. He also worked in private practice and held other senior positions in government, including Deputy General Counsel and Acting General Counsel at INS. The Asylumist caught up with Judge Schmidt in Maine, where he has been enjoying his retirement, and talked to him about his career, the BIA, and the “purge” of 2003.”

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Read the complete articles plus lots of other “great stuff” both practical and more philosophical at the above link.

And, for all of you “aspiring writers” out there, Green Card Editor and my good friend and former colleague from the U.S. Immigration Court In Arlington, VA, Hon. Lawrence Owen “Larry” Burman, and the Publications Director, Dr. Alicia Triche, are always looking for “new talent” and interesting articles. Instructions on how to submit manuscripts are on page one.

PWS

02/01/17

 

CBS News: “Overloaded U.S. immigration courts a ‘recipe for disaster'”

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-us-immigration-courts-deportations/

AIMEE PICCHI/MONEYWATCH writes:

“President Donald Trump is taking what he portrays as a hard-nosed approach to undocumented immigrants, issuing an order this week to boost the number of U.S. border patrol agents and to build detention centers.

But what happens when a federal push to ramp up arrests and deportations hits a severely backlogged federal court system?

“It’s a recipe for a due process disaster,” said Omar Jadwat, an attorney and director of the Immigrant Rights Project at the ACLU. Already, he pointed out, there are “large, large numbers of caseloads” in immigration court, and Mr. Trump’s directives threaten to greatly increase the number of people caught in the system, he said.

Just how backlogged is the system for adjudicating deportations and related legal matters? America’s immigration courts are now handling a record-breaking level of cases, with more than 533,000 cases currently pending, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC, a data gathering site that tracks the federal government’s enforcement activities. That figure is more than double the number when Mr. Obama took office in 2009.

As a result, immigrants awaiting their day in court face an average wait time of 678 days, or close to two years.
Immigrant rights advocates say the backlog is likely to worsen, citing Mr. Trump’s order on Wednesday to hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents while also enacting a freeze on government hiring. Whether the U.S. Justice Department, which oversees the immigration courts, will be able to add judges given the hiring freeze isn’t clear.

A spokeswoman from the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review said the agency is awaiting “further guidance” regarding the hiring freeze from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management. In the meantime, she said, the agency “will continue, without pause, to protect the nation with the available resources it has today.”

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There is video to go with the complete story at the link.

The situation is likely to get much worse in the U.S. Immigration Courts.  Obviously, due process is not going to be a high priority for this Administration.  And, while the Executive Orders can be read to give Attorney General Jeff Sessions authority to continue hiring Immigration Judges, filling the 75 or so currently vacant positions won’t begin to address the Immigration Courts’ workload problems.

Then, there are the questions of space and support staff. One of the reasons more vacancies haven’t been filled to date is that many Immigration Courts (for example, the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, VA) have simply run out of space for additional judges and staff.

The parent agency of the Immigration Courts, “EOIR,” is counting on being allowed to continue with expansion plans currently underway.  But, even if Attorney General Sessions goes forward with those plans, that space won’t be ready until later in 2017, and that’s highly optimistic.

This does not seem like an Administration that will be willing to wait for the current lengthy highly bureaucratic hiring system to operate or for new Immigration Judges to be trained and “brought up to speed.”  So various “gimmicks” to speed hiring, truncate training, and push the Administration’s “priority cases” — likely to be hundreds of thousands of additional cases — through the Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals at breakneck speed.

Consequently, the whole “due process mess” eventually is likely to be thrown into the U.S. Courts of Appeals where “final orders of removal” are reviewed by Article III Judges with lifetime tenure, rather than by administrative judges appointed and supervised by the Attorney General.

PWS

01/28/17

 

 

 

Obama DOJ’s Failed Priorities Leave Backlogs, “Frontlogs,” And Overall Docket Chaos As Legacy To United States Immigration Courts!

http://trac.syr.edu/whatsnew/email.170117.html

TRAC Immigration writes:

“(17 Jan 2017) The number of judges is still insufficient to handle the growing backlog in the Immigration Court. The court’s crushing workload reached a record-breaking 533,909 pending cases as the court closed out calendar year 2016, up 4.2 percent in just the last four months.
The problem is particularly acute for priority cases involving women with children according to the latest court data updated through the end of December 2016 and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. Pending priority cases for these families jumped by more than 20 percent (21.9%) in just the last four months. The backlog of these family cases alone totaled 102,342 last month, surpassing 100,000 cases for the first time.

The number of pending priority cases involving unaccompanied children also has continued to climb, reaching 75,582 at the December 2016. Together with family cases, this priority workload now accounts for fully one third (33%) of the court’s overall record backlog.”

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How totally sad and disappointing for those of us who care deeply about the due process mission of our United States Immigration Courts!  The Obama Administration had eight full years to make the necessary reforms to put the United States Immigration Courts back on track to achieving their “due process vision.” Instead, alternating indifference to and interference with the due process mission of the Immigration Courts made a bad situation even worse. And, unlike the Article III Courts, the U.S. Immigration Courts are a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of the DOJ and the Administration. So, Republicans can’t be blamed for this one. In fact, recently the Republican-controlled Congress provided strong bi-partisan support for the Immigration Courts by authorizing and funding additional U.S. Immigration Judge positions (many of which, however, remained unfilled at the end of the Obama Administration).

We’ll see what happens next. But, if the results aren’t happy for due process, Democrats are going to have to shoulder much of the blame.

PWS

01/20/17

 

 

News From The United States Immigration Court In Arlington, VA — Judge Emmett D. Soper Joins Arlington Immigration Court — More Judges Planned For The Future!

Dateline Arlington, VA, Jan. 12, 2017

The United States Immigration Court in Arlington, VA announced recently that newly appointed U.S. Immigration Judge Emmett D. Soper will be starting to hear cases in February.   Judge Soper most recently was an Associate General Counsel in the EOIR Office of General Counsel in Falls Church, VA.  Before that, he was an Attorney Adviser with the Office of Chief Immigration Judge.  If my recollection is correct, he was also a Judicial Law Clerk in the U.S. Immigration Court in Buffalo, NY. Congratulations, Judge Soper!  Congratulations Arlington!

Judge Soper is a “good guy,” and should be a great fit in Arlington.  He will join Judge John M. Bryant, Judge Robert P. Owens, Judge Lawrence O. Burman, Judge Roxanne C. Hladylowycz, Judge Rodger C. Harris, Judge Thomas G. Snow, Judge Quynh Vu Bain, Judge Traci Hong, and Judge Karen Donoso Stevens, bringing the total number of Judges in Arlington to ten, the largest compliment ever.

Unfortunately, however, because the Arlington Immigration Court currently has only eight courtrooms with public access, Judge Hong and Judge Donoso Stevens have been largely “stashed in the back room” sitting in interior euphemistically named “TV Courts” — which also serve as chambers — hearing cases from other Immigration Courts.  I am not aware of what docket Judge Soper will be handling and whether he will be “visible” or “hidden.”

Unless I’m missing something, which is sometimes the case, when all ten Arlington Judges are present, two will always have to be doing interior TV Court to other cities. Additional space has been located at 1901 South Bell, and my understanding is that the Court plans to open new publicly accessible courtrooms, obviously on another floor, this spring, thus enabling all Arlington Judges to work on Arlington cases, something that happened only rarely during my thirteen year tenure there.

The local AILA Chapter has also been informed that the Arlington Immigration Court plans to expand to sixteen Immigration Judges by the end of 2017.  This would be a most welcome development, given the current docket with in excess of 30,000 pending cases.

Apparently, the new court design will include publicly accessible courtrooms for 16 Judges with another two interior courtrooms which can be used only for TV Court to other locations.  The latter seems rather curious to me.  Why take up court space with courtrooms that can’t be used on the Arlington docket? But, hey, I was only an Immigration Judge.  What do I know about space and planning?

Obviously, expansion  plans will depend on new Attorney General Jeff Sessions and also on whether the U.S. Immigration Courts will be exempt (as they certainly should be, but who knows at present) from the “hiring freeze” that President Trump has promised to impose when he takes office.  Maybe somebody at EOIR already knows the answer.  But, I haven’t seen any public announcement.  Stay tuned.

PWS

01/12/17