DUE PROCESS IN ACTION: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN INDEPENDENT ARTICLE III COURT ACTS TO ENFORCE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS BEING IGNORED BY DHS & DOJ: Here’s One Family’s “Human Story” About How the 9th Circuit’s Decision In Jennings v. Rodriguez Saved Them (And Also Us)! — Bond Hearings Can Mean EVERYTHING To A Detained Immigrant & Family!

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2017/10/how-a-bond-hearing-saved-me-from-deportation-by-mark-hwang.html

From ImmigratonProf Blog:

The ACLU blog has an interesting post on Jennings v. Rodriguez, the immigrant detention case argued in the Supreme Court today.

How A Bond Hearing Saved Me From Deportation By Mark Hwang

Today the Supreme Court will hear Jennings v. Rodriguez, a case that will decide the fate of thousands of men and women locked up in immigration prisons across the country. The federal government is challenging a 2015 Ninth Circuit ruling, in which the American Civil Liberties Union secured the right to a bond hearing for people in deportation proceedings after six months of detention.

Bond hearings allow people to go before a judge so that he or she can decide if imprisonment is necessary, weighing factors like public safety and flight risk. It’s basic due process. Bond hearings are a vital check on our country’s rapidly-expanding immigration system. I’ve seen their power firsthand, because not too long ago, I was one of the people locked up.

In February 2013, I was driving with my one-year-old son when we were stopped by an immigration officer. He said that I hadn’t used my turn signal when changing lanes and asked to see my identification. When he came back to the car, he asked if I had ever been convicted of a crime.

I answered truthfully. More than a decade ago, when I was in my early 20s, I was convicted of marijuana possession with intent to sell. I had served a short sentence and had remained out of trouble since. Still the officers said that I needed to go with them and that I would have to explain “my situation” to a judge. I was shackled and put in the back of the car while one of the officers got into my car to drive my son home.

I thought there had to be some kind of mistake. Around two weeks earlier, my wife Sarah had given birth to our identical twin daughters. My life at the time was full, growing, and completely rooted in the United States.

When I was booked into custody, an officer told me that my drug conviction meant that my detention was “mandatory.” Nobody had ever told me that pleading guilty on a drug charge could have implications for my immigration status. I petitioned a court to vacate the marijuana conviction, but because I was locked up, I couldn’t appear at the hearing. The request was denied and I had no idea for how long I would be locked up, leaving my wife to run our business and care for our children alone. When my family came to visit me in detention, I wasn’t allowed any physical contact, so I couldn’t hold my newborn daughters or my son.

I was at a breaking point, and nearly ready to sign deportation papers when – after being locked up for six months — I finally received a bond hearing as result of the court decision in Jennings. I was granted bond and released, allowing me to return to my family. With the help of an attorney, I was able to vacate my marijuana conviction because I had never been apprised of the immigration consequences to pleading guilty. As a result, ICE no longer had a reason to try to deport me.

Before Jennings, people fighting deportation could be detained indefinitely while they defend their rights to remain in the United States. This includes lawful permanent residents like me; asylum seekers and survivors of torture; the parents of young children who are citizens; and even citizens who are wrongly classified as immigrants. Many go on to win their deportation cases, which means their detention was completely unnecessary.

Even worse, a lot of people simply give up their cases because they can’t endure the hardship of being locked up. Detention almost broke me and I could have lost my life in the only country I’ve known since I was six years old. Instead, I’m here to share my story. Through this experience, I found my faith and am now deeply involved in my church and community. My son is six years old and my twins are five. My wife and I still run our business and I thank her all the time for being a pillar of strength while I was locked up. I hope the justices make the right choice — it can make all the difference.

KJ

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We’re in “Catch 22” territory here! This respondent was locked up by DHS in “mandatory detention” because he was wrongfully convicted in state court. But, he couldn’t successfully challenge his state court conviction because he was locked up by DHS. Once he got a bond hearing, after six months, he was released, his conviction was vacated, and he and his family could go back to living their lives and being productive Americans. 

But, without the intervention of the 9th Circuit in Jennings, this individual likely would have been coerced into “voluntarily” relinquishing his Constitutional rights and accepting removal to a country where he hadn’t been since he was six years old. I can guarantee you that in jurisdictions where the Article III Courts have not intervened in a manner similar to Jennings, individuals are coerced into abandoning their Constitutional rights and foregoing potentially winning Immigration Court cases on a daily basis.

And, just think of the absurd waste of taxpayer money in detaining this harmless individual for months and forcing the legal system to intervene, rather than having both Congress and the DHS use some common sense and human decency. Few Americans fully contemplate just how broken our current immigration system is, and how we are trashing our Constitution with inane statutes enacted by Congress and poor judgment by the officials charged with administering them.

Easy to “blow off” until it’s you, a relative, or a friend whose Constitutional rights are being mocked and life ruined. But, by then, it will be too late! Stand up for Due Process and human decency now!

PWS

10

DUE PROCESS WINS IN 9TH CIR! – DHS & IJS REQUIRED TO CONSIDER “ABILITY TO PAY” IN SETTING BOND! – HERNANDEZ V. SESSIONS

9TH-HERNANDEZ-BOND-2017

Hernandez v. Sessions, 9th Cir., 10-02-17 (Published)

PANEL: Stephen Reinhardt, Ferdinand F. Fernandez, and Kim McLane Wardlaw, Circuit Judges.

OPINION BY: Judge Reinhardt

CONCURRING & DISSENTING OPINION: Judge Fernandez

KEY QUOTE:

“Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their challenge under the Due Process Clause to the government’s policy of allowing ICE and IJs to set immigration bond amounts without considering the detainees’ financial circumstances or alternative conditions of release. The government has failed to offer any convincing reason why these factors should not be considered in bond hearings for non-citizens who are determined not to be a danger to the community and not to be so great a flight risk as to require detention without bond. The irreparable harm to Plaintiffs of detention pursuant to bond amounts determined through a likely unconstitutional process far outweighs the minimal administrative burdens to the government of complying with the injunction while this case proceeds.

The district court’s order granting the preliminary injunction is AFFIRMED.

 29 The government also challenges the requirement that it meet and confer with Plaintiffs to develop guidelines for future immigration hearings. According to the government, this requirement gives “Plaintiffs’ counsel veto authority over the terms and guidelines to be used in those bond proceedings, [which] violates Congress’s delegation of such authority to the Executive.” To the contrary, the district court retains authority to resolve any disputes between the parties regarding implementation of the injunction. The requirement that the parties meet and confer is merely an administrative mechanism to reduce unnecessary burdens on the district court’s resources. It is an entirely ordinary exercise of the district court’s authority to manage cases and to encourage cooperation before parties resort to asking the court to resolve a dispute. See, e.g., C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-3 (requiring parties to confer prior to filing most motions and to file the motion only if the parties are “unable to reach a resolution which eliminates the necessity for a hearing”).”

KEY QUOTE FROM JUDGE FERNANDEZ, CONCURRING & DISSENTING:

“I agree that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it decided to issue a preliminary injunction requiring the consideration of “financial ability” and “alternative conditions of supervision”1 in making determinations regarding the release of aliens who have been detained pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1226(a). However, I do not agree with the breadth of the injunctive order that was issued. Thus, I respectfully concur in part and dissent in part.”

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Read the full decision at the above link.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

With an estimated 10 to 11 million “undocumented migrants” currently in the U.S., hundreds of thousands of cases annually being added to the U.S. Immigration Courts’ already out of control docket of 630,000 cases, and the Trump Administration’s “gonzo” enforcement policy where line agents often arbitrarily decide which migrants to place in Immigration Court (presumably somewhat driven by the need to show “numbers” for budget and performance purposes), one thing is obvious: The system would collapse immediately if everyone apprehended by the DHS at the border and in the interior simply insisted on a full due process “Individual Merits” hearing. Thus, the migrants’s exercise of the Constitutional right to due process and a meaningful opportunity to be heard is the enemy of DHS’s out of control, “gonzo” enforcement.

So, what is DHS to do to suppress this dangerous exercise of constitutional rights? Here are DHS’s “strategies:”

  1. Avoid the hearing process entirely by using some form of “expedited removal” which avoids Immigration Court altogether;
  2. In absentia orders, often based on incomplete address information and inadequate warnings being given to migrants by DHS and/or on sloppy address recording and hearing notice procedures by DHS and EOIR resulting in individuals being clueless about their so-called “final orders” and therefore ill-equipped to exercise their statutory right to move for reopening;
  3. Coercive detention, used to demoralize, discourage, and duress migrants into “waiving” their due process rights and agreeing to depart without a merits hearing either by so-called “voluntary departure” or an uncontested final order.

Obviously, setting reasonable bonds that allow-income migrants can actually pay interferes with the full coerciveness of detention. Once released, migrants have a better chance of locating an attorney, filing a plausible application for relief, and ultimately being granted permission to stay. Therefore, resisting and “monkey wrenching” reasonable release on bonds is a key element of the current DHS “gonzo” enforcement strategy.

One of the ways that most fair U.S. Immigration Judges combat this is by using various “arbitration and mediation skills” to encourage DHS to accept reasonable bonds and waive appeal. But, as previously reported, counsel across the country report that DHS is refusing to negotiate bonds and appealing many of those set by the IJ. In other words, DHS is hoping that the coercive effect of detention will force folks to leave without a hearing before they run out of detention space in the New American Gulag.

Thus, U.S. Immigration Judges have become somewhat feckless in the bond process. DHS simply “blows off” the IJs’ entreaties to negotiate because DHS knows that they can unilaterally block release pending appeal anyway. And, as I previously pointed out, the BIA routinely holds bond appeals pending the completion of detained  merits hearings and then simply dismisses the bond appeal as “moot.” As one (now former) Assistant Chief Counsel in Arlington undiplomatically informed me during a bond hearing shortly after I took the bench in 2003: “You can enter any order you want Judge, but the Detention Officer is going to decide whether or not this respondent gets released.” That’s the point at which I became an “Article I convert.”

Consequently, an Article III (a/k/a “Real”) Court enforcing due process and also requiring the DHS to negotiate some reasonable criteria and procedures for release on bond is both essential to our Constitutional system of due process and justice and also is a direct threat to unbridled DHS “gonzo enforcement.” As you can see from “FN 29” above, DHS has absolutely no interest in settling this case on a reasonable basis, although urged to do so by both the US District Court and the Court of Appeals. They expect and want the Article III Courts to “just roll over” like the “captive” Immigration Courts do.

Consequently, we can expect the Administration to fight tooth and nail against all efforts to put meaning in the currently largely false promise of Due Process in Immigration Court! Expect a DHS appeal to the Supremes! Stay tuned!

PWS

10-03-17

 

 

 

DEAN KEVIN JOHNSON PREVIEWS JENNINGS V. RODRIGUEZ (INDEFINITE PREHEARING IMMIGRATION DETENTION) OA IN SCOTUS BLOG

http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/09/argument-preview-constitutionality-mandatory-lengthy-immigrant-detention-without-bond-hearing/

Dean Johnson writes:

“Detention as a tool of immigration enforcement has increased dramatically following immigration reforms enacted in 1996. Two Supreme Court cases at the dawn of the new millennium offered contrasting approaches to the review of decisions of the U.S. government to detain immigrants. In 2001, in Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court interpreted an immigration statute to require judicial review of a detention decision because “to permit[] indefinite detention of an alien would cause a serious constitutional problem.” Just two years later, the court in Demore v. Kim invoked the “plenary power” doctrine – something exceptional to immigration law and inconsistent with modern constitutional law – to immunize from review a provision of the immigration statute requiring detention of immigrants awaiting removal based on a crime.

How the Supreme Court reconciles these dueling decisions will no doubt determine the outcome in Jennings v. Rodriguez. This case involves the question whether immigrants, like virtually any U.S. citizen placed in criminal or civil detention, must be guaranteed a bond hearing and possible release from custody. Relying on Zadvydas v. Davis, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed a district court injunction that avoided “a serious constitutional problem” by requiring bond hearings every six months for immigrant detainees. The court of appeals further mandated that, in order to continue to detain an immigrant, the government must prove that the noncitizen poses a flight risk or a danger to public safety.”

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Read the rest of Dean Johnson’s analysis at the link.

This is huge in human rights. A “W” for the Administration, which many observers view as likely with the advent of Justice Gorsuch, will essentially “Green Light” the Trump-Sessions-Miller plan to construct the “New American Gulag.” The Gulag’s “prisoners” will be noncriminal migrants (many of them women fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle) whose only “crime” is to assert their rights for due process and justice under our laws.

The concept that migrants have rights is something that sticks in the craws of the White Nationalists. So, punishing them for asserting their rights (with an objective of coercing them into giving up their rights and leaving “voluntarily”) is the next best thing to denying them entirely (which the Administration routinely does whenever it thinks it can get away with it — and the Article IIIs have largely, but not entirely, been asleep at the switch here).

And, make no mistake about it, as study after study has shown, the “conditions of civil detention” in the Gulag are substandard. So much so that in the last Administration DHS’s own study committee actually recommended an end to private immigration detention contracts and a phasing out of so-called “family detention.” The response of the Trump White Nationalists: ignore the facts and double down on the inhumanity.

Based on recent news reports, DHS immigration detainees die at a rate of approximately one per month.  And many more suffer life changing and life threatening medical and psychiatric conditions while in detention. Just “collateral damage” in “Gonzo speak.”

Immigration detainees are often held without bond or with bonds that are so unrealistically high that they effectively amount to no bond. And, in many cases (like the one here) they are denied even minimal access to a U.S. Immigration Judge to have the reasons for detention reviewed.

Plus, as I reported recently, across the nation DHS is refusing to negotiate bonds for those eligible. They are also appealing Immigration Judge decisions to release migrants on bond pending hearings, apparently without any regard to the merits of the IJ’s decision. In other words, DHS is abusing the immigration appeals system for the purpose of harassing migrants who won’t agree to waive their rights to a due process hearing and depart!

Also, as I pointed out, in the “no real due process” world of  the U.S. Immigration Courts, the DHS prosecutors can unilaterally block release of a migrant on bond pending appeal. In most cases this means that the individual remains in detention until the Immigration Judge completes the “merits hearing.” At that point the BIA determines that the DHS bond appeal is “moot” and dismisses it without ever reaching the merits. Just another bogus “production” statistic generated by EOIR!

Oh, and by the way, contrary to “Gonzo” Session’s false and misleading rhetoric on so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” one of the things jurisdictions that rationally choose to limit cooperation with DHS enforcement to those with significant criminal records are doing is protecting their law-abiding, productive migrant residents and migrant communities from the patent abuses of  the “American Gulag.” “Gonzo policies” predictably drive reasonable people to take protective actions.

But, some day, the bureaucrats, complicit judges (particularly life-tenured Article III Judges, like the Supremes), reactionary legislators who turn their backs on human suffering, and misguided voters who have allowed this human rights travesty to be perpetrated on American soil will be held accountable, by the forces of history if nothing else.

PWS

09-28-17

MORE IMMIGRATION COURT INSANITY! — DHS REPORTEDLY STRIPS OWN ATTORNEYS OF AUTHORITY TO NEGOTIATE BONDS, WAIVE APPEALS!

Sources from several areas of the country have informed me that there is a new, of course unpublished and unannounced, policy at DHS prohibiting ICE Assistant Chief Counsel who represent the agency in U.S. Immigraton Court from either negotiating bonds with private counsel or waiving appeals from U.S. Immigraton Judge decisions ordering release on bond.

This is just further evidence of the consequences of having ignorant proponents of “gonzo enforcement” in charge of both the DHS and the U.S. Immigraton Courts at the Department of Justice.

First, negotiated bonds are one of the key ways of making bond dockets move forward in an efficient manner in the U.S. Immigraton Courts. Bonds are initially sent by ICE Enforcement personnel, often on an arbitrary or rote basis. Without authority to negotiate bonds, particularly in advance, each bond hearing will take longer. Moreover, since bond cases take precedence in Immigraton Courts, longer bond dockets will further limit the already inadequate court time for hearing the merits of removal cases. With a growing backlog of over 600,000 cases, this appears to be an intentional effort to undermine due process in the Immigration Courts. Typically, when I served at the Arlington Immigration Court, at my encouragement, the parties agreed on most bonds in advance and neither party appealed more than 1%-2% of my bond decisions. Indeed, discussing settlement with the Assistant Chief Counsel in advance was more or less of a prerequisite for me to redetermine a bond.

Second, appealing all bond release decisions will also overburden the already swamped Appellate Division of the U.S. Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigraton Appeals (“BIA”). As in the Immigraton Courts, bond appeal cases at the BIA take precedence and will push decisions on merits appeals further back in line.

Third, Immigraton Judges usually only prepare a bond decision (known as a “Bond Memorandum”) in cases where a bond appeal is actually taken. Since that currently happens only infrequently, the process is manageable. However, if appeals are taken in more cases, and Bond Memoranda are “priorities,” Immigration Judges will have to spend more time writing or dictating Bond Memoranda, further limiting their time to hear cases on the merits. Moreover, by making it more burdensome to release individuals on bond, the system actually creates an inappropriate bias against releasing individuals on bond.

Fourth, yielding to inappropriate pressure from the “Legacy INS,” the Clinton DOJ gave Assistant Chief Counsel regulatory authority to unilaterally stay the release of a respondent on bond under an Immigraton Judge’s order provided that: 1) the Director originally had set “no bond;” or 2) the original bond was set at $10,000 or more. That means that the DHS can effectively neuter the power of the Immigraton Judge to release an individual on bond pending the merits hearing. By contrast, the respondent has no right to a stay pending a decision by the Immigraton Judge not to allow release, unless the BIA specifically grants a stay (which almost never happens in my experience).

Fifth, unlike petitions to review final orders of removal, which must be filed with the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals at the conclusion of all proceedings, judicial review of bond decisions is sought in the U.S. District Courts. More decisions denying bonds have the potential to create new workload issues for the U.S. District Court.

Fifth, the individuals in the DHS most with the most knowledge and expertise in how the U.S. Immigration Courts work are the Assistant Chief Counsel. Stripping them of their authority to control dockets and settle cases, authority possessed and exercised by every other prosecutor in America, is both dumb and insulting. In what other system do the “cops” have the authority to overrule the U.S. Attorney, the District Attorney, or the State’s Attorney on matters they are prosecuting in court? It also makes the Assistant Chief Counsel job less professional and less attractive for talented lawyers.

In short, the Trump Administration is making a concerted attack on both common sense and due process in the U.S. Immigration Court system. The results are not only unfair, but are wasting taxpayer funds and hampering the already impeded functioning of the U.S. Immigraton Court system. Unless or until the Article III Federal Courts are willing to step in and put an end to this nonsense, the quagmire in the U.S. Immigration Courts will become deeper and our overall U.S. justice system will continue to falter.

We need an independent Article I Immigraton Court now!

PWS

09-23-17

NEW SCHOLARSHIP: Hon. Dorothy Harbeck Compares Immigration Bonds With The NJ Bail Reform Act

Harbeck – BondArticle for Dissemination

The article is entitled

“A NEW CALCULUS FOR THE MEASURE OF MERCY: DOES THE NEW JERSEY BAIL REFORM AFFECT THE IMMIGRATION COURT BOND HEARINGS?” It’s published in the Rutgers Law Record.

Judge Harbeck writes:

“[T]he New Jersey Bail Reform will not directly affect how the immigration courts determine immigration bonds. However, while the state criminal system is wholly distinct from the federal immigration system, there are increasing intersections of state law having unintended consequences in immigration proceedings. Under the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, federal law is the “Supreme Law of the Land,” and states have no authority to regulate immigration enforcement. That said, there are a number of similar rationales between the new state bail reform and the existing bond determination criteria in the immigration court. This article outlines those similarities as well as the differences between the two. It is also important to note from a practical point of view that New Jersey bail reform has no impact on immigration detainers. An immigration detainer is the process by which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may detain a non-citizen without a warrant, but only if ICE has “reason to believe” that the non-citizen “is likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained for his arrest.”

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Read the full article at the link. While Judge Harbeck’s timely scholarship is of particular interest to New Jersey lawyers, it is also helpful for any lawyer seeking to understand the bond setting process in U.S. Immigration Courts. With the Administration’s new enforcement initiatives underway, bond is sure to be a “hot topic.”

PWS

02/26/17