EOIR INVESTS ELEVEN NEW U.S. IMMIGRATION JUDGES — PRIVATE SECTOR TOTALLY SHUT OUT!

Here are the bios of the new U.S. Immigration Judges:

IJInvestiture06162017

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This brings the total number of sitting U.S. Immigration Judges to 326. Congratulations to the new Judges, and please don’t forget the due process mission of the U.S. Immigration Courts!

Unfortunately, however, this continues the trend of creating a one-sided U.S. Immigration Court which basically has excluded from the 21st Century Immigration Judiciary those who gained all or most of their experience representing respondents, teaching, or writing in the public sector. It’s not particularly surprising that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has expressed a strong enforcement bias, would prefer to “go to the Government well” for all or most of his selections.

However, the real problem here is with the DOJ during the Obama Administration.  With a chance to fill perhaps a record number of U.S. Immigration Judge positions over eight years, and to create an evenly balanced, diverse Immigration Judiciary in the process, they not only turned the hiring process in to a ridiculous two-year average cycle, but also selected 88% of the candidates from Government backgrounds.

Why would someone take two years for a selection process that selects from a limited inside pool anyway? And, why would you lead outside applicants to take the time to apply, believing they had a fair chance of competing, when the process obviously was “fixed” in favor of insiders? Sort of reminds me of the discussion of the labor certification recruitment process that we recently had in my Immigration Law & Policy Class at Georgetown Law!

Just more ways in which the “Due Process Vision” of the U.S. Immigration Courts has basically been trashed by the last three Administrations!

PWS

06-19-17

“AIMLESS DOCKET RESHUFFLING” (“ADR”) IN NEW YORK — NPR’s Beth Fertig Exposes Due Process/Management Abuses By Obama & Trump Administrations!

http://www.wnyc.org/story/why-new-yorks-immigration-court-even-busier-fewer-judges-under-trump/

Fertig reports:

“There are 29 immigration judges assigned to court rooms in the Federal Building in Lower Manhattan. But as the number of pending cases grew from about 70,000 in January to nearly 80,000 this spring, more and more people have been coming to court only to discover they don’t have judges.

On a Tuesday morning in May, Alin Guifarro expected to attend a hearing with his 18-year-old son, Jose David Rodriguez. The teen came from Honduras last year to join his father and is trying to get legal status in the U.S.

But when they went to the 12th floor and scanned the long list of names with appearances scheduled that day, Guifarro saw his son’s case wasn’t assigned to a judge. Confused, he went to the clerk’s office and was told he would eventually get a letter in the mail about a new court date.

Guifarro was frustrated. “I came over here driving 2 ½ hours for nothing,” he said, referring to his journey from his home in Mastic, Long Island.

This father and son aren’t the only ones whose immigration cases have been postponed lately.

“In the last two months this has happened every week,” said Bryan Johnson, an immigration lawyer based on Long Island. Many of his clients are seeking asylum, and he said some have already been waiting a couple of years. With extra delays, he said, “if they have children who are abroad, that will delay family unification or spousal unification if their spouse is abroad.”

On a single day in May, when almost 400 hearings were scheduled to take place in immigration court, WNYC counted 60 people who didn’t have judges.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review runs the nation’s immigration courts. It says staffers typically mail a notice if a judge is out or a case is delayed, but they don’t always go out in time. As for why people are coming to court without judges, the agency explained that they are technically assigned to ”visiting judges.” But it acknowledged these judges don’t actually exist.

“The concept of ‘visiting judges’ is for internal case management,” said E.O.I.R. spokesman John Martin. “When judges retire, or temporarily stop hearing cases due to illness, the New York City Immigration Court will assign these dockets to a ‘visiting judge’ in order to maintain continuity of these cases. As new immigration judges are hired and officially placed at their respective immigration court locations, these ‘visiting judge’ dockets in those locations are reassigned to them.”

Even after a recent hire, New York City has only 29 immigration judges, compared to 31 at this time last year.

The backlog in immigration courts isn’t new. There are almost 600,000 pending cases, nationally. The problem started well before President Donald Trump took office.”

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Read Beth’s complete article at the link.

A recent GAO report highlighted and quantified endemic management issues with the DOJ’s stewardship over the U.S. Immigration Courts, particularly in hiring new Immigration Judges which takes an astounding average of 742 days. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Uh

Then, there are the retirements. It’s hardly rocket science that an aging workforce in high-stress jobs might retire in large numbers. I ran “Immigration Judge retirements” into my search engine and got 9 articles, right off the bat. Try it yourself.

Additionally, there is the practice of both Administrations of mindlessly jamming more new cases in the front of the system without a rational plan for completing the ones already in it. That’s followed by reassigning Immigration Judges (like they were assembly line workers) from existing dockets of cases scheduled for final hearings to new dockets of Not Quite Ready For Prime Time (“NQRFPT”) cases. And to cap it off, Secretary Kelly, egged on by Jeff Sessions, has told DHS agents to arrest anyone the feel like arresting without any regard for reasonable priorities or space on already overcrowded court dockets!

And, while we’re at it, let’s stuff more non-criminals into dangerous, expensive, and unneeded immigration detention, thereby turning them into self-created emergency situations, rather than thinking creatively about cheaper, more humane, and more effective methods of getting non-dangerous folks through the system in a reasonable manner.

And you gotta love imaginary “visiting judges.”  Visiting from where, “The Twilight Zone?” Almost as good as “warehousing” tens of thousands of cases on a single day in November 2019. No wonder that once in extreme frustration I referred to this administrative morass as “Clown Court!”🤡

No, it’s not all the fault of EOIR bureaucrats, most of whom mean well and are simply caught up in a “built for failure” system. But, it is the fault of the DOJ whose politicized management of the Immigration Courts has been a disaster since the beginning of this century. And, even if you removed politics from the equation, the DOJ obviously lacks the basic administrative competence to run a complicated, high volume court system. Ultimately, Congress must assume the responsibility for allowing this travesty to continue to exist. An independent Immigration Court outside the Executive Branch is long overdue.

But, other than that, it’s a great system!

Stay tuned! Tomorrow, Beth will tell us what judges pulled off their existing dockets find when they get to their “detail courts.” I can’t wait to hear what she found out!

PWS

06-05-17

 

 

America’s Parallel Universe: Out There In Wyoming, Coal Is Back, Trump Is King, & The Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day (Or, More Accurately, “My Sky Is Blue And My Water Is Clean”) — As For The Rest Of The World Who Might Like To Live Above Water Or Breathe Clean Air? — Just Not On The Radar Screen!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-trump-country-a-new-feeling-optimism/2017/06/01/7a0053da-3403-11e7-b373-418f6849a004_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_optimism-710pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.48ba05840b4e

Robert Samuels reports from Gillette, WYO for the Washington Post:

“In Gillette and surrounding Campbell County, people were beginning to feel the comeback they voted for. Unemployment has dropped by more than a third since March 2016, from 8.9 percent to 5.1 percent. Coal companies are rehiring workers, if only on contract or for temporary jobs. More people are splurging for birthday parties at the Prime Rib and buying a second scoop at the Ice Cream Cafe.

Maybe it was President Trump. Much was surely because of the market, after a colder winter led to increases in coal use and production. But in times when corporate profits are mixed with politics, it was difficult for people here to see the difference.

“I’m back to work,” Gorton said. “It’s real. Did Trump do it all? I don’t think so. But America voted in a man who was for our jobs.”

In a divided nation, optimism had bloomed here in a part of the country united in purpose and in support of the president. Close to 90 percent voted for the same presidential candidate, and 94 percent of the population is the same race. And everyone has some connection to the same industry. They felt optimistic about the tangible effects of the Trump economy, which favors fossil fuels, and the theoretical ones, which favor how they see themselves. Once on the fringes, their jobs had become the centerpiece of Trump’s American mythology.

. . . .

“We once powered the nation,” Gorton said. “But you got the feeling that things are not quite the same and that political forces are encroaching on your livelihood. It’s like they are willing to take away your town.”

Now the fear of what might be taken away was carried by someone else. There was another side of this American story, a tenser and more terrifying one, where immigrant families worried about deportation raids and ­liberals marched with witty ­placards to protest the “war on science.”

Far beyond the borders of this isolated town, many Americans were gripped by the latest evidence of the president’s coziness with the Russians, and wondered why the white working and middle classes hadn’t abandoned their increasingly unpopular president. In that America, the early optimism about Trump was fading. A Quinnipiac poll released last month said that 52 percent of Americans were pessimistic about the country’s direction, 20 percent higher than when Trump was inaugurated. And Friday’s anemic employment report, showing the country gained only 138,000 jobs in May, provided little consolation.

Gorton found it difficult to reconcile those two polarized feelings; it seemed that either you had to believe in the country’s pending prosperity or its impending doom.

“I know there are people who are scared about where the country is headed, but before I was scared,” Gorton said. “Either they’re dreaming, or I’m dreaming.”

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The question is, once Trump and his cronies are done with their policies of hate, disrespect, and divisiveness, will anyone ever be able to put the pieces of America together again?

Seems like folks on both sides of the aisle should have been able to get together and solve the problems of the nice people of Gillette without reigniting an essentially dying industry that, in the long run, is neither economically viable nor environmentally desirable. When the world fries, I doubt that God will exempt Wyoming from the consequences. Those skies could get cloudy some day. And, by that time, the Trump crowd will be long gone.

PWS

06-03-17

10th Amendment Scoring A Comeback At Both Ends Of The Political Spectrum

 

https://www.wsj.com/article_email/federalism-for-the-left-and-the-right-1495210904-lMyQjAxMTE3MTIyMDUyNTA0Wj/

Jeffrey Rosen writes in the WSJ:

“President Donald Trump has issued a series of controversial executive orders on immigration that are now tangled up in federal courts. Judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked the president’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries, and another judge in Seattle has blocked his executive order threatening to remove federal funding for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

If this contest between branches of government sounds familiar, it should. President Barack Obama also tried to use executive orders to push through his own very different immigration policies, and he was similarly rebuffed by the courts. They held that he lacked the unilateral authority to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
There’s a lesson in the symmetry of these two examples, and figures from across the political and ideological spectrum are increasingly embracing it: Many of the issues that recent presidents have tried to decide at the national level through executive orders are best resolved at the state or local levels instead. In an era of fierce partisan divisions, all sides are beginning to see the virtues of our federal system in accommodating differences—and encouraging experimentation—on issues such as immigration, law enforcement and education.

Federalism has long been a cause on the right, but now it’s just as likely to be a rallying cry on the left. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary’s immigration and border-security subcommittee, recently said: “The Constitution, specifically the Tenth Amendment, protects states’ rights, and it prohibits federal actions that commandeer state and local officials. When it comes to immigration, these principles seem to be overlooked.”

The framers of the Constitution would be pleased with this emerging consensus. By creating a national government with limited powers, they intended to allow the states and local governments to pursue a range of different policies on matters within what used to be called their “police powers”—that is, their authority to regulate behavior, maintain order and promote the public good within their own territory. The founders considered this arrangement the best way to protect liberty and diversity of opinion, as well as to defend political minorities from nationalist tyranny and concentrated power.”

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Perhaps this is a return to constitutionalism.  But, perhaps it’s more representative of the failure of Congress to effectively address the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

PWS

05-21-17

MORE TRUMPIAN DISCONNECT — THE WAR ON AMERICAN CITIZENS’ RIGHTS CONTINUES: Sessions’s DOJ “Civil Rights” Div. Sent Out To Undercut Civil Rights In Baltimore Court Case — “Unprecedented And Extraordinary” — “We Are In Uncharted Territory” — “Dissed” Citizen-Victim Left In Tears By DOJ Action — In The “World Of Sessions,” Citizens’ Constitutional Rights Take Back Seat To “Fighting Crime” — Duh, Isn’t Unwarranted/Unnecessary Police Violence A Crime, Jeff? — Liz Was “Right On!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/justice-department-expresses-skepticism-in-court-over-baltimore-police-consent-decree/2017/04/06/64d2a756-1a40-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html

Peter Hermann and Justin Jouvenal report in the Washington Post:

“BALTIMORE — A Justice Department attorney expressed “grave concerns” Thursday about moving forward with a federal plan to make changes to this city’s police department, telling a federal judge that the Trump administration prefers that revisions be made and overseen by local government.

The hearing to gather public input on the proposed consent decree became a clash over the future of police departments, as Baltimore residents affected by police shootings and beatings forcefully pushed back against any delays.

The hearing came just days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would have top deputies review such agreements with departments nationwide.

Sessions said he wanted to ensure the agreements align with administration priorities of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime, but advocates say the move could stymie much-needed changes to departments in the wake of high-profile police shootings of minorities in recent years.

The tension was on display Thursday, as well as an unusual role reversal — the Justice Department distanced itself from its plan negotiated by President Barack Obama’s administration, while Baltimore officials, residents and activists openly embraced it.

“Please do not delay this decree,” implored Greta Carter-Willis, whose 14-year-old son was fatally shot by a police officer several years ago. “We need to turn this police department around.”

She later broke down crying.

The consent decree follows a blistering Justice Department report that found widespread constitutional violations and discrimination in the Baltimore Police Department. The report was prompted by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured in police custody.

John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of Justice, said in court Thursday that the department wanted a 30-day delay on a decision to implement the plan “so new leadership can reanalyze and engage with the city as necessary.

Ultimately, “it is up to local communities to try and work with police to try and ensure reforms are implemented fully,” Gore said. “We have grave concerns that this consent decree is what is needed” as the means to change the police force and help fight crime.”

. . . .

Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, called the situation in Baltimore “unprecedented and extraordinary.” He said there is no precedent for a lead party to pull out after a consent decree is signed and the matter is before the court. “We are in uncharted territory.”

Smith, was in the Justice Department’s civil rights division under the Obama administration from 2010 through 2015 and negotiated a consent decree with the New Orleans Police Department.”

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The grotesque spectacle of Jeff Sessions in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice continues to get more jaw-dropping every day.

It wasn’t long ago that Senate Majority Leader Mitch “Nuke Em” McConnell (R-KY) shut down Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) while she was trying to “complete the record” on Sessions’s total unsuitability to be in charge of overseeing the delivery of justice in America and protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans (which actually includes immigrants who are entitled to constitutional due process protections). Everybody who doubted the truth of her message owes Sen. Warren a huge apology. And, those Senators who voted to confirm Sessions as AG should be ashamed.

Ever wonder how much damage one man can do the the U.S. justice system? Well, we’re finding out. And, it isn’t pretty.

PWS

04/07/17

 

 

Keeping It In Perspective: Trump Administration’s Arrest Of 680 Undocumented Immigrants In One Week Was About “Business As Usual” During Obama’s 1st Year

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/16/us/politics/immigration-arrests-trump.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

JUGAL K. PATEL, ALICIA PARLAPIANO, HAEYOUN PARK and SARAH ALMUKHTAR report in the NYT:

Last week, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested more than 680 people in at least 12 states, shown below, stoking fears that the Trump administration is increasing the arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants.

But a comparison of last week’s arrests and similar ones during the first four years of the Obama presidency show that the recent level of enforcement activity is not unprecedented.

It is unclear, however, if the numbers are an actual increase in enforcement, because information on operations in only 12 states was disclosed.”

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Read the full article with analysis, charts, and maps.

PWS

02/16/17

Refugees Already Are Given “Extreme Vetting!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/02/01/refugees-are-already-vigorously-vetted-i-know-because-i-vetted-them/?utm_term=.56efba544468

Former U.S. Immigration Officer and refugee processor Natasha Hall writes in the Washington Post:

“This is what President Trump’s recent executive order has done. The order bans entry for citizens of seven countries for 90 days, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days, halves the total number of refugees allowed into the United States this year and bars refugees from Syria indefinitely. It demands “a uniform screening standard and procedure,” “questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent,” “a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be” and “a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts.”

Whoever wrote this order is evidently not aware that these screenings, procedures and questions already exist.

During nearly four years as an immigration officer, I conducted in-person interviews with hundreds of refugees of 20 different nationalities in 10 countries. I saw countless refugees break down crying in my interview room because of the length and severity of the vetting process. From that experience and numerous security briefings, it’s clear that the authors of Trump’s order are unfamiliar with the U.S. immigration system, U.S. laws, international law and the security threats facing our nation. I can’t speak for all refugee and asylum officers, but I can say that those who have been working in immigration for years from opposite ends of the political spectrum are appalled by these new policies.”

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The current ruckus over “vetting” has led to many folks failing to appreciate the outstanding job that the much-maligned DHS, the State Department, The FBI, our NGO partners, U.S. Intelligence Agencies, and the Obama Administration, working together, did in keeping our country safe from foreign terrorist attacks.

PWS

02/05/17

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

 

 

Quartz Media Reporter Ana Campoy “Nails” The Obama Administration’s Failed Southern Border Strategy — “We like to advertise ourselves as a beacon of liberty and justice; it’s time we acted that way.” (Quoting Me)

THE LAW IS THE LAW
The US doesn’t have an immigration problem—it has a refugee problem
Ana Campoy January 18, 2017

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

Quote boxes:

“In fact, Trump’s fixation with blocking illegal immigration from Mexico, which has plummeted in recent years, obfuscates the problem. Yes, border patrol agents are apprehending thousands of people every month along the US-Mexico line, but many of them—around half, according to Claire McCaskill, a member of the US Senate’s homeland security and governmental affairs committee—turn themselves in voluntarily asking for help. Government statistics bear this out. The number of immigrants claiming fear of persecution or torture in their home countries is on the rise, and so are the findings that those claims are credible. In order to be considered for asylum by an immigration judge, immigrants first have to go through a “credible fear” screening, in which an asylum officer determines whether the claims they are making have a “significant possibility” of holding up in court.

More than 70% of those who claimed credible fear in the 2016 fiscal year hailed from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, places beset by rampant violence.

Under US law, individuals who are found to have credible fear have the right to due process to determine the validity of their claims in the court. Whether they are Syrians escaping civil war, or El Salvadorans fleeing from criminal gangs, what they have to prove is the same: that they face persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

But US authorities don’t always take Central American immigrants’ fears seriously, studies suggest. One, released by the American Immigration Lawyers Association in 2016, found that not all border patrol agents are asking immigrants if they’re afraid to return to their country, as they are required to do. Other agents refuse to believe them, per the report, which is based on immigrant testimony documented by the group. Another 2016 analysis, by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government advisory body, noted, “outright skepticism, if not hostility, toward asylum claims” by certain officers, among other practices that may be resulting in deportations of refugees with a legitimate right to stay.

A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman said the agency “strives to treat every person we encounter with dignity and respect.” Anyone with concerns about the treatment doled out by its officers can call the agency, he added.”

. . . .

“The Obama administration’s response has already run up against the law. For example, several courts have shot down the government’s arguments and efforts to justify the detention of children and families while their cases wait to be resolved—a policy meant to convince would-be immigrants to stay home.

On Jan. 13, a coalition of immigrant rights groups filed a formal complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties accusing CBP officers of turning back people requesting asylum at ports of entry along the US-Mexico border. In what the groups called an “alarming new trend,” the officers have allegedly been telling immigrants that they can’t enter the country without a visa— contrary to US law—and referring them to Mexican immigration authorities.

Trump has framed his border policy as a choice between enforcing existing laws against illegal immigration or skirting them. But the decision facing US leaders is rather more complicated: Should the US continue providing refuge to those who are unfairly persecuted in their home countries?

If Americans are unwilling to do that, perhaps it’s time to do away with the nation’s asylum laws—and remove the famous poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty welcoming the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Recently retired immigration judge Paul Wickham Schmidt put it this way: “We like to advertise ourselves as a beacon of liberty and justice; it’s time we acted that way.”

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In my view, Ana Campoy provides a remarkably clear and well-documented analysis of why the Obama Administration’s “get tough” border policies have failed, and why the Trump Administration would be wise to take a more “nuanced” approach that recognizes our obligation to provide due process and protection under our laws to individuals fleeing from the Northern Triangle.

As incoming DHS Secretary Gen. John Kelly has recognized, this problem can’t be solved just by (even more) enhanced enforcement on our end.  It will require addressing the systemic problems in the sending countries of the Northern Triangle, which certainly have most of the characteristics of “failed states,” as well as working with other stable democratic nations in the Americas to fashion meaningful protections, inside or outside the asylum system, for those who are likely to face torture, death, or other types of clear human rights abuses if returned to the Northern Triangle at present.

It’s not an easy problem to solve, and there are no “silver bullets.”  But, we know what doesn’t work.  So, it sure seems like it would be a good idea to try  different approaches (and I don’t mean repealing asylum protections as Ana, somewhat facetiously suggests near the end of her article).

PWS

01/19/17