Tal isn’t just following DACA. She “does it all” when it comes to migration. Here’s her latest report:

“Trump admin grapples with rise in border crossing numbers it once touted

By Tal Kopan, CNN

The Trump administration is pointing to a recent uptick in illegal border crossings as evidence that it needs more authority — even as it continues to tout a longer-term decrease as proof of the effectiveness of its policies.

Illegal entries to the US have risen substantially over the past few months.

In a rare statement on its monthly report of apprehensions and rejections at the border, the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday both praised the numbers and said work remained.

“The final border apprehension numbers of 2017, specifically at the southern border, undeniably prove the effectiveness of President Trump’s commitment to securing our borders,” said DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton, noting the numbers over the last year were 40% below the final year of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

But, Houlton said, the recent increase spelled trouble.

“The significant increase over the last month in the number of family units and unaccompanied children coming across the border illegally highlights the dire need for Congress to immediately adopt responsible pro-American immigration reforms. … The Secretary will require fixes to these loopholes as part of any immigration package negotiated (in a meeting Tuesday) at the White House.”

After a sharp drop in the number of undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the border at the beginning of the Trump administration, the President and his administration frequently cited the low numbers as evidence that Trump’s immigration policy works.

But starting in the summer, crossings began to again approach historic levels. With 40,513 apprehensions and rejections at the southern border in December, the total numbers are behind fiscal years 2016 and 2017, but surpass crossings in fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The administration has employed aggressive rhetoric and spoken consistently about securing the border and cracking down on undocumented immigrants in the US. Arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are up — but little has operationally changed at the border and deportations last year lagged behind the last year of Obama’s presidency.

Trump is pushing for aggressive policies as part of a deal to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as conservatives argue that allowing undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will only add incentives for potential illegal crossings in the future.”


We’re clearly dealing with “Amateur Night at the Bijou” here! Anybody with even passing familiarity with or competency in immigration policy would know better than to do the “victory dance” based on a couple of months of DHS enforcement data. It’s not like DHS is renowned for either the accuracy of its enforcement statistics or the depth and quality of analysis thereof.

First, and foremost, the increased arrivals of families and children from the Northern Triangle presents no real security issue. Most turn themselves in at the border or the nearest Border Patrol Station and seek asylum. Indeed, if anything, the unrelentingly negative rhetoric of the Trumpsters probably leads a few individuals who would otherwise turn themselves in or apply at the port of entry to try to get inland to avoid more or less mandatory detention.

Clearly, the driver here is conditions in the Northern Triangle, which continue to deteriorate, notwithstanding the absurd political determination by Secretary Neilsen that it was” A-OK” to send long term residents from El Salvador back there. The solution is definitely not more militarization of the border or more unnecessary and inhumane detention.

No, its a combination of 1) working to improve conditions that force folks to flee the Northern Triangle; 2) working with the UNHCR other stable countries in the Americas to distribute the flow more evenly among “receiving countries;” and 3) developing either a temporary refuge program or a more realistic, generous, and easily administered program to grant asylum, withholding, and/or relief under the CAT to those many who meet the legal requirements properly interpreted.

At bottom, there really isn’t much difference between these folks and waves of Cuban refugees whom we accepted, processed, and successfully integrated into our society with greatly beneficial results for both the Cubans and America.

Time to be done with the xenophobia and the racially-inspired bias against Central Americans fleeing for their lives.  No, this Administration is unlikely to do that. And, that’s why the problems caused by irregular migration are likely to continue long into the future no matter how much “tough guy” rhetoric Trump or anyone else spews out and how much we spend on unnecessary border militarization.

Yes, there are real security and law enforcement problems at the Southern Border. For sure! But more women and children fleeing conditions in the Northern Triangle aren’t among them. If anything, the Trump Administration’s fixation on those who aren’t a real security problem deflects focus from the real problems of drug and human smuggling and the possible entry of those who would actually be risks to our safety and security.





Guillermo Cantor writes in Immigration Impact:

“U.S. immigration officials have a long history of overstepping the boundaries of their legal authority and violating the constitutional and other legal rights of migrants at the Southwest border. Allegations of abuse throughout the apprehension, detention, and deportation process are not new; immigrant rights organizations and media outlets have reported on those violations for years.

Deportations in the Dark: Lack of Process and Information in the Removal of Mexican Migrants, a new report released by the American Immigration Council, is the most recent effort to document such violations. The report shows the extent to which U.S. immigration officials prevent migrants in their custody from accessing critical information and processes, which in many cases jeopardizes their chances to access various forms of immigration relief. Specifically, the report examines whether U.S. immigration agents properly inform migrants of their rights, actively obstruct their ability to exercise these rights, coerce or intimidate migrants in their custody, or neglect to provide removal documents to migrants at the time of repatriation.

The study is the result of a collaboration between the Council and the Mexico-based Binational Defense and Advocacy Program (in Spanish, Programa de Defensa e Incidencia Binacional, or PDIB), a Mexican human rights initiative established in 2010 to document abuses perpetrated against repatriated Mexican immigrants during their time in the United States. With staff currently located in three different sites—Nogales, Sonora; Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas; and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua—PDIB interviews migrants upon deportation to Mexico on an ongoing basis.

Based on new survey data (600 interviews) collected by PDIB between August 2016 and April 2017 and testimonies gathered between August 2016 and May 2017, the study found that migrants are frequently deprived of legally required information, told they cannot contact their consulates, compelled to sign documents they cannot read or understand, threatened with protracted detention, and blocked from applying for asylum and other legal claims.

For example, half of the respondents who signed repatriation documents reported that they were not allowed to read the documents before they signed them; 57.6 percent did not receive their repatriation documents; 43.5 percent were not advised of their right to contact their consulate; more than half (55.7 percent) were not asked if they feared returning home.

This report is perhaps the first attempt to systematically analyze the prevalence of denied access to critical information among migrants in U.S. custody. Some of the issues highlighted here, however, have been raised by advocates and been subject to litigation in the past. One concrete example is the case of immigration agents misleading migrants into waiving their right to a removal hearing by signing for voluntary return.

When immigration authorities deprive migrants of critical information regarding their rights or the opportunity to exercise them, migrants may face unjust deportation and lose the ability to ever seek legal admission or apply for asylum in the future. As the U.S. government promises to institute a new level of immigration enforcement, the behavioral patterns of U.S. immigration authorities highlighted in this report are a source of concern.“


This is what Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions’s disingenuous claims about the “Rule of Law” really mean. And, for EOIR to post on its website DOJ propaganda about how ramming through more final orders of removal, many without full due process because individuals were given not given legally sufficient notice of their hearings, were effectively denied their right to counsel, were denied the opportunity to gather documentation necessary for their cases, or were coerced into withdrawing claims or waiving appeals, has something to do with the Imigration Courts’ mission is simply more proof that the current system has become a disgraceful mockery of justice.

America needs an independent Article I Immigration Court, now!




WSJ: “The Wall” In Maps & Pictures

Stephanie Stamm, Renée Rigdon, and Dudley Althaus put together this outstanding illustrated article about the border wall, giving you a real life picture of what’s there now and where the most entries occur:

“President Donald Trump has promised to build a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico, a project that would total $21 billion, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security estimate. Only about 650 miles of the border have some sort of fencing today, and adding to that is complicated by geography, politics, land-ownership issues and funding.
Here’s a breakdown of which Southwest border-patrol sectors have the most apprehensions—defined as an arrest of removable aliens—versus the most or least amount of fencing. It is important to note that border security is defined by more than fencing. According to Homeland Security, manpower, communication, lights and technology all aid physical barriers.

. . . .

This stretch of the border is where most migrants—including large numbers of Central Americans and other non-Mexicans—have been crossing. In many cases, people are turning themselves over to Border Patrol agents.”


The last sentence of the above quote is worthy of some consideration. Contrary to popular notions that folks are trying to evade detection and “lose” themselves in the U.S. many, perhaps the majority, of the individuals fleeing the “Northern Triangle” of Central America turn themselves in to the Border Portal or at ports of entry and seek asylum.

I think that it is unlikely that increased detention, summary proceedings, and sophomoric warnings about the dangers of the journey (anyone seriously think that folks south of the border don’t understand the danger — come on man!) will in the long run deter those fleeing to save their lives.

However, it is possible that we eventually could convince refugees that we will mistreat them or not fairly hear their claims. In that case, they are likely to stop turning themselves in and simply invoke “self help refuge” by evading apprehension and losing themselves in the vastness of America — similar to what those crossing the border illegally have been doing for the most of the four decades that I have been involved with immigration enforcement, policy, and adjudication.

Human migration, border control. law enforcement, and refugee/asylum policy are extremely complex subjects. So far, the Trump Administration has chosen to address them in simplistic, one-dimensional ways that, to various degrees, have failed in the past and are likely to continue to do so.



Land Grab — DOJ “Lawyers Up” To Seize Private Property From Trump Supporters Along S. Border — Wall Trumps Property Rights!

Tracy Jan reports in the Washington Post:

“It’s going to be time consuming and costly,” said Tony Martinez, an attorney who is mayor of the border town of Brownsville, Tex. “From a political perspective, you have a lot of rich landowners who were his supporters.”

Trump, in his recent budget proposal, is calling for the addition of 20 Justice Department attorneys to “pursue federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the southwest border.” The Justice Department would not expand upon the details. Of the department’s 11,000 attorneys, fewer than 20 currently work in land acquisition. Trump’s budget would double that.

The battle has been fought before. The last wave of eminent domain cases over southern border properties dates back to the 2006 Secure Fence Act authorizing President George W. Bush to erect 700 miles of fencing.

Of the roughly 400 condemnation cases stemming from that era, about 90 remain open a decade later, according to the Justice Department. Nearly all are in the Rio Grande Valley in southwest Texas.

The U.S. government has already spent $78 million compensating private landowners for 600 tracts of property for the construction of the existing pedestrian and vehicle fence, according to Customs and Border Protection. The agency estimates that it will spend another $21 million in real estate expenses associated with the remaining condemnation cases — not including approximately $4 million in Justice Department litigation costs.

. . . .

“It’s not like if you build a wall your problem is gone,” Barnard said. “We need more boots on the ground. More boats, more sensors, more drones that would be more efficient and more productive.”

It remains an open question how much sympathy Trump would have for Barnard’s situation — or that of any other private landowner standing in the way of Trump’s wall.

As a developer, Trump has wielded the power of eminent domain to make way for his properties. In Scotland, he pursued compulsory purchase to force neighbors out of their homes for the Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen. When that didn’t work, he built a five-foot-tall wooden fence — then tried to make his neighbors pay for it.

Trump also famously tried seizing the property of an elderly Atlantic City widow to make way for a limousine parking lot for his hotel and casino. He has a consistent history supporting the use of eminent domain and praised the 2005 Supreme Court decision — denounced widely by conservatives — that said the government could force property owners to sell their land to make way for private economic developments that benefit the public.

“I happen to agree with it 100 percent,” Trump said during a 2005 Fox News interview. “If you have a person living in an area that’s not even necessarily a good area, and … government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and … create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good.”


Duh, I thought conservatives had this “thing” about private property and government intrusions.

My prediction:  Trump will long be gone, and they will still be litigating, negotiating, and wrangling  over the right of way. And, as with many such “eminent domain” projects, by the time the government actually spends the time, money, and loss of good will to obtain the property, the original project will have long become obsolete (as this one in fact already is) and will be consigned to the dustbin, thus making the entire exercise a costly “wild goose chase.” Talk about waste, fraud, and abuse!



CNN: Does Sudden Drop In S. Border Stops Mean Trump’s “Get Tough” Policy Is Working? Only Time Will Tell, But DHS Views News Favorably!

Tal Kopan reports:

“Washington (CNN) Illegal Southwest border crossings were down 40% last month, according to just released Customs and Border Protection numbers — a sign that President Donald Trump’s hardline rhetoric and policies on immigration may be having a deterrent effect.

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly himself announced the month-to-month numbers, statistics that CBP usually quietly posts on its website without fanfare.
According to CBP data, the 40% drop in illegal Southwest border crossings from January to February is far outside normal seasonal trends. Typically, the January to February change is actually an increase of 10% to 20%.
The drop breaks a nearly 20-year trend, as CBP data going back to 2000 shows an uptick in apprehensions every February.
The number of apprehensions and inadmissible individuals presenting at the border was 18,762 people in February, down from 31,578 in January.
It will still take months to figure out if the decrease in apprehensions is an indication of a lasting Trump effect on immigration patterns. Numbers tend to decrease seasonally in the winter and increase into the spring months.
But the sharp downtick after an uptick at the end of the Obama administration could fit the narrative that it takes tough rhetoric on immigration — backed up by policy — to get word-of-mouth warnings to undocumented immigrants making the harrowing journey to the border.”


Read the full article at the link.



President Trump Might find That Mexico Has More Leverage Than He Anticipated — Beating Up On Your Friends & Neighbors To Score Political Points At Home Is Likely To Backfire!

WashPost Editorial:

“PRESIDENT TRUMP has a good idea of the power the United States wields over Mexico, and the pain it may inflict — the construction of a wall Mexico fiercely opposes; taxes that could be slapped on Mexican imports, wreaking havoc on its economy; deportations of undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the United States, who would be thrust back into a country that would struggle to absorb them. Mr. Trump might have a fuzzier idea of the pain Mexico, its people furious and its pride wounded by his taunts and contempt, might inflict on the United States.

Start with those deportations. At least half of America’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants are Mexican, but many have no documents proving their nationality. For the Trump administration to deport them, it would need cooperation from Mexico, which cannot be forced to accept deportees without certifying that they are Mexicans. As former Mexican foreign minister Jorge G. Castañeda has already warned, Mr. Trump can round up hundreds of thousands or millions of migrants, but without Mexico’s cooperation, they could clog U.S. detention centers and immigration courts — at enormous cost and, conceivably, for years.

Consider, too, the effect on America’s southern border if Mexico were to loosen immigration controls on its own southern border — the one over which Central American refugees are already streaming north in near-record numbers. Even with what U.S. officials say are aggressive interdiction efforts by Mexican authorities, the Border Patrol detained more than 220,000 mainly Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans crossing from Mexico into the United States in the fiscal year ending last fall, exceeding the number of Mexicans apprehended, which has fallen to a 45-year low. If you think the Border Patrol is swamped now, as Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly insists, imagine if Mexico, which last year sent home more than 140,000 Central Americans, simply stepped aside.”


Predictably, other countries take “sovereignty” just as seriously as we do.





U.S. Immigration Court: The End Of The Ill-Advised “Rocket Docket” — “Smart Leadership” By Chief U.S. Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller Helps Restore Due Process, Equity, And Order To Immigration Court’s Daunting Docket — A “Breath Of Fresh Air” That Should Help New Administration And Individuals Who Depend On The Immigration Courts For Justice!

Trump’s Admin Ends Child Rocket Docket

Read Chief U.S. Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller’s memorandum dated January 31, 2017, to all U.S. Immigration Judges at the link. Many thanks to Pilar Marrero over at for forwarding this to me.

This memorandum effectively ends the Immigration Court’s so-called “rocket docket” for recently arrived children, women, and families from the Northern Triangle of Central America, and returns the Immigration Court to a rational “single priority” for various types of detained cases.

Additionally, this returns control of Immigration Court dockets to the local U.S. Immigration Judges who are in the best position to determine how to fairly reorganize their dockets to achieve due process, fairness, and maximum efficiency. Chief Judge Keller also emphasizes that even priority cases must be scheduled, heard, and decided in accordance with due process — the overriding mission of the Immigration Courts.

This should be good news for overwhelmed pro bono organizations which have been valiantly attempting to get all of the former “priority” cases representation for Individual Hearings, most involving applications for asylum and other potentially complicated forms of protection. It should now be possible for Court Administrators and Immigration Judges to set cases in a manner that better matches the available pool of pro bono attorneys. For example, under the former system of priorities, Court Administrators were forced to set expedited Master Calendar hearings even though they knew that the local bar was already completely occupied and could not reasonably be expected to take on additional “fast track” cases.

It should also be good news for parties with long-pending cases ready for trial that were sent to the “end of the line,” often years in the future, to accommodate newer cases that actually were not yet “ready for prime time.”  The ill-advised priorities imposed by the Obama Administration have helped push the Immigration Court backlog to record heights — more than 530,000 cases and still growing. At the same time, the past priorities impaired fairness and due process at both ends of the docket.

What is not clear to me, from my “informed outsider” vantage point, is whether this policy change is driven by the Trump Administration or is something that was “in the pipeline” under the Obama Administration and has just surfaced now.  Normally, EOIR would not take such a bold move without the “go ahead” from the new Administration. If so, this would be a sensible, practical action by the Trump Administration. With increased enforcement and detention in the offing, “de-prioritizing” non-detained cases and returning control of the dockets to local Immigration Judges is most likely to set the stage for fair, timely consideration of cases, both detained and non-detained, instituted by the new Administration.  Importantly, by allowing Immigration Judges across the country to control their dockets, rather than having them manipulated by Washington, the Administration would be recognizing the advantages of having important administrative decisions made by those who are “on the scene” and have to live with the results.

By no means will this solve all of the many problems facing the Immigration Court.  But, it’s a promising development.



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

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.”


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).