CELEBRATE A “MALICIOUS INCOMPETENCE” MILESTONE! — Under Trump, Sessions, & Barr, Immigration “Courts’” “Active Backlog” Hits Million Case Mark! — 1,007,005 As Of August 31, 2019, Per TRAC, With Another 322,055 “Gonzo Specials” In Waiting! — Congress Take Note: More Judges = More Backlog Under Trump’s DOJ!

https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/574/

==========================================
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
==========================================

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Immigration Court’s active backlog of cases just passed the million case mark. The latest case-by-case court records through the end of August 2019 show the court’s active case backlog was 1,007,155. If the additional 322,535 cases which the court says are pending but have not been placed on the active caseload rolls are added, then the backlog now tops 1.3 million.

During the first eleven months of FY 2019, court records reveal a total of 384,977 new cases reached the court. If the pace of filings continues through the final month of this fiscal year, FY 2019 will also mark a new filing record.

While much in the news, new cases where individuals have been required to “Remain in Mexico” during their court processing currently make up just under 10 percent (9.9%) of these new filings. These MPP cases comprise an even smaller share – only 3.3 percent — of the court’s active backlog.

As of the end of August, a total of 38,291 MPP cases had reached the court, of which 33,564 were still pending.

For the full report – including links to online query tools where readers can drill into countless additional details covering all 4.5 million court filings since FY 2001, the recent MPP component of these filings, and the court’s over 1 million active case backlog – go to:

https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/574/

Additional free web query tools which track Immigration Court proceedings have also been updated through August 2019. For an index to the full list of TRAC’s immigration tools and their latest update go to:

https://trac.syr.edu/imm/tools/

If you want to be sure to receive notifications whenever updated data become available, sign up at:

https://tracfed.syr.edu/cgi-bin/tracuser.pl?pub=1&list=imm

or follow us on Twitter @tracreports or like us on Facebook:

http://facebook.com/tracreports

TRAC is self-supporting and depends on foundation grants, individual contributions and subscription fees for the funding needed to obtain, analyze and publish the data we collect on the activities of the U.S. federal government. To help support TRAC’s ongoing efforts, go to:

http://trac.syr.edu/cgi-bin/sponsor/sponsor.pl

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University
Suite 360, Newhouse II   
Syracuse, NY 13244-2100
315-443-3563
trac@syr.edu
http://trac.syr.edu

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The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is a nonpartisan joint research center of the Whitman School of Management (http://whitman.syr.edu) and the Newhouse School of Public Communications (http://newhouse.syr.edu) at Syracuse University. If you know someone who would like to sign up to receive occasional email announcements and press releases, they may go to http://trac.syr.edu and click on the E-mail Alerts link at the bottom of the page. If you do not wish to receive future email announcements and wish to be removed from our list, please send an email to trac@syr.edu with REMOVE as the subject.

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The futility of throwing more money into this badly broken system has become obvious. Without an independent, Article I U.S. Immigration Court, run by judges who direct the activities of the administrators rather than being run by politicos, there simply will not be any semblance of competent professional management of this system, certainly not under this Administration.

The Administration stubbornly refuses to take the necessary step of responsibly exercising “prosecutorial discretion” to reduce the backlog to a manageable size without “gimmicks.”

It’s equally obvious that Congress needs to enact some type of realistic legalization program that will remove cases of individuals with a period of productive residency and their families from the “active” docket and forestall the further mess that would be created by the absolute insanity of the “Gonzo plan” of restoring properly “administratively closed” cases to the active dockets.

The system is calling out for help. Unfortunately, those cries are being ignored by both Congress and the Article III Courts who are the only ones currently capable of fixing the system.

PWS

09-18-19

TAL @ SF CHRON: Here’s What Migrants See When They Arrive At Immigration Court

Tal Kopan
Tal Kopan
Washington Reporter, SF Chronicle

Watch the videos introducing immigrants to U.S. courts

 

WASHINGTON — A man in a judge’s robe sits in a leather chair in front of an American flag and Department of Justice seal, looking into the camera. As he begins to talk, a woman’s voice translates into Spanish and Spanish subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen.

This is the video that will introduce immigrants to the U.S. courts where they will fight to avoid deportation.

The Chronicle has obtained copies through the Freedom of Information Act of four such videos, made by the Justice Department as part of its policy replacing in-person interpreters at immigrants’ initial court hearings. To date, the videos have been produced in English and Spanish dubbing, for detained immigrants and those who are free from detention.

More: https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Watch-the-videos-introducing-immigrants-to-U-S-14444720.php

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

Thanks, Tal, for exposing the cruel fiction of “justice” in the maliciously incompletely managed Immigration “Courts.”

PWS

09-20-19

EOIR’S OUTRAGEOUS RIPOFF: As EOIR’s “Product” Gets Shoddier Every Day, & Due Process Is Eradicated, Bogus “Court” System’s Proposed 900% Appeal Fee Increase Is An Affront to U.S. Justice System!  

Hamed Aleaziz
Hamed Aleaziz
Immigration Reporter
BuzzFeed News

 

https://apple.news/AYnwPWRJnTi28JVAGnuMzgw

 

 

Hamed Aleaziz reports for BuzzFeed News:

The Trump administration is pushing a proposal to drastically increase fees for immigrants appealing deportation cases or legally attempting to get judges to reconsider their claims in court, according to a draft regulation obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The increase in fees, if instituted, could lead to a substantial shift in how and whether immigrants appeal judges’ decisions in deportation cases. It would also raise due process issues that will likely be challenged by advocates.

In a draft Department of Justice regulation obtained by BuzzFeed News, officials have proposed that immigrants pay $975 to request an appeal of an immigration judge’s ruling and $895 to request a case be reopened or reconsidered with the Board of Immigration Appeals. Proposed regulations are not immediately enacted and require a 60-day comment period.

Currently, the fee to apply for each of these requests is $110.

Such a jump in application prices would represent the latest attempt by the Trump administration to alter the immigration system. Experts believe, if enacted, the increases will impact certain immigrants’ very ability to obtain legal status and protections.

“They are essentially depriving people of the right to appeal — that is big money. It’s a substantial increase of fees that’s beyond the reach of people,” said Rebecca Jamil, a former immigration judge in San Francisco.

A spokesperson for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, an office in the Department of Justice, told BuzzFeed News: “DOJ generally does not confirm or comment on media speculation about regulations. Notably, however, despite inflation and rising administrative costs, EOIR fees have remained the same since 1986—despite increases in fees across many other areas of the federal government over the same period.”

Immigrants would still be able to apply for a fee waiver under the regulation.

Jamil said the fees could have an especially large impact on people currently in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention or who were sent to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed through the US immigration courts. For these two populations, the ability to obtain the appropriate money could be impossible.

“This feels like the fees are being increased as obstacles for aliens to access the courts,” she said. “That’s where it becomes problematic.”

Trump officials have already started a monumental overhaul of the immigration court, placing quotas on the number of cases that judges should complete every year, ending their ability to indefinitely suspend certain cases, restricting when asylum can be granted, and pouring thousands of previously closed cases back into court dockets.

The number of appeals under the administration have increased to more than 30,000 in the 2018 fiscal year.

“The administration has not put an emphasis on the due process of immigrants — these fees seem to be in light with that pattern,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. “I absolutely think this will deter people from appealing decisions, even if they are unjust.”

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

Of course, injustice and unabashed White Nationalist racism is the whole point!

You can bet that corrupt DOJ politicos and their EOIR sycophants will direct that virtually all fee waivers be denied, or that the fee waiver process will be made so complicated and burdensome that nobody will be able to complete it. Now we know exactly what sent former BIA Chair David Neal into an early (coerced) “retirement.”

 

As long as many Article III judges refuse to uphold their oaths of office by stopping to this nonsense, and “Moscow Mitch” & his pals control Congress, the Trump Administration and Billy Barr will continue their outrageous, relentless attack on the American justice system.

 

And, don’t think that just because YOU aren’t an immigrant Hispanic, Black, or LGBTQ, your rights aren’t on the chopping block. They are!

Trump and his disgraceful and existentially dangerous version of the GOP anti-American party mean nothing less than the total annihilation of American democracy and all of the institutions that were supposed to be protecting our individual rights from blatant overreach by a would-be authoritarian neo-fascist regime.

 

It starts, but doesn’t end, with the tanking of the Supreme Court and the continuing mockery of the U.S. Constitution by “Moscow Mitch.”

 

PWS

 

09-17-19

 

 

WHERE “JUSTICE” IS A CRUEL FARCE: As Career Officials Continue To Flee Or Be Thrown Off The Ship, Restrictionists Tighten Political Control Over Immigration “Courts” — Institutions Created To Insure Due Process Now Being Weaponized To Eradicate It, As Congress & Article IIIs Shirk Their Constitutional Duties!

Katie Benner
Katie Benner
Justice Correspondent
NY Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/13/us/politics/immigration-courts-judge.html

Katie Benner writes in The NY Times:

By Katie Benner

  • Sept. 13, 2019

WASHINGTON — The nation’s immigration judges lost a key leader this week, the latest in a string of departures at the top of the system amid a backlog of cases and a migrant crisis at the southwestern border.

The official, David Neal, said that he would retire from his position as head of the judges’ appeals board effective Saturday. “With a heavy heart, I have decided to retire from government service,” Mr. Neal wrote in a letter sent to the board Thursday and obtained by The New York Times.

He gave no reason for his abrupt departure and asked his colleagues to “keep true to your commitment to fairness and justice.”

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No replacement has been announced, and a Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, citing a policy to not do so on personnel matters.

Mr. Neal’s decision follows a shake-up at the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the court system that adjudicates the country’s immigration cases, including asylum cases. It is part of the Justice Department, not the judicial branch.

Three of its senior career officials — MaryBeth T. Keller, the chief immigration judge; Jean King, the general counsel; and Katherine H. Reilly, the deputy director — all left their roles this summer. Ms. King stayed at the immigration office in a different post.

Mr. Neal’s departure also comes amid the backdrop of the Trump administration’s efforts to curb both illegal and legal immigration, which have taxed the immigration courts, the criminal courts and border patrols along the nation’s southwestern border and prompted long-running discontent among immigration judges that they are being used to expedite deportations.

As Mr. Trump has sought to suppress immigration and cut down on the number of people who claim asylum in the United States, he has notched two wins at the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, justices said in an unsigned order that amid an ongoing legal battle, the administration could bar most Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the United States if they passed through another country and were not denied asylum there. That decision will allow the administration to effectively bar migration across the southwestern border by Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and others who must travel through other countries to get to the United States.

And in July, the Supreme Court said that the Trump administration could use $2.5 billion in Pentagon money to build a barrier along the border with Mexico, which would help Mr. Trump fulfill a campaign promise to build a wall on the border to stop immigration.

Amid these hard-line policies, a vocal group of immigration judges — part of the larger total of about 400 judges and appeals judges — have been at loggerheads with the Trump administration for more than a year.

Leaders of the judges’ union have pushed back against the imposition of quotas that they have said would expedite deportations at the expense of due process. Under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they accused the Justice Department of trying to turn the immigration courts into a deportation machine.

Mr. Sessions treated the judges “like immigration officers, not judges,” said Paul Schmidt, a former judge in the immigration courts.

Some judges have also bristled at a recent Justice Department decision that handed over the power to rule on appeals cases to the director of the office, a political appointee. The judges saw the move as an attempt to undermine their authority.

That decision also directly impacted Mr. Neal, demoting him “in practice,” by transferring his authority to decide appeals cases to the director of the office, said Ashley Tabbador, the president of the union that represents immigration judges.

“This regulation upends the entire system created to decide these cases,” Ms. Tabbador said. Should the new system run into problems, “the chairman would have been held accountable. I would have quit, too, if I were in David’s position.”

Though they are part of the Justice Department, many immigration judges view themselves as independent arbiters of the law and believe they must act within the confines of existing immigration statutes.

They have long deliberated over whether they should be part of the Justice Department — a debate that has intensified under President Trump.

Last month, tensions increased when a daily briefing that is distributed to federal immigration judges contained a link to a blog post that included an anti-Semitic reference and came from a website that regularly publishes white nationalists.

After the episode, the immigration review office said that it would stop sending the daily briefing and would not renew its contract with the service that provided it.

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

The farce taking place as the Trump DOJ politicos “remake” the Immigration Courts into a tool of DHS enforcement and repression of Due Process and fundamental fairness will go down as one of the darkest and most disturbing episodes in American legal history. 

The inability or unwillingness of the other two branches of Government, Congress and the Article III Judiciary, to intervene and fulfill their Constitutional duties of protecting Due Process, fundamental fairness, equal protection, First Amendment rights of union members, and separation of powers show a catastrophic failure of American institutions that are charged with protecting and advancing all of our rights.

In the end, nobody including Trump’s tone-deaf supporters and enablers, will escape the adverse consequences of giving in to White Nationalist authoritarianism.

PWS

09-15-19

IMMIGRATION JUDGE V. STUART CROUCH SYMBOLIZES AMERICA’S GROSS DISREGARD OF CHILDREN’S RIGHTS & WELFARE!

Nicholas Kristof
Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist
NY Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/11/opinion/child-poverty-democratic-debate.html

Nicholas Kristof writes in The NY Times:

When a 2-year-old Guatemalan boy had trouble staying silent in an immigration courtroom, the judge pointed his finger at him.

“I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you,” the judge, V. Stuart Couch, a former Marine, yelled at the toddler in a 2016 hearing, according to a formal complaint shared by the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and first reported this week by Mother Jones.

“Do you want him to bite you?” Couch asked.

The boy, his mom and their advocate were all soon sobbing. Couch later acknowledged that he “did not handle the situation properly,” according to the judge who investigated the complaint, Deepali Nadkarni.

Clearly, Couch didn’t have a child’s well-being in mind on that day. But ignoring the welfare of our young is a day-to-day problem in America, where our children are falling behind those in other wealthy countries.

On Thursday, 10 Democratic presidential candidates will debate. It would be a natural opportunity to provoke a national conversation on the subject. But a question about child poverty hasn’t been asked at a presidential debate in 20 years, not since a Republican primary debate in 1999, according to the Children’s Defense Fund.

Presidential candidates have been asked about the World Series, about cursing in movies, even about flag lapel pins more recently than they have been questioned about child poverty. We’ve had 147 presidential debates in a row without a single question on the topic (here’s a petition calling for more questions on the issue). I hope Thursday’s debate won’t be the 148th.

UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.

American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.

. . . .

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

Read Kristof’s complete op-ed at the link.

Couch is one of America’s worst judges. One might therefore fairly ask why he recently was “rewarded” for his bias, unprofessionalism, and documented poor performance when Trump Sycophant Barr “elevated” him to the appellate bench? Perhaps, so he can abuse more women and children across the country?

But, as the Supremes and the GOP have decided to endorse and encourage child abuse, the question is whether the Dems can get it together to end the abuse before it’s too late for America and the world.

Child abusers like Trump, Couch, Barr, and the gang over at DHS are used to getting away with it. They are encouraged by a do nothing Congress, complicit Federal Judges, and a Trump base that has declared war on traditional American values and human decency. But, the consequences of their misconduct, and the unwillingness of the US political and legal system to stand up for children, won’t end well in the long run.

In the meantime, remember the names of the abusers and their enablers, some of them serving in our highest court and as GOP Senators and Representatives.

Child abuse is wrong!

PWS

09-12-19

18 YEARS AFTER 09-11, THE “BAD GUYS” ARE WINNING THE BATTLE TO DESTROY AMERICAN JUSTICE & SPLIT THE COUNTRY! — Here’s The Disturbing Proof Of What Passes For “Justice” In America Today!

18 YEARS AFTER 09-11, THE “BAD GUYS” ARE WINNING THE BATTLE TO DESTROY AMERICAN JUSTICE & SPLIT THE COUNTRY! — Here’s The Disturbing Proof Of What Passes For “Justice” In America Today!

https://apple.news/ATepJTbYUSAaVGl8T7Cqh6Q

Maria Pitofsky
Maria Pitofsky
American Journalist

Marina Pitofsky reports in The Hill:

Immigration judge told 2-year-old to be quiet or a dog would ‘bite you’: report

An immigration judge reportedly threatened a Guatemalan child who was making some noise that a “very big dog” would “come out and bite you” if the undocumented immigrant did not quiet down, according to a report by Mother Jones.

The boy was in the courtroom with his mother for an immigration hearing in March 2016 when the threat happened, Mother Jones reported, citing testimony from an independent observer present at the court.

“I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you,” Judge V. Stuart Couch reportedly told the child, according to an affidavit signed by Kathryn Coiner-Collier.

Coiner-Collier was a coordinator for a Charlotte, N.C.-area legal advocacy group that assisted migrants who could not afford attorneys.

 “Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?” the judge continued to tell the boy during the hearing, according to Mother Jones.

Couch later asked Coiner-Collier to carry the boy out of the courtroom and sit with him, she told Mother Jones.

The judge reportedly told Coiner-Collier that he had threatened other children but that it appeared not to be working with this particular child.

Coiner-Collier said she immediately wrote the affidavit after the case, and in a message to the mother’s attorney in 2017, she wrote “I have never lost my composure like I did that day. … I was … red in the face sobbing along with [the boy’s mother.]”

Coiner-Collier also accused Couch of turning off the courtroom’s recording device as he threatened the child, whom she described as being 2 years old even though the judge said he was 5.

The child and her mother appeared again in front of Couch in August 2017, but the case was eventually reassigned. The new judge denied their asylum claim, according to Mother Jones. They are appealing the case.

Couch and five other judges were promoted in August to the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals.

The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review for comment.

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

https://apple.news/AnmnbegntRTqguvX-bYCn8g

EYORE
“Eyore In Distress”
Once A Symbol of Fairness, Due Process, & Best Practices, Now Gone “Belly Up”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, NBC News/AP Reports:

Rollout of ‘soul crushing’ Trump immigration policy has ‘broken the courts’

On the day she was set to see a U.S. immigration judge in San Diego last month, Katia took every precaution.

After waiting two months in Mexico to press her case for U.S. asylum, the 20-year-old student from Nicaragua arrived at the border near Tijuana three hours before the critical hearing was scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m.

But border agents didn’t even escort her into the U.S. port of entry until after 9 a.m., she said, and then she was left stranded there with a group of more than a dozen other migrants who also missed their hearings.

“We kept asking what was going on, but they wouldn’t tell us anything,” said Katia, who asked to be identified by her first name only for fear of jeopardizing her immigration case.

Bashir Ghazialam, a lawyer paid for by Katia’s aunt in the United States, convinced the judge to reschedule her case because of the transportation snafu. Later, staff at the lawyer’s office learned that at least two families in the group were ordered deported for not showing up to court.

Since it started in January, the rollout of one of the most dramatic changes to U.S. immigration policy under the Trump administration has been marked by unpredictability and created chaos in immigration courts, according to dozens of interviews with judges and attorneys, former federal officials and migrants.

The program – known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) – has forced tens of thousands of people to wait in Mexico for U.S. court dates, swamping the dockets and leading to delays and confusion as judges and staff struggle to handle the influx of cases.

In June, a U.S. immigration official told a group of congressional staffers that the program had “broken the courts,” according to two participants and contemporaneous notes taken by one of them. The official said that the court in El Paso at that point was close to running out of space for paper files, according to the attendees, who requested anonymity because the meeting was confidential.

Theresa Cardinal Brown, a former Department of Homeland Security official under presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, said the problems are “symptomatic of a system that’s not coordinating well.”

“It’s a volume problem, it’s a planning problem, it’s a systems problem and it’s an operational problem on the ground,” said Brown, now a director at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank. “They’re figuring everything out on the fly.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) estimated that 42,000 migrants had been sent to wait in Mexico through early September. That agency and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which runs the nation’s immigration courts, referred questions about the program’s implementation to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which did not respond to requests for comment.

Huge surge, few courts

The disarray is the result of a surge in migrants, most of them Central Americans, at the U.S. southern border, combined with the need for intricate legal and logistical arrangements for MPP proceedings in a limited number of courts – only in San Diego and El Paso, initially. Rather than being released into the United States to coordinate their own transportation and legal appearances, migrants in MPP must come and go across the border strictly under U.S. custody.

Some migrants have turned up in court only to find that their cases are not the system or that the information on them is wrong, several attorneys told Reuters. Others, like Katia, have received conflicting instructions.

According to court documents seen by Reuters, Katia’s notice to appear stated that her hearing was at 7:30 a.m., while another paper she received said she should arrive at the border at 9 a.m., well after her hearing was set to start. She decided to show up at the border before dawn, according to staff in her lawyer’s office. Still, she wasn’t allowed into the border facility until hours later. Ultimately she was never bussed to the San Diego court and was told her case was closed – a fate she was able to avoid only after frantically summoning her lawyer, Ghazialam, to the border.

Most migrants in MPP – including the two families who were deported from her group at the port of entry – do not have lawyers.

In open court, judges have raised concerns that migrants in Mexico – often with no permanent address – cannot be properly notified of their hearings. On many documents, the address listed is simply the city and state in Mexico to which the migrant has been returned.

Lawyers say they fear for the safety of their clients in high-crime border cities.

A Guatemalan father and daughter were being held by kidnappers in Ciudad Juarez at the time of their U.S. hearings in early July but were ordered deported because they didn’t show up to court, according to court documents filed by their lawyer, Bridget Cambria, who said she was able to get their case reopened.

Adding to uncertainty surrounding the program, the legality of MPP is being challenged by migrant advocates. An appellate court ruled here in May that the policy could continue during the legal battle, but if it is found ultimately to be unlawful, the fate of the thousands of migrants waiting in Mexico is unclear. A hearing on the merits of the case is set for next month.

‘Unrealistic’ numbers

When the MPP program was announced on December 20, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said one of its “anticipated benefits” would be cutting backlogs in immigration courts.

In the announcement, the agency said sending migrants to wait in Mexico would dissuade “fraudsters” from seeking asylum since they would no longer be released into the United States “where they often disappear” before their hearing dates.

But the immediate impact has been to further strain the immigration courts.

A Reuters analysis of immigration court data through Aug. 1 found judges hearing MPP cases in El Paso and San Diego were scheduled for an average of 32 cases per day between January and July this year. One judge was booked for 174 cases in one day.

“These numbers are unrealistic, and they are not sustainable on a long-term basis,” said Ashley Tabaddor, head of the national immigration judge’s union.

To reduce the backlog, DHS estimates the government would need to reassign more than 100 immigration judges from around the country to hear MPP cases via video conferencing systems, according to the attendees of the June meeting with congressional staff.

Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for EOIR, said that the rescheduling was necessary to deal with the substantial volume of recent cases.

All told, the courts are now struggling with more than 930,000 pending cases of all types, according to EOIR.

As of August 1, 39% of the backlog in the San Diego court and 44% of the backlog in the El Paso court was due to MPP case loads, Reuters analysis of immigration court data showed.

Despite concerns over the system’s capacity, the government is doubling down on the program.

In a July 26 notification to Congress, DHS said it would shift $155 million from disaster relief to expand facilities for MPP hearings, and would need $4.8 million more for transportation costs. DHS said that without the funding “MPP court docket backlogs will continue to grow.”

Tent courts are set to open this month in Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, and so far more than 4,600 cases have been scheduled there to be heard by 20 judges, according to court data.

In Laredo, 20 to 27 tent courtrooms will provide video conferencing equipment so judges not based at the border can hear cases remotely, said city spokesman Rafael Benavides.

Brownsville’s mayor Trey Mendez said last month that about 60 such courtrooms were likely to be opened, though he had few details. City manager Noel Bernal told Reuters that communication with the federal government about the plans has been “less than ideal.”

‘Desperate people’

At her next hearing in San Diego in mid-September, Katia hopes to tell a judge how her participation in student demonstrations made her a target of government supporters.

Meanwhile, she said, she is living with her parents and 10-year-old brother in a fly-infested apartment with broken plumbing outside Tijuana.

The whole group is seeking asylum because of their support for the protests, according to Katia, her mother Simona, her lawyers, as well as court documents.

Recently, family members said they witnessed a shootout on their corner and Katia’s brother is now waking up with night terrors.

“They are playing games with the needs of desperate people,” said Simona, 46, who like Katia requested the family’s last names be withheld to avoid harming their case. “It’s soul crushing.”

Follow NBC Latino on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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

Of course, Judge Couch is already well-known for his bias and hostility toward asylum seekers, particularly abused women. Why else would he have been “promoted” to the position of “Appellate Immigration Judge” by “Billy the Sycophant” Barr? Obviously, the idea is to promote bias and “worst practices” as the “nationwide norm.”

And we never should forget the spineless ineptness and complicity of Congress and the Article III Courts who are watching this travesty unfold every day while essentially looking the other way. Guess that as long as it’s somebody else “in the woodshed” these dudes can “tune out” the screams of the dehumanized. But, chances are when it’s finally their rights (or the rights of someone they “care about”) at stake, there will be nothing left of our legal and Constitutional system to protect them. 

Indeed, the lawless and unconstitutional “Let ‘Em Die in Mexico Program” described here is largely the responsibility of the “above the fray” Judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who have permitted this intentionally abusive and dehumanizing program to torment refugees and their representatives with impunity.

Disgustingly, these life-tenured judges and elected representatives are lining themselves up squarely with the forces of White Nationalism and overt racism, folks like Neo-Nazi Stephen Miller.

The judicial and Congressional complicity in the abuse and torment of the most vulnerable among us and their wanton disregard for the Constitution they swore to uphold will not go unnoticed by history. This, indeed, is how democracies die and the “bad guys of the world” win. 

PWS

09-11-19

NATIONAL DISGRACE: U.S. “Goes Third World” With “Justice By Omar The Tentmaker!”

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=ff10b6f5-86be-4f3a-8291-1aa8b5ad3060

Molly Hennessy Fiske
Molly Hennessy Fiske
Staff Writer
LA Times

Molly Hennessy-Fiske reports for the LA Times:

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

LAREDO, Texas — Workers climbed atop a massive new U.S. immigration tent court on the banks of the Rio Grande at dawn Monday, adding the last few nails to the white roof, as generators hummed.

A line of people snaked across the nearby border bridge, streaming into the U.S. from Mexico to travel, work and go to school, passing by the fenced walkway to the new 36,000-square-foot tent court complex.

Months after construction began, much about Homeland Security’s $25-million tent courts in south Texas remains a mystery, even to lawyers who expect to represent their migrant clients as soon as this week. What day the hearings will begin, where lawyers should file paperwork and even whether attorneys can meet their clients beforehand — all remain unanswered questions in this border town.

“The question is who’s going to have jurisdiction over these courts?” said Leidy Perez-Davis, Washington-based policy counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Assn., whose members represent migrants scheduled to appear at the tents. “There’s not a lot of transparency. The confusion is large and wide.”

Tent courts were erected here and in Brownsville, Texas, during the summer by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at a cost of $25 million, so far. At least 20 courtrooms are expected to process 200 to 250 people a day, according to Laredo city spokesman Rafael Benavides. The tent court in Brownsville is expected to handle about 720 migrants a day, according to the federal contract.

The city had offered to lease Homeland Security an air-conditioned, 21,000-square-foot office building for 18 months for only $1, but Homeland Security officials declined the offer, they said, “because of the importance of having an operational hearing facility within the following two months to ensure timely hearings for migrants.” The city had told Homeland Security that the building would be ready in time, but the offer was still rejected.

While federal immigration courts are public, the tent courts are unique because they were built on Homeland Security land. Homeland Security facilities generally are not open to the public beyond occasional press tours, meaning the public and the media could potentially be prevented from observing the hearings.

Access became a concern this summer after migrant advocates and the office of the inspector general reported squalid conditions at migrant holding areas in several south Texas Border Patrol stations. Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials did not respond to requests from The Times to visit the tents or provide more information about how they will operate.

Immigration courts built inside other Homeland Security facilities, such as adult and family detention centers, are open to the public, though Homeland Security screens lawyers, reporters and other members of the public, in some cases banning them or requiring them to apply for access days in advance.

The tent courts are expected to exclusively host hearings for migrants who have been returned to Mexico to await the outcome of their asylum cases under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program, which started in California in January and expanded to Laredo in July. The program has resulted in the return of more than 37,000 migrants to Mexico, many now stuck in overcrowded shelters or makeshift border encampments.

In recent days, the Border Patrol returned an average of 125 migrants daily to Nuevo Laredo. Borderwide, roughly 1,200 migrants are returned to Mexico daily, officials told Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz.

Immigration judges have been hearing Remain in Mexico cases in San Diego and El Paso for months, but in bricks-and-mortar courtrooms, open to the public as space allows.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents Laredo, and Saenz said they were told by Homeland Security officials that immigration judges in San Antonio would conduct the tent court hearings via videoconference starting Sept. 16, which is Independence Day, a national holiday in Mexico. Migrants’ attorneys said at least one person was scheduled to appear before that, on Thursday.

Adding to the confusion, attorneys said they have been unable to determine which federal agency controls access to the tents and whether they would be allowed to meet with asylum seekers there privately before a client’s hearing.

“It’s definitely going to affect the ability to represent clients and to help these asylum seekers. Attorneys have no idea where to file the paperwork necessary for these hearings; they don’t know what court will have jurisdiction; they don’t know if they’re supposed to go to the court where their client is or where the judge will be. We don’t know if there will be interpreters,” Perez-Davis said. “What we’re going to see is massive confusion.”

Denise Gilman, co-director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, said she has been visiting migrants in Nuevo Laredo, including one scheduled to appear at the tent courthouse this week. She said the clinic did not plan to represent them because the logistics made it impossible to meet migrants before their hearings.

“I just don’t want to partake of a system that is not set up to adjudicate but, rather, to exclude…. It is really just a mock-up of a court,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the federal immigration courts referred questions about the tent courts to Homeland Security. Spokesmen for Homeland Security and Border Patrol said they were still trying to clarify who would be given access.

A Homeland Security official said the agency “understands the need to protect the privacy and due process rights of individuals who will appear at these locations” and promised that the agency would quickly “determine how best to balance these rights with the special security issues that we must confront at an active port of entry.”

Cuellar, a former lawyer who toured the tents in July, said they sit alongside a dozen air-conditioned metal containers where he was told lawyers would be allowed to meet with their clients. He plans to tour the tent court on Tuesday. “I want to make sure we look at what’s the process there, where they meet with an attorney, where the videoconference is going to be.”

Cuellar said Homeland Security’s decision to reject the city’s offer of near-free use of a municipal building left him feeling cynical.

“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Cuellar said. “They’re trying to get visuals: tents, barbed wire, National Guard, wall…. They’re manufacturing a crisis.”

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Wasting taxpayer money, destroying Due Process, making a mockery out of the U.S. Justice system. Par for the course under the Trump Administration and its enablers.

When will Congress or the Article III courts put a stop to this illegal and unconstitutional “downward spiral” into “Third World Authoritarianism?”

In the meantime, join the New Due Process Army and fight for the restoration and improvement of our Constitutional rights and human decency.

PWS

09-10-19

HON JEFFREY S. CHASE ON DOJ’S SCURRILOUS & FRIVOLOUS ATTACK ON THE NAIJ!

Jeffrey S. Chase
Hon. Jeffrey S. Chase
Jeffrey S. Chase Blog

https://www.jeffreyschase.com/blog/2019/8/22/dojs-latest-effort-to-undermine-impartial-immigration-bench

. . . .

The NAIJ has been particularly effective at arguing how such actions support the need for an independent Article I immigration court, outside of the control of the executive branch. The idea has been endorsed by numerous law groups, including the American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association, and is now a common talking point among members of Congress. The move to decertify the NAIJ is clearly an effort to end such efforts.

A statement issued by Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chairs of the House Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, recognized the decertification petition as “blatant retaliation for this opposition and an obvious attempt to shield immigration court operations from public view.”

The congressional leaders continued that “the Administration’s attempt to silence immigration judges by engaging in frivolous union busting tactics underscores why we need an immigration court system that is separate and independent from the Executive Branch. In the coming months, the Judiciary Committee will hold hearings to explore the current state of the U.S. immigration court system and develop a foundation for legislation to create an independent immigration court.”

. . . .

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

Go on over to Jeff’s blog a the link to read the complete article, which originally appeared on Law360.

Under Trump, the Department of “Justice” clearly has become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Under a future honest Administration, the DOJ is in need of a complete housecleaning and reorganization. We need some legislative safeguards to insure that the DOJ promotes, rather than undermines, the “rule of  law.”

Of course, the problem starts — but doesn’t end — with corrupt leadership from folks like Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and Bill “Trump’s Toady” Barr. But, it also takes some “go along to get along” amoral so-called “career bureaucrats” at DOJ to carry out these invidious policies.

Obviously, the need for an independent Article I U.S. Immigration court becomes more clear and pressing every day that the current farce operating within the DOJ is allowed to continue!

PWS

09-10-11

CATHERINE RAMPELL @ WASHPOST: Trump & His GOP’s Cowardly “War On Children” Should Outrage Every American! — Join The “New Due Process Army” & Fight To Save Humanity!

Catherine Rampell
Catherine Rampell
Opinion Columnist
Washington Post

Catherine writes in the Washington Post:

You’ve heard of the Wars on Drugs, Terror, Poverty, even Women. Well, welcome to the War on Children.

It’s being waged by the Trump administration and other right-wing public officials, regardless of any claimed “family values.”

For evidence, look no further than the report released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services’s own inspector general. It details the trauma suffered by immigrant children separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s evil “zero tolerance” policy.

Thousands of children were placed in overcrowded centers ill-equipped to provide care for them physically or psychologically. Visits to 45 centers around the country resulted in accounts of children who cried inconsolably; who were drugged; who were promised family reunifications that never came; whose severe emotional distress manifested in phantom chest pains, with complaints that “every heartbeat hurts”; who thought their parents had abandoned them or had been murdered.

Such state-sanctioned child abuse was designed to serve as a “deterrent” for asylum-seeking families, as then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and other administration officials made clear.

Of course, they failed to recognize just how horrific are the conditions these asylum-seeking children are fleeing — conditions that further decreased HHS’s ability to adequately care for them.

“Staff in multiple facilities reported cases of children who had been kidnapped or raped” back in their home countries, the IG report states. Other children witnessed family members raped or murdered.

But hey, Trump believes these kiddos must be punished further for the crime of seeking refuge — a.k.a., the “invasion” of America.

Despite this and other abundant evidence that government facilities are not able to care for children for extended periods, last month, the administration also announced a new policy that would allow it to keep children (along with their families) in jail-like conditions for longer periods of time.

 

This is hardly the only way the administration has knowingly enacted policies that harm children.

In August, it finalized a rule that would make it more difficult for immigrants to receive green cards if they have used certain safety-net services they’re legally entitled to — or if government officials suspect they might ever use such services. Confusion and fear about the policy and whom it affects abound. This has already created a “chilling effect” for usage of social services, with immigrant parents disenrolling even their U.S.-citizen children just to be safe.

Last fall, for instance, I interviewed a green-card-holding mother who decided not to enroll her underweight newborn in a program that would have provided free formula (even though the program in question was not mentioned in the rule, and the baby is a U.S. citizen). Huge recent declines in children’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollment are also believed to be at least partly a result of fears about this policy change.

If Your Dog Does This, It Could Be Them Signaling A Warning

And lest you think only immigrant or brown children are being targeted in this war: U.S. servicemembers’ children, of all sorts of backgrounds, are being hurt, too.

The Trump administration is siphoning billions from various defense projects to fund border wall construction, despite promises that Mexico would pay for it. This might sound unlikely to affect kids, but somehow the Trump administration found a way. Among the projects losing funds are schools for the children of U.S. servicemembers based in Kentucky, Germany and Japan, and a child-care center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Trump’s proposed federal budgets have likewise axed funding for other programs that serve children, such as subsidized school meals and Medicaid. Indeed, both federal and state GOP officials more broadly are still working to kill the Medi­caid expansion, as well as other Affordable Care Act provisions that benefit kids.

The GOP has likewise ignored the pleas of children who want their lives protected from gun violence, or who want their futures protected from a warming planet.

A year ago, I offered a suggestion : that Democrats make children the theme of their midterm campaign. They mostly ignored me and still did okay. Nonetheless, I’m re-upping it.

Because even without Trump’s baby jails and proposed Medicaid cuts, our country’s emphasis on children’s well- being is seriously deficient.

Last year, for the first time on record, we spent a greater share of the federal budget servicing the national debt than we did on children, according to an analysis out next week from First Focus on Children. Spending on children as a share of the federal budget is also expected to shrink over the coming decade, crowded out by both debt service and spending on the elderly.

This is despite the fact that spending on children (especially low-income children) has among the highest returns on investment of any form of government spending.

Whatever the opposite of Trump’s War on Children is, that’s what Democrats should be running on.

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

Thanks, Catherine, for speaking out so clearly and articulately about what has become our #1 National Disgrace: Trump’s War On Human Decency & Future Generations and its sleazy cast of supporting characters like Pence, Kelly, Miller, Nielsen, “Big Mac With Lies,” Homan, Albence, Morgan, “Cooch Cooch,” “Gonzo Apocalypto,” Barr, Cotton, Graham, and others with their glib immorality and disregard for truth, our Constitution, the rule of law, and basic human values. 

Who thought the U.S. would ever stoop so low — to use our government’s power and might to abuse defenseless, already traumatized, and highly vulnerable children. (Catherine’s article does’t even get into how, with the help of scofflaw Attorneys General Sessions and Barr and some complacent Article III Judges, the Administration has manipulated asylum law and Immigration “Court” procedures to deny children and other asylum seekers the legal protection to which they are entitled under U.S. and international laws.)

There are many groups out there in the “New Due Process Army” fighting every day against this kind of outrageous behavior by our elected leaders, their corrupt cronies, and their many “go along to get along” enablers in the bureaucracy. Join or donate to one today!

The war to save America and humanity from Trump’s vile and cowardly agenda is one that we can’t afford to lose: For the sake of future generations!

PWS

09-06-19

TAL @ SF CHRON TAKES US INSIDE EOIR’S LATEST ASSAULT ON DUE PROCESS: Lack Of Live Interpretation Causing Confusion, Delays, Misinformation, & Denials Of Fundamental Fairness In U.S. Immigration Courts — Bogus “Court” System Continues To Make Major Changes Diminishing Due Process Without Consulting Judges, Attorneys, Or The Affected Individuals!

Tal Kopan
Tal Kopan
Washington Reporter, SF Chronicle

Tal Kopan reports for the SF Chron:

https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Confusion-delays-as-videos-replace-interpreters-14414627.php

Confusion, delays as videos replace interpreters at immigrants’ hearings

By Tal Kopan

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has been slow to implement its new policy replacing in-person interpreters with informational videos at immigrants’ initial hearings, but the switch is causing delays and confusion where it has been introduced, including in San Francisco, observers say.

The Justice Department informed immigration judges in late June that it would replace in-person interpreters at the first court appearance for immigrants facing deportation with videos advising them of their rights. The switchover began in July.

So far, the policy has been rolled out to courts in just four cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

It’s not clear when the policy will expand. A spokesman for the Justice Department division that oversees the courts said the agency “is taking into consideration all feedback before additional translation videos are created and the program is rolled out to further immigration courts.”

Judges and attorneys observing the courts say the change has mostly served to delay proceedings, by adding lengthy steps and information that is not necessary for all migrants to hear.

After the videos are shown, each immigrant is called up for his or her individual hearing and may have questions for the judge. Although judges are now barred from scheduling in-person interpreters for the hearings, at times interpreters can be found on short notice in the courthouses. When none is available, judges must try a telephone service to reach an interpreter.

At issue are what are called master calendar hearings — immigrants’ first appearance in courts that determine whether they can remain in the U.S. The typically rapid-fire sessions serve to inform migrants of their rights and the process they will go through. Judges also schedule their next hearings.

Many immigrants in the system are Spanish speakers, but it’s also common for Chinese, Creole, and several indigenous languages from Central America and around the world to be spoken in courtrooms.

Judges in courts that have made the change are required to play either a Spanish-dubbed or English-language video for immigrants who do not have attorneys representing them. The 20-minute video runs through a lengthy list of technical legal advisories. Videos in other languages are not yet available, but the Justice Department has plans to introduce them.

Most of the dozens of immigrants going through their initial hearings Tuesday in San Francisco were shown the video. Many of them had attorneys present who translated, and others were able to use a Spanish-speaking interpreter who was on hand. Languages spoken in court included Spanish, Punjabi, Hindi, Mandarin and Fijian.

One hearing in the courtroom of Judge Arwen Swink involved a Mongolian woman who needed translation. After about five minutes, Swink was able to secure an interpreter in her language through the telephone service Lionbridge.

Swink asked the interpreter to introduce himself to the woman, who did not have an attorney, to ensure that she understood him. The interpreter said he had trouble hearing, but court staffers brought the microphone closer to the woman and the session was able to proceed.

With an interpreter in the room, such a hearing can take five minutes or less. The woman’s case took 15 minutes.

The Chronicle has obtained transcripts of the separate videos that are played for immigrants who are in detention and not in detention, as well as an FAQ handout they receive.

Roughly a fifth of the videos are devoted to a discussion of “voluntary departure,” under which immigrants can go back to their home country without being penalized if they try to come back someday. The videos also warn immigrants of the criminal consequences of trying to re-enter the country illegally after being deported.

Legal experts and veteran immigration judges say neither topic was commonly brought up in initial hearings before the videos were introduced because they are most relevant at the end of cases, if migrants do not prevail in their bid to remain in the U.S. Several said they feared the emphasis on voluntary departures and criminal penalties could prompt immigrants with valid claims to stay in the U.S. to waive their right without fully understanding what they’re doing.

The Justice Department did not consult with the union that represents immigration judges before making the change, and has proceeded despite ongoing bargaining with the group. The result is “lots of confusion, constantly changing parameters of the program by the agency and frustration among many judges,” said Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges and an immigration judge in Los Angeles.

Tabaddor added that courts in New York and Miami have had trouble securing help by phone, and that cases have been delayed in the Los Angeles court because of shortages of interpreters.

Amiena Khan, the union’s executive vice president and a judge in New York, said the videos make for a “really long day” for unrepresented immigrants who have to wait through proceedings for all migrants who have attorneys before watching a 20-minute video. She finds herself repeating or adding key advisories when immigrants are called before her.

“There was no problem that needed to be solved by the introduction of the video,” Khan said. “What I think really bothers me is that it’s mandatory. I think if it was discretionary as a tool for the judge to use, it could be helpful. (But) it takes away our judicial independence as to what method to employ to best get through the day’s docket.”

Khan and former immigration Judge Jeffrey Chase, who reviewed the transcripts, also noted that the videos do not include information that would be important for immigrants, including that they have only one year to formally apply for asylum in the U.S.

“The information provided is misleading in a way that can lead to a noncitizen’s removal,” said Chase, who now volunteers for organizations that provide legal assistance to immigrants.

Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the transcripts show that the videos use “scare tactics” instead of informing immigrants of their rights. The videos warn immigrants against filing frivolous asylum claims, but don’t explain what asylum is, she noted.

“The videos provide an overwhelming amount of information that no one can easily digest in one setting,” Lynch said. “What’s more disturbing is that the content itself only tells one side of the story.”

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

Click on the link for Tal’s full story with links to actual transcripts of this “parody of justice.”

This is DOJ/EOIR’s “malicious incompetence” in action. Accurate interpretation is essential to Due Process and fundamental fairness as well as the hallmark of a competently and professionally run court system. Somewhere along the line, the money for interpreters was frittered away by what passes for “management” at DOJ/EOIR. And, let’s not even think about the waste of money on absurd “Immigration Judge Dashboards” while the two decades old overwhelming need for a functional nationwide e-filing system goes unmet.

Right now, Congress is paralyzed. When are the Article III Courts going to wake up, get some backbone, and enforce the U.S. Constitution by putting an end to this so-called “court system” run by prosecutors that provides not even a semblance of fair and impartial (and at least minimally competent) adjudication? No more “Clown Court!”🤡

PWS

09-05-19

IMMIGRATION COURTS: “MALICIOUS INCOMPETENCE ON STEROIDS” — With Court System Reeling & Asylum Applicants Suffering, Administration Plans Another Round Of Massive “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”), Reports Hamed Aleaziz @ BuzzFeed News!

Hamed Aleaziz
Hamed Aleaziz
Immigration Reporter
BuzzFeed News

 

https://apple.news/A3UINub7KSjuOLcKAHDJMLw

Hamed Aleaziz reports for BuzzFeed News:

A Surge Of Immigration Judges Are Expected To Handle The Cases Of Thousands Forced To Wait In Mexico

“This will wreak havoc on court dockets across the country,” said one immigration court official.

Hamed Aleaziz

BuzzFeed News Reporter

A 10-month-old boy, whose family fled violence in El Salvador, waits in a tent in Tijuana, Mexico, for an immigration court hearing in the US.

Department of Homeland Security officials expect about 150 immigration judges from across the US will be selected to handle cases involving asylum-seekers forced to remain in Mexico while their cases proceed, according to a source with knowledge of the matter, a massive potential increase in assignments that threatens to overwhelm an already struggling court system.  

Around a dozen judges currently presiding over courts in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, handle the cases of people referred under Migration Protection Protocols, the controversial Trump administration policy forcing asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico as their cases move through the immigration system. While the cases can take months or years to be scheduled, the number of individuals included in the program has expanded to more than 35,000, according to figures obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The Trump administration hopes to change that by soon opening facilities along the border to handle the cases. Officials plan to open two border courts in Texas — in Laredo and Brownsville — by the middle of September, in which they will hear up to 20 cases per day, according to a government briefing document obtained by BuzzFeed News. A DHS spokesperson said the date the facilities would open was still to be determined.

On Tuesday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, who chairs the House DHS Appropriations Subcommittee, revealed in a letter that the agency had plans to transfer $155 million in federal disaster funds to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help fund the new facilities.

The cases heard at the border are expected to be conducted primarily via video teleconferencing, allowing for more judges across the country to be brought into the process. Assistants, working on contract, will help organize the hearings by taking roll call, send case documents to judges in other locations, and operate the video systems, according to a separate DHS planning document obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Judges assigned these cases could be forced to delay other asylum and deportation hearings that had already been scheduled, causing a ripple effect and further growing an already bloated court backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases.

People wait inside an immigration court in Miami.

“Once again immigration judges from courts across the country will have to push their home court dockets aside to preside televideo at border courts,” said one immigration court official who could not speak publicly on the matter. “This will wreak havoc on court dockets across the country.”

At a San Diego court that has presided over many “Remain in Mexico” cases for months, judges have been told to prioritize the hearings over others, according to a source with knowledge of the change. As a result, some immigrants who have waited for months or years for their previously scheduled cases will likely have their hearings delayed.

“The prioritization of MPP cases will place a huge burden on the immigration courts,” said a DOJ official involved with immigration matters. “Additionally, the postponement of previously scheduled cases will cause the backlog to grow even more, as the completion of these cases will be further delayed for months or even years.”

Rebecca Jamil, a former immigration judge under the Trump administration, said that the cases on judge’s dockets don’t go away when they are assigned new cases.

“Those families have been waiting for years to have their cases heard, and now will wait another two or three years, and due process is denied by the delay — evidence becomes stale, witnesses die, country conditions change,” she said.

The Department of Justice, which oversees the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which manages the nation’s immigration courts, is prepared to meet the demands from the DHS on any hearings, an agency spokesperson said.

The potential changes come as data revealed by Syracuse University indicates that asylum-seekers forced to wait in Mexico rarely have legal representation; just 1% of individuals are accompanied by attorneys at their hearings.

The Remain in Mexico program is one of the few hardline Trump immigration policies that has thus far survived a court injunction. While a federal court judge in San Francisco blocked the policy earlier this year, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel allowed it to continue as a legal challenge works its way through the court process.

Asylum-seekers who were returned to Mexico under the Trump administration have faced consequences of remaining there, according to advocacy group Human Rights First. The group found more than 100 cases of people returned under the program alleging rapes, kidnappings, sexual exploitation, or assault, according to a report released this month.

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This is the result of the complete abdication of duty by the Ninth Circuit in Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan, that lifted a proper, life-saving U.S. District Court injunction and allowed the Administration’s patently illegal and immoral “Kill ‘Em in Mexico Program” to proceed.

The solution:  There is no such thing as a “fair” asylum denial under this program. Yes, not everyone meets the criteria. But, everyone is entitled to a fair chance to present a claim, free from duress, coercion, and biased judging, which is not happening. 

Advocates must flood the Ninth Circuit and the other border circuits with petitions for review and other types of court actions forcing these complicit Article III “Ivory Tower Judges,” who believe they have removed themselves from the fray, with the human carnage resulting from their gross dereliction of duty to enforce the statutory and Constitutional rights of asylum seekers.

The disgusting and spineless performance of the Article IIIs in light of the Administration’s bogus, illegal actions to “deter” legitimate asylum seekers is nothing short of a national disgrace. If not corrected, it will rightfully tarnish the reputation of the Federal Courts and the individual judges involved for generations to come.

PWS

08-30-19

IMMIGRATION COURTS: After Two Years Of Trump Administration Anti-Immigrant Shenanigans At EOIR, The Backlog Has Mushroomed To 975,298, Morale Has Hit Rock Bottom, & Due Process Is Mocked Every Day — There Is A Solution, But Will Our Republic Survive Enough To Reach It?

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/08/28/is-it-time-to-remove-immigration-courts-from-presidential-control

Julia Preston
Julia Preston
American Journalist
The Marshall Project

Julia Preston reports for The Marshall Project:

By JULIA PRESTON

A string of directives from President Donald Trump’s Justice Department that have reduced the authority of immigration judges and limited their control of their courtrooms has given new urgency to calls for a complete overhaul of the immigration courts.

Those courts now exist within the Justice Department and answer to the attorney general. Proposals for Congress to exercise its constitutional powers and create separate, independent immigration courts have long been dismissed as costly pipe dreams. But under Trump, judges and others in the court system say they are facing an unprecedented effort to restrain due process and politicize the courts with the president’s hard line on immigrants and demands for deportations.

“It’s time for the Department of Justice and the immigration courts to get a divorce,” said Jeremy McKinney, an attorney who is a vice-president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

In a letter in July, the immigration lawyers joined the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association and the immigration judges’ union to call on Congress to “establish an independent court system that can guarantee a fair day in court.” The idea is percolating in the Democratic presidential contests, with three candidates—Julián Castro, Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Elizabeth Warren—presenting specific plans. Another candidate, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, drafted a bill last year to make the change.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, said he will hold hearings on the proposals this fall. There is little chance such a plan would have traction in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Under the proposals, the immigration courts would become a stand-alone agency that would not be run or controlled by outside officials, with the goal of insulating judges from political pressure by any administration.

Department of Justice officials say they are working on a fast track to modernize courts that have been relegated to institutional backwaters. They oppose any plan to separate the courts, saying it would create a bureaucratic and legal morass that would do little to resolve massive backlogs and other chronic problems.

The costs and logistical hurdles “would be monumental and would likely delay pending cases even further,” said Kathryn Mattingly, a Justice Department spokeswoman. The proposals present “significant shortcomings, without any countervailing positive equities,” she said.

But several judges, including three who spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to make public statements, said the Trump administration has pushed the courts too far. The latest salvo emerged from a thicket of legal language in a rule issued Monday by the Justice Department. In a major change, it gives the official in charge of running the courts, who is not a sitting judge, the last word in appeals of some immigration cases. It also gave that official—the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the formal name of the immigration court agency—expanded power to set broadly-defined “policy” for the courts.

The judges’ union reacted with alarm. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said the rule “removes any semblance of an independent, non-political court system.”

The judges’ association was already reeling after receiving what amounted to a declaration of war on Aug. 9, when the Justice Department filed a decertification petition that would bar judges, who are department employees, from being represented by the union.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions used his authority extensively, eliminating judges’ ability to close deportation cases and narrowing the path to asylum for migrant families from Central America fleeing domestic abuse, gang violence and cutthroat cartels. In a recent decision, Attorney General William Barr went further to deny families asylum, overruling long-standing opinions by judges.

Late last year the current director of the courts, James McHenry, under pressure from the White House, ordered judges in 10 busy courts to give priority to cases of families seeking asylum, pushing those cases to the front of their dockets while postponing others. Many judges are frustrated with the “rocket dockets,” finding that they deny many immigrants time to prepare for hearings while unreasonably delaying other cases, further stretching out backlogs.

In recent months McHenry, citing budget constraints, began to limit the availability of language interpreters for initial hearings, where judges see immigrants who speak many different languages. Translators have been replaced with videos providing boilerplate explanations of an immigrant’s rights. Judges said the videos are befuddling to immigrants in their first encounter with the court, and take away time for judges to address each person individually.

What really antagonized many judges was the imposition of quotas for finishing cases, tied to their performance reviews. Since last October, judges must complete at least 700 cases a year, with less than 15 percent of decisions being sent back to them by appeals courts. Time limits were set for many other decisions.

To remind judges of their standing, Justice officials designed a speedometer that sits on judges’ computer screens, with green marking numbers of decisions that meet the metrics and stoplight red indicating where they are lagging.

“So you sit down and you see that dashboard staring at you, updated every day, and you have 50 motions on your desk to decide whether to continue a case,” said Denise Noonan Slavin, who retired as an immigration judge in March after 24 years on the bench. The metrics, she said, inevitably discourage judges from granting more time for cases, even if an immigrant presents a valid argument.

“If judges get into that red, they can lose their job,” Slavin said.