BIA NEWS: Judge Garry D. Malphrus Leapfrogs Into Acting Chair Job, As Two Of The Remaining “Voices Of Reason” Bite The Dust At Barr’s “Newly Packed” Falls Church Station Stop On The “Trump Deportation Express!”
By Paul Wickham Schmidt
Exclusive for immigrationcourtside.com
Nov . 7, 2019. In a little noticed move, “Trump Chump” Attorney General Billy Barr in October advanced conservative GOP appointed Appellate Immigration Judge Garry D. Malphrus to the position of Acting Chair of the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church Virginia. The move followed the sudden reputedly essentially forced “retirement” of former Chair David Neal in September.
Notably, Barr bypassed long-time BIA Vice Chair and three-decade veteran of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) (which “houses” the BIA) Judge Charles “Chuck” Adkins-Blanch to elevate Judge Malphrus. Increasingly, particularly in the immigration area, the Trump Administration has circumvented bureaucratic chains of command and normal succession protocols for “acting” positions in favor of installing those committed to their restrictionist political program.
Like former Chair Neal, Vice Chair Adkins-Blanch has long been rumored not to be on the “Restrictionist A Team” at EOIR. Apparently, that’s because he occasionally votes in favor of recognizing migrants’ due process rights and for their fair and impartial treatment under the immigration laws.
For example, although generally known as a low-key “middle of the road jurist,” Vice Chair Adkins-Blanch authored the key BIA precedent Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014). There, the BIA recognized the right of abused women, particularly from the Northern Triangle area of Central America, to receive protection under our asylum, and immigration laws. That decision was widely hailed as both appropriate and long overdue by immigration scholars and advocates and saved numerous lives and futures during the period it was in effect. It also promoted judicial efficiency by encouraging ICE to not oppose well-documented domestic violence cases.
Nevertheless, in a highly controversial 2018 decision, White Nationalist restrictionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions dismantled A-R-C-G-. This was an an overt attempt to keep brown-skinned refugees, particularly women, from qualifying for asylum. Matter of A-B –, 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018). Session’s decision was widely panned by immigration scholars and ripped apart by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, the only Article III Judge to address it in detail to date, in Grace v. Whitaker, 344 F. Supp. 3d 96 (D.D.C. 2018). Nevertheless, Matter of A-B- remains a precedent in Immigration Court.
In addition to the Malphrus announcement, sources have told “Courtside” that veteran BIA Appellate Immigration Judges John Guendelsberger and Molly Kendall Clark will be retiring at the end of December. While the current BIA intentionally has been configured over the past three Administrations to have nothing approaching a true “liberal wing,” Judges Guendelsberger and Kendall Clark were generally perceived as fair, scholarly, and willing to support and respect individual respondents’ rights, at least in unpublished, non-precedential decisions.
This was during an era when the BIA as a whole was moving in an ever more restrictive direction, seldom publishing precedent decisions favoring or vindicating the rights of individuals over DHS enforcement. Additionally, under Sessions and now Barr, the BIA has increasingly been pushed aside and given the role of “restrictionist enforcer” rather than “expert tribunal.” The most significant policies are rewritten in favor of hard-line enforcement and issued as “precedents” by the Attorney General, sometimes without any input or consultation from the BIA at all.
The BIA’s new role evidently is to insure that Immigration Judges aggressively use these restrictionist precedents to quickly remove individuals without regard to due process. Apparently, this new role also includes promptly reversing any grants of relief to individuals, thus insuring that ICE Enforcement wins no matter what, and actively discouraging individuals from daring to use our justice system to assert their rights. To this end, Barr’s six most recent judicial appointments to the BIA, part of an obvious “court-packing scheme,” are all Immigration Judges with asylum denial rates far in excess of the national average and reputations for being unsympathetic, sometimes also rude and demeaning, to respondents and their attorneys.
Indeed, adding insult to injury, Barr’s latest regulatory proposal would give a non-judicial official, the EOIR Director, decisional and precedent setting authority over the BIA in certain cases. This directly undoes some of the intentional separation of administrative and judicial functions that had been one of the objectives of EOIR.
Judge Guendelsberger was originally appointed to the BIA by the late Attorney General Janet Reno in 1995. However, as a member (along with me) of the notorious due process oriented “Gang of Five,” he often wrote or joined dissents from some of the BIA majority’s unduly restrictive asylum jurisprudence. Consequently, Judge Guendelsberger and the rest of the “Gang” were “purged” from the BIA by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2003.
Reassigned to “re-education camp” in the bowels of the BIA, Judge Guendelsberger worked his way back and was “rehabilitated” and reappointed to the BIA by Attorney General Eric Holder in August 2009. This followed several years as a “Temporary Board Member,” (“TBM”). The TBM is a clever device used to conceal the dysfunction caused by the Ashcroft purge by quietly designating senior BIA staff as judges to overcome the shortage caused by the purge and irrational BIA “downsizing” used to cover up the political motive for the purge. TBMs are also disenfranchised from voting at en banc, thus insuring a more compliant and less influential temporary judicial workforce.
Judge Guendelsberger was the only member of the “Gang of Five” to achieve rehabilitation. However, his former “due process fire” was gone. In his “judicial reincarnation” he seldom dissented from BIA precedents. He even joined and authored decisions restricting the ability of refugees to qualify for asylum based on persecution from gangs that the governments of the Northern Triangle were unwilling or unable to control or were actually using to achieve political ends.
Indeed, his later public judicial pronouncements bore little resemblance to the courageous and often forward-looking jurisprudence with which he was associated during his “prior judicial life” with the “Gang of Five.” Nevertheless, he continued to save lives whenever possible “under the radar screen” in his unpublished decisions, which actually constitute the vast bulk of a BIA judge’s work.
Judge Kendall Clark was finally appointed to a permanent BIA Appellate Judgeship by Attorney General Loretta Lynch in February 2016, following a lengthy series of appointments as a TBM. Perhaps because of her disposition to recognize respondents’ rights in an era of sharp rightward movement at the BIA, she authored few published precedents.
However, she did write or participate in a number of notable unpublished cases that saved lives at the time and advanced the overall cause of due process. She also had the distinction of serving as a Senior Legal Advisor to four different BIA Chairs (including me) from 1995 to 2016.
Thus, the BIA continues its downward spiral from a tribunal devoted to excellence, best practices, due process, and fundamental fairness to one whose primary function is to serve as a “rubber stamp” for White Nationalist restrictionist enforcement initiatives by DHS. The voices of reasonable, thoughtful, scholarly jurists like Judges Guendelsberger and Kendall Clark will be missed.
They are some of the last disappearing remnants of what EOIR could have been under different circumstances. Their departure also shows why an independent Article I Judiciary, with unbiased judges appointed because of their reputations for fairness, scholarship, timeliness, teamwork, and demonstrated respect for the statutory and constitutional rights of individuals, is the only solution for the current dysfunctional mess at EOIR.