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!”

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


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.






CORRUPTED “COURTS” – No Stranger To Improper Politicized Hiring Directed Against Migrants Seeking Justice, DOJ Under Barr Doubles Down On Biased Ideological Hiring & Promoting “Worst Practices”– “The idea that six judges with asylum denial rates astronomically above the national average of 57.1% were the ‘best qualified’ for these appellate jobs is simply absurd… It seems that a Congressional investigation into the selection process would be well warranted . . . .”

Manuel Madrid
Manuel Madrid
Staff Writer
Miami New Times


Manuel Madrid reports for the Miami New Times:


Trump Officials Give Permanent Promotion to Asylum-Denying Miami Immigration Judge



A Miami immigration judge with less than two years of experience on the bench was fast-tracked for a permanent position on the nation’s highest immigration court. The move has raised concerns about politicized hiring at the Justice Department.

Deborah Goodwin was one of six judges handpicked by Justice Department officials to fill vacancies on the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), a 21-member appellate court that sets binding legal precedents for more than 400 immigration judges serving in the nation’s 57 immigration courts. These six judges, who have little in common other than their markedly high rates of asylum denial, were permanently added to the board in August without undergoing any probationary period, according to documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by the investigative website Muckrock.


Memos sent to the office of Attorney General William Barr in July reveal that the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees the nation’s immigration courts, adopted new hiring procedures in March to evaluate candidates. It was “EOIR practice” to appoint a board member temporarily and require that person to complete a two-year probationary period, but the agency now believes that a sitting immigration judge has “the same or similar skills” as an appellate judge and should therefore be immediately installed permanently. The memos, obtained by Muckrock and shared with CQ Roll Call, were written by EOIR Director James McHenry.


·       Florida Cities Would Need Governor’s Permission to Resettle Refugees Under New Trump Order

·       Miami’s Immigration Court Has Become a Well-Oiled Deportation Machine, New Data Shows

·       Despite What Trump Says, Most Immigrant Families Show Up for Court, Report Shows

“This is clearly a political move. There’s no question about it,” says Jason Dzubow, a D.C.-based immigration lawyer who runs the blog the Asylumist. “And there’s no way someone looking at the appearance of this can consider the hirings good for fairness in the immigration court system.” 

Goodwin has a strong background in immigration enforcement: She worked as an associate legal adviser and assistant chief counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The judge, who presides over the court in Miami-Dade’s Krome migrant detention center, began hearing cases in 2017. As of the end of last year, she had an asylum denial rate of 89 percent, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. That’s far above the national average of 57 percent during the same period and almost 10 percentage points higher than the average for the Miami immigration court as a whole.

Of the six judges, Goodwin — who was appointed by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch — has received relatively little attention due to her limited time on the bench. Other appointees, such as Atlanta’s William Cassidy and Charlotte’s Stuart Couch, have been far more controversial. Cassidy, who had an asylum denial rate of 95 percent between 2013 and 2018, has been the subject of various complaints from immigration attorneys over the years. Couch, who had a rejection rate of 92 percent, issued ten rulings in 2017 that were found “clearly erroneous” by the Board of Immigration of Appeals. All ten of those of rulings involved the rejection of asylum claims by women who had been victims of domestic violence.



In a recent interview with Dzubow, former U.S. Chief Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller said the recent BIA hirings were “stunning.”

“I think [immigration judges] are generally eminently qualified to be board members, but to bring in all six from the immigration court? I’d like to think that the pool of applicants was more diverse than that,” Keller told Dzubow. “I find these recent hires to be very unusual.”

Immigration judges, and appellate judges in particular, can come from a wide range of legal and professional backgrounds, although scandals of politicized hiring have cropped up in the past. In 2008, a report by the Office of the Inspector General revealed the George W. Bush administration had engaged in illegal hiring practices for years by selecting immigration judges based on their political views. Perhaps unsurprisingly, immigration judges selected during that time were found to have disproportionately denied asylum claims.

Paul Wickham Schmidt, a former immigration judge and former head of the Board of Immigration Appeals, responded to the new appellate court appointments on his blog, “The idea that six judges with asylum denial rates astronomically above the national average of 57.1% were the ‘best qualified’ for these appellate jobs is simply absurd… It seems that a Congressional investigation into the selection process would be well warranted, including a look at the qaualifications [sic] of candidates who were passed over.”


Manuel Madrid is a staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C., before moving back to South Florida.





OK, so I can’t spell or proofread. That’s why I’m a “gonzo journalist.” (I actually went back and corrected the spelling after seeing Manuel’s article. But, it definitely was in the original posting.)

Every time a Court of Appeals signs off on a “removal order” generated by these blatantly unconstitutional (not to mention unqualified) “courts” that violate Due Process every day in numerous ways, those Article III Judges are betraying their duties to uphold the Constitution.

Manuel’s article also sheds some light on the opaque hiring practices of the Obama Administration under AG Loretta Lynch. Not only did Lynch incompetently administer the mechanics of Immigration Judge hiring — approximately two years to fill an average IJ vacancy (ridiculous) & dozens of open positions negligently left “on the table” for Sessions — she consistently filled the courts with “go along to get along government insiders” to the exclusion of many better qualified candidates from the private bar who could have added to the dialogue much-needed scholarship (particularly in the asylum and Due Process areas) and a more practical understanding of the predicament of asylum seekers.

Of course, some Government attorneys make outstanding, fair, scholarly Immigration Judges. I recommended numerous well-qualified INS and DHS attorneys for such appointments over the years, along with many from private practice and academia. But, along the lines of what former Chief Judge Keller said, Government attorneys can’t essentially be the “sole source” of judicial appointments.

To a large extent, Sessions and Barr have “weaponized” and accelerated Lynch’s already one-sided exclusionary hiring practices. While Lynch apparently didn’t want to “rock the boat” with any possible “pushback” while she promoted some of the Obama Administration’s worst anti-asylum policies and practices, including family detention, “Aimless Docket Reshuffling,” and forcing toddlers to “litigate” in court, Sessions and Barr intend to “sink the boat” with all migrants on board!

Toxic as the GOP’s hiring practices and manipulation of the process have been under Bush and Trump, they at least understand the potential impact of who sits on the Immigration Courts and the BIA, and act accordingly. By contrast, the Democrats have been lackadaisical, at best, and inept at worst, in appointments to the Immigration Judiciary.

Under Obama, the Democrats. loved to complain that Mitch McConnell stood in the way of judicial appointments. But, given a chance to positively reshape an entire court system, perhaps the most important if least respected and appreciated courts in America, without any Congressional interference or roadblocks, they dropped the ball. And that explains lots of today’s atrocious dysfunction in the immigration justice system.

Assuming that we someday get much needed “regime change,” an independent U.S. Immigration Court must be the number one priority. The Dems could have gotten the job done in 2008. Their failure to do so has caused untold human suffering, including needless deaths, and a potentially fatal degradation of our entire justice system. Never again!