Imposing an immigration in-justice system

gavel

Where to begin reading about the new and awful changes that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is unilaterally imposing on immigration courts? One good place: the L.A. Times editorial, Forcing judges to meet quotas won’t reduce immigration court backlogs. It will undermine due process.

Over the past two years the backlog of active deportation cases has increased from 516,000 to 685,000, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, and the cases have taken, on average, almost two years each to be decided — 711 days….

“Now Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions is pushing immigration judges to speed things up. Starting in October, the department will measure judges’ performance by a new standard that requires each of them to clear 700 cases a year, with fewer than 15% of decisions sent back by appeals courts, in order to receive a “satisfactory” rating. That’s an assembly line, not a judicial system, and it runs the very real risk of subverting due process rights as individual judges place their job security ahead of justice.

For a lawyer’s analysis, read Jeffrey Chase’s April 7 blog post on the Sessions actions. Immigration prof (and former immigration judge) Bruce Eichhorn writes that the new quotas amount to bribing judges to do the president’s bidding.

A law review article focused on Jennings v. Rodriguez, but highly relevant to the president’s order for indefinite detention of asylum seekers and other migrants, quotes Justice Steven Breyer’s dissenting opinion:

“Whatever the fiction, would the Constitution leave the Government free to starve, beat, or lash those held within our boundaries? If not, then whatever the fiction, how can the Constitution authorize the Government to imprison arbitrarily those who, whatever we might pretend, are in reality right here in the United States? The answer is that the Constitution does not authorize arbitrary detention. And the reason that is so is simple: Freedom from arbitrary detention is as ancient and important a right as any found within the Constitution’s boundaries.” 

Besides the quotas and the changes to immigration courts, Sessions also announced a ‘zero tolerance’ policy that amounts to indefinite detention for asylum seekers and other migrants. The Houston Chronicle reports that this policy rests on a practice of prosecuting every border crosser on misdemeanor charges of illegal entry. (Note: It is not illegal to enter and approach the Border Patrol to ask for asylum.)

“The new memorandum would swell already overburdened federal dockets at the border and expands a controversial program known as Operation Streamline that started in Del Rio more than a decade ago. Though simply being here without authorization is a civil offense, improper entry is a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison, and the conviction can result in a felony if migrants return and potentially prevent them from gaining asylum….

The crime of illegal immigration now makes up almost half of all federal cases and 80 percent of the dockets in the Western and Southern Districts of Texas, which includes Houston, according to an analysis of federal data by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data research group at Syracuse University.

“Meanwhile, the second-most pursued offense by U.S. attorneys – going after drug-related offenses during the height of the nation’s opioid epidemic – made up just 14 percent of all new federal cases last spring, according to Syracuse, falling to its lowest level in a quarter of a century.https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Sessions-orders-zero-tolerance-policy-to-12812999.php

What does it mean that Defense Secretary James Mattis has “authorized” up to 4,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border? Less than you might think. They are authorized to “support” the Border Patrol, but are not supposed to interact with migrants. And they can carry weapons for self-defense only. As noted repeatedly, this deployment is driven by rhetoric, not reason. Border crossings stand at historic lows, and the Border Patrol presence is at an all-time high.

Eight Roman Catholic bishops from border areas criticized the deployment:

“This is not a war zone but instead is comprised of many peaceful and law abiding communities that are also generous in their response to human suffering,” they wrote. The harsh rhetoric from the Trump administration, they added, “promotes the dehumanization of immigrants, as if all were threats and criminals.”

Editorial: America needs more workers. Trump’s war on immigration won’t help. (Washington Post, 4/8/18)

“There’s a model for what Mr. Trump advocates — an unsuccessful one. It’s Japan, whose own fading economic prospects are a direct result of an aging population and an array of barriers to immigration.

“Nativism has paid political dividends for Mr. Trump; it is highly unlikely to pay economic ones. By driving away legal and illegal immigrants even as unemployment flatlines and baby boomers retire, he deprives businesses of oxygen in the form of labor. That’s not a recipe for making America great.” 

Real people, real stories

Refugees, DACA, TPS: all the policy talk can get overwhelming. In this section, look for stories of how those policies affect individuals and families.

Willmar resident Hamid Kosar was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and has never set foot in “her” country of Somalia. After growing up for 12 years in the refugee camp, she came with her family to the United States, eventually settling in Willmar, graduating from high school, and building a life there.

Kosar uses her experiences to voice what it is like to live as a refugee in rural Minnesota.

“The adversity Kosar faced, she said, drove her to share her story and advocate for fellow immigrants and refugees in Minnesota.

“My faith tells me to give back, and I want to help others this way,” she said. “I have to do it for others who are to scared to do it themselves.”

Lulu’s choice (Washington Post, 4/5/18) Lulu is 16. When her father was deported in 2010, after 25 years in the United States, authorities let her mother stay in the United States, taking care of her U.S. citizen children. With Trump’s new policies, her mother was forced to leave in August 2017. Lulu and her younger brother went back to Mexico with her. Now Lulu has to choose between her parents in Mexico and her home in the United States.

“She wakes in the top bunk, and there they are: McKenna, Izzy, Sylvia, Molly and other friends from “over there,” in Michigan, smiling down on her from photos clipped to a string of tiny white lights on the wall. Happy lights, happy memories. From before she had to leave America.

“She brushes her long, brown hair and pulls on her school uniform: blue sweater and skirt, white knee socks. Another day of struggling, in a classroom packed with more than 60 kids, to study logic and algebra in Spanish. It’s her parents’ language, but it’s not hers. Neither is this country.

And now, at 16, Lulu has to choose.”

Thousands of Indian women find their American dreams in jeopardy (New York Times, 4/6/18)

“For seven years, Deepika Jalakam sat at home. Bored, unfulfilled and dependent on her husband for every dime, she struggled with the notion that her professional life was doomed in the land of opportunity.

“So when the employment card arrived in the mail in 2015, Ms. Jalakam did what she often does when good fortune comes her way: She placed it before the gods in the Hindu shrine mounted in her kitchen cabinet, blessed it with a dab of red “kum kum” powder and recited a prayer of gratitude.

“Within weeks, Ms. Jalakam, who has a degree in biotechnology, landed a job as an analyst at an insurance company. The next year, she and her husband, Vinay Kumar, a software engineer, bought a house. In 2017, the finances of the Indian immigrant couple were secure enough that they decided to have a second child.” 

SNL Skewers Trump’s immigration policies with DACA board game (The Wrap, 4/8/18) Sometimes satire says it best.

Tennessee immigration raid creates chaos and solidarity (Rewire, 4/8/18) In a conservative Tennessee county that voted overwhelmingly for Trump, residents step up to help families torn apart by last week’s immigration raid.

“This raid drew a line in the sand for many people,” Teatro added. “The majority of people in Morristown don’t think you should be able to storm into a factory where their neighbors have worked for 15 years, leave kids without parents, and leave families devastated. It’s been a real shock to Morristown community. And it is showing what Morristown really is about: solidarity within the community.”

In New York’s ‘Little Liberia,’ some immigrants get ready to leave—or go underground or leave (Los Angeles Times, 4/8/18)

“At 67, Rose Knuckles Bull has had enough. The onetime government administrator and Liberian refugee says she put in her time working, paid her taxes and now just wants to go home. Bit by bit, she is packing her things and saving up for a container to ship everything back to Careysburg.

“That’s not an option for Prince. The 52-year-old has a teenage daughter in school here and nothing to return to in Unification Town.

“As for 50-year-old Alexander Morris? The clergyman from Monrovia is leaving his fate to God.”

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About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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