Due Process Under Attack


Once again using his power to overrule immigration judges, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a new edict that orders no discretionary termination of deportation cases. He wrote that judges “have no inherent authority to terminate removal proceedings even though a particular case may pose sympathetic circumstances.”  

Sympathetic circumstances? Immigration judges haven’t exactly been handing out dismissals. THey have been deporting lots of people whose circumstances seem sympathetic. Like a Brooklyn grandmother deported without notice to her family after 33 years in this country and no criminal record. Or a Florida mom about to be deported after 30 years in this country, separated from her U.S. citizen husband and children. Sessions, however, doesn’t think immigration judges have been strict enough.

Immigration courts and judges are not independent. They are answerable to the Attorney General, and he tells them what to do. He can take cases that have been decided by judges and by the Board of Immigration Appeals and reverse their rulings.

The latest restriction on judicial discretion is expected to trigger a wave of deportation orders.

In another case that Sessions recently took over, the issue is release of immigrants awaiting an asylum hearing, including release on bond. Sessions is expected to order further restrictions on pre-hearing release and bond, which will increase the number of immigrants held in detention. Never mind that the vast majority of immigrants show up for their hearings: the issue for Sessions has always been punishment, not practicality.

In a federal court case, a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit said the Constitution does not require that the government provide a lawyer to a 15-year-old boy facing deportation. These are federal judges, independent of Sessions, but they still did not think due process required a lawyer for a child facing deportation, possibly back to his death. The ACLU says:

“It appears to be the first case ever to hold that children can represent themselves in court when important legal rights are at stake. That the ruling came in a deportation case involving asylum — where the stakes are incredibly high, the law notoriously complex, and the government pays a trained prosecutor to advocate the child’s deportation — makes the court’s decision even more extreme. The ruling is the latest, and most disappointing, chapter in our long-running effort to obtain fairness for children in immigration court.”

The case will be reargued before a panel of 11 judges in December.

In a less direct assault on immigrant children, DHS and HHS are colluding to deport potential sponsor families:

“Federal officers have arrested dozens of undocumented immigrants who came forward to take care of undocumented immigrant children in government custody, and the Trump administration is pledging to go after more.

“The news will serve as confirmation of the worst fears of immigrants and their advocates: that a recent move by President Donald Trump’s administration to more fully vet people who come forward to care for undocumented immigrant children who are alone in the US has been a way for the administration to track down and arrest more undocumented immigrants….

“The number of immigrant children in HHS custody has been skyrocketing to record levels, with more than 13,000 in custody as of Thursday. The average length of stay in custody has nearly doubled since 2016, to an average of 59 days, and the rate of release has dropped by thousands of children each month. The crowding has prompted HHS to triple the size of a temporary tent facility it opened in Texas at the height of the family separations crisis.”

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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