Tuesday, May 12, 2009

EOIR Hiding File for US Citizen Deported by Immigration Judge William Cassidy


On December 9, 2008, Immigration Judge William Cassidy wrongfully deported a man born in North Carolina. He ignored Mark Lyttle's signed and sworn statement that he was a U.S. citizen and his name was Mark Daniel Lyttle. Instead, Judge Cassidy believed an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent's baseless allegation that the man before him was really Jose Thomas, a name that I believe was invented by an ICE agent in North Carolina.

Neil Rambana, based in Tallahassee, is Lyttle's attorney. Yesterday he thought he would take advantage of a trip to the Atlanta immigration courts on behalf of another client and examine Lyttle's "alien" files. (Lyttle is a U.S. citizen, so this nomenclature for his records is an oxymoron.) Lyttle and anyone else in deportation proceedings has two files, one maintained by ICE and another by the Executive Office of Immigration Review.

Federal rules and regulations require EOIR and ICE to give Rambana access to these files. But agencies that deport U.S. citizens may not be so careful or even honest in complying with the law.

Rambana told me that at 10 a.m. yesterday he submitted the form Lyttle signed indicating that Rambana was his attorney. Rambana asked to see Lyttle's file and was rebuffed, "The clerk, Garrett, checked the database and said, 'This file is at the BIA [Bureau of Immigration Appeals].'" Rambana walked away for a moment to think, then returned and said, "There really is no reason for it to be at the BIA. Can you inquire further? I'm perplexed." Elaine Komis, spokesperson for EOIR, and Barbara Gonzalez, spokesperson for ICE both state they show nothing indicating an appeal of Judge Cassidy's April 27, 2009 decision rescinding his 2008 deportation order.

Because the appeal period is 30 days, the case is considered open and the EOIR file should be in Atlanta, as files are held in the courts where the last hearing occurred. Gonzalez confirmed that Lyttle's ICE file is in Atlanta. Rambana said the clerk had no further information, and "no one seemed to know where it was" beyond the unverified record indicating its presence with the BIA. [UPDATE: Rambana's hunch was confirmed. Komis wrote today: "If a case is ongoing at an immigration court, the case file would be at the immigration court."]

The clerk took Rambana's phone number and said he would call once he learned where the file was being held. Over 24 hours later, Rambana has not been notified about the whereabouts of Lyttle's EOIR file. When I called EOIR to ask about this, Komis told me I needed to file a FOIA. A FOIA for learning a file's LOCATION???

(I sent Komis a copy of the ICE waiver Lyttle signed and said that if that were not sufficient to answer questions about the file's location, he could sign another specific to the EOIR; she told me without further explanation that a waiver was not sufficient and I would have to file a FOIA.)

The EOIR is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, run by self-proclaimed Mr. Transparency, Attorney General Eric Holder. This action is another signal that when it comes to the EOIR the Obama administration is more hype than hope.

I asked for the legal justification of requiring a FOIA for information about a file's location, and not its contents, especially since, as I explained to Komis, one needs to know the file's location before filing a FOIA. It may be somewhere in the EOIR, or it may be somewhere else entirely. If it's supposed to be in Atlanta and isn't there, then why believe it's even with the EOIR at all? I am awaiting a response and will update this post if and when that is received. [5/13 UPDATE: This is the response-- "Persons who are not a party to a proceeding before the immigration court must file a FOIA request to access information related to an individual’s record." This is of course not a response to my question about how to file the FOIA if one doesn't know where the file is located.]

Rambana next went to visit the ICE attorneys' office, to see if he could review their file on Mark. He was again rebuffed, "No one would talk to me." They told him he needed to make an advance appointment. "I was most frustrated they would impose that limitation. People travel from all over the country and you cannot expect people to make an appointment and come back with people who don't live in your area. I'm very disturbed by that."

Dan Kowalski, Austin immigration attorney and an expert on immigration court procedures said, "If he has a signed G-28 [the form Rambana presented to the immigration court clerk] he has the right to see the file." [UPDATE 5/13: EOIR Spokesperson Komis wrote today stating: "The Freedom of Information Act authorizes access to an alien’s record," but this is incorrect. Kowalski pointed me to the Immigration Court Practice Manual 12.2: "(A)Inspecting the record. — Parties to an Immigration Court proceeding, and their legal representatives, may inspect the official record of proceedings by prior arrangement with Immigration Court staff. A FOIA request is not required."

Oops.]

The same holds for Rambana's right to have access to his client's ICE records.

Kowalski referred me to 8 CFR 292.4 (b):
Availability of records. During the time a case is pending, and except as otherwise provided in §103.2(b) of this chapter, a party to a proceeding or his attorney or representative shall be permitted to examine the record of proceeding in a Service office. He may, in conformity with §103.10 of this chapter, obtain copies of Service records or information therefrom and copies of documents or transcripts of evidence furnished by him. Upon request, he may in addition, be loaned a copy of the testimony and exhibits contained in the record of proceeding upon giving his receipt for such copies and pledging that it will be surrendered upon final disposition of the case or upon demand. If extra copies of exhibits do not exist, they shall not be furnished free on loan; however, they shall be made available for copying or purchase of copies as provided in §103.10 of this chapter.


Cynthia Long, Atlanta Immigration Court Supervisor referred my question about the file location to the Public Affairs office in Washington, DC. I told her I was not interested in the file contents, only its location, and that the attorney had not been able to learn this. Her response was not comforting: "Once they locate it, they will contact that person. If the file is here." Meaning what? If EOIR throws the file away is Rambana not notified? If they hide it behind a file cabinet? What if they send the file to Mexico?

Rambana is resisting conspiracy theories but still wonders, "Why are they hiding this file? What's going on? Everything is already on the table. If anything it's to their advantage to make sure that nothing is misinterpreted or miscommunicated, because it will all be there in the file."

[UPDATE, 5/15/09: There has been a new, disturbing twist to the saga of EOIR's actions concerning the deportation of Mark Lyttle that may account for, but not excuse, the EOIR file's absence from the Atlanta court house. (Sorry to be mysterious for now, but within two weeks I can explain.) In the event, if any government agency wants to review an open case file, then it needs to make a copy, not remove the file from its proper place, especially without notifying the attorney. Rambana still has not been contacted by anyone in Atlanta, the BIA, or the EOIR with information on the file's location. The ICE file on Lyttle is in Atlanta and the ICE attorneys have no excuse for not showing this to Rambana when he was there.]

[UPDATE, 5/15/09, I received the following message from Elaine Komis at EOIR:
"Jackie,

EOIR regrets the misunderstanding. When you asked whether there is "a regulation/rule that authorizes attorney access to EOIR's alien files," EOIR's response was "the Freedom of Information Act authorizes access to an alien's record" because your question referred to attorneys, not attorneys of record.

EOIR's subsequent response to you clarified that according to Chapter 12.2 of EOIR's Immigration Court Practice Manual, "Parties to an immigration court proceeding, and their legal representatives, may inspect the official record of proceedings by prior arrangement with immigration court staff. A FOIA request is not required."

Please refer any additional questions to the Department of Justice's Public Affairs Office at (202) 514-2007.

Elaine"

I had thought that the context of my phone call and email inquiry --asking why Rambana was not allowed to see his client's file maintained by the EOIR -- was sufficiently clear but apparently I was not specific enough.

UPDATE, 5/19/09: Received an email today from Neil Rambana indicating that the digital recording arrived in yesterday's mail. There is a related and pending matter that prevents me from saying more at this point but there is a lot more information forthcoming and it reflects extremely poorly on Mr. William Cassidy and the EOIR.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Houston ICE Attorney Calls Due Process for U.S. Citizen "Idiotic" - Seeks Reinstatement of Removal of Texas Mother


[5/13/09: Cerna's relatives just located her parents' marriage certificate at a town hall in Nuevo Laredo, MX; this helps prove her U.S. citizenship. Meanwhile, Cerna is threatened with detention at any moment.]
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) owes another apology to a probable U.S. citizen, Julia Cerna, 42, whose due process rights and physical security ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Tracy Hamby jeopardized Wednesday, May 6, 2009 in a Houston immigration court.

ICE in Washington, D.C. had been working with Cerna to protect her from ICE custody as she was documenting her claim to U.S. citizenship, but Hamby apparently found this offensive and made an end-run around Cerna's Constitutional rights and the interests of justice.

Here's an excerpt from a message Cerna's immigration attorney in Houston, Amy Tehauno, sent Thursday morning to an ICE public affairs spokesperson and copied to me, describing the events in the immigration court Wednesday:

At the first Master Calendar hearing in Houston before Judge Clarease Rankin-Yates yesterday, ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Mr. Tracy Hamby appeared for the government. He immediately moved to terminate the proceedings, which was unopposed by the Respondent as we believed that it was appropriate to permit Mrs. Cerna to apply for her Certificate of Citizenship and U.S. passport administratively/affirmatively. Mr. Hamby's words were something to the effect that the Immigration Court was an inappropriate forum to make a citizenship claim, a statement with which I agree.

However, Mr. Hamby then indicated that he intends to send the file to Detention and Removal to act on the old expedited removal/order reinstatement, and recommended that we file the N-600 [application for a Certificate of Citizenship] as soon as possible so that it will be on file when, presumably, my client is detained again.

I believe that the exact description Mr. Hamby gave in court of the actions of ICE in attempting to accord Mrs. Cerna all due process of law in presenting her U.S. citizenship as a defense to removal (an opportunity that she was not previously afforded) was "idiotic." Mr. Hamby did not consult with his office in moving to terminate and taking on this decision.

Hamby did not reply to two voice mail messages requesting comment on this incident in immigration court, part of a public hearing.

Hamby understood that an ICE trial attorney and immigration judge in Oakdale, Louisiana had allowed Cerna to be released on $5,000 bail while she was tracking down the documents for proving her U.S. citizenship and thought this idiotic. Exercising legal discretion over a possibly unlawful action -- ICE arrest or deportation of a U.S. citizen -- Hamby terminated the hearing only to reinstate an earlier expedited removal order issued in 2000 by a border officer (not a judge), issued when Cerna did not know her father's birth in Alice, Texas established grounds for her being a U.S. citizen and signed a statement that she was not a U.S. citizen. ICE interview notes also indicate she stated her father was born in Alice, Texas. The agent should have informed Cerna of this being grounds for investigating a claim to U.S. citizenship.

Before Cerna has an opportunity to document her citizenship, Hamby is authorizing ICE to come to her home, arrest her, and stick her back into a detention center. (Tehauno explained that they have a number of documents but need time for further research of records from the 1940s to 1960s before submitting the application.)

Cerna is fortunate because Tehauno has enlisted the support of a graduate student in history to find the necessary documents, but Tehauno is concerned more generally about acquired and derived citizenship cases for U.S. citizens who are poor and do not have access to an attorney or investigator.

BACKGROUND
Julia Cerna, 42, is raising two teenage sons in Magnolia, Texas, a suburb of Houston where she's lived for 20 years. She also has two daughters, in their twenties, one of whom had to take charge of the household while her mother was in detention last year. According to Tehauno, who is representing Cerna for a low fee to be paid after the bail is returned, Cerna has no criminal convictions. The only reason she is about to be deported is that she lives in a country in which citizenship rules are complicated and ideas of what counts as "U.S.-American" racialized as White, so that sometimes people born U.S. citizens abroad do not know they are U.S. citizens.

For instance, someone called me yesterday who applied for a U.S. Certificate of Citizenship in 2007 only because he had a friend from Europe whose parent was born in the U.S. and was applying for a Certificate of Citizenship. Because the man who called yesterday was of Mexican descent and lives in a country where the political if not legal message is that real U.S. citizens can never be born in Mexico, it never even occurred to him that he was a U.S. citizen at birth.

Legally, however, U.S. citizenship is predicated on meeting the criteria for U.S. citizenship, not encyclopedic knowledge of citizenship laws that even trained border agents and ICE attorneys do not understand.

Out of frustration that her client who might well be a U.S. citizen was in ICE custody, Tehauno said she "pulled an email address for an ICE press person giving quotes to press saying 'We don't deport U.S. citizens. She [Ernestine Fobbs, ICE public affairs] was great. She called me within an hour and I explained the situation to her."

ICE sent two agents to interview Cerna in an Alabama prison. Cerna was transferred to Oakdale, Louisiana where an immigration judge bonded her out of detention for $5,000, changed the venue for the hearing to Houston, near Cerna's home, and the ICE trial attorney waived appeal. These decisions are a good indication that they believed Cerna had a viable claim to U.S. citizenship and did not want a U.S. citizen in an ICE detention center.

But then came yesterday's hearing. Tehauno concluded this morning's message to Ernestine Fobbs, ICE Public Affairs, as follows:

I truly appreciate your assistance, and the considered and thoughtful actions of ICE in Alabama and ICE Assistant Chief Counsel in Oakdale, Louisiana. All of the actions from your office and agency through yesterday indicated a genuine concern that our government take every precaution not to deport U.S. citizens, as continues to occur in cases such as that of Mark Lyttle. However, Mr. Hamby's intended course of action indicates a lack of consistency within the agency in that regard. We will not oppose a motion to reopen the proceedings before Judge Rankin-Yates, should ICE Assistant Chief Counsel in Houston prefer to handle this through the immigration courts. Thank you again for any assistance that you may be able to render.

Fobbs has not replied to Tehauno's email message about Hamby's action undermining the decisions of the immigration judge and ICE Assistant Chief Counsel in Oakdale, or to phone or email messages from me.

Tehauno said: "There should be onus on the government to make sure that people are not citizens of the country. Before they deport people and ruin their lives and lock them up in prison they should absolutely know they're not citizens." Tehauno was disturbed by the harsh and arbitrary consequences of the discretion given to ICE attorneys, "It's happening a lot and there's no one in the government accountable. There 's no coherent government program, and then a case lands on the desk of someone" who characterizes due process rights as idiotic. (Well, that last phrase is a loose paraphrase of what Tehauno said...)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Customs and Border Protection Destroys Birth Certificates of Mexican-American U.S.-born Teenage Boys


Here are descriptions of two previously unpublished accounts of U.S.-born Mexican-American teenagers who had their birth certificates ripped up by Customs and Border Patrol agents. I have information on other similar cases, but only time to write up the details of these two, along with summaries and links to two other recent cases published elsewhere.

Just to be clear, a national identity card doesn't solve these problems: in many cases of U.S. citizens deported ICE or Customs and Border Protection doesn't even check the digital files that have evidence matching the identity cards presented by the individual with the information in their databases-- as was the case at several points for Mark Lyttle. If no one bothers to check that a passport (or national identity card) matches the information in a law enforcement database-- as should happen when a U.S. citizen objects to having his proper identity disregarded by an agent or an immigration judge -- then having a national card does nothing and is no improvement over our current system.

Mexican-Americans with Birth Certificates Border Patrol Destroys or Ignores
Case 1. Mario, 17, was born in a Colorado hospital in the late 1980s and I've seen his birth certificate and hospital records.

Mario's mother is a U.S. citizen and his father Mexican. When Mario was a toddler his father and mother separated and Mario's father brought him to Mexico. His father's plan was to raise Mario, and then he would return to the United States. When Mario was 17 he decided it was time to "go back to the United States and claim his destiny," according to an individual familiar with this case. Mario had uncles in Tucson who visited Mario frequently in Mexico. He was especially interested in finding his mother. A birth certificate is a valid form of identification for entering the United States, and Mario thought he was all set. (Mario couldn't obtain a U.S. passport from Mexico because if you're 17 or under, that requires the presence of both legal parents.)

In early 2007, when Mario tried to return through Nogales, Arizona the Customs and Border Patrol agent, the attorney said, "tore it up on the spot. They told him, 'It's not real. Go away, kid, this is fraud.' There goes your Colorado birth certificate. Go away, have a nice day." Mario was upset and insisted he was a U.S. citizen. "They told him that if he says he's Mexican he can leave, but if he keeps saying he's a citizen he'll be detained at the Nogales border patrol station and arrested." He signed and returned to Mexico.

Because of worries about identity theft he was not able to send for another copy of his birth certificate. In May 2007, Mario decided to take his chances by crossing without inspection and was apprehended by the Nogales Border Patrol. He made a sworn statement that he's a U.S. citizen and is taken into detention for deportation proceedings, where he can make his case before a judge. Mario, the attorney said, "denied he was a Mexican alien, but they whipped this thing out," according to the attorney, and said, "You said you were a Mexican. Here's the proof. You were removed as a Mexican."

The Immigration Judge says the initial sworn statement of Mexican citizenship is sufficient to shift the burden onto Mario to prove he really is a U.S. citizen. Even granting the absurdity of a Mario's coerced statement being used against him, Mario met that burden. His file includes Medicaid records of his birth and infant care, a copy of the birth certificate, and the Colorado hospital records, including the Apgar test (taken one minute and five minutes after birth). The attorney continued, "The judge says, 'The records don't show he was born at the hospital. The records only show he was treated at the hospital." Oh, and Mario had obtained a childhood photo from his uncles in Tucson, from when they visited Mario in Mexico, in which Mario's about 8 and holding THE SAME BIRTH CERTIFICATE in his file. (The family had the photo enlarged and it's very clear.)

The attorney also pointed out that the entire proceeding was improper because ICE never conducted an initial interview or investigation of his claim to U.S. citizenship, as required by the deportation and removal regulations, but, the attorney said, "They didn't do that. They just NTA'd him." (A Notice to Appear is a charging document that requires an interview by an ICE agent.)

Mario signed the removal order and is going to try to obtain a passport or file for a from Mexico, but it's not going to be easy because a passport requires U.S. photo identification and other documents that someone in Mexico cannot obtain. Also, the form for filing for U.S. Certificates of Citizenship (N-600) states it is for people born abroad, the premise being that if you have a U.S. birth certificate that is proof of citizenship.

Case 2.
An attorney who works for a federal defender's office told me about Ricardo, 16, who was living in Phoenix and drove to Nogales so he could drink. (These events transpired roughly between 2002-2006.) On returning to the United States, Ricardo presented his Los Angeles County birth certificate and Arizona driver's license. The attorney said "The border patrol agent kept trying to get him to admit he was Mexican and it was a fake certificate: 'You're a punk, you're stupid, and I'm going to do you a favor,' and the border patrol rips up Ricardo's birth certificate." The agent tells Ricardo that he saved him from a charge of presenting false documents and says that if Ricardo doesn't sign a statement saying he's Mexican, then he's going to prison for a year. Ricardo signed."

I asked the attorney why Ricardo signed the false statement, although the absence of an attorney and being a minor are already grounds for concern. He replied, "Nobody believes you, and they browbeat you, 'Stop lying, you're just making it worse.'" Ricardo went to court but didn't say anything. I asked why he didn't explain his situation to the immigration judge and the attorney, who had watched a video tape of the hearing told me, "A lot of these judges don't listen to shit anybody says. This judge never even looked up from the paper." (Incidentally, Ricardo didn't miscalculate: Mark Lyttle told the judge he was U.S. citizen and was still deported.)

Ricardo, born in Los Angeles, was deported twice, each time signing a statement that he was a Mexican national. The attorney said, "It was the path of least resistance. The third time he was looking at six months to a year so he said, 'That's crazy. I'm a U.S.. citizen.' And they say, you're not a U.S. citizen, asshole, you've been deported a couple of times." That's when the attorney's brought in, to defend Ricardo against the charge of Illegal Re-entry. The attorney introduces Ricardo's birth certificate as evidence and the prosecutor moves to dismiss the charge, but then the attorney paraphrase the prosecutor's next statement, "Don't think I'm being a nice guy. He's still guilty of Illegal Entry, anyone entering without inspection." (Ricardo was found not guilty.)

Case 3.
The following is from an ACLU-Southern California Press Release, issued on October 29, 2008:

“If ever there was evidence of the fundamental flaws in our immigration system, it is the fact that a U.S. citizen was deported twice and denied entry into the United States on numerous occasions without any due process of law,” said Jennie Pasquarella, staff attorney for the ACLU/SC. “ICE officials repeatedly ignored his certified birth certificate, which they could easily have corroborated, and instead simply refused to believe him. It is inconceivable that this would have happened were he not Latino.”

Olivares was born in the Los Angeles area, and had never lived outside the United States until he was forced to live in Mexico after ICE deported him in 2007 and refused to allow him to re-enter. But his ordeal began in 2000, when border agents questioned the veracity of his birth certificate and whether it belonged to him when he was returning into the United States at the Tijuana border crossing. The agents refused to let him enter his own country. A week later, however, Olivares’ mother met him at the border crossing with a certified copy of his birth certificate, and Olivares and his mother re-entered the United States without incident.

In 2007, while Olivares was serving time in state prison, agents from the Department of Homeland Security approached him and told him he was a Mexican citizen and would be deported. Olivares insisted that he was a U.S. citizen, but eventually – not fully understanding his rights as an American citizen – he was coerced into signing papers that were never explained to him and was deported to Mexico.

He then attempted to cross back into the United States, but border guards refused to let him enter. He felt he had no choice other than to live for a time with his mother’s family in Jalisco. But in June 2008, upon learning that his father in Los Angeles was gravely ill, Olivares again tried to cross the border legally, presenting a certified copy of his birth certificate. After being rebuffed, he crossed illegally, but was picked up by the U.S. Border Patrol. On September 2, 2008, he was deported for a second time to Mexico, on the day his father died.

In September, Olivares – accompanied by his mother -- tried yet again to re-enter the United States legally from Tijuana. Once again, immigration officials rejected his birth certificate. However, this time he refused to sign his name to the papers foisted upon him and demanded to see a judge. As a result, ICE put Olivares in removal proceedings and detained him at the Otay Mesa Immigration Detention facility in San Diego. The family then contacted the Coalition for Human Immigrants’ Rights of Los Angeles, which in turn contacted the ACLU/SC. On October 9, ACLU/SC staff attorney Jennie Pasquarella advised ICE that it had no authority to detain Olivares because he was a U.S. citizen, and presented his birth certificate and other documentation demonstrating his citizenship. He was released later that day.

“There’s something fundamentally wrong with the system if border guards can effectively deprive you of your citizenship by simply disregarding a valid birth certificate,” said Pasquarella. “ICE officials obviously used race and ethnicity as a basis for enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, rather than taking a few minutes to verify Mr. Olivares’ legal status.”


Case 4.
In a detailed article by Sandra Hernanez appearing in the Los Angeles Daily Journal on December 31, 2008 Jose Ledesma, who estimates he was deported about 15 times despite presenting a U.S. birth certificate, says,
"I think the only reason I got out is immigration saw the newspaper stuff and didn't want to keep me in there after it was public," he said.
"I think I might have gotten out a lot faster if I'd had a lawyer," Ledesma said. "I know my rights, but in court you don't really understand all the legal stuff or they just don't believe you."

This does seem to be a pattern: when the media focus attention on cases ICE responds but absent that attention even attorneys have a problem receiving due process protections for their clients.

Another interesting point Ledesma mentions is that during his hearing before an immigration judge, when Ledesma brings up his claim to U.S. citizenship, the judge "turned off the tape recorder and began talking to the government attorney and then turned it back on and told me I had 15 days to provide facts to show I was a citizen."

So the immigration courts won't let people in (see earlier postings tagged EOIR) and immigration judges are having secret exchanges with the government attorneys?!

Wow.

How many cases of U.S. citizens deported or detained, how many outrageous illegal actions by ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and the immigration judges before we stop spending money on sending out people because of the accidents of borders and birth--and the inherent inability to get this stuff right in programs run by dumb Americans--and start spending that money on health care, education, transportation and other real needs? (Spending billions of dollars because of an unfounded anxiety that open borders cost money is as rational as buying a $1 billion safe to protect a dime store flag.)

The attorney who told me about Ricardo said, "This cat and mouse shit hurts people, it gets people killed, it teaches agents to treat people like animals." He described a chat site popular with border agents that refers to immigrants as "tonks." He asked a CPB agent what that meant and was told, "'That's the sound it make when you hit someone over the head with an aluminum flashlight. Aluminum's flexible and the hair covers the injury.' That's a culture created by a cat and mouse chase game. Who loses? In Tucson, I watch kids getting picked up at a downtown bus center by border patrol and hauled off, kids I doubt were illegal."

We know that border enforcement is systematically hurting people innocent by law and common sense; we know that it is costing billions of dollars; and we have no evidence that free movement harms rather than helps the overall economy. And we know that ending border restrictions will increase household and family stability.

Our country is in the grip of a profound borderline personality disorder. The psychotic effort to separate an idealized U.S.-American "good" citizen from the racialized "bad" Mexican is no different, legally, from the 1933 Nuremburg laws, where officials held similar debates about where to draw the arbirary line of Jewish/German ancestry to make sure that Germans wouldn't be deported. The Nazis had to decide on degrees of descent, not to punish Germans who happened to have a Jewish ... great-great grand parent, great-grandparent, grandparent, parent. How to know when one is wrongfully punishing good Germans and not appropriately deporting bad Jews? This particular Nazi legal question is exactly the same as the ones being asked every day in U.S. immigration courts. Are you a real U.S. natural-born citizen if you only have documents showing your father worked here 9 years after 1950? 10 years? If your mother was born in the United States but not your father? If your father's name does not appear on your birth certificate? If you don't have money for an attorney and private investigator to track down documents?

A sane people does not ask this question.

Fortunately, there are many people who are rational, compassionate adults and understand this. The nonprofit attorneys who spend their time in low-paying positions with impossible caseloads, the private immigration attorneys who take tricky pro bono cases, the government employees who are speaking up when they can, the journalists who take patience to describe complicated cases and not just shocking are doing amazing work and deserve as much attention as the trouble caused by our government. It is important to know about government mischief but it is a mistake, one I am guilty of, to be preoccupied by this to the exclusion of the good work done by so many, one for which I will be making amends here. Stay tuned...

Thanks to Dan Kowalski, Austin immigration attorney, for some useful information on the procedures and terminology.

---
Note on image: I realize people have a bad reaction to Nazi allusions. I'm not referring to death camps but the publicly announced deportations preceding 1941 using classifications for determining citizenship the same as the ones being used today. (U.S. foreign embassies on their web pages are suggesting applicants bring DNA samples!) The photo above is a German passport for a Jew issued in 1938, and is from a web page on Holocaust research for which I cannot vouch.

Friday, May 1, 2009

PRI "The World" Story on Illegally Closed Immigration Courts

From PRI "The World":
"Federal regulations on transparency say that US immigration courts must be open to the public. But a California university professor found that's not always the case. Reporter Claudine LoMonaco has the story from Tuscson, Arizona."

Listen here, on PRI "The World," first broadcast on April 29, 2009.

Claudine LoMonaco put together a very impressive piece of radio journalism in which she develops a narrative tying the unlawful ICE detention and deportation of U.S. citizens to the unlawful ICE prevention of access to some immigration courts in detention centers.
 
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