Monday, April 24, 2017

Federal Court Rejects Prison Firm Akima Global Services Intervenor Motion, Orders ICE Contracts Released

Last week Federal Judge Harry Leinenweber of the Northern District of Illinois smacked down a private prison firm's effort to block Immigration and Customs Enforcement from releasing documents that Akima Global Services, LLC claimed contained proprietary information. The order of April 19, 2017 is part of ongoing litigation to procure information about how the private prison firms profit from the unlawful exploitation of those in their custody under deportation laws.

The passage most meaningful to me was the judge's response to Akima's invocation of deference ICE has shown to its previous redaction requests: 
AGS’s next argument is that ICE, by failing to exempt the Krome Contract, was changing its position that the Krome contract was exempt, and an agency must supply a “reasoned analysis” for such a new policy, citing Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital v. Sebelius, 698 F.3d 536, 555 (7th Cir. 2012). However, as ICE pointed out, the previous “decision” was not a formal decision of the agency itself but was an informal ruling made by an employee. Apparently there was no objection to the redaction made by the requester so no formal agency review was undertaken. Such an informal decision made by an employee would not be authoritative, unlike the decision at issue here, which resulted from a full agency review. (pp. 12-13)

Such a finding supports the importance of "forensic intelligence," that is, the largely untapped possibilities for scholarship that thwarts injustice by eliciting information the government does not release unless the public objects to the deference given corporate elites and agency cronies.

from Miami News Time investigative article

Akima runs a large facility in Miami, where the local media have highlighted ongoing abuse. Documents for the Krome facility I downloaded from a FedBizOpps website for the 2012 bid - reproduced in the appendix to this law review article  - reveal that Akima's kitchen operation is staffed by 30 people in its custody it pays one dollar per day and just six people employed from outside the facility. This violates a number of federal laws on labor and government contracts. Like similar facilities with ICE contracts, Akima fulfills virtually all its obligations to the government, save those of actual guard duties, by forcing those in its custody to work for slaving wages or no pay at all.

In the 29 months since Andrew Free, the brilliant civil rights attorney who represents me in FOIA litigation, filed the complaint, ICE has released thousands of pages of documents that I have discussed in my scholarship and on which journalists have reported, including the death by electrocution of Cesar Gonzalez after his jackhammer struck a powerline and sent 10,000 volts of direct current through his body. That said, we continue to battle to force ICE to remove the hundreds if not thousands of unjustified redactions, and to release dozens of documents still withheld in their entirety. (To support this work, please go here, or send funds directly to Attorney Free.)

Mother Jones and the Washington Post have covered the successful class action litigation underway against the GEO Corporation in Aurora, Colorado. For the orders in the Menocal lawsuit and the primary source documents obtained in our litigation, , please go here.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tenth Circuit Orders Immigrant in Turlock, California Deported in Absentia, No Proof of Service

First Inn of Colorado, where ICE in 2007 sent Notice of Detainer for U.S. Citizen Peter Guzman, who was in the custody of the Los Angeles County Jail and had never been to the inn 

I was just browsing through recent Tenth Circuit opinions this morning and bumped into an order of March 30, 2017 deporting a Mr. Prabhjot Singh because he could not meet his burden of proving that the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) did not through regular mail send him a notice of his hearing.

For most people reading this, the order seems innocuous enough.  A guy from India is apprehended in March, 2014 in Arizona by a border patrol agent for entering illegally, blows off his notice to appear in immigration court, and then claims he never received it.  But a closer review raises questions not just about his case but the larger due process problems of relying on self-serving boilerplate statements of protocol by EOIR staff for deporting people whose affidavits offer evidence to the contrary.

Singh was first detained in Arizona and then transferred to Utah, where, 15 days after his apprehension, he was released on a  $7,500 bond after giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a new address in Turlock, California.  On August 7, 2014, Singh is deported by an unnamed Salt Lake City immigration judge in absentia.  The Board of Immigration Appeals denies his October appeal to reopen the case, including his sworn affidavit stating he never received the Notice to Appear.

The Tenth Circuit affirms:
The alien bears the “burden of demonstrating the claimed lack of notice.” Gurung v. Ashcroft, 371 F.3d 718, 722 (10th Cir. 2004)“The burden is not alight one.” Id. “Evidence that the notice of hearing was mailed to the alien [at his most recent address] raises a presumption of receipt.” Thongphilack v. Gonzales, 506 F.3d 1207, 1209 (10th Cir. 2007); see also Gurung, 371 F.3d at 721-22 (“A notice to appear is sufficient, both for due process and statutory purposes, if it is sent by regular mail to an alien’s contact address of record”; “the alien must overcome the presumption of due receipt raised by the evidence of mailing”). “The alien must support his motion to reopen with affidavits or other evidentiary materials in order to overcome the presumption of receipt.” Thongphilack, 506 F.3d at 1210. Deliberate ignorance is most convenient and most difficult to disprove. The presumption is, therefore, most appropriate. 
In his affidavit, Singh admits he gave the government the Turlock, California, address upon his release from custody on March 25, 2014. He also admits he resided at that address upon his release. Nevertheless, in the same affidavit, he alleges he did not receive notice of the August 7, 2014 hearing. But, as the BIA aptly said, such self-serving, conclusory statements are insufficient. Thongphilack, 506 F.3d at 1210; see also Gurung, 371 F.3d at 722; Sajidi v. Holder, 438 F. App’x 693, 695 (10th Cir. 2011) (unpublished)
I'm posting this because a few details prompt some head-scratching.  First, someone in the DHS and possibly the IJ -- the order does not say if there was a bond hearing -- in Salt Lake City, Utah trusted Mr. Singh enough to release him on bond.  This was before the November, 2014 implementation of prosecutorial discretion.  And even with this, as a recently arriving alien, Singh would be in the second priority group targeted for removal. (The Tenth Circuit order does not review the substantive merits of Singh's claim to remain, but these facts are consistent with him passing a credible fear interview as part of an asylum claim.)  If he's credible enough for bond and DHS is at best not appealing, why is the judiciary essentially second-guessing the credibility findings of DHS and asserting Singh is not credible enough to believe about receiving mail?  (The fact that he is affirmatively trying to make his case in immigration court and not fleeing is itself evidence of his good faith testimony that the Tenth Circuit simply ignores.)

Second,  on March 25, 2014 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had a new address for Mr. Singh in Turlock, California.  Assuming he was pro se, why didn't the DHS, which granted bond, file a motion to change venue to California?  Even if the notice of the August 7 hearing were received, it would have required Mr. Singh to return to Utah.

Third, what crazy prejudice on the part of our judges allows the government to falsely imprison or kidnap people -- capture and send them away regardless of potentially legitimate asylum claims -- for no reason other than that the person about to lose her liberty cannot prove a negative, i.e., the absence of a piece of mail?  If proof of service is required for Colorado Small Claims courts for damages of up to $7,500, then how can the Tenth Circuit find any due process in deporting people without the government bothering to show the U.S. Post Office certified delivery?  (Indeed, this is the position of the Ninth Circuit, as characterized in a 2008 BIA decision published on this point.)

Fourth, Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) administrators make all sorts of mistakes all the time, including with their own address (!), and the same for ICE, including not only deporting U.S. citizens but sending U.S citizen Peter Guzman's detainer to a Colorado inn in the Tenth Circuit, even though he was in the custody of the Los Angeles County Jail and had never been to Colorado.  If the government cannot afford to pay for Certified Mail to ensure Mr. Singh has his day in (fake) immigration court, it cannot afford to deport Mr. Singh.

Monday, March 20, 2017

ICE Data Released Today: ICE Almost Doubles Detainers Issued from Same Time in 2015

Only in America
VIDEO: While Trump is deporting people, US citizens are protecting them/us

A journalist asked today about how the arrests under Trump compared with Obama.  It turns out that today Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a report indicating that between January 28 and February 3, 2017 the agency had issued 3,083 detainers throughout the United States, which is about 45% of the 6,975 people for whom ICE issued detainers in the entire month of February, 2015, according to government data hosted by Syracuse University's TRAC.

(Detainers are typically sent by ICE to law enforcement agencies, usually jails or prisons.  The detainers may be for someone who was arrested and not convicted, someone who is set to be released immediately, or could be for someone serving a prison sentence, so that the LEA notifies ICE when the person is being released from that agency's custody.  In other words, ICE may not take immediate custody of those for whom the detainers are issued.)

If ICE numbers stay on track, the agency will have issued detainers for 12,332 people for the month of February, 2017, or 177% of the number detained during the same period in 2015.

Also of note: ICE says just 206 detainers were declined during the one week of January 28 - February 3, 2017.

CAUTION:  The government's data on detention and deportations suck.  I am reporting data the government has made publicly available, but only time and careful research will clarify if these data are in fact accurate.  TRAC includes similar caveats
in its reports as well.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse  

Greetings. Today Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued its first weekly report on detainers that it said had been refused by non-federal law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, the information ICE released is very limited and selective.

At the same time ICE released its report, the agency has started withholding other more comprehensive detainer-by-detainer information that ICE previously released to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. ICE does not claim the withheld information is exempt from disclosure, it simply claims past releases were discretionary and it is no longer willing to make many of these details available to the public.

Unfortunately, because of these ICE refusals, TRAC is unable to update its online free web query tool that allows the public to view all detainers as well as notices issued to each local law enforcement agency, month-by-month, during both the Bush and Obama Administrations, and then track what happened. TRAC's apps cover not simply whether a detainer was refused, but whether ICE actually took the person into custody. They also show how often deportation ultimately occurred following the use of a detainer. To view these TRAC online tools see:


In contrast, the limited information in ICE's new weekly report makes meaningful comparisons difficult. ICE's report does not provide any information on how many detainers the local law enforcement agency may have received in total, listing only those that ICE recorded as refused. The public also does not know, for example, how often ICE issued a detainer but then decided not to take the person into custody. Or having taken individuals into custody, found it did not have a legal basis to deport them.

ICE's report does not provide any information about the content of the detainer itself, or even whether the original detainer request met legal requirements that were outlined in the Department of Homeland Security's November 2014 memorandum regarding limits on its legal authority to issue detainers.

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors  
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse  
Syracuse University  
Suite 360, Newhouse II  
Syracuse, NY 13244-2100  

Monday, February 27, 2017

Federal Judge Certifies Class of Detained Immigrants Suing GEO for Violating Trafficking Victims Protection Act and for Unjust Enrichment!

Judge John Kane Order of February 27, 2017, on case brought against GEO for exploiting the people it has locked up and making illegal super profits from their labor:

"I have not found and GEO has not provided any authority requiring that, for TVPA claims, causation must be proven by direct and not circumstantial evidence. Were a jury deciding the individual merits of Representatives claims, it surely would be permitted to make such an inference. Thus, it should
be allowed on a classwide basis as well. See CGC Holding Co., LLC, 773 F.3d at 1092."

Kane notes that precisely because Plaintiffs have few resources and are not native English speakers, class certification is appropriate.

The order in its entirety is here.

For previous complaints, please go here.

If the suit is successful, the private prison industry will be shut down for civil immigration cases--if GEO, CCA, and the other immigration prison profiteers had to pay prevailing wages for work performed, the profits would vanish and so would their incentive to lobby, i.e., bribe, Congress for mandatory detention and other laws that sustain their industry and hurt U.S. residents who lack, or appear to lack, legal status.

Congratulations to the plaintiffs and the legal team behind this!!
Brandt Milstein (Milstein Law Office), Andrew Turner (Buescher, Kelman & Perera, P.C.), Alexander Hood (Towards Justice),  Hans Meyer (Meyer Law Office, P.C.), and Andrew Free (Law Office of R. Andrew Free).

Background: Plaintiff attorneys read this article in the New York Times discussing research published as "One Dollar Per Day: The Slaving Wages of Immigration Jail, 1943 to Present," Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, which owes a lot to the FOIA litigation on my behalf by Andrew Free.  The attorneys investigated GEO's Aurora facility, identified plaintiffs, and sued GEO.  The Fair Labor Standards Act Minimum Wage claim was thrown out, but Plaintiffs will appeal; the TVPA (forced labor), and Unjust Enrichment (Colorado common law) claims are the ones for which Judge Kane certified the class.

Of course there is more legal work and research ahead.  The Deportation Research Clinic is soliciting donations to support our research on this and other government misconduct, including ongoing FOIA litigation over prison contracts.  At present the Clinic research is supported by student volunteer and paid research funded by a few thousand dollars/year from my discretionary account.  All contributions welcome! To donate, please contact kelby AT  The Clinic is a nonprofit and all donations are tax deductible. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Back to the Future: Local Government Support for ICE before and after Trump, 287(g) and the Rest

“If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008. - From Jacqueline Stevens, "America's Secret ICE Castles," The Nation, January 4, 2010, quoting from Amnesty report "Jailed Without Justice."

See below for specific budget and operational details-Blogspot won't allow an anchor.

As the Trump administration rolls out its efforts to deport U.S. residents, with and without the legal right to be here - including U.S. citizens - it is worth reflecting on what is and is not consistent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) efforts under the Bush administration and under Deporter in Chief, Barack Obama, whose administration was responsible for rolling out "Secure Communities," begun under the guidance of James Pendergraph.  

In short, the Trump administration is resuming where the Bush administration left off.  The only difference is that the Bush administration lied.  It paid lip service to civil liberties and respect for immigrant communities.  When he first took office and was aiming for "comprehensive immigration reform" Obama stuck with the same removal policies as his predecessor, hoping to find Republican partners to support the paths to citizenship and guest worker programs.  Once Obama's constituents convinced him that this was never happening, Obama changed course, but it was too little and too late.  

Trump's trumpeting of policies targeting for removal basically everyone who might seem a non-citizen is no more than sticking into Executive Orders the protocols and practices, if not policies, more quietly initiated by ICE and its predecessor Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) during the Bush and Clinton administrations.

In fact, using local and state authorities to capture and deport U.S. residents go back to the 1980s.   (I say "U.S. residents" because the people who end up in the jails and prisons across the country tend to be people who have been in the United States for years and even decades.)  It came out of Governor Pete Wilson attempting to blame his budget failures on Latinos.  Wilson riled up the California Congressional delegation and there were hearings on the costs to states of incarcerating those without legal status.

Two outcomes were in federal legislation passed in the Clinton era: the State Criminal Alien Apprehension Program (SCAAP) and the "287(g)" programs that used "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) to authorize local sheriff staff to use arrest and jail records for those who were foreign born and then to fill out paperwork reporting them to the ICE predecessor agency "Immigration and Naturalization Service" (INS).   In the last couple years of the Bush administration, ICE hired James Pendergraph, the Sheriff from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina who was an early and vigorous 287(g) partner, and attempted to extend it nationwide by a program called Secure Communities.  (He's the guy quoted at the top of this post.)

Detaining and Deporting U.S. Citizens
SCAAP, which is behind the Institutional Hearing Programs (fast mass removal "hearings" via televideo for people who are locked up in prison and do not have attorneys) also is the main mechanism for the unlawful detention and deportation of U.S. citizens as aliens, as I reported years ago, in describing the role SCAAP played in the deportation of Mark Lyttle to Mexico, despite the fact that he was born in North Carolina, has no relatives in Mexico, had never been to Mexico, and speaks no Spanish. 

Budget and Operational Facts

1.  287(g)
The 2017 DHS budget states there are 32 287(g) agreements in place.  That means 32 counties out of more than 3100 counties nationwide have these. 99.9% of counties do NOT have these.  

From DHS, Congressional Budget Justification, FY2017, vol. II, p. 69.

The cost of this program is about $5,400,000 annually.  (See  Congressional Budget Justification, FY 2017, p. 14).  The MOU funding is ONLY for ICE operations.  The MOUs specifically exclude any payments to the local counties for their cooperation.  Counties not only have refused to implement 287(g) agreements, but have refused to honor ICE detainer requests because of civil liability concerns.  

The areas that support these programs are typically in the South or regions with economies linked to the prison industrial complex and are entering into these agreements despite and not because of financial incentives for the counties.

2.  Criminal Alien Program (CAP) 
These pay ICE agents to review data from jails and prisons participating in SCAAP, as well as to issue detainers and arrange for Notices to Appear and removal orders.  

For Larger Version of CAP FY 2016-2017 Budget, Click Here.
The budget for these operations is about $347 million annually, clearly dwarfing the expenditures on the 287(g) operations.  

This is how much the federal government pays states and counties that provide the reporting data on foreign born inmates.  The last I checked, all states and counties participate in this, but this was a few years ago and may have changed, though judging from San Francisco City and County participation in 2015, when they received about $170,000 for reporting their foreign-born inmates - including those arrested and not found guilty - probably not.

The annual expenditure on this in 2015, the most recent data reported on the DOJ website, was $167 million.

4. Secure Communities 
This was replaced by the Priorities Enforcement Program (PEP) in July, 2015. The difference seems to be that under PEP ICE is relying on FBI and other federal databases, rather than trying to use local databases.  The Obama administration's DHS points out that communities were resisting ICE efforts to acquire local law enforcement data under Secure Communities and tells us what to expect now that Trump is reverting to this:
Removals have decreased as an increasing number of jurisdictions have reduced or eliminated the transfer out of priority individuals to ICE custody. Jurisdictions have also started to limit or deny ICE access to their detention facilities. Because of detainer non-
compliance and not receiving notifications of releases, jurisdictions release criminals directly into society rather than transferring them into ICE custody in a controlled, safe, and secure manner. Without this cooperation, ERO officers must seek out these criminals in higher risk situations that take more time and manpower. The additional effort required reduces the total number of criminal aliens ERO is able to apprehend and ultimately remove.  DHS Congressional Budget Justification, FY 2017, vol. II, p. 68.
DHS Budget, FY 2017, showing communities declining ICE detainers, p. 68.
Under PEP, ICE communicates its enforcement interest to LEAs [law enforcement agencies] through a request for notification or a request for detention. ICE continues to refine its allocation of enforcement resources and build capabilities to initiate efficient and aggressive enforcement actions against priority aliens while they are in local custody. Since the establishment of PEP, more than 275 jurisdictions that had previously not honored ICE detainers have agreed to honor requests for notification or requests for detention. This has a direct impact on officer and public safety, as criminal aliens in these
jurisdictions will be apprehended by ICE officers within a controlled detention setting rather than released into the community where they would have an opportunity to re-offend.
The current website indicates that PEP information is archived and it appears to be history now that Secure Communities is being re-rolled out.  Here's a description of what to expect from when it was in effect and supposedly mandatory under the Obama administration.  

A 2012 ICE Budget Fact Sheet put the cost of Secure Communities in place then at $184 million.  

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