Monday, October 1, 2018

Supreme Court Conference Announcement: Cert Denied for Menocal et al. v. GEO Group, Inc.

From October 1, 2018 Supreme Court Docket for The GEO Group, Inc., Petitioner
v. 
Alejandro Menocal, et al.
In its petition last June, GEO reiterated arguments that lost in the Colorado federal district court, and lost in the Tenth Circuit appellate court.  In urging the Supreme Court to review GEO's defense of legalizing slavery before the case has gone to trial, GEO wrote:
[T]he court held that a longstanding government program aimed at reducing detainees’ idle time may now be categorically unjust under some standard that no one has quite pinned down....GEO is being sued for carrying out lawful and longstanding federal policies under an existing federal contract....If interlocutory appeals are still denied, contractors will face a tidal wave of class actions by hundreds of thousands of detainees before a single federal appellate court has reviewed de novo the merits of these TVPA and unjust enrichment claims... 
GEO seems to be under the impression that if it calls "forced labor" "reducing ... idle time" and breaks the law for a long time, its wrongdoing is grandfathered in just because it has a federal contract.   ("I've been driving 90 miles per hour on this freeway for decades. Here's my contract with the U.S. Postal Service. How else am I going to be able to deliver the mail?!") GEO's rationale is evidence that power and money, and the obscurity and secrecy of detention conditions, have been cushioning them for years from the firm's obligations to the rule of law.  (For the origins of this litigation, please see this Washington Post article and details on this and related cases here.)

GEO also argues that their important mission of locking people up urges the Supreme Court to review their case right now:
The combined force of these suits—and more that are sure to follow on the tailwinds of the panel’s decision—are burdensome to GEO and threaten to pass on greater costs to American taxpayers, as the costs of private detention services must rise in response to the litigation. Indeed, that is plainly the goal: to reduce the availability of one of the federal government’s chosen means of carrying out its Constitutional mandate to control the nation’s borders. That alone warrants this Court’s intervention.  
The Supreme Court one day may review this case and others.  In the meantime, we'll have to see how GEO's warnings play out.   The options are: settle and negotiate back pay to the classes certified in Colorado and other states or continue to litigate, lose in a jury trial in Colorado -- that GEO forces crews of six people daily to perform janitorial work is not in dispute -- and then renew their appeals.  Meanwhile, the parties should be on track to resume discovery.   (Oh, and this reminds me: what about their reassurances to their shareholders, that this litigation was baseless and no big deal?) 

Motions and orders on this and six other cases are here, though need some updating.  For an overview of the impact of this litigation, including successful claims that GEO has violated minimum wage laws in the states of Washington and California, see "When Migrants are Treated Like Slaves," New York Times, April 4, 2018. 


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Department of Justice to Immigration Court Administrators: Ignore Pereira



In June, 2018 the Supreme Court made it clear that the immigration courts were accepting putative and not bona fide NTAs.  Shortly thereafter, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) says, okay, we'll stop doing this.  And then, in July, EOIR reverses course and tells the courts to accept charging documents that are legally deficient.

On June 21, 2018, the Supreme Court held: "A putative notice to appear that fails to designate the specific time or place of the noncitizen’s removal proceedings is not a 'notice to appear under section 1229(a),' and so does not trigger the stop-time rule" (p. 9).

Less than a week later, on June 27, the EOIR sent an email to court administrators stating: "Effective immediately, NTAs filed at the window that do not specify the time and place of the hearing should be rejected."

Then, on July 11, 2018, EOIR's Deputy Chief Immigration Judge Christoper Santoro, apparently at the behest of the Department of Justice, reversed this instruction, as well as the Supreme Court:

The Department has concluded that, even after Pereira, EOIR should accept Notices to Appear that do not contain the time and place of the hearing. Accordingly, effective immediately, courts should begin accepting TBD NTAs. 
The message above supersedes the guidance below. [The email then quotes the email linked above.]
An attorney told me recently that he was no longer going to appear in any immigration courts: "They're not real courts."  Monopoly money works just fine in the game of Monopoly and bogus NTAs are par for the course in fake courts.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Texas Updates: New "Montgomery Processing Center" Immigration Court, Farm Said to Exploit Immigrants on Loan from Polk County Jail




The Houston detained deportation court dockets "continue to increase beyond capacity," according to an official who helps run them.  Documents just released reveal that as of May 24, 2018 almost 1,900 people in the Houston area under lock and key on any given day were in queue to have their fates decided by just three Department of Justice attorneys in Houston and three in ... Miami.  Though many of the Houston detained cases are heard by televideo so it probably doesn't matter so much if the hearing official is 20 or 1,200 miles away.

The government official, Elisa Sukkar, sounded the alarm:
I would like to point out that the Polk numbers are out of control as the docket was very high once, then dropped to 40 or 50 cases, and now is up to 600 cases. 
Today we received 75 Credible Fear Cases out of Polk so we are scrambling in terms of IJ time. 
I have asked CA [Court Administrator] Russelburg to reassign some of hte Polk cases to the Miami HOD judges to stabilize the situation. 
Starting Next week, each Miami HOD judge will dedicate one day a week to the Polk cases as ICE only has 2 VTC [televideo] units at Polk.  (IJ Walton will continue to use one and one Miami HOD judge will use the other VTC.)
Each and every single one of these cases is because of a status crime whose roots go back to English common law, when being caught outside your  parish of birth without a pass might lead to branding, the laceration of an ear, or, transportation to the colonies.

Email on crushing case load for Houston detained docket, click to enlarge

Many of these cases are for people who have been residing in the vicinity of these courts since they were toddlers or even infants.  (To read more on how a poorly conceptualized idea of citizenship is sustaining these practices in the United States and elsewhere, please go here.)

And guess what?  It's about to get much worse.

At the very time at which the government is throwing more people in ICE jails, they are closing the facility with experienced immigration judges and turning their dockets over to attorneys whom the government itself says lack the expertise necessary for these cases.

The agency's solicitation for the new immigration court says, "Because we have an immediate need to to cover this court, we will consider judges who would otherwise not be eligible to place their names on the reassignment register (for example, due to being on the bench fewer than 24 months or having been recently reassigned...)."


From job announcement of vacancies for immigration court replacing Houston detained court, click to enlarge
The email and a partial response to my request for documents associated with the reassignment of immigration judges caused by shifting the people arrested and the court from the Houston city limits and the opening of a new facility in Conroe, an hour away without traffic reveals the time frame is being pushed back from the fall (now) to late 2018 or early 2019.

Other highlights include 104 immigration judges "in process," apparently referring to IJs being hired or moved around (p. 2); Powell and Chris Brisack as two of the five IJs to be assigned to the new court, to be called the Montgomery Processing Center (MPC) (p. 3); individual IJ dockets ranging from 1 (from an IJ who retired years ago) to 603 for Walton at the Houston detained courts (p. 15); the three current IJs for the Houston detained docket will be moving to the non-detained docket downtown (p. 52);

FROM TRAC:  

Compared to Judge Brisack's denial rate of 83.6 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 52.8 percent of asylum claims. In the Houston Immigration Court where Judge Brisack was based, judges there denied asylum 87.1 percent of the time.  

Compared to Judge Powell's denial rate of 78.8 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 52.8 percent of asylum claims. In the Los Fresnos Immigration Court where Judge Powell was based, judges there denied asylum 77.4 percent of the time. 

Brisack is currently working at the non-detained Houston immigration court.  TRAC says Powell was at Los Fresnos (Port Isabel) in 2017, but EOIR's list of IJs there now omits him.

The closing of the current Houston detained court alongside a transfer of its operations to an expanded GEO facility in Conroe, Texas, about 45 minutes north, will create an enormous burden on attorneys based in Houston, and thus mean more costly and less accessible representation.

LIVINGSTON, POLK COUNTY  IAH

When observing with Northwestern students the detained hearings at Houston for three days in June, I heard from guards and other officials that CCA's contract with ICE was lapsing and it would operate its prison under a new contract with the U.S. Marshals.  There was a lot of fuzziness and I figured it would be helpful to have a sense of exactly who was going where and when, so I filed a records request, the results of which are above.

Also while in Houston, I was told that the new facility will incarcerate people who are now held in Houston CCA as well as the Livingston, Polk County jail, and that Polk County, under attack by civil rights groups for a decade, will discontinue its ICE contracts and subcontracts with MTC, a firm that has a horrifying track record, including riots and forced labor at the Livingstone facility.  At the time we were there, Polk County was the site of grisly outbreaks of infectious diseases and people missed hearings because they were in quarantine.  (I'm waiting for ICE's response to my requests for the reports on this, a FOIA case that is now in litigation.)

I also heard an account that the facility, run by a firm that is the country's third largest private prison operator, was returning to plantation slavery and driving folks held there, most of whom seemed to be long-term U.S. residents, to pick crops.  Someone whose hearing I observed reported to me that he was taken on a bus about 90 minutes away from the facility to work on a farm.  He reported that he and others detained at Polk County spent the day picking fruit and vegetables and collecting eggs.  He further reported that they were taken there on a bus at six a.m. and returned around 5 p.m., and that their pay was $1.  He was horrified and said that he did this just one day. 

I shared this lead with a reporter who was unable to find additional information, so I figured I'd report it here.  (If someone wants to be a whistle blower, let me know! jackiestevens AT protonmail.com)

The new court replacing the one in the Houston Processing Center will be called the Montgomery Processing Center (MPC) and will be handling people detained at Joe Corley, in Conroe, and also the new facility adjacent to it, also owned GEO.

Google map satellite view of GEO's Joe Corley Detention Facility and new Montgomery Processing Center,
W. Cartwright Rd, Highway 336, Conroe, Texas
There is a row of prisons on a dead-end street alongside a highway, including one for people with mental disabilities.  When students and I walked around to inspect the mammoth GEO facility under construction -- it was around 6:30 pm and the site was active -- we saw through a modest cage around a small yard people in white uniforms at the adjacent jail.  They were walking silently, slowly in circles at dusk.  The scene would send shivers down the spine of anyone with a calendar for 2018. The bulldozers in the construction site were awaiting the next morning's orders to shift earth to make way for a new building where clerks, guards, attorneys, immigration judges, and those whose bad luck of birth made them a "case" and removed them from society will all together spend endless, pointless days in concrete tombs for zombies.  In the name of law, we lock ourselves up by edicts, a point Lon Fuller made when he explained the validity of war crime trials for Nazi officials.  (The eight criteria for the rule of law inevitably go unmet in the exercise of national sovereignty.)  In the name of rationality, there is only madness, stupidity, and dollars for those too craven for shame and justice.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How Many Errors are in this Graphic on U.S. Citizens in ICE Custody Published in the Los Angeles Times?


A few days ago a reporter from the Los Angeles Times reminded me of what journalism looks like when it works.  And that reminded me of what it looks like when undertaken by his colleagues Paige St. John and Joel Rubin.  Their article makes bogus claims about ICE reviews of claims of U.S. citizenship and announces breaking news on immigration court adjournments of cases of U.S. citizens that another reporter broke eight months earlier.

My analysis of their article and some new information from ICE attorneys reviewing claims of U.S. citizenship is here.

The primary audiences for this are the Los Angeles Times editor, journalists covering deportation, and folks interested in operational information on how ICE reviews claims of U.S. citizenship.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

ICE Turning U.S. Citizens Over to DHHS? Are Those under Five of "Unknown Parentage" U.S. Citizens?




A reporter from Buzzfeed, Amber Jamieson, brought to my attention a passage from today's Declaration indicating that at least one U.S. citizen may be in the custody of Department of Health and Human Services.

Her article states:
A child under the age of 5 remains detained by the federal government after being separated from their parent at the US–Mexico border more than a year ago, even though they may be US citizens [sic].
8 CFR 1240.8 says that burden on the government to prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that someone put into removal proceedings is indeed an alien.

Today's declaration states:
One child on the original list has a parent who may or may not be a United States citizen (insufficient information is available to make this determination, and the parent and others are not available to provide that information). The child was separated from her parent in 2015 when her parent was arrested on an outstanding warrant by the U.S. Marshals Service. Defendants have not been aware of the parent’s location since then and they remain unable to locate that parent. 
A child in a class of those under 5 years old and taken into custody in 2015 could have been no more than 2 years old at the time of the separation.  If that child has been incommunicado from any relatives, then the child would have no information on where she was born.  Assuming that the child had no identification at the time her parent was arrested on an outstanding warrant -- which implies that the parent had been living in the U.S. for enough time to accumulate an outstanding warrant -- then it seems not only unlikely that ICE would have evidence of the child's alienage but also likely that the child was born in the United States.

What happened to this parent?  The U.S. Marshals could find the parent because of an outstanding warrant but a judge's order to do so leaves them coming up short? 

"Foundling" Law
Another possible scenario is that the government does not know who the child's parent even is.  This has been broached in some cases but I have not heard anyone make the point that each and every one of such individuals is by law a U.S. citizen.

According to 8 USC 1401, "The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth":
a person of unknown parentage found in the United States while under the age of five years, until shown, prior to his attaining the age of twenty-one years, not to have been born in the United States.
In short, the U.S. government can collect all the DNA that it wants, but if they cannot match the children with a known parent, and cannot prove they were not born in the United States, then these children are effectively of "unknown parentage found in the United States" and they all are legally  U.S. citizens at birth.

UPDATE 9:15 pm: Amber Jamieson posted on Twitter stating that ICE says the possible US citizen parent in question presented herself and her son "born in Mexico" at the border in 2015 and that she was then taken into custody because of an outstanding warrant.  Once more a credible journalist  repeats ICE's claims without a shred of evidence or verification.  If ICE has hard evidence of this, why wasn't it in the Declaration, one necessary to show compliance with a court order? Why not release the documents?  The same government that claims it cannot now locate the mother expects, alas correctly, a compliant media will reprint their assertions about her background, just because they said so.
Why are reporters continuing to print statements from official ICE-dom when that agency has been demonstrably lying about US citizens detained and deported for decades?  Maybe this time ICE is right but the media is supposed to print the truth that it has verified, and not amplify whatever propaganda the government feeds them.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Q and A on "When Migrants are Treated Like Slaves," New York Times



For those who have seen the opinion piece in today's New York Times, here's a quick Q and A.

Q.  The work is not at gunpoint.  People are signing up for $1/day.  Why isn't this "volunteer" labor, like GEO and CoreCivic claim it is?
A.  First, some of it is coerced, e.g., the crews for janitorial cleaning of showers or ad hoc work ordered by guards on threat of punishment.  Second, the paid work doesn't meet the definition of a "volunteer" in our labor law.  A federal regulation defines a "volunteer" as someone who is donating time for no pay to a government organization or a nonprofit.  Nothing about people working to earn money to pay for phone calls or food in a private prison meets this definition.

Q.  Who are the 18 Republicans who favor forced labor?
A.  Here's the letter they sent.  See for yourself.

Q.  Why is this happening now?
A.  Because a brilliant team of civil rights attorneys and nonprofits took a risk and initiated this laborious and expensive litigation, beginning in Aurora, Colorado.  For the appeal, a number of organizations wrote amicus briefs.

Q.  Why am I just learning about this now?
A.  There has been a smattering of press coverage about this but our country suffers from chronic legal illiteracy.  This makes it tough for most journalists to cover the nuts and bolts financing of private prisons, and kleptocracy in general.  Reporters may not understand the law and the lack of public common sense on these matters means a lot more details are required to explain the litigation.  Matt Casler and Anya Patel, Eva Jefferson Paterson Fellows at the Deportation Research Clinic, will be writing a letter responding to the one signed by the 18 Republicans and explain their errors in more detail, as well as the relation between investment firms and private prisons.

Plus, ICE has most of the information and is not eager to share.  It took years of FOIA requests and litigation to obtain the information presented in the opinion piece.  (Thanks to Andrew Free for all his work on this, and on these cases.)

Q.  Is it really "slavery"?
A.   The labor typically is not outdoors and people are not being lashed with whips. That said, guards do round up details of those in ICE custody to work under grim conditions (back-breaking manual labor, toxic chemicals, no breaks) and refusals elicit punishment.  Also, most of the history of slavery was not plantation slavery.  There was early modern prison work, work deported vagrants performed in the colonies, e.g., building fortresses in Georgia, and, of course, the Nazi labor camps readers have mentioned in email to me today.  Until the fifteenth century, slavery was the work required of captured foreigners.  This form of slavery was practiced pervasively and for most of the history of the world.

Q.  Where can I read more about the harms of birthright citizenship, and the connections among nation-state, slavery, and war?
A.  For a critique of birthright citizenship, see Citizenship in Question: Evidentiary Birthright and Statelessness (Duke University Press, 2017).  You can download it courtesy of Knowledge Unlatched at no cost.  For a critique of intergenerational identity politics, especially nationalism, and analysis of the connections among the nation, slavery, and war, see States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals (Columbia University Press, 2009).
And if you're into political theory and want to understand political membership -- in the nation, ethnicity, race, the family, and religion -- see Reproducing the State (Princeton University Press, 1999).
 
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