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.


 
#End read more