Author Archive

Hostile Jurisdictions

shutterstock_372661681U.S. immigration lawyers, members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), practice in every state in the union and other countries besides. We fight for clients no matter where they are, to the best of our abilities. However, we are currently wrestling with an elephant of a problem – hostile immigration court jurisdictions – best illustrated by the fact that the Atlanta immigration court consistently produces grant rates of relief far lower than the national average.  When you know that your client has virtually no chance of obtaining relief in your city and also know that if they were simply located in a different city they would have a better than two-thirds chance of relief, it can be disheartening, to say the least. Thus, there is an understandable reluctance among many attorneys to practice removal defense in Atlanta, one of the worst of our nation’s “hostile jurisdictions,” where no amount of time and effort can overcome a deck stacked firmly against the defense.

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Shining a Light on Domestic Violence to Assist Immigrant Victims

shutterstock_316304594October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is intended to shine a light on the human right to be free from violence, ensure that all victims of domestic violence know they are not alone, and foster supportive communities that help survivors seek justice.  In the United States, twenty people are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner each minute. Most victims don’t come forward because it is not safe; in fact leaving an abusive relationship is often when victims are at the greatest risk of homicide by their abusive partners.

Immigrant victims are particularly vulnerable as they often live in the shadows of society and face additional challenges to reporting abuse and/or leaving an abusive relationship. These barriers include fear that police contact may lead to deportation, separation from children and other family members, language barriers, isolation, and fear of being ostracized by their families or communities for coming forward.  Many undocumented immigrant victims are not aware that they are protected by U.S. laws and have options for escaping the violence. They don’t know that they have access to police or court protections.

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Jimenez Moreno v. Napolitano: Immigration Detainers Require a Warrant

shutterstock_407008447The interior enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), employs various ways to co-opt state and local law enforcement to help it enforce the immigration laws. One of those tools, an immigration detainer, asks local law enforcement to hold the subject of the detainer for up to 48 hours so that ICE can take the person into immigration custody. The problem is that these detainers are issued without any regard for due process, and often without actually speaking with the subject of the detainer. Because of this, it is not surprising that ICE often gets it wrong.  For example:

Jose Jimenez Moreno, a 40-year-old United States citizen, was arrested in 2011 in Rockford, Illinois. Without ever interviewing or speaking to him, DHS issued an immigration detainer against him, and only canceled the detainer after a federal lawsuit was filed.

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How Do You Manage the Risks of EB-5 Practice?

shutterstock_394229008Do you remember your Risk Management class in law school? Neither do I. It’s not offered. Yet as lawyers, we have to manage risk every day. True, rarely do we reflect “I’m doing a good job managing my risks today.” We just do it. But taking time to understand risks and risk management can make us better lawyers.

There are multiple risks lawyers take in the practice of law. When a new client comes on board, a lawyer takes a risk the client will be cooperative and pay for the work. When a lawyer accepts a matter in an unfamiliar area of law, there is the risk of quickly getting in over one’s head. Lawyers take a financial risk when they invest time and money to build a practice. Just about everything lawyers do involves some level of risk. Some risks are small, others larger. For the larger risks we tend to want to manage and minimize the risk. In the world of immigration law practice, EB-5 clients and matters are larger risks that must be carefully managed.

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Building a Force of Zealous, Creative Refugee and Asylum Advocates

shutterstock_432808786According to UNHCR’s 2015 Global Trends Report, one out of every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum due to wars, conflict, and persecution that are not ending, but being met with impunity by governments and the international community.  No surprise then that we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the number of refugees, internally displaced people, and asylum-seekers.  In 2014 alone, 13.9 million people became newly displaced – four times the number of the previous year.  As UNHCR reports, “Worldwide there were 19.5 million refugees, 38.2 million were displaced inside their own countries, and 1.8 million people were awaiting the outcome of claims for asylum).”  These numbers, all increases from 2013, tell us that more people than at any other time in history have had to flee their homes to seek safety and freedom elsewhere.  Unable to turn to their own governments for protection, these refugees must depend on the compassion and humanity of foreign governments as they seek safety and freedom.

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No More Diapers in Detention

shutterstock_171343790The beginning of a young lawyer’s career is, naturally, a time of many first experiences. Many of these “firsts” are so nerve-wracking they churn your stomach: the first time you step into court with the weight of someone’s future on your shoulders, the first time you stand up next to a client and wait with bated breath for the judge to hand down a sentence, and the first time a witness changes his testimony on the stand. Some of them are utterly thrilling: the first client you free from detention, the first trial you win, and the first child client who says she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up because of you. Still others are utterly soul-shattering: the first time you visit a refugee detention center, the first time you watch a judge set a $25,000 bond for a destitute young mother and her children who sob inconsolably and beg not to be sent back to their abuser, and the first time you need to ask a guard for diapers in a detention center.

For me, among all of these experiences there are two firsts in particular that stand out for me, one recent and the other a little more remote.

The older of these firsts was the first time one of my clients breastfed her infant child during a hearing at a family detention center. Sadly, it was far from the last time I would have a detained nursing mother as a client. The many months I spent at the family detention center in Dilley, Texas, after that first week as a volunteer at a similar facility in Artesia, New Mexico, brought me face to face with dozens of nursing mothers whose only “crime” was desperately seeking safety for their children and freedom from the horrors of the rapidly imploding Northern Triangle.

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Opening Minds and Hearts in the Immigration Debate

shutterstock_126507572There are very few issues facing our country today that are more polarizing than immigration. From the White House to your parents’ house, Wall Street to Main Street, the classroom to the dining room, discussions about immigration have sharply divided parties—and touched a collective nerve. The current vitriol espousing fear and scapegoating has made the immigration debate not just a theoretical or intellectual one, but a personal one. “They’re stealing our jobs!” “They’re killing our children!” “They don’t pay taxes!

Facts and figures, studies and statistics, and plain common sense abound to debunk most of the common myths and rhetoric, yet some people still cling to their anti-immigrant sentiments. Some of it is based on benign ignorance, some of it driven by emotion, others by personal experiences and biases.

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Arizona: A Lesson in Tolerance

shutterstock_272772044Arizona…you never learn, do you?

In 1987, I was living in Tucson. I was in 7th grade and the state of Arizona provided me with a crash course in racism, the civil rights movement and very poor decision-making. Former Governor Evan Mecham infamously rescinded an executive order by his predecessor, Governor Bruce Babbitt, which had made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid-state holiday. In 1990, the citizens of the state then voted down a proposition that would have created a paid-state holiday. After significant humiliation and economic damage to the state, including the NFL moving the 1993 Super Bowl location out of Phoenix, the voters finally approved the holiday in 1992.

Even though the citizens ultimately made the right choice, the consequences of this struggle lingered. In the ensuing decade, when I lived in New York, people would call Arizona the “racist” state or associate our state with the MLK Jr. Day controversy. To not properly honor a civil rights hero was an embarrassment to Arizona and to those who believe in progress and tolerance.

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Solicitor General Apologizes to the Supreme Court, Again

shutterstock_246417730The moral of this blog post is two-fold. First, stranger things have happened, and second, do not believe everything someone tells you because just saying it does not make it so.

On August 26, 2016, Acting Solicitor General Ian Heath Gershengorn penned a letter to the Honorable Clerk of the Supreme Court Scott S. Harris apologizing for a Department of Justice (DOJ) error committed fourteen years ago. That’s right. In 2002, Mr. Gershengorn’s predecessor told the Supreme Court in Demore v. Kim, that mandatory detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) was constitutional because the average length of detention when a case was appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) was on average only 233 days. According to DOJ’s apology, however, the statistics provided by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which DOJ had submitted to the court, omitted 15,000 cases, and in fact, appealed cases generally take an average of 382 days. This also resulted in an underestimate of the actual number of cases appealed. Statistics were fudged based on EOIR’s definition of “completion,” which did not take into account, for example, a change of venue. The statistics, by the way, relate back to the year 2001.

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Why Is Texas Making the Roads Less Safe?

shutterstock_265623575We all want to feel safer. There are dozens of regulations in place to increase our safety on a day-to-day basis. We require people to have health insurance, car insurance, to buckle their seatbelts, strap children into car seats, keep job sites safe, make sure food is labeled clearly, restrict  prescription medications, the list goes on. The reasoning behind nearly every law or regulation we have could, in some way, be tied to public safety. And if it’s not safety? It’s often economics. Policies that are good for the economy eventually benefit individual citizens’ well-being. And when the economy is doing well and citizens are doing well, guess what? We feel safer. It’s cyclical, you see?

So, why doesn’t the concern for public safety extend to the roads and highways of Texas, where we are all statistically far more likely to suffer bodily harm or death than in almost any other situation we face on a daily basis? Though hundreds of regulations are designed to make our roads safer, others inexplicably weaken these safety measures. For example, in 2008, the Texas Department of Public Safety began requiring applicants to show proof of their legal status in the U.S. in order to obtain a driver’s license. That’s right, our government made a decision to refuse driver’s licenses to people who couldn’t produce evidence of their legal status.

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