Archive for the ‘Interior Enforcement’ Category.

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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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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Enforcement Off the Rails

shutterstock_159241919There’s been a lot of news coverage of the ICE raids, of the aggressive tactics used to arrest vulnerable families at their homes and to arrest children on the way to school. But what hasn’t received as much coverage is the damage that raids victims endure after their arrest. Some remain trapped in prolonged ICE detention and suffer psychologically and physically.

My client Johanna* was subjected to three straight days of solitary confinement at an ICE detention center in Georgia. She is just 18 years old – a victim of rape and severe domestic violence in El Salvador who fled to the US over two years ago, all alone.

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“Apurar, cielos, pretendo,

Por qué me tratáis así,

qué delito cometí

contra vosotros naciendo.

Aunque si nací, ya entiendo

qué delito he cometido;

bastante causa ha tenido

vuestra justicia y rigor,

Pues el delito mayor

del hombre es haber nacido.” ~ by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Outrage is the only word that comes to mind to describe the Obama Administration’s recent admission that they are aggressively pursuing enforcement against families and children. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has launched a 30-day “surge” of arrests focused on mothers and children who have been ordered removed by an immigration judge. It was also reported that the operation would cover minors who have entered the country without a guardian and since turned 18 years of age.

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The Un-American Nature of Prison Bed Quotas

shutterstock_170934761It has never been easy to be an immigration attorney.  Faced with combatting injustice without sufficient resources, those of us who represent detained immigrants have seen these challenges increase with the recent hyper-growth of the private prison industry (PPI): 1600% increase in the number of beds from 1990 to 2010.

More than half of the industry’s $3 billion in profits comes from the detention of immigrants.  Not surprisingly, due to PPI’s muscular lobbying efforts, there is scant congressional oversight of the industry.  Over time, GEO and CCA, the two largest for-profit prison companies in the U.S. have given more than $10 million to individual politicians and spent almost $25 million on lobbying Congress.

As a result, we now live in a country where immigrants are treated as commodities.  There are more than 200 detention facilities in the U.S. that operate under a congressional mandate of keeping 34,000 available beds per day.  Despite testimony by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson that the 34,000 bed mandate is more of an availability target than a quota, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spends almost $2 billion a year, in part, on keeping these beds occupied. The result: a huge portion of the money is funneled to PPI.

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Can the Innocence of a Child Soften the Hearts of Anti-Immigrants?

Image: Sophie Cruz/First Focus

Image: Sophie Cruz/First Focus

Sophie Cruz became an instant celebrity when she approached Pope Francis’s motorcade to hand him a letter begging him to help her keep her parents in the United States.  Her message was simple, coming from a five-year-old, yet it carried more power and conviction than any of the hateful rhetoric that has been dominating the airwaves. Sophie Cruz wants to stop living with the fear that her undocumented parents may, at any time, be taken from her and deported.  You see, Sophie is a full-fledged U.S. citizen, a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to all who are born in the United States.   Her parents, however, are undocumented immigrants living in the confines of the underground world that our current immigration system has created.  They are unable to legalize their status, yet work hard and contribute to their communities.  Sophie’s father, Raul, came to the United States ten years ago and works long hours at a factory to provide for Sophie and the rest of his family.  Like many aspiring Americans, they are struggling to make ends meet, stuck in the purgatory of our unworkable immigration laws. Sophie’s parents represent our country, they represent the opportunity for a better America, and the future that Sophie herself dreams of.

But what is Sophie asking for?

Continue reading ‘Can the Innocence of a Child Soften the Hearts of Anti-Immigrants?’ »

Getting a Little Serious about the Need for Immigration Reform

shutterstock_197321441This is a post adapted from my speech last week in accepting an award from AILA for outstanding contributions made as a young lawyer in the field of immigration and nationality law. While the occasion was a happy one and I was honored to receive that award, I took the opportunity, as I do here, to emphasize what is wrong with our current system and that we desperately need to fix it.  I hope you find it of interest:

As I think about the great migrations of people, I’m reminded of my own “gringa” migration from the heartland of Iowa to Washington, D.C. While my own journey was not nearly as harrowing an experience, it is that journey that led me to practice immigration law, to AILA, and to the work that I’m so passionate about.

I have been incredibly lucky to have several amazing people guiding me throughout my journey. My parents who taught me that everyone no matter their background deserves the chance to pursue their dreams. My wonderful husband Justin, whose constant love and support sustains me. Michelle Mendez, my friend and co-professor in the Catholic University immigration clinic who is the most selfless, passionate advocate that I know. The dedicated staff of Benach Ragland, and my partners who I deeply respect and admire; there is no one else I would rather work with in pursuit of our shared mission. Finally my mentor, the late great Michael Maggio: despite his busy immigration practice, he always found time to contribute to our field as a policy advocate, a pro bono champion and a mentor. I have strived to use Michael’s well-rounded approach to our work as a model in contributing through my own practice, especially as I’ve observed the developments in our field over the last few years.

We’re going to get a little serious now.

We are now faced with a humanitarian crisis at our borders.  CBP and ICE officers are using excessive force, inhumane detention conditions, and “no process” removals. We are faced with immigration courts fighting against insufficient resources, overcrowded dockets and cabined legal discretion. And we are faced with a renewed assault on our asylum system by Congress and the agencies themselves.

Yet, no actions are taken by those in power to fix our system. Instead we have a Congress that points fingers and strikes a pose in Capitol Hill hearings and an Administration which, on the back of an immigration reform-focused campaign, has taken to putting Band-Aids on gashes rather than treating the underlying wounds.

Until we have leaders who are going to work together to solve real problems that affect real people, American businesses, and separated families, it is up to us. It is for these reasons that this award is only the beginning of my journey.

Thank you so much for this honor and I hope you will join me in restoring due process and humanity in our immigration system.

Written by Dree Collopy, 2014 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award Winner


Cities and Counties Stand Up for the Constitution

shutterstock_103176035Cities across the country have been following a federal policy that law enforcement officials increasingly describe as harmful to public safety and that courts now call unconstitutional.  I’m glad to know that Philadelphia is no longer one of them.

My mayor, Michael Nutter, signed an executive order last month preventing law enforcement officials from keeping people in jail on the basis of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer request, unless it’s accompanied by a judicial warrant and the person has been convicted of a violent felony.  These detainers request that state and local police hold people in jail, without a warrant or the guarantee of a prompt hearing before a judge.  States, counties and cities have spent millions of their own tax dollars complying with detainers that jail people who may (or may not) be deportable from the United States.  As an immigration attorney, I know first-hand the disastrous impact that reckless immigration enforcement practices can have on families and communities and I’m proud that my city and mayor have said no.

When issuing the order, Mayor Nutter cited the impact on public safety as one reason for his decision. “As a result of overly aggressive use of these detainers, there has been a negative impact on some immigrants who will not report crimes to the police, don’t want to be witnesses, and suffer accordingly.”  The University of Illinois at Chicago recently found that 44% of Latinos were less likely to call the police if they became the victim of a crime, when they live in jurisdictions where police are heavily involved in immigration enforcement.

Philadelphia is not the only place that’s saying no. More states and localities around the country, from  California (San Diego County and San Francisco just announced as well) to Connecticut, are refusing to honor these hold requests.  And the courts are agreeing with them.  In the last few months, three separate federal cases have confirmed that detainers are voluntary requests and that local law enforcement can be sued for violations of the Constitution if they choose to honor these ICE requests, including a case involving Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. And just recently, a federal judge held Clackamas County, Oregon liable for violating the Fourth Amendment for holding an individual solely on an ICE detainer without probable cause.

The Oregon decision sent shockwaves through counties all over the Northwest. Sheriff Joe Pelle of Boulder County, Colorado called the judge’s decision in this case a “game changer.” Law enforcement officials from counties in Oregon, Washington and Colorado immediately announced they would no longer continue business-as-usual with respect to these immigration holds—joining places like Philadelphia that have already said no.

Detainers are fundamentally flawed. They are not making communities safer. They are expensive. That’s why states and localities are pushing back.  They’re making their own decisions about what’s best for their communities. As the president of the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association Gary Bettencourt said, “We will no longer violate anybody’s constitutional rights, I can guarantee that.”

If AILA members and the public want to advocate against detainers, it’s plain to see we have plenty of company from law enforcement and the courts. Let’s work to get more cities and localities across the nation on board.

William Stock, AILA Second Vice President

The Sorry State of Our Detention System

shutterstock_122688160Saluja Thangaraja was tortured, beaten and held captive in Sri Lanka, her homeland. She was lucky and managed to escape before she was killed. When she arrived in the United States – the land of freedom she was seeking turned out to be the exact opposite: she was imprisoned in a federal detention center near San Diego for over four and a half years before a federal judge ordered her release.

She is not alone. Immigration detention is in overdrive. In the past two decades federal immigration detention has grown dramatically with over 400,000 people locked up each year, about five times the number detained twenty years ago, costing American taxpayers $2 billion annually.  These are not people serving criminal jail terms.  Instead they are people facing possible deportation—a civil process that is not supposed to be punitive.  Conditions in institutional detention facilities are marked by severe deficiencies—at least 141 people died while in detention in the last decade.

Many are detained unnecessarily without any opportunity to appear before a judge.  Thousands are held for months despite the fact that they have families and jobs and pose no threat to public safety.  Locking up individuals facing civil immigration charges should be a last resort, used only when other means of supervision are not feasible. There are effective alternatives to jail detention, such as bond, supervised release, or electronic monitoring, that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should be using.  But DHS overwhelmingly prefers detention over smarter alternatives.

As a nation founded on liberty, due process and fairness, we should be striving to minimize detention except where justified and absolutely necessary.

Now a chorus of legislators are calling for immediate reform, including Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) who introduced a bill this month to improve detention conditions. He joins Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and more than sixty House members who are calling upon DHS to reduce the use of detention or provide impartial custody hearings before judges.

Recently, AILA joined calls for reform by filing two briefs requesting that Attorney General Holder make good on his promise of fairness and sensible immigration enforcement by adopting a comprehensive, rational immigration detention policy.

He should do two things. First, establish a national policy to provide hearings before immigration judges for everyone detained six months or more.  Overwhelmingly courts around the nation are ruling that no one can be detained for a prolonged period without a hearing before an immigration judge.  Our Constitution requires such hearings—often called bond hearings—to protect a detainee’s rights.  The 3rd, 6th, and 9th Circuit U.S. Courts of Appeals and a federal district court in Massachusetts agree.  But despite those decisions, the Department of Justice has yet to implement a national rule that would provide bond hearings to people who have been detained over 6 months—the presumptive period that the Supreme Court has deemed is too long.  With courts already deciding in favor of such a rule, there is no reason to wait.

Such a rule would ensure that Warren Joseph, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, who honorably served in combat roles in U.S. Army, would not have spent more than 3 years in detention because he illegally purchased a handgun – a minor offense for which he served no jail time. During the years he was detained, he never got a hearing on whether his detention was justified. We need a national rule for bond hearings because without one, our system deprives thousands of their freedom without any chance to plead their case.  This is inexcusable and unconstitutional.

A second problem is a federal policy that requires immigration officers to use jail detention on certain individuals even though alternatives to detention would be just as effective and cheaper.  Many of these individuals do not pose any threat to public safety and would be ideal candidates for alternatives to detention with families, jobs, and strong ties in their communities.  Again, the Attorney General has the authority to clarify what the law requires and, in so doing, greatly improve national policy to ensure public safety, reunite families, and save taxpayers money in the bargain.

As a member of AILA’s Amicus Committee, filing these briefs are part and parcel of our efforts to bring common sense to our broken immigration system. The examples I use are just two of the names and stories that make up the true human cost of the status quo. Mr. Holder needs to seize this opportunity, take action against injustice and stand up for our Constitution.

Written by Stephen Manning, Member,  AILA Amicus Committee

Want more information? AILA’s Quicktake with Stephen is available to view for a quick rundown. A more in-depth discussion of the issue is offered in this longer animated video that Stephen developed.

The Agents of [Operation] S.H.I.E.L.D.

Photographs of the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building and U. S. Courthouse in Denver, Colorado. Carol  M. Highsmith, Llibrary of Congress

Photograph of the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building and U. S. Courthouse in Denver, Colorado. Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress

The Federal Protective Service has a heavy responsibility.  Their mission is to keep federal properties safe and secure for employees, officials and visitors, alike.  One such property is the newly renovated Byron G. Rodgers Federal Building in downtown Denver.  Among other tenants in this otherwise public building, sits the Denver Immigration Court where the fates of many immigrants and their families are determined.

Last week, under the banner of “Operation Shield” more than a dozen armed FPS personnel descended on the building’s entrance lobby.   The operation sought to restrict public access to numerous federal offices housed in that building, temporarily detaining and subjecting unsuspecting visitors to full criminal background investigations if they could not—or would not—produce valid US-government issued ID.

Predictably, immigrants, their family members, even witnesses and attorneys seeking to attend court proceedings were caught in this flash op.  Many immigrants—even those who are in the process of legalizing their status—rely on passports or foreign-issued identity documents until their case is resolved.  No matter that all visitors to the building pass through an almost airport-level of security screening, ensuring no weapons or other hazardous materials can be brought within.   No matter that immigration officials have already conducted background checks in conjunction with the applications of immigrants attending hearing.

Was this bristling display of law enforcement prowess calibrated to respond to a credible threat of terrorism?  No.  Was there a security breach, concerns about a potential insider attack, or a bomb threat?  Nope.  Was the operation hoping to detect “unauthorized persons” or potentially disruptive or dangerous activities?  Hardly.

What it did accomplish was to draw the attention and ire of many, including attorneys with the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who in response filed a federal lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order to stop these intimidating practices. The lawsuit requests a federal judge to intervene and issue an injunction to immediately stop the abuse.  Today, the government has agreed to end these practices while a review of security measures takes place.

“Homeland Security” cannot be magic words that make us forget we have a Constitution.  Overbearing and intimidating practices such as these have no place in a country built on liberty and access to justice.

Written by Laura Lichter, AILA Immediate Past President and Member, AILA Colorado Chapter