When Will They Listen?

Author: on 10/27/2016


shutterstock_473539426Family detention is wrong. The mass incarceration and detention of asylum seekers is wrong. The detention of immigrants who are not flight risks and pose no danger to community or national safety is wrong. It’s not just me saying it, or just AILA saying it, or even churches, community groups, NGOs, and Congressional Members. Now, the United Nations is saying it as well.

This week, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention completed a two-week visit to the U.S. I hadn’t realized there was a working group on arbitrary detention until this working group geared up to visit, but given the abuse of the detention mechanism around the world, I am heartened to know the subject is being tracked and investigated by the U.N. However, I am embarrassed for our country that the need existed to examine what the U.S. government has been doing.

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California’s TRUTH Act – Due Process for Immigrants Held in Local Jails

Author: on 10/26/2016


shutterstock_376637839On September 28, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the TRUTH Act  which protects immigrant communities against harsh immigration enforcement practices. With this law, California becomes the first state to require immigrants be told of their right to an attorney before being interviewed by federal immigration authorities while in custody. The TRUTH Act responds to the growing concern that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s “Priority Enforcement Program” (PEP) and similar initiatives are replicating the failures of the former Secure Communities initiative—a program that was ultimately condemned after separating tens of thousands of families across the state of California and damaging public safety.

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Hostile Jurisdictions

Author: on 10/21/2016


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

Author: on 10/20/2016


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

Author: on 10/11/2016


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?

Author: on 10/06/2016


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

Author: on 09/30/2016


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

Author: on 09/26/2016


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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Baby Steps Toward Transparency

Author: on 09/23/2016


shutterstock_8491309Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took another small step toward transparency – issuing a Request for Quote (RFQ) for 108 body-worn cameras and 12 vehicle-mounted cameras. It probably seems strange to get even a little bit excited about the announcement of a bureaucratic process, but in the case of CBP transparency, every step, even baby steps, are important after years of push-back and blockades in the fight for body-worn cameras. Despite the ever-growing evidence that body-worn cameras benefit all parties, CBP has failed to implement the use of these cameras throughout the field.

In a statement, CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said, “CBP is committed to expanding the use of cameras to increase transparency, accountability, and officer and agent safety. The body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras from this purchase will be tested by agents and officers in the field. What we learn from this initial deployment to several operational environments will help CBP refine requirements that will lead to a larger procurement in the near future.”

Last November, CBP announced its intention to conduct more testing and evaluation rather than actually implement a program to employ the use of body-worn cameras. As I said back in November, it is beyond belief that, given all that we know about the power of video to shine a light on the actions of law enforcement agents and officers, as well as those who are involved in encounters with agents and officers, CBP is still dragging its heels on this initiative. As the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, CBP should lead the way toward transparency and set the standard, rather than keep things hidden away in the desert, bushes, canyons, and riverbanks.

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Opening Minds and Hearts in the Immigration Debate

Author: on 09/21/2016


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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