Month: December 2017

Executive Office for Immigration Review Set to Launch Electronic Filing System

The Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which is responsible for overseeing immigration courts and deciding immigration cases in the United States, will be launching a cloud-based e-filing platform next year.  This is expected to aid in reduction of the massive current backlog of cases.

Since last October, EOIR had 640,000 active pending cases.  This was more than twice the number of pending cases in 2012 and triple that of 2009.

The acting director of EOIR, James McHenry, said in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security that EOIR has made “little appreciable progress” in transitioning from the paper filing system to the electronic filing sphere since 2001, which is when the need for an electronic filing system was first recognized.

Now, McHenry says, “With the support of Congress and [DOJ], however, we are poised to finally pilot an electronic case filing and adjudication system in fiscal 2018.”

The move towards electronic filing will also include “electronic records of proceeding and judicial applications that aid immigration judges and the immigration court staff.”

EOIR has planned to implement an electronic filing system before, crafting eWorld which was supposed to be launched in 2006.  Government Accountability Office auditors said, “It is unclear…why EOIR did not fully carry out these efforts.”

The planning of e-filing mechanisms was in the authority of the EOIR’s Office of Planning, Analysis, and Technology, which has since been dissolved.  EOIR’s Office of Information Technology has now adopted the role and is overseeing the new e-filing system development.

According to the Government Accountability Office, EOIR created a statement of work for a comprehensive e-filing system last April.  The e-system will be called ECAS, the EOIR Courts and Appeals System.

ECAS is still “in the early phases” and will not be fully implemented for “several years,” but the first phase will be launched in 2018.

For more information, click here.

Award-Winning Diplomat Resigns Due to Trump Administration’s Foreign Policy

Elizabeth Shackelford, an award-winning U.S. diplomat, has tendered her resignation from the State Department.  Shackelford, who recently was based in Nairobi for the U.S. mission to Somalia, used her resignation letter to explain her beliefs that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump administration are tainting America’s presence and influence in the world.

The resignation letter announced Shackelford’s resignation, naming the reason for her leaving as the Trump administration’s abandoning of human rights as a priority.  She said she joined the United States government in 2010 to continue efforts of “advancing democracy, promoting human rights, and establishing a more secure global order of the American people…I was confident I was contributing to these goals.  This is no longer the case under current leadership.”

Shackelford is not the only midcareer diplomat who has decided to leave due to a disenchantment with the new administration’s style of diplomacy.

A former colleague noted that Shackelford is “emblematic of what we’re losing across the board…She is the best among us.  We should not be losing the best among us.  And that should concern people that we are.”

A senior official explained that the loss of Shackelford, “an officer who makes it into the service and leaves because she was not supported,” reflects a need to “reform our system.”

According to Shackleford, the State Department’s role in foreign policy is declining with more authority being given to the Pentagon.  Proposed budget and staffing cuts are also taking a toll on the department.

She asks Secretary of State Tillerson to “stem the bleeding by showing leadership and a commitment to our people, our mission, and our mandate as the foreign policy arm of the United States…if you are unable to do so effectively within this Administration, I would humbly recommend you follow me out the door.”

When State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, was asked to comment on Shackelford’s resignation, she said, “We are not able to comment on the career choices of each person at the Department.”

For more information, click here.

CBP Arrests Undocumented Immigrants After DHS Makes Statement Halting Immigration Enforcement During Hurricane Irma

When Hurricane Irma came to Florida, immigration advocates and public safety departments worried that undocumented immigrants would be too afraid to seek help or shelter from the fear that they could be deported.

The US Department of Homeland Security tried to quell those fears, promising that there would be a temporary hold on noncriminal immigration enforcement and ICE and CBP would focus their efforts on rescue and relief.

In a statement on September 6, DHS said, “In evacuation or response, we are committed to making sure that we can assist local authorities quickly, safely, and efficiently…When it comes to rescuing people in the wake of Hurricane Irma, immigration status is not and will not be a factor.”

Despite the public statement, CBP in Florida was still arresting undocumented immigrants.  Court documents show that on Sept. 6, three men were arrested for not producing identification to the local police in a minor traffic collision.

No laws were broken during the accident, but the responding police offer asked the three male passengers to provide their identification and they were unable.  Thirty minutes later, the responding police officer informed the police dispatch that CBP was taking the tree men into custody.

These same men were later being GPS monitored by ICE.

John Modlin, chief of CBP’s Miami sector, claimed that this did not violate the DHS statement, saying, “We didn’t perform any targeted enforcement or placed checkpoints with people moving out of the way of the storm…In regards to criminal activity, like in this case, we take the appropriate action.”

Peter Daniel, the assisting chief patrol agent of the US Border Patrol’s Miama sector argued that the DHS statement never gave a specific date for when the statement went into effect, dismissing the claims that ICE ignored the statement.

By DHS making a statement that ICE did not immediately follow, the fears of undocumented immigrants that seeking shelter during the storm could get them into trouble seem confirmed.

Customs and Border Protection agents continued enforcing noncriminal immigration until September 10 when Hurricane Irma officially met land in the Florida Keys.

For more information, click here.

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Muslim Travel Ban 3.0 to Take Effect

On Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed President Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban to take effect.

The Court overturned lower court rulings that had exempted some family members of people in the U.S. from the travel restrictions.

As of this moment, the federal government is authorized to completely enforce the President’s restrictions in his third attempt at a ban.

No visas will be issued for individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.  Other restrictions will now be placed on travel from immigrants and visitors from Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.

The restrictions are different for each country, but in most cases, citizens of the countries will be unable to come to the United States permanently and many will be barred from working, studying or vacationing here.

One important note is that this was a procedural vote by the Supreme Court justices as to what should happen while legal challenges work their way through the federal judicial system.

The ruling on Monday was not on the merits but rather a decision regarding whether or not the ban should be in place during appeals.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the travel ban early in 2018.

The fact that the Court voted 7-2 to allow the ban to take effect while the issue is litigated does not bode well for those who oppose the ban.  It appears the Court may allow Mr. Trump’s plan to take full effect when it rules.

Two justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, voted to keep the exceptions for family members in place while the appeals continued.

The ruling comes one week after President Trump tweeted out false and derogatory videos about Muslims and the threat that they supposedly bring to the United States.

Appeals courts in Seattle, Washington and Richmond, Virginia should hear legal challenges to the ban in the upcoming days.

 

A Crazy Day as an Immigration Lawyer

Yesterday was a crazy day.

Seems like immigration land always heats up in those days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

Lots of people start moving on getting an immigration benefit right before the end of the year.

7:45 am

The day began with me editing a brief for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  We are appealing a decision by District Court Judge John Ross in which he dismissed my client’s case.

I like and respect Judge Ross a lot.  But I think he got this one wrong.

Our client waited two years for USCIS to rule on his naturalization application.  The law says that if 120 days pass after a naturalization applicant’s interview, the person can file an action in federal court and ask the judge to naturalize them.

That is the lawsuit that we filed.  One week after we filed the lawsuit, USCIS issued a denial of our client’s case.  Then they filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  We opposed the motion but Judge Ross agreed with the government and dismissed the case.

We filed an appeal to the Eighth Circuit.  We don’t have high hopes for our chances at the Eighth Circuit.  This court rarely rules in favor of an immigrant in cases against the government.  In fact, there was a streak where they ruled for the government in 150 cases in a row or so.  Crazy.

I made the edits to the brief and left tt for my colleague, Elise Frisella, to keep editing the brief.  She wrote the first draft and did a great job.

8:45 am

Headed down to USCIS for an N-336 appeal.

An N-336 appeal is what you file when someone’s naturalization application is denied.  In this case, USCIS manufactured some totally bogus reasons for denying my client’s application.

They claimed that he had not disclosed a traffic ticket when he obtained his 10 year green card.  But the application specifically said that he did not have to disclose traffic stuff.

USCIS also claimed that he hadn’t told them about a warrant that he never knew about.

When I filed this appeal, I asked the agency to issue subpoenas to various witnesses.  They never did.

We finally got into the hearing around 10 am.  We had a supervisor and supervisor’s supervisor.

She went through the motions of asking my client about the warrant and the traffic ticket and you could tell her heart was just not into it.

I told the office how ridiculous the denial was.  How it was ridiculous that our client had to pay for the appeal and to pay me to attend.  Ridiculous that he had to take off work to come to the hearing.

And I told them that they were not following the law by refusing to issue the subpoenas for witnesses that I requested.  They nodded.

I told them that if they planned on doing anything other than quickly approving my client for citizenship that we were going to sue them for not following their own damn rules.

11 am

Headed back to the office to work on email, check on the brief and keep things moving.

12 pm

Went to the Lodge of Des Peres for a lower-body workout with my trainer.  She kicked my butt.

2:30 pm

Met a new client of the firm.  Apparently, he really likes our YouTube videos.  He flew up from Dallas to hire us to file his naturalization case.  He was very excited to meet me.

3 pm

Had a leadership team meeting to help plan our firm retreat for Friday.  Came up with a great outline of topics to discuss with the whole team later this week.

4:30 pm

Reviewed Elise’s revisions to the brief.  Filed it electronically.  We still have to file hard copies but that will be later this week.

5:30 pm

Receive word that the Supreme Court is going to let the Travel Ban 3.0 go into effect while appeals are pending.  Note to self: need to read the decision and be able to discuss.

 

6 pm

Files suit in the federal district court in Washington, D.C., for an Iranian-American fellow from Chicago.  He has been waiting more than 19 months for the State Department to issue his dad a visa.  Our suit alleges that the delay is unreasonable and that the fellow’s father is being discriminated against because he comes from a predominantly-Muslim country.

7:30 pm

Head home for a quick dinner with Amany.

8:20 pm

Electricity goes out due to the brief storm.  Head to bed early after a long, exciting day.

Wisconsin Immigration Attorney Disbarred for Ripping Off Clients

An immigration lawyer and college instructor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was disbarred by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 28.

The attorney, Sergio Magaña, had taken fees from clients and provided no help in their cases.  He would even give his clients fake case numbers and pleadings if they asked for progress on their case,so they would not realize that he had not pursued their case.

Magaña is thirty-two years old and graduated from Marquette University Law School in 2012.  He refused to cooperate when the Office of Lawyer Regulation began investigating him.  Magaña did not report a drunk driving conviction he had received in 2014 to which he had pleaded guilty.

In 2016, the OLR filed a complaint against Magaña for professional misconduct.  The complaint alleged over 70 counts of professional misconduct in at least 22 client matters.  Magaña asked for extra time to respond to the complaint and the extra time was granted by the court.  But, despite the approval of the extra time, he never responded and did not even appear for a hearing.

Magaña left the law firm he was employed with amidst all of the trouble, but never notified any of his clients that he was no longer with the firm, leaving them without help and without concluded cases.

The court found Magaña’s professional misconduct to be, “vast and troubling,” continuing to say, “The undisputed facts show a clear pattern of neglect by Attorney Magaña of his clients’ needs and objectives, of his professional obligations as an attorney, and of the basic importance of truthfulness.”

Despite the severity of his actions, taking advantage of immigrant clients, desperate for help, the court only ordered $620 in restitution to one client, $420 to another client, and another $420 to the law firm Magaña had worked for.  He was also ordered to pay for the cost of the Office of Lawyer Regulation proceedings for almost $5,000.

For more information, click here.

Homeland Security Inspector General Steps Down After Travel Ban Report Discontent

Homeland Security Inspector, General John Roth, announced in an interview on Tuesday,  November 28 that his last day will be Thursday, November 30.

Roth was nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2013.  In his announcement, Roth said that his resignation was not related to the letter he wrote on November 20 to members of Congress regarding the U.S. Customs and Border Protection implementation of Trump’s initial travel ban.

The letter was the first depiction of Roth’s office’s findings after looking into the ban.  Roth’s letter did not substantiate claims against customs agents for misconduct, but the letter recognized that due to the minimal warning before the ban was in effect, DHS violated court orders twice.

Trump’s travel ban, which began in January 2017, caused chaos in airports across the nation when it was initially implemented.  The January ban was struck down by federal courts, so President Trump revised the ban in March and September.  The most updated version has been partially halted by lower courts in the federal system, but the U.S. Supreme Court has not made a decision regarding its constitutionality yet.

Roth was “troubled” that senior Department of Homeland Security leaders took over six weeks to make decisions about what to make public in the eighty-seven page report.  DHS also gave the report to the Justice Department, asking them to decide additional sections to redact.

To date, the report has still not been released.

A DHS spokesman claimed employees “conducted themselves professionally, and in a legal manner” while implementing the travel ban.

John V. Kelly, the deputy of the inspector general office, will be Roth’s replacement in the interim until President Trump nominates a replacement.

Roth has not received updates since his letter and he remains “very concerned.”  Other inspectors general were “surprised” by the way DHS implemented the travel ban as well.

Roth spoke of his work in government since 1987, saying, “It was a good run…It is now time to do other things.  This has been coming for a while.”

For more information, click here.