Friday, August 12, 2005

Criminal trespass charges dismissed for undocumented immigrants

In the case of New Hampshire v. Barros-Batistele, Justice L. Phillips Runyon III ruled on August 12, 2005, that local New Hampshire police cannot enforce a criminal trespass statute against immigrants on the theory that they did not have permission to be in the United States and therefore are trespassing.

The key to the ruling was that immigration law is an area that Congress has set aside exclusively to be ruled and punished according to federal laws and to be enforced by federal authorities. This finding was actually conceded by the prosecutors, so it was not very controversial.

It is supported by analyzing the federal laws that criminalize and set penalties for entering the United States without permission -- it is clear that Congress set forth a comprehensive scheme that should not be encroached upon by new state laws.

Perhaps this ruling can be used as further proof that local law enforcement have no authority to enforce federal immigration laws (except under a rarely-used provision whereby local police undertake training from federal officials and essentially become deputized). Maybe this can be cited to argue that interrogations by state police for the sole purpose of enforcing federal immigration laws should be suppressed as unlawful searches and seizures, violating the United States Constitution and the applicable state constitution.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Definition of persecution in asylum claims does not exist

In Sahi v. Gonzales, (7th Cir. July 25, 2005), the Seventh Circuit overturned the denial of an asylum claim because the immigration judge and BIA never explained why the type of danger that the asylum-seeker will face does not rise to the level of persecution. The Seventh Circuit noted that it is the BIA's responsibility to define persecution, but it has never done so.

True, persecution does not include conduct that is mere harassment, but the BIA has never explained where the boundary lies between persecution and harassment.

As a result, the Seventh Circuit overturned the denial of asylum and remanded it back to the BIA.