Sunday, July 29, 2007

More Lawsuits Challenging ICE's Widespread Illegal Searches

There are even more developments in lawsuits against widespread Fourth Amendment violations by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) around the United States. These lawsuits are extremely significant because under the Supreme Court decision in Lopez-Mendoza, suppression motions in immigration court might be granted for all Fourth Amendment violations if there is proof of widespread Fourth Amendment violations by the immigration authorities. News stories of widespread illegal surveillance along with numerous lawsuits about widespread illegal ICE searches suggest that now may be the time to require suppression of evidence in immigration court for all Fourth Amendment violations. The Third Circuit in Philadelphia is currently reviewing an appeal of this legal issue and other cases raising this issue have been filed in immigration courts in New Jersey.

The latest news on lawsuits against ICE include:
  • 33 more plaintiffs added to the Minnesota lawsuit against ICE and local police for widespread Fourth Amendment violations during illegal searches in April.
  • A new lawsuit in Tennessee against ICE and the Maury County sheriff for a series of illegal raids in May and July 2007 for illegal ICE searches in people's homes using the pretext of searching for a Latino suspect. According to the lawsuit, ICE would bang on doors and once someone inside opened the door the slightest bit, ICE would barge in and essentially arrest everyone by confronting people and demanding papers from them.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

USCIS Raises Fees While Its Employee Pleads Guilty To Corruption

USCIS is in the process of dramatically hiking its processing fees on July 30 at the same time one of its workers, Jimmie Ortega, 59 years old from Lindenhurst, New York, pled guilty in New York City on July 20 to corruption. Mr. Ortega pled guilty to accepting thousands of dollars in illegal payments to help dozens of people skip (or cheat on) the usual citizenship test and gain citizenship. Mr. Ortega pled guilty and around October will be sentenced, probably between five and six years in prison. Five others pled guilty to being part of the scheme (and the government is charging five others, too). He pled guilty to accepting bribes of up to $3,000 per person between October 2004 and April 2006.

Why is USCIS drastically hiking its fees at the same time its customer service is so lacking? Why does Congress pass on the costs of processing applications to immigrants? The Jimmie Ortega corruption scandal shows that Congress and the US government have a responsibility to pay money and make sure that USCIS is performing its work correctly. We should not be relying on immigrants to pay for national security and quality control measures.

If there is corruption at the lower management level in USCIS, is there any reason to question whether there might also be corruption of a different kind at the higher levels of USCIS management? Why are the new fees so sky-high and where is all the money going? It is hard to tell if anyone is studying the USCIS budget carefully to see whether it is spending money unwisely. USCIS's announcement of the fee hike did not share detailed analysis, explanation, or justification of its overall budget and costs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Human Rights Watch Questions U.S. Mandatory Deportation Laws

On July 17, 2007, Human Rights Watch released a report titled "Forced Apart: Families Separated and Immigrants Harmed by US Deportation Policy" to address the deportation of non-citizens with criminal convictions. The system created by Congress is a form of mandatory deportation for a wide category of crimes and in some situations, Congress prohibits an immigration judge from using any discretion to consider the non-citizen's actual characteristics and accomplishments to decide whether to issue a deportation order.

According to Human Rights Watch, deportation cases have included a father of three US citizen children convicted of breaking into a car and of stealing a $10 bottle of eye drops from a drug store. A 52-year old man who had his green card status as a legal permanent resident for 40 years, had served in the military, had four US citizen children, but was guilty of possession and sale of small amounts of drugs was deported.

According to Alison Parker, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch's US program and author of the report, most major democracies and European Union members will consider family relationships and other ties to a country when deciding whether to enter a deportation order, but the US Congress have tied the hands of immigration judges in a wide category of cases. Two immigrants deported based on criminal convictions despite over 20 years each of lawful permanent resident status, Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz, have a claim with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and their cases will be heard in a Washington, DC hearing on Friday, July 20, 2007.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

USCIS Admits Major Error And Will Accept Some Employment-Based Applications

In an early-evening announcement on July 17, 2007, USCIS announced that it will immediately start accepting employment-based applications to adjust status if the priority dates were current under the original July visa bulletin (number 107) as long as they are filed on or before August 17, 2007.

In mid-June 2007, the State Department and USCIS announced that for the 31 days of July, numerous employment-based applications on form I-485 for adjustment of status could be filed. Suddenly and shockingly, on July 2nd, USCIS announced it would not accept any of them at any time in July, breaking the promise it made in mid-June 2007.

Numerous people were rightly outraged by the broken promises of USCIS -- many of whom spent a great deal of time and money to make sure they could file their applications in early-July. With today's announcement, USCIS essentially and correctly admitted its terrible mistake and will start accepting the applications it should have already been accepting. Too bad that a number of applicants have wasted various fees for FedEx or overnight delivery. But at least they probably will be able to go ahead like USCIS promised in mid-June. USCIS also announced that they will accept those applications for this type of I-485 under the current filing fees, rather than the big fee increase for other applications after July 30.

It is too bad that USCIS broke its promise and caused so much stress and anxiety for employment-based applicants who followed all of the seemingly-arbitrary rules that the immigration authorities announced.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

More Immigration Judge Basic Mistakes

An earlier blog posting listed a slew of basic errors that immigration judges have made in asylum cases, in each case to hurt the asylum-seeker unfairly. The BIA in each of the cases overlooked the errors and rejected the asylum-seeker's appeal, which led to a long and expensive petition for review to a circuit court, which overturned the BIA and IJ's errors.

The basic mistakes keep happening. And not just in asylum cases. For example:

In re Kun Jie Chen, No. 06-2729-ag (2d Cir. July 3, 2007) (summary order): IJ Brigitte Laforest cannot say that someone seeking adjustment of status had an "inability to explain" certain discrepancies when the record shows the person offered explanations of the discrepancies. Even if an IJ may be permitted to analyze and reject the explanations, an IJ may not ignore the explanations and say the person as unable to offer explanations. In other words, an IJ must at least look at the evidence and explanations that the person submits. This seems like a relatively basic principle.

Shamshualeev v. Gonzales, No. 06-4658-ag (2d Cir. July 3, 2007) (summary order): IJ Michaelangelo Rocco erred in an asylum case by not weighing whether four different attacks on him over a seven year period cumulatively proved the person suffered past persecution. According to the Second Circuit, IJ Rocco incorrectly believed the last two attacks are random acts by thugs.

Abdur Rahim v. Gonzales, No. 06-5051-ag (2d Cir. July 3, 2007) (summary order): IJ Sarah Burr and the BIA erred by accepting and relying on a State Department report that lacked basic details about its veracity. Here, the State Department provided a report that did not list the names or qualifications of the people who conducted the investigation or share any report the investigators might have received from the U.S. Embassy they contacted. Whenever the goverment wants to use State Department reports, they must explain the name and qualifications of investigators, the objective and extent of the investigations, and the methods used to verify the information. Zhen Nan Lin v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 459 F.3d 255 (2d Cir. 2006).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fears of Local Police Immigration Enforcement Fuel a Boycott Threat

According to Judy Masterson of the Lake County News-Sun in a July 3, 2007 article titled "Group vows boycott of Waukegan businesses," Latino activists such as the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and Centro Sin Fronteras are threatening to boycott business in Waukegan, Illinois if the City Council there does not back off its efforts to obtain ICE approval to enforcement civil immigration laws.

One speaker at a rally explained that enforcing civil immigration laws drives immigrants into the shadows. Another speaker said that if the local police enforce civil violations, crimes will go unreported and domestic violence victims will stay quiet because police might question them about their immigration status.

That chilling effect (which undermines national security and crime-fighting efforts) already exists in New Jersey, where local police have asked people calling the police to report crimes about their immigration status -- and alerted ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), who blindly obtained deportation orders even though doing so would scare crime victims from calling NJ local police.

According to the news article, those in favor of crime victims' rights and immigrant rights announced that they would start a selective boycott of selective businesses that support the efforts (commonly known as 287(g)).

The threat of a selective boycott seems to show how desperate people are to protect the ability of crime victims and witnesses to contact police for help. Having local police enforce mere civil violations to penalize the victims of crimes who desperately need help is fueling a large backlash that points out how wrong-headed the 287(g) program is.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Immigration Makes Following The Rules Worthless This Time

On July 2, 2007, the U.S. State Department, working in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, announced that it would break its promise to allow people who prepared green card applications based on their employment if they filed them in July.

On July 13, 2007, they had announced that starting July 2, they would let people go ahead with those applications. This left people a few weeks to spend money preparing all the forms, the (soon-to-increase) application fees, and to pay certified doctors to conduct medical examinations. In a turn that appeared as if a bad prank, the State Department and the immigration authorities on July 2nd said forget it, it was rejecting anything such as I-485 adjustment of status application people filed based on employment (employment-based adjustment applications). It said the Visa Bulletin it had announced was going to be changed as of immediately.

All the money and time people spent on getting medical examinations (which expire after a certain number of months, by the way), paying lawyers to hurry up with the forms, and to pay for overnight delivery of the entire packet are probably going to have everything returned to them. They will have to give up the cost of taking back the money orders they might have prepared and the time and effort involved. One of the main points of a Visa Bulletin is to inform people who want to follow the rules how to prepare for the coming month.

Now, the State Department and immigration authorities in cruel twist are basically saying that they can take away what they promised several weeks earlier. It is especially ironic that in many instances, immigration will make very harsh decisions if the immigrant breaks any rule, even for example by mailing something one day late. But if immigration changes the rules and breaks its promises, I suppose it can just get away with it and do whatever they want. Broken promises, once again.