Sunday, July 13, 2008

Immigrant Claims Local Police in NJ and ICE Attorney Violated First Amendment Rights

On July 2, 2008, a former New Jersey resident filed a lawsuit in New Jersey federal court that claims an Edison NJ police officer violated his First Amendment rights by reporting him to an ICE attorney to seek his deportation in retaliation for claiming he was a victim of police brutality and speaking publicly about his allegations.

The entire dispute began on July 4, 2006, when then-resident of Edison, NJ Rajnikant Parikh came across Edison police officer Michael Dotro. According to the police, Mr. Parikh told 10 more or people to stop Officer Dotro from issuing a parking ticket. According to Mr. Parikh, the Edison police without provocation brutally assaulted him.

Mr. Parikh filed a citizen complaint with the Edison police department and made public statements about the altercation.

According to Mr. Parikh, Officer Dotro contacted an ICE attorney in Newark, New Jersey to retaliate against Mr. Parikh for filing his citizen complaint and speaking about it. According to Mr. Parikh, Officer Dotro tried to find out whether there was a way to take action based on Mr. Parikh's immigration status and then he worked with ICE officials to plan to arrest Mr. Parikh on immigration law violations.

In August 2006, many people gathered for a demonstration in Edison against the police for allegedly brutalizing Mr. Parikh. At that very demonstration, ICE agents arrested Mr. Parikh and started immigration court proceedings that by now has led to Mr. Parikh's deportation.

Among many other issues, Mr. Parikh's lawsuit claims that Mr. Parikh's First Amendment rights were illegally chilled when Edison police and ICE officials worked together to arrest Mr. Parikh in retaliation for filing his citizen complaint and speaking out about what happened. The lawsuit contains a Bivens claim for the police and ICE officials' allegedly unconstitutional acts.

The lawsuit was filed by Ravinder S. Bhalla along with members of AALDEF, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (including Alexander Saingchin and Tushar Sheth). Mr. Saingchin has commented that this underscores the reason why immigrants are fearful of seeking help from the police.

The allegations in Mr. Parikh's lawsuit back up the problems in New Jersey of immigrants being afraid to report crimes to local police. In another case, ICE attorneys actively worked to seek the deportation of an immigrant who called local police to report a crime and the local police only found out about the person thanks to his call for help. (That case is on appeal.) Turning immigrants over for deportation when they seek to call the local police for help or file citizen complaints over local police actions would be a terrible public policy -- everyone's safety is worsened if bystanders are too afraid to call the police for help.

The allegations have not yet been tested or proven in court and it is not clear what type of evidence each side has to back up its view, so it is not safe to say which side's story is true. (Stay tuned for more developments.) Nevertheless, the allegations do raise serious concerns about whether ICE attorneys in New Jersey act appropriately to make sure immigrants are able to call local police for help and to contact the local police with their complaints.

Continued Immigration Judge Errors in Asylum Cases

Let's take a quick peek at whether the immigration court system (immigration judges followed by the BIA or Board of Immigration Appeals) is making mistakes that are only being caught by an appeal to a federal circuit court. Some lobbyists are urging Congress to limit circuit court review even more than it is already restricted. Would we find errors in asylum cases, which suggest review should be expanded to save asylum-seekers from errors?

Ali v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 18, 2008): BIA and IJ Alan Vomacka erred in denying CAT relief by denying the asylum-seeker a fair hearing through the IJ's "seeming bias against the petitioner and reliance on unfounded assumptions about homosexuals." The Second Circuit quoted comments by IJ Vomacka such as "It seems to the Court that the common understanding, which I believe would apply from the U.S. to Guyana, would suggest that violent dangerous criminals and feminine contemptible homosexuals are not usually considered to be the same people . . . ."

Li v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 13, 2008): BIA and IJ Barbara A. Nelson erred in rejecting asylum claim using legally inadequate reasons. To find someone's testimony too vague to be believed, the IJ must identify inconsistencies and give the asylum-seeker a chance to address them. An IJ cannot reject documents for the sole reason that the asylum-seeker did not follow an optional procedure in 8 CFR 287.6.

Barwari v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 30, 2008) (summary order): discussing amount government must pay to the asylum-seeker whose case was wrongly decided by the BIA in June 2006. Government must pay $6,600 in EAJA fees.

Hasanbelliu v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 30, 2008) (summary order): overturning IJ and BIA because it was not clear they recognize that a single event of what may seem like a minor beating can be considered past persecution when it was done in conjunction with an arrest or detention.

Sidy Barry v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 30, 2008) (summary order): IJ Paul A. DeFonzo and BIA erred by incorrectly saying there was no corroborating evidence and not addressing his explanation of apparent inconsistencies in his testimony.

Shu v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 27, 2008) (summary order): IJ Joanna Miller Bukszpan and BIA erred by ignoring how an attempt to sterilize a man is persecution.

Oumar v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 24, 2008) (summary order): IJ Michael W. Straus and BIA erred by improperly putting the burden of proof about firm resettlement on the asylum-seeker.

Dong v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 20, 2008) (summary order): IJ Thomas J. Mulligan and BIA erred by failing to consider and rule on the asylum-seeker's fear of future persecution based on the portion of the testimony that the IJ deemed credible.

Zheng v. Mukasey (2d Cir. June 13, 2008) (summary order): IJ Sandy K. Hom and BIA erred by not addressing the asylum-seeker's story that he was afraid of being arrested in case other people told the police about him or the police saw him outside a meeting, even if the police probably did not physically see him in that meeting. They also ignored certain corroborating evidence. (The Second Circuit specifies the BIA erred but does not make clear whether IJ Hom also made those same errors or whether it was something the BIA tacked on when it got the case.)