Monday, August 30, 2010

Maryland Immigration Court Grants Motion To Suppress

Congratulations to Maureen A. Sweeney along with her students Adam Crandall, Rama Taib, and Fariha Quasem at University of Maryland Law School in Baltimore for winning a suppression motion in Immigration Court before Immigration Judge Phillip T. Williams in Baltimore!

On August 5, 2010, Judge Williams granted the suppression motions and terminated one of the cases based on inappropriate sexual contact by an ICE agent. The inappropriate sexual contact rendered the ICE agents' Fourth Amendment violations to be egregious and Judge Williams suppressed the evidence.

Inappropriate touching by a male ICE agent while acting in his official capacity while a woman was in her bedroom in her bed clothing is offensive and shocking to the conscience of any reasonable person.

It is terrible that the woman had to suffer the grossly illegal actions of the ICE agent and it is no surprise that Judge Williams suppressed the evidence and terminated the case. Another person in the same case won the suppression motion but lost the case (unless it's overturned on appeal) based on details that came out during the hearing.

Congratulations to Maureen Sweeney, her team of students, and everyone else who worked on the case! It's another example of suppressing evidence in immigration court. Considering the repulsive illegal conduct by ICE agents in various cases, it may only be a matter of time before courts suppress evidence for all Fourth Amendment violations once courts conclude that the violations are widespread.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Human Rights Watch Reports About Sexual Abuse And Harasshment In Detention

Human Rights Watch released a report called Detained and at Risk: Sexual Abuse and Harassment in United States Immigration Detention.

The report describes documented incidents and allegations and abuse then goes on to express concerns that changes ICE is proposing would have limited impact if ICE only changes its standards rather than issuing binding legal regulations.

There has been more interest in this important issue since allegations in May 2010 that a guard employed by a contractor at a federal immigration facility called the T. Don Hutto facility in Texas had sexually assaulted several detainees. The police arrested that guard on August 19, 2010, on suspicion of official oppression and unlawful restraint.

The government should take a strong stance against illegal attacks on people being held under government power in detention centers. Legally binding regulations would be a sensible step considering all the allegations of wrongdoing under the current system, with mere standards.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Inter-American Commission On Human Rights Points Out US Deportation System Violates Human Rights

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded on July 12, 2010 that the United States is violating the human rights of immigrants under Articles V, VI, VII, XVIII, and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man by failing to provide an individualized balancing test in immigration court.

The case is Smith and Armendariz v. United States, Report No. 81/10, Case No. 12.562 (IACHR July 12, 2010).

A copy of the decision is at

Congratulations to the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Gibbs Houston Pauw, and the Center for Human Rights and Justice! The articles that the United States violated concern the right to private and family life, the right to family, the right to protection for mothers and children, the right to fair trial, and the right to due process of law.

In that specific case, the IACHR focused on how the United States refuses to allow immigration judges to consider anything about family life, family unity, or protecting mothers and children for most people who have green card status along with an aggravated felony conviction. As with tribunals around the world, the United States is required to protect basic rights. The United States system fails to provide adequate protection of fundamental rights by requiring what could essentially be considered mandatory deportation without allowing the immigration judge to consider the family, mothers, or children.

It is disappointing to read that in December 2009 the IACHR told the United States to help the plaintiffs in the case, but over six months later (in June 2010), the United States had repeatedly refused to help the men who won their case in front of the IACHR.

What's important to understand is that under the Supremacy Clause and Congress's intent to honor international human rights, there are arguments that immigration judges should agree with the same rationale that the IACHR used in its decision.

In a press release, the lawyers who worked on the case correctly urge the President and Congress to pass laws to make extremely clear that immigration judges must honor and respect international human rights, just as the IACHR ruled. It will be fascinating to see whether judges analyze the legal framework and will rule that immigration judges are required to honor international human rights even if the President and Congress have not yet passed laws to clarify the situation.

Monday, August 02, 2010

BIA Needs To Decide Cases Based On Facts Of Those Cases

Take a look at Lin v. Holder, No. 09-1269 (4th Cir. July 12, 2010). There, the BIA incorrectly based its ruling against someone seeking asylum from China on unrelated facts from someone else's case. The Fourth Circuit quickly ruled that if you rule on the case brought by Mr. Lin, you cannot rely on facts from the case of some other person named Mr. Liu. Even if the names are somewhat similar, they are different people and you need to make decisions based on the facts of your case, not some unrelated other person's case.

Will people in immigration court have to brace themselves for the possibility that the immigration judge will improperly rule against them based on the life story of a completely unrelated person, that an appeal to the BIA will improperly be denied, and that they will need to file a case with a federal court (assuming Congress does not restrict federal court review by then) just to force the judge to make a decision based on their lives, as opposed to someone else with a similar last name?