Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Allegedly Resigns over Release of Immigrant Detainees

The Associated Press reports that in a shocking move Gary Mead, Executive Associate Director, Enforcement and Removal Operations, has tendered his resignation over the release of a few hundred low priority immigrant detainees.  He apparently resigned via email.

In response ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen called the Associated Press report "inaccurate and misleading" stating that "Gary Mead announced several weeks ago to ICE senior leadership that he planned to retire after 40 years in federal service and 6 years at ICE. As planned, and as shared with ICE staff weeks ago, Mr. Mead will retire at the end of April." 

So who is Gary Mead? From Gary Mead's official bio:
Gary Mead is the Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Washington D.C. Mr. Mead oversees a $2.5 billion budget and 8,395 employees. ERO promotes public safety and national security by removing national security threats, high-risk criminal aliens, illegal alien fugitives, and absconders; and ensuring safe and effective custody management for more than 30,000 illegal aliens in custody each day. 
Between 1974 and 2006, he served in the U.S. Marshals Service where he held a number of Senior Executive Service law enforcement and administrative positions at the associate and assistant director levels. His areas of responsibility included Prisoner Operations, Asset Forfeiture, JPATS, Management and Budget, Human Resources, and the U.S. Marshals Service Training Academy. Between 2006 and 2008, he served as the assistant director for management, deputy director and acting director for the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations (currently, ERO). From 2008 to 2009, Mr. Mead was a self-employed criminal justice and immigration consultant. He returned to ICE in November 2009 as deputy assistant director, and then assistant director, of Detention Management. 
Mr. Mead holds a master's degree and has received two Senior Executive Service Presidential Rank Awards.
In related news, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney when asked about the release read a prepared comment that stated that the White House was not responsible for the decision to release "low-risk, non-criminal detainees" revealing that: "This was a decision made by career officials at ICE without any input from the White House, as a result of fiscal uncertainty over the continuing resolution, as well as possible sequestration."  


No explanation was provided by the White House as to why these "low-risk, non-criminal detainees" were in custody in the first place.

After long ordeal involving multiple trials, appeals, and remands waiver of inadmissibility granted for 5 years

Our client is a Canadian citizen and a well respected and successful businessman. Years ago when he was a teenager, he was convicted of two minor offenses which the United States Government claims barred him for life from entering the United States. Because he had business and personal interests in the United States, he retained us to assist him.

We reviewed the situation and researched the law and came to the conclusion that he was not inadmissible to the United States. We had Immigration Court proceedings instituted for the purpose of having an Immigration Judge (IJ) determine his admissibility. After a trial, the IJ agreed with our position and entered an Order to that effect. The Government appealed the Decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

The BIA reversed the IJ and remanded the case to him with instructions limiting his ability to rule in our client’s favor. We had a second trial and the IJ ruled against our client in accordance with the Order of the BIA. This time we appealed to the BIA, and were successful on that appeal, and the BIA this time remanded the proceeding back to the IJ without limiting instructions. We had a third trial.

Again we were successful on our client’s behalf. The Government appealed the IJ’s Decision to the BIA and they again reversed.

At this point, we advised our client not to appeal the BIA Decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and advised him to apply for a Nonimmigrant Waiver of Inadmissibility and Permission to Reapply for Admission prior to the expiration of the five year life of the Order.

We prepared the Applications, supplemented them with appropriate documentary evidence, and wrote legal briefs on his behalf. The Admissibility Review Office (ARO) in Washington, DC approved the waiver for the longest period of time allowed under the law, namely 5 years.

It is unusual for the ARO to grant for the longest period of time upon the first application. The first grant is usually for one year. However, considering all of the facts and circumstances, the ARO may have found our arguments persuasive notwithstanding the last BIA Decision which was binding upon them. In addition, the ARO granted Consent to Reapply, which means that our client can apply for admission to the United States without having any further delays. Our client is pleased with the result.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Political Stunt Related to Looming Sequester Results in Release of Immigrant Detainees

Yesterday, social media was all a buzz with rumors that nationwide low-priority immigrant detainees were being released from detention faciltities.  Turns out the rumors were true.  ICE spokesperson Gillian Christiansen confired the reports stating: "ICE has directed field offices to review the detained population to ensure it is in line with available funding."

I have heard that many/most of the individuals being released have been detained for minor traffic offenses, or other low level violations, in some instances for many months.  These people should have been released months ago.

Does anyone else find it troubling that it takes a political stunt related to a budget shortfall for the administration to actually implement their "smart" enforcement guidelines?

Par for the course.

Click here for the source of this story.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Impact of the Sequester on the Immigration Courts

The Washington Post reports that the imminent sequester will result in a loss of $15 million of funding to immigration Courts, which will trigger a hiring freeze on all "key critical positions" including new immigration judges.  Also on the chopping block: interpreters, legal support and I.T. staff.

Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the hiring freeze will result in a 6% increase of backlogged removal hearings bringing the number to 350,000.  On average it takes approximately 550 days to bring an immigration court case from institution to completion.  Expect that number to increase as well.

Click here to the source of the story.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nonimmigrant Waiver of Inadmissibility Approved

Our client is a native of India and citizen of Canada. He is a well respected businessman. Unfortunately, in the 1990s, two Removal Orders were issued against him finding him to be inadmissible to the United States for fraud and willful misrepresentation of a material fact. The underlying ground is a lifetime bar preventing admission to the United States. In addition, he was inadmissible to the United States for a period of 20 years as a result of the two Removal Orders.

In 2011, we applied for Permission To Reapply in order to eliminate the inadmissibility as a result of the two Removal Orders, and separately applied for a Nonimmigrant Waiver of Inadmissibility. Both applications were approved which enabled him to enter the United States as a nonimmigrant, but only for a period of one year, which is the usual length of time for which first waiver applications are approved. Our client again retained us to apply for a renewal of his Nonimmigrant Waiver of Inadmissibility. He was no longer inadmissible as a result of the two Removal Orders because permission to reapply had been granted. However, the inadmissibility for fraud remained. We prepared a second application for a waiver, along with our legal brief and written documentation indicating why the waiver should be granted by the Department of Homeland Security.

The waiver was approved for a period of five years, which is the longest period of time allowable for nonimmigrant waivers. Our client is now eligible to apply for admission as a nonimmigrant visitor for business and pleasure and to apply for admission as an Intra-Company Transferee, should he desire to expand his businesses in the United States.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Vast Majority" of Immigration Detainers Do NOT Involve Criminal Aliens

Syracuse University's TRAC immigration has sifted through 50 months worth of data spanning back to Fiscal Year 2008 finding that during this period ICE issued almost one million immigration detainers to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.  Statistics show that 72.7% of all individuals that were the subject of an immigration detainer were citizens of Mexico. 

When an immigration detainer (immigration hold) is issued law enforcement agents are required to turn over a suspect to the Department of Homeland Security for the purpose of instituting removal proceedings upon conclusion of the criminal investigation (i.e., traffic stop) or the ultimate disposition of the criminal matter if charged with a crime.  More than 3,500 local, state and federal agencies have received at least one detainer since 2008.

It should be noted that an individual suspected of an immigration violation does not need to be convicted of a crime, nor be subject to removal under a criminally related ground for an immigration hold to be issued.  All that is required is that law enforcement suspect the individual subject to a criminal investigation is in violation of U.S. immigration law.

In more than two out of three (77.4%) of the detainers issued by ICE, the record shows that the individual who had been identified had no criminal record — either at the time the detainer was issued or subsequently. For the remaining 22.6 percent that had a criminal record, only 8.6 percent of the charges were classified as a Level 1 offense.
TRAC has been stymied by the administration who "inexplicably withheld" information that further breaks down the 22.6% criminal record statistic.  As for the nature of the crimes that result in an individual being classified as "serious" offender, TRAC previously determined that:
[T]he ICE basis for classifying individuals as "serious" offenders — that is, Level 1 — appears to be flawed, since their records show that all too often the most serious Level 1 offenders have only been convicted of traffic violations and immigration violations (illegal entry) rather than some more serious offense. Accordingly, it appears likely that far fewer than even this small proportion of 8.6 percent actually would meet the more objective standards of having been convicted of crimes that pose a serious threat to national security or public safety.
To add insult to injury, TRAC determined that since FY 2008 ICE has issued immigration detainers against 834 United States citizens.  

Click here to read the rest of TRAC's report.  It is certainly worth your time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2012 Emails outline New Tactics proposed to "Ratchet up" Criminal Deportations for Individuals Charged with Minor Crimes

The USA Today reports that last year immigration officials had ongoing discussion relating the need to "ratchet up" deportations of individuals convicted of minor crimes because the agency was falling way short of their criminal deportation quotas.  Apparently, criminal deportations had drastically fallen from the year before and senior ICE officials in Washington instructed regional enforcement chiefs to get the numbers back up.

Some of the tactics considered in internal ICE emails are as follows:
  1. "Trolling" state driver's license records for information about foreign-born applicants;
  2. "Dispatching" ICE agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments; and 
  3. Processing more immigrants booked into jails for low-level criminal charges (i.e., driving while brown).
In a masterful display of political spinnery ICE spokesperson Gillian Christensen issued a statement that "ICE does not have quotas." Instead, she explained that the agency has "annual performance goals" that "reflect the agency's commitment to using the limited resources provided by Congress." No statement was made regarding whether ICE is utilizing any of the above listed "tactics" to meet their "annual performance goals."

Incidentally, ICE has also not released information about how many of the 225,390 "criminal deportations" from FY2012 involved individuals that were encountered after a "routine traffic stop."

Click here to read the original article.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Obama to Continue Vigorous Enforcement of Immigration Laws

Yesterday the President had a meeting with labor and business leaders at the White House on immigration. Members of the AFL-CIO, NAACP, and CEOs from Coca Cola, Goldman Sachs and Yahoo were in attendance.  

The President was asked if he would consider a change to his deportation policies until immigration reform legislation has a chance to make its way through Congress.  There was a record breaking 409,849 people deported during the last fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2012.  The President indicated that he has no intention to ease up on enforcement.  
lso yesterday, House Republicans held the first Congressional hearing on immigration reform where they rejected the inclusion of a "pathway to citizenship" as a central component of reform legislation.

It has become abundantly clear to me that if there is any hope of reform passing this year advocates must be willing to accept an imperfect solution.  As I have stated in previous blogs I could live with a deal that included the creation of a temporary renewable nonimmigrant legal status that permits individuals to work and travel, so long as it also allows them to apply for a Green Card inside the United States if they acquire a qualifying relative or employer to sponsor them. Couple this with changes to both the employment and family based visa system and we would have a solution that would "legalize" people, and to use the common vernacular, get them "in the back of the line."  Only there would be a line, and it would be of reasonable size.

This stop gap measure would solve two problems: 1. it would permit 11 million people to come out of the shadows and live without fear of deportation; and 2. it would placate those on the right that see a pathway to citizenship as amnesty that rewards lawbreakers.

We all must understand the political realities we face. The GOP will not back a bill that contains an immediate pathway to citizenship, and you can't get reform legislation passed without them. As such, we need to embrace a solution that affords 11 million people an opportunity to follow the law without destroying their family. The solution simply does not need to be perfect to effectuate that goal.

Please do not allow principle to override practicality, as making the GOP look bad to win elections is NOT the goal here. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Are the "Vast Majority" of Deportees REALLY Criminal Aliens?

The President was quoted yesterday in defense of his deportation record.  He stated that: "What we've seen is that the people who are being deported, the vast majority of them now are criminals." 

Really Mr. President?

If we are to believe the statistics released by ICE it is estimated there were more than 400,000 people deported in 2012, of which approximately 50% were "convicted criminals."  Hardly a vast majority as the President would have you believe.  

But the 400,000 deportations question is: should we REALLY believe these statistics?  The following is from Syracuse University's TRAC Immigration:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is identifying fewer individuals as deportable owing to alleged criminal activity, according to the latest Immigration Court data on new deportation proceedings. During the most recent quarter (January - March 2012), ICE sought to deport a total of 5,450 individuals on criminal grounds. While this number is preliminary and is likely to increase once late reports are in, it represents a drastic decrease compared with 10,732 individuals against whom ICE sought deportation orders just two years ago (during the period January - March 2010). 
But let's delve deeper into the allegation by quoting another statistic of note:  In 2012, there was a 168.7% increase in federal criminal prosecutions for immigration related crimes from what was the norm in 2007.  The most heavily prosecuted crime being unlawful rentry.  In fact, nationwide, illegal rentry under 8 U.S.C. § 1326 was the most commonly recorded criminal charge brought by federal prosecutors in 2011.

So what does this all mean?

The Obama administration is prosecuting individuals for immigration related offenses at unprecedented levels, and by doing so they are turning mere immigration violators, people whose only crime is a violation of United States immigration law, into "criminal aliens" so that the statistics will reflect a deportation of a criminal alien.  In September 2012 alone there were 8,132 new immigration related criminal convictions... and you can bet that every single one of them was deported through the reinstatement of a previous order of removal, and never had the opportunity to request relief from removal before an immigration judge.

Now I'm not saying that individuals should be committing immigration violations, or for that matter criminal violations for returning to the United States after they have been ordered removed.  Far from it.  We are a nation of laws and our laws need to be respected by all.  What I am saying is that the administration is padding their criminal deportation statistics by loading the deck with newly minted "criminal aliens."

That brings me to my next point.  In compiling the statistics what does the Obama administration count as being a "criminal alien?"

According to TRAC Immigration the administration's definition of "criminal alien" includes: individuals convicted of serious offenses like armed robbery, drug smuggling, and human trafficking, AND people found guilty of minor violations of the law such as traffic offenses, or in more basic terms people guilty of the offense of driving while brown.

So what does this mean?

The Obama administration is counting people that have minor traffic offenses that have absolutely no immigration consequences at all as criminal aliens, even when they are being deported for mere immigration violations such as a visa overstay, and not under criminal grounds of removal.

How does that sit with you?

Since we are on the topic of statistics, Tanya Golash-Boza, Associate professor of sociology at University of California-Merced, recently released a report entitled:  "Mapping the Shift from Border to Interior Enforcement of Immigration Laws during the Obama Presidency."   

The report found, among other things, that by 2014 the Obama administration will have deported over 2 million people, which is more deportations in six years than the entire number of people ever deported before 1997. The report further found that between July 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2012, there were 204,810 deportations of parents with U.S. citizen children.

I'll leave you with a quote that was made by ICE Director John Morton at the infancy of his appointment: "This isn't a question of whether or not we will detain people. We will detain people, and we will detain them on a grand scale." 

At least he wasn't lying to us.