Half a Million Cases and Counting
It is being reported that there are over half a million pending cases in the federal immigration courts. The number has grown by over 200,000 over the past five years, which is attributed to the increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the border. CBS DFW writes:
Cases of newly arrived immigrants facing deportation have been made a priority, but the backlog still means that many immigrants are likely to face years long delays before a judge makes a final decision on their cases. And while people are waiting to go before a judge, their case could dramatically change, for good or bad.
A spokesperson for the courts reported that there have been 34 immigration judges hired since the beginning of the year and that there are plans to hire an additional 100 judges. A pending budget proposal would allow for a total of 399 immigration court judges.
Refugee and Asylum Report for 2014
The Office of Immigration Statistics for the Department of Homeland Security released information on the Refugee and Asylum programs for 2014. Here are some highlights:
- 69,975 people were admitted as refugees. Iraq, Burma, Somalia, and Bhutan were the leading countries of nationality. 74% of all refugees came from those four countries. The refugee cap was 70,000 for the year.
- 23,533 people were granted asylum. DHS granted asylum to 14,758 of them. The Executive Office for Immigration Review granted asylum to the remaining 8,775 people.
- 55% of admitted refugees live in ten states. Texas, California, New York, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Illinois are the states in order of highest number of arriving refugees.
- China, Egypt, Syria, and Ethiopia had the most granted asylum cases. China accounted for over a third of all asylum grants. Mexico was number 7, Haiti was number 9, Guatemala was number 10.
- 47% of those individuals granted asylum in 2014 reside in California.
No Appeal for You:
1st Circuit Court Says No Visa Revocation Appeal
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit decided that judicial review is precluded concerning the revocation of visa petition approvals. The Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security have the discretionary power to revoke visa petition approvals and to do so without the affected party (parties) having an appeal process.
The First Circuit is the eighth circuit court to rule in this way. It concurs with the majority of the circuit courts in the country, with the reasoning that the statute is unmistakably clear. It is a clear manifestation of Congressional intent that a visa can be revoked without appeal.
Many consular decisions do not have an appeals process. For example, someone who has a visa petition denied under INA 214(b) does not have the ability to appeal that decision. That person just needs to try again with a new petition.
ICE Raids in January
The Washington Post reported last week that the Obama Administration is planning to direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to conduct raids on individuals who have orders of removal against them in absentia. The individuals are mostly from Central America and because their orders are in absentia, their cases for relief have not been heard by an immigration judge. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is an agency with the Department of Homeland Security, and it is responsible for securing the United States internally. Part of those responsibilities include seeking out individuals who are not authorized to be present in the United States.
The individuals targeted for removal have final orders against them, but in absentia means that for whatever reason, the immigration judge placed an order of removal against them when they were not present at their hearings. They may not even know that an order of removal is placed against them. The move by the Obama Administration seems to take a stark contrast to its recent years on the subject of unauthorized migrants. In 2012, an executive order for Deferred Action enabled millions of “Dreamers” to gain temporary legal stay. In 2014, additional executive actions sought to expand Deferred Action to more migrants without status, though their legality is currently being contested in courts. Before those executive actions, however, the Obama Administration was removing individuals at record rates.
Given that the presidential elections are less than a year away and primary season is just about to kick off, each action that the Obama Administration takes on immigration will have consequences in the election and for the candidates.
Difficulties for Women and Children in Finding Legal Representation for Asylum Cases
The Chicago Reporter posted a story yesterday on the obstacle that asylum seekers in Chicago face in findings lawyers. There are immigration courts in cities across the United States, including Chicago. The Chicago Immigration Court has seen nearly 1,500 cases of women with children in the past year and only 14% are represented by lawyers. According to TRAC at Syracuse University, that is less than half of the national average. TRAC’s data also reports that women and children who have an attorney representing them in their asylum cases are sixteen times more likely to be allowed to remain in the United States.
There are many issues that contribute to this current state. Whereas the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees that a defendant standing trial in criminal court is entitled to competent representation, the same protections do not exist in Immigration Court. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment does not carry the same robust guarantees. Chicago’s Immigration Court alone has 450,000 cases pending. We blogged this week that Immigration Court is facing its worst backlog in history. One judge in Chicago is assigned to each case involving unaccompanied children and women with children. An immigration judge in San Francisco believes that attorneys are important to resolving the crisis because representation “helps judges make the decisions they need with the information they need, and to work through those cases both more quickly and more fairly.”
Asylum can be a difficult legal standard for a seeker to meet, especially for individuals from certain countries with certain claims (gang-related claims from Central America require an exceptional angle). They can be notoriously difficult to prove with evidence and credibility needs to be established. It is also a discretionary form of relief, meaning that meeting the standard for it is not enough to merit a favorable decision.