Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Immigration' Category

Will Plan for New Immigration Judges do the Job?

451807226To deal with torrents of Central American children and families flooding the nation’s border with Mexico, President Obama wants to hire 40 new immigration judges. However, that may not bring enough help and may not be timely, said the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

“Clearly, what President Obama has requested is an excellent first step. That said, we are very concerned that it will not be sufficient to deal with the long-term scarcity of resources that the immigration courts have had to deal with, coupled with the current surge,” Dana Leigh Marks of the San Francisco immigration court told KPBS radio news.

Meanwhile the Daily Caller reported, “Obama Tells Judges to Decide Border Meltdown Cases First.”

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JAS Supports Immigration Bill Amendment on Court Funding

With an eye on bipartisan immigration reform legislation before the Senate, Justice at Stake has voiced its support for an amendment proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would provide funding to support new costs incurred by the judiciary.

“[W]e must ensure that the courts have the resources to do what the legislation might require, including the adjudication of thousands of additional applications for citizenship,” wrote Praveen Fernandes, acting JAS director of policy and advocacy, in a letter to congressional leaders. “Quite simply, the judiciary wants the resources necessary to faithfully discharge its duties under the Constitution and all federal laws, including any duties entailed by the passage of new laws.”

Earlier this week, Gavel Grab mentioned  support for the amendment from the Judicial Conference of the United States.

The amendment “would authorize funds from the Comprehensive Immigration Trust Fund to be used to support any additional obligations that the Judiciary might face as a result of passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation,” Fernandes wrote.

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U.S. Judiciary Voices Support for Immigration Bill Amendment

The Judicial Conference of the United States says a bipartisan immigration bill in the Senate, if passed, would “have a tremendous impact on the workload of the courts.” In a letter, it voiced support for an amendment proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would provide funding to support new costs incurred by the judiciary.

The letter to Feinstein was dated June 13 and signed by Thomas Hogan, secretary of the Judicial Conference, which administers the federal court system.

Regarding the immigration reform bill, the letter said, “If enacted, S. 744 will have serious resource implications for the federal courts. The significant increased resources authorized for Executive Branch agencies to expand border enforcement, adjudicate thousands of applications for citizenship, as well as new and increased criminal penalties, will have a tremendous impact on the workload of the courts. Yet, as reported from the Judiciary Committee on May 23, 2013, S. 744 does not include a specific authorization of funding for the Judiciary to address the increased workload that will come from implementation of the new bill.”

The letter said the federal judiciary supports an amendment by Feinstein and Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware that would authorize money from the Comprehensive Immigration Trust Fund — to be set up under the legislation — to go to “support costs of the Judiciary to implement the Act.”

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Arizona Appeals Immigration Ruling to Supreme Court

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has asked the Supreme Court to lift an injunction that halted the most controversial sections of her state’s new immigration law from taking effect.

Brewer seeks a ruling that could free Arizona and other states to invoke aggressive enforcement against illegal immigrants, according to a Los Angeles Times article.  “Arizona bears the brunt of the problems caused by illegal immigration [and] is the gateway to nearly half of the nation’s illegal border crossings,”  former Solicitor General Paul Clement said on behalf of Arizona.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put on hold in July 2010 sections of the Arizona law that call for police to check an individual’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that require immigrants to carry their legal papers all of the time (see Gavel Grab). In April, a panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Bolton. Read more

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Mayor: Appeals Court Vacates Ruling in Immigration Case

Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi of Hazleton, Pa. said the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated a mandate that found unconstitutional his city’s immigration ordinances.

According to a Standard Speaker article, the latest development followed on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court order in June.  The Supreme Court directed the Third Circuit to reconsider its ruling that Hazleton may not enforce its crackdown on illegal immigrants (see Gavel Grab).

The appeals court had said Hazleton could not enforce regulations that would fine landlords if they rent to illegal immigrants and that would deny permits to businesses that employ illegal immigrants.

The Supreme Court order in June followed its decision upholding an Arizona employer-sanctions law.

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Immigration Courts Backlog Reaches All-Time High

Just how bad is the backlog of cases in federal immigration courts?

Gavel Grab has been updating readers regularly about the  backlog, and a Philadelphia Inquirer article does an exceptional job of capturing the problem in Pennsylvania:

“Seven judges. Five thousand cases. New filings heaped onto their crowded dockets every day.

“Digging into the backlog of pending cases in federal immigration courts in Pennsylvania is like using a spoon to empty an ocean.”

This compelling article turns to Dana Leigh Marks (photo), president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, to portray in equally forceful terms the enormous gap between funding for the courts and money for enforcement. She says the courts are left with inadequate resources:

“You have heard of the tail of the dog? I would say we’re the tick on the tail of the dog.” Read more

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Priest's Tale Reveals Overloaded Immigration Courts

Roman Catholic priest Robert Vitaglione has been taking on a huge caseload of legal representation of immigrants in court for decades. The only problem: he is not a lawyer.

Father Vitaglione has done his best to represent immigrants in New York, but has finally been instructed not to do so any more. The New York Times reports: “Disheveled and disorganized, Father Vitaglione sometimes jeopardized cases with his erratic behavior, according to a federal finding.” He began taking on more cases than were manageable and some of his work began to fall through the cracks, resulting in poor outcomes for his clients.

The departure of Father Vitaglione has exposed a gaping hole in representation for immigrants. Emergency meetings have been convened to address the even greater lack of representation for immigrants, in the wake of Vitaglione’s departure. He was not the only nonlawyer representing illegal immigrants, a practice permitted in immigration courts. The article reports:

“New York has dozens of these so-called accredited representatives. But none had the caseload or recognition of Father Vitaglione, who was known inside the courthouses as Father Bob. He had more clients than the Legal Aid Society’s entire immigration unit.”

Opinions differ on whether “Father Bob” was providing a service that helped keep overloaded court dockets moving, or if he was simply masking the extent of the problem. That problem, however, is undeniable; sixty percent of detained immigrants and twenty seven percent of nondetained immigrants were unrepresented in court in New York in 2009. The article continues:

“Immigrants who represent themselves also slow down a system with no room for slack. Each judge’s docket can reach 2,000 cases, and immigrants without lawyers are left with only judges to explain technicalities, help with paperwork and assume some responsibilities of counsel.”

Many lawyers hope this will be a wake-up call for the legal community, and it will find a solution for the vastly inadequate representation in immigration courts. Until then, Father Bob continues to “supervise” cases taken on by his organization, the Committee of Our Lady of Loreto for Hispanic Immigration Affairs.

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Thursday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • President Reagan’s nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court 30 years ago is the topic of a commentary in Huffington Post by Meg Waite Clayton.
  • Talk among some liberals that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ought to retire, for reasons of political timing, is analyzed by Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter in Bloomberg and is critiqued by James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal. Taranto’s column is headlined, “Ruthless People.”
  •  Saying the federal immigration court in Las Vegas is “swamped,” a Las Vegas (Nevada) Sun editorial calls for immigration reform with this exhortation in the headline: “Republicans should quit blocking debate on how to fix a broken policy.”
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Second Look at PA City Immigration Rules Ordered

A federal appeals court was directed by the Supreme Court on Monday to reconsider its ruling that Hazleton, Pa. may not enforce its crackdown on illegal immigrants.

The Supreme Court, drawing on its recent decision that upheld an Arizona employer-sanctions law (see Gavel Grab), threw out an earlier ruling by the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Associated Press reported.

The appeals court had said Hazleton could not enforce regulations that would fine landlords if they rent to illegal immigrants and that would deny permits to businesses that employ illegal immigrants.

“It is … not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration policy is warranted. We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress,” wrote Chief Judge Theodore McKee of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (see Gavel Grab).

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Sanctions on Employers of Illegal Immigrants Upheld

The Supreme Court upheld on Thursday an Arizona law that sanctions employers for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, and it said such employers can lose their license to do business.

The 5-3 opinion represented a defeat for some civil rights groups who brought the challenge along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and for the Obama administration, according to a Los Angeles Times article. This coalition contended that under federal law,  states are not allowed to impose “civil or criminal sanctions” on employers.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who wrote the majority opinion, said the challenged Arizona law was similar to ones enacted recently by Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, according to a New York Times report.

Roberts wrote that part of federal law clearly permits states to penalize employers by using their “licensing” statutes. In the decision, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, he was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Dissenting, with the view that states are barred by federal law from setting immigration-related mandates on businesses, were Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Elena Kagan stepped aside from participating in the case. The former U.S. solicitor general has recused herself from hearing a number of matters where she had some involvement in a case in lower courts.

Critics said the Arizona law amounted to a “business death penalty” (see Gavel Grab).

The ruling did not involve a more controversial Arizona immigration law that would allow local police a larger role in arresting people whom they suspect came illegally to the United States.

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