Nel's New Day

September 15, 2019

Immigration in the U.S.: The Center of Cruelty

Public opinion—aka outrage—about deporting approximately 1,000 seriously ill migrants, primarily children, by denying them any deferred status drew attention before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) moved Hurricane Dorian to Alabama. Families who must renew their medical deferred status every two years were notified in August that they would be automatically forced to leave the country within 33 days. After a backlash, DDT said he would reconsider the new policy that sends all these migrants to their certain death because they would lack health care, but he hasn’t provided a resolution.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, failed to appear for an emergency House hearing about the travesty, and Daniel Renaud, the associate director for field operations, said that he just follows orders. USCIS, formerly responsible for processing the deferral requests, handed all non-military requests over to ICE. ICE said it knew nothing about the change, and recipients of the deportation letters were not notified. Now ICE won’t address deferral requests until the subjects have an order of removal. The most recent information comes from American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Those people aren’t the only ones who DDT is killing. Last Thursday, ICE rushed the deportation to Cuba of Yoel Alonso Leal, an asylum-seeker with several serious medical conditions including a lung tumor. Over 100 physicians argued that he stay in the U.S. and warned that he might not even survive the flight. No matter—ICE refused to release him to his U.S. citizen wife and family for more tests and treatment. Leal said that Cuban authorities detained and assaulted him in 2016 and 2018 before he sought asylum. 

DDT already killed a man born in Greece 41 years ago, who legally came to the U.S. at less than a year of age, by deporting him to Iraq where he died without insulin for his diabetes. Jimmy Aldaoud never learned Arabic and was part of Detroit’s Chaldean Catholic community, targeted in Iraq by extremists. He was sent to Iraq because Greece doesn’t recognize birthright citizenship. Other Chaldeans, a conservative group, are also targeted for deportation, one of them for a years-old marijuana conviction that was dropped from his criminal record.

ICE also plans to kill detain immigrants by not vaccinating children for the flu. Despite the claim that detainees are held for only 72 hours, they can remain in detention for over a month. At least three people in government “care” have already died of the flu.

DDT also wants to terminate a program protecting undocumented family members of active-duty troops from deportation. Currently the program allows military family members illegally entering the U.S.—for example, overstaying a visa—who cannot adjust their immigration status to temporarily stay in the U.S. The program avoids distractions coming from worries about a spouse being deported and allows the spouse to apply for a green card. Already ICE doesn’t follow its own policies by deporting former service members and breaking the tradition of giving a path to citizenships for those who serve in the military—almost 130,000 since 2001. Last year, the Pentagon discharged immigrants with special skills recruited under George W. Bush’s program.

A lawsuit against Cuccinelli purports that all his directives are “invalid” because he “lacks the authority to serve as acting director.” Cuccinelli is also unqualified to serve in this position because he describes immigrants as rats although his job is to facilitate legal immigration. His new policies include fast-tracking initial screenings of asylum-seekers from 48 hours to a “full calendar day,” blocking them from preparing for interviews of seeing legal help. Cuccinelli is serving as “acting director” because GOP senators have doubted his appointment.

In another cruel form of current government bureaucracy, 37 asylum seekers accused of illegal entry were all processed at one time and expected to answer questions in unison. Public defendants had under two hours to talk with 41 defendants in one case. Unlike other courts under the judicial branch, immigration courts are under the control of DOJ AG Bill Barr. [Right: “Justice” under the reign of Barr and DDT.]

New tent courts recently established at the southern border will hear thousands of cases for asylum-seekers in closed hearings with no court observers unlike open immigration court proceedings. Attorneys are not allowed to participate although most asylum-seekers can’t get legal representation. Over 42,000 asylum-seekers are forced to wait in Mexico where they have been assaulted, kidnapped, and extorted. Others have let Mexico bus them to the middle of the country or the border of Guatemala. The hearings in the tent court facilities are via video teleconference, a serious problem from faulty equipment with poor video and sound quality that prevent due process. 

Last week, people believing in justice breathed a sigh of relief when a federal judge ruled that DDT cannot require asylum seekers to ask another country for shelter before seeking refuge in the U.S. According to DDT’s coerced agreement with Guatemala, people coming from Central America into Mexico must try and fail to obtain asylum in Guatemala before moving on to go through the same process in Mexico before seeking asylum in the U.S. Mexico had refused DDT’s negotiations, but he still forces the “third-country” asylum rule on that country. A 9th Circuit Court ruling against DDT’s new restriction had been only for the ten states in its jurisdiction, but Jon S. Tigar made that ruling consistent for the entire country to prevent “uneven enforcement.”

The relief ended when DDT’s U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay to that judge’s ruling until the courts settled the cases, a process taking and leaving the Supreme Court as the final decider—or “fixer” for DDT. The lower courts determined that DDT’s policy conflicts with existing immigration statutes, violates the requirements of administrative rulemaking, and completely blocks all asylum for people on the southern border unless they come from Mexico. The decision was not explained.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginzberg submitted a dissent stating that lower court decisions should be respected and a stay overturning a lower court is “extraordinary.” The Supreme Court should not be used for the government to ignore lower court litigation. DDT’s administration has made an “extraordinary” number of requests—20—to bypass normal procedures or lower court actions. In addition to procedural anomalies, the dissent pointed out that the goal of DDT’s asylum policy is acting in bad faith. Facts do not support their arguments and illustrated that the policy puts untold numbers of people in serious danger—which DDT and his co-authors know. The decision overturns a longstanding offer of safe refuge to the persecuted with no input before DDT loses on the case’s merits. The lower court determined that DDT’s new policy broke government rules, violated the law, and lacks justification by being arbitrary and capricious.

One group of immigrants that DDT wants to protect are Venezuelans. He thinks that it might help him win the state of Florida in the 2020 election.

Perhaps the worst part of immigration court is control by the DOJ instead of the judicial branch. DDT’s fixer AG, Bill Barr, promoted the six judges with higher rates of denying immigrants’ asylum to the immigration appeals court that can overturn lower court decisions. Two of them came from courts drawing complaints of unfair proceedings from attorneys and advocates, and a third denies asylum to domestic violence victims. The six comprise over one-fourth of the appellate board, and four are on the DDT-created Board of Immigration Appeals. Barr established a regulation giving himself the ability to make any appellate decision binding. DOJ sent an email to all immigration court employees with a link to an article from the white nationalist website VDare that “directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs.”

The DOJ also filed a petition to decertify the union of immigration judges with the claim that they are “management officials.” The Federal Labor Relations Authority refused this tactic over 20 years ago, but the new FLRA members mostly belong to DDT. Last year, the union fought the new DOJ quota system of completing 700 cases a year and “efficiency” procedures that could damage due process in court. DDT has appointed at least 43 percent of the 440 immigration judges; changing them to “management” would allow him to fire them at his whim.

While DDT torments and kills migrants, the asylum law is now at the center of his immigration battle. The law says: “Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States, whether or not at a designated port of arrival … may apply for asylum.”

Not satisfied with detaining only immigrants, DDT wants to incarcerate the homeless in a federal facility, starting his roundup in California to rile up his base for the 2020 election.

At his speech in Baltimore, DDT used a favorite term, “goddamn,” which the evangelical community hates. Texas megachurch leader and DDT supporter Rev. Robert Jeffress said, “I can take just about everything else, except [taking the Lord’s name in vain.” For evangelicals, cruelty, corruption, killing, abuse, lying, racism all okay, but “goddamn” crosses the line.

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