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America’s ICE Backwards Approach to Immigration

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Posted on Jun 29, 2009
AP photo / Khampha Bouaphanh

The U.S. has hired thousands of Border Patrol agents and prosecutors while adding only three immigration judges since 2006. The result is a clogged system that leaves immigrants and even U.S. citizens in prison limbo.

By Andrew Becker and Hugo Cabrera, CIR

(Page 2)

The nature of cases heard by immigration judges, combined with case overload and long hours, makes the work of judges especially stressful and puts them at particular risk of burnout, the report states. Such burnout can lead to emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, loss of compassion and cynicism.

Judge Denise Slavin, vice president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told CIR that the problem could be mostly addressed if there were more judges with better resources.

When asked about the courts’ workload, Elaine Komis, a spokeswoman for EOIR, acknowledged that immigration judges continue to face challenging caseloads, but added that they handle them “admirably well.”

“It is important to note that only a relatively low percentage of cases decided by the immigration judges and BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals) members are ever appealed, and of that small number, almost 90 percent are affirmed at the appellate court level nationwide,” she said. “We think this speaks well for the performance of our agency.”

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Decisions in sensitive asylum cases have lacked uniformity and have even drawn criticism from appellate courts. The lack of uniformity is not surprising, given the beleaguered immigration courts and judges. However, there have been recent signs of improvement, according to TRAC.

A Department of Justice spokesman recently told The New York Times that the growing backlog of cases highlighted by TRAC “doesn’t mean that courts are overwhelmed or inefficient,” but rather that backlogs are the result of cases becoming more legally complex or unusual.

One immigration judge told surveyors that, while the law has gotten exponentially more complex and time pressures have made work much more grueling, resources such as clerks have all but disappeared.

And the Justice Department’s 2009 congressional budget submission points out that immigration courts failed to meet two of three time-oriented performance goals for 2007, narrowly missing targets “due to a large number of immigration judge vacancies and an increase in the detained caseload.”

The report continues: “EOIR’s adjudication functions are part of the government’s larger immigration and border control programs. As such, EOIR’s ability to adjudicate cases in a timely fashion allows the larger system to operate more efficiently, including the efficient utilization of DHS detention bed spaces.”

As courts become increasingly saddled with work, the need for them to maintain adequate transparency is, more than ever, critical.

A recent article in The Nation on the lack of transparency of some immigration courts points out that although the court’s policy is for hearings to be open, except in certain situations, that’s not always the case. Jacqueline Stevens, a law and society professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, describes how she was refused entry to immigration court inside two detention facilities in Arizona. The reasons why she was kept out, she argues, had nothing to do with the certain exceptions.

Indeed, immigration courts have some quirky ways. Members of the public and reporters who want to attend hearings are allowed to observe, but, as the Immigration Courts Practice Manual emphasizes, news media are “strongly encouraged” to give the court administrator a heads-up before sitting in on court, whether the hearing is held at a detention center or not.

Andrew Becker is a staff reporter at the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization in Berkeley, Calif. Hugo Cabrera is a CIR researcher.


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By Paracelsus, July 2, 2009 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment

This is inhuman and unconstitutional.  Please take all history into account here, and remember that what is happening to so-called “illegal” immigrants (including children-if you are human you should know of these) is wrong and bad for everyone, including you and your family.

It is constitutional for the nation to defend its borders. I refer you to Article 4 Section 4. It is inhuman for illegal alien parents to subject their children to their unlawful activities. It would be the same for children of criminal parents. The state is not responsible for the illegalities of parents in regard to their children. The state can be a ward of the children or it can award custody to suitable parents. In the case of natural children of illegal aliens, the children can go back with their parents or be adopted by natural citizens of the US. We should keep in mind that our government ideally treats its citizens or aliens as individuals who must make account for themselves. I do not think of illegal aliens as a collective who have political rights or political power. I see them as a large group of individuals, who are subject to our legal process for illegally entering or staying in our country. It is inhuman to allow an invasion of criminals to dilute the franchise of legal aliens and citizens. This is an ancient legal precept that goes way back in the history of nations.

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By Dey, July 2, 2009 at 10:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Paracelsus,

People like you help government take over.  This is inhuman and unconstitutional.  Please take all history into account here, and remember that what is happening to so-called “illegal” immigrants (including children-if you are human you should know of these) is wrong and bad for everyone, including you and your family.  Pretty soon, you will say or do something that is a threat to the powers that be and you will too be deemed an enemy -no rights and no regard for your circumstances. No, I am not talking about separate issues here. State’s are losing sovereignty and being forced to take big government funds in exchange for take over of the state, government take over of banks ..., I could go on forever.  There is more at stake and it’s bigger than your content little self.

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By ardee, July 2, 2009 at 3:13 am Link to this comment

Quinty, July 1 at 9:29 pm #

This article confirms my suspicions that a lot of ICE’s problems are due to
severe understaffing.
..............................

Or, more likely, a faulty paradigm.

An estimated twelve million illegals within our borders does not seem to lend itself to police or military actions, especially when attempts to resolve the illegal employment issue are not undertaken with any degree of competency.

If we wish to stem the tide of folks coming here in order to survive we must deal with the issues that make that survival impossible in their own nations. But, sadly, it is far easier to demonize the illegals than reform our shoddy and execrable business practices.

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By Quinty, July 1, 2009 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

This article confirms my suspicions that a lot of ICE’s problems are due to
severe understaffing.

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By Paracelsus, July 1, 2009 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

Apply this same view to the middle east and change “White to “Israeli” and “Latino” to “Palestinian” and “The Contingent” will be calling you a Zionist-racist.

Why is it people have such situational ethics that they only see the context and not the illogic or inconsistency?  (of course, as my mom would say, “It’s all about whose ox is gored”.)

You have an excellent point, but Israel is not as blessed in its conquest and confiscation of land from the natives. Israel would have to completely dispossess and annihilate the Arab population within its borders in the same fashion as the U.S government liquidated the Indian population. Theodore Herzel said as much back in 1920 when confronted with problems of the native Palestinian population. I recall it took about 3 generations for the Norman kings of England to subdue the native Welsh, who were the old Celtics who moved west to avoid the earlier Anglo-Saxon invasions. I think the Israel project took place during a period of increased scrutiny and sensitivity toward issues of colonialism. I can see that South Africa had the same sort of problems. Had both these nations consolidated and killed off their nemesis populations in an earlier period of time, it would have been regrettable ancient history. (Nationalism is frequently genocidal.) Progressive professors would have shed tears over a tragic incident in history. Timing is everything.
Of course I am talking in realpolitik and I think the British and French mandates were bad ideas. I relay these ideas as not my own, but as the thinking of a militaristic elite. Eventually Israel will present itself as a uniquevolksgemeinschaft. The old PLO and the other liberation groups exist as professional revolutionary organizations for as long as they have an unwinable cause that still brings in money, the leadership will be able to live in luxury. Moslems are rather irredentist when it comes to winning back conquered lands. Given the Islamic invasions of Italy and Spain, we could be talking many generations. I think it is the British way to push antagonistic populations up against each other. Anyhow Israel will have to look for another sponsor for its garrison state, because the end of the American imperium is drawing nigh: we’re broke. I suppose Israel could make some deals with Arab monarchs who have restless angry subjects. They could become the Swiss of the Middle East. Their military acumen is legendary.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment

Paracelsus, June 30 at 11:57 pm #

@ Maxim Y


BTW, before the WWI, even passports were not required to immigrate to the US. Chances are your ancestors were no better qualified to come here than the illegals of today.

I don’t care if my ancestors were immigrants. I refuse to allow illegal aliens into the country. Is that unfair? I don’t care. Hard cheese! I find the attitude of illegal aliens insufferable. I once asked an illegal alien working at the Walmart, “Se habla ingles?”
She asked, “Why? Are you from England.” No lawbreaker, I am from the United States, and around here we speak English when doing business here. As if I have to speak Nahuatle to get any credibility from her. Bite me! Our founding fathers warred and pillaged and murdered to conquer land. I acknowledge that, but I will not let the guilt of my ancestors turn me into an over obliging moron. If you are an illegal alien you should leave! Our forefathers stole this continent fair and square just as any other tribal group in the Americas would have done if they had horses and guns. If you illegal aliens want it back you have to steal it back via armed force, none of this invasion by stealth through illegal migration. (Yes, I know that not all illegal aliens are Mexican or Latino, but the plurality of them happen to be from Mexico.) BTW, it was the threat of the Zimmerman telegram, where the Germans offered the Mexicans support in conquering the Southwest that finally pushed Wilson to declare war against the Central Powers of WW I. And don’t give me any crap about being racist because I knew an obnoxious fellow from college who was a member of La Raza, and he was all about Chicanos invading the Southwest to establish Azatlan. He told me white people ought to be careful once the invasion is over. He was as racist as they come. He said he was so superior because he was not a hairy ape like a white man. Then he went on about white people not having culture. I am tired of the crap.

*************************************************

Apply this same view to the middle east and change “White to “Israeli” and “Latino” to “Palestinian” and “The Contingent” will be calling you a Zionist-racist.

Why is it people have such situational ethics that they only see the context and not the illogic or inconsistency?  (of course, as my mom would say, “It’s all about whose ox is gored”.)

Report this

By hidflect, June 30, 2009 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment

I think Paracelsus’ reaction shows one thing. For whatever reason, turning a blind eye to immigration doesn’t work. Nobody wants to insistthe illegal to be cringingly thankful everywhere they go especially with the conditions they labor under. but as he says, who needs the resulting attitude? I think he’s arguing from the right and I’m arguing from the left. And both sides are valid.

You could see the nation you live in as a garden created and tended by generations of resident citizens. When a horde of strangers just come rolling in having read about it in a brochure, do we expect they’re going to just slipstream into its nurture? Or just stomp all over it trying to grab as much fruit as possible?

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By Paracelsus, June 30, 2009 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment

@ Maxim Y


BTW, before the WWI, even passports were not required to immigrate to the US. Chances are your ancestors were no better qualified to come here than the illegals of today.

I don’t care if my ancestors were immigrants. I refuse to allow illegal aliens into the country. Is that unfair? I don’t care. Hard cheese! I find the attitude of illegal aliens insufferable. I once asked an illegal alien working at the Walmart, “Se habla ingles?”
She asked, “Why? Are you from England.” No lawbreaker, I am from the United States, and around here we speak English when doing business here. As if I have to speak Nahuatle to get any credibility from her. Bite me! Our founding fathers warred and pillaged and murdered to conquer land. I acknowledge that, but I will not let the guilt of my ancestors turn me into an over obliging moron. If you are an illegal alien you should leave! Our forefathers stole this continent fair and square just as any other tribal group in the Americas would have done if they had horses and guns. If you illegal aliens want it back you have to steal it back via armed force, none of this invasion by stealth through illegal migration. (Yes, I know that not all illegal aliens are Mexican or Latino, but the plurality of them happen to be from Mexico.) BTW, it was the threat of the Zimmerman telegram, where the Germans offered the Mexicans support in conquering the Southwest that finally pushed Wilson to declare war against the Central Powers of WW I. And don’t give me any crap about being racist because I knew an obnoxious fellow from college who was a member of La Raza, and he was all about Chicanos invading the Southwest to establish Azatlan. He told me white people ought to be careful once the invasion is over. He was as racist as they come. He said he was so superior because he was not a hairy ape like a white man. Then he went on about white people not having culture. I am tired of the crap.

Report this

By boggs, June 30, 2009 at 8:51 pm Link to this comment

Contain the borders! Problem solved. If we are going to turn our heads and allow the immigration across our borders then I think we need to treat the people as guests. We the same as invited them in by giving our wink and nod.

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By stanfellow, June 30, 2009 at 7:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Justice Department appears to be remarkably untroubled by the appalling disarray in the immigration courts.  This bodes ill for the likelihood of improvement.  One obvious administrative remedy for the current overload, as the article implies, would be to relieve judges of the chores that would normally be performed by clerks and bailiffs and to hire . . . clerks and bailiffs.  Why have judges been left to run their operations without adequate support?  Will they soon be expected to mop the floors, too?  This is a matter to which Congress should devote some attention.

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By Maxim Y, June 30, 2009 at 6:33 pm Link to this comment

“So for these USA illegals it should be the same. No slacking. Goodbye. When they know that’s the case, they might stick at home and try to strive to improve their OWN country instead of running away for money.”

Most illegals come from the lowest social classes in their home countries. They don’t have a chance to “improve” their own country - because they don’t have education, wealth, and are routinely oppressed by the ruling class. You don’t see the wealthy educated Mexican whites coming here. Actually, those who come here are the Native Americans (cholos) - don’t you see the irony?

BTW, before the WWI, even passports were not required to immigrate to the US. Chances are your ancestors were no better qualified to come here than the illegals of today.

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By Paracelsus, June 30, 2009 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment

It isn’t ICE that is at fault. It is the judiciary system that is at fault. If more judges are needed then the government should requisition funding to hire more judges. If we can have swift immigration hearings as that would be just then the backlog would be reduced, and those with no case for being here as illegal aliens would be dealt with in a quick and humane manner. Word would spread that the US immigration enforcement and judiciary quickly enforces and deports illegal aliens. Such an outcome would assure new illegal aliens that they have no hope of playing off an inefficient court system. Illegal alien employers would have such attrition and turnover that they would seek out legal residents just out of self interest. ICE should be applauded for their thorough enforcement efforts, not castigated for an underfunded and undermanned judiciary.

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By hidflect, June 30, 2009 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

I have zero sympathy for illegal immigrants. They’re used as a tool of capitalists to undermine decent labor wages, offer a gateway for organized crime, weaken the effectiveness of collective bargaining by unions and make a mockery of legitimate applicants by jumping over them in the queue.

People who claim immigrants do jobs Americans don’t want to do are fantasizing with facts they don’t have. With the REAL unemployment near 20% and foreclosures going off like fireworks on Chinese New Year, plenty of people are begging for the chance to do any work available.

I keep reading how some on the left are appealing emotionally against sending them back asking for them to have rights to schooling and other services. What’s the issue? They’re undermining the poor in America worst of all! Here in Japan, if your illegal, you’re out of the country in 30 days - no trial. Just gone. You can be damn sure I’ve done everything right to keep my visa here.

So for these USA illegals it should be the same. No slacking. Goodbye. When they know that’s the case, they might stick at home and try to strive to improve their OWN country instead of running away for money.

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By NABNYC, June 30, 2009 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment

I don’t understand the headline.  “Ice-Backwards?”  Is that supposed to be like “Ass-Backwards?” 

We’ve had millions of people come into our country illegally in the past ten years.  If they are apprehended, that will of course jam the courts responsible for conducting hearings regarding deportations.

If the (allegedly) illegal immigrant is not detained pending the hearing, they will undoubtedly leave the city where apprehended and move on.  Just because they’re from another country doesn’t mean they’re stupid.  So they must be detained in order for the deportation process to work.

If someone is here illegally, they must be deported unless they fall within some exception.  I think we should have an amnesty provision for long-term residents.  But not for everyone.

I understand every person inside our country has certain constitutional rights regarding a hearing for deportation.  But it seems like the only issue would be whether they have the legal authorization to be in the country.  If not, they should be summarily deported.

You also should remember that these detainees, if here illegally, can always simply stipulate to the fact that they are here illegally, and be immediately freed into their own country.  They hold the key to their own cell, in other words.  They may have an attorney who advises them to stay put in the hope that something will come up, but it is their own decision. 

Nobody who is here illegally (by definition) has a legal right to be in our country.  That should be apparent.  Enforcing the law is not an oppressive act.  It’s just law enforcement.  Some people think we should allow more immigrants (legally) to come into our country, or otherwise change the law.  That’s something to be taken up by Congress.  But in the meantime we have laws, and they should be enforced.

This is entirely separately from asylum, by the way, a request by a person for the right to stay here due to a well-founded fear or persecution in their homeland.

There should be some procedure to hire temporary judges, commissioners—experienced in immigration law—to come in and hear cases to clear out the backlog.  Maybe they can hire some judges off the state courts in California, since the courts are so broke now that they may be unable to stay open full-time.

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By scared, June 30, 2009 at 9:25 am Link to this comment

“As a result, cases often take months if not years to complete, leading to more immigrants being held in a growing network of detention facilities and jails.”

I’m going to take a wild guess here and say this ever expanding network of detention facilities are of the privatized sort.

Just sounds like the US prison industrial complex to me.  Immigrant detention?  That’s even easier than jailing non violent drug offenders!

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By cp, June 30, 2009 at 7:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A well written article about the obstacles facing immigrants entering the court system.  Each judge dealing with 69 cases per week seems way excessive.  It would have been helpful to know how this compares with other judicial courts (municipal, county for example) to get an idea of how overloaded they are.  But just by the numbers themselves, it seems way too high.  I’m afraid that this type of understaffing to serve the public good may become more prevalent throughout society as we face an increasingly bleak economic period.

I would also be interested in knowing a bit more about the cases themselves.  Though it would be difficult to convey the overall nature of so many cases, it might be helpful for the reader to understand the problem better, if we knew more about the charges alleged, decisions made, and the consequences of the court systems’s verdicts as well as the history of some of those arrested.

I’m sure that info is found in other works on the net, but perhaps this could be the basis for a future article by Andrew and Hugo.

Nice job,

cp

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By Inherit The Wind, June 30, 2009 at 5:18 am Link to this comment

Is there ANY administrative function that the Bush Regime didn’t f*** up constantly for 8 years?

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By ardee, June 30, 2009 at 3:17 am Link to this comment

I cannot help but believe that the entire immigration scenario is one giant distraction, just as those labeled “poor white trash” in the old south were kept tractable because they could always look down upon the blacks.

The people who come here are looking for work, desperate to support their families because, in large part, it is American corporations that have ruined the economies of their own nations. Many have lost farms due to the ability of agribusiness to sell produce less expensively.

If we want to deal with the flood of immigrants coming to this nation in an attempt to survive we need a better way of doing so than simple law enforcement.

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