Archive for the 'Immigration' Category

‘Dollar a Day’ Forced Labor Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against CoreCivic

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Project South, Apr. 17, 2018 – “A private prison company under contract with Stewart County to house individual’s detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is forcing detained immigrants at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia to work for as little as $1 a day to clean, cook, and maintain the detention center in a scheme to maximize profits, according to a class-action lawsuit filed today against CoreCivic, Inc.

Detained immigrants who refuse to work are threatened with solitary confinement and the loss of access to basic necessities, like food, clothing, personal hygiene products and phone calls to loved ones in violation of federal anti-trafficking laws, according to the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Law Office of R. Andrew Free, Project South, and Burns Charest LLP. Similar lawsuits have been filed in California, Washington, Colorado and Texas challenging private prison companies’ work practices.

Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director for Project South, said, “The prison corporation Core Civic is exploiting the labor of detained immigrants to enrich itself– last year its revenues were nearly $1.8 billion. It must be stopped.”

“CoreCivic is placing profits above people by forcing detained immigrants to perform manual labor for next to nothing, saving millions of dollars that would otherwise provide jobs and stimulate the local economy,” said Meredith Stewart, senior attorney at the SPLC. “CoreCivic is padding its pockets by violating anti-trafficking laws.”

The “Dollar-a-Day” program creates a lucrative profit scenario for CoreCivic: Detained immigrants are forced to purchase basic necessities from CoreCivic’s commissary, and the primary way to fund their purchases is to participate in the work program that is necessary for the operation of the facility. These jobs include providing basic functions at the facility like cooking and cleaning, work for which CoreCivic would otherwise have to hire and pay outside employees.

Plaintiff Wilhen Hill Barrientos is an asylum seeker from Guatemala who has been detained for 33 months while his case is pending. When he arrived at Stewart Detention Center, he was faced with an impossible decision – either work for nearly nothing or lose access to basic necessities, safety, and privacy.

Refusing to work means that Barrientos would not have enough money to pay for costly phone calls to his family and that he would likely be moved from a two-person prison cell to an open dorm that has few bathrooms, round-the-clock lighting, frequent fights; or be placed into solitary confinement.

“When I arrived at Stewart I was faced with the impossible choice—either work for a few cents an hour or live without basic things like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and food,” said Barrientos. He chose to work to live with some privacy and maintain access to the commissary. “If I didn’t work, I would never be able to call my family,” said Barrientos, who works in the kitchen, cooking meals for up to 2,000 people each day.

For his work, Barrientos receives at most $4 to $5 per day for six to eight hours of work; approximately 50 cents per hour. Since Stewart has no paid kitchen staff, officers usually require Barrientos to work seven days a week, even when he is sick. Barrientos was sent to medical segregation for two months after he filed a grievance for being forced to work while he was sick.

“CoreCivic illegally enriches itself on the backs of a captive workforce to bolster their profits,” said Korey Nelson, a partner at Burns Charest, a law firm with offices in Dallas and New Orleans that specializes in complex class action suits.

“CoreCivic’s labor practices at Stewart are an affront to the human dignity of all confined there, and sad reminder of a not-so-distant past when the power to jail meant the opportunity to profit,” said Andrew Free, a Nashville-based immigration and civil rights attorney. “Neither our conscience as a nation nor our human trafficking laws permit this corporation’s conduct.”

In 2014, current and formerly detained immigrants who were forced to work at private detention centers began to file class-action lawsuits alleging violations of federal and state labor laws.”

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Immigration Judges Knowingly Depriving Children of Right To Apply Asylum

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Bryan Johnson, Apr. 20, 2018 – FOIA results: evidence of Immigration Judge V. Stuart Couch’s shocking prejudgment of all domestic violence asylum claims

“At the bottom, readers will find the all of the decisions of Immigration Judge V. Stuart Couch that resulted in BIA remands for the Fiscal Year of 2017.

Time and time again, IJ Couch’s decisions denying victims of domestic violence asylum contain carbon copy language.

Thus, it is clear that IJ Couch’s has been prejudging all claims that have a history of domestic violence, and quite literally copying and pasting language he used to deny other domestic violence victims asylum. The following is one of his favorite passages to copy and paste.

“The respondent’s evidence reflects that [the] physical and verbal abuse of her was related to his violent and jealous nature…The evidence, in this case, is more consistent with acts of general violence and therefore does not constitute evidence of persecution based on a statutorily protected ground.”

Immediately below, I have excerpted key parts of the BIA & IJ Couch decisions. A clear pattern has emerged: IJ Couch does not grant asylum to women who are victims of domestic violence, despite clear instructions to the contrary from the BIA.”

Bryan Johnson, Sept. 29, 2016 – Investigate Atlanta and Charlotte Immigration Judges For Knowingly Depriving Children of Right To Apply Asylum

“Several Immigration Judges at the Charlotte and Atlanta Immigration Courts are responsible for knowingly and systematically depriving unrepresented immigrants before them of their right to apply for asylum and/or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

What follows is concrete evidence of this, which will be forwarded to the Department of Justice as part of a request to:

1. Investigate Immigration Judges Dan Pelletier, Earle Wilson, V. Stuart Couch, and Barry Pettinato (“Immigration Judges”))

2. Immediately suspend the immigration judges from adjudicating cases pending the investigation;

3. Review record of proceeding of all pro-se unaccompanied children and adult with children individuals ordered removed or granted voluntary departure by Immigration Judges since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2014.

4. Order the sua sponte reopening of removal orders where the review of the record of proceedings demonstrates the immigration judge deprived pro se individual of the right to apply for asylum or other relief, and

5. Refer to the appropriate law enforcement authorities for criminal prosecution upon finding that any of the immigration judges knowingly and systematically deprived unaccompanied children or adults with children of their right to apply for asylum or other relief.”

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U.S. Border Patrol Continues to Exaggerate Danger to Agents to Justify Violence Against Immigrants

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Debbie Nathan, The Intercept, June 1, 2018 – “[A]ccording to the FBI, only 397 agents were assaulted in 2016, compared with the CBP’s inflated claim to the public of 454. The Intercept attempted to obtain numbers from the FBI for 2017, to compare that data with CBP’s claim of 786 assaults, but the FBI said it would not be publishing the numbers until late May.  Now that data is available. It shows a 9 percent rise in the number of agents assaulted from 2016 to 2017 — from 397 to 432. But the data also shows a 22 percent drop in the number of agents injured, from 132 to 103. … As FBI statistics make clear, working as a Border Patrol agent is much safer than working as a local police officer or sheriff’s deputy. On average, whether or not they are injured, Border Patrol agents face only around one-fourth as many assaults as do other types of law enforcement officers.  So why is the Border Patrol’s use of lethal force increasing, along with the number of assaults reported against its agents — even as injuries to those agents have gone down? Could the agents themselves be provoking confrontations with migrants?”

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Expert: ICE Uses Green Card Appointments at USCIS to Arrest ‘Low Hanging Fruit’

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Simon Montlake, CSMonitor, June 1, 2018 – “Immigrants married to US citizens who petition for them to stay present an easy target since they have declared themselves to US immigration services. Self-reporting immigrants make tempting targets for enforcement, says Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY. “If you want to increase your numbers quickly, arresting people who turn up at [immigration services] are low hanging fruit. You know what time they’re going to be there,” he says. Now that practice faces judicial pushback in federal court in Boston. Eduardo was freed on May 8 after ICE was found to have violated his rights while in custody. This ruling led to a broader inquiry into ICE’s tactics by US District Judge Mark Wolf, who questioned why it was necessary to separate families who were seeking legal status for unauthorized members.”

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BIA to Downgrade New Staff Attorney Hires

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Eugene Kiely and D’Angelo Gore, May 30, 2018 – “The claim: “Think of it, a lottery. You pick people. Now, let me ask you. So these countries that are sending people in — do you think they are sending us their finest?”

The facts: Trump is again distorting the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which uses a computer lottery system to randomly issue up to 50,000 immigrant visas each year to qualified applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Countries aren’t “sending us” anybody. Individuals submit applications, and those eligible must meet certain requirements and pass a security background check. Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School, told us: “Among other things, the consular officer must make sure the individual is not ‘inadmissible.’ This means that the person has not committed a crime, doesn’t have a serious health problem, isn’t a terrorist, hasn’t committed fraud, and hasn’t overstayed in the U.S. before.”

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BIA to Downgrade New Staff Attorney Hires

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Jeffrey S. Chase, May 27, 2018 – “In another employment-related development that has drawn little public notice, the Department of Justice on May 17 posted a hiring ad for 38 vacant staff attorney positions at the BIA. The twist is that for the first time, the positions were advertised as being entry level grade positions with no potential for promotion. EOIR Director James McHenry had hinted since his appointment that he believed BIA attorney positions should be downgraded. There is something disingenuous about such statement. I can think of at least three immigration judges who were appointed to the bench directly from their positions as non-supervisory BIA staff attorneys. Two of the four temporary BIA Board Members at present are long-term BIA staff attorneys. The present BIA chairperson, David Neal, previously served as a Board staff attorney for 5 years, a position that apparently qualified him to directly become chief counsel to the Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Nearly all of the BIA’s decisions, including those that are published as precedent binding on the agency and DHS, are drafted by its staff attorneys.

Some of those attorneys have accumulated significant expertise in complex areas of immigration law. A number of Board staff attorneys have participated as speakers at the immigration judge training conferences. The question thus becomes: how are experienced attorneys who are deemed qualified to move directly into immigration judge and BIA Board Member positions, to craft precedent decisions and to train immigration judges only deemed to be entry-level, non-career path employees? There has been much attention paid to the nearly 700,000 cases pending before the nation’s immigration courts. As the agency moves to hire more judges and limit continuances, and recently had its power to administrative close cases revoked by the AG, the number and pace of cases appealed to the BIA will speed up significantly. It would seem like a good time for the BIA to be staffed with knowledgeable and experienced staff attorneys. Instead, the agency’s move essentially turns new BIA attorney hires into short-term law clerks. New attorneys undergo a full year of legal training to bring them up to speed to handle the high volume and variety of complex legal issues arising on appeal. However, attorneys are unlikely to remain in such positions for much more than a year without the possibility of promotion.”

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U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Motions to Reopen – Miller v. Sessions (May 8, 2018)

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Miller v. Sessions (May 8, 2018) – “The question presented in this case is what happens when … two statutory provisions collide? If DHS reinstates a removal order that was entered in absentia, can the noncitizen still file a motion to reopen under § 1229a(b)(5)(C)(ii) “at any time” on the ground that she never received notice of the prior hearing? Or does § 1231(a)(5) preclude such a motion by directing that the prior removal order “is not subject to being reopened or reviewed”? … The BIA erred by holding that § 1231(a)(5) deprived the immigration court of jurisdiction to resolve Miller’s motion to reopen. We grant Miller’s petition for review and remand the case so that the agency can decide Miller’s motion to reopen on the merits.”

[Hats off to Professor Kari Hong!]

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Expert: Anne Frank Analogy Appropriate to DOJ Prosecution Proposal

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Stuart Anderson, May 9, 2018 – “Imagine your child faces death or enslavement at the hands of predators and all legal avenues of escape and refuge have been blocked. Would you attempt to enter another country unlawfully and seek asylum? Found hiding in an attic, Anne Frank died in the Holocaust after her father exhausted all legal means of escape, including being unable to get a visa to America. If her father had entered the United States without papers and asked for asylum should he have been prosecuted for illegal entry? Should he have been prosecuted for “smuggling” his own child?

“The Anne Frank analogy to the current Department of Justice policy is appropriate,” Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell Law School professor and an advisor to the National Foundation for American Policy, told me in an interview. “The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum. It defeats that purpose to prosecute them instead for illegal entry or smuggling.” … Sessions said the Department of Homeland Security would refer “100 percent of illegal Southwest Border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution.” He is sending 35 prosecutors and 18 immigration judges to take up the new caseload. Sessions declared, “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.”  It is unclear whether parents are now facing charges for “smuggling” for traveling with their child across the border unlawfully but the threat is there. Attorneys have told me there already are many cases of parents being prosecuted for illegal entry even if they apply for asylum.

Moreover, if parents come to a lawful port of entry and request asylum, many parents are being separated from their children and held in detention facilities.  In other words, if mothers or fathers approach a lawful port of entry and request asylum, even if they are not prosecuted for unlawful entry, they will still be separated from their child. Not only can this be traumatic for both parent and child, attorneys argue doing so as a deterrent may be unlawful. … Some may argue that a parent with children fleeing from deadly gangs in Central America is not analogous to the situation of Anne Frank. Her family had no legal way to enter America, just like the girls fleeing today from Honduras and El Salvador. However, unlike them, Anne Frank did not attempt to enter the United States illegally. She died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.”

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Class-Action Filed Against Bank of America for Employment Discrimination Against Non-Citizens

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MALDEF, May 3, 2018 – “Bank of America illegally denies employment to qualified applicants based on their immigration status even though they are authorized to work in the United States, a lawsuit filed in federal court today charged.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and the law firm Elliot Morgan Parsonage PLLC of Winston-Salem, N.C., filed the suit on behalf of Daniel Marques, a 27-year-old native of Brazil who is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Marques is authorized to work by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but he was abruptly disqualified from consideration for a job with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, a division of Bank of America after he informed the company of his DACA grant, the lawsuit states.

Bank of America is accused of violating the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits intentional discrimination based on alienage.

“Any company, like Bank of America, with a significant Latino customer base and that seeks to build further business with the growing Latino community, would do well to avoid policies or practices that discriminate, irrationally, on the basis of immigration status,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president, and general counsel.

Marques submitted an application in March 2016 through Bank of America’s online job application portal for a position in New Jersey as a Practice Management Development Associate within the financial advisor program of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. He received an email soon thereafter from Bank of America’s vice president, the executive recruiter for the mid-Atlantic market to schedule a March 30 telephone interview. The vice president informed Marques during the interview that as a non-citizen applicant, he was required to be eligible to work in the United States “without limitations.”

After the phone interview, the executive recruiter sent Marques an email the same day saying she would recommend further interviews. Marques responded with a request for further clarification of her statement that he would need work authorization “without limitations,” and attached a copy of his valid Employment Authorization Document, which is renewable every two years under DACA.

On April 4, 2016, the executive called Marques to say that he was disqualified from further consideration for the job because he is a DACA recipient. Marques sent follow-up emails seeking more specific information, but he did not receive any responses.

“We are determined to vindicate the full rights afforded to immigrants with federal work authorization,” said Burth López, MALDEF staff attorney, and counsel in the case. “Companies may not pick and choose among work-authorized job applicants based on the applicants’ immigration status.”

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of all non-citizens who were authorized to work in the United States, including other holders of deferred action, refugees, and visa holders, and who were denied employment by Bank of America after April 4, 2016, because of their immigration status.

“Elliot Morgan Parsonage PLLC is looking forward to working with MALDEF to fight employment discrimination against young people with DACA,” said co-counsel Helen L. Parsonage.

The lawsuit is the third filed by MALDEF in the past year challenging employment policies that discriminate against DACA recipients. Last July, MALDEF and co-counsel Outten & Golden LLP sued consumer product giant Procter & Gamble on behalf of a former college student who had been denied a paid internship based on his DACA status.

The case is Daniel Marques v. Bank of America Corporation, Case No. 3:18-cv-00228, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division.

Read the complaint here.”

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AAO 212(h) Hardship Waiver Victory: Matter of D-M-V-, ID# 15302

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Matter of D-M-V-, ID# 15302 (AAO Jan. 28, 2016) – “The Applicant was found to be inadmissible to the United States pursuant to section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), for having been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude. He filed a Form 1-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, on October 10,2014. The Applicant seeks a waiver of inadmissibility pursuant to section 212(h) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(h), in order to reside in the United States with his U.S. citizen family members. In a decision dated April 2, 2015, the Director denied the Form 1-601 as a matter of discretion, citing to a lack of evidence of rehabilitation or family contribution, additional criminal convictions, and sporadic employment as the negative factors that outweighed the positive factors in determining that discretion was not warranted. On appeal, the Applicant asserts that the Director did not consider all of the evidence, including evidence of the Applicant’s mental health condition, and failed to consider all of the hardship factors in the aggregate or follow and apply relevant case law, particularly Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296, 299 (BIA 1996), with regard to the exercise of discretion. The Applicant submits a brief and resubmits evidence filed with the Form 1-601. … When considering the totality of the circumstances, we find that the positive factors in this case, including the Applicant’s family ties, length of residence in the United States, and hardship to himself and his family members if he is removed, outweigh the negative factors, and he merits a favorable exercise of discretion. … Accordingly, we will sustain the appeal.”  [Hats off to Michael Carlin!]

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