Saturday, January 14, 2006

FBI Warns that Smugglers Target Border Agents

Federal officials have warned U.S. Border Patrol agents that they could be the targets of assassins hired by immigrant smugglers, according to a confidential memo.

"Unidentified Mexican alien smugglers are angry about the increased security along the U.S./Mexico border and have agreed that the best way to deal with U.S. Border Patrol agents is to hire a group of contract killers," the Department of Homeland Security said in a Dec. 21 Officer Safety Alert.

The alert states that the smugglers intend to bring members of the Mara Salvatrucha street gang – known as MS-13 – into the country to perform the killings. Federal officials consider MS-13, with an estimated 30,000 members in 33 states, to be one of the most dangerous gangs in the country. It was formed in Los Angeles by immigrants from El Salvador.

The safety alert was based on an FBI report. An FBI spokesman in Washington said he could not comment on that report.

Michael Friel, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said he could not comment directly on the confidential memo but said agents' lives have been threatened before.

"It's no surprise that these smugglers, these criminals, would be threatening our agents," Friel said Monday. "And that would be a huge mistake on their part if they try."

Border Patrol officials say assaults on agents increased significantly during the past year.

source: Associated Press, Jan. 10, 2006


January 14, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Colors: go forth and eat!!

It's not often (ever?) that we get to talk about food on this site, but because of the many immigrants who are a part of this story, I thought it entirely appropriate to post Frank Bruni's column about the restaurant Colors, which appeared in the Diner's Journal of today's NYTimes.

Colors is the undertaking of many of the former employees of Windows on the World. Notably, it's a cooperative venture of its employees, so the chefs, servers and other workers have a stake in the business. According to a recent story, 34 of the 35 partners in the venture are immigrants.

Bruni's write-up (which is too preliminary to constitute an actual review) is here:

The CNN story is here:

Buen provecho!


January 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Immigration Judges Face Investigation

In a strongly worded memo, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has told the nation's 215 immigration courts the Justice Department will investigate the way judges treat people who appear in their courtrooms.

The review was prompted by "reports of immigration judges who fail to treat aliens appearing before them with appropriate respect and consideration and who fail to produce the quality of work that I expect from employees from the Department of Justice," Gonzales wrote.

"While I remain convinced that most immigration judges ably and professionally discharge their difficult duties, I believe there are some whose conduct can aptly be described as intemperate or even abusive and whose work must improve," he wrote.

Gonzales' decision underscores the growing tension between federal judges and the immigration courts. Appellate judges across the nation, especially on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears the bulk of the nation's immigration cases, have been sharply critical of the way immigration judges comport themselves.

Source: Los Angeles Daily Journal, Jan. 11, 2006

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Houston Immigration Clinic Rocks!

Thanks To Cappy White for this update from Texas.

No Longer Adrift: UH Immigration Clinic Helps Answer Asylum-Seekers' Prayers

Erica Lehrer Goldman, Texas Lawyer
Monday, January 16, 2006

A 26-year-old man from Eritrea, a small country in Africa, sits in an immigration courtroom at the Houston Service Processing Center. He is so deep in prayer that he doesn't hear Immigration Judge Jimmie L. Benton announce that he has granted the man's request for asylum in the United States. It is only when the man's attorneys and translator congratulate him that he realizes his prayers have been answered.

Anne Chandler, staff attorney at the University of Houston Law Center's Immigration Clinic, remembers that day — Nov. 30, 2005 — vividly. She also remembers the day she met the man, Dawit, and the day she heard his horrific account of persecution.

To Chandler, Dawit's story is not new. Although the clinic annually handles as many as 150 immigration law-related cases, of which approximately 20 involve asylum claims, Chandler says that she has encountered only
three or four asylum cases like Dawit's with such egregious accounts of imprisonment and torture.

Chandler first encountered Dawit while giving a "Know Your Rights" presentation at the Houston Service Processing Center. Every two weeks, Chandler visits the facility accompanied by law students participating in the clinic and interpreters. They meet with detainees, inform them of their rights, explain how to get bonds and obtain documents to help their cases, and answer questions.

Chandler says the clinic has an agreement with the warden at the center that before being allowed to meet with the detainees privately, the clinic's lawyers, students and interpreters must complete a four-hour annual security training course. This year's course occurred on Jan. 12.

At the time of their first meeting, in the fall of 2004, Dawit spoke no English. So Chandler contacted the Young Men's Christian Association of Greater Houston — International Services to arrange for an interpreter who spoke Dawit's native language, Tigrigna. Dr. Kidane Araya, a Houston geophysicist who emigrated from Eritrea 22 years ago, volunteered to translate Dawit's native language into English and the attorneys' and law students' English into Tigrigna, which involved countless hours of work. He also provided them with an education in Eritrean politics and social history, which they found invaluable in supporting Dawit's asylum claim.

Dawit is not the man's real name. Texas Lawyer has agreed to use a pseudonym because of his fear for the safety of his family still in Eritrea, a small country on the Horn of Africa that declared its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Before making his way to America, Dawit — who was born in Ethiopia of Eritrean and Ethiopian heritage — says he was tortured in Eritrea and Ethiopia because of his national origin, and later
tortured in Eritrea for supporting a political movement that was critical of the government.

"I didn't know what to do, I didn't know about asylum, I just told my story" to anyone who would listen, says Dawit, who learned English during his 16 months of detention in Houston. He says that he still has nightmares of being pursued and tortured. The deep gashes on his ankles and wrists and a scar on his face speak volumes about the torture Dawit endured — and why he fears returning to Eritrea.

In 1998, a border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea prompted the Ethiopian government to expel Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean heritage, such as Dawit, thereby stripping them of their Ethiopian citizenship. Dawit says that in 1998, while he was still in his teens, Ethiopian government officials seized him as he was leaving school one day. The officials accused him of being a spy who had gone to Eritrea for "military training," which Dawit denied.

Dawit had, in fact, spent several months in Eritrea after graduating from high school the previous spring, but his purpose was to visit his mother's family and work as a volunteer, building schools and planting trees, he says. The Ethiopians who interrogated Dawit, however, knew that his mother had voted for Eritrean independence in 1993 and actively supported the separatist Eritrean party agenda. By the end of September 1998, after Dawit had been tortured, kept in isolation, interrogated and threatened with death, Ethiopian officials concluded that he had committed treason against the country, shared his mother's political inclinations and was an Eritrean spy, Dawit says. He was expelled from Ethiopia.

But Dawit says that he was not welcome in Eritrea, either. Because his father was Ethiopian, Dawit was suspected of supporting the Ethiopian cause in its war against Eritrea. Consequently, while in Eritrea, Dawit says he once again was tortured and imprisoned. He served time in Dahlak Prison — known for its inhumane treatment of prisoners — in part because of his mixed heritage and in part because, while forced to serve in the Eritrean military, he supported and participated in distributing political pamphlets put out by a group known as the G-15 movement that advocated restructuring and bringing democracy to Eritrea.

Dawit says he will never forget July 20, 2004, the night he fled Eritrea, fearing more torture, imprisonment and possible death. After swimming for hours in the Port of Massawa in total darkness, he says, he climbed the anchor of a cargo ship and hid on board.

Discovered while searching for drinking water on his first day at sea, Dawit spent the remainder of the voyage in a room under lock and key, along with several other Eritrean stowaways. When the boat landed in the Port of Houston on Aug. 10, 2004, immigration authorities took Dawit into custody. He spent the next 16 months at the Houston Service Processing Center, a detention center run by Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company with which the government subcontracts.

Although Dawit was initially tortured in Ethiopia, his asylum claim derived from the fact that he is Eritrean, was tortured in Eritrea and cannot return to Eritrea, says Chandler, who supervised Dawit's asylum case.

"The stories from Eritrea are incredibly chilling," says Chandler. The degree and frequency with which Eritreans who return to their country are imprisoned, tortured and oftentimes never heard from again is well documented by Amnesty International, she adds. "Why we keep them locked up when they happen to float to our shores is beyond me, given that reality."

According to its Web site, the U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices notes that Eritrea's record of human rights violations "worsened through 2002." The United States designated Eritrea as a "Country of Particular Concern" in September 2004 and November 2005 for its violations of human rights, particularly with regard to religious freedom. In May 2005, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto, according to a U.S. State Department press release, informed the U.S. House of Representatives Africa Subcommittee that the United States has an ongoing "frank dialogue" with Eritrea's leadership about "U.S. expectations" in the areas of human rights, democracy, religious freedom and economic liberalization, particularly regarding Eritreans held without charge for political reasons.

Conditions in Eritrea are abominable, agrees Houston lawyer Robert Etnyre, who, although he is not involved in Dawit's asylum case, has worked on similar cases and regularly compares notes with Chandler about the challenges they confront when representing detainees. A partner in Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams' Houston office handling admiralty and insurance coverage suits, Etnyre also regularly works on pro bono cases assigned to him by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the YMCA.

Etnyre handled the asylum cases of two stowaways who fled Eritrea on the same ship as Dawit, both of whom were granted asylum. One young man fled Eritrea because he refused to serve in the military due to his political beliefs; the other man was serving in the Eritrean military, but he found that he was unable to carry out some of his superiors' orders, because they went against his political and humanitarian beliefs, Etnyre says.

"These are not economic migrants; they are not coming here to get a job," he says. They are coming here, he says, because they know they are going to continue to be persecuted in their own country, imprisoned or killed for political or sometimes religious reasons. "These are essentially death penalty cases for someone who hasn't really done anything wrong," says Etnyre. "So you are very, very relieved when the process works."

World Events

Former immigration Judge Joseph A. Vail founded the immigration clinic in July 1999 after UH Law Center professor Ellen Marrus contacted him.

Marrus, as head of the Law Center's Clinical Program, recognized a strong community need for such a clinic, Vail says. Marrus convinced the deans of the law school that a clinic was the "right thing to do" for the community, the students and the law school, adds Vail.

"It was quite amazing to me that the fourth largest city in the United States, with three law schools, did not have an immigration clinic," says Marrus. Some of the UH law students are immigrants or first generation U.S. citizens for whom immigration issues are important, she adds.

As a teaching tool, she says, the clinic is unparalleled, a place where law students can learn how to represent clients. "An immigration clinic lets students work on their advocacy skills in a less threatening environment since they are administrative hearings and do not follow all the rules of evidence," explains Marrus. Moreover, interviewing a client who has suffered traumatic experiences and speaks little or no English tests the students' abilities to communicate with people from all walks of life. "These are important skills for new attorneys to know and begin to master," she says.

UH law Dean Nancy B. Rapoport says the clinic "supports the very foundation of our country — - the idea that immigrants can come here and make new lives, free from political prosecution or terror." She adds, "To be able to teach our students how to save people's lives in this way is one of the most powerful demonstrations of why law schools — especially public law schools — exist."

The idea of a clinic appealed to Vail. Like Marrus, he was floored by the fact that Houston had the fourth-largest immigrant population in the nation and few legal-aid resources for immigrants aside from Catholic Charities and the YMCA, each of which, he says, had only one staff attorney at the time. The UH Law Center was eager to launch the program; and there was a "pool of untapped talent here in the law students," Vail says.

In addition to running the clinic, Vail, who is board certified in immigration and nationality law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, teaches immigration law.

Besides Vail and Chandler, three other staff attorneys work at the clinic: Thomas Perkinson, Diana Velardo and Jennifer Moya.

Chandler says the clinic is funded by a combination of private and state funds. The private funds primarily result from the clinic's annual fundraising event, dubbed "The Arrival Awards," in which three immigrants now living in the Houston area who have achieved financial success in this country are honored at a formal dinner. Last year's event netted over $100,000, Vail says. The 2006 Arrival Awards will take place on Feb. 1 at the Hilton Americas in Houston.

State funds include grants from the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation (TEAJF), a nonprofit corporation created by the Texas Supreme Court in 1984 to provide Texans with equal access to justice, regardless of income. In 2005, TEAJF awarded two grants totaling more than $62,000 to the clinic, including a $32,545 Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) grant as part of a coalition with Catholic Charities and YMCA International Services, and a Crime Victims Civil Legal Services (CVCLS) 2005 grant of $30,000 toward representing low-income, indigent victims of crime. Chandler says that the IOLTA grant for 2006 has been increased to approximately $50,000.

In addition to the IOLTA and the CVCLS funds administrated through TEAJF, the clinic also receives approximately $49,000 through an Office of Victims Assistance Grant from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Dawit says he owes his release from the Houston detention center to Chandler, Vail and law students Megan A. Long and Peter D. Kim. Crucial to his release, too, and greatly assisting the attorneys, were the efforts and emotional support of Araya, the interpreter, who continues to be a guiding force in Dawit's life.

In the clinic, the students gain real-world experience while immigrants receive free legal representation. Chandler and Vail estimate that the typical asylum case takes somewhere between 100 and 200 attorney hours. Cases requiring a translator and/or expert witnesses often require additional time.

Working with a detainee who doesn't speak English, Spanish, Arabic or French — what Chandler calls "your traditional four languages" — is incredibly difficult, she says. Detention facilities only permit interpreters on their premises who have submitted to a security screening. Thus, lawyers must find an interpreter willing to reveal personal information to gain clearance. Given the often complex factual issues involved in asylum cases, an interpreter may need to visit a detainee numerous times to develop a statement laying out the facts to support the asylum claim. In Dawit's case, the statement, which was chock-full of facts, names, dates and details, was 27 pages long. The process of preparing his statement required getting Dawit to trust the lawyers and translator, to understand the amount of detail they needed, and to recall specific facts and incidents over a span of eight years, even though he was experiencing post-traumatic stress. "You're walking on eggshells, " says Chandler.

Typically, each semester 10 students elect to participate in the immigration clinic, for which they receive four hours of class credit, but for the spring 2006 semester, which began on Jan. 11, 20 students signed up for the clinic — 17 first-timers and three who are returning for a second semester. Each student commits to putting in 240 hours a semester in the clinic.

With regard to asylum cases, Chandler estimates that, at any given time, the clinic has one or two cases before a Houston immigration judge, one or two cases before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Office, three to four cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals and 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and about six to 12 cases pending in other stages of the legal process, such as when an individual granted asylum seeks to have his spouse and children enter the United States or seeks to become a legal permanent resident.

In Dawit's case, Chandler and Vail met with law students Kim and Long weekly, and evaluated court filings, correspondence and briefs before they left the clinic to be filed. Vail had the law students hold two mock hearings, each about four hours in length, over which he presided as "judge" to prepare for Dawit's real hearing before Benton. The mock hearings also gave Dawit a chance to experience what they would entail in terms of giving testimony.

Long, who is working toward her LLM in international law after practicing immigration law for three years with a firm, decided to sign up for the immigration clinic because she had never done asylum work. She estimates that she has spent 120 to 130 hours since August 2004 working on Dawit's case, work that included obtaining and analyzing documentation and legal research relating to Dawit's nationality claim based on his mixed heritage.

"To me it was one of the most rewarding experiences," she says. "He had been detained for nearly three years of his life [first in Ethiopia, then in Eritrea], and I was thinking, how would that feel? At the same time, it was a lot of pressure because the consequences of losing are huge. If he had had to go back, he would have been killed. It was a lot of pressure if you thought about it that way. You just wanted to do everything you could for him."

Kim, a second-year law student from Dallas, describes the clinic as a rigorous but intellectually and emotionally worthwhile experience. "I learned how to be diligent," he says. "Everything was new. I had to learn the terminology." There was a lot of preparation, he adds, noting that it is not the typical law school experience to be in the courtroom conducting direct examination of a client before a judge firing off questions. "The consequences of saying "I don't know' would have had serious repercussions," says Kim. "I had to think on my feet and analyze every word the judge said."

During Dawit's immigration hearing, which Kim and Long handled with Chandler's and Vail's supervision, the judge "grilled on every point, argued with students about the law and put them to the test," Vail says. Under 8 C.F.R. 292 law students are allowed to represent individuals before the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) within the Department of Justice, as long as the representation is part of a clinical program, under the supervision of a licensed faculty member, for no remuneration and with the permission of the court.

Waves of Cases

Vail and Chandler note that asylum cases come in waves, depending on world events. Five or six years ago, the clinic handled more asylum cases involving West Africans, people fleeing Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon and Somalia due to political turmoil in those countries. Lately, however, more Eritreans have sought asylum in the Houston area, primarily based on religious and political persecution.

Chandler and Vail estimate that over the past few years, the clinic has handled approximately four asylum cases involving Ethiopians or Eritreans and at least 15 to 20 involving other Africans seeking asylum.

Under U.S. asylum laws, specifically 8 C.F.R. §208.5, an alien stowaway who informs an immigration inspector or other official on a vessel that he is unable or unwilling to return to his "country of nationality" because of persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion shall be promptly removed from the vessel when it reaches its destination. The alien stowaway is then referred to a U.S. asylum officer for what is called a "credible fear determination," pursuant to 8 C.F.R. §208.30. This is also true if the alien expresses a fear of torture upon return to his or her country. Pending adjudication of an asylum application, and, in the case of a stowaway, a credible fear determination and any review thereof, the alien may be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

Chandler says that in Houston, the government is reluctant to release a stowaway from detention pending an immigration judge's decision on his asylum application unless the detainee's lawyer can demonstrate that the detainee's release is a "significant public benefit" or there is an "urgent humanitarian reason" as further defined by 8 C.F.R. 212.5.

Asylum seekers and others in removal proceedings are not entitled to appointed counsel. As the government informs them, pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 246.5(b), they only have a right to representation if it is "at no expense to the Government." Thus, indigent asylum seekers must find attorneys or legal clinics to represent them for free or at reduced cost, or they must represent themselves. According to 2004 American Bar Association statistics, applicants who are represented by counsel are four times more likely to be granted asylum than those who represent themselves.

"Just because you are going to be killed in your country does not mean you will be granted asylum," Vail says. A successful asylum claim must be related to one of five things: the detainee's race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, such as a union, student body or ethnic group.

Dawit's claim for asylum derived from his nationality and political beliefs, Chandler says. Everybody who spoke with Dawit, including the immigration and asylum officers who interviewed him while he was detained, found he had a "credible fear of being persecuted," she says. "Yet the man stayed detained for 15 months."

"At the end of it all, the judge did the right thing and granted asylum," Vail says.

Even after he won asylum, Dawit was detained for 30 more days while the government decided whether it would appeal the grant of asylum, Chandler says.

The government attorney in Dawit's case, Assistant Chief Counsel James Manning, reserved his right to appeal, but did not. Deputy Chief Counsel Donald W. Cassidy of Houston's Office of Immigration Customs Enforcement says lawyers with the office cannot comment on cases.

Dawit now lives in Houston with an Eritrean roommate who also received asylum. Araya, the interpreter, has served as a mentor and father figure to Dawit, and has introduced Dawit to other Eritreans and Ethiopians in Houston, including his own two sons who are in their 20s.

Legally, Chandler says, Dawit is an "asylee." Asylees have the right to petition for their spouses and their children under age 21 to come to the United States to seek asylum and they have the right to obtain refugee travel documents that allow them to travel to any country except the country from which they fled. One year after being granted asylum, asylees can apply for legal permanent residency in the United States, the first step on the road to becoming a citizen, a process Chandler says can take three to eight years.

Chandler says that the most rewarding moment in representing Dawit came when she visited him two days after the judge granted him asylum. Looking at her with rested eyes, Dawit said that for the first time in ages, he had slept through the night "like a child sleeps," and that it was a joy to remember what it is like to simply sleep.

A 26-year-old man from Eritrea, Africa, begins work at an air conditioning company in Houston on Jan. 3, just one week after receiving his Texas identification documents and employment authorization. He earns $9.20 an hour and plans to work six days a week. He has joined a church. He hopes to move to a new apartment and to return to school. He dreams the American dream.

January 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CRS Report On Selected Judge Alito Immigration Opinions

The Congressional Research Service released a report discussing notable majority and dissenting opinions written by Judge Alito relating to immigration.,0117-crs.pdf


January 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Book and Two NYC Events Honor Human Rights Advocate, Mary Robinson

A Voice for Human Rights, edited by Kevin Boyle, is an annotated collection of Robinson's speeches, given when she served as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The book also provides the first in-depth account of the work of the Office of High Commissioner. With a preface by Kofi Annan and an afterword by Louise Arbour, the present Human Rights Commissioner, the book will be of interest to all concerned with international human rights, international relations, development, and politics.

Columbia University Reception

Monday, January 23rd
12 noon to 1:15 p.m.
The Kellogg Center, 15th Floor
School of International and Public Affairs
Columbia University
420 West 118th Street (just off Amsterdam Ave)
RSVP by Wednesday, January 18th to:

United Nations Book Signing

Tuesday, January 24th
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
United Nations Bookshop
Visitors Lobby GA-32
1st Avenue and 46th Street
New York, NY 10017

Essex University Professor and editor Kevin Boyle is also scheduled to appear at both events.


January 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Congrats to Lori Nessel!

LORI NESSEL has been granted tenure as full professor at Seton Hall. Lori teaches in the Immigration & Human Rights Clinic and regularly teaches Immigration and Naturalization Law and an advanced seminar entitled Selected Topics in Immigration Law. She has also taught Gender and the Law and International Human Rights Law. Lori has writtem some important immigration scholarship, including

"Willful Blindness" to Gender-Based Violence Abroad: United States Implementation of Article Three of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, 89 Minn. L. Rev. 71 (Nov 2004).

Undocumented Immigrants in the Workplace: The Fallacy of Labor Protection and the Need for Reform, 36 Harv. C.R.-C.L.L. Rev. 345 (Summer 2001)

Migrant Farmworkers, Homeless and Runaway Youth: Challenging the Barriers to Inclusion, 13 Law & Ineq. 99 (1994) (co-author Kevin Ryan)

January 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Immigration Law Scholar Testifies in Alito Confirmation Hearings

Our own NORA DEMLEITNER (Hofstra) testified this morning in the Alito confirmation hearings.  According to,

9:08 Prof Demleitner establishes that she considers herself politically liberal, and wants to explain why she and other former Alito clerks who are more liberal then the Judge look up to him and support his confirmation.

9:06 Hearing has been reconvened. First panelist is Professor Nora Demleitner from Hofstra Univeristy law school, a former Altio clerk.


10:16 Sessions is next and asks Demleitner about an instance when she asked Alito to change his mind. She says that as a liberal she was very often sympathetic to defendants and was worried about that when she accepted her clerkship with Alito. But she says he was very clear that he wanted her to express and discuss disagreements she had with his rulings and reasoning. Demleitner said Alito always listened to her reservations about opinions.


Nora was in good company.  Among others, Tony Kronman (Yale),  Erwin Chemerinsky (Duke; and Dean finalist at UNC), Charles Fried (Yale), and Larry Tribe (Harvard) testified on the panel this morning.



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Foot Wet, Foot Dry Policy in Action

A federal judge hinted Thursday that he thinks the federal government may have erred when it repatriated this week 15 Cubans who had landed on an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said he would not rule immediately on the emergency lawsuit filed on the Cubans' behalf by family members and an advocacy group seeking their return, but he questioned the government's reasoning. The government said it repatriated the Cubans because the bridge no longer connects to land. Under the government's "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are generally allowed to stay while those caught at sea are returned to the communist island. Moreno said even those who disagreed with giving Cubans special protections under U.S. immigration law would. For the full story, see


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A "Political" Immigration Reform Proposal

One opinion on immigration reform, For the entire commentary, see

Here are excerpts:

The Border’s Vital Center by Dick Morris January 12, 2006

Republicans face one of the trickiest political problems they have faced as a party since Clinton pre-empted their program through triangulation and left them temporarily devoid of issues.

As the number of illegal immigrants mounts in the United States, the demands of the party’s nativist constituency for tighter border controls and immigration enforcement threatens to put it at odds with America’s rapidly growing Hispanic population, dooming the GOP to possible minority status not
just in California and New York but in Texas and Florida as well.

The push-pull between Hispanic demands for respect and nativist concerns about job loss, crime, education costs and urban crowding, all exacerbated by illegal immigration, poses a huge problem for party leaders.


The obvious answer to these concerns is a grand bargain that couples the strictest border defense with a generous guest-worker program, granting legal status to Mexican immigrants and regulating their numbers, working conditions, and wages — and assuring that they contribute to Social Security
and other taxes.


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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Alito and Immigration Again: Senate Testimony

Assistant Professor Goodwin Lui's testimony during the Alito confirmation hearings spoke to the Judge's position on immigration issue -- and many other important issues.  The immigration discussion (which opens by noting Judge Posner's skepticism of the BIA) can be found at page 14.  The upshot of the testimony is that Alito has taken quite a narrow view of judicial checks on government error in immirgation cases -- a position that leaves him well to the right of even his Republican judicial colleagues.  The document is here:

Download Liu_Alito_Testimony.pdf


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Alito on Birthright Citizenship

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, January 12, 2006 Alito Confirmation Hearings SCHUMER: Just make the argument. You don't even have to tell us how you decide. What imaginable argument could there be for a statute that Congress could deny the citizenship to those born in the United States, say, on the grounds that their parents were illegal aliens? Is there any constitutional argument that you can see off the top of your head? ALITO: Well, Senator, I don't want to say anything that -- could I answer the question, Senator? I don't want to say anything that anybody will characterize as an argument that I am making on one side of this question or on the other side of the question. I know that an argument is being made by people who favor this kind of legislation based on the language under the jurisdiction of the United States. And I don't know whether that will turn out -- I don't know whether it will come before me. I don't know whether, when it's analyzed, it will turn out to be a compelling argument or a frivolous argument or something in between. And I wouldn't express an opinion. SCHUMER: Judge, I simply ask you to give us an interpretation of one of the most direct and clear provisions in the United States Constitution. And if you can't give us an answer on a very, it seems to me, clear-cut question like that, I find, and I think many of us find, make it difficult to make an assessment of how to vote on your nomination. ALITO: Senator, my answer is that it is inappropriate for a sitting judge or for a nominee to a judicial position to offer opinions on constitutional questions that are percolating at that time and may well come before that judge or that nominee. It may turn out to be a very simple question; it may turn out to be a complicated question. ALITO: Without studying the question, I don't know. And even if I had an initial impression, I wouldn't voice it here. I would have to go through the whole judicial decision-making process before reaching a conclusion that I would be willing to...

January 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Attorneys with clients fleeing religious persecution -- Read this

FROM: Amnesty International USA

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Human Rights First

Jubilee Campaign

TO: Attorneys with clients fleeing religious persecution

Those of you working on behalf of refugees fleeing religious persecution may be aware of troubling recent decisions out of several federal circuits, including the Fifth Circuit's opinion in Li v. Gonzales (Case #03-60670). The decision in Li was vacated with the government's agreement after a broad coalition raised concern about the case, and particularly after the US Commission on International Religious Freedom submitted a detailed letter to the Department of Justice expressing its strong concern. That letter, and an article about the case, are each being published by Interpreter Releases this month.

Similarly troubling arguments were put forward by the DOJ's Office of Immigration Litigation in the Mkrtchyan case, but fortunately rejected by the Ninth Circuit in an unpublished decision. The government there pressed the argument that a woman arrested and beaten for proselytizing was not persecuted on account of religion because proselytizing was supposedly not required by her religion.

Amnesty International USA, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Human Rights First and Jubilee Campaign are working together to ensure that attorneys representing religious refugees are aware of these developments and of the importance of raising the International Religious Freedom Act in your cases. We are concerned that the agency and the Office of Immigration Litigation may continue to make troubling decisions and arguments defending denials of protection to those fleeing religious persecution, and we want to bring to your attention materials to help win these cases.

We are particularly interested to hear from attorneys who are facing similarly convoluted arguments on nexus from either adjudicators or OIL on appeal.

For more information about the Li case and to for a copy of USCIRF's shorter letter to the Attorney General, see their website:


If you would like an emailed PDF copy of:

A) the IRFA amicus briefs submitted in the Li case by the Christian Legal Society and many others detailing the relevance of the International Religious Freedom Act to courts hearing religious persecution claims;


B) the USCIRF's detailed letter;

please reply to this email. Please also let us know what country your client is from and what procedural stage your case is at.


-- Stephen

Stephen Knight

Deputy Director

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

University of California, Hastings College of the Law 200 McAllister Street San Francisco, CA 94102-4978 USA

415/565-4791 * 415/581-8824 (f)

January 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


EDITOR'S NOTE: At an age when most teenagers are getting their driver's licenses, working their first jobs and applying to college, more and more young people are coming face to face with what it means to grow up without papers. Nick Guroff and Singeli Agnew are freelance writers studying journalism at U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Their reporting is supported by a special James Irvine Foundation grant to develop reporting fellowships for U.C. students and the ethnic media. This is the first in a series of articles on growing up undocumented.


LOS ANGELES--Fermin was born at the height of El Salvador's civil war 17 years ago. When he was 11, his mother finally saved enough money to bring him to Los Angeles, where she had lived since he was 4 years old.

"She wanted me to have more educational opportunities," Fermin says. "It's the only way out of being low-income."

Fermin has taken advantage of those opportunities. He will graduate from high school this spring at the top of his class. After that, things get more complicated. Along with 65,000 other new graduates nationwide, Fermin will leave high school with a diploma, but without citizenship papers.

Many of the estimated 350,000 undocumented students in California schools came to the state as young children, by no choice of their own. Often they have no other home to return to. Federal legislation has been proposed that would help these youths attend college, and make the road to citizenship easier for some, but it has stalled in Congress, entangled within the larger debate over immigration reform.

So at an age when most teenagers are getting their driver's licenses, working their first jobs and applying to college, young people like Fermin are coming face to face -- often for the first time -- with what it means to grow up without papers.

For Fermin, it means taking four city buses each day to get to school and back -- as an undocumented immigrant, he can't get a driver's license. When Fermin entered the American public school system six years ago, he did not know a word of English. Today, he is preparing for the California Academic Decathlon. He hopes his team will do well -- but even if they do, he won't be joining them at the state competition in Sacramento. Fermin fears that if he travels without papers he could be detained or deported.

While the majority of undocumented students will give up on school, Fermin is determined to go to college. But his immigration status complicates that prospect.

All but nine states charge undocumented residents high out-of-state tuition rates to attend public universities. California doesn't, thanks to a new law waiving this requirement. But ambitious students like Fermin still face extra hurtles.

First, Fermin must come up with application fees as high as $250 per school. His family income is low enough to qualify him for a waiver, but his immigration status makes him ineligible. He's also ineligible for state or federal financial aid.

"Everyone tells them, 'Go to school, get good grades,'" says Jessica Quintana, director of Centro Community Hispanic Association in Long Beach. "Then the reality hits. It's so easy just to give up at that point."

Nearly half of foreign-born Latino students will drop out of high school, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center. Quintana said the reality for undocumented teenagers is that a high school diploma will do little to improve their earning power in any case. With or without a degree, they will be forced to look for jobs without a legal work permit. As a result, they can expect to earn less than half the income of the average American student.

Alvaro Huerta, education coordinator for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, says counselors often steer promising undocumented students away from four-year universities. Teachers, counselors or admissions officers may mistakenly believe that applying to college requires disclosing one's immigration status, which is not the case in California.

Jessica, 18, received a standing ovation at her high school graduation in honor of 13 years of perfect attendance. But the applause couldn't make up for the letter she'd received earlier that year from the design school she dreamed of attending. It told her not to bother applying unless she could produce proof of citizenship.

"I had everything -- the grades, the desire to learn," says Jessica, 18. "It put a stop to all my hope when I realized I was limited."


January 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Undocumented Students Lose in "Liberal" Mass.

Mass. House Defeats Immigrant Tuition Bill

The Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) - House lawmakers defeated a bill Wednesday that have would allowed undocumented immigrant students to pay the same in-state tuition at state colleges as Massachusetts residents. The students and their supporters had argued that the children of illegal immigrants who have graduated from Massachusetts high schools should pay the same tuition as their classmates. But opponents - including Gov. Mitt Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, both Republicans - said the state shouldn't reward illegal immigration. The 96-57 defeat was a blow to the Democratic leadership in the House, which had pushed for the bill. Undocumented immigrant students can become eligible for in-state tuition in nine states - California, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma Texas, Utah and Washington, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

January 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Canadian bishops call for end of refugee agreement with U.S.

By Deborah Gyapong Catholic News Service

OTTAWA (CNS) -- Canadian Catholic bishops called for the repeal of the Safe
Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States and the end of
racial profiling of Arab and Muslim communities.

The recommendations were contained in a pastoral letter, "We Are Aliens and
Transients Before the Lord Our God," published by the bishops' social
affairs commission.

Refugees must not be scapegoats because of heightened security concerns
following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Archbishop Roger
Ebacher of Gatineau, Quebec, at a Jan. 10 news conference on Parliament Hill
to release the letter. He said most terrorists would probably not go to the
trouble of trying to enter the country as refugees.

He urged Canadians not to become prejudiced toward refugees and migrants,
who face poverty, separation from families and persecution in their home

"It is a fundamental inversion of values when laws and politics place
national interests before human dignity," said Archbishop Ebacher, who
chairs the social affairs commission.

He said the letter was motivated by the gap between rich and poor nations of
the North and South, security concerns and urgent problems seen in the
social and economic integration of immigrants to Canada.

In addition to asking for the abrogation of the Safe Third Country
Agreement, the former bishops' conference president, Archbishop Brendan
O'Brien of St. John's, Newfoundland, urged Canada to introduce a promised
refugee appeal system, eliminate obstacles to speedy family reunification,
reduce the wait for collective sponsorships, and reinforce laws to protect
victims of human trafficking.

In the letter, the bishops said the church "must continue to raise its voice
to defend the human dignity of migrants wherever they may be and contribute
to changing current policies which threaten their rights."

"Arab and Muslim communities, in particular, seem to suffer from racial
profiling," the bishops said, referring to longer processing times from
areas such as North Africa, the indefinite detention of people issued
security certificates, and the "alarming practice of 'extraordinary
rendition' of Canadian nationals to countries where torture is practiced."

The Safe Third Country Agreement was meant to stop the practice of "asylum
shopping" -- when refugee claimants who failed to gain refugee status in the
United States could try again in Canada or vice versa.

In 2002, when the agreement was in its initial stages, John Manley, former
deputy prime minister, said the agreement was necessary to end the abuse of
Canada's broken refugee system by bogus refugee claimants.

In 2003, Auditor General Sheila Fraser reported that about 30,000
outstanding warrants for the removal of failed claimants and illegal
immigrants had never been enforced.

Archbishop O'Brien said many failed refugee claimants and economic migrants
have been allowed to live in Canada as long as their local communities
accept and support them. He said it would be inhumane to deport them.

The bishops' conference opposed the Safe Third Country Agreement, as did
many refugee advocacy groups, arguing that U.S. foreign policy makes the
United States more likely to refuse some refugee claimants that Canada would

Since the agreement came into effect, refugee claims to enter Canada have
dropped almost 40 percent, according to a July report by CBC News, Canada's
national public broadcaster.

The refugee appeal process that the bishops called for was promised in the
2001 Immigration Act, but late last year Joseph Volpe, immigration minister,
decided not to institute it. Volpe said he wanted to ensure the system got
refugee determination correct the first time.

Asked why the bishops published the pastoral letter in the middle of a
federal election campaign, Archbishop O'Brien said it had been in the works
a long time before the election.

The letter was dated Jan. 15, when the Catholic Church in Canada marks World
Day for Migrants and Refugees.

The pastoral letter defends the right of churches to offer sanctuary to
refugee claimants as a last resort, pointing out that in 2004 Judy Sgro,
then-immigration minister, asked churches to stop providing sanctuary.

The letter also called for better treatment of the 18,000 seasonal
agricultural workers from Mexico and the Caribbean who come to Canada each

An important P.S. from from M Muller at Harvard:

Just a quick follow-up to "Canadian bishops call for end of refugee agreement with U.S." that may or may not be blogworthy...The Canadian Council for Refugees , Amnesty, and the Canadian Council of Churches have actually filed an action attacking Canada's STCA. See . See also for information about a pending Inter-American Commission of Human Rights petition protesting Canada's "direct-back" policy (which I understand is still in place although the STCA went into effect). The theme of both cases is the same: the U.S. asylum system is not up to international standards, and returning a refugee claimant to the states can be tantamount to refoulement.


January 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Immigration Problems for Republicans?

Two stories in two different publications today point out the tensions within the Republican party on issues of immigration.  The LA Times has a story on The Right Divide, which mentions the fact that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives recently passed a bill that constituted a rejection of Bush's proposed immigration reform package -- which included the idea of a guest worker program.  And the Washington Post has a story on how the Cuban American community is responding with anger against the Republican party for what is seen as a harsh application of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy that governs Cuban immigration.  That story is here.  Of course, these fissures are not new, but in light of Bush's other woes, it seems that they may be finding new space for airing.


January 11, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecution of Humanitarians in Arizona

A few months ago, criminal charges were brought against Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss. Both in their early 20s, Sellz and Strauss volunteer for the group, No More Deaths, a faith-based coalition that sets up camps in the desert borderlands of southern Arizona to provide food and water to migrants risking their lives by crossing the border illegally during the deadliest season: June to September.

The goal is to save lives, usually by providing food and water. They do not transport anyone except in dire circumstances under a doctor’s orders, and the transport is made with utmost transparency in labeled vehicles. So when Sellz and Strauss encountered three migrants who were dying in the scorching July desert sun, they transported the three for emergency medical care. They saved three lives, but Sellz and Strauss were then arrested, charged with transporting illegal aliens, and faced fifteen year prison terms.

A motion to dismiss their charges was taken under submission by the federal district court in Tucson yesterday. Amnesty International has stated that Sellz and Strauss will be considered prisoners of conscience if they are imprisoned.



January 11, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

VAWA Reauthorization

The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 was signed into law by President Bush on Jan. 5, 2006, PL 109-162.,0112-hr3402.pdf


January 11, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Border Tunnel

CNN Jan. 10, 2006 -- U.S. border patrol agents investigating a caved-in road discovered a tunnel leading from the United States to Mexico, the third such tunnel found in three years near the San Ysidro, Calif., port of entry, an immigration spokeswoman said Wednesday. Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said agents found the 35-foot long, 3-foot-by-3-foot tunnel Monday. "It's unclear what it was used for, but inside we found trash and other evidence indicating people had been inside recently," Mack told CNN in a phone interview. (Posted 2:06 p.m.)


January 11, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kevin R. Johnson
Kevin R. Johnson

Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair
Univ. of California, Davis, School of Law

Bill O. Hing
Bill O. Hing

Professor of Law
Univ. of San Francisco School of Law


Kit Johnson
Kit Johnson

Associate Professor of Law
University of North Dakota, School of Law

Jennifer Lee Koh
Jennifer Lee Koh

Professor of Law
Director of the Immigration Clinic
Western State College of Law