Saturday, December 29, 2012

President Signs Private Bill for Nigerian Overachiever (and Future M.D.) Victor Chukwueke

Maybe we should try to end the year with some upbeat immigration news.  Here is a nice story about a hard-working immigrant, a sensible and humane U.S. Congress, and a stand-up President.

While the United States stands at the precipice of the fiscal cliff (and, incidentally, has frittered away a decade failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform), President Barack Obama signed into law a private bill passed by Congress granting Victor Chukwueke permanent residency in the Unites States. Victor came to the United States 11 years ago to undergo treatment for face tumors. He graduated from Wayne State and plans to attend an Ohio medical school. The U.S. Congress passed a private bill this month granting him permanent residency. Obama signed the bill Friday. Chukwueke's is the only private bill to pass in Congress in two years.

Read Victor's inspirational story.  This is the short version.  In 2011, Victor was selected to address his fellow graduates at the Wayne State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences commencement.  While earning his degree in Biochemistry/Chemical Biology, he was on the dean’s list, ran a marathon to raise money for charity, volunteered in a research lab working to determine how tumors spread, and aspires to become a doctor so he can alleviate the pain and suffering of people in developing countries. As a boy growing up in Nigeria, Victor developed a benign tumor growing on the top and right sides of his face. His mother took him to hospitals throughout Nigeria seeking medical treatment for neurofibromatosis, but none had the facilities or expertise to treat him. Without surgery, the facial tumor continued to grow unchecked leaving him with a severe facial deformity. Victor said as uncomfortable as the tumor was, the teasing and ostracism by other children was more painful. In 2001, a missionary nun in Nigeria who ran a center for the mentally and physically challenged arranged for Victor to work with a Southfield, Michigan plastic surgeon who agreed to operate on him for free. At age 15, Victor left his family and his small village in Nigeria and came to Michigan. Ten years and many surgeries later, he lives with nuns in Oak Park, Michigan.

Courtesy of Victor's

Happy New Year, Victor Chukwueke!


December 29, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Credibility and the Asylum Process by Scott Rempell


Credibility and the Asylum Process by Scott Rempell

Last week, federal law enforcement agents in New York arrested numerous people for their involvement in a massive asylum fraud scheme. The scheme involved lawyers, paralegals, translators, and even a deacon, who helped to concoct and carry out fake asylum claims for Chinese nationals. The most common fabricated stories concerned individuals forced to undergo abortions and those persecuted for their Christian beliefs.

The case highlights the ongoing difficulties adjudicators face when trying to determine the credibility of asylum applicants. The INA permits an immigration judge to essentially consider anything he or she believes is relevant to assessing truthfulness, including: inconsistencies (between prior interviews and the hearing, between an asylum application and a hearing, between direct and cross-examination, etc.); omissions of significant information that surface for the first time at the hearing; the plausibility of the applicant’s story; elusiveness of testimony, such as non-responsiveness to the question posed; and the applicant’s demeanor while testifying.

The task of measuring credibility in cases outside of the asylum context is hard enough. We all have certain beliefs about whether various so-called credibility cues are really indicative of a lie.  Chances are, whatever our beliefs, there is a study out there that calls into question the causal connection between veracity and a particular cue. For example, in Mitondo v. Mukasey, the Seventh Circuit cited credibility studies when it noted that “if you want to find a liar you should close your eyes and pay attention to what is said, not how it is said or what the witness looks like while saying it.” In another study, the researchers found that participants often associated overly pronounced or abrupt movements with deception even though liars tend to move less when providing deceptive answers (according to that particular study).

Within asylum proceedings, several factors compound the difficulty in credibility assessments.  For one, the cases concern events that purportedly took place in foreign countries, which makes the information much harder (if not impossible) to verify. Additionally, translation problems can create the appearance of deficiencies that are not really there. Moreover, cultural divergences can lead adjudicators to misinterpret asylum applicants’ visual and verbal cues, along with the plausibility of their stories. Take the fraud scheme mentioned above as an example. Based on what has come to light, we know that a number of Chinese asylum applicants lied about their religious backgrounds. However, in a number of cases, the federal appellate courts have criticized immigration judges for using their own understandings of religious observance to find asylum applicants’ claims implausible. Are applicants lying about their religious convictions because they are unable to readily recite the central tenets of Christianity or key biblical passages? Not necessarily. (I would probably fail such a test if someone quizzed me about my religion.) Even more so in countries where certain religious practices are banned or significantly curtailed, sometimes religion is more about freedom of expression and the desire to worship without government interference. Conversely, as the uncovered scheme shows, applicants’ ability to memorize key information about a particular religion does not necessarily mean that they practiced that religion prior to coming to the United States.

Further compounding the problem is the fact that some asylum seekers who do have legitimate claims still lie because they are coached by people who say they will have a better chance with a made-up story. For an asylum applicant who knows nothing about the criteria for meeting the definition of a refugee, the advice of a so-called expert coaching them will be particularly compelling. After all, true fear of future persecution is an understandable motivator to do whatever is necessary to avoid deportation. Applicants who go down this road often get themselves into trouble because the dire circumstances of their actual pasts are more likely to surface when they testify about their made-up stories. Ironically, those who did not suffer any harm in their pasts might have an easier time sticking to their scripts because they do not have to worry that they will confuse two stories.  

The recent scandal in New York is problematic for asylum applicants because it raises the skepticism adjudicators and attorneys have regarding these claims and may, in turn, make it harder for those with legitimate claims to obtain asylum relief. Adjudicators should be careful not to let the realization of such fraud skew the way they evaluate any one claim. Every asylum applicant deserves to have his or her case decided on the merits. At the same time, this event should serve as a wake-up call. The government should invest more resources to assess asylum claim trends to spot these schemes before they get as far as this one did. I remember seeing a few red flags when I was working at DOJ. But my sample (as with the sample of any one attorney) was far too limited to verify one way or the other. The resources the government would spend proactively monitoring such trends are far less than the amount it will take to go back and reassess all of the potentially affiliated cases after a widespread scheme is uncovered.

The stakes are simply too high in asylum cases to ignore measures that could improve the system. Both the government and those with legitimate claims would benefit from increased oversight. Admittedly, the humanitarian in me does sympathize with all those who come here in search of a better life. But if I had to choose between asylum applicants who really would be persecuted if deported and those who would not, I’d rather ensure that applicants with legitimate claims have the greatest chance possible to obtain protection

December 28, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Immigration Fellowship Opportunity

The Institute for Justice and Journalism is accepting applications for its 2013 Immigration in the Heartland professional fellowship program, which will focus on children in immigrant families, who count for one in four of all U.S. youngsters. The program will explore the economic and educational challenges these children face and how immigration policies have deeply impacted them, even though about 88 percent are U.S. citizens.


December 28, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

College-Educated Immigrants in the United States

In College-Educated Immigrants in the United States, Qingqing Ji and Jeanne Batalova note that college educated immigrants represented nearly 28 percent of physicians, more than 31 percent of computer programmers, and over 47 percent of medical scientists in the United States in 2011.  Contrary to a widely held view, immigrants in the United States have an expansive range of education levels, with about one in three immigrants having obtained a college degree. According to the US Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey (ACS), immigrants accounted for 16 percent of the 58.8 million college-educated persons. However, their numbers were much higher among workers in certain occupations: Immigrants represent nearly 28 percent of physicians, more than 31 percent of computer programmers, and over 47 percent of medical scientists.

This spotlight provides a brief demographic and socioeconomic profile of college-educated natives and immigrants (age 25 and older) in 2011 and those who were engaged in the US civilian labor force.


December 28, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A New Year's Message of Hope for Immigration Reform by Robert Gittelson, President, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Over the past several years, I have made it a personal tradition to offer a New Year's Message of Optimism regarding the chances for CIR in the upcoming year. However, this year I am more hopeful than ever that next year - 2013 - will finally be the year that brings true legislative relief to our long broken immigration system. I sincerely feel that the "stars are alligned," and the political odds favor CIR sooner rather than later. The stars actually began to allign in 2012, and the thoughts that I wrote for last year's New Year's message have proven to be, in theory, correct.

Last year I wrote, "I would also offer my guarded optimism about a possible comprehensive immigration reform in the not too distant future. While I do not expect to see a CIR pass in 2012, I do see that Congress is, quietly but sincerely, moving in that direction. Again, there remains a long way to go, and the fact that 2012 is an election year makes any serious discussion of CIR a topic that can probably only be addressed after the election... I believe that there exists cause for optimism for advocates of immigration reform. Many conservatives are moving cautiously in the direction of a CIR solution. There exists in this country, and importantly in our Congress, an emerging consensus that we must address the inequities that are inherent in our current and outdated immigration policies. However, we will still need time for the politics in this country to catch up to the policy. Again, I urge patience. However, I am reasonably certain that our patience on this issue will soon pay off. 2012 should be the year in which we see the beginnings of movement toward a more just and efficient immigration policy."

Indeed, 2012 has proven to be a year in which we did see the beginnings of a bipartisan conversation about finally addressing CIR legislation in a meaningful and serious way. 2012 did bring us some relief, of sorts, with the President's Defered Action for Children of Arrivals, or DACA. I must admit, I didn't fully see that coming in last year's message, although I did predict some action toward relief for "DREAMers." I wrote, "All year, I have been discussing with (members of Congress and the Administration) the importance of passing the DREAM Act, or at least a version of the DREAM Act that will help hundreds of thousands of hard working, high achieving, and innocent young men and women to emerge from the shadows, and to live their lives in dignity and legality, in the light of day. Importantly, I have been meeting primarily with Republicans, and quietly but sincerely, many of them have been listening. It is still too early for me to say publicly exactly what will happen or when, but I am convinced that something positive will indeed happen, and soon."

DACA has, in fact, been something positive from a policy point of view, (if not politically). It does offer important protections to some small percentage of undocumented people. However, it is only a small percentage of the problem, it is not law, just policy, and at the end of the day is only a small bandaide, where major surgery on our broken immigration system is required.

Therefore, I believe that we have significant cause to hope for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. Conversations that have not happened in years are now happening on both sides of the Hill in Washington. Several of the participants from the discussions in 2005 - 2007 are no longer serving, and there are new faces and fresh ideas that are being brought to bear. Still, to date the conversations are preliminary. No consensus yet exists as to how we solve our immigration problems, or even if the new legislation will offer a path to citizenship or simple legal status. Furthermore, no consensus exists as to the legislation itself. Should it be a series of piecemeal measures, or a larger comprehensive bill?

However, I am confident - even in light of the dysfunctional "fiscal cliff" fiasco - that as the days and weeks go by, consensus will take shape, and we will see legislation soon. Furthermore, I think that the public will have a serious role to play as this legislation unfolds. I urge everyone that cares about this issue - pro or con - to make their voices heard. The public should get involved. Write your Congressmen. Go to rallies. Attend coffee clatches with your representatives. Write Letters to the Editor. Be proactive. If you believe that their should be a pathway to citizenship, say so. If you don"t believe that there should be a pathway to citizenship, then make your argument to that effect.

Finally, we should all make our opinions known to our representatives, but I caution everyone to please keep an open mind, and please be respectful of the opinion of others. This is a difficult and contentious issue, and tempers are sure to be hot. At the end of the day, this is an American problem, and we need an American solution. The question is, is Washington ready to provide that solution? I think that the answer will prove to be yes, they are. But our legislators will need our support, and our backing for them to make a controversial vote. Many on the right will be looking over their shoulders at primary opponents waiting in the wings. Many on the left will be looking over their shoulders at their traditional supporters, who might not like some of the concessions that will need to be included in what will surely be a bipartisan piece of legislation. At the end of the day, we must all realize that a compromise means that both sides must give up some of what they want, in order to be able to give our country what it needs - an "exceptional" immigration solution that is fair, that is just, and that actually solves the problems for decades to come. Are we up for this? I think that we will find out in 2013 that we truly are, and it will be a great, great, day for America. More importantly, it will be a great, great day for Americans - both new and old.

December 27, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Ann Coulter Blames Republican Loss of White House on U.S. Immigration Policy, Hispanics


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, conservative firebrand Ann Coulter in a blog post entitled "AMERICA NEARS EL TIPPING POINTO" explained why she rejects the idea that Republicans need to reach out the Latino voters.  She crticizes U.S. immigration policy for allowing a Latino "underclass" to grow as a percentage of the U.S. population.  Here is a passage that offers a flavor of Coulter's analysis:

"In 1980, Hispanics were only 2 percent of the population, and they tended to be educated, skilled workers who got married, raised their children in two-parent families and sent their kids to college before they, too, got married and had kids. (In that order.)

That profile has nothing to do with recent Hispanic immigrants, who -- because of phony "family reunification" rules -- are the poorest of the world's poor.

More than half of all babies born to Hispanic women today are illegitimate. . . . [T]he birthrate of Hispanic women is twice that of the rest of the population, and their unwed birthrate is one and a half times that of blacks.

That's a lot of government dependents coming down the pike. No amount of "reaching out" to the Hispanic community, effective "messaging" or Reagan's "optimism" is going to turn Mexico's underclass into Republicans."

 For a response to Coulter's diatribe against Latinos, click here.


December 27, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

From the Bookshelves: A Wicked War by Amy S. Greenberg


A Wicked War by Amy S. Greenberg

Often forgotten and overlooked, the U.S.-Mexican War featured false starts, atrocities, and daring back-channel negotiations as it divided the nation, paved the way for the Civil War a generation later, and launched the career of Abraham Lincoln. Amy S. Greenberg’s skilled storytelling and rigorous scholarship bring this American war for empire to life with memorable characters, plotlines, and legacies. When President James K. Polk compelled a divided Congress to support his war with Mexico, it was the first time that the young American nation would engage another republic in battle. Caught up in the conflict and the political furor surrounding it were Abraham Lincoln, then a new congressman; Polk, the dour president committed to territorial expansion at any cost; and Henry Clay, the aging statesman whose presidential hopes had been frustrated once again, but who still harbored influence and had one last great speech up his sleeve. Beyond these illustrious figures, A Wicked War follows several fascinating and long-neglected characters: Lincoln’s archrival John Hardin, whose death opened the door to Lincoln’s rise; Nicholas Trist, gentleman diplomat and secret negotiator, who broke with his president to negotiate a fair peace; and Polk’s wife, Sarah, whose shrewd politicking was crucial in the Oval Office. This definitive history of the 1846 conflict paints an intimate portrait of the major players and their world. It is a story of Indian fights, Manifest Destiny, secret military maneuvers, gunshot wounds, and political spin. Along the way it captures a young Lincoln mismatching his clothes, the lasting influence of the Founding Fathers, the birth of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and America’s first national antiwar movement. A key chapter in the creation of the United States, it is the story of a burgeoning nation and an unforgettable conflict that has shaped American history.

Watch the author give a very interesting talk about the book on PBS.


December 26, 2012 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gay Marriage Pioneer, Richard Adams, Dies

Elaine Woo of the L.A. Times tells the immigration story of gay marriage pioneer, Richard Adams who 37 years ago, made history when he and his partner, Anthony Sullivan, became one of the first gay couples in the country to be granted a marriage license. For a profile of the couple, click here.


In Boulder, Colo., a county clerk issued licenses to six same-sex couples in 1975. Adams hoped to use his marriage to secure permanent residency in the United States for Sullivan, an Australian who had been in the country on a temporary visa and was facing deportation.

Colorado's attorney general declared the Boulder marriages invalid. Several months later, Adams and Sullivan received a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that denied Sullivan's petition for resident status in terms that left no doubt about the reason: "You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots," the notification read.

Adams, who later filed the first federal lawsuit demanding recognition of same-sex marriages, died last Monday at his home in Hollywoody. He was 65.

Born in Manila on March 9, 1947, Adams immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 12. He grew up in Long Prairie, Minnesota, studied at the University of Minnesota and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1968. By 1971 he was working in Los Angeles, where he met Sullivan and fell in love. On April 21, 1975, they obtained their license and exchanged marriage vows at the First Unitarian Church of Denver.


After their marriage, Adams and Sullivan filed a petition with the Immigration & Naturalization Service seeking permanent residency for Sullivan as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. In November 1975, they received the immigration agency's derogatory letter and lodged a formal protest. Officials reissued the denial notice without the word "faggots." They took the agency to court in 1979, challenging the constitutionality of the denial. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Adams v. Howerton (1982) refused to recognize a same-sex marriage for purpoises of the U.S. immigration laws.   In a second lawsuit, the couple argued that Sullivan's deportation after an eight-year relationship with Adams would constitute an "extreme hardship." In 1985, the Ninth Circuit rejected the appeal.

Because Australia had already turned down Adams' request for residency in that country, the couple decided the only way they could stay together was to leave the United States. In 1985, they flew to Britain and drifted through Europe for the next year. The pair returned from exile to the U.S. after a year and lived in Los Angeles to avoid drawing the attention of immigration officials.


"Limited Partnership," a documentary on Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, is scheduled for release next year.


The struggle to ensure that the U.S. immigration laws recognize same-sex relationships continues.


December 23, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sleeping While Latino? ICE Settles Home Raids Case

Last week, attorneys announced the settlement of a home raids case against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Seven men and women and one child brought the case in 2008 against more than thirty individual ICE officers for a series of predawn raids of their homes undertaken without consent or a warrant. They are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Civil Rights and Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Seton Hall University Law School, and Lowenstein Sandler PC.


Said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy, who began the litigation while at Seton Hall Law School, “Sleeping while Latino is not a crime. Agents cannot lie or force their way into people’s homes in the middle of the night, point guns at children and use force, all without a warrant or consent. This settlement provides accountability for discriminatory policing by immigration officials and shows that ICE is subject to the same restrictions as every other law enforcement agency.”

According to the complaint, in almost every raid armed ICE agents entered the home by force or deceit, rounded up everyone from their bedrooms, and used force, threats and intimidation, all in an effort to apprehend immigrants for deportation. One of the agents was yelling at legal permanent resident Ana Galindo, insisting that she tell him where the nonexistent “illegals” were hiding in her house, when her nine-year-old son ran in from his bedroom to see who was screaming at his mother. The agent drew his gun and pointed it at the boy’s chest. Ana spread her arms to shield him. “Other than when my mother and father died,” she said, “this is the worst thing I’ve ever lived through. They could have killed my only child.” Ana’s husband, Walter Chavez, added, “This settlement shows that when the government acts like this in America, we should not be quiet about it. We should speak up to stop them from doing this to other people.”

The case, Argueta v. ICE, charged that the individual ICE agents violated the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from nonconsensual, warrantless entry into their homes and from shocking and abusive governmental conduct once agents were inside the home. In 2006, ICE officials in Washington created a policy called “Operation Return to Sender,” under which seven-member Fugitive Operations Teams (FOTs) were ordered to increase their quota of arrests of so-called alien fugitives with outstanding deportation orders by 800 percent over the course of one year. The FOTs were permitted to count toward that quota so-called “collaterals”— aliens the FOTs happened to encounter as part of their raids. According to activists and attorneys, the increase in warrantless intrusions into immigrants’ homes followed directly from the policy. The raids became so notorious that one of the first acts of the new Obama administration was to remove the quotas. The lawsuit sought to attribute liability to the high-level policy makers who devised Operation Return to Sender for failure to anticipate the consequences of their arrest quota and for their failure to modify the policy once reports of widespread abuses became known to them through the media and congressional and local political leaders.

Under the settlement, the eight plaintiffs will receive a total of $295,000 in compensation.


December 23, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)