Thursday, January 16, 2020

Excellent Read on the Realities of Immigration Court

El Paso Immigration Court, Photo by me!

AP visits immigration courts across US, finds nonstop chaos is a must read and, really, a must assign as well.

The article offers vignettes from immigration courtrooms all around the country. Each rings familiar to anyone who has spent time in immigration court, and each paints a vivid picture for students who likely have little to no experience with that unique environment. Take these paragraphs, for example:

There’s so much chaos it’s hard to keep track. At times, an interpreter is missing, or stumbles over dialects or local slang. Video systems fail.

And there are papers everywhere -- except, sometimes, where they are supposed to be.

There are other good articles about immigration court out there -- see, for example, the 2014 WaPo piece In a crowded immigration court, seven minutes to decide a family’s future, which I've assigned to students in the past.

What makes the AP piece so great and my new go-to, it the breadth of it. The snapshots from all over the US are all eerily repetitive: overburdened courtrooms, IJs crumpling under the crushing demands of performance metrics, poor technology, poor facilities, unrepresented migrants, unforgiving laws. That is a depressingly accurate portrait of our current system.


January 16, 2020 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Your New Dual Citizenship Example: Ludacris becomes Gabonese citizen

Ludacris is an American rap star known for hits like Rollout:

Or you might recognize him from his acting gigs -- he plays Tej Parker in The Fast and the Furious franchise.

Now immprofs have one more reason to recognize his name. The BBC reports that Ludacris, his mom, and his two daughters all recently became citizens of the African nation of Gabon. (His wife was already a Gabonese citizen). Here's another great addition to any classroom discussion about dual citizenship.


January 7, 2020 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Teaching About Border Militias: A Follow Up

Photo by Marco Hazard

Back in April, I wrote about discussing border militias in the classroom. One of the issues I discussed was showing this April 2019 video of a border militia rounding up migrants.

I write this evening with an update. As WaPo reports, the leader of that roundup has pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He hopes to receive time served (9 months) though he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

It's an interesting tidbit to bring to any class on the topic. I often talk about 18 U.S.C. § 1001 as being a fallback federal conviction, but felon in possession is certainly up there as well.


January 5, 2020 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Looking for Exam Inspiration?

_IGP9343 Alzheimer by Rafael Ojea Perez

It's hard to find better exam fodder than this NYT Article: Dementia Can Make Patients Wander. What if They Cross the Border?

Sure, the article itself is horrifying--especially for those of us worried about the future care of our aging parents.

But as far as exam inspiration goes... it's a winner.



December 4, 2019 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Judicial Business: Statistics and Reports


There is a plethora of interesting statistical data available from the U.S. courts website. I'll admit that I was ignorant of this fabulous data set until recently. I learned about this resource from reading the footnotes from Ingrid Eagly's forthcoming paper The Movement to Decriminalize Border Crossing.

Data from this website was incredibly useful to me today. I covered the topic of crimmigration. While I teach a standalone crimmigration course, I include in my podium immigration course brief (one-class) coverage of 1325/1326/1324 and employment issues.

For example, the website includes this excellent chart about what crimes defendants are charged with in federal court:


As you can see, immigration crimes have been popular for a good five years, but they are now the most commonly charged crimes. As the website details:

The biggest numeric growth was in filings for defendants charged with immigration offenses, which increased by 7,478 (up 37 percent) to 27,916 filings and accounted for 32 percent of total criminal filings, making this the largest category of defendants prosecuted in the district courts. Defendants charged with improper reentry by an alien climbed 40 percent to 23,250, and those charged with improper entry by an alien rose 48 percent to 254. Immigration filings in the five southwestern border districts increased 39 percent to 21,781 and equaled 78 percent of national immigration defendant filings (up from 77 percent in 2017). Filings grew 66 percent in the Southern District of California, 65 percent in the Western District of Texas, 27 percent in the District of Arizona, 24 percent in the District of New Mexico, and 17 percent in the Southern District of Texas.

I also found this table instructive and used it in class, clipping it in this manner:

Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 6.23.15 PM

There's a lot to unpack here. For example, you can see that immigration offenses account for a smidge over 32% of criminal cases, that over 97% of defendants are convicted, and that of those convicted, over 99% plea guilty.

Perhaps you'll find this data useful for your next article or your next class.


November 12, 2019 in Current Affairs, Law Review Articles & Essays, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A New Entree to Nonimmigrant Work Visas: Public School Teachers

This 3 minute clip from CBS news is a great discussion starter for nonimmigrant visas. There's a lot to unpack: whether we want noncitizen teachers in public schools, whether the J1 visa is the right vehicle for public school teachers, what hiring of these workers means for USC teachers (much less striking USC teachers), who is reviewing the issuance of these visas (remember -- the J is the purview of DOS not DOL). It's bound to get your class talking!


November 3, 2019 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Quick Legislation Exercise on Crimmigration

Marijuana by taki Lau

I've blogged before about a legislation exercise that I use in my podium immigration class regarding foreign fashion models. I still use that exercise with good results.

But now I have a new idea.

On Wednesday, you heard from one of my current students, Jacob Downs, about a newly introduced bill: Removing Marijuana from Deportable Offenses. As it turns out, that bill would make for a fabulous in class exercise.

The bill is only 2 pages and change long. That's a perfect size for you to distribute as a handout, give the class a 5-10 minute reading period, and then split the students into small groups for discussion. The same questions that I use with my models exercise would be a great jumping off point for discussion of this bill:

  • Consider how the bill changes current law from a technical standpoint. Does it insert new provisions? Move provisions?
  • Consider how the bill changes current law from a substantive standpoint. Does it create new rights? Alter existing rights?
  • Now consider the law from a policy standpoint. Is it a good idea? Why or why not? Be prepared to make arguments on both sides.

At many schools, legislation is not a required course. It may not even be an offered course. So why not make room for a short exercise to introduce students to the topic?


October 19, 2019 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Everything You Want to Know About Getting British Citizenship


Did you know that applicants for British citizenship typically shell out £5-10K in preparation fees and bills? In addition, they have to pay £5 for the required oath!

That's just the financial side of the immigration process. The testing side is also quite complex, including a "Life in the UK" examination.

Over at the BBC, you can take 12 of the citizenship questions. (I scored 50% pulling out some hidden literature and geography knowledge.) I'm going to flag this test in case I end up teaching comparative immigration law at some point. It would be great to have American students take it!

The format of the "Life in the UK" test is currently under review, and Mark Easton, a BBC Home editor, wants folks to think about whether citizenship is too expensive and whether the test is getting at the the true core of what it takes to become British. He focuses on the concept of what makes a good citizen in the sense of civic rights and obligations such as "put[ting] their bins out on the right day, sweep[ing] their front step, tak[ing] an interest in local affairs and volunteer in the community." This, he concludes, would be "more valuable than a "pub quiz" on the repeal of the Corn Laws and the correct ingredients of an Ulster fry."


September 17, 2019 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Teaching With 13 Reasons Why Season 3


If you teach a unit on the life of undocumented citizens, consider using clips from season three of the hit Netflix show Thirteen Reasons Why. The timeline surrounding Tony Padilla (played by Christian Navarro) is super on point.

Check out episode 6 of season 3. I'd run 32:12-33:45. Tony is bringing his boyfriend home to meet the family but he finds an empty house. There's food cooking on the stove, the TV is on, but no one is there. Then a neighbor shows up and explains: "La Migra."

Follow this up with 50:47-51:33. Here's the dialogue:

Tony: My family got deported at the end of the summer.

Clay: Why didn't you come to me?

Tony: And say what, Clay? You can't save the world.

Clay: You can try to save your friends. I should've been there for you. Like you were there for me with Hannah.

Tony: I, there's a lot of shame involved, you know.

Clay: No, I don't know.

Tony: Maybe that's why I didn't come to you.

Clay: I love you man.

Tony: Love you too.

The concept of shame and deportation is very real. Like many of you, I ask my students to write about their family's immigration history. Nothing huge. Just a page. To center them on the course material.

One semester, a student wrote that a relative had been deported "for reasons I never wanted to ask." Perhaps the reason they didn't want to ask is tied up in the concept of shame that this television show captures.

Definitely good fodder for classroom conversation.


September 16, 2019 in Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Your Playlist: Sarah Kay

If you're teaching Korematsu, consider starting with Sarah Kay's 14th Amendment.

It's more spoken word than song, but it's a powerful introduction to the topic of internment.

And for any immprofs out there who also dabble in Con Law -- check out the entire album: 27, featuring songs about every amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


September 9, 2019 in Music, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Tenure Love Letter to Jayesh Rathod


On Friday, I submitted my application for tenure. My word, that was a process. Having taught at two different institutions for over 10 years, it felt a bit like filing backdated taxes in multiple jurisdictions, one of them overseas.

One of my tenure requirements involved writing a statement about my teaching. It was an opportunity to talk about my teaching philosophy and different teaching techniques that I employ.

Readers know that I love to play music in class. But I'm not sure I ever told you who inspired me to to that: immprof Jayesh Rathod (American U.).

Here's what I told my tenure reviewers, in the context of experimenting in the classroom: 

When I started teaching, I would occasionally play a song during class. My first course was Immigration Law, and when we discussed terrorism exclusions, I played M.I.A.’s Paper Planes. M.I.A. has a unique immigrant history: She was born in London, moved as an infant to Sri Lanka where her father was a founder of the separatist militant organization called the Tamil Tigers, spent much of her childhood in hiding (avoiding the Sri Lankan army), and eventually returned to London as a child refugee. Her song, Paper Planes, is about her experience with being denied a visa to perform in the United States “due to her politically charged lyrics.” The song is, in her words, about “appearing really threatening to society. But not being so. Because, by the time you’ve finished working a 20-hour shift, you’re so tired you [just] want to get home to the family. I don’t think immigrants are that threatening to society at all. They’re just happy they’ve survived some war somewhere.”

In 2010, I attended a conference for immigration law teachers where I met Jayesh Rathod of American University Washington College of Law. He presented on the idea of playing music before every class. He discussed a two-fold benefit: (1) the opportunity to connect coursework to musical themes in an effort to advance learning, and (2) the opportunity to connect with students through music. Jayesh discussed empirical studies about the benefits of music. Ever since that conference, I play music during the minutes before class starts—when students are turning on their laptops and getting seated. I choose music that connects to our course material and create an on-line playlist for the semester. For example, in Civil Procedure I, when I cover what is needed in a complaint to satisfy the Supreme Court decisions of Twombly and Iqbal, I play “Summer Nights” from the movie Grease. The Supreme Court’s decisions center the idea that plaintiffs cannot begin a lawsuit by stating mere legal conclusions, they must present more: factual allegations that support inferences of misconduct. Thus, the refrain of Summer Nights is particularly apt: “Tell me more, tell me more.”

Students have responded favorably to the music over the years. Students love to think up songs on their own and come to me with their recommendations. I even receive occasional e-mails from former students letting me know about a new song they heard on the radio and how I might incorporate it into class.

So here is my big, fat, public thank you to Jayesh! I am extremely grateful for that 2010 immprof conference in Chicago. Your presentation inspired me -- as did the CD you shared after the conference. I'll be playing The Perfect Nanny by Louis Prima and Gia Maione tomorrow before we discuss Matter of Marion Graham. Still the best song choice!


September 8, 2019 in Music, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Teaching Marriage Fraud

Lego Wedding by AD Vedder

Marriage fraud is a really rich topic for class conversation. Here's how I approach the subject.

I start off by acknowledging the very real benefits of marrying a USC. We look at the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 6. And we talk about the numbers of quota-exempt spouses. We consider these stats in light of the current visa bulletin and discuss how long an individual might otherwise have to wait for an immigrant visa or whether they would even fit within an allowable category.

We then discuss the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments (IMFA) and the concept of "conditional residency." We spend time talking about the limitations of the IMFA. Problems 5 and 6 in Chapter 3 of Legomsky & Thronson (p. 367 of the 7th edition) do a great job of sussing out some limitations of the statute. And that textbook's discussion of the faulty statistics that sparked the creation of the IMFA is truly illuminating.

At the same time, marriage fraud is real--even if we doubt the numbers the led to the IMFA's enactment. So, how can we accurately tell that story?

I like to throw actress Nicole Byer under the bus. As I wrote about three years ago, Nicole (of Nailed It! fame) went on Conan and publicly admitted to marriage fraud. I play that interview in its entirety, which isn't very long. And we talk about the consequences she faced in telling this story (none) and the consequences for her former husband (denaturalization).

Another great resource is this June 2019 story about a marriage fraud ring in Houston. Why is that story so juicy? Well, for one, it involves a large number of people--as much as 150 migrants paying $70,000 each for marriage. But, more to the teaching point, how was this scheme found out? Was it the IMFA? No! As the Houston Chronicle explains:

[F]ederal agents noticed a pattern. Immigration petitions from Houston were arriving in the same type of envelope with a nearly identical cover letter filled out in a similar cursive script. Every one of 30 petitions had been mailed from the same Houston post office[.]


If you have other ideas for teaching marriage fraud, let me know. I'd love to hear them.


September 3, 2019 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Bringing Immigration into Civil Procedure (and Civ Pro into Immigration)

Professor Sinnar

I am one of those lucky immprofs who also gets to teach Civil Procedure. Woot. Woot. (That's an unironic woot for those unsure, a burst of genuine enthusiasm).

It's the start of the semester and I'm teaching my students about how to initiate a federal law suit -- with a complaint. And we're reading the complaint biggies from SCOTUS including those two modern (at least post-my-law-school-graduation) pleading Goliaths: Twombly and Iqbal.

I'm scanning around the internet, looking for a photo of Iqbal when I stumble upon an article by Professor Shirin Sinnar (Stanford): The Lost Story of Iqbal, 105 Georgetown Law Journal 379 (2017).

Readers, let me tell you, this article is the bomb.

Sinnar uncovers the story of the man behind the lawsuit. A man summarily described by SCOTUS as "a citizen of Pakistan and a Muslim" who, following 9/11, "was arrested in the United States on criminal charges and detained by federal officials."

Sinnar interviews Iqbal both in Pakistan and over Skype from the United States. She details his immigrant story, his detention story, and his post-deportation story. Each is utterly compelling.

For those immprofs who don't teach Civ Pro... don't tune this post out. Know that all of your students will have read Iqbal. So the case (and Sinnar's details that aren't apparent on the face of the case) can be a reference point when you're discussing issues of detention (criminal and civil) as well as national security/terrorism.

If nothing else, the piece has that photo I was searching for.


August 28, 2019 in Law Review Articles & Essays, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 23, 2019

Mediterranean Blue

Careful readers know that I love poetry. It's a medium that manages to convey volumes of emotion in short bursts of words.

Professor Rubén G. Rumbaut (Irvine) recently brought this gem to my attention. It's a piece written by Southwest poet Naomi Shihab Nye, the daughter of a Palestinian refugee.

Mediterranean Blue

If you are a child of a refugee, you do not
sleep easily when they are crossing the sea
on small rafts and you know they can't swim.
My father couldn't swim either. He swam through
sorrow, through, and made it to the other side
on a ship, pitching his old clothes overboard
at landing, then tried to be happy, make a new life.
But something inside him was always paddling home,
clinging to anything that floated--a story, a food, or face.
They are the bravest people on earth right now,
don't dare look down on them. Each mind a universe
swirling as many details as yours, as much love
for a humble place. Now the shirt is torn,
the sea too wide for comfort, and nowhere
to receive a letter for a long time.

And if we can reach out a hand, we better.

I start teaching asylum with Home by Warsan Shire. I like using that poem because it's from the perspective of the asylum seeker themselves. Her youtube reading of the poem brings tears to my eyes every time. The emotional impact of that work is undeniable.

Here, Mediterranean Blue offers something different. It captures the ongoing struggles of refugees, decades later, after resettlement. It's a poem that puts you a little off center. You'd think that finding refuge would be a miracle cure where all else that follows would be golden. This poem indicates something different. I think it might be a good end to an asylum course/segment. It says - look, we could do more than just offer a place to leave. We could be a hand to hold when the longing for the past is overwhelming.


August 23, 2019 in Books, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Teaching A-C-M- with The Mockingjay (Part 2)

I found myself re-watching all four Hunger Games movies with one of my kiddos this summer. We were on the last movie -- Mockingjay Part 2 -- when it hit me. This scene between Katniss and Gale in District 2 is the perfect vehicle for teaching Matter of A-C-M (BIA 2018).

Matter of A-C-M is all about when and how an individual provides "material support" to a terrorist organization. The respondent in that case performed "cooking and cleaning for the guerillas under the threat of death." If you're unfamiliar with the decision, you might read "under the threat of death" and think there's no way that this woman was found to have provided material support to a terrorist organization. You would be wrong.

Gale, it appears, would agree with the BIA. Play 3:55-4:34. For an even briefer cut check out 4:25 to 4:34. HG enthusiasts who want a longer cut can go from 3:55 to 4:40.

For the record, I have no idea what language those subtitles are. It was the only online clip I could locate of this scene.

Here's the key language from Gale: "Even if those civilians are just mopping floors, they're helping the enemy. And if they have to die, I can live with that. No one who supports the capitol is innocent."


August 21, 2019 in Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Time To Update Your Investor Visa Slides


It's time to update your investor visa slides and/or class notes. Today, DHS issued a final rule: EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization. It goes into effect November 21, 2019.

What's new?

Investment minimums are increasing. For "targeted employment area" (TEA) investments, the minimum required is rising from $500K to $900K. For all other investments, the minimum required is rising from $1 million to $1.8 million.

TEA designations now controlled by DHS. "the final rule eliminates the ability of a state to designate certain geographic and political subdivisions as high unemployment areas; instead, DHS will make such designations directly, using standards described in more detail elsewhere in this final rule."


July 24, 2019 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Choose Your Own Adventure: Migrant Addition


Check out this interactive feature from the BBC that puts you in the shoes of a migrant coming to America.

Here is the set up:

Your name is Maria and you live in El Salvador. You're 25 with two children. It's not safe where you live - gangs control the neighbourhoods. Your husband is in one gang and he hurts you. A neighbour was recently killed by her partner and you fear for your life. You decide to flee to the US. Taking your children will be dangerous.

Your first choice -- to take the kids with you or not?

Maria, you find out, has lots of choices. None are good.

This might be a good, short assignment before a segment on asylum.


July 14, 2019 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 8, 2019

HONY Nails The Uncertainty of Tech Workers on Temporary Visas


Once again, HONY impresses with an interview hitting on key issues regarding U.S. immigration law. Flag this one for use in your class about nonimmigrant visas. Great classroom conversation fodder!

I came from India in 2011 to get my Masters, and ended up working for a major tech company in San Francisco. It was a lucrative job, but there was always a looming cloud of uncertainty. Half of the people in my department were international workers-- mostly Indian and Chinese. All of us were on visas, so our future in America depended upon keeping our employment. I don’t think the managers intended to push us harder. But the international workers were more afraid, so we took more abuse. It just became part of the culture. We were given extra work, and the only way to keep up was to kill yourself every day. I just couldn’t do it. Eventually I burned out and moved to Vancouver. Canada was very welcoming. My wife and I have residency already. I’ve started my own business. I have all the clients I need. But most importantly I have a home. And I’m not talking about a brick structure. I mean a place that I’m allowed to be. Because once I had that, all my other problems seemed smaller. I could start thinking long term. Because no matter what happens, at least I know I’ll be here.


July 8, 2019 in Photos, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Asylum Realothetical: The Chinese Muslims of Xinjiang


Here is an asylum realothetical for your class: Muslims in the Chinese province of Xinjiang also called Uyghurs or Uighurs.

Just a few months ago, Vox reported on the detention of hundreds of thousands of Muslim adults in massive "reeducation camps" or "vocational training centers" focused on "thought education."  The state justifies the mass detentions on national security grounds -- a measure against "violent religious extremism."

This week, the BBC reported on China's system for the reeducation of Muslim children whose parents have been taken to reeducation camps. These kids are being sent to massive boarding schools.

It is significant, as the BBC states, that "the state has been growing its ability to care full-time for large numbers of children at precisely the same time as it has been building the detention camps."

Here are some numbers: "In just one year, 2017, the total number of children enrolled in kindergartens in Xinjiang increased by more than half a million. And Uighur and other Muslim minority children, government figures show, made up more than 90% of that increase."

Children live in these schools, where their native languages are banned. "Many of the schools bristle with full-coverage surveillance systems, perimeter alarms and 10,000 Volt electric fences[.]"

Adrian Zenz has published a report on this topic in the Journal of Political Risk: Break Their Roots: Evidence for China’s Parent-Child Separation Campaign in Xinjiang. He believes that what China is doing with Xinjiang Muslims "points to what we must call cultural genocide."


July 7, 2019 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Addressing Race Intentionally in Doctrinal Classes

Prof. Kupenda

Professor Angela Mae Kupenda (Miss. College) has written an essay for the Institute of Law Teaching and Learning that may be of interest to our readers: As Easy as "1, 2, Buckle My Shoe" 10 Steps for Addressing Race Intentionally in Doctrinal Classes.

Prof. Kupenda notes that "In many, if not all, of our courses, racial inequalities either lurk right beneath the surface or are in plain view in the cases and topics we cover." She argues that "Failing to lead our students in these discussions on race results in our not providing them the best education possible."

So what are her 10 steps?

Step 1. Grow in awareness of oneself as a “raced” individual in America.
Step 2. Grow in awareness of oneself as a teacher and of one’s calling as a law professor.
Step 3. Open the door of your mind to consider the presence of race in the courses you teach and to consider the consequences of your failing to address race.
Step 4. Open the door of your mind to consider the context in which you teach. In other words, be open to the possibility that close mindedness may be prevalent at your school. Consider the institutional environment and the consequences of doing what you must do–addressing the racial issues in your courses.
Step 5. Pick up your tools. Set the stage. Prepare for the impromptu. Plan for the unplanned. Rehearse for the unrehearsed.
Step 6. An important tool in addressing race in your courses is to shift some of that work to the students. Figure out ways to share the responsibility in class for addressing race, in other words plan in advance for inevitable disagreement.
Step 7. Notice what is going on in the classroom AND within yourself.
Step 8. If you don’t lay them straight in a given class meeting, you still get another chance and more chances to have a positive impact on the lives of your students by helping them think more deeply about the law and race.
Step 9. Perform a critique of how you are doing in our courses with addressing race.
Step 10. Revise and plan again for the next class meeting, next semester, or even the next academic year.

Check out the essay for a more fulsome discussion of these steps.


June 18, 2019 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)