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To work as an asylum attorney in the era of the backlog, you need to be either an optimist or a masochist. And I'm no optimist. But, as they say, "Fake it until you make it." In that spirit, and in the hope of better things to come in the Year of Our Lord 2015, I present 10 predictions for the new year that hopefully will make you--and more importantly, me--feel better about the future of asylum:
"Sorry kids, you can check in, but you can never leave."
1. The BIA will create a new social group--Backlogged Asylum Seekers: This year, the Board will determine that people stuck indefinitely in an asylum backlog are a Particular Social Group, and that waiting for eternity constitutes persecution. Therefore, anyone in the backlog will automatically receive asylum. Backlog solved. Badda-boom, badda-bing.
2. Detained children: DHS will use the power of Eminent Domain to seize Disney World and convert it into a large open-air prison for children and families. Surprisingly, this will save the U.S. government over $1.7 billion. Since the estimated cost of caring for approximately 60,000 children is $1.8 billion, and a Disney season pass is only $634 per person, the total cost to the U.S. tax payer for "Dis-catraz" will be just over $38 million, a savings of almost 98%.
3. One year asylum bar: After holding rational debate, politely questioning witnesses, and carefully examining evidence, Congress will conclude that American asylum policy is not well served by continuing the one-year bar. A bi-partisan Congress will vote to eliminate the bar, and the President will sign the bill into law. Fox News will provide respectful coverage of the issue, and Michelle Malkin will refer to undocumented immigrants as--wait for it--"human beings."
4. EOIR attorney registry: In 2015, EOIR will actually do something with the attorney registry. I predict that prior to December 25, 2015, EOIR will send every registered lawyer a lovely holiday card. Each card will personally thank us for representing immigrants and will be signed by the Chief Immigration Judge himself. ICE attorneys will be disappointed when they do not receive holiday cards.
5. Eliminate Leap Years: This may not seem asylum-related, but hear me out. I predict that Congress will eliminate leap years in order to speed up court dates. This means that all my Immigration Court cases scheduled for 2027 will be heard 3 days early. On the downside, any case scheduled for February 29 will be re-set to 2042.
6. Following to join: Anyone with children knows that you sometimes need a break from them. That seems to be the reasoning behind the long wait times for I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions. "Let's give these poor refugees a nice long break from their children and spouses," the well-intentioned designer of the I-730 process reasoned. But as it turns out, a year-long break (or more) is a bit much for most people. So I predict that in 2015, the I-730 process will be reformed so that it takes less than three months. Once the kids are here, if they need a break, the refugees can always hire a babysitter.
7. Persecutor bar: The persecutor bar will be immediately applied to all current and former members of the U.S. government. Anyone who is a persecutors or who provided "material support" to persecutors will be deported. I wonder whether we will be able to find a country willing to accept so many dangerous persecutors.
8. A new definition of Particular Social Group: Most observers, including this one, believe that we are closer to a Unified Field Theorem than we are to a coherent definition of PSG, but I predict that in 2015, the BIA will come up with a workable, understandable, and fair definition of Particular Social Group. I also predict that someone (probably an immigrant) will discover a simple mathematical formula that explains everything in the universe.
9. Filing for asylum will confer immediate status: Although it is fun in a Thunderdome-sort-of-way to watch asylum seekers struggle to survive for six months without a work permit or a driver's license, I predict that Congress will change the law to allow asylum applicants to immediately obtain employment authorization and a driver's license. So starting in 2015, applicants will be able to engage in such extravagant activities as driving to work, picking their children up at school, and earning money to eat.
10. USCIS Phone System: Thanks to billions in savings from sending all the detained children to Disney World, the government will hire enough telephone operators to answer all calls to the USCIS call center. The operators will be trained to provide substantive, helpful answers, and to make corrections to cases where necessary. Also, much like a PBS telethon, some of the operators will be celebrity guests. I suggest Dave Barry. He's reasonably funny, and except for his end-of-the-year reviews, his schedule is pretty open.
So as you can see, 2015 looks to be a banner year for asylum lawyers and our clients. I hope to see you there.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.