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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal


  1. Identity of Immigration Judges Subject to Complaints of Misconduct Revealed

    by , 01-17-2017 at 09:57 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    The following was originally published by immigration lawyer Bryan Johnson on January 16, 2017:

    The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has aggressively concealed the identities of Immigration Judges in connection with complaints of misconduct made against them for several years.

    Until today.

    In response to a FOIA from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the DOJ released over 14,000 pages of documents in connection to 770 complaints made against immigration judges between 2008 and 2013. The lawsuit is still pending, and DOJ has yet to reveal any of the identities of the Immigration Judges.

    This past weekend, I discovered that a significant portion of the documents released by the DOJ were not, in fact, redacted.

    Using the information gleaned from the un-redacted documents, I identified 58 immigration judges with 443 complaints. In other words, over half of the complaints are now matched with the immigration judge whom the complaint was made against.

    Here is a modified key, which you can use to identify complaints in AILA’s database linked to above with the corresponding Immigration Judge.

    Here are additional documents I have already combined for the general public’s use:

    IJ Vomacka Complaints

    IJ Hom Complaints
    IJ Cassidy Complaints
    IJ Wilson Complaints
    IJ Nugent Complaints
    IJ Ford Complaints
    IJ Pelletier Complaints
  2. Mothers Held in Deportation Jail for 17 Months Pen Letter to Obama

    by , 01-12-2017 at 10:20 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    Dear Mr. BARACK OBAMA, we are addressing you as a group of mothers who have been locked up for 17 months at BERKS COUNTY RESIDENTIAL CENTER in LEESPORT, PENNSYLVANIA.

    We are 16 families who have come for refuge, protection and help to the United States of America, but we are in a situation where we do not know what is going to happen to us, especially in this new phase of government transition. So we ask you to take conscience and give us the opportunity to finally be free.

    The only offense we committed was to enter without permission to the United States, for the sole reason of protecting the lives of our children from the extreme violence that we live in our countries. We are in a desperate situation.

    The federal court has granted us a stay while our lawyers request the Supreme Court to evaluate our case. Until this Court makes a final decision, we cannot be deported. While we expect the Supreme Court to give fair consideration to the fundamental rights of persons seeking refuge and asylum, we also urge you and your administration to consider the harm that this prolonged detention has caused us, the mothers and children who have lived detained for so long.

    It is not fair to spend 2 Christmases with our children in prison. They are psychologically ill and need specialized medical attention. With our children detained for so long, we, their mothers, feel powerless because they cry and ask us "When will we leave this JAIL?" "When can we have a NORMAL life?"

    All we ask for is an opportunity to present our asylum cases in order to stay in this country. We feel we can not return to our countries of origin. The conditions for women and children in our countries are getting worse every day, and because of this, every day we fear more for our lives and the lives of our children. Besides, we have families and legal advisers in this country ready to support us at every step of this process. We just ask for one opportunity.

    In previous days, we have seen in the news that you pardoned a group of people with criminal records, and we want to emphasize that the only "illegal" thing we have done is to have crossed the Rio Bravo without permission (which we believe we have already paid for, given the long time we have been in detention), to ask for protection for our families.

    The only thing we ask is that you pardon us, just as you did with these other people, you who still have the power to do so, and allow us to reunite with our families, who are waiting for us since 2015.

    We expect a prompt response, thank you in advance.


  3. Health Care Professionals Urge Pennsylvania Court to Reject License for Family Detention Facility

    by , 01-10-2017 at 10:02 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    Via Human Rights First:

    New York City—A group of twenty-two doctors, psychologists, nurses, and social workers last week urged the Pennsylvania Bureau of Hearings and Appeals to reject the Berks County's appeal for the Berks County Residential Center, a family detention facility, to be relicensed as a childcare facility. The call came in an amicus brief filed in support of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which refused to renew the license for the facility last year.

    “This filing is a reflection of what we have long known—that detention, even for short amount of time—is harmful to children’s mental and physical health,” said Human Rights First’s Robyn Barnard. “The health professionals who signed this brief have witnessed the catastrophic impacts that detention can have on children’s long-term well-being.”

    Last month a Texas judge blocked the issuance of licenses for family immigration detention facilities in Karnes and Dilley, Texas.

    Human Rights First has long-documented the negative mental and physical health impacts of detention on children and their parents. Leading pediatricians, physicians, and social workers have found that detention, even for short periods of time, can lead to depression, anxiety, behavioral regressions, and suicidality in children. At present, the families detained at Berks have experienced an average of over 200 days of detention.

    The amicus brief stated that "many of the children held at the detention center experience significant mental, physical, and emotional health problems, which may permanently impact their social and psychological development. These children, the vast majority of whom are seeking asylum based on persecution in their home countries, have experienced significant trauma, which is exacerbated by their detention." Human Rights First notes that none of the three family detention centers in the United States has an operating license consistent with the requirements under the Flores Settlement Agreement.

    “After just a few weeks in detention some children at the Berks family detention center exhibit ‘symptoms of behavioral regression,’ including ‘oppositional-defiant disorder, depression, anxiety, and increased aggression,’” wrote the signatories of the amicus brief. “These negative feelings and mental health problems only intensify as the length of time in detention increases. Some children have spent over 450 days in detention at the center, and others have been held in detention for almost half of their lives.”

    Human Rights First reiterates its call for the Obama Administration end the harmful practices of detaining families, a practice which also violates U.S. human rights commitments. Late last year the DHS Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers recommended that the administration end its policy of detaining children and their families.

    A broad array of voices have called on the administration to end the practice of detaining families, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association, Catholic and Lutheran Bishops, and 178 members of Congress and 35 senators.

    In 2015 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson calling for an end to the administration's detention of families. They emphasized that detention, which is associated with poorer health outcomes, makes the situation worse for already vulnerable mothers and children. The AAP also questioned whether family detention facilities were capable of providing generally recognized standards of care for children.
    “If… the detention center remains licensed, substantial harm will result to children within the Commonwealth,” wrote signatories of the brief.

    For more information or to speak with Barnard contact Corinne Duffy at or 202-370-3319.
  4. Immigration Now 52 Percent of All Federal Criminal Prosecutions

    by , 01-06-2017 at 11:16 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    As I previously explained, Obama has engaged in the widespread criminalization of immigration law violations to enable him to pad his "criminal" deportation statistics.

    Via Syracuse University's TRAC Immigration:

    Immigration remains the major focus of federal criminal enforcement efforts. The latest available data show that criminal prosecutions for illegal entry, illegal re-entry, and similar immigration violations made up 52 percent of all federal prosecutions in FY 2016. During the 12 months ending September 30, immigration prosecutions totaled 69,636. See Table 1.

    This number compares with just 63,405 prosecutions for all other federal crimes—including drugs, weapons, fraud, and violations of the thousands of other criminal provisions that the federal government is responsible for enforcing.

    These comparisons are based on case-by-case records obtained as a result of lengthy litigation brought by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) against the U.S. Department of Justice.

    The number of immigration prosecutions in FY 2016 was down 6.9 percent from levels in FY 2015 when such prosecutions totaled 74,791. It was also down 15.3 percent from the levels of five years ago when they totaled 82,250. Prosecutions over the past year are still much higher than they were ten years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 85.6 percent from the level of 37,529 reported in 2006 and up 823 percent from the level of 7,543 reported in 1996.

    The long term trend in immigration prosecutions for these matters going back to FY 1996 is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of immigration prosecutions of this type recorded each fiscal year. Each presidential administration is distinguished by the color of the bars.

  5. DHS Releases End of Year Removal and Return Statistics

    by , 01-01-2017 at 11:08 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    Release Date:
    December 30, 2016

    For Immediate Release
    Office of the Press Secretary
    Contact: 202-282-8010

    WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 statistics. These statistics reflect the Department’s immigration enforcement efforts prioritizing convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security and national security.

    Overall, in FY 2016, the Department apprehended 530,250 individuals nationwide and conducted a total of 450,954 removals and returns. The U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) reported 415,816 apprehensions nationwide, compared to 337,117 in FY 2015; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 114, 434 individuals, compared to 125,211 in FY 2015. Although apprehensions by the USBP in FY 2016 increased from FY 2015, they remain a fraction of the number of apprehensions routinely observed from the 1980s through 2008. In addition, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) identified 274,821 inadmissible individuals at ports of entry, compared to 253,509 in FY 2015. ICE removed or returned 240,255 individuals in FY 2016, compared to 235,413 in FY 2015.

    The Department continues to successfully implement the civil immigration enforcement priorities announced by Secretary Johnson in November 2014. In FY 2016, 98 percent of initial enforcement actions – a set of actions that includes USBP apprehensions, OFO determinations of inadmissibility, and ICE administrative arrests – involved individuals classified within one of the three enforcement priority categories. Ninety-one percent were among the top priority (Priority 1), which includes national security threats, individuals apprehended at the border while attempting to enter unlawfully, and the most serious categories of convicted criminals as well as gang members.

    Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson made the following statement concerning the FY 2016 numbers:

    The immigration statistics released in today’s report reflect the continued effort by this Administration to dedicate the Department of Homeland Security’s resources to smart enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws, with a particular focus on public safety and border security.

    We continued to strengthen the federal government’s decades-long investment in border security. These investments have paid off. Apprehensions on the border in recent years – a strong indicator of total attempts to cross the border – are much lower than they used to be. In FY 2016, total apprehensions by the Border Patrol on the southwest border numbered 408,870. This represents a fraction of the number of apprehensions routinely observed from the 1980s through 2008.

    In FY 2016, we continued to better focus our interior resources on removing individuals who may pose threats to public safety—specifically, convicted criminals and threats to national security. This prioritization is reflected in actual results. Overall, 98% of all initial immigration enforcement actions and over 99% of all removals and returns in FY 2016 aligned with the immigration enforcement priorities that I established in November 2014. Significantly, an increasing percentage of those deported from the interior were convicted of serious crimes – over 90% in 2016 as compared to 51% in 2009.

    The information released today includes a new, consolidated Immigration Enforcement report by our Department’s Office of Immigration Statistics. It is part of our effort to improve the transparency of DHS’s immigration enforcement efforts by releasing the end of year statistics of CBP and ICE together rather than piecemeal. This marks the third year in a row we have done this. As my term comes to an end, I strongly encourage the next Administration to continue publishing this report and to continue to enhance the transparency of DHS’s immigration enforcement efforts.

    Overall Immigration Enforcement Outcomes

    At every point in the immigration enforcement process, the Department has successfully implemented the enforcement priorities established by Secretary Johnson in his November 20, 2014 memorandum, Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants.

    Immigration enforcement agents and officers initiated new enforcement actions against 805, 071 inadmissible or deportable aliens in FY 2016. These actions included 415,816 USBP apprehensions, 274,821 inadmissibility determinations by OFO, and 114,434 ICE arrests. Overall, 98 percent of these actions involved individuals who were classified within one of the Department’s enforcement priority categories. Ninety-one percent of initial enforcement actions involved individuals classified within the highest-level Priority 1 categories, which include national security threats, individuals apprehended at the border while attempting to enter unlawfully, and the most serious categories of convicted criminals as well as gang members.

    Subsequent enforcement actions were similarly focused on the Department’s enforcement priorities. ICE placed 352,882 individuals in a civil detention facility in FY 2016, 98 percent of whom were classified within an enumerated priority category, and less than 0.3 percent who were classified as “other federal interest.” (Priority data was unavailable for 1.7 percent of aliens placed in detention.)

    ICE and CBP repatriated a total of 450,954 individuals in FY 2016, which consisted of 344,354 removals and 106,600 returns. Overall, 94 percent of removals and returns were classified within a Priority 1 category, five percent were classified within a Priority 2 category (i.e., serious and repeat misdemeanants, individuals who unlawfully entered the United States on or after January 1, 2014, and significant abusers of the visa system or visa waiver program), and one percent were classified within a Priority 3 category (individuals issued a final order of removal on or after January 1, 2014). Less than 0.1 percent of removals and returns involved individuals classified as other federal interests, and less than 0.3 percent had unknown priority classifications.

    For a comprehensive discussion of DHS-wide enforcement actions in FY 2016 please click here.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Enforcement Efforts At and Between Ports of Entry

    While the total number of apprehensions by the USBP nationwide between ports of entry increased in FY 2016 from FY 2015, USBP apprehensions remain lower than both FY 2014 and FY 2013. Meanwhile, the demographics of illegal migration on our southern border have changed significantly over the last 15 years – far fewer Mexicans and single adults are attempting to cross the border without authorization, but more families and unaccompanied children are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. In 2014, Central Americans apprehended on the southern border outnumbered Mexicans for the first time. In 2016, Central Americans again outnumbered Mexicans in apprehensions on the southern border.

    In FY 2016, the USBP apprehended a total of 59,757 unaccompanied children and 77,857 family units nationwide.

    CBP continues to monitor the arrival of unaccompanied children[1] and family units[2] from Central America and is working closely to support federal interagency efforts to manage these flows and address the underlying factors causing this migration.

    Enforcement actions at ports of entry continued to yield important border security achievements. At ports of entry in FY 2016, CBP officers arrested 8,129 individuals wanted for serious crimes. Officers also stopped 274,821 inadmissible individuals from entering the United States through ports of entry, an increase of 7.6 percent from FY 2015. Depending on the circumstances, these individuals were placed in removal proceedings, allowed to voluntarily return to their country of origin, or allowed to withdraw their applications for admission into the United States. Inadmissibility grounds included those related to an inability to satisfy documentary requirements, previous immigration violations, as well as criminal and national security-related reasons.

    As part of these efforts, CBP also identified 14,293 high-risk travelers who would have been found inadmissible had they traveled to the United States, and who were instead prevented from boarding flights destined for the United States. For a comprehensive breakdown of CBP’s FY 2016 enforcement efforts, please click here.

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Interior Border Enforcement Efforts

    In FY 2016, ICE removed or returned 240,255 individuals. Of these, 174,923 removals were of individuals apprehended at or near the border or ports of entry. The remaining 65,332 were apprehended by ICE officers in the interior of the United States.

    Of ICE’s FY 2016 removals, 99.3 percent, or 238,466, met one or more of ICE’s stated civil immigration enforcement priorities. Of the 101,586 aliens removed who had no criminal conviction, 95 percent, or 96,572, were apprehended at or near the border or ports of entry. ICE’s interior enforcement activities led to an increase in the percentage of interior removals that were of convicted criminals, growing from 82 percent in FY 2013 to 92 percent in FY 2016. These numbers clearly illustrate the agency’s continued commitment to focus on the removal of convicted criminals and others posing a threat to public safety in the interior of the United States.

    The Department’s civil immigration enforcement priorities have impacted how ICE conducts removals, as the priorities have heightened ICE’s focus on the greatest threats to national security, public safety, and border security. Rather than expending limited resources on individuals who have been in this country for many years or those charged or convicted of traffic and other minor offenses, ICE instead focuses its resources on those who pose a threat to public safety and on recent unlawful entrants, consistent with the Secretary’s November 20, 2014 memorandum, Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants.

    FY 2016 was the first full year of implementation of these priorities, as they went into effect in mid-FY 2015. In FY 2016, 99.3 percent of total ICE removals and returns were of individuals that were a civil enforcement priority and 83.7 percent were of Priority 1 individuals.

    Level of Cooperation from State and Local Law Enforcement Partners

    A significant factor impacting removal operations has been the number of state and local law enforcement jurisdictions that have limited or declined cooperation with ICE, due to the enactment of numerous state statutes and local ordinances reducing and/or preventing cooperation with ICE, in addition to federal court decisions that created the perception of liability concerns for cooperating law enforcement agencies. Declined detainers result in convicted criminals being released back into U.S. communities with the potential to re-offend. Moreover, they draw resources away from other ICE efforts to protect public safety, by requiring ICE to expend additional resources to locate and arrest convicted criminals at-large rather than safely taking custody of such individuals in jails.

    To address this problem, on November 20, 2014, Secretary Johnson announced the creation of the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). Implemented in July 2015, PEP is designed to be flexible, allowing ICE to tailor the program to fit the needs of each jurisdiction and achieve mutual law enforcement goals. PEP improves the process of transferring individuals who pose a threat to public safety from state and local custody by enabling ICE to take custody of priority individuals without damaging trust with local communities. Throughout 2015 and 2016, DHS and ICE conducted a nationwide effort to implement PEP and promote collaboration, reaching out to thousands of local law enforcement agencies and government officials. Because of these efforts, 21 of the top 25 jurisdictions with the largest number of previously declined detainers agreed to participate in PEP.

    Increased CBP Apprehensions

    ICE supports border security efforts by detaining and removing certain individuals arrested by CBP; historically, a significant number of ICE’s removals have been of individuals that CBP apprehended at the border. In FY 2016, the total number of USBP apprehensions was approximately 415,816, an increase of 23 percent from FY 2015. This in turn resulted in a 26 percent increase in FY 2016 ICE intakes resulting from CBP apprehensions, from 193,951 intakes from CBP to ICE in FY 2015 to 244,510 such intakes in FY 2016.

    Changing Migrant Demographics

    Changing migrant demographics also impacted ICE removal operations in FY 2016, as illegal entries by Mexicans continued to decrease while illegal entries by Central Americans continued to increase. More time, personnel resources, detention capacity, and funding are required to complete the removal process for individuals from non-contiguous countries, as compared to Mexican nationals apprehended at the border, because removals of non-Mexican nationals require ICE to secure travel documents from the host country and to arrange air transportation. Perhaps most significantly, many Central American nationals, including family units and unaccompanied minors, are asserting claims of credible or reasonable fear of persecution. Such cases require additional adjudication, and therefore, take significantly longer to process.

    For a comprehensive breakdown of ICE’s FY 2016 removal numbers, please see the FY 2016 report here.

    [1] Individuals under the age of 18 who were not with their biological parent or legal guardian at the time of the encounter.

    [2] The term Family Unit represents the number of individuals (to include a child under 18 years old, parent, or legal guardian) apprehended with a family member by the U.S. Border Patrol.

    Updated 01-03-2017 at 08:56 AM by MKolken

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