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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal


  1. A Spouse's Plea For Her Soon to be Deported Husband

    by , 10-14-2014 at 12:43 PM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    Buffalo Field Office Director Michael T. Phillips has just denied a request for prosecutorial discretion, which if granted would have allowed Ben Sangari, a citizen of the United Kingdom, to apply for a Green Card pursuant to his marriage to his United States citizen spouse Arlita McNamee Sangari. Mr. Sangari entered the U.S. on May 30, 2014, under the visa waiver program that allows nationals of certain countries to come to the U.S. without having to apply for a visa through the Department of State. His visitor status expired on August 27, 2014.

    Mr. Sangari overstayed his visitor status by a couple of weeks after he asked for his wife's hand in marriage. The couple was in the process of collecting all the necessary documentation needed to apply for his Green Card when Mr. Sangari was encountered during a routine traffic stop in the suburban Buffalo, New York area. He was taken into custody by Customs and Border Protections, and then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement where he has remained since September 22, 2014. Because he faces an imminent threat of removal, the couple were forced to marry from inside the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, New York.

    By coming under the visa waiver program Mr. Sangari is not entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge, and his fate is decided by the local district director who maintains sole discretionary authority to decide if he wants to deport him, or allow him to apply for a green card as a result of his marriage to a United States citizen.

    Despite the overstay of his visitor status, Mr. Sangari remains eligible to apply for his Green Card inside the country pursuant to a policy memorandum that specifically provides for this scenario. This memorandum has been ignored by Field Office Director Phillips, who instead based his denial of our request for relief entirely on the fact that he deemed Mr. Sangari a deportation priority due to the recency of his immigration violation, despite the fact that the Obama administration has specifically identified individuals such as him as a low priority for removal.

    It should be noted that Mr. Sangari is a respected business man and philanthropist holding a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in physics from the University of London. He sits on the Board of a trustees of the Eisenhower Fellowships, formerly chaired by Henry Kissinger, and now by General Colin Powell. The Eisenhower Fellowships’ primary mission is to inspire leaders around the world to challenge themselves, to think beyond their current scope, to engage others, including outside of their current networks, and to leverage their own talents to better the world around them.

    Mr. Sangari has also been an invited participant in President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative, which convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. In a letter dated October 22, 2009, President Clinton wrote “Your presence symbolizes an unwavering dedication to empowering our communities and building a stronger future for our world. I was inspired by your ideas, your initiative, and most importantly, your hope.” High praise indeed.

    The following letter is a plea written by Mr. Sangari's wife Arlita. The couple have asked me to share it here in the hopes that it will bring attention to their case, as well as serving as a warning that the memorandums of the Obama administration are not being implemented on a local level, and that families are being destroyed in the process.

    We can only hope that someone is listening:

    As a US Citizen you are taught to believe that you belong to this country, that you are protected, that you are free. When I think about what my experience has brought me in the United States it feels very far from free.

    Together with my mother, my father and my brother, this week a family of US citizens was just torn apart. As we cried what felt like a river of tears together, we all had to mourn what could have been and then face the reality that my parents would say goodbye to their daughter and son in law and what would have soon been their role as the grandparent-down-the-street. Ben’s ability to immigrate to the United States from the United Kingdom was denied.

    If Ben had a criminal record or any such blemish on his past that made him unsuitable to be welcomed into this country, perhaps we could have understood it. We still are not sure where we will go, but we know we will not leave one another’s side. The fact is that the family that we were to begin will now has to wait until we have stabilized somewhere.

    My US citizenship is supposed to make me feel free in this country and I have never felt more betrayed. When we arrived here some months ago, we brought so much hope with us. Not just for reuniting a family after 10 years us working in developing countries, but in finally having the opportunity to build a nest and raise our children in the safety of home. Now this hope has been shattered.

    From the moment we decided to pursue residency here we weighed our decisions carefully, we were careful to follow protocol. No one has asked us about the unfortunate circumstances that forced us to delay our wedding until days after the expiration of Ben`s visa, but the story is compelling.

    We were not naïve as to focus on family without also planning our careers and finances here. Our time here gave birth to an idea of a project for Buffalo that would create jobs, employ both of our skill sets, and bring economic growth to our region. We had already raised $150,000 for this Buffalo-based green technology venture, with plans to raise an additional $1.5 million in the next three years. Ben has 30 years of entrepreneurial experience, and just five years ago established a business in the US, investing more than $5 million in the US. He had ample right to a residency visas then, as an investor or for outstanding work – O Visa, but hadn’t need to pursue it.

    Turning us away for the smallest of mistakes, for which we are so overwhelmingly regretful, means closing this chapter of hope, of excitement, and of fulfilling our life goals here in this community. Now, by expelling Ben, I too have been expelled from my own country, and now I am the immigrant, with no status, at the mercy of England`s gates.

    We never tried to take more than what was ours, nor skip anyone else in line to come to America. We do not believe we are entitled to anything beyond fair and reasonable judgment.

    Please reunite our family and let this nightmare end. We have been waiting years and years for this moment and the power is yours not to take it away.

    Arlita McNamee Sangari

    Updated 10-14-2014 at 05:36 PM by MKolken

  2. Federal Appeals Court Limits "Mandatory" Immigration Detention

    by , 10-09-2014 at 05:41 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)

    ACLU class action lawsuit argued federal government wrongly incarcerated more than 100 people a year in Massachusetts jails under "mandatory detention" provision.

    October 7, 2014


    CONTACT: 212-549-2666,

    BOSTON — In a ruling that could enable more than 100 Massachusetts detainees per year to argue for their freedom, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has rejected the federal government's application of a "mandatory" immigration detention provision that prevents certain noncitizens from requesting release on bond during their immigration proceedings. The ruling came Monday afternoon in a pair of cases—including one brought by the ACLU of Massachusetts, the national ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, the Political Asylum / Immigration Representation Project, and Lutheran Social Services—in which noncitizens argued that they were being improperly detained without even the opportunity to request their release.

    The decision is part of an ACLU class action lawsuit filed in August 2013. Following the district court's ruling in that class action in May, at least 27 people have obtained their release from detention after demonstrating to an immigration judge that they did not pose a flight risk or danger warranting continued detention. Many of them are long-time lawful permanent residents whom immigration authorities were detaining on the basis of old criminal convictions.

    Yesterday's First Circuit ruling decides the core issue in that class action: "mandatory" immigration detention cannot apply to noncitizens who have been placed into deportation proceedings because of offenses for which they were released from custody long ago.

    "This ruling ensures that many noncitizens in Massachusetts will be allowed their day in court to argue for their freedom," said Adriana Lafaille, an Equal Justice Works legal fellow at the ACLU of Massachusetts, whose fellowship is sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP. "Rather than automatic, costly detentions of noncitizens like Mr. Gordon, who are plucked from their communities based on old offenses, the decision means that only those who need to be detained will be detained, while those who can safely return to their families while their cases are pending may be allowed to do so."
    ACLU client Clayton Gordon is a named plaintiff in the class action and one of the two noncitizens whose case was decided by yesterday's ruling. Gordon came to the United States at age six, has been a lawful permanent resident for more than 30 years, and served in the U.S. Army. In June, 2013, immigration authorities detained Gordon and held him without the possibility of bond because of a 2008 drug offense, even though he spent less than a day in jail for that offense and had completed his probationary term.

    After his arrest for that offense in 2008, Gordon and his fiancée had settled down, had a son, and bought a home. In 2013, Gordon was running his own contracting business and working on a project to open a halfway house in the Hartford area for women coming out of incarceration. But, as he drove to work on June 20, 2013, Gordon was surrounded by armed immigration agents, seized, and placed into mandatory detention.

    In October 2013, as a result of the ACLU's lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor ordered that Gordon was entitled to an individual bond hearing. An immigration judge granted him bond, and Gordon was reunited with his family in November 2013. Yesterday's ruling upholds the federal district judge's decision and ensures that Gordon can remain with his family while he awaits a ruling in his pending immigration case.

    Leiticia Castaneda, whose case was paired with Gordon's, was also unlawfully subjected to mandatory detention. She too had been held without the possibility of release on the basis of a 2008 drug offense. Following the decision of the District Court requiring a bond hearing in her case, the government released her on her own recognizance, reuniting her with her family during the pendency of her immigration proceedings. Castaneda was represented by immigration attorney Gregory Romanovsky. The ACLU filed an amicus brief in her case.

    "Yesterday the Court rejected a policy that undermines both our constitutional values and common sense," said Eunice Lee, an attorney at the Immigrants' Rights Project of the national ACLU. "Our laws don't allow the government to put immigrants in mandatory lock-up simply because they had run-ins with criminal justice system many years ago. The Court's decision prevents the irrational, unjust detention of these individuals without basic due process of law."

    For a copy of the First Circuit's opinion, go to:

    For more information about "mandatory" immigration detention, go to:
  3. AILA: Obama Talks Big on Immigration Reform, But is Not Delivering

    by , 10-07-2014 at 07:44 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 14100640 (posted Oct. 6, 2014)


    Monday, October 6, 2014

    Washington, DC
    - Leslie A. Holman, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) responded to two recent announcements from the Obama Administration, the first regarding eligible immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applying for the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program and a second plan to allow young children from Central American countries to apply for refugee status from outside the U.S.

    "Unfortunately, both these announcements are all noise with virtually no impact. The MAVNI program offers a chance for immigrants to serve this country and eventually earn citizenship, but there are so many caveats and limitations that this announcement by its own terms would be limited to very few. Add to that the fact that an existing Administration policy bars people from service based on their family members' immigration status. The result is that virtually all DACA-authorized individuals are effectively blocked from serving.

    "Meanwhile President Obama's idea of implementing an in-country refugee processing program in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala could be an effective tool in addressing the humanitarian situation there. But again here is a policy that is so limited as to lack any meaningful impact. The announcement actually lowers the total number of refugee slots available for the entire Latin American region down to 4000, and makes an odd proviso that limits protection of children only to those who have family members legally present in the United States. With tens of thousands in need, that's like the captain of the Titanic telling everyone to jump into one lifeboat. That's no solution for these desperate mothers and children-victims of domestic abuse, gang rape, beatings, and gun violence.

    "These two actions are policies that sound good at first, but in operation only pretend to be changes. What we really need is the President to take big, bold action that will help our military, our economy, our communities, our businesses, and our families. These pretenses of policy change aren't helping. Last week he promised real action on immigration. We need better proof than this."


    The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

  4. A Republican-controlled Senate may be the only way immigration reform passes

    by , 10-06-2014 at 10:07 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    My latest oped originally published on Fox News Latino.

    With only a few weeks left before the midterm elections, and on the heels of President Obama’s delay of ameliorative executive action, immigration reform activists are at a crossroads as to where to throw the power of their vote. Tossing gasoline onto an already roaring fire was at risk Senators Mary Landrieu (D- LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) who linked arms with Republican Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz calling to defund executive actions that provide deportation relief to the undocumented community.

    All four Democrats are fighting for their political lives as evidenced by the break from Senate Democrats who ultimately defeated the Republican-led charge to permit amendments to a continuing resolution. The activist community took note., the nation’s largest online Latino organization, issued a statement that “Latinos are not political footballs to be thrown back and forth as convenient,” while circulating an online petition calling for people to oppose Senator Pryor in his reelection bid reasoning that “they didn't have our backs — so we won’t have theirs.” They were not alone.

    The National Coordinating Committee for Fair and Humane Immigration Reform 2014 recommended that Latino voters oppose any candidate, regardless of party affiliation, that does not support an immediate end to deportations. The coalition explained that their intent is to “forge an independent political electorate among Latino communities,” and their goal is to make both parties work for the Hispanic vote, while opposing candidates that do not support the core needs of the constituency. A worthy goal indeed, but at what cost?
    House Republicans have been the singular force obstructing immigration reform since bipartisan Senate legislation passed over a year ago, and most presume they will continue to obstruct for the remainder of the lame duck Obama Presidency. Is there any credible reason to believe that Republicans will drive reform efforts in the event of a Senate takeover?

    The short answer: possibly.

    In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Speaker Boehner played the same old tired tune that he “absolutely” could get the votes needed to advance legislation through the House remarking that “it was time to do immigration reform.” The Speaker claims to be confident that his party will act, but he predictably attached the caveat that any executive action providing deportation relief will “poison the well” to reform negotiations.

    But put that aside, as there have been other more believable signs that Republicans may intend to advance immigration reform in the event of a Senate takeover. Republican immigration torch bearer Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) recently went on record stating that the chances of immigration reform passing may actually increase with a GOP controlled Senate. Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), who supports a pathway to citizenship, agreed stating that “I think there would certainly be greater trust between the House and Senate in agreeing on something.”

    There appears to be movement in the GOP-controlled House towards a middle of the road immigration reform solution. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) have both spoken about removing one of the major impediments preventing a significant percentage of the undocumented community from becoming legal. They have both acknowledged that any solution with an end-game resulting in the deportation of 11 million people is neither politically viable nor legally plausible, as our immigration courts simply do not possess the resources necessary to effectuate removals on a scale of that magnitude.

    Independent immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity has also expressed cautious optimism that all may not be lost should the GOP wrestle control of the upper house stating that "a Republican controlled Senate could liberalize the legal immigration system and address many of the concerns raised by moderate Republicans." He noted that there may also be benefits should Republicans control the immigration reform narrative, which includes the creation of a workable guest worker program, and an immigration system that better serves our nation’s economic needs.

    In fact, there are growing whispers that the only way immigration reform has any chance of passage before the 2016 presidential election is if the Republicans win the Senate, because should they fail in their bid they will continue their obstruction in the House.

    Recent polls reveal that battleground races are too close to call, but whatever the final outcome the lesson to be learned is that the Hispanic electorate is a force that can no longer be ignored, and that those opposing them will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

    Updated 10-06-2014 at 04:05 PM by MKolken

  5. Polis, Grijalva, Cicilline, Lofgren Call On Obama to Protect LGBT Immigrants

    by , 09-30-2014 at 02:30 PM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    Media Release: September 30, 2014

    Contact: Scott Overland (Polis), (202) 225-2161
    Dan Linder (Grijalva), (202) 225-2435
    Andrew Gernt (Cicilline), (202) 225-4911
    Peter Whippy (Lofgren), (202) 225-3072

    WASHINGTON, DC — On Monday, Representatives Jared Polis (CO-02), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), David Cicilline (RI-01), and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) sent a letter signed by forty-four Members of Congress to President Barack Obama urging him to include protections for LGBT immigrants as he develops and implements new executive actions on immigration.

    The Representatives recognized that the President alone cannot fix our nation’s broken immigration system, but called on him to use the executive powers he does have to address the unique challenges faced by LGBT immigrants who currently face additional complications, including familial separation and gender-based violence in detention.

    “By exercising your power to implement administrative policies that take into account the uniquely dangerous and difficult circumstances facing LGBT immigrants, you have the ability to protect thousands of individuals immediately,” the Representatives wrote. “[I]t is imperative that you use the tools at your disposal to ensure that families stay together, that immigrants are not put in harm’s way, and that LGBT people are not subjected, at the hands of the American government, to the dangers from which they have fled.”

    There are currently 267,000 LGBT immigrants living in the United States, many of whom came to this country to escape threats and extreme violence. Existing Department of Homeland Security prosecutorial discretion policies have failed to implement a meaningful balancing test that properly weighs strong equities against negative factors, making at-risk LGBT immigrants much less likely to qualify for protection. In addition, LGBT immigrants are routinely deported back to nations in which their sexual orientation or gender identity places their lives at risk.
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