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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal


  1. Gut-Wrenching Letter from a Refugee Mother Held in Artesia, New Mexico

    by , 08-12-2014 at 09:29 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    The following letter reveals what refugee mothers and their children are forced to endure at the hands of agents of the Obama administration.

    Updated 08-12-2014 at 09:32 AM by MKolken

  2. Immigration "Upper Management" Confirms Obama has Authority to Exercise Discretion

    by , 08-08-2014 at 10:39 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    The following comment was submitted in response to a blog written by my colleague Roger Algase regarding the Bush administration's exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

    I was an immigration officer for 39 years, including 29 years in upper management. I saw many memos on the use of prosecutorial discretion over the years. This is used by all prosecutors, whether they be at the local, state, or federal level. For example, when I was an INS Criminal Investigator in Baltimore (1975-1980), the U.S. Attorney for Maryland would not prosecute for theft relating to international shipping unless it was greater than $30,000. In immigration cases, most U.S. Attorneys would not prosecute for entering the country after deportation unless it was a second or third offense. As mentioned above, the reason is simple, they had too many cases and had to be selective.

    Prosecutorial discretion was also used by law enforcement officers in the field. We didn't arrest every person who broke the law. If an illegal alien was married to an American citizen and had American children, we often advised the American spouse to file a petition instead of making an arrest. Why not, we would never succeed in deporting this person anyway.

    Memos from top immigration officials often spelled out the policies different administrations wanted to use relating to prosecutorial discretion. The memo you cited was typical and not unusual.

    Prosecutorial discretion could only be used in cases related to violations of the law. It could not be used when we made decisions on immigration benefits.

    There is no question that President Obama has the Constitutional authority to favorably exercise discretion by expanding current policies that provide deportation relief on a case-by-case basis. The rhetorical question is why has President Obama been allowed to lie about his authority for 5.5 years, and more importantly, why does it take an election for him to exercise it?

    Updated 08-08-2014 at 10:42 AM by MKolken

  3. Obama is Speeding up Deportations for Refugee Children

    by , 08-07-2014 at 12:58 PM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    From MSNBC's Now with Alex:

    "While many undocumented immigrants are still being held at isolated detention centers, new reports are indicating that the Obama Administration is trying to 'speed up' deportations. Buzzfeed’s John Stanton joins to shed light on the issue."

  4. Why Isn’t President Obama Protecting Refugee Children?

    by , 08-05-2014 at 03:44 PM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    Originally published on Fox News Latino:

    The humanitarian crisis on the southern border is the center of a political firestorm in Washington. At issue is the bipartisan 2000 anti-trafficking law, signed by President Bush and re-authorized in 2008, that requires the Obama Administration to institute immigration court proceedings against unaccompanied children from Central American countries rather than deporting them without a hearing like children from Mexico.

    Both the President and Republicans have expressed a keen interest in stripping those provisions to enable the Administration to expeditiously deport children without the full panoply of due process protections. For the obvious reasons, most Democrats and immigrant rights advocates oppose the proposed change.

    Given the confines of the law, like many Republicans, President Obama has expressed a desire to “eliminate delays in deporting children” that his Administration unilaterally determines have no legal option to stay in the United States. Unfortunately for the children, President Obama has neglected to acknowledge that there is a distinct legal option available to each refugee child fleeing violence in Central America, and it is within the President’s sole discretionary authority to exercise it.

    The Immigration and Nationality Act specifically provides that under 8 U.S. Code § 1157, INA § 207(b) the President maintains the express power to grant refugee status to groups of individuals in the presence of “grave humanitarian concerns,” or if it is otherwise in the national interest. If tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing violence doesn't constitute a grave humanitarian concern, I don’t know what on Earth does.

    To add insult to injury, not only is the President declining to exercise his authority to protect refugee children, his Administration is fast-tracking deportation proceedings, and children are being removed without the benefit of legal representation. This reflects a distinct policy shift by the Administration calculated to discourage children from fleeing violence in their home countries and an unconscionable decision to deport them back to an almost certain death.

    The American Civil Liberties Union and American Immigration Council have filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of refugee children challenging the Administration’s failure to afford children an opportunity to obtain counsel as the law requires. The lawsuit begs the court to provide more time for children to find a lawyer, or to be provided representation at government expense if the Administration elects to proceed against them on an expedited basis.

    Ahilan Arulanantham, Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU of Southern California and a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, commented that the children named in the lawsuit are fleeing violence in their home countries and “are now under imminent threat of being deported, potentially to their death, because of the Administration’s misguided ‘rocket docket’ policy for child refugees.” He remarked that “To force them to defend themselves against a trained prosecutor without legal assistance violates due process and our most basic values as a nation.”

    But it gets worse.

    A recent release of a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that despite a 2010 policy against it, the Obama administration is detaining hundreds of pregnant women in detention facilities across the United States. The ignored policy provides that “absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirements of mandatory detention” women who are pregnant, nursing, or demonstrate that they are primary caretakers of children or an infirm person, should not be detained.

    If only it stopped at detaining pregnant women. There are credible reports of expecting mothers being underfed, and being fed maggot infested food, while being denied gynecological exams and adequate prenatal care during pregnancy, in addition to being housed in unsanitary conditions in extreme temperatures.

    It simply shocks the conscience that the most vulnerable among us, children, and detained pregnant mothers, are being treated as a political inconvenience to be disposed of like yesterday’s polling numbers, which incidentally are not good for the President. An Associated Press - GFK Public Affairs poll just released reveals that disapproval of the President’s immigration policy has jumped 18 points to 57 percent. Given the President’s handling of the current crisis, it is easy to understand why.

    Democrats have been understandably quick to shame Republicans for their lack of compassion for children fleeing violence. Considering recent events, maybe it is time they start pointing fingers at the leader of their own party.

    Updated 08-07-2014 at 12:56 PM by MKolken

  5. Groups Ask Federal Court to Block Deportations of Children without Due Process

    by , 08-01-2014 at 09:13 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)

    For Immediate Release

    Groups Ask Federal Court to Block Deportation Hearings for
    Children Without Legal Representation

    Move Comes as Immigration Courts are Speeding Up Deportation Hearings
    Against Children, Raising Serious Concerns

    August 1, 2014

    Washington D.C.
    – The American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP have asked a federal court to immediately block the government from pursuing deportation proceedings against several children unless it ensures those youth have legal representation. The move comes as immigration courts are speeding up deportation hearings against children in an expedited process sometimes referred to as a "rocket docket."

    The groups filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of thousands of children challenging the federal government's failure to provide them with lawyers in their deportation hearings. The preliminary injunction motion filed late last night specifically asks that the fast-approaching deportation proceedings for several of the named plaintiffs be forestalled until those children are provided with attorneys. The groups also asked the court to hear their motion for class certification as soon as possible, so that other unrepresented children may be protected as well.

    "These children face an imminent threat of being deported, potentially to their death," said Ahilan Arulanantham, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. "To force them to defend themselves against a trained prosecutor, with their lives literally on the line, violates due process and runs counter to everything our country stands for."

    The plaintiffs cited in the motion are:

    • A 10-year-old boy, his 13-year-old brother, and 15-year-old sister from El Salvador, whose father was murdered in front of their eyes. The father was targeted because he and the mother ran a rehabilitation center for people trying to leave gangs.
    • A 14-year-old girl who had been living with her grandparents, but was forced to flee El Salvador after being threatened and then attacked by gang members.
    • A 15-year-old boy who was abandoned and abused in Guatemala, and came to the United States without any family or friends.
    • A 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala and now lives with his lawful permanent-resident father in Los Angeles.

    "In the rush to schedule children's immigration court hearings immediately, we cannot lose sight of the government's obligation to ensure due process,” said Beth Werlin, deputy legal director of the American Immigration Council. "Many children are eligible to remain in the United States, but may be ordered deported simply because they do not understand our complex immigration laws and how to prove their claims."

    The government initiates immigration court proceedings against thousands of children each year. Some of these youth have lived in the U.S. for years, and many have fled violence and persecution in their home countries. President Obama recently stated that the government response to the influx of children coming across the Southern border will include "fulfilling our legal and moral obligation to make sure we appropriately care for unaccompanied children who are apprehended." And yet, thousands of children required to appear in immigration court must do so without an attorney.

    "We argue that these children need legal representation in order to ensure that their legal rights to a full and fair hearing are not violated," said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. "Instead of protecting the children's legal rights, the government has turned around and implemented an expedited deportation process that further undermines the already meager protections that exist."

    The lawsuit, J.E.F.M. v. Holder, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Wash. It charges the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Office of Refugee Resettlement with violating the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act's provisions requiring a "full and fair hearing" before an immigration judge.

    Talia Inlender, staff attorney with Public Counsel, a not-for-profit law firm that works with immigrant children, said, "These children, like so many others who contact our office each day, live in fear of being sent back to the violent countries they fled but have no idea how to defend themselves in a courtroom. The government’s rush to deport these children who stand alone and voiceless in court violates our laws and undermines our values as a nation."

    The preliminary injunction motion is available here.

    More information about this case is available here.

    For more information, contact:

    Wendy Feliz, American Immigration Council, 202-507-7524,
    Inga Sarda-Sorensen, American Civil Liberties Union, 212-549-2666,
    Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 206-501-6249,
    Sandra Madera, Public Counsel, 213-637-3863,

    Updated 08-02-2014 at 10:25 AM by MKolken

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