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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal


  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. Obama Admin is Locking up Pregnant Moms Despite Policy Against it

    by , 07-28-2014 at 08:03 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)


    Fusion has learned that at least 559 pregnant women were detained in just six Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities since 2012, despite a policy prohibiting such detentions except for in cases of "extraordinary circumstances."
  4. Call for Speaker Boehner to Pass a Clean Spending Bill to address Border Crisis

    by , 07-25-2014 at 10:45 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    July 25, 2014
    Ben Soskin
    (202) 225-1766

    Women Leaders in Congress Are Standing Up for Vulnerable Migrant Children
    Members call on Speaker Boehner to pass a clean supplemental spending bill to address humanitarian crisis at the border

    Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and members of the Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform wrote to Speaker John Boehner, urging him to pass a supplemental spending bill free of legislative riders. A clean supplemental will enable the federal government to appropriately care for child refugees from Central America without taking away their right to due process. The working group’s letter comes soon after House Republicans proposed undermining critical humanitarian and due process protections for these children, potentially endangering women and girls who are victims of sexual violence and trafficking. The full text of the letter is below.

    “The humanitarian crisis on our border is a test of our values as a nation,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard (CA-40). “Current law provides migrant children with appropriate due process, ensuring that our government does not return young girls back into the waiting arms of their traffickers. Unfortunately, the Republican Leadership is trying to eliminate these protections when they are needed most. Instead of bowing to political expediency, we should reject any effort to strip away due process for innocent children and fully fund President Obama’s request for emergency funding to address this heart-wrenching situation.”

    “Stripping children of their due process rights is not a workable solution to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19). “We know that doing so would return vulnerable children to face further abuse or worse at the hands of their traffickers and others. Expanding the flawed and cursory process currently used to screen children from Mexico to all refugee children is not only wrong, but will make the problem worse. Victims will simply try to escape the violence again – but instead of seeking out Border Patrol agents for safety as they do now, they may try to avoid detection – and we will see more dead children in the desert as a result.”

    "We have a humanitarian obligation to protect vulnerable children fleeing from extreme violence and escaping the horrific situations they are faced with back home,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04). “We must also work together, in a comprehensive manner, to address the causes of this mass migration. I urge Speaker Boehner to work with President Obama to positively and holistically respond to this crisis."

    "We have a moral and legal responsibility as a nation to treat unaccompanied children with care and compassion,” said Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27). “The answer to this crisis cannot be fast-tracked repatriations that curtail due process and block children from seeking the protection our laws afford. Instead, we must pass the necessary emergency funding to achieve a comprehensive solution to this humanitarian crisis. There is no better time than now to show what American ideals are about and approach this situation with compassion and understanding."

    “I have served on the House Homeland Security Committee and the Border Security Subcommittee since its inception and I can say for certain that this is not a ‘border security’ problem,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA-46). “This is a complex humanitarian crisis that is a result of dire situations in these children’s home countries: escalating gang violence, weak government institutions, a lack of social services and economic opportunity. We must pass a clean funding bill immediately to address this crisis without distracting political theatre.”

    July 25, 2014

    The Honorable John A. Boehner
    United States House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Speaker Boehner:

    Like most Americans, we are deeply troubled by the humanitarian crisis unfolding on our southwest border. As you know, President Obama is seeking approximately $3.7 billion in additional funding to address the causes and consequences of this heart-wrenching situation. While his request is far from perfect, the consequences of inaction by this Congress would be dire. We therefore write to urge you to bring a clean supplemental spending bill, free of legislative riders, to the floor as soon as possible. We strongly believe it would be inappropriate and contrary to our values to use this critical legislation as a means of undermining the essential protections afforded to vulnerable migrant children under current law.

    Driven by extreme violence in Central America, including sexual assault, trafficking, and persecution, tens of thousands of children have fled their homes in hopes of finding safe haven in the United States. Up to 40 percent are girls, many under the age of 12. These are young people like Jenny, age 15 from El Salvador. Jenny described to the Women’s Refugee Commission opening her front door and discovering pieces of a body thrown in a plastic bag. This horrific sight was a warning about what would happen to her if she did not become the ‘girlfriend’ of a gang member. And Josephina, a 16-year-old also from El Salvador, who recounted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that the head of a local gang told her that he would kidnap her or kill one of her family members if she refused to become his “girlfriend.” While Jenny and Josephina managed to escape, many others have not been so lucky. In Honduras, tragically, 80 minors were murdered in April and 102 were slain in May.

    Consistent with our heritage as a nation of immigrants, Americans have always treated people fleeing persecution with dignity and compassion. This time should be no different. Unfortunately, the recent surge of unaccompanied children has strained the ability of our government to meet their most basic needs. We understand that unless Congress acts, the Office of Refugee Resettlement may exhaust its current funding before the end of the current fiscal year.

    This is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive solution. We must work closely with our partners in the region to restore public order and promote human security in Central America. Investments in the security and economic development of these countries, including support for repatriation and reintegration and youth gang prevention efforts, are critical to stemming the flow of migrants. A true American commitment is essential if we are to address the root causes of this crisis.

    However, these efforts will take time. In the near term, we must respond sensibly and humanely to the heart-wrenching situation on our border. According to UNHCR, more than 50 percent of children 12 to 17 years old arriving from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala may have claims to international protection. It would be contrary to our values as a nation to return them to communities where their lives would be placed in grave danger. It is therefore critical that we preserve due process and humanitarian protections for these vulnerable young people. This includes ensuring that they are provided adequate representation to navigate our complex legal system.

    While some changes to administrative protocols may be necessary and additional resources are certainly required to adjudicate cases in a fair and efficient manner, we believe the Administration can respond appropriately to this situation without undermining fundamental humanitarian protections for children. Specifically, we strongly oppose any proposal that would erode the protections contained in the 2008 trafficking law or unfairly expedite the screening of children who may be victims of horrible crimes and violence.

    Already, under current law, children from contiguous countries can be returned following only a cursory trafficking and persecution screening performed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents. Although UNHCR recently found that 64% of unaccompanied Mexican children interviewed raised international protection concerns and the State Department regularly identifies Mexico as a large source country for child sex and labor trafficking, more than 95% of Mexican children were returned in Fiscal Year 2013 following this screening.

    According to a previously unreleased UNHCR report delivered to CBP just last month, the screenings are implemented in an inconsistent and ineffective manner. Children are questioned quickly and in public by agents and officers who have received no training in child-sensitive interview techniques. CBP personnel have a poor understanding of the legal definitions for persecution and trafficking, which raises the possibility that children are returned notwithstanding the need of further evaluation. In some instances, children are not advised of their rights and are asked to sign forms that were filled out in advance of the interview. We must not allow short-term political considerations to come before the long-term interests of innocent children.

    Thank you for your attention to this request. As members of the Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, we look forward to working with you to swiftly pass a supplemental appropriations bill that will address the humanitarian crisis on our border in a way that enhances our security and upholds our American values.


    Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard
    Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren
    Congresswoman Judy Chu
    Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
    Congresswoman Gwen Moore
    Congresswoman Linda T. Sanchez
    Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo
    Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano
    Congresswoman Barbara Lee
    Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez
    Congresswoman Betty McCollum
    Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards
    Congresswoman Doris Matsui
  5. Obama is Timing Deportation Relief Expansion to Coincide with the Mid-Terms

    by , 07-25-2014 at 08:29 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    President Obama, not one to ever let a good crisis go to waste, is timing the expansion of deportation relief initiatives to coincide with the mid-term elections to maximize their political impact. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people will be deported by the time he enacts changes simply to afford Democrats an opportunity to benefit politically.

    Whatever happened to just doing the right thing?
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