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  1. Letters of the Week: November 21 - November 27

    Please email your letters to or post them directly as a comment below.
  2. Note to President Elect Trump, “Find out why the SBInet project failed before you build your wall.”

    Israel–Egypt barrie

    My father-in-law, Saul Obarzanek, was an immigrant who came to America when he was liberated from Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps. He had survived by learning how to sew German uniforms, a skill that also prepared him for a successful career as a tailor in America. His clients included President Gerald Ford, President Bill Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore.

    One day when I was at Saul’s house, I saw a suit that he was going to tailor for President Bill Clinton. It occurred to me that I could write a note and put it in one of the suit pockets, but I did not know what to say in the note. I would not have that problem now if I had an opportunity to pass a note to President Elect Donald Trump. This is what I would say to him:

    Before you build your wall, find out what went wrong with the SBInet project so you will know why the last attempt to secure the entire length of the border with Mexico failed. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

    President Elect Trump wants to build a great wall across the entire length of the border between the United States and Mexico. Before beginning a project of that magnitude, he should find out why the attempt to build a virtual wall across that border failed. I am referring to the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet), which was supposed to provide Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers with the technological resources they needed to establish and maintain operational awareness and control of what was happening along the entire length of the border with Mexico.

    The problems began with the contract that was awarded to Boeing Company for the SBInet project.

    CBP awarded the SBInet project to Boeing Company on September 21, 2006. Boeing signed an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract with a performance period of three years and a provision authorizing the possibility of three one-year long contract extensions. IDIQ contracts are used when the government cannot determine the precise quantities of supplies or services that will be required during the contract period. But how can the government control costs or set firm deadlines with an IDIQ contract? This was especially problematic for the SBInet project because the technology needed for the virtual fence had to be developed so it had not been field-tested yet.

    Congressional oversight and input from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) were ineffective.

    In his statement at an oversight hearing on March 18, 2010, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism, observes that SBInet has had technological problems and deployment delays from the start. In 4.5 years, only 28 miles of SBInet technology have been deployed along the border. At the rate of 28 miles every 4.5 years, it will take 320 years to deploy the SBInet technology across the entire southwest border. And this is our Committee’s 12th oversight hearing on SBI-related issues.

    Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MI) stated that GAO has issued many reports on why SBInet is failing, mentioning everything from poor planning and testing to inadequate oversight and user input. Today, GAO is releasing yet another report on the program. This report, which focuses on the testing of SBInet systems, once again reveals that SBInet has more problems than solutions. For example, from March 2008 to July 2009, more than 1,300 defects were found in the SBInet system. Furthermore, Border Patrol operators have found, among other things, that the radar systems are inadequate, many of the cameras are operationally insufficient, and the quality of the video feed is blurry and inconsistent.

    Randolph Hite, GAO Director for Architecture and Systems issues, testified that DHS has failed to manage SBInet testing effectively, which has increased the risk that the system will not perform as expected and that it will take longer and cost more than necessary. For instance, DHS has not defined test plans and test cases for recently executed test events in accordance with relevant guidelines. None of the plans for testing system components addressed testing risks and mitigation strategies. Approximately 70% of the procedures for key test events were rewritten extemporaneously during execution because persons conducting the tests thought that the approved procedures were not accurate. And changes to the accepted procedures were not made according to a documented quality assurance process but instead were based on an undocumented understanding that DHS program officials said they had established with the contractor.

    DHS Secretary Napolitano terminates the program.

    In January 2010, DHS Secretary Napolitano ordered a Department-wide assessment of the SBInet program that included a cost-effectiveness analysis. Prior to this assessment, the Department had never conducted a comprehensive cost-effectiveness analysis to assess the operational value of the SBInet system against the projected cost even though such an analysis is a well-established prerequisite for a project of this size. Napolitano concluded on the basis of the report from that assessment that SBInet was not meeting current standards for viability or cost-effectiveness. She terminated the program on January 1, 2011, but by then, it had cost taxpayers almost $1 billion for two regions in Arizona covering just 53 miles overall of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

    Lessons learned from the SBInet fiasco.

    1. Perform a cost-effectiveness analysis before a large project is started;
    2. Ensure adequate oversight of defense contractors;
    3. CBP does not appear to be able to staff contract oversight positions with qualified personnel; and
    4. Establish clear metrics by which to measure the achievements of these extremely expensive programs.

    Initially published on Huffington Post.

    About the Author
    Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years; he subsequently served as the immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for twenty years. He also has been a policy advisor for the DHS Office of Information Sharing and Collaboration under a contract with TKC Communications, and he has been in private practice as an immigration lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson.

    Updated 11-21-2016 at 09:39 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  3. Who Understands America's Constitution Better, a US Federal Judge, or Immigrants Who Have Just Become US Citizens? Roger Algase

    According to a November 19 report in the Huffington Post, a US federal district judge, while presiding at a naturalization ceremony in San Antonio, gave a group of immigrants at that ceremony their first "lesson" in American constitutional principles at that ceremony.

    According to the report, Judge John Primono said the following to the new U.S. citizens, in referring to America's new president elect.

    "I can assure you that whether you voted for him or you did not vote for him, if you are a citizen of the United States, he is your president...He will be your president and if you do not like that, you need to go to another country."

    Aside from the fact that none of the new citizens at the ceremony could be presumed to have voted at all in this month's election, since they were not yet citizens before the ceremony, there is more than a slight disconnect between the judge's statement and the first amendment to the United States constitution, which allows free speech, including free expression of political views.

    Perhaps the judge might have been able to learn something from the statement of one of the new Americans at the ceremony, Mexican-born Rafael Guerra, who, according to the same report, said afterwards:

    "The essence of [America] is that you have the right to vote and choose [who] to represent you."

    The judge might also wish to take note that nearly 60 million Americans voted against the new president-elect in this election, more than the number of Americans who voted for him, and that while everyone recognizes and accepts the result of that election under our laws and constitution, there are more than a few American voters who "do not like that" when they think about who our president will be for the next four years.

    Should they also leave the country?

    The Huffpost report about Judge Primono's statement is at:

    And in another, unrelated, story which also casts doubt upon whether the laws of this country will be interpreted and applied in a fair and impartial way after the new president takes office when the rights of immigrants are concerned, the Huffington Post reports that during a 2006 Senate speech, the new Attorney-General designate, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) stated that "almost no one" from the Dominican Republic had the skills to benefit America, and that a large number of immigrants from that country were engaging in sham marriages to gain legal status in the United States.

    Senator Sessions did not mention any names, but one has to ask whether he was thinking of Dominican Americans such as designer Oscar de la Renta when he made his speech about people from the Dominican Republic who allegedly have no skills. The Huffpost story can be found at:
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School who has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from diverse parts of the world obtain work visas and green cards for more than 35 years. Roger's email address is

    Updated 11-20-2016 at 10:37 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  4. Could Repression of Immigrants by AG Sessions Lead to a Full Blown Police State Under a Torture President? Roger Algase

    This post has been updated as of November 21, 9:30 am.

    On November 8, almost 60 million American voters, just slightly fewer than the number of those who voted against him, voted to put the Republican candidate in the White House, in preference to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

    I am not a political analyst and this is not a political blog, so this is not the right place to discuss the possible reasons for this result.

    However, few people would dispute that large numbers of Americans voted for the electoral college winner in the hope that he would gain more control over an immigration system that was widely perceived as being out of control, do more to protect the safety of Americans perceived at being at risk from immigrant-related crime and terror, protect our borders, and protect American jobs and wage levels from competition with imported low wage labor, both legal and illegal.

    These issues have been central to the immigration debate for at least the past 30 years, and regardless of which policies one supports regarding these questions, most Americans in both parties have agreed that these are legitimate and important issues for discussion and debate.

    There was also wide hope, at least on one side of the debate, that there would be action taken toward the above goals which it was believed would be more effective than what had been done under previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic.

    However, it has been less than two weeks since the election, and already actions have been taken, in the form of appointments announced by the incoming new president, that go far beyond measures to take action toward the above reasonable and legitimate goals, as almost all Americans would agree they are. Instead, these actions point at goals which are much more radical - a campaign of anti-immigrant terror and repression based, not on the objectives of protecting the safety and standard of living of the American people, but on the previously unspoken but now more and more openly voiced ideology, that certain groups of immigrants - and even in some cases their American citizen counterparts - do not belong in this country and must be banned, excluded, incarcerated or deported, merely because of their race, skin color or religion. See my discussion of the records of three of the new president's first four announced appointments to high policy positions discussed below.

    We are also seeing the basic rights guaranteed by our laws and our constitution to speak out and, if need be protest, coming under attack from certain quarters, as shown in the new president's reaction to the protests which broke out right after the election.

    Now, in the latest development, we are seeing a movement at the highest levels of the incoming administration toward the ultimate seal of dictatorship, namely the use of torture - a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison according to 18 USC Section 2340 et seq. A disturbing report in the November 19 Huffington Post states that according to Vice-President elect Pence, the new administration is refusing to rule out the use of torture - the very antithesis of our democracy.

    Of course, if torture comes back, we will likely hear soothing words about its being used only against the worst of the worst - confirmed radical Islamic terrorists.

    That is - until it starts to be used any and all opponents of the incoming administration, as has been the case with almost every other authoritarian regime, especially those based on the white nationalist principles which the new president is planning to install in the White House in the person of his senior strategist and adviser, Stephen Bannon.

    This is not to say that there may not be some good things that could come about from the next president - revitalizing our infrastructure - for example. This is badly needed and deserves widespread support. Mussolini was also praised for making the trains run on time.

    But let us hope that the new infrastructure is not loaded with private prisons, government prison camps and black torture sites for immigrants, immigrant rights advocates and other political opponents in the Brave New America of Donald Trump.

    Update: November 19, 12:40 pm.

    Even though there were doubts raised during the presidential campaign about whether the Republican candidate was committed to providing equal justice opportunity for all immigrants, regardless of race or religion, in accordance with the principles of our 1965 immigration reform law. which was intended to end more than 80 years of overt discrimination against non-white and non-Christian immigrants, immigrant advocates should be encouraged by the fact that, of the four major appointments which our new President-elect has announced to date, one of them, Reince Priebus, his new chief of staff, actually has no record of having made negative comments about immigrants belonging to any particular ethnic or religious group.

    Only 75 per cent of the new president's four announced appointees have done so - Senator Jeff Sessions, the nominee for Attorney General, who has labelled immigrants from an entire country, the Dominican Republic, as unfit to immigrate to the US; Michael Flynn, the National Security adviser designate, who has stated that Islam is a political ideology, not a religion; and new president's Senior Adviser, Stephen Bannon, who, in an interview with him, stated that there were too many Asian Silicon Valley CEO's - something which the GOP candidate himself disputed in coming to the defense of Asian immigrants.

    It is certainly encouraging that as high a percentage as 25 percent of the president-elect's major appointments so far have no record of hostile or antagonistic statements about immigrants based on race or religion, and one looks forward to the possibility that he might even increase this percentage in his future appointments, or at least, hopefully, not go below it. (Links to the statements by the other 75 percent will be provided as soon as possible.)

    My original post appears below.

    The latest report regarding our nation's President-elect's rumored plans for a registry of Muslim immigrants (or possibly US citizens) is that he is denying that he has any such plans. The Hill reports on November 17 that, according to a spokesman:

    "President-elect Trump has never advocated for any registry or system that tracks individuals based on their religion, and to imply otherwise is completely false."


    This is a welcome development supporting the view that despite some of the new president's inflammatory campaign rhetoric (which did in fact include suggestions of possible databases to register Muslims by religion, as well as possible surveillance of their places of worship), he may be planning to govern more according to the reality of America's democracy and our constitution, which protects religious freedom.

    This would be all to the good. However, there are still ominous signs for the future of our current multi-ethnic, multi-religious immigration system in America under the coming administration, if one goes by his latest presidential appointments.

    These include not only Stephen Bannon as the new president's senior adviser, an appointment which has been praised by the KKK and American Nazi party as mentioned in my November 14 Immigration Daily comment, but also by his latest two announced appointments.

    One is that of Michael Flynn, who has called Islam a "political ideology" rather than a religion entitled to constitutional protection, as the new national security adviser. See:

    The other appointment, which should cause extreme concern, not only among immigration advocates but among civil liberties supporters in general, is the reported appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) as the next attorney general.

    As is well known, Sessions is one of the leading, if not the leading, anti-immigrant hard liners in Congress and a strong opponent of both illegal and legal immigration.

    As the nation's chief law enforcement official, Sessions would have enormous powers to use the federal criminal justice system to target and harass immigrant rights organizations, voting rights organizations and immigrants themselves under a number of different laws. This would include not only vastly increasing the number of prosecutions for illegal entry, but also, not inconceivably, for"harboring" or "aiding and abetting" illegal immigrants under statutes such as 8 USC Section 1324.

    This is a very broad statute, which, as will be shown in my upcoming comments on this topic, might possibly even be used against those who provide essential services, such as medical assistance or legal advice, to unauthorized immigrants.

    There could also be a big increase in criminal prosecutions of employers of immigrants based on even the most minor or trivial paperwork mistakes by people who are making every effort to comply with our complex, often incomprehensible immigration laws, as well as for minor or unintentional paperwork violations relating to hiring and employment of immigrants.

    Even just fear of possible prosecution could scare many employers away from sponsoring immigrants for work-related petitions or visas. Appointing Sessions could not only set off a reign of terror and repression in immigrant communities throughout America, but it could also help to bring down much of this country's legal immigration system.

    It will remain to be seen if there is opposition to confirming his appointment among his fellow senators, including possible use of the filibuster by Democrats, and possibly even one or two dissident Republicans, who are more sympathetic to immigration rights and do not want to see our entire immigration system, or large parts of it, criminalized.
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, Roger has been helping mainly skilled and professional workers from diverse parts of the world obtain work visas and green cards. Roger's email address is

    Updated 11-21-2016 at 09:16 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  5. Ruth Gruber, who brought Jewish refugees to America during WW2, has died at 105. Will there be a Ruth Gruber for Syrians? Roger Algase

    The Washington Post reports on November 17 that Ruth Gruber, a courageous journalist who, under US government auspices, escorted 1,000 Jewish refugees across Nazi U-boat infested waters to safety in the United States shortly before the end of WW2, has died at the age of 105. See:

    Ruth Gruber, who accompanied 1,000 Jews to the shores of the United States during the Holocaust, dies at 105

    (I am sorry - I do not have a direct link to this story. Please go to Google.)

    The Post

    "It was in 1944, a year before the war's end, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to grant temporary asylum to a group of 36,000 refugees housed in allied camps in Italy...

    As a condition of their entry into the United States, they had to sign contracts promising to return to Europe at the end of the war...

    She was a leader of the advocates who, after Roosevelt's death, successfully lobbied President Truman to allow the refugees to stay in the Unites States."

    The Post continues:

    "Until the end of her life, Dr. Gruber remained convinced that the US could have saved many more.

    'I wanted to shake the country by the lapels and say, 'How can we let this go on?'...'How can we let this happen?'"

    72 years after Ruth Gruber's epoch-making voyage, one can ask the same questions about America's attitude toward Syrian refugees.

    Ruth Gruber successfully overcame the widespread antisemitism which had all but closed America's borders to Jewish refugees before and during WW2 so that at least a few who would otherwise have been rejected could find a permanent home in America. Is another Ruth Gruber now waiting somewhere for the chance to overcome antisemitism's close cousin, Islamophobia, in order to bring more Syrian refugees into the United States in the age of Donald Trump?
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from diverse parts of the world and ethnic/religious backgrounds obtain work visas and green cards.

    Roger's email address is

    Updated 11-18-2016 at 07:59 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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