Monthly Archives: April 2017

The More Absurd Moments in the Life of a US Immigration Lawyer

This is reposted by permission from Braden Cancilla, Immigration Attorney of Pasadena. It presents in stark reality the absurdities in US immigration law. It was originally posted in a closed Facebook group.

Telling a Mexican LPR, who married his wife in Mexico, that there’s about a two year wait before she can immigrate to the US. Telling the same LPR that he can lose his LPR status, and the ability to immigrate his wife, if he stays outside of the US for too long to be with his wife.

Telling a 70-year-old adult US citizen that it’ll take about 24 years to immigrate her 75-year-old brother to the US from the Philippines.

Advising the adult son of an LPR parent that if he gets married to the mother of his three children he’ll lose his ability to immigrate through his LPR parent because he got married.

Advising an undocumented immigrant, who has been in the US for more than 6 months, that from an immigration standpoint, it may better for him to stay in the US rather than to leave the US.

Telling a US citizen that, due to the number of petitions involved, USCIS charges less for an LPR to immigrate his wife and three minor children to the US than it does for the US citizen to immigrate his wife and three minor children to the US.

Telling a US citizen that “K” nonimmigrant visas were created so that she could bring her non-citizen husband to the US faster than if she were to immigrate her husband through an immigrant visa but then telling the US citizen that, in practice, it takes about as long to get a “K” visa for her husband as it does to get him an immigrant visa.

Telling an LPR that you can’t tell him for sure if he’s removable for having been convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude” because the term “crime of moral turpitude” is not defined by statute or regulation and there have been no cases analyzing the specific code section under which the LPR was convicted. It’s also hard to believe that the INA sections that contain the term, “crime of moral turpitude” have not been found to be “void for vagueness” under the US constitution.

Breaking the news to an indigent, undocumented, illiterate, Guatemalan woman, who only speaks Mam, that she may have to represent herself in removal proceedings because she is not entitled to a free attorney.

Giving the news to an undocumented immigrant, who has three US citizen children and who is married to a US citizen, that he’s permanently barred from immigrating through his US citizen family members because he was unlawfully present in the US for more than one year, left the US to be with his dying mother, and then returned to the US without authorization to be with his wife and kids.

Trying to explain to a man who fears being murdered by a criminal gang in El Salvador that US immigration judges, who have deported thousands of Salvadoran gang members to El Salvador, are reluctant to give asylum to Salvadoran victims of gang persecution because to do so would be to implicitly admit that the immigration judges have exacerbated the gang problem in El Salvador that caused the man to flee.

Having what seems like millions of non-attorneys illegally practicing immigration law and having the various State Bars do almost nothing to assist their dues paying immigration attorneys to defend against this onslaught and the devaluation of their licenses. Don’t even get me started regarding the gross harm that is done to non-citizens who receive inaccurate legal advice from non-attorneys.

Explaining to a man, who was tortured abroad in a military torture chamber, that due to US foreign policy concerns, it will be hard for him to get asylum in the US on the basis of the torture because the US government funds the foreign military and to grant asylum relief would require the US to implicitly admit its involvement in the torture.

Having a non-citizen flee a foreign country’s “Kangaroo” courts and unfair legal system only to be ordered deported from the US without first speaking to an attorney or seeing a judge.

The Cost of Deportation?

This past weekend, CNN posted a report that the cost of deporting each person who is illegally the US was about $10,854 in fiscal 2016. (CNN April 13, 2017) The story highlights how misleading most news reporting is on immigration topics. While the underlying message is a good one — that it is very expensive to deport, the story understates the true costs.

First lets take the cost to the government. The story mistakenly assumes that the only costs for immigration removals (that is how the statute defines “deportations”) are from the ICE and CBP budgets. In fact a large number of these cases must be heard by an immigration judge in an immigration proceeding. At a minimum the government is represented by a lawyer and an immigration judge must preside over the proceeding. At the hearing there may be an interpreter, a court clerk additional court staff. If the non-citizen subject of the hearing decides to appeal the decision that case goes before another set of judges called the immigration appeals, in which case the lawyer for the government may have to write a brief and a panel of administrative appellate judges along with their staff review the record and decide the case after hearing from the applicant’s lawyer. While the government does not provide the applicant with a lawyer the government is certainly represented as each case is called at each stage in this process. In many cases the applicant may appeal the decision to a federal appellate court — there the case is heard by a panel of three judges and reviewed by the staff of the court to make sure that the law has been followed.

The CNN piece did not disclose the cost to the government in either being represented at the deportation hearing or the later administrative and court appeals. Nor did it discuss the costs to the federal judiciary for reviewing the cases. Indeed the immigration courts are overwhelmed and their dockets have skyrocketed such that new cases brought in today only move at a “fast” pace if the person has very little going for them — meaning no family ties in the U.S., no credible persecution claims or no possible immigration benefits that could be sought.

According to the Executive Office for Immigration Review there are 250 immigration judges in 58 immigration courts. Those judges received approximately 300,000 new cases and decided 273,000. What that number doesn’t tell you is how long and how much time it takes to decide each case for the immigration court backlog is said to exceed 500,000 cases. (If you are interested in immigration court’s caseload and report you can download it here.) Currently there are 16 administrative appeals judges on the Board of Immigration Appeals. None of these numbers include the support staff for each of these offices nor the private interpreters that have to be hired to enable the judges to take non-English testimony. The workload on these judges has an impact and in fiscal year 2014 approximately 5% of the Board’s 25,000 cases were remands from the federal courts, meaning that there were serious errors that required some type of additional attention by the Board of Immigration Appeals.