Help U.S. In War? Forget It When Seeking Asylum

Image Credit, New York Times Report, 4/2/16

Image Credit, New York Times Report, 4/2/16

The New York Times has an important story about an asylum-seeker who worked with the American military in Kabul for years, enough to fear for his life. He made his way to the United States and sought asylum, making a case complete with death threats and the testimony of American military officers. Yet he was jailed for his trouble.

Reporter Elizabeth Rubin, who has reported from the Middle East and credits translators like the one in question for saving her life, outlines just how sad the immigration/asylum system has become. She notes that “… we know our asylum policy is broken. In 2014, more than 108,000 asylum applications were filed. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of these cases are life or death, yet they are handled by only 254 immigration judges, who are also juggling hundreds of thousands of non-asylum cases. Samey’s case is simultaneously unique and painfully common…”

She offers examples of possible fixes. But she also outlines a truly cautionary tale of a system where a state department administrative judge somehow values his own assessment over that of a Lt. Col. in the U.S. military.

Read it here:

Locked Up for Seeking Asylum

NYT Going Deep On Arbitration Issue

Image from NYT report, 11/1/15.

Image from NYT report, 11/1/15.

The New York Times continues its milestone series on arbitration this week and continues to set the stage for serious reform, especially in California where the practice is widespread across many industries. In particular, the series focuses on how arbitration clauses can remove disputes from courts into private practices.

The paper says that those practices “…often bears little resemblance to court… Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found.”

This is the kind of series that nearly always brings a call to action, so stay tuned. Check in on the series here.

NYT Boards The ‘Civil Gideon’ Train, Sort Of

Talk about an early Christmas gift: The New York Times has discovered the Civil Gideon issue! A Nov. 22 report focuses on a California program to assist people facing eviction, but it extends the conversation into the national crisis. For example, the newspaper says that “… free legal assistance in noncriminal cases is rare and growing rarer. A recent study in Massachusetts found that two-thirds of low-income residents who seek legal help are turned away. Nationally, important civil legal needs are met only about 20 percent of the time for low-income Americans, according to James J. Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, a federal agency that finances legal aid groups.”
 
The story mentions the Eviction Assistance Center, the California legal aid effort that advises “… low-income people in civil cases such as child custody, protective orders against abusers, guardianship and, most commonly, evictions.” The story also takes a shot at explaining the debate, reporting that the “.. pilot projects are part of a roiling discussion in legal circles about what is often called ‘Civil Gideon,’ a reference to Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision that established a right to counsel in criminal cases.” It also notes that, despite the name, the idea is not to provide help to all poor people, but only those facing challenges to basic human needs, like housing.
 
The piece is also a sort of directory for anyone seeking a list of service providers. For example: “We’re trying to level the playing field,” said Neal S. Dudovitz, the executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, a group that manages the eviction center in the downtown courthouse. With funds from the Shriver project, as the experiment is known, supporting about 16 lawyers from four legal aid groups, the center is providing full or partial assistance to one-third of the 15,000 tenants who face evictions each year in this courthouse alone.”