“Equally Divided Court” (Sorta) Leaves Obama’s Deportation Executive Order In Limbo

Questions will persist on whether President Obama superceded his authority by creating by executive order the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program designed to defer deportation for millions of immigrants.

Today, the Huffington Post reports the Supremes affirmed a lower court ruling that blocked the program stating simply, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” While immigration advocates may lament the loss, the order itself rings hollow given the Administration’s renewed call last month to seek out and deport Border Kids escaping gang and drug cartel violence from Central America.

Irrespective of where one stands on the immigration reform debate, the fact is that the question of executive power was left unanswered because now even the judicial branch has been brought to a standstill.

‘Border Kids’ Immigration Influx Is Once Again On The Rise

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

A Texas newspaper reports that the number of unaccompanied children being apprehended at the southern United States border – I’ve dubbed them “border kids” – is once again on the increase. Reporter Dylan Baddor at the Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune writes that in the Border Patrol’s Big Bend sector of Texas, “the number of unaccompanied children apprehended trying to enter the country during that period averaged 24 between 2010 and 2014. This year agents tallied 319.”
Statewide, says the report, 7,390 unaccompanied children were caught crossing in those two months, and 85 percent increase over the same period last year. The newspaper quotes Marc Rosenblum, a deputy director at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington D.C., saying that“… we’re clearly seeing a significant uptick.”
The Border Kids crisis became a national focus last year and prompted the Obama Administration to fast-track the cases, sometimes moving them to the “front of the line” in a backed-up immigration court system. Current estimates are that more than 450,000 cases are backlogged in the courts, which are actual civil procedures held as part of the U.S. Justice Department.
See the Daily Tribune story here: http://www.dailytribune.net/site/about.html

Obama Immigration Case Has Implications For Presidential Race

The Christian Science Monitor, or a we call it around here “the other Monitor,” has an excellent analysis of how President Obama’s executive action case might influence the 2016 presidential race. You may have noted that a federal court sided with a lower court that the president over-reached in his actions that effected about 5 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented folks in the United States.
The CSM notes the timing: “If the Supreme Court opts to hear the case, it would likely issue a decision next June – just as the 2016 presidential race is heading into the home stretch. And the implications for the Latino vote could be big, not only for the top of the ticket but also in key Senate races in states with large Latino populations, such as Nevada, Florida, Colorado, and Illinois.”

President’s Immigration Action Headed To Supreme Court?

As reported by Reuters on 11/10/15: "U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an Organizing for Action event in Washington November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas"

As reported by Reuters on 11/10/15: “U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an Organizing for Action event in Washington November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas”

In a move that seems likely to bring the U.S. Supreme Court into the legal fray over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans decided 2-1 to uphold a May injunction against the measure. Reuters notes that the decision “… deals a blow to Obama’s plan, opposed by Republicans and challenged by 26 states. The states, all led by Republican governors, said the federal government exceeded its authority in demanding whole categories of immigrants be protected.”
Millions of immigrants are effected by the court decision but “discretion” in law enforcement is expected pending further legal appeals, most likely to the Supreme Court.

Read more at Reuters.

A Year Later: Obama Border Kids Processing Rush Still Claiming Victims

POLITICO has published a jarring one-year “lookback piece” on those border kids seeking refuge in the United States – you recall, the ones making headlines last summer. The report says that: “… one year later, child migrants from Central America are still paying a heavy price for President Barack Obama’s decision last summer to rush them into deportation proceedings without first taking steps to provide legal counsel. New government data this week offer a first, full-year tally for the immigration courts, and the numbers show that among the 13,451 cases completed since July 18, 2014, barely half the children had legal representation.”
Some local governments, including those in San Francisco and New York City, have stepped in to try to fill some of the holes but POLITICO notes that “… Republicans in Congress are refusing to provide money sought by Obama for attorneys. And a bill introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in March to require the Justice Department to appoint counsel remains buried in the House Judiciary Committee. The political stalemate in Washington has driven constitutional appeals to the federal courts, but thus far, these have produced more promises than real relief.
Indeed, says POLITICO, “… after all of the public furor over the border surge last summer, the children seem to have dropped off the political map.”

Judges Renew Calls For Immigration Court Reform

After a period of relative quiet, the immigration judges facing hundreds of thousands of cases are speaking out, calling for help amid a crisis. A new NPR report explains that “… as Congress debates the fate of President Obama’s immigration policies, the nation’s immigration court system is bogged down in delays exacerbated by the flood of unaccompanied minors who crossed the southern border last summer. The administration made it a priority for those cases to be heard immediately. As a result, hundreds of thousands of other cases have been delayed until as late as 2019.”
NPR adds that “even before this past summer’s surge of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, the immigration courts were already clogged, says Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. There were too many cases for too few judges, and adding in the cases of the unaccompanied minors only made matters worse. There are currently more than 429,000 cases pending in the courts with just 223 judges.
The “judges” are not part of the usual judicial system, but are actually employees of the Justice Department – that means, for example, that they could not hold government agents – really, their co-workers – in contempt of court during one of the hearings. Read more: Immigration Courts ‘Operating In Crisis Mode,’ Judges Say

Judge Halts Obama’s Immigration Order

When President Obama took executive action on immigration policy, one concern was that legal action would delay or even halt his plans. That’s come to pass, with a federal judge in Texas blocking the action to give a 26-state coalition more time to pursue its lawsuit against the measures. The White House says it will appeal, but such is the danger of congressional inaction – we head to the executive branch and, eventually, the courts.
In response to the judge’s order, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it would halt preparations for a program to protect parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents until further notice.
Read the Associated Press report here

Immigration Backlog Shows Need For More Lawyers

This photo was part of an NBC News report, "Demand Intensifies for Nonprofit Immigration Lawyers" discussing how the US immigration system is seriously lacking in how it represents the poor.

This photo was part of an NBC News report, “Demand Intensifies for Nonprofit Immigration Lawyers” discussing how the US immigration system is seriously lacking in how it represents the poor.

NBC News is among those taking a look back at 2014 and finding the country’s immigration system seriously lacking in how it represents the poor. Says NBC, “… the past summer’s flocking of children and families to the U.S.-Mexico border, the president’s impending executive action on immigration and the two-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, have intensified demand for immigration attorneys, particularly those who charge little to nothing. With each success, they amplify the difference good legal help can make in the lives of immigrants.”
NBC has this quote in it’s Storyline report: “We’ve long known that results in immigration court, in particular, vary widely depending on whether you have legal representation or not,” said Crystal Williams, American Immigration Lawyers Association, AILA, executive director. She adds that “… what we are seeing quite honestly, is the people who are getting asylum and are getting bonded out of (the immigration detention center in) Artesia, had the attorneys not been there, they would have been removed already.”

Immigration Courts Face Obama Actions

President Obama’s executive actions on immigration will impact the civil courts system, but it’s hard to know how soon that will happen – or how much the impact will be. Southern California public radio station KPCC is reporting it as “promising news” for immigration judges “… who have long sought more resources for their busy courtrooms, says Bruce Einhorn, a former immigration judge who served in the LA courts for more than 15 years.”:

As reported in SCPR, “A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles.”

As reported in SCPR, “A judge hears the cases of immigrant teens in Los Angeles.”

The KPCC reports says  that a typical judge in Los Angeles has about 2,500 cases on their docket, which means an average case takes more than two years to reach a decision, but that could change with Obama’s action. Einhorn, said it will take time to see the effects on the ground. One group that will likely not find relief are the thousands of child migrant cases that are working their way through the courts. As Take Two has been covering on the program, more than 7,000 children are being heard in Los Angeles alone. Since they arrived in the country within the past five years, they probably will not qualify under the new rules from Obama.

Read and listen to the report here: Obama’s actions could affect thousands at LA’s immigration courts.

Tomorrow’s Immigration News Today: Devil In The Details

Not to equate the United States Justice Department with Lucifer himself, but the old saying that “the devil’s in the details” is holding up with President Obama’s immigration actions. You have to read with a particular eye, but a Washington Post report by  Juliet Eilperin and Jerry Markon notes that “… one of the provisions the Justice Department lawyers included, which they also pushed for during the creation of the 2012 program, was to make clear that federal immigration officials would still have the option of deporting individuals who might otherwise qualify for a deferral.”

Wait, what? With some 400,000 cases pending in the Justice Department’s own immigration courts, they also have the option of deporting people who would “otherwise” qualify for defferral? The WaPo also reports that the “… memo states that the new policy ‘provides for case-by-case determinations about whether an individual alien’s circumstances warrant the expenditure of removal resources, employing a broad standard that leaves ample room for the exercise of individual discretion by enforcement officials.’”

One point of the story is that some people who might qualify for protection under the Obama action will no self-identify to authorities. It’s the kind of uncertainty that has kept some “Dreamers” from stepping forward. From what we’ve seen in the past year, “trust the Justice Department” is going to be a tough sell, and a future headline will be “Few Take Obama Up On Protection Offer.”

You read it here first! And you can see the excellent WaPo work here.