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District court: DOJ can't prevent attorneys from helping unrepresented aliens

In April, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) demanded the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) stop providing legal assistance to anyone facing deportation unless the agency took on that person’s entire case. The “cease and desist” letter cited regulations promulgated nine years earlier, but never before invoked to block assistance to pro se (unrepresented) noncitizens. EOIR’s novel position cast a long shadow nationwide, throwing into question whether Dallas Refugee Support Network (RSN) could continue its work completing asylum applications for Central American refugees too poor to afford an attorney. 

NWIRP sued to enjoin EOIR from enforcing its “cease and desist” letter, and from issuing similar letter to organizations like RSN.  (EOIR has explicitly acknowledged that "workshops aimed at assisting immigrants complete asylum forms may trigger the Regulation.") On July 24th, Federal court judge Richard A. Jones granted a preliminary injunction against the Department of Justice, allowing NWIRP and other non-profit legal providers throughout the country to continue providing legal assistance to unrepresented immigrants facing deportation. 

Basing his ruling upon attorneys' First Amendment right to advocate for "unpopular" causes, Judge Jones implicitly acknowledged similarities between EOIR's aims and segregationists': his decision rests largely upon NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415 (1963), in which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated professional "ethics" rules deliberately drafted to hamper attorneys' efforts to  enlist plaintiffs to challenge Jim Crow.

DHS and DOJ will deport and criminally prosecute parents of "smuggled" children

In a policy memorandum issued four months ago, Department of Homeland Security (DSH) Secretary John Kelly reviled immigrant parents who rescue their children from the depredations of Central America's violent gangs: "The parents and family members of these children... often pay smugglers... to bring their children into this country. Tragically, many of these children fall victim to robbery, extortion, kidnapping, sexual assault, and other crimes... along the dangerous journey." Ignoring the true reason for children's exodus, Sec. Kelly scolded, "Regardless of the desires for family reunification, or conditions in other countries, the smuggling... of alien children is intolerable." 

DHS has accordingly begun deporting parents who participated in any way in their children's rescue. The Department of Justice has likewise determined to prosecute them as felons. 

To assist in the representation of these families, Public Counsel and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) have jointly published a timely and authoritative legal advisory.

BIA: false claim to U.S. citizenship requires more than subjective intent

In an unpublished decision, the Board of Immigration Appeals recently addressed the case of an alien who had gratuitously claimed to be citizen of the United States when applying for a New Mexico driver's license. Noting that the immigrant would have received the driver's license irrespective of the false citizenship claim, the Board ruled that he the lie was not "for a purpose or benefit" under state or federal law. Rodolfo Melendez Manriquez, A089 599 983 (BIA Nov. 25, 2016).

Fifth Circuit Court: "harboring" conviction requires the intention to conceal

In February, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit against the state of Texas asking a federal district court to enjoin the enforcement of HB 11. HB 11 had expanded the Texas Penal Code's definition of "Smuggling of Persons." Several landlords and nonprofit immigration-related services agencies sued to block enforcement of the law, claiming that the provisions federal immigration law preempted state legislation and that HB 11 violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses to the U.S. Constitution. Holding that the expanded definition of "smuggling" still "requires some level of covertness well beyond merely renting or providing a place to live," the court dismissed for lack of standing. Cruz v. Abbott, 849 F.3d 594, 599 (5th Cir. 2017) (emphasis added). The landlords and agencies couldn't sue, the court ruled, because "there is no reasonable interpretation [of HB 11] by which merely renting housing or providing social services to an illegal alien constitutes 'harboring... that person from detection,'" 849 F.3d at 602.


The ruling is welcome news for anyone who helps undocumented immigrants - be it with services, housing, or transportation - provided only that they make no effort to conceal the noncitizen from law enforcement.

Deportation hearings commence in remote, for-profit detention centers

The Guardian reported today, "Behind two rows of high fencing and winding coils of razor wire, and surrounded by thick forest in central Louisiana, hundreds of miles from the nearest major city, stands a newly created court the Trump administration hopes will fast-track the removal of undocumented immigrants.

"Hearings take place in five poky courtrooms behind reinforced grey doors where the public benches, scratched with graffiti, are completely empty. There is no natural light. The hallways are lined with detainees in yellow jumpsuits awaiting their turn before a judge. The five sitting judges were quietly flown in by the US justice department from cities across the United States and will be rotated again within two weeks.

"This is the LaSalle detention facility that, since March this year, has been holding removal proceedings for hundreds of detained migrants in courtrooms adjoining a private detention center, which incarcerates more than 1,100 men and women and has the highest number of prisoner deaths of any in America over the past two years.

"The new setup is part of Donald Trump’s attempts to ramp up deportations by vastly expanding the arrest powers of federal immigration enforcement and prioritising more vulnerable groups of detained migrants in new court locations around the country."

Recent reports have severely criticized ICE for its inadequate oversight of such for-profit detention centers - a condition that has led, in recent years, to the deaths of several detainees, and which has worsened alarmingly under the Trump administration.

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