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Blandon Law Immigration

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Odds of Asylum Approval Five Times Higher With An Attorney

A new study by TRAC (the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University) finds that asylum seekers are much LESS likely to win asylum if they do not have an attorney. Without representation, only one out of every ten win their case. With representation, nearly half are successful.

The percentage of asylum seekers who are unable to obtain representation has risen markedly over the last decade. Ten years ago, during Fiscal Year 2007, only 13.6 percent were unrepresented. In Fiscal Year 2017, those who were unrepresented rose to 20.6 percent.

TRAC also discovered that the total number of asylum cases decided by judges last year rose to 30,179, a marked increase from 22,312 cases in FY 2016. This is the largest number of asylum cases decided in any one year since FY 2005.

These latest Immigration Court numbers are based on case-by-case records obtained through a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

Read the Complete Report:
TRAC Finds that Asylum Representation Rates Have Fallen Amid Rising Denial Rates

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Court Orders New York Immigration Detention Center to Offer Parole Hearings for Asylum Seekers

A federal court has ordered the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York to stop detaining asylum-seekers without a fair opportunity for release on parole or bond while awaiting asylum hearings. The New York Civil Liberties Union and the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center originally filed suit in July over the practice.

Immigration officials at the state’s largest immigration detention facility effectively stopped granting parole in late January after the election of President Trump.

“People who came to the U.S. border seeking only refuge will no longer suffer indefinite confinement in New York's largest immigration detention facility,” said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford recognized the severe physical and psychological harms of prolonged detention, in addition to the fact that incarceration prevents many asylum-seekers from adequately preparing for their asylum hearings.

Asylum-seekers being held at the Batavia Detention Center who have already had their parole denied will have the opportunity to have their parole requests re-adjudicated.

Read the NYCLU Press Release

Friday, November 17, 2017

Class Action Lawsuit for Asylum Seekers from Mexico and Honduras

Immigration attorneys have filed a motion for class-action certification that would allow six asylum-seekers from Mexico and Honduras to stand in for individuals affected by an alleged pattern of illegal practices on the part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The class-action suit would include all immigrants who have been denied their right to secure asylum in the U.S. because of such practices.

The motion alleges that CBP has been engaging in misleading and unlawful practices, including:
  • CBP officials falsely telling arriving asylum-seekers that: asylum is not available at that particular Port of Entry 
  • They cannot apply for asylum because there is not enough space at the location 
  • They first need to check in with Mexican authorities before applying in the U.S. 
  • The U.S. government has stopped granting asylum 

The suit also describes CBP officials using “threats and intimidation” to deter individuals from exercising their right to apply for asylum, including “threatening to separate parents from their children” and forcing asylum-seekers who have made it into a port of entry “to recant their fears or otherwise to withdraw their applications for admission to the U.S.”

If the suit is successful, it would mean that CBP cannot prevent asylum-seekers from gaining access to the asylum process through the tactics described. It would also lay the groundwork for officers to be held accountable for such actions.

Read the Complete Article from The Intercept

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Analysis of Immigration Decisions: Deportation May Depend on Where Your Case Is Heard

The stories of two women from Honduras illustrate a stark difference in immigration outcomes. 

Fear for their lives and for the lives of their children drove them to seek asylum in the United States. One case was heard by a San Francisco immigration court judge: asylum granted. 

The other case, which was assigned to an immigration court in Charlotte, North Carolina, was denied. The judge ordered her deported. 

Reuters analyzed over 1,000 immigration court cases and determined that who hears a case and where it is heard are reliable predictors of how a case will be decided. 

The findings underscore what academics and government watchdogs have long complained about U.S. immigration courts: Differences among judges and courts can render the system unfair and even inhumane.

ReutersThey fled danger at home to make a high-stakes bet on U.S. immigration courts

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How An Asylum Applicant IN COURT Gets a Green Card with Approved I-140

Immigration expert Elizabeth Blandon explains how a foreigner who applied for asylum and was denied (referred to Immigration Court) can still obtain residency using an approved Form I-140 and the adjustment of status process. This allows the foreigner to get a green card without leaving the United States.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Adjustment of Status: How an Asylum Applicant Can Obtain Residency (Not in Court)

Immigration expert Elizabeth Blandon explains how an asylum applicant can obtain residency through the adjustment of status process, with an approved Form I-140.  Adjustment of status is how a foreigner obtains a green card without leaving the United States. For questions about a specific case, call to schedule a consultation at 954-385-0157.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

No Compensation for US Citizen Improperly Detained by Immigration for Over 3 Years

Immigration and Customs Enforcement kept Davino Watson imprisoned as a deportable alien for nearly 3 1/2 years. ICE then released Watson, a resident of New York, in rural Alabama with no money and no assistance to return home.

A district judge in New York had awarded Watson $82,500 in damages, citing "regrettable failures of the government." However, an appeals court has reversed that judgment (Watson v. United States, 7/31/17). The appeals court ruled that Watson is not eligible for any of that money — because while his case is "disturbing," the statute of limitations expired while he was still in ICE custody without a lawyer.

This case is indeed disturbing. Davino Watson told immigration officers repeatedly that he was a U.S. citizen. However, with no guaranteed access to a court-appointed attorney for immigration
proceedings, he was left to languish in detention. A US citizen was improperly detained for over 3 years with no compensation, no apology and no explanation. Where is the justice in that?

Read the Complete Article from NPR

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Temporary Protected Status for Venezuela?

Immigration expert Elizabeth Blandon, who represents many Venezuelan clients -- including hero Marco Coello -- explains why Venezuelans may get Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and how the benefits  differ from asylum benefits. TPS is based on extraordinary temporary conditions in an individual's country of origin, and the current crisis in Venezuela could prompt a TPS designation for that country.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Senator Seeks Answers on Asylum Process at the Border

In a letter dated 7/24/17, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has requested that the Department of Homeland Security detail the agency’s efforts to follow federal law requiring that those seeking asylum be given the opportunity to appear before an immigration judge.

Amid numerous reports that asylum seekers are being turned away at the US-Mexico border, the Senator has asked for clarification of US Customs and Border Protection policy regarding this issue.

With former DHS Secretary John Kelly accepting a new position as White House Chief of Staff, it remains to be seen how the agency will respond to Senator Feinstein’s request. One thing is certain: there IS a problem at the border, and the United States must give asylum seekers the protections that they deserve rather than turning them away at the border.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Family Case Management Program for Asylees Set to Close on June 20

The United States’ family case management program is an alternative to detention facilities for asylum-seekers. According to Sarah Rodriguez, an ICE spokesperson, the program caters to “special populations, such as pregnant women, nursing mothers, [and] families with very young children.”

The atmosphere is more like a counseling center where social workers connect asylum-seekers to legal representation, guide them through the court system, and help them receive housing, healthcare and schooling for their children. The program houses over 630 families.

With the program scheduled to close on June 20, future asylum-seekers who aren’t held in detention centers are likely to end up in “intensive supervision” programs (and could be forced to wear ankle monitors).

Many human rights groups have called for an end to detention centers altogether, arguing that long-term confinement can have severe psychological effects on detainees.

Read the complete article from The Atlantic:
ICE Shuts Down Program for Asylum-Seekers

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The American Immigration Council just released a report detailing how “fast-track” deportation methods negatively impact asylum seekers. These “fast-track” methods such as expedited removal, in conjunction with detention, disproportionately disadvantage one of the most vulnerable groups of non-citizens currently in the U.S. immigration system: women and their children held in detention centers in isolated locations.

The authors drew from a database of thousands of case files to identify families who faced serious obstacles trying to access the asylum process. The report details numerous challenges experienced by asylum seekers, including:

  • High Incidence of Psychological Trauma among Detainees
  • Medical Conditions Adversely Impact the Ability to Pursue Protection
  • Limited Access to Language Services
  • Complexity of the Legal Standard Applicable to Credible Fear Screenings
  • Problems in the Credible Fear Interview Process

Read the Full Report:
The Perils of Expedited Removal: How Fast-Track Deportations Jeopardize Asylum Seekers

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Attorney for Marco Coello Explains Detention during Asylum Interview

Last week, Board-Certified immigration expert Elizabeth Blandon came across a situation that she has never seen in 20 years of practicing immigration and nationality law.

Her client, Venezuelan political activist Marco Coello, was detained at the Miami Asylum Office. The immigration official refused to proceed with the asylum interview, and two ICE officials immediately escorted Mr. Coello to the Krome detention facility.

When Mr. Coello was released the next day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave no plausible explanation for his release... or his detention.

Reasons ranged from overstaying his visa to "two misdemeanor convictions" -- which were quickly blamed on a computer glitch. As far as the "criminal issue," Mr. Coello has one misdemeanor conviction for trespassing. However, this should not preclude him from having an asylum interview.

Many individuals have contacted our office, fearing that they too might be detained at their asylum interviews. We hope the video below will answer many of your questions about this unusual situation.

Please don't hesitate to contact the Blandon Law office at 954-385-0157 if you would like to arrange a consultation to discuss your case.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Detained Immigrants Being Denied Bond or Parole in Most Cases

Asylum-seekers are feeling the impact of a new unofficial US policy: ICE has virtually stopped granting detained immigrants bond or parole, keeping them incarcerated throughout their cases unless they successfully appeal to an immigration judge.

In response to ICE's widespread parole denials, one group of New York City attorneys have taken legal action, filing multiple writs of habeas corpus in Manhattan's federal district court on the grounds that their clients were being held in indefinite detention without review.

After such legal pressure, ICE is once again granting paroles in New York – but elsewhere in the country, asylum-seekers remain behind bars. Only in family detention facilities has ICE continued releasing mothers and their children.

This new policy can have another devastating impact: statistics show that only 14 percent of detained immigrants are able to obtain attorneys, compared to two-thirds of non-detained immigrants, and immigrants with representation are about three times more likely to win their asylum cases, according to a 2014 Stanford study.

Read the complete article: 
Trump Era Ushers in New Unofficial Policy on Asylum-Seekers

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Changes to Guidelines for Determining Credible Fear in Asylum Seekers

Amid so many public Executive Order pronouncements, the Trump administration has quietly instituted guidelines that will change how asylum seekers' cases are handled. The new instructions can be found in a "lesson plan" for asylum officers which went into effect on February 27. 

The document was provided to CNN by Tahirih Justice Center, an organization that defends immigrant women and children fleeing violence, who received it as members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association's national asylum committee.

"The lesson plan is a disappointing shift for the Asylum Division, the part of our government tasked with implementing asylum law and protecting refugees, the most vulnerable people in the world," said Archi Pyati, chief of policy and programs at Tahirih. "Victims of violence who meet the definition of a refugee will be unfairly turned away before they've even talked to a lawyer, counselor, or judge. That is not due process. That is not protection. That is not American."

More Information: 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Increase in Lawsuits Challenging Confinement of Non-citizens

Habeas corpus filings in federal courts challenging the confinement of non-citizens have risen sharply. The latest available data from the federal courts show that during January 2017 the government reported 168 new habeas corpus civil filings by non-citizens. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 24.4 percent over the previous month when the number of civil filings of this type totaled 135.

In terms of sheer numbers, New Jersey had the largest number of these civil suits, with 483 separate actions recorded. Relative to the state's population size, this placed that state third in the nation.

The Middle District of Georgia (Macon) ranked first on a per capita basis, and placed third in the number of new suits that district saw. It had 201 suits from October 1, 2014 through January 2017. The Middle District of Pennsylvania (Scranton) came in second with 239 separate suits, and also ranked second on a per capita basis.

Two other districts had over 100 suits each during this same period. The federal district court in the Northern District of Alabama (Birmingham) recorded 157 new habeas corpus filings, while the court in the Central District of California (Los Angeles) recorded 109.

View the full report, including other districts in the top ten.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Harvard University report on effect of Trump’s executive orders on asylum seekers

Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program has released a report on the effects of President Trump’s executive orders on people seeking asylum protection in the United States under long-standing provisions of U.S. and international law, including refugee law and the Convention Against Torture.

The report warns that President Trump’s executive orders will dramatically restrict access to asylum and other immigration protections in the United States, leading to a massive expansion of immigration-related detention and the construction of new detention centers to accommodate a much larger population of detainees.

“It will take billions of dollars to accommodate this kind of mass incarceration,” said Professor Deborah Anker, head of the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School.

Read the Report: The Impact of President Trump’s Executive Orders on Asylum Seekers

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Asylum-seekers are being turned away at the US border

Reports have surfaced that asylum-seeking families, adults and unaccompanied minors are being systematically turned away by agents along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In response, the American Immigration Council and several partner organizations — the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Inc., Kino Border Initiative, Women’s Refugee Commission, Public Counsel, and Latin America Working Group — have filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The complaint urges the immediate investigation of these allegations of widespread misconduct. The U.S. government is obligated by U.S. and international law to allow noncitizens presenting themselves at U.S. borders and ports of entry to apply for asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection.

It is unconscionable that individuals fleeing from dangerous conditions are being turned away without the proper process that they deserve.

Read the AP's coverage of this story

Friday, January 13, 2017

Nationwide Class Action Status for Case Seeking to Protect Rights of Asylum Seekers

On January 10, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington certified the nationwide class in Mendez-Rojas v. Johnson, No. 2:16-cv-01024-RSM (W.D. Wash), making thousands of asylum seekers class members in the case.

This lawsuit challenges the government’s failure to provide plaintiffs with adequate notice of the one-year filing deadline for asylum applications, and seeks to establish a uniform mechanism which will ensure the opportunity for asylum applications to be filed.

Any remedy ordered by the Court will apply throughout the country, ensuring that all asylum seekers have a fair opportunity to pursue their applications.

The suit was filed in June 2016 by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Dobrin & Han, PC, the American Immigration Council, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG),

“The government should not defend a system in which asylum applications are thwarted by unknown deadlines and deficient procedures,” said Trina Realmuto, litigation director for NIPNLG.  “We hope the Court’s ruling is a precursor to remedying this injustice.”

Read more at The American Immigration Council

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