Monday, February 14, 2011

Immigration Court's Case Backlog Reaches Record High

According to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a non-partisan research organization that operates out of Syracuse University, the number of cases pending before Immigration courts reached a record high at the end of 2010.  At the end of December, the number of cases awaiting resolution in Immigration courts was roughly 268,000.  The backlog has increased by 44 percent since 2008 with cases pending 467 days on average.

Read the report here.
Read the article here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Virginia General District Court Judge Refuses to Follow Va. Supreme Court

In a recent decision, Loudon County General District Judge Worcester strongly disagreed with and declined to follow the Virginia Supreme Court's recent holding in Commonwealth v. Morris and Chan.  The Supreme Court ruling, discussed in previous posts, denied the availability of certain writs, such as the writ of coram nobis (also called coram vobis), to aliens seeking post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel.

Prior to the Virginia Supreme Court ruling, Judge Worchester had used the writ of error in four cases in which defendants had not been advised of deportation consequences. 

In his opinion, Judge Worchester stated "[i]f this Court were to abide by the ruling [in Morris and Chan] ... a constitutional violation will stand uncorrected. . . . [t]he Court will not allow this to happen." Finding that the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling was "at odds with long-standing precedent and jurisprudence," the judge apparently decided to ignore it and granted relief using the writ of coram nobis anyway.

Read the opinion here.
Read an article from the Washington Post here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Excerpt from The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2011 edition:
Six miles north of the University of Maine's flagship campus, on the only real highway in these parts, students and professors traveling south might encounter a surprise: a roadblock manned by armed Border Patrol agents, backed by drug-sniffing dogs, state policemen, and county sheriff's deputies.

Although the Canadian border is nearly 100 miles behind them—and Bangor, Maine's second-largest city, just 15 miles ahead—motorists are queried about their citizenship and immigration status. Those who raise an agent's suspicions are sent to an adjacent weigh station for further questioning and, sometimes, searches. Any foreign students or scholars unable to produce all of their original documentation are detained and could be arrested.

Thus far, nobody from the University of Maine has actually been arrested at this ephemeral checkpoint, which usually appears near the start of the academic year, when migrant laborers happen to be leaving eastern Maine's blueberry fields. One student had to wait at the roadblock until university authorities had satisfied agents that the individual was in the country legally, university officials say.

But elsewhere on the northern border, foreign students and scholars experience fear and uncertainty every time they leave campus, pick up a friend at the bus station, or board a domestic train or flight, even when they have all their documents with them.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has greatly increased its manpower along the northern border, allowing for more-frequent use of roving patrols or surprise checkpoints on buses, trains, and highways far from the border itself. Students who failed to carry their original documents have been delayed and fined, apprehended even when they're just a few miles from campus.

"We used to tell students: When you get here, put your passport and I-90 form away so you don't lose it, because you don't need anything special when you travel around the country," says Thy Yang, director of international programs at Michigan Technological University, located a few miles from the shores of Lake Superior. "Now we tell them to carry it at all times.
. . .

'Temporary Permanent'

Customs and Border Protection officials did not make themselves available for an interview, despite repeated requests. A written statement ignored questions on the topic, instead providing general commentary on the purpose of internal checkpoints. "CBP Border Patrol agents conduct these types of operations periodically in key locations that serve as conduits for human and narcotics smuggling," the statement said. "These operations serve as a vital component to our overall border security efforts and help sustain security efforts implemented in recent years."

Customs and Border Protection also maintains that it can set up roadblocks—it prefers the term "temporary permanent checkpoints" for legal reasons—and question people on trains and buses or at transportation stations anywhere within 100 air miles of a U.S. border or seacoast. This broadly defined border zone encompasses most of the nation's major cities and the entirety of several states, including Florida, Michigan, Hawaii, Delaware, New Jersey, and five of the six New England states. The American Civil Liberties Union—concerned about the erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against arbitrary searches and seizures—has called it the "Constitution-Free Zone."


Virginia U.S. District Court Rules Padilla is Not Retroactive

Recently, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia took up the issue of whether the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010), applies retroactively.  The Court held that Padilla announced a "new" rule because the failure of counsel to advise the defendant of the risk of deportation would not have been unreasonable at the time the defendant's conviction became final.  Additionally, the Court held that none of the retroactivity exceptions identified in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), were applicable to Padilla.

Read the opinion here.

Federal courts across the country are grappling with this issue and reaching widely different conclusions:

Finding Padilla Retroactive:

United States v. Zhong Lin - Western District of Kentucky.
Read the opinion in its entirety here.

Martin v. United States - Central District of Illinois.
Read the opinion in its entirety here.

United States v. Chaidez - Northern District of Illinois.
Read the opinion in its entirety here.

Finding Padilla Not Retroactive:

United States v. Perez - District of Nebraska.
Read the opinion in its entirety here.

United States v. Shafeek - Eastern District of Michigan.
Read the opinion in its entirety here.

Virginia Supreme Court Denies Audita Querela & Coram Nobis Post-Conviction Relief

In January, the Virginia Supreme Court issued its decision in two cases concerning the availability and application of post-conviction relief from removeability in Virginia state courts (Commonwealth v. Morris and Commonwealth v. Chan). At issue were two ancient writs, the writ of audita querela and the writ of coram nobis, which Morris and Chan argued were available to alter the criminal sentence of an alien long after it was originally imposed in order to avoid harsh immigration consequences such as deportation.

The Court held that the write of audita querela was simply not an available form of post-conviction relief in Virginia, despite its availability in a number of other jurisdictions.  The Court also held that ineffective assistance of counsel did not constitute and error in fact for the purposes of the writ of coram nobis.

Read the opinion here.
Read Washington Post article here.