Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Judge was nearly deported

MAPA Photo

Carlos T. Bea, a judge of U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, was put on the court by George W. Bush. I don't expect much from such appointees. But I can be wrong. Bea has not forgotten his immigrant experience and he recently told immigration judges [pdf] how easily even a Stanford-attending newcomer can fall afoul of the complicated regulations that govern new arrivals.

Every immigrant has a story. You see before you an immigrant who was once under an order of deportation. ...

[Born in Span, his family fled the Nazis in 1939, stopping briefly in Cuba where he had citizenship through his deceased father, then coming on to the United States.] So I became a resident alien until 1952.

That year, as a sophomore at Stanford, and a basketball player, I made the Cuban Olympic team that played in the Games at Helsinki, Finland. I left for Havana without getting a re-entry permit, confident I could get a resident visa for return, as I had on earlier trips to Cuba. After the Games, I delayed my return for a year to play basketball in the European league with Real Madrid. When I went to get my visa at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, I was asked why I was returning; I stated to go back to Stanford. I was given a Student Visa. I did not grasp this was a non-resident visa that would interrupt my resident status, until 2 years later whenI attempted to get U.S. citizenship. Through a lawyer I filed an affidavit stating I intended to remain in the U.S.; that prompted the Service to start a deportation hearing.

Interpretation here: inadvertently, despite being a Stanford student on the way to a law degree, the complexities of the various immigration statuses available to him tripped him up and he ended up on a deportation track! The rest of his story is, basically, that he would have been tossed out of the country if an appeals judge had not been intrigued to interview this Stanford basketball player and later upheld his appeal.

Only years later, when I started handling a few immigration cases, did I realize how unusual was this appellate finding.

The rest of Bea's speech is almost as interesting as this anecdote.
  • He points out that the Gonzales Department of Justice appealed to Congress to create more immigration judgeships -- and then left 6 of 15 slots unfilled.
  • He presents some serious thinking about how to reorganize immigration appeals so judges would have a chance of really thinking about them, while appellants receive an automatic stay of their deportation orders.
  • He urges the judges to police the lawyers of the immigration bar. Apparently Congress gave the Attorney General the job of issuing regulations for judges to follow in sanctioning attorneys for both the state and the immigrant appellants, but these have not been issued

    perhaps for fear an IJ might one day sanction one of the government's attorneys. ...

    Although the immigration bar certainly has some of the best and most dedicated attorneys, it is also an area that attracts some of the worst. First, the clients tend to be uninformed about how the American justice system operates. They have few connections with business and community leaders who can inform them. They unquestioningly accept whatever the attorney tells them. [And] if malpractice is committed, the likely result is the client is removed...

  • He's distressed by what he sees in pleas about whether immigrants should be deported as felons.

    I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen the facts of the crime detailed in a document that we--and YOU--are not allowed to consider in making our determination.

    While he is awfully sympathetic to the idea that felons should be automatically booted out of the country, he wants proper evidence, not assumptions of criminality, to govern the procedures.
  • He admonished the immigration judges

    ... please remember that aliens are not presumptive criminals and you are not tasked as gate-keepers, your value to be calculated by how many applicants you turn away. By and large, aliens come to this country to work and to raise families, not to plunder and pillage.

You tell'em, Judge Bea.

Via The State of Opportunity.

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