Category: Opinion

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Turns Asylum On It’s Ear – Moving To Expel Rape & Violence Victims

“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III wrote as he moved to further restrict U.S. acceptance of immigrants by ruling Monday that fear of domestic abuse or gang violence is not an acceptable basis for granting asylum. Ripping discretion, once again, from local authorities.

Sessions wrote a formal legal opinion, exercising his authority to overturn decisions by federal immigration judges, but not on a case-by-case basis as would normally be done, and finding that very real cases of repeated rape, sexual slavery and viable threats of murder – often against young people who have just watched their parents murdered before them – are not grounds for asylum, ever.

“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”

He acted in the case of a woman from El Salvador who entered the U.S. illegally in 2014 and sought asylum, claiming that her husband repeatedly abused her “emotionally, physically and sexually.”

Under U.S. and international law, a person may seek asylum based on past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Four years ago, an immigration court recognized “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” as such a social group.

In overturning that ruling, Sessions said it did not conform with the requirements of federal law that a social group must have well-defined characteristics that are socially distinct. The claims of the woman in this case, who said her social group was “El Salvadoran women unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children,” did not fit the law’s requirements, he said.

“I do not minimize the vile abuse that the respondent reported she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband or the harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world,” Sessions said. “I understand that many victims of domestic violence may seek to flee from their home countries to extricate themselves from a dire situation or to give themselves the opportunity for a better life. But the asylum statute is not a general-hardship statute.”

Advocates for immigrants immediately condemned the ruling.

“We’re not talking about chronic illegal immigration, and this isn’t a defense against a hoard of unwashed heathens swarming our boarders,” opined Michael Spillan, a Sentinel Justice Contributor. “Asylum for women and children who have been and will be subjected to a life of actual physical and sexual slavery is a humanitarian act.”

“I find it dichotomous that we have in President Donald Trump a chief executive so in touch with the will of his base and yet an Attorney General as out of touch with reality itself as Jeff Sessions”

Beth Werlin of the American Immigration Council said it would “result in sending countless mothers and children back to their abusers and criminal gangs. Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration.”

Earlier Monday, in a speech to Justice Department immigration lawyers in Tysons Corner, Virginia, Sessions said the asylum system is being abused and “was never meant to alleviate all problems, even serious problems, that people face every day all over the world.”

He said that the number of asylum claims jumped to 94,000 in 2016, compared with 5,000 in 2009, and that only about one-fifth of claims in the past five years have been found to be justified.

The Sentinel has stood strongly against illegal immigration, and will ever continue to do so.  That being said, we are likewise opposed to “one-size-fits-all” cooker cutter type “zero tolerance” policies such as AG Sessions continually attempts to effect.

The Attorney General’s “Kill’em all, let God sort’em out” discretion stripping approach to government, justice, immigration and probably life itself is disturbing.

The People of the United States, through our elected representatives, have spent two and a half centuries building a corps of intelligent, educated and we’ll trained professionals who have been tasked with the job of making determinations, on a case-by-case basis, about who and how life changing decisions impacting the lives of  people within our nation should be made.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has, since his first week in office, moved to strip Congressionally mandated discretionary authority away from those federal professionals, the ones living and working in our local communities, in order to vest it apparently in himself.

He has moved consistently, acting by fiat, to rip case-by-case discretion away from our neighbors, the local United States Attorneys, the local immigration judges, and other people we have direct access to, other people who we trust to understand the needs of our communities – ones they share with us – better than career bureaucrats in Washington.

The Sentinel is a conservative new source, and stands opposed, firmly opposed, to any act by AG Sessions, to dismantle the authority given to our friends and neighbors to determine what’s right and needed in our local communities and replace that authority with his own brand of un-American extremism.

And unlike Mr. Sessions, we do not believe that legitimate fear of rape and murder constitute “misfortune”.

AG Sessions Restricts Administrative Closure Of Immigration Proceedings

 On Thursday, May 17, 2018, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III issued a 26-page opinion and order in Matter of Castro-Tum, Respondent, 27 I&N Dec. 271 (A.G. May 17, 2018), restricting immigration judges from administratively closing cases before they issue decisions.  Sessions’ new order says “the current practice of administrative closure lacks a valid legal foundation”:

I hold that immigration judges and the Board do not have the general authority to suspend indefinitely immigration proceedings by administrative closure.  Accordingly, immigration judges and the Board may only administratively close a case where a previous regulation or a previous judicially approved settlement expressly authorizes such an action.

Where a case has been administratively closed without such authority, the immigration judge or the Board, as appropriate, shall recalendar the case on the motion of either party.

As reported by the New York Times here, the order “is unlikely to reopen all the cases” that are currently administratively closed, but it “injects fresh uncertainty in the lives of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.”

The Sentinel is strongly opposed to illegal immigration into our great nation.  That opposition does not, however, limit concern for unnecessary restrictions being placed on our Administrative Law Judges, who work daily in the trenches, carefully reviewing each case before making individualized decisions regarding the particular merits of each case.

AG Sessions’ action takes authority away from the experienced men and women in our ALJ corp and places it in an absolutionism of regulation without the standards of public notice, review and consideration and review that Federal Regulations are required by law to have.

Actions such as this, promulgation of regulation by fiat, lead to despotism, which the Sentinel, though a Republican owned publication, stands firmly against, administratively mandated “zero tolerance policies” which strip officials of their congressionally granted discretion offend the American citizen’s duly constituted and ratified liberty based governmental model and should not br allowed to stand.

Homeland Security Will Now Refer 100% Of Illegal Southwest Border Crossings For Prosecution

Yesterday, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III delivered remarks in San Diego, California discussing immigration enforcement actions of the Trump Administration.

Here are some highlights from the Attorney General’s remarks:

Today we are here to send a message to the world: we are not going to let this country be overwhelmed.

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That’s why the Department of Homeland Security is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest Border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution.  And the Department of Justice will take up those cases.

I have put in place a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border.  If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you.  It’s that simple.

If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you.

If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.

If you make false statements to an immigration officer or file a fraudulent asylum claim, that’s a felony.

If you help others to do so, that’s a felony, too.  You’re going to jail.

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In order to carry out these important new enforcement policies, I have sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border.  These are supervisory judges that don’t have existing caseloads and will be able to function full time on moving these cases.  That will be about a 50 percent increase in the number of immigration judges who will be handling the asylum claims.

Previously, the Attorney General sent a memorandum to all federal prosecutors on April 11, 2018, titled Renewed Commitment to Criminal Immigration Enforcement , detailing new charging-practice policies in immigration cases. A Statement from DHS Press Secretary on April Border Numbers, released May, 2018, echoes the Attorney General’s remarks, warning: “If you enter our country illegally, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution.  DHS has zero tolerance for those who break the law and will no longer exempt classes or groups of individuals from prosecution.  Whether you are a single adult or an adult member of a family unit, if you are apprehended you will be prosecuted and put in removal proceedings.” The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s border migration numbers for April 2018 are here.

As The Sentinel Sees It:

The Sentinel is deeply concerned with the matter of illegal immigration and serious criminal acts involved with human smuggling across the borders of our great land.

We are likewise concerned about the overreaching nature Mr. Sessions past acts, both in the Senate and as our Attorney General and worry that this most current action will not reduce the number of people desperate to reach our country, but will instead increase their desperation, risking the lives of our troops and border agents.

Criminal prosecution zero tolerance policies take charging discretion away from the local United States Attorneys, who are put in place specifically for the purpose of determining, on a case-by-case basis, what the appropriate action is in any given situation.

These men and woman are selected carefully, not just for their extensive legal experience, but also for their awareness of the needs of their local communities.  The exercise of their discretion and common sense help keep our justice system, if not perfect, one of best in the world.

Zero tolerance policies and Washington based mandates don’t only call into question the level of trust Attorney General Sessions has in our nation’s U.S. Attorneys, it also questions his respect for our entire system of justice and the will of the American people.

This matter extends well beyond the important question of immigration into other essential areas.  Stripping the United States Attorneys of their charging discretion on this issue could well lead to a loss of it on others until, ultimately, only bureaucratic absolutes from the District remain.

The Sentinel stands firm on the importance of recognizing and addressing criminal conduct, but urges AG Sessions and President Trump to review this “zero tolerance” mandate and return charging authority to were it belongs, in the hands of the experienced men and women the President appointed and the Senate confirmed to make such decisions.

 

 

AG Sessions Announces Zero-Tolerance For Illegal Entry & New Charging Policies

On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III notified all U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest Border of a new “zero-tolerance policy” for offenses under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(prohibiting both attempted illegal entry and illegal entry in the United States by an alien).  “The situation at our Southwest Border is unacceptable. Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest—that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border. As a result, a crisis has erupted at our Southwest Border that necessitates an escalated effort to prosecute those who choose to illegally cross our border,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The new policy comes as the Department of Homeland Security reported a 203 percent increase illegal border crossings from March 2017 to March 2018, and a 37 percent increase from February 2018 to March 2018. SeeDHS Southwest Border Migration FY2018.

The recent increase follows a steep drop in illegal border crossings after President Trump’s inauguration, which were historically low through most of his first summer in office.

On April 11, in a follow-up to his zero-tolerance policy, the Attorney General sent a memorandum for all federal prosecutors titled Renewed Commitment to Criminal Immigration Enforcement, detailing the new charging-practice policies in immigration cases.

(The American Sentinel Newsletter notes that while the problem of illegal entry into our nation must be and remain a priority for the Trump Administration, zero-tolerance policies which strip local authorities of their discretion fly in the face of the very reasoning underlying the creation of local United States Attorneys – the need for charging decisions to reflect the will of the people in the district such decisions are being made – and are, in the opinion of the Sentinel, dangerously federalistic.)

United States Sentencing Commission Drops The Ball … Again

For the last several months the United States Sentencing Commission has taunted and teased non-violent 1st time federal offenders with the possibilty of relief from some of the more onerous sentencing restrictions that have been placed on their ability to return to their communities in a timely and meaningful way.

Created by Congress in 1984 to lay down “guidelines” for federal judges to follow when imposing sentences on federal defendants, the Commission had long been criticized for its punative and often seemingly racist approach to sentencing.

In more recent years the Commission has slowly innovated and retooled the Guidlines, making decisions which have brought proportionality and common sense back into federal sentencing.

It had been thought that, given President Trumps’ campaign promises, this trend might continue into the new administration.

The Guidelines are reviewed and amended annually, and indeed, at the beginning of the most current amendment cycle, it seemed that the Commission was poised to finally address – as so many states have – the painful absence of leniency available for non-violent 1st time federal offenders, many of whom face extended incarceration for things like minor misunderstandings of our voluminous tax code.

Several ideas were floated publicly, and the Sentinel watched the Commission’s hearing today with great interest.

Alas, it was not to be.

Rather than adopting, or even discussing, any one of several possible amendments to grant a greater range of sentencing options to federal judges for non-violent and often harmless defendants, the Commission failed to discuss the issue at all.

In what is likely their shortest public hearing to date, the Commission breezed through several other proposed amendments and adjorned before the subject could even be raised,  let alone discussed, as it had been in prior meetings, tabling the issue for another year, possibly forever.

The Sentinel is not pro-inmate.  Nor are we pro-law enforcement.  The Sentinel is pro-America!

America suffers when we pay up to $250,000 a year* to incarcerate non-violent 1st time offenders, for years on end, when they should be working in our communities, paying restitution for their crimes, and learning (or returning to) productive roles in society.

Isolating these men and women away for years harms them, destroys families and costs us, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars a year.  We’re paying to house, feed and provide medical care for them, when they could and should be supporting themselves and repaying their victims, whether those victims be (and often are) federal agencies like the IRS, or investors who lost money in some ill-advised scheme.

Countless states have figured this out, are saving money and reducing recividism in the process.

Sooner or later, Congress and the Commission will have to follow suit.

Text of the Commissions’ official press release appears below.

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U.S. SENTENCING COMMISSION UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTS 2018 GUIDELINE AMENDMENTS

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 12, 2018) — The United States Sentencing Commission unanimously voted on a slate of new amendments to the Guidelines Manual. Among other actions, the Commissioners voted to update the federal sentencing guidelines to address evolving challenges related to the distribution of synthetic drugs. The amendments reflect a collaborative, detailed, and data-driven approach to federal sentencing policy.

At the public meeting, Circuit Judge William H. Pryor Jr., acting chair of the Commission, remarked, “I would like to acknowledge the unique challenge that the Commission faced during this current amendment cycle. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 contemplates that there will be seven voting members on the Commission, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. While setting sentencing policy is always difficult—because it impacts the liberty of our fellow citizens—reaching consensus was particularly challenging and critical this amendment cycle. Under the statute, we need an affirmative vote of four Commissioners to approve any pending amendments.”

At the meeting, the Commissioners approved a multi-part synthetic drugs amendment. The amendment draws upon public comment, expert testimony, and data analysis gathered during a multi-year study of synthetic drugs. Before today’s actions, many new synthetic drugs were not referenced in the federal sentencing guidelines. As a result, courts have faced expensive and resource-intensive hearings. The Commission’s actions reflect the evolving nature of these new drugs and will simplify and promote uniformity in sentencing these offenders.

Among today’s actions, the Commissioners voted to adopt a new guideline definition of the term “fentanyl analogue.” The change effectively raises the guideline penalties for fentanyl analogues to a level more consistent with the current statutory penalty structure. To address the severe dangers posed by fentanyl, the Commissioners also voted to adopt a four-level sentencing enhancement for knowingly misrepresenting or knowingly marketing fentanyl or fentanyl analogues as another substance (which equates to an approximate 50 percent increase in sentence).

The new amendment also establishes drug ratios and minimum offense levels for two new classes of synthetics drugs: synthetic cathinones (often referred to as “bath salts”) and synthetic cannabinoids (including, but not limited to, “K2” or “spice”). Following a multi-year study and series of public hearings with experts, the Commission found that synthetic cathinones possess a common chemical structure that is sufficiently similar to treat as a single class of synthetic drugs. The Commission also found that, while synthetic cannabinoids differ in chemical structure, the drugs induce similar biological responses and share similar pharmacological effects. In setting the new drug ratios, the Commission considered among other factors, the severity of the medical harms to the user, the current ratios applied in similar cases, known trafficking behaviors, and concerns for public safety. In recognition that potencies vary, the Commission also adopted departure language for drugs in a class that are more or less potent.

The Commission also voted to adopt a new application note providing that judges should consider alternative sentencing options for “nonviolent first offenders” whose applicable guideline range falls within Zones A or B. Eligible defendants must not have any prior convictions and must not have used violence, credible threats of violence, or possessed a firearm or other dangerous weapon in the offense. This narrowly-tailored amendment is consistent with the directive to the Commission in 28 U.S.C. § 994(j).

Acting Chair Pryor also observed, “Among the four of us here today, the unanimous agreement on this slate of amendments reflects even more collaboration and compromise than in a typical amendment cycle, and I would like to thank my fellow Commissioners for their time and service. We worked together to develop solutions that improve the federal sentencing guidelines in a manner that balances fairness, justice, fiscal responsibility, and public safety. I look forward to working with my colleagues to strengthen and to simplify the guidelines. Together, we will continue our efforts to ensure clear and effective guidance for federal courts across the country.”

At the meeting, the Commission also increased offense levels for certain Social Security fraud offenses to incorporate statutory changes resulting from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. The Commission received valuable comment from the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, and the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee as well as the Social Security Administration. Today’s amendment provides for an enhancement and a minimum offense level for individuals who violate certain positions of trust (e.g., health care providers, claims representatives, and others) in a manner that addresses the seriousness and sophistication of these fraudulent schemes.

The Commission also voted to adopt the recommendations made by the Tribal Issues Advisory Group in its May 2016 report. The amendment provides a non-exhaustive list of factors that courts may consider in determining whether a prior tribal court conviction warrants an upward departure from the recommended sentencing range. The amendment also adds a definition for “court protection order” for purposes of applying an enhancement under the aggravated assault, harassment, and domestic violence guidelines. Other technical and miscellaneous amendments were also adopted at today’s public meeting.

The full set of amendments will be transmitted to Congress by May 1, 2018. If Congress does not act to disapprove the amendments, they will go into effect on November 1, 2018

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*While the average “cost of incarceration” published by the Federal Bureau of Prisons is just north of $30,000, the FBOP admits that countless non-violent inmates have medical conditions and/or “personal circumstances” which result in cost to keep them running a quarter of a million dollars or more.

– The American Sentinel Newsletter