Welcome 2020 & Getting Back to Work

I have not been diligent in keeping this blog up to date. Not to make excuses, but I think a lot of that has to do with a desire not to spend my free time talking about the stuff I see every day at the office or on the road. They take a toll and I generally cope with them by pretending they're not happening when I finally get some time away from it though.

2019 was an eventful year. There were oral arguments in front of the circuit courts, at least one involving litigation I had been managing for years. They didn't go so well, but it was a major step forward and a tremendous learning experience.

New detention centers opened up in our region, leading me to get to know the state of Louisiana better than I had ever planned on doing. Winning in court got harder. The asylum denial rate in the Memphis and LaSalle immigration courts hovers near 100%.

But there were victories too. We won some reversals from the BIA and had success in most of our cancellation of removal cases. Despite…

Just What Kind of Fraud are we Really Worried About?

Normally, this is a blog about removal defense and, more broadly, immigration-related litigation.  Even so, I wanted to discuss an issue that's been on my mind a lot the last couple of years using an issue I've been seeing in family-based immigration, not litigation.

Since Trump took office, there have been numerous immigration-related policies and proposals that have taken the news by fire.  From the Muslim ban to family separation, there are a ridiculous number of cruel actions that justifiably stir up shock and anger.  They have motivated thousands to take to the streets and demand change.  They have inspired lawsuits.  That's a good thing.  We shouldn't be okay with cruelty in any form.

Yet, while attention has been focused on these horrific activities, the administration and its employees in the immigration agencies have also silently been implementing changes, policies, presumptions and attitudes that will and do have devastating effects.  Most of these will neve…

New IJs in Jena

Jena, Louisiana
On Friday, September 28, 2018, the Executive Office for Immigration Review ("EOIR" - pronounced "Eeyore" like the Winnie the Pooh character) announced the hiring and assignment of 46 new immigration judges ("IJ").  Of those 46, four were assigned to the LaSalle Immigration Court in Jena, Louisiana, the middle-of-nowhere location of the GEO run (for profit) ICE detention center where so many immigrants arrested in Arkansas are separated from their families and detained.
The LaSalle court has been operating for well over a year, with EOIR often flying IJs to Jena to manage the docket a few days to a few weeks at a time to begin and then transferring management of the court to the Miami Immigration Court.  The Miami court's IJs would appear via televideo alongside ICE trial attorneys and other court staff, including interpreters.
Miami's management ended mere weeks ago and now we have what we presume to be full-time IJs, living in and…


Like the Memphis Immigration Court, the LaSalle Immigration Court is not an independent arbiter of the law.  Instead, it is an administrative law court.  It is the sub-agency of another agency tasked with enforcing the laws as that agency sees fit.

In this case, it is the local office of the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, a sub-agency of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Practically speaking, what this means is the immigration judges are not judges at all.  Rather, they are attorney employees of the U.S. Department of Justice and they have to do whatever the Attorney General, currently everyone's least-favorite Southern caricature, Jeff Sessions, tells them to do.

Looking specifically at the LaSalle court, this agency's sole purpose is to adjudicate the removal proceedings of detained immigrants.  Individuals who have been detained from all over the mid-South, particularly Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tenn…


The Memphis Immigration Court is not an independent, Article III, court of law. Rather, it is an administrative law court falling under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, a component of the Executive Office forImmigration Review under the Department of Justice. The court in Memphis has jurisdiction over all non-detained removal proceedings originating in Arkansas, Tennessee and Northern Mississippi.
As we're located in Arkansas, the vast majority of our clients facing removal end up in Memphis. Our cases involving detained immigrants will find themselves before one of the Louisiana courts and we sometimes have clients who find themselves before the Dallas or Kansas City immigration courts either because they are placed there by accident or they live in eastern Oklahoma or southwest Missouri. Regardless, Memphis is the general rule...
80 Monroe Avenue, Memphis, TN Photo courtesy of Google

As such, it might be helpful to get to know the Memphis Immigration C…

The Three Most Important Qualities in a Trial Attorney

Earlier this month I attended a conference out of state. At the start of one of the panels, a question was posed: "if you had to name them, what would you say the three most important qualities are in a good trial attorney?" Then the panelists actually started to call on people to give their lists! I long ago mastered the art of not getting called on and thankfully I had not grown rusty. Still, the question made me think. What do I think the most important qualities in a trial attorney are?
I have to be honest. If I had been called on during that panel, I don't think I would have come up with a very good list. I'm fairly certain I would have had my own Rick Perry moment. I think this is primarily because I would have a hard time distilling all of the great qualities I have seen in other litigators into only three main ideas; especially on the spot. Of course, an ability to think on your feet could be one of those qualities...
The point is that it got me thinking and…

DWIs and Immigration Bonds Post-Siniauskas

Siniauskas does not look kindly on DWIs...
Siniauskas Summarized

This February, the Board published its decision in Matter of Siniauskas, holding:

(1) In deciding whether to set a bond, the IJ should consider the nature and circumstances of the respondent's criminal history, but family and community ties generally do not mitigate the danger he or she poses to society; and
(2) A DWI is a significant adverse consideration in determining whether a respondent is a danger to the community in bond proceedings. Matter of Siniauskas, 27 I&N Dec. 207 (BIA 2018).

In other words, having a family to care for and being an overall good citizen should not outweigh an applicant's criminal history and having a DWI is a particularly bad kind of criminal history. Id.

Mr. Siniauskas had been arrested four times for driving under the influence ("DUI"), resulting in three convictions. Id. at 208. He fell into ICE custody following the fourth arrest. Id. Two of the convictions and the f…