Tag Archives: 236(c)

An Open Letter to Rep. Spencer Bachus

21 Mar

Dear Congressman Bachus,

Thank you very much for speaking out about the overuse of detention by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in civil proceedings to determine the removability of individuals in the U.S.  By stating and asking “it looks to me like there is an overuse of detention by this administration.  If these people are not safety risks . . . why are we detaining them?,” you have joined the growing chorus of Americans who wonder why the government, during a time of fiscal crisis, spends so much money locking people up during immigration proceedings when they present no danger to society.  You are welcome in our club and we are glad to have you.

However, we do think it is important that you understand the role you played in building the gulag archipelago of immigration detention.  The explosion of immigration detention is a direct result of legislation you voted for, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.  This law, more than any decision by the Obama administration, has resulted in the overuse of detention for individuals in removal proceedings.  While you are right to question the overuse of detention by the administration, please do not overlook Congress’, and your, responsibility in forcing the detention of tens of thousands of people, the vast majority of whom are not safety risks.  IIRIRA fueled the explosion of detention in several ways.  First, it expanded mandatory detention to cover lots of people convicted of minor offenses.   Mandatory detention has forced ICE (and INS before ICE) to detain people during the course of their removal proceedings.  These individuals had no right to individualized determinations of their risk to society or likelihood to appear for hearings.  By expanding the classes of people subject to mandatory detention, Congress created a base layer of detainees.  It is true that interpretations by this and previous administrations have increased the potential pool of mandatory detainees, but mandatory detention and its wide reach is a creation of Congress.  Second, IIRIRA labelled many minor offenses as “aggravated felonies,” requiring detention during removal proceedings.  For example, an individual convicted of shoplifting a pair of $100 sunglasses might be sentenced to one year imprisonment, with service of the sentence suspended.  In other words, the criminal court would determine that that individual should not serve jail time unless they do something bad during the year of the suspended sentence.  Under IIRIRA’s overinclusive language, such an offense would be an aggravated felony and subject that individual to mandatory detention.  And IIRIRA made it clear that it did not matter when the offense occurred.  It is hard to imagine that this hypothetical defendant is a safety risk, but the law gives ICE and the immigration courts no authority to release that individual.  Third, IIRIRA created 287(g) partnerships with state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration law.  The explosion of detention is also directly related to the numbers of people coming to ICE’s attention because a local police officer pulls an immigrant over for failing to use a turn signal.  IIRIRA is the impetus to Arizona-style laws, one of the worst of which was passed in your own Alabama, Congressman.  Fourth, by creating the ten year bar to return to the U.S., IIRIRA made it close to impossible for many immigrants to regularize their status.  Thus, individuals who would have been able to obtain residence under previous laws, remained in the U.S. in unlawful status.  When encountered by ICE, they have often been detained in the discretionary determinations of ICE.  It is true that here is an area where the administration’s overuse of detention is due to the refusal to exercise favorable discretion, but please note that many of these people would be legal residents if not for the 1996 Act.  In addition, please recognize the role that the fear of Congressional rebuke plays in ICE’s decisions.  Take a look at the outcry from your colleagues when ICE released 2200 detainees last month in anticipation of the sequester.  Moreover, Congressional intent has been a key building block of the judicial decisions that have legalized the massive detention edifice.  Decisions such as the Supreme Court’s Demore v. Kim, which upheld mandatory detention, and Matter of Rojas, where the Board of Immigration Appeals decided that mandatory detention applies to people released from custody years or decades ago, are underpinned by statements that Congress intended to impose an unyielding policy of detention in IIRIRA.

Finally, Congress has provided ICE with enormous sums of money to spend on detention.  As you know, nature abhors a vacuum.  As Congress states that it intends to tighten spending, the unnecessary detention of the thousands of people who present no real danger to society should be looked at skeptically.  ICE will spend the money Congress gives it on detention.  It is up to Congress to say “no.”

Congressman, thank you for taking a stand against the overuse of detention.  We are glad to have you as an ally and hope that you use your position in Congress to advocate for more sensible immigration policies.  Thanks again for speaking out and we hope that the words are matched with action.

Sincerely,

Benach Ragland LLP

 

Benach Ragland Submits Brief in Mandatory Detention Case

21 Feb

Earlier this month, Benach Ragland authored a brief on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association in the case of Michael Sylvain v. Attorney General before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  In Sylvain, the court must decide whether the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) requires the detention of individuals convicted of certain offenses regardless of how long it has been since they were released from criminal custody. On behalf of AILA, Benach Ragland argued to the court that people released from custody prior to Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) assumption of custody are entitled to a bond hearing where an immigration judge can make a determination as to whether they are flight risks or dangers to the community.  ICE argues that the INA gives immigration judges no authority to consider the release such individuals and that they must be detained for the duration of their removal proceedings regardless of how long it has been since they were convicted of an offense.

In Sylvain, the government defends a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Matter of Rojas.  In Rojas, the BIA decided that the mandatory detention provisions of the INA require detention without possibility of release on bond regardless of when that person was released from criminal custody.  However, the INA mandatory detention provision states that certain individuals shall be taken into custody “when the alien is released.”  The BIA decided in Rojas that that language did not limit ICE to apply mandatory detention to individuals regardless of when they were released.  Under Rojas, an individual would be subject to detention without any sort of review by a judge even if they had been released from prison a decade earlier.  As immigration judges around the country cited Rojas and explained that their hands were tied, advocates went to U.S. District Courts around the country and sought habeas corpus review.  Almost uniformly, the federal courts told the immigration service that Rojas was wrong and that the detained individual was entitled to a bond hearing.  The immigrant was then released.   ICE rarely appealed these decisions to the courts of appeals.

However, they did so in Hosh v. Lucero.  In that case, a district court judge found that Rojas was wrongly decided and ordered an immigration judge to hold a bond hearing.  However, this time, the government, sensing a possibly friendly court in the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, a court known for giving the government wide berth to operate, appealed the judge’s decision.  The government’s gamble paid off and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court judge and deferred to the BIA’s decision in Rojas, foreclosing habeas relief in the states of the 4th Circuit (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia).  Although district courts in the Fourth Circuit must follow Hosh, district courts outside of the Fourth Circuit have not found Hosh terribly persuasive.

Now this issue is before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which encompasses New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, in Sylvain.  A decision rejecting Rojas would create a split between the Third and the Fourth Circuits, possibly leading the way to Supreme Court review.  Oral argument is coming next month and we will report from the argument and when a decision comes down.

Hey FAU! Drop GEO!

20 Feb

geo-group-splash-13

Yesterday, after receiving a gift of $6 million, Florida Atlantic University announced that it was renaming its stadium “The Geo Group Stadium,” after the for-profit prison company, best known for operating detention facilities on behalf of Immigration & Customs Enforcement.  It is remarkable that any university would name a stadium after a prison company, but simply stunning that Florida Atlantic University, which sits in South Florida, a community that has been decimated by the overuse of civil immigration, would be so tone deaf as to think this was a good idea.  Although $6 million can certainly affect one’s “hearing,” FAU’s renaming of its stadium displays a failure of a university’s most cherished obligation, to empower students to make intelligent, ethical and moral decisions in a complex world.

FAU is a public school with over 30,000 students and boasts that 44% of its students are “minority or international students.”  Twenty-three percent of FAU students identify as “Asian” or Latino.”  And FAU sits in Southern Florida, where GEO operates a notorious link in the immigration gulag, the Broward Transitional Center, in FAU’s hometown of Boca Raton.

Universities have long been at the forefront on civil and human rights issues.  Universities nurtured the civil rights movement, the women’s and gay liberation efforts.  Universities divested from South Africa during apartheid and universities have led the charges against foreign sweatshops that made apparel sold in college bookstores.  And it is no surprise that universities have been actively involved in the immigrant rights movement.  Leading educators have stood up for the DREAM Act, have supported efforts to get individuals out of detention and deportation proceedings, and have led urgency to the need for a better system for employment-based immigration.  So, why would FAU accept a donation and so prominently highlight a company who makes it profits off the maintenance of an immigration detention apparatus that is morally dubious if not downright repugnant?

The GEO Group operates 73,000 “beds,” but it is not the Best Western.  “Beds” is corrections-speak for “places where detainees can try to sleep.”  It has a ignominious track record.  Before they were GEO, they were they were the Wackenhut Correctional Corporation.  British journalist Greg Palast wrote of Wackenhut’s operation of private prisons in New Mexico, “New Mexico’s privately operated prisons are filled with America’s impoverished, violent outcasts — and those are the guards.”  The Wackenhut name was so tarnished with scandal that the board changed the name in 2003.   Yet, transforming the way that they did business was much more elusive. Some of GEO’s greatest hits include:

In addition, the GEO groups lobbies for punitive immigration laws and resists efforts to introduce more discretion for judges to release detained individuals.  After all, the trough must be refilled.  It has a very cozy relationship with ICE.  Just last week, we learned that a former ICE bureaucrat David Venturella, who had some ambitious ideas about pumping up removal numbers, has left ICE for his payday at GEO.  The revolving door between government and for profit incarceration is quite lucrative for ICE bureaucrats, but there is no such door for detainees.

It is simply stunning that a university would agree to name a stadium after this behemoth.  It is especially galling in South Florida, where brave immigrant activists Marco Saavedra and Viridiana Martinez infiltrated the Broward Transitional Center to document abuses and conditions.  Would FAU name their stadium after the Bushmaster assault rifle? Or after Phillip Morris (rebranded as Altria)?  No university in their right mind would ever be associated with such corporate pariahs.  The goal for immigrants rights communities is to make the name of GEO as toxic as those names.  The devastating impact that GEO has had on the immigrant community in South Florida simply makes it an unacceptable choice for naming rights at a stadium.  Especially one in South Florida.  FAU must know that GEO is as much a pariah as gun manufacturers and cigarette pushers.  How many FAU students have been detained by GEO?  How many FAU student’s parents and loved ones languished in GEO’s dungeons?  How many kids never got a chance to attend a football game because GEO got them first?

Dream Activist has started a petition.  Please sign.  Please share on all your networks.  While FAU may be intoxicated with GEO’s money, they need to be reminded that their community or “customers” reject GEO’s profiteering on detention misery.

The Immigration Industrial Complex

9 Jan

5a6cb_man-shocked-at-billThe Migration Policy Institute recently released a study documenting that the U.S. government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement, dwarfing the $14 million spent on other federal law enforcement agencies. The FBI, the DEA and the ATF, combined, received $14 billion.  Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s budget, alone, is $6 billion.  Something is seriously out of whack here.

None of this is surprising to immigration attorneys.  ICE runs a gulag archipelago of detention centers across the country, holding immigrants who have overstayed visas, entered without inspection, seek asylum, and  committed minor offenses.  ICE has continued to push in the federal courts for expansive definitions of mandatory detention, even if it means detaining people for offenses committed decades ago.  In 2011, ICE detained over 429,000 people, more than any other single government entity.  More than the Bureau of Prisons, the States of California, Texas, Florida, and New York.  ICE operates in its own jails, rents out space at local jails and contracts with private companies like the GEO corporation to manage this enormous population.  In addition, ICE has contracts with BI Incorporated to monitor individuals with final orders of removal.  This often involves ankle bracelets with GPS, telephonic and in-person reporting.  BI officials also monitor an individual’s efforts to obtain passports and plane tickets to depart the U.S. under an removal order.  In other words, they do ICE’s job.  And, frankly, they are pretty good at it.  Over 400,000 removals in 2011 shows how good BI is.  If budget hawks are serious about making government run like a business, how about saving money by eliminating the middleman?

The large budgetary excess for immigration enforcement also provides an explanation for the massive ICE resistance to immigration reform.  After all, if undocumented youth are getting DACA rather than being detained and deported, bed spaced is being underutilized and removals may go down.  In our current economic environment, it won’t be long before some budget-cutting legislator begins to question the excess of the the immigration enforcement budget.  If ICE were to exercise discretion and not detain and deport everyone that they possibly could, can they fulfill their contracts with the private companies that have built jails throughout the country.  If ICE were to take a more reasonable approach to enforcement, would they need to send out 20 agents before dawn to arrest four plumbers working a contract at Dulles because they are working on fake green cards?

The large amount of money at stake for immigration enforcement makes it clear that the efforts of some ICE bureaucrats to derail common-sense immigration reform is a result not of a principled belief in our national security and public safety, but rather to protect their exalted place at the public trough.

As we spend months debating the economic future of this country and what immigration reform will look like, it is worth contrasting the unproductive use of $18 billion tax dollars that ICE has commanded on an enforcement roid rage with the agreed-upon economic stimulus that would be provided by an immigration reform package.

Indifference

13 Dec

 

It is very true that the immigration laws need a wholesale revision.  Congress needs to make substantial changes, regulations need to be re-written, precedent decisions scrapped and new guidance forthcoming.  But another change is needed and this change may the hardest of all.  It is a change of attitude within the agencies.  We have written in this space on multiple occasions about the hostility that elements within ICE have for their political leadership and the “culture of no” within CIS has been well-documented.  However, less reported is the blase indifference that many civil servants within the agency take toward the people affected by the way they go about their jobs.

Here is where I am supposed to say that the majority of the people who work for the immigration agencies are hard-working, well-intentioned people laboring under tremendous workloads and inadequate resources.  I am supposed to say that those who are indifferent to the human lives in the case before them are far outnumbered by the valiant majority who struggle against the bureaucratic odds to make a difference.  Sorry, but I can not say that.  I have to say that indifference is the default and care and compassion and vigor are the exception.  Such virtues do exist within the immigration agencies, but they are rarely on display.  Initiative and “going the extra mile” are snuffed out like weeds in those Round-Up commercials.  The overwhelming majority simply have little concern for the people affected by the way they do their jobs.  Immigration reform will be incomplete unless it addresses this problem as the power of clerks and administrative staff to harm the interests of immigrants remains immense.

Let’s focus on the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the Immigration Court system.  Here are just a couple of things that have happened to us in the past few months that show how bureaucrats affect people’s lives by the way they do their jobs:

  • Client was detained by ICE.  ICE said that he was subject to mandatory detention.  We wanted to argue to the Judge that he was not.  We filed a request for a bond hearing, which is a matter of right, on October 24.  The case was not scheduled until November 27, five weeks after we filed.  This meant that our client had to sit in jail for an additional five weeks after we asked for his release before a judge could consider his claim that he should not be detained.  Five weeks is a long time to sit in jail when the law says you do not have to sit in jail.  The decision on when to give him a hearing was made by the Immigration Judge’s legal assistant.  No doubt she was reacting to limits on how many cases a judge can hear on any given day, but the harm of the judge hearing one more case against an individual spending several weeks in jail ought to be considered.
  • Client was detained by ICE.  When ICE detains an individual that they are placing into removal proceedings, ICE must issue a Notice to Appear (NTA) charging the individual with removability.  ICE must file the NTA with the Immigration Court and the Court must schedule the hearing.  We requested bond.  Although the rules require the Court to schedule a bond hearing for any detained individual regardless of whether an NTA has been filed, the Court’s backlog in recording the filing of NTAs causes the staff to fail to schedule a bond hearing.  A hearing was finally scheduled 30 days after the client is taken into custody and the Judge orders release.
  • Client was scheduled for hearing on her application for cancellation of removal for 10/31/2012.  That hearing was set in December 2011.  Hurricane Sandy closed the Immigration Court that day and for several days afterwards.  Expecting that the court would reschedule the case once it reopened, we wished to inform the court that we did not need much time for a hearing.  In December 2011, the Court scheduled the case for three to four hours of time.  However, since then, we negotiated with ICE counsel and agreed that all issues in the case could be resolved in a hearing of an hour or less.  On November 15, 2012, we filed a motion letting the court know that we did not need much time, so that the Court could squeeze us in wherever it had time.  We made several calls to and left messages with the court’s clerical staff, none of which were returned.  We finally spoke with the legal assistant to the judge around December 1, who stated that she had not seen the motion and she would have to look for it, but that she was not going to stop what she was doing to do so.  If she found it and the Judge ruled on it, she would give us a courtesy call.  On December 4, 2012, we got the call- hearing on December 11!  However, on December 5, the rumors started flying- the cap on grants of cancellation of removal had been met and no cancellation grants could be made until October 1, 2013.  As these were just rumors, we went ahead with the hearing, traveling to another city to be there on December 11.  At the hearing the Judge informed us that, since there were no cancellation numbers, she could not and would not hold a hearing and we could come back in October 2013.  So many small acts of initiative could have made a difference here: (1) the clerk could have addressed the motion in a timely manner and we could have gotten on the calendar before  numbers ran out; (2) when numbers ran out, the court could have called and rescheduled knowing that we would have to travel to attend the hearing at substantial cost to the client.
  • They never call back.  Never.

These are problems that are not going to be addressed by legislation.  They require a wholesale change in attitude and a lesson in courtesy. This is not simply a problem of
“poor customer service.” I hate the idea of customer service in a government agency. I think they owe us MORE than a business owes its customers. We are citizens, we are a polity and they are our government. They derive their authority from us. A business derives its income from us, which it can choose to accept or not. Citizen vis-a-vis government is entitled to more respect and deference than a Slurpee-buying sap at a Seven-Eleven.  Homer_and_Apu

These problems require an understanding that immigration detention is a serious deprivation of liberty that must be limited in duration and for the most serious matters.  A culture must grow within the Immigration Court that anything that unnecessarily prolongs detention is to be avoided and that resources will be provided to ensure that immigrants have access to prompt hearings.  Employees of the court system must be trained to recognize that they should do all they can to ensure that detained individuals have access to process.  A person is charged with murder is put in front of a magistrate judge within 24 hours who sets bail (or not).  A person charged with overstaying a visa is often detained for weeks before he gets review of his detention.  How does that system make sense?

This post was mostly cathartic.  Future posts will explore some of the legal underpinnings of the immigration detention regime.  For example, a U.S. Supreme Court decision many years ago said that removal proceedings are civil and not criminal and many criminal procedural protections are, therefore, unavailable in removal proceedings.  Given the militarization of the border and the use of detention during removal proceedings, we wonder how much of that flawed doctrine still can stand.

Judge Grants Bond for Mandatorily Detained Client Under 236(c) – A Sweet Victory for Benach Ragland!

21 Aug

This morning, we won bond for our client, who is mandatorily detained under 236(c) and hence, subject to mandatory detention. The Government lawyer, flanked by his supervisor, strenuously contended that mandatory is mandatory, but the Immigration Judge (“IJ”) found it in his jurisdiction to grant bond due to our creative lawyering and excellent grasp of recent case law.

Most attorneys never challenge the detention of a client under 236(c). It simply does not appear to be winnable. Our client, a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) since 1986, has a conviction for two crimes involving moral turpitude, which makes him ineligible for bond under 236(c). He was detained on June 28th in usual ICE-SWAT style. His family panicked and called our office for help.

Our client had never served any time in jail. Even following his conviction in federal court, he was simply given home detention with an ankle-monitoring bracelet. Hence, his family was shocked and aghast that immigration authorities would grab him from his home and detain him when the federal court did not think that was necessary! We explained that this was business as usual and we would do everything in our power to get relief from removal for him, but also explained that since he had two crimes involving moral turpitude, he was mandatorily detained under 236(c). However, we also explained to them that he was eligible for LPR Cancellation of Removal under 240(A), since he has lived in the U.S. as an LPR continuously for more than 25 years and has no aggravated felony. Therefore, we promised to work on his relief application.

However, our client was still unhappy. Since he had not made any provisions for his long-time business, he had no one to look after it in his absence and it started to fail without his expertise. He had a pressing need to be out of detention due to his business, and his family consistently asked whether there was an opportunity for him to get bond. We clearly explained to them, on several occasions, that the likelihood of that happening is zero to null.

Still, his wonderful and loving family did not quite get why he was detained mandatorily. They were anxious to get him out. To keep up with our reputation of zealously defending our clients, I consistently called the law clerks at EOIR to ask whether the NTA had been filed. I called the EOIR hotline almost every day to see if his Master Calender had been scheduled. Two weeks flew by. The clerks at the Court told me that DHS had not filed the NTA for our client and he was not in their system. I also called the DHS on many occasions to ask them to file the NTA but never got a response from them. I either got routed to a person who did not know what was going on or did not have the file or simply got a voice-mail.

Angered by what appeared to be DHS lethargy as usual, I asked Andres Benach what we should do to get them to file the NTA with the Court. Andres, since he is absolutely brilliant, suggested filing a Matter of Joseph Hearing, not because it is winnable but because it would at least get the NTA filed with the Court. We thought we would not win it but it would serve its purpose, which was to get the client a speedy hearing since he was prima facie eligible for relief from removal under 240(A).

I waited for instructions from Thomas who agreed and gave me the task of drafting the Matter of Joseph Hearing motion. We filed it on July 19 and the IJ granted it, setting the bond hearing for August 21, 2012, followed by a Master Calendar Hearing. We finally had the NTA filed with the Court and we seemed to be back on track with getting our client his day in front of an IJ.

We had three weeks to draft the motion for his custody and bond determination hearing. I went into every office at Benach Ragland and whined about how this was an impossible task since he was mandatorily detained under 236(c). And truth be told, it is an impossible task. In order to guide me, Thomas handed me a copy of Diop v. ICE/Homeland Security, a Third Circuit case, where the Court had ruled that mandatory detention becomes unreasonable after a certain point. Of course, in Diop, the client had been detained for over two years, while our client had been in detention for like a month. He also gave me a copy of the handy ACLU Practice Advisory on Prolonged Mandatory Detention and Bond Eligibility, telling me that I had to come up with something because we were about creative lawyering and zealously providing for our clients.

However, none of the usual arguments for why our client should be granted bond even if he is mandatorily detained appeared to hit the nail on the head. He had not been detained for long enough. He had not been released from custody and then detained at a later time. He did not have any medical needs. Still, we found Diop helpful because it used the concurring opinion of Judge Kennedy in Demore v. Kim to say that after a certain point in time, mandatory detention may violate due process and demand a hearing. The Third Circuit in Diop also concluded that when mandatory detention becomes unreasonable, the burden shifts to the Government to show at the bond hearing why continued detention is consistent with the purpose of preventing flight and danger to community. We latched onto that.

We also took a road-trip to visit our client in detention, something that more lawyers ought to do. Our client has great equities. He has been a long-time resident of the United States. He has a U.S. citizen spouse and three U.S. citizen children. His mother is a lawful permanent resident who resides with him. He is the owner of a successful business that employs 13-14 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. He did not commit any violent crimes so he is not a danger to the community. He is not a flight risk since he has a business to manage, family to provide for and clearly eligible for relief from removal. He would never repeat what he did. If we could prevail in shifting the burden to the government to show why he was a flight risk and danger to the community, and have a battle over equities, we should surely prevail at both the bond hearing and cancellation hearing.

On August 17, I hand-delivered our motion for a bond and custody hearing to both the Immigration Court and ICE Office of Chief Counsel, in which we argued that our client had been mandatorily detained for an unreasonable period, which gave the IJ jurisdiction to determine his bond, and that mandatory does not mean mandatory beyond a reasonable period of time. Last night, we worked till 9pm to compiled 466 pages of evidence, including 22 letters and over 2000 petition signatures, for his 42(A) Cancellation of Removal application and filed it with the Court today before his bond hearing. I also mailed a copy of it to USCIS to fee it in and I am eagerly awaiting the fee receipts.

Going into the bond hearing, the IJ gave us the opportunity to tell him why he had jurisdiction over the case. Thomas explained that since our client had been detained for 54 days before getting his first hearing, he had been held for an unreasonable period of time. He also stated that the case had been unreasonably delayed, in part, due to failure of ICE to file the NTA with the court in a timely manner. The IJ appeared to agree with Thomas that the detention was unreasonable but also explained that DHS had in fact, filed the NTA with the court on July 2, 2012, in a timely manner. It was due to Court error that the client had not been scheduled for a hearing until the Court received his Matter of Joseph hearing motion. The IJ appeared almost apologetic for the court error and repeatedly stated that Mr. Ragland was diligent in his zealous efforts to get a speedy trial for his client.

The Government virulently opposed the grant of any bond and repeatedly stated that mandatory means mandatory. After the IJ found jurisdiction because he also thought that the length of time our client had been detained was unreasonable, he appeared to shift the burden to the Government to prove why our client should still be detained. The Government argued zealously that our client had committed very serious crimes and would likely not prevail at merits. The IJ listened intently but he sided with Thomas and granted the bond order!

The Government countered that they would file for an automatic stay within 24 hours, which means that even if the judge grants bond, ICE plans to challenge it and our client would remain detained. In response, the IJ stated that he did not have any individual merit hearing on his calendar for this year! Our client would need to remain in detention till January 2013 in the least! Seeing the predicament of our client, the IJ gave us the only administrative time available on his calendar for an individual merits hearing: September 7, 2012.

Outside the courtroom, the Government announced its intention to appeal the bond decision and file an automatic stay. Later in the day, we spoke again with the Government attorneys and they decided not to pursue the automatic stay.

This means that our client is free to go home to his wonderful family and come back to court for his cancellation hearing, for which we are preparing zealously. His family is absolutely ecstatic about having him back. He can go back to his business and provide for his family, which is all he has wanted to do ever since he got detained. We expect to go to court on September 7, 2012 and win his cancellation of removal so his family can put this behind them, and everyone can move on.

I learned two vital lessons from this. One, we must not concede every allegation the Government makes and we must actually make the Government do their job. Mandatory does not really mean mandatory. And second, family is absolutely critical to winning relief in immigration court. If it was not for the incredibly effort and support of his loving family, our client would face a much more lengthy detention.

Onward.