Attorney Shuting Chen has been named a 2015 Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. No more than 2.5 percent of lawyers in the state are named to the Rising Stars list every year.
California legislative package might extend Medi-Cal benefits and other public benefits to undocumented immigrants and affect U visa certification process for victims of certain crimes. You can read more here.
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), which provides pro bono representation for immigrants, recently profiled attorney Ting Chen and her appellate victory on behalf of a mentally incompetent immigration detainee:
Volunteer Attorney Protects Mentally Incompetent Man from Deportation
Josue* came to the United States almost 10 years ago as a teenager. As a young adult, he began to show symptoms of severe mental illness, including auditory hallucinations. Ultimately, he came to the attention of the Department of Homeland Security, who placed him in removal proceedings. During his deportation hearings, Josue had no lawyer. He complained to the Immigration Judge that he was hearing voices telling him to harm people. The government’s health records indicated that he suffered from a psychotic disorder. Josue reported that the detention center had prescribed him Zyprexa, a powerful psychotropic medication.
Despite all of this, the Immigration Judge found Josue competent to participate in removal proceedings without a representative. Instead of conducting a forensic competency evaluation, or even relying on the medical records presented by the government, the Judge credited Josue’s statements that he could block out the voices and that Zyprexa was “for depression.” The Immigration Judge went on to deny Josue’s application for asylum and order him removed.
Protecting the rights of people with limited mental capacity is a priority for the BIA Pro Bono Project, and Ting Chen, an immigration practitioner from San Francisco, California, volunteered to represent Josue. Her brief persuaded the Board to send the case back to the Immigration Judge for a new competency hearing. In their opinion, the Board expressed concern that the Immigration Judge’s competency determination failed to address Josue’s documented mental health diagnosis and prescribed psychotropic medications. On remand, the Immigration Court found that Josue was entitled to government-appointed counsel because he did not have sufficient mental capacity to proceed without assistance. Ultimately, the Immigration Court terminated the proceedings against Josue, and he was released from immigration detention.
The surge of unaccompanied minors and families with children entering the U.S. has caused changes in immigration court proceedings. President Obama has called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to work on a united government response. FEMA was put in charge of handling humanitarian efforts while DHS was in charge of removal proceedings.
President Obama has specifically asked that DHS work quickly and increase enforcement of immigration law. The Executive Office of Immigration Review has re-prioritized deportation hearings for recent migrants. The expedited hearings are nicknamed “rocket dockets” because of their quick pace.
Though the number of unaccompanied children caught at the border dropped in July for the first time this year, rocket docket cases have continued on an expedited basis. These cases are moving quickly, but it is important that during these expedited hearings the courts provide fair and child-centric procedural protections.
In San Francisco, the immigration court has made a number of child-friendly improvements to court hearings. Judges have made available donated toys, books, and coloring books. They have also encouraged parents to enroll children in school, sometimes even waiving the presence of children in court so that the kids do not miss school to attend future hearings. More importantly, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has approved much-needed funding to provide critical legal services to juveniles before the immigration court.
After the July 4 holiday, President Obama will ask Congress for emergency funds to respond to the large influx of migrant children at our Southern border. He will also ask for authorization to speed up the screening and deportation of young migrants. It isn't clear at this point how the emergency funding will be used or how the government will speed up processing for children, but it's important for the government to provide immigration officers who are sensitive to the needs and problems of child migrants, ensure that processes are fair and humane, and maintain its focus on the best interest of the child. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border, and the Obama administration should not give in to politics and implement reactionary and defensive policies in order to maintain its "tough-on-enforcement" reputation. After all, many of the children who are seeking admission have witnessed or been victim to violence, been abandoned or abused by their parents, are traumatized or depressed or fearful, and/or qualify for immigration relief under the existing legal framework.
You can write your Congressional representatives/senators and tell them that you want humane, child-centric, and thoughtful policies in response to the crisis at the border! Find your Representatives/Senators here and here.
The recent government shutdown has affected some, BUT NOT ALL, immigration services. Here's a summary of current status:
- Courts handling hearings for detained respondents are OPEN. Courts handling hearings for non-detained respondents are CLOSED.
- Non-detained hearings that have been cancelled will have to be rescheduled when the government opens. Individuals whose hearings have been cancelled should expect a long waiting period, but can try to file Motions to Advance.
- Courts handling detained cases do not have all their employees, and some judges may be working without their clerks.
- Detained courts are still taking filings.
- "Asylum clocks," which affects eligibility for work authorization, may re-start for those asylum seekers whose cases were scheduled for hearings with the immigration court and whose clocks were previously stopped.
- The Legal Orientation Program operated by the Department of Justice has been suspended. This program provides basic legal information to detained individuals in removal proceedings.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- USCIS operates on applicant fees, so all services are open except E-Verify, which means that employers cannot electronically verify an employee's eligibility to work during the government shutdown.
- The Asylum Office is continuing to operate despite the fact that asylum seekers do not pay a fee to apply for asylum. However, trainings/hirings may have stopped, which may exacerbate to the continued interview delays around the country.
Customs and Border Protection
- Border security is considered an "essential" function, so CBP is operating as usual.
- Immigration enforcement is also considered "essential," so Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Enforcement and Removal Operations will continue to operate.
- The Department of State will delay certain services, such as visa processing and passport issuance.
- Travel for refugees approved to resettle in the United States has been temporarily suspended, but exceptions can be made.
In a thoughtful op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal, Julie Myers Wood (former ICE head) and Wendy Young (President of Kids in Need of Defense) called for the appointment of counsel for minors who appear before immigration judges. The op-ed discusses the insurmountable challenges these kids -- some as young as 5 -- can face. Many of them have fled violence, poverty, neglect, or abuse in their home countries and now face a daunting and complex immigration system. Let's hope that the House takes Ms. Myers and Ms. Young's call into serious consideration!