Category Archives: Blog

Practicing Law in TV Land

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is completely enamored with video technology, so much so that consideration of how critical in-person hearings are for people fighting to stay in this country has been lost in the shuffle. Immigration lawyers play a role in the tectonic shift to video versus in-person hearings.

To be fair, video hearings in the Immigration Court have been around for many years. During the COVID-19 pandemic the uptick in use of video equipment to conduct hearings was considerable and, in many ways, necessary. Given the inability to conduct in-person hearings during the height of the pandemic, use of video equipment increased substantially in an effort to keep courts running. This shift in how hearings are conducted was not limited to Immigration Courts. All courts had to adjust to using video technology to conduct motion hearings, conferences, and various other matters by video in order to keep cases moving through the court system. Notably, however, state and federal courts continued to recognize the importance of in-person hearings for trials. Unfortunately, EOIR didn’t get the message. EOIR has now set up an “adjudication center” in Richmond, Virginia and staffed the court with Judge’s who only conduct hearings by video, including Master Calendar and Individual Hearings. Many attorneys, especially those who work for the government, have fully embraced hearings conducted using EOIR’s Webex system which allows Judges, lawyers, Respondents and witnesses to all be in different places physically while conducting a hearing using the Webex video system.

The shift to video hearings has caused multiple problems with EOIR operations, court efficiency, and the administration of justice. For starters, EOIR’s solution to cutting through the back-log of cases in the immigration courts has been to hire more immigration judges. While hiring judges to conduct hearings might seem well-intended, EOIR has consistently failed to hire clerks and other staff members to help judges manage their respective case-loads. In fact, it’s quite normal during a hearing to watch the judge manage operation of video technology, shuffle files, print orders, make copies and manage other menial tasks clerks and other staff members should be doing. Even worse is the current situation in many courts where judges outnumber the actual court space and available technology at various locations. EOIR’s answer to this problem is to have attorneys provide their own technology, their office space, their home, and their staff to conduct hearings and to provide waiting areas for witnesses who they intend to call at these video hearings. If the attorney does not have adequate office space for these accommodations EOIR’s response is to just have Respondents and witness located somewhere other than the attorney’s office so they can provide testimony by video. In these situations, attorneys will have no direct communication with their client during a hearing. In case anyone thinks that’s OK, they would be wrong.

Certainly, technology plays an important role in our court system and that role will most likely expand over time. Regardless of what courts may require in terms of technology to conduct hearings, the importance of in-person testimony at substantive hearings must never be underestimated or forgotten. In the Immigration Court an Individual Hearing is a non-citizens’ last real chance to remain in the United States. The difference between winning and losing can mean a noncitizen will spend the rest of his or her life in this country or their home country where their life may be in danger or their family will not have access to the quality education and health care we enjoy in America.

The importance of a fair and unbiased hearing for Respondents in removal proceedings is paramount. Unfortunately, EOIR policy and practice is primarily driven by results measured in terms of the number of cases adjudicated. Because EOIR is not an independent court, politicians and policy-makers with no business meddling in how to operate a court system often control how EOIR functions. The importance of an in-person hearing and live witness testimony has been lost in the push to produce numbers rather than justice.

While state and federal courts obviously understand the necessity for in-person hearings for jury trials, it’s a mistake to think that individual Judges are immune from the impact of a witness testifying in the courtroom where the Judge actually sits. The effect on a judge’s decision making when a Respondent testifies in-person versus by video or by affidavit is incomparable. Underestimating the human impact in-person testimony has on other humans is a big mistake and something that EOIR has consistently done in its push to produce numbers for policy makers and politicians who demonstrate no interest in the administration of justice. The only way to keep fairness and justice in the immigration system is to require in-person Individual Hearings, especially in complicated cases where live testimony allows a Judge to assess the character and veracity of witness testimony. Continuing to allow video or telephonic testimony from witnesses when necessary can continue as an effective way to move cases through our immigration system, but overuse of Webex should never become the norm.

Pandemic in Washington

If you think the only pandemic in today’s world is COVID-19, think again. The real pandemic in this country is Donald J. Trump. From the outset of his Presidency, Trump has issued policies and Executive Orders with no intent other than to destroy our immigration system. Thinly disguised as ways to protect American workers, Trump has instituted multiple xenophobic proclamations that have no basis in reality. While Trump has left most of his destructive policy work to Steve Miller who has a long history as an anti-immigrant extremist, the entire administration has engaged in negative rhetoric and overt activities to disrupt our immigration system. Sadly, Trump sycophants have bought into the rhetoric and continue to support the anti-immigrant policies despite the damage being done to America.  

Starting with the Muslim Ban, Trump and Miller set out very early in the administration to curtail immigration for family members. Trump’s new ban on immigration is his most sweeping attack on the legal immigration system yet. Starting April 23, 2020, the new travel ban blocks the issuance of all new immigrant (permanent) visas to people outside the United States, with some exceptions. Specifically, the ban covers: (1) Parents of U.S. citizens; (2) Adult children of U.S. citizens; (3) Spouses and children (regardless of age) of lawful permanent residents; (4) The diversity visa program; (5) All employment-based immigrant visas, except EB-5 investor visas; and (6) All other immigrant visas, unless specifically exempted.

In its current form, the ban does not apply to nonimmigrant (temporary) visas, such as students and H-1B high-skilled workers. The ban also does not affect anyone seeking to gain a green card from inside the United States through “adjustment of status,” which does not require obtaining a visa from outside the country, but given the administration’s track record, don’t be surprised if those categories are added when the current ban is set to expire.

Although the ban will supposedly last just 60 days by the 50th day, the Secretary of State is required to recommend to the President whether to extend the ban again. And, you can bet that Trump will extend the ban and cause yet another in his endless litany of lawsuits which continue to cost tax-payers millions of dollars, but which this administration is clearly infatuated with.

If nothing else, Trump is certainly an expert at blaming everyone but himself for all the problems with our country, yet he quickly takes credit for the few positives we’ve seen under his administration. In terms of immigration policy there has been nothing positive from Trump. If our economy continues to struggle, the President will continue to use immigrants as an excuse for his short-comings and will certainly block new immigrants from America despite the overwhelming evidence that immigration benefits our country.

As of now, routine visa services at consulates abroad are already suspended due to the coronavirus, so Trump’s latest ban does not change much in the short-term. However, the effect will likely be significant if the ban continues once those consulates reopen. According to an analysis of the ban, all legal immigration would be cut by 33%. While U.S.-citizen spouses are not affected, nearly two thirds of parents of U.S. citizens would get blocked. 93% of other family-based immigrants would as well. However, because a vast majority of those who obtain green cards through employment categories do so from inside the United States, employment-based immigration is largely unaffected. Given their track record, in time Trump and Miller will figure out a way to cut employment-based immigration while lying to the general public about how much this administration has done to benefit our country with legal immigration.

It should come as no surprise that Trump’s latest restrictions on immigration look suspiciously like the cuts the President has been seeking in Congress for years. Contrary to the President’s incessant lies and false claims about immigration, immigrants have long been shown to help the American economy, not hurt it.

Americans tend to react to immigration issues based on public rhetoric from politicians and the trending news at the time. However, it should be self-evident that the most important thing in every person’s life is family. If the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t taught us that, then we have failed ourselves in many ways. Any ban that keeps families separated should be frowned on by all Americans. Yet, Trump and his entire administration appear to relish this moment where they can hide their true intent to destroy our immigration system behind a world-wide pandemic. That is why the real pandemic in this country is not COVID-19, it’s Donald J. Trump.

The New America – Government Jobs for U.S. Citizens

Well, one thing is for sure, President Trump will be a great employer for this country. The question is does larger government serve our national interest? To be sure, many believe it does. The below link will send you to the Department of Homeland Security’s website where you can read all about implementation of the President’s Executive Orders and that the government plans to hire 5,000 new border patrol agents. Now would be a great time to apply for a job with the Department of Homeland Security as enforcement of our immigration laws is about to ratchet up. Immigration and Criminal Courts should expect to be very busy in the upcoming years.









The New Reality at U.S. borders?

Will 2017 and the years to follow bring in a new reality at U.S. Borders? Initial indications are concerning. Several reports have already been filed regarding unprofessional and intolerable treatment of both immigrants and U.S. Citizens at ports-of-entry. In one instance two U.S. Citizens who are Muslims were questioned about their social media use and asked for passwords, usernames and other information completely irrelevant to their travel outside the U.S. Other incidents involved non-citizens who sought to enter the United States legally to attend school or to work. One student who was entering the U.S. to finish his PhD was informed by a Customs and Border Protection officer that his, “new boss,” President elect, Donald Trump, will make sure that there won’t be a job for him when he graduates.” While I can’t imagine an incoming President making any such promise, it is clear that Trump supporters within the government are emboldened by his election and believe they have the right to express their political opinions and harass people legally entering this country based solely on the fact that our President elect made numerous anti-immigrant statements during the campaign. Regardless of how you feel about immigration in this country it appears that some people should not be doing the work they were hired to do. U.S. Citizens and non-citizens entering our country legally do not need to be harassed at our borders by people with a political agenda nobody cares about or wants them to express. Let’s all hope the early indications of how we can expect to be treated at our ports-of-entry don’t continue down this slippery slope.


The Lunatics are Running the Asylum – House of Representatives Out of Control Over Immigration

Will the nonsense ever end? Instead of working on legislation to move America forward the House of Representatives passed a bill that ties funding for the Department of Homeland Security to anti-immigrant policies. The bill passed 236 to 191. The House added amendments to the bill that would do away with the DACA program that would keep DREAMers from being deported as well as get rid of President Obama’s executive actions to recognize and keep from being deported millions of hard-working, law-abiding immigrants. Republican response to the bill is primarily focused on the argument that the President’s process to take executive action is unconstitutional. Never mind the fact that on this particular issue the President is right.

As Americans one has to wonder if the House’s failure to legislate and pass laws to fix serious problems with our immigration system is also unconstitutional. Rather than waste time passing bills that have no hope of enactment, House members would be well advised to pass legislation to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, they can’t see the light through the forest. Ultimately, the deport-them-all strategy will backfire. The Senate was able to pass bipartisan reform a year and a half ago, but all the House has managed to do is act to deport immigrants. Stay focused on the talking heads in Washington as they continue to harp on “process” rather than substance. In the end the President’s executive orders will prevail. Once can only hope that someday members of Congress will wake up and actually pass some legislation rather than spend all their time talking about issues they are dead wrong about.

President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability

President Obama recently signed several executive orders to help immigrants living in the United States. One of the major changes applies to parents of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents. People living in the United States without legal status who qualify for the program should use an experienced attorney to review their case and represent them in the filing process. Anthony Drago, Jr., Esq. has over 27 years legal experience and can assist you with the application process. Here’s some basic information on the new DAPA program.

What is the new DAPA program?

The Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) is a prosecutorial discretion program administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that provides temporary relief from deportation (called deferred action) and work authorization to unauthorized parents of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). The DAPA program is similar to the President’s program for childhood arrivals, called DACA, but the eligibility criteria are distinct.

The program is open to individuals who:

  • have a U.S. citizen or LPR son or daughter as of November 20, 2014;
  • have continuously resided in the United States since before January 1, 2010;
  • are physically present in the United States on November 20, 2014, and at the time of applying;
  • have no lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014;
  • are not an enforcement priority, which is defined to include individuals with a wide range of criminal convictions (including certain misdemeanors), those suspected of gang involvement and terrorism, recent unlawful entrants, and certain other immigration law violators
  • present no other factors that would render a grant of deferred action inappropriate; and
  • pass a background check.
  • DAPA grants will be valid for three (3) years. The DAPA program should be ready to receive applications in April or May, 2015.

Securing the Border – Political Nonsense

In the midst of the humanitarian crisis on the Southern Border, which is no laughing matter, there is once again reason to chuckle over the nonsense coming from America’s finest congressional leaders in Washington. As is typical in any immigration debate, members of Congress continue to call for our country to “secure the border”  before any meaningful changes to our country’s severely broken immigration system can be implemented. Yet, one has to wonder what is meant by “securing” the border. Case in point, by all reports every child and adult who crossed the border during the recent surge of immigrants from South America have been caught and detained by Customs and Border Protection. If that is in fact the case, what is there to secure? How can America further secure a border crossing where everyone who tries to enter the country is apprehended? That seems like a pretty secure border to me, but what do I know? I suppose we could build and monitor electrical fences at the cost of billions of dollars, but will that really change things? Is that what we need on our borders to secure us from woman and children who are fleeing horrendous living conditions in their home countries? Politicians need to stop ignoring the real problem with our borders which is we have a broken immigration system that encourages desperate people to seek illegal entry to this country because they have a miserable life and have no hope to enter the land of opportunity legally. People wanting to come to America to seek freedom, safety, and a good job is not a problem with our country, it’s a compliment to our way of life. But, spending millions of tax payer dollars to secure an already secure border is not a solution from Congress. Our leaders in Washington would be well advised to put aside partisanship and fix our immigration system once and for all. Talk about securing our border is just more of the same useless political rhetoric we have become so accustomed to.

Clowns in Congress Show Their True Colors – Comprehensive Immigration Reform Dead in Congress

Anyone who thought Immigration Reform was a possibility in 2014 should pick up the newspaper today and review the comments made by Speaker of the House, John Boehner. It’s more of the same from the clowns in Washington. Unfortunately, Comprehensive Immigration Reform is nothing more than a pipe dream at this time. Republicans can’t get past their conservative wing on the issue and the President is bogged down with other socialist ideas he’s been pushing since being elected. The lack of trust between politicians in Washington and the divisiveness of the immigration issue is too much for anyone seeking re-election to discuss much less agree on or compromise over. The situation is discouraging, but someday needs to be addressed. Sadly, the time isn’t now.



Immigration Courts overwhelmed, but Congress isn’t listening

An article in the Boston Globe on December 23rd confirms the horrendous state of affairs in the Immigration Courts. The article explains that Immigration Courts are currently overwhelmed with case loads. If Judges retire when eligible, the situation will get much worse, yet Congress continues to ignore the situation. See link to article below.

If you’re dealing with immigration issues, you want experience to help guide you through the process. The recent increase in case load only makes it more difficult for less experienced attorneys to get things done. Contact us for a consultation and let our years of experience help your immigration issues!

Government Shutdown Causing Choas in Immigration Courts

Immigration courts are a vital part of the American legal system and perform an essential role in enforcement and adjudication of real life legal issues. Unfortunately, the government shutdown has caused further backlogs in our already back-logged immigration system. Immigration Courts around the country have constantly struggled with backlogs and pressure from Congress to conduct hearings with scarce resources. Add to that the government shutdown and immigration courts around the country now have to revive cancelled hearings and re-generate schedules just to manage the surging backlog created by the two week shutdown.  Since returning to work after the shutdown, personnel around the country in immigration courts have been forced to manage this new surge of cancelled hearings added to the already overburdened court calendars with a complete lack of human resources and lack of government funding. Congress has shown no real interest in this problem for years and if you think the folks in DC will act anytime soon to rectify the problem, you haven’t been involved in the immigration crisis.   

Regardless of how anyone feels about the overall problem with our broken immigration system, one thing is clear, Immigration Courts perform a vital role in our legal system and leaving these courts unattended has thrown a already overburdened system into total chaos. Without the proper resources the Immigration courts cannot continue to function. The question is when will Congress ever wake up and deal with the problem. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is, most likely, not any time soon.

Anthony Drago, Jr., P.C. represents individuals in removal proceedings before U.S. Immigration Courts. If you or someone you know is facing deportation, please call our office at 617-357-0400 to discuss your case.