How Trump Judges Are Undermining

Immigrant Rights

AFJ Action Campaign is tracking the votes of every senator up for reelection in 2020 on Trump’s worst of the worst judges. Each senator who voted to confirm these judges owns the decisions—these decisions are harming people every day. See how your senator voted for some of the worst of the worst judges here.

In PJES v. Pekoske, Neomi Rao, Greg Katsas, and Justin Walker—three Trump-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—issued a two-page order allowing the continued enforcement of a Trump era rule to rush deportations of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the rule, thousands of unaccompanied children seeking refuge in the U.S. have been deported without so much as a hearing to determine whether they qualify for entry. The judges’ decision overturned a District Court ruling which had determined there was no authority for the rushed deportation process, and that ending the Trump rule was necessary to prevent irreparable harm to the children affected.

In East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Barr, Ninth Circuit judge Mark Bennett cast the deciding vote to allow a Trump administration rule that bars almost all Central and South American asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border to go into effect except in California and Arizona.

In Southern Poverty Law Center v. Internal Revenue Service, D.C. district court judge Timothy Kelly denied an attempt by the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Immigration Law Center to force the IRS to disclose records through a Freedom of Information Act request about its role in an immigration raid at a Tennessee meatpacking plant in April 2018 that resulted in over 100 arrests.

In Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition v. Trump, D.C. district court judge Timothy Kelly refused to grant a temporarily block on Trump administration policy that barred Central Americans and other migrants from requesting asylum at the southern border, despite a “mountain” of evidence showing that migrants could not safely seek asylum in Mexico.

In U.S. House of Representatives v. Mnuchin, D.C. district court judge Trevor McFadden dismissed a lawsuit brought by the House of Representatives to block Trump from using $2.5 billion of military funds to build an “emergency” border wall. According to McFadden, the House did not have standing to sue the Executive Branch for diverting billions of dollars that were appropriated for other purposes.

In Diaz-Rivas v. Attorney General, Eleventh Circuit judge Britt Grant denied the asylum claim of a woman from El Salvador who fled to the U.S. after MS-13 killed her brother-in-law and threatened to kill her and the rest of her family.

In Yafai v. Pompeo, Seventh Circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett authored an opinion holding that a Yemeni woman’s visa application was properly denied, even though the consular officer’s conclusion that she attempted to smuggle two children into the country was lacking evidentiary support. The woman’s husband, an American citizen, provided evidence that the children, who passed away while the visa application was pending, were in fact their children.

In Gjetani v. Barr, Fifth Circuit judge James Ho upheld the denial of an asylum application from an Albanian citizen who was attacked and threatened with death three times by the country’s ruling Socialist Party because of his support for another political party.

In Patel v. U.S. Attorney General, Eleventh Circuit Judges Kevin Newsom, Elizabeth Branch, Britt Grant, Robert Luck, and Barbara Lagoa ruled en banc that the court cannot review the factual conclusions of immigration officials when they are considering discretionary relief for immigrants. This greatly curtails the authority of federal courts to review the decisions of immigration officials.

In Alvarenga-Flores v. Sessions, Seventh Circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett wrote a 2-1 opinion affirming the Bureau of Immigration Appeals’ rejection of an El Salvadoran’s request for protection from deportation under the United National Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Alvarenga-Flores argued that if sent back to El Salvador he would be tortured or killed by gangs.

In State v. U.S. Department of Justice, Second Circuit judges Richard Sullivan, Joseph Bianco, William Nardini, and Steven Menashi joined a decision not to rehear a case that held the Justice Department can withhold grant money from sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with the Justice Department’s immigration policies.

In Navarez-Garzon v. Barr, Ninth Circuit judge Danielle Hunsaker voted to uphold a decision by immigration officials to reject an asylum seeker’s request for additional time to collect and translate documents in support of her application. As Judge Wardlaw noted in dissent, the woman was not represented by counsel and had been given less than four months to “to navigate her way successfully through the morass of immigration law.”

In Alexis v. Barr, Fifth Circuit judge Don Willett cast the deciding vote to uphold the deportation of a Richard Lawrence Alexis, a permanent legal resident who had been in the US for almost 30 years, after he pled guilty in state court to possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance. As a result, Alexis was separated from his mother, three siblings, and a young daughter who are all U.S. citizens.

In Cuellar Garcia v. Barr, Sixth Circuit judges Amul Thapar and Joan Larsen upheld the deportation of Luis Eduardo Cuellar Garcia, an immigrant who had received legal status to remain in the country after a court found that he had fled El Salvador as a child to escape gang violence and he could not return to the country due to “insufficient parental protection.” The government relied on a “new, unwritten and informal” policy to justify bringing removal proceedings against Garcia in immigration court, and Thapar and Larsen agreed with its reasoning over the strong objections of Judge Merritt.

In Cook County v. Wolf, Seventh Circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett argued in dissent that the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule was lawful and should be upheld. The rule would deny immigrants permanent residence if they received any form of public assistance, including Medicaid or food stamps, for more than 12 months in a three-year period, even though Congress has made these benefits available to them.

In Make the Road New York v. Wolf, D.C. Circuit judge Neomi Rao would have held that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear a challenge brought against a Trump Administration policy that subjects hundreds of thousands of immigrants to expedited removal without a hearing and other procedural protections. According to Rao, immigration law “expressly bars the courts” from reviewing legal challenges to certain immigration regulations. The majority strongly disagreed that such cases are unreviewable.

In Bourdon v. DHS, Eleventh Circuit judge Britt Grant upheld the denial of a U.S. citizen’s request to sponsor his wife, ruling that she did not have jurisdiction to review the case even though there was clear precedent supporting her authority to do so.

In Ramos v. Wolf, Ninth Circuit judge Ryan Nelson cast the deciding vote to allow the Trump administration to deport of hundreds of thousands of El Salvadorans by ending their temporary protected status. Many of these immigrants and their families had lived in the United States for decades. Nelson argued that the Court could not even review the Trump administration’s actions for illegality, and that if they did, there would be “no serious questions” granting merit to the immigrants’ claim that they had been subject to racial discrimination. Judge Nelson made this claim despite findings by the District Court that President Trump’s public statements displayed a clear animus against “non-white, non-European” immigrants, and that this animus may have been a motivating factor in revoking the immigrants’ protected status.

In Rodriguez-Penton v. U.S., Sixth Circuit judge Amul Thapar dissented from an opinion that held in part that the failure of a defendant’s lawyer to advise him on the risk of deportation stemming from his criminal plea agreement constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. Thapar’s dissent minimized the impact of effective assistance of counsel in plea agreements.

In Madjitov v. U.S. Attorney General, Eleventh Circuit judge Britt Grant rejected a request to reopen the case of a citizen of Uzbekistan who sought asylum and protection under the Convention Against Torture because his government considered him a terrorist and would subject him to torture as a result of his family’s political ties.

In Diaz-Reynoso v. Barr, Ninth Circuit judge Daniel Bress, dissenting, would have denied a request for asylum to Sontos Maudilia Diaz-Reynoso after she had fled to the United States to escape years of severe domestic violence at the hands of her husband. Diaz-Reynoso had been forced to work in the coffee fields without pay and have non-consensual sex. Had Bress prevailed, he would have paved the way for the Justice Department’s efforts to foreclose refugee protection for people fleeing domestic violence.

In Gonzales v. United States ICE, Ninth Circuit judge Bridget Bade dissented from a panel decision that held that the Fourth Amendment requires a neutral decisionmaker to review the detention of anyone held based on an ICE detainer. The decision came after ICE attempted to detain an American citizen without probable cause after its computer database improperly flagged him as eligible for deportation.

In Tovar v. Zuchowski, Ninth Circuit judges Michael Bennett and Daniel Bress would have refused to grant a derivative visa to the immigrant husband of a woman who assisted Oregon law enforcement in arresting the man who raped her as a child. The majority held that the relevant federal statute, which grants citizenship to certain immigrant crime victims and allows them to petition for derivative citizenship for family members, has been long-understood to include a husband or wife married at the time the principal visa application was granted. The Trump judges would have ignored this well-established precedent.

In Hong T. Vo v. Barr, Ninth Circuit Judge Bridget Bade, in dissent, would have upheld a ruling by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals that rejected a woman’s asylum claim for lack of credibility after she testified that she had been repeatedly arrested and abused by Vietnamese police. The majority, which included a George W. Bush appointee, reversed the decision and remanded the case to the BIA.



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