This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.
In order to understand how extraordinarily weird the world of immigration law is, consider the base case: an ordinary federal court. When a federal judge issues a decision, the losing party can appeal to the relevant Circuit Court of Appeals. The losing party at the Circuit Court of Appeals can petition for review at the Supreme Court.
Notice who isn’t mentioned in the layers of review. The Attorney General of the United States is the top law enforcement official in this country, but he doesn’t decide federal cases, nor does anyone think that he ought to. The powers of prosecution and adjudication are not, and ought not to be, united in a single office.
Now, consider a typical immigration case. When an immigration judge issues a decision, the losing party can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The losing party at the Board of Immigration Appeals can appeal to the relevant Circuit Court of Appeals, and thence to the Supreme Court.
Sounds similar, right? But there’s one key difference. The Attorney General of the United States has the power to reverse the decisions of immigration judges and to overturn decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals, all by himself.
In theory, immigration judges (and the judges of the Board of Immigration Appeals) are merely legates of the Attorney General, exercising judgment and discretion on his behalf, and so the AG has the undoubted right to correct his own subordinate officers. He can even pluck a case out of the docket without either of the parties asking him to do so. (Not even the Supreme Court can do that!)
In practice, the Attorney General has used the power to self-certify sparingly. For example, the Washington Post reports that the Clinton Administration only used the certification power three times during his administration, and it was used four times during the Obama Administration.
By our count, sixteen cases were certified to the Attorneys General during George W. Bush’s administration, with nine of those stemming from the Attorney General’s power to self-certify. Since 2017, the Trump Administration’s Attorneys General have already certified thirteen cases, all of which were done at the request of the Attorneys General themselves.
Retired immigration judge J. Traci Hong, who previously presided over cases the Arlington Immigration Court, told the Washington Post that, “The power goes back decades, but in other administrations, it was used very rarely — kind of a nuclear option… Certifying a case is a way for the attorney general to stamp his or her own views on immigration law — and it’s the quickest way to do it.”
Thus far, the Trump Administration’s Attorneys General have used this power more often than other Attorneys General in recent memory. These decisions swiftly, and many times drastically, change the law that applies to all the immigration courts and Department of Homeland Security offices in the country, leading immigration attorneys and their clients to sometimes change course in an instant.
These changes are frequently significant. Here are three from the Trump Administration which have rocked the world of immigration practice:
- In Matter of M-S-, the Attorney General held that an entire class of non-citizens were not eligible for bond, and therefore must be detained while their immigration cases are pending.
- In Matter of A-B-, the Attorney General held that requests for asylum by victims of domestic violence should, generally, be denied.
- In Matter of L-E-A-, the Attorney General held that “the family” is not a particular social group for purposes of asylum analysis, and so threats to an asylum-seeker’s family generally are not cognizable for asylum purposes.
We want to thank Amirite for his thoughtful question, and we want to say, as always, that we welcome any comments and will do our best to respond.
In loving memory of Joseph Robert Kapacziewski, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 41.
In loving memory of James Stuart Edmonds, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 84.
A man was shot in front of a lounge on Columbia Pike early this morning, continuing a string of violent incidents. The shooting happened just before 1 a.m. in front…
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village