April 3, 2018

    In the 1939 film, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, we are reminded of the power and tenderness behind the word ‘sanctuary’, how with compassion and care the dismissed hunchback and bell ringer Quasimodo saves a young gypsy girl named Esmeralda from public execution, whisking her away to the safety of his own personal santurary.

    Late night television hosts continue their socially conscious roles as comedian journalists, particularly “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver who recently shared the horror of immigration courts in the U.S. Although overwhelming and sad, Oliver reported on this desperate situation teaching with intelligence and humor.

    Some immigration attorneys respond:

    “…a big thank you to you John Oliver for shedding a meaningful light in this system that AG Sessions wants to singlehandedly destroy. 

    “Thanks for this brilliant piece! The horror stories are neverending: from my 10, 12 & 20 year long cases, to the govt violating their own policies, to the Judge & government attorney conducting an entire hearing with the wrong 11 yr old girl. I could go on…”

    “Thank you, thank you, thank you! As an immigration attorney, I had a little extra bounce in my step walking into court today knowing that millions of people learned of this daily struggle thanks to this segment!”

    Adding to the desperate situation from the current U.S. administration and justice department, are newly announced immigration quotas.

    From NPR:

    “The Department of Justice is setting quotas for immigration judges — part of a broader effort to speed up deportations and reduce a massive backlog of immigration cases.

    The new quotas are laid out in a memo that was sent to immigration judges across the country on Friday (March 30th). To get a “satisfactory” rating on their performance evaluations, judges will be required to clear at least 700 cases a year and to have fewer than 15 percent of their decisions overturned on appeal.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other immigration hard-liners say that backlog allows people who should be deported quickly to stay in the United States for years while they wait for a court date.

    Immigration courts handle the civil cases of undocumented immigrants who are seeking to stay in the U.S. The courts are part of the Justice Department, and Sessions has the power to set rules and change precedent. He wants to clear a backlog that is approaching 700,000 cases.

    Immigration lawyers are also critical of the plan. ‘Decisions in immigration court have life-or-death consequences and cannot be managed like an assembly line,’ said Jeremy McKinney, secretary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.“

    Solutions are complex. How to help? Not clear. Perhaps, locally, community by community, individually, we cry ‘santuary’ and provide the compassion and care for those who are tired and poor, ‘yearning to breathe free.’

    A list of immigration judges across the country, posted by state.

    Better Democracy Promotion Through Immigration

    By Margaret E. Peters, Michael K. Miller Sunday


    We find that when greater numbers of citizens from an autocratic home country migrate to democracies, the likelihood that the home country will democratize within the next five years goes up sevenfold. In contrast, when migrants only have the opportunity to move to other autocracies, emigration stabilizes authoritarian regimes.

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