Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

  • July 14, 2017
    Guest Post

     

    by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, the Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and Law Professor at Penn State Law and founding director, Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

    A travel ban was signed by the president in the form of an Executive Order on March 6, 2017. The most controversial provisions of the ban include a 90-day travel restriction for nationals from six countries with Muslim populations of more than 90 percent: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen as well as a suspension of the refugee admissions program for a period of 120 days. The ban was successfully challenged in the courts on both constitutional and statutory grounds. 

    On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a significant decision on the travel ban, agreeing to hear the case in the October 2017 term and also allowing part of the ban to go into effect. The formula offered was as follows: any national from the six countries impacted by the ban or refugee who lacks a credible “bona fide relationship to a person or entity” is banned from the United States. Unsurprisingly, attorneys and affected communities were eager to understand how “bona fide relationship” would be defined and applied. While the Supreme Court offered a few examples of what might qualify as a bona fide relationship to a person or entity, the uncertainty about how this would be applied by the implementing agencies (in this case Department of Homeland Security and Department of State) is real.

    Hours before the ban was to go into effect at 8:00pm EST on June 29, the Departments of State and Homeland Security issued “guidance” which to say the least is controversial. Guidance from DHS offered the following question and answer regarding the definition of “bona fide relationship:”

  • March 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar & Clinical Professor of Law; Director, Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Penn State Law

    On March 6, 2017, President Donald Trump issued a “revised” Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry in the United States” in an attempt to avoid the catalogue of lawsuits brought against the first. However, the revised EO suffers from the same legal and policy flaws as the first by shutting the door on Muslims and refugees. Every country targeted by the revised EO is comprised of Muslim majority populations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. While the revised EO no longer lists “Iraq,” nationals from the country are singled out for special review in another section of the EO. Whether the list of countries is six or seven, Muslims remain the target.

    The revised EO applies specifically to those outside the United States without a valid visa at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2017 and on the effective date, which begins one minute after midnight on March 16, 2017. The revised EO makes a few adjustments to the first by carving out exceptions for select people like green card holders, dual nationals and those already granted refugee-related protection. It also creates a waiver process for nationals of the six countries who seek entry during the 90-day ban. Waivers may be issued on a case-by-case basis for those who at a minimum prove that denial of entry would cause “undue hardship,” entry would not pose a threat to national security and entry would be in the “national interest.” How these waivers will be implemented is unknown but the revised EO lists nine scenarios where a waiver may be appropriate like those with previous “significant” contacts,” business, or professional obligations in the United States and those coming to visit a close family member. Despite the long list of examples contained in the EO there is no assurance that people will actually receive waivers or that agencies will be equipped to adjudicate them. The revised EO maintains the 120-day suspension to the refugee program and slash in the total number of refugees by over one-half from 110,000 to 50,000. Exceptions are available on a case-by-case basis for qualifying refugees through a “national interest” formula. Unlike the first EO, the revised version no longer contains an exemption for religious minorities or an indefinite ban on Syrian refugee admissions. Notably, all refugees, including those from Iraq and Syria are affected by the revised EO.

  • November 21, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Immigrants' Rights at Penn State Law

    In the wake of the election, immigration has been a centerpiece. Immigration attorneys and advocates have worked around the clock speaking to clients about how best to proceed in their cases and to the immigrant community and beyond about the rule of law. The fear and uncertainty sweeping immigrant communities are propelled by an anti-immigrant agenda by President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team. Specifically, proposals to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; deport two to three million “criminal aliens”; and subject certain individuals to a “Muslim registry” have caused immediate and specific concern and also confusion between rhetoric and reality.

    DACA is a program implemented by President Obama in 2012 that enables noncitizens without status to apply for a form of prosecutorial discretion called “deferred action” if they entered the United States before the age of 16, are currently in school, have resided continuously since June 15, 2007 and meet other program requirements. Since the program started, more than 700,000 people have received DACA and employment authorization pursuant to their deferred action status- thousands more have had their DACA status “renewed”. Whether the President-elect will revoke DACA and work permits from DACA holders remains to be seen, but the concerns are real and have furthermore heightened the risks for prospective applicants and applications for renewal which may be pending through inauguration day. Current and would-be recipients of DACA represent the lowest priorities and should not be targeted by any Administration.

  • June 28, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar, Director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law-University Park and author of Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases (NYU Press 2015)

    The 4-4 ruling in U.S. v. Texas on June 23 stunned the minds and hearts of the Administration, affected individuals and families and legal experts who held on to the belief that the Supreme Court would issue a decision that was reasoned and consistent with the rule of the law. Instead, the Supreme Court issued a nine word ruling: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” The ruling did not include information about the individual position of the justices or a rationale behind this ruling. The impact of U.S. v. Texas on immigrants is immediate and prevents those who would have qualified to apply for two deferred action programs designed by the Administration and aimed at undocumented parents and young people who meet certain guidelines.

    In the wake of last week’s ruling in Texas, it is important for the immigrant communities, attorneys and advocates to be aware of the existing discretionary tools available beyond the 2014 deferred action programs. For as long as the immigration system has operated, prosecutorial discretion has enabled thousands of individuals and families to stay together.  Potentially, those would have qualified for the 2014 deferred action programs known as DAPA and DACA Plus are by virtue of their eligibility low enforcement priorities and eligible for some form of prosecutorial discretion. Unaffected by the litigation is a memorandum published by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. The Johnson Memo identifies several factors that DHS employees should consider when making prosecutorial discretion decisions, including but not limited to: length of time in the U.S.; military service; family or community ties in the U.S.; status as a victim, witness or plaintiff in civil or criminal proceedings; and humanitarian reasons like poor health, age, pregnancy, a young child, or a seriously ill relative.

    The Johnson Memo contains important language about how discretion should be exercised during the detention process and states discourages detention for noncitizens “who are known to be suffering from serious physical or mental illness, who are disabled, elderly, pregnant, or nursing, who demonstrate that they are primary caretakers of children or an infirm person, or whose detention is otherwise not in the public interest.” While many forms of prosecutorial discretion can be exercised at any stage of enforcement, the Johnson Memo emphasizes the importance of exercising this discretion early in the enforcement process.

  • May 23, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and founding director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law- University Park.

    On May 19, 2016, Judge Andrew Hanen issued an unusual 28-page order scolding the Department of Justice for making statements that in the view of Judge Hanen were misleading. The order alleges that Department of Justice attorneys deceived the court about its activity surrounding two deferred action programs announced by President Obama on Nov. 20, 2014. Deferred action is one form of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law that temporarily protects the government’s lowest priorities from deportation. The 2014 deferred action programs would modify the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and establish a similar program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents for qualifying parents who lack a formal legal status. The allegation by Judge Hanen is that the government erroneously granted DACA renewal applications for three years pursuant to the 2014 Directive (DACA +) as opposed to the two-year period contemplated under 2012 DACA.

    Much of the press coverage on Judge Hanen’s May 19 order has focused on the order’s scolding. But equally, if not more alarming, are the implications of Judge Hanen’s demand on the Department of Justice to provide a list of individuals granted DACA under the 2014 directive. According to the order: “This list should include all personal identifiers and locators names, addresses, “A” file numbers and all available contact information, together with the date the three-year renewal of approval was granted.” If the order has a legal effect, unleashing a list of names and A-numbers raises privacy concerns and has the potential to instill greater fear in a community that is already vulnerable to the delay caused by the Texas litigation and announcements by the government to use raids as a tool to detain and deport adults and children who purportedly fall within its enforcement priorities. Judge Hanen has also ordered “any attorney employed at the Justice Department in D.C. who appears, or seeks to appear in a court (state of federal) in any of the 26 Plaintiff states annually attend a legal ethics course”, believing himself that Justice attorneys have failed to comply with their ethical duties during the course of the Texas litigation.

    A real conversation about the ethics of the Texas litigation should cover the distortions made by the Plaintiff states and lower courts around the history and legal foundation to implement the 2014 deferred action programs. The 123-page opinion issued by the district court on Feb. 16, 2015 and authored by Judge Hanen contained misrepresentations about immigration law and policy, some of which were memorialized in a letter signed by 104 scholars and teachers of immigration law who identified the opinion as “deeply flawed.” As one example, the letter criticizes the district court’s characterization of deferred action as lacking statutory authority and beyond the scope of prosecutorial discretion – despite the ample authority held by the Department of Homeland Security to operate a deferred action program. Subsequent to the district court opinion, oral arguments were heard by a three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and again displayed great confusion around the terms lawful presence, deferred action, and employment authorization to name a few. As I described earlier: