MULS Conference to Consider Human Trafficking and Restorative Justice

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Human Rights, Immigration Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Labor & Employment Law, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public
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MartinaVImage_0On Thursday and Friday, Marquette Law School will host an important conference, “Restorative Justice and Human Trafficking — From Wisconsin to the World.”  As the title suggests, human trafficking — for sex or labor — is a both a global human rights problem and a significant issue locally.  Hundreds of cases have been reported in Wisconsin, mostly in the Milwaukee area.  The conference is designed to raise awareness about trafficking and to help concerned citizens get involved in efforts to address the problem.

The Conference kicks off at 4:30 on Thursday with a keynote address by Martina Vandenberg (pictured above), who leads the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center in Washington, D.C.  Vandenberg has worked on cases involving trafficking and other humans rights violations around the world.

On Friday, the Conference will continue with a full schedule of speakers and panels.  A panel of victim-survivors will share their experiences.  Local leaders and activists will discuss the impact of trafficking and current efforts to help victims.  Other speakers will cover the existing legal framework, potential legal reforms, and the international context of trafficking.

The Conference is sold out, but there will be a live feed that can be viewed by clicking on the “Watch Now” tabs in the pages linked to above.

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Pi and the Law: What Is Constant and What Is Not

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Category: Immigration Law, Public
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pi_day_pieTomorrow is Pi Day. In fact, it is the ultimate Pi Day given that Saturday’s date is 3.14.15. Enjoy a delicious piece of apple pie at 9:26.53 and you’ve taken the festivities about as far as you can hope to. Mathematicians, on the other hand, have carried this irrational national number out to over a trillion decimal places and determined that pi is a transcendental number (it cannot be expressed by any finite series or arithmetical or algebraic operation). Conceptually, pi symbolizes the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is constant, and perhaps that is what we should celebrate most.

There are few things in today’s world that are constant. One could argue that things today change at greater speed than ever before in history. Invention drives change–whether it is a new technology, process, or connection. In particular, scientific discoveries advance change, yet these discoveries rely on unwavering empirical laws and principles.

We, as lawyers, do not have the luxury of such a solid foundation. That is, our field depends on laws that are always changing—if not in form, then in interpretation. We must be nimble, able to change our theory as facts of the case are revealed, as new laws are passed, as politics and technology change, as the jury is selected, or as the judiciary announces a decision. There is no mathematical equation that provides a determinative estimation despite all the rules, codes and regulations that we study. And the closest thing to a constant that we have is the Constitution, which we all know has been interpreted differently over time.

This variability may provide the flexibility society needs to evolve while maintaining order. However, for some individuals, this lack of predictability can make life chaotic and tumultuous.

For example, consider immigration law. This field continues to evolve and change rapidly with new political leaders and bickering legislatures. While the law is trying to adapt to the changing landscape of the United States, individuals’ lives, plans, and goals linger.

Through my experiences with the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic and my work as a study abroad coordinator in the Office of International Education, I have seen this phenomenon first hand. For instance, I work with students who want to study abroad as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. While the law currently provides a process to gain permission to leave and re-enter the country, they are not guaranteed the right to re-enter even having obtained permission. Further, with upcoming elections looming, it is uncertain if DACA will remain an option for students. Needless to say, under such a cloud of uncertainty, their ability to focus on their academic pursuits, including studying abroad, becomes seriously compromised.

Uncertainty can also arise from how the law is applied by judges. Take for example asylum cases. Despite having a very narrow and defined standard, judges apply it very differently when granting or not granting this status. During a talk by Dr. Noelle Brigden last fall, this chart was shown. I was shocked by the disparity in case decisions. Some judges seldom granted asylum, yet others almost always granted this status. How can that be justified by law? I find it troubling that a person’s fate may rest not on the merits and needs of immigrating to the U.S. but rather on who is sitting on the bench.

As a law student, I continue to better grasp how the law and its practice equate to consistent justice. As the government becomes increasingly polarized, technology advances, the economy fluctuates, and the law morphs, today I take solace in celebrating pi, Archimedes’ irrational constant, with a piece of my favorite, homemade, and very transcendental, chocolate pie. Bon appetit!

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President Obama’s Executive Orders are Constitutional

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Category: Constitutional Law, Immigration Law, President & Executive Branch, Public
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452px-Barack_Obama_basketball_at_Martha's_VineyardA “head fake” is a basketball move where the player holding the ball feints as if starting a jump shot, but never leaves his feet.  Done correctly, it causes the defender to jump off of their feet in anticipation of the shot, arms flailing helplessly.  Meanwhile, the shooter calmly resets and scores a basket while the defender is harmlessly suspended in the air.

Just over two weeks ago, the mid-term elections supposedly signaled the end of President Obama’s ability to drive the policy agenda in Washington.  Last Thursday night, the nation’s “Basketball Player in Chief” executed a brilliant head fake on immigration policy, disproving this conventional wisdom.  Hints that the President intended to “go big” and use his executive authority to conduct an overhaul of the Immigration and Nationality Act had generated anticipatory paroxysms of outrage by Republicans, who hit the airwaves with charges of constitutional violations and threats of impeachment.  However, the executive actions that the President actually announced last Thursday were more modest in scope than what Latino groups and reform advocates wanted, and far less provocative than congressional Republicans feared.

The executive actions on immigration fall well within the Executive Branch’s established authority to set priorities in the enforcement of Immigration Law and clearly within the constitutional power of the President.  Meanwhile, the President’s Republican critics have already committed themselves to a campaign of outrage and indignation, even though it is increasingly evident that they lack a legal basis to attack the President’s actions or a political strategy to undo them.  The President’s head fake is evident when the details of the Executive Orders are examined. Read more »

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Immigration Reform and the Challenge of Democratic Self-Government

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Category: Immigration Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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Mortar_of_Assimilation_Citizenship_1889News reports indicate that President Obama will soon announce how he plans to use Executive Orders to implement some aspects of Immigration Reform, due to the failure of Congress to address the subject legislatively.  I recently had the opportunity to participate in a program on Immigration Reform at the Law School on November 5, 2014, along with Stuart Anderson, the Executive Director of the National Foundation for American Policy and an Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute.  The event was sponsored by the Law School Chapter of the Federalist Society, the Marquette Immigration Law Association, and the International Law Society.  I want to thank Mr. Anderson for sharing his insights with the law students.  Interested readers can click here to find a recent article by Mr. Anderson.  What follows are my prepared remarks.

I have a daughter who is turning 21 next month.  When a child reaches that age, parents start to ask themselves questions.  Will my daughter bring someone home with her one day, and announce that she is engaged?  How will I react if the person she brings home belongs to a different faith?  How will I react if he is of a different race?  How will I react if “he” is a “she?”

These are questions that tap into deep emotions, even if my rational brain tells me that the answers to these questions don’t matter.  I know that my response to such a situation should be compassionate, and loving, and focus on my daughter’s happiness.  But I also know that I may feel threatened or hurt or disappointed, without consciously wanting to.  Maybe part of the problem is that I can’t control who my daughter brings home.  To a certain extent, who becomes a member of my family is her choice, not mine.

Immigration is about membership in our national family.  It raises the same deep emotions that marriage raises within the family.  And just as we can’t always choose who our children will marry, we also can’t always control who joins our national family.  And Immigration policy needs to be rational, data-driven, and compassionate, and not based on knee jerk emotions.

Simple answers to complex social and economic problems don’t work.  One challenge we face as a nation is that we share a longstanding geographic connection with Mexico.  U.S. employers have turned to Mexican citizens for seasonal labor needs for a very long time.  People have established migration patterns that persist through generations of the same family.  These behaviors won’t change just because we tell people to stop.  We need to address the underlying incentives and motivations for these behaviors. Read more »

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Marquette Grad and Lawyers Honored for Service

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Category: Immigration Law, Marquette Law School, Pro Bono, Public
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As noted at the 2012 hooding ceremony this past Saturday, May 19, 2012, our recent graduates join a long line of Marquette lawyers in their dedication to excellence, faith, leadership, and service. This dedication to the university’s guiding values will be the measure of their contributions as lawyers. Perhaps former Dean Howard D. Eisenberg, whose legacy both Dean Kearney and speaker Judge Diane Sykes drew upon during the ceremony, expressed it best: “For those who seek an opportunity to do well, I hope you succeed, but neither your success nor your happiness can be measured unless you also do good.”

Exemplifying these values is our recent graduate Melissa Longamore (’12) (pictured), a recipient of this year’s Outstanding Public Service Law Student Award from the Wisconsin State Bar. As a law student, after establishing the Marquette Immigration Law Association, Melissa sought out new opportunities for herself and other interested Marquette law students to serve local immigrants with unmet legal needs. Among the new initiatives she helped bring about is the volunteer clinic at Voces de la Frontera, where she and other students, under the supervision of immigration attorneys, provide information and referrals to local immigrant clients. It has been gratifying to see the outpouring of enthusiasm among the student body for these efforts to serve the local immigrant community. It is also gratifying to Melissa’s excellence recognized by the bar.

Similar kudos are due to this month’s blogger, Quarles & Brady lawyer, Michael Gonring (’82), recognized for a lifetime of service, with the bar’s Pro Bono Award for Lifetime Achievement; as well as to alumna (and retired Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge) Hon. Barbara A. Kluka (’78), who is the deserved recipient of this year’s Lifetime Jurist Achievement Award.

 

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Prosecutorial Discretion from the Department of Homeland Security?

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Category: Immigration Law, Public
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Prosecutorial Discretion from the Department of Homeland Security? I’ll believe it when I see it. 

I spend a good amount of time reading through articles on the latest immigration buzz.  Since this summer, a lot of it has been centered on prosecutorial discretion in civil immigration enforcement. 

On June 17 of this year, Director John Morton of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a memo meant to set guidelines on exercising prosecutorial discretion.  The June 17 memo, often referred to as “the Morton Memo”, builds on an earlier memo setting enforcement priorities.  The Morton Memo acknowledges that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has limited enforcement capacity, and that it should focus its resources on aliens that represent the largest threat toU.S. interests. 

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Tackling the Unauthorized Practice of Law in Wisconsin Today

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Category: Immigration Law, Legal Ethics, Legal Practice, Pro Bono, Public, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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Professor Michael McChrystal once pointed out that in the State of Wisconsin, the penalty for working as a beautician without a license is not much different from the penalty for practicing law without a license. Read more »

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Quill Winners Explore Visa Adjudications and Limits of Public Trust Doctrine

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Category: Environmental Law, Immigration Law, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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Congratulations to 3Ls Cain Oulahan and Gabe Johnson-Karp, the winners of this year’s Gold and Silver Quill Awards, respectively.  The Quill Awards recognize the top two student comments published in the Marquette Law Review.

Cain’s comment is “The American Dream Deferred: Family Separation and Immigrant Visa Adjudications at U.S. Consulates Abroad.”  He explores the tension between the general preference in American law in favor of keeping families together and some specific requirements of immigration law that can break families apart for many years while a parent or spouse seeks to obtain a visa from an American consulate abroad.  As Cain puts its,

This problem arose with the creation by Congress in 1996 of what are known as the unlawful presence bars to admission.  After more than ten years since the passage of the unlawful presence bars, it is now appropriate to look closely at their impact and examine whether they constitute sound public policy. This Comment argues that they do not. This Comment explains how the system puts families through unnecessary and unjustifiable hardship by imposing a punishment that is disproportionate to the seriousness of the immigration violation. This Comment points to the lack of evidence that the unlawful presence bars significantly deter illegal immigration, and the fact that they tear families apart or force them to move abroad. For these reasons, this Comment recommends that Congress make sensible changes that will promote family unity while imposing penalties that are more proportionate to the seriousness of the immigration violation.

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Most Important United States Supreme Court Case in Refugee Law: I.N.S. v. Elias-Zacarias

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Category: Human Rights, Immigration Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Judges & Judicial Process
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[Editor’s note:  This is a sixth installment in the “what is the most important Supreme Court case in your subject area” series.]

One of my subject areas is refugee law. There are only a handful of Supreme Court decisions in the area, but instead of making the selection easier, the paucity of case law only made it harder to choose one case as the “most” important.  Because the Court has interpreted the Refugee Act relatively rarely, each of its decisions in the area has taken on even more significance than it might otherwise have had.  For instance, it is difficult to overstate the impact of the decision in Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc., the repercussions of which still plague the international refugee law system, because the Court said that the United States could stop and return Haitians at sea, without verifying whether they were refugees, seemingly in direct conflict with the highest principle of international refugee law, “non-refoulement,” or, “non-returning,” of refugees. And what about the pair of cases, INS v. Stevic and INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, which, prior to Sale, held that the Refugee Act  created two distinct categories of refugees, those whom the U.S. had promised not to return to their persecutors and those whom the U.S. could, in its discretion, allow to stay in the U.S. (a distinction generally not recognized by any of the other nations who signed the refugee treaties)?

In the end, of course, it’s impossible to identify a single case as most important. But I decided to write about INS v. Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478 (1992), because its holding, that an asylum applicant must provide direct or circumstantial evidence establishing the alleged persecutor’s motivations, has had such dramatic, and (I hope) unintentional impacts on refugee law and practice in the United States.  One could even argue that the extreme disparities in judges’ decisions in similar asylum cases stem, at least in part, from the near-impossibility of reliably applying Elias-Zacarias‘s demand for evidence of the persecutor’s motive, in the context of the record that can reasonably be developed in the vast majority of asylum cases. Read more »

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Best of the Blogs Part II: Drugs, Immigration, and the Hotel “Death Ray”

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Human Rights, Immigration Law, Legal Writing, Tort Law
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If that title doesn’t increase readership of my posts, I don’t know what will.

My contribution this week to our “best of the blogs” feature (which I have taken license to interpret as “best of the blogs and other news read online…”) is even more random than usual.

First, the drug-related story that caught my eye in the relatively recent past.  The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet reported on September 27th about a Cato Institute study showing that since Portugal decriminalized drug possession in 2001, drug use among adolescents has fallen, HIV infection rates fell, and addicts have increasingly sought help to overcome their addictions.  The full story was in Time, here. An excerpt: Read more »

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Best of the Blogs (Well Mostly the Immigration-Related Ones)

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Category: Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Criminal Law & Process, Human Rights, Immigration Law
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No More Deaths, http://www.flickr.com/photos/steev/138245726/sizes/o/in/photostream/Refugee law does not get all that much attention in the blogosphere, even on the immigration-related blogs, probably because the numbers of refugees and asylees are so low in the context of U.S. immigration as a whole.   This week, though, there was a little discussion of a new study showing that asylum-seekers’ success rates have gone up to about 50%.  The study also confirms that asylum requests (that is, requests for refugee status made by people who are in the United States already) continue to fall.  The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog mischaracterized the study to some extent, asserting that “Recently revealed statistics show that illegal immigration is down. But another method of gaining residence in the U.S. is up: seeking political asylum,” when, as I just explained, asylum requests actually continue to fall.  It is only the rate of success that has gone up.

The increased success rate is surely due to the fact that more asylum seekers are finding legal representation:  as the study explains, unrepresented asylum seekers have a success rate of about 11%, while those with attorneys have about a 54% chance of winning asylum.  The study also shows that the dramatic disparities in grant rates by different judges continues (e.g., in the New York Immigration Court, judges’ asylum grant rates ranged from 6% to 70%).

In any event, the other statistics referred to in that WSJ Law Blog post are from a Pew Hispanic Center study showing a dramatic decline in the population of undocumented immigrants in the United States over the past few years.   Read more »

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We Have Met the Other and He Is Us (Law Professors)

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Category: Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Federal Law & Legal System, Human Rights, Immigration Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric
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In the latest development in what is starting to feel like a trip  “through the looking glass” to some bizarre version of the legal world as I understood it in law school, actual, important politicians have raised the spectre of  repealing or amending or re-interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically, its provision that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”  It seems especially sad that those who want to abolish or change the long-standing, post-Civil-War principle of birthright citizenship in the United States are, mainly, Republicans: one might call the Fourteenth Amendment “one of the [Republican] party’s greatest feats,” as did the Economist in the article linked above.  In any event, the Economist article does a pretty fair job, I think, of discussing the various perspectives on the issue (including pointing out that the so-called “anchor baby” idea is almost completely a fallacy, since a child cannot petition to make his parent a citizen until after the child is 21). Read more »

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