Reviewing Mathis v. United States

By Kelley Keefer and Linus Chan Justice Alito’s woeful tale of a misguided European driver in his dissenting opinion of Mathis v. United States is presented as a criticism to the Supreme Court’s categorical approach jurisprudence. No. 15-6092, slip op. dissent at 1 (J. Alito dissenting) (U.S. Sup. Ct., June 23, 2016).  And while one (and the majority) may disagree as to whether Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990), really was a wrong turn, the 26 years since the publication of Taylor has nonetheless proven to be an interesting journey.  Mathis provides the latest attempt by the [...]

Detention myopia

In Canada and the United Kingdom, migrants are sometimes confined in prison-like settings. In Malta, they’re held in converted military barracks. Like so many others, these countries have come to rely on imprisonment to enforce their immigration laws. Indeed, I recently reviewed a book that provides an excellent overview of immigration imprisonment tactics in fifteen countries. This blog’s readers know full well how pervasive this phenomenon is in the United States. With over 400,000 people confined every year by ICE, we count the world’s largest immigration prison population (without even [...]

Border Patrol agent gets immunity after killing fleeing suspect

A Border Patrol agent who shot to death a fleeing suspect won’t face legal liability, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit announced last week. Mendez v. Poitevent, No. 15-50790, slip op. (5th Cir. May 19, 2016). Despite being clouded in controversy, the Fifth Circuit’s decision is crystal clear that the claims lodged by eighteen-year-old Juan Mendez’s family members won’t expose Border Patrol agent Taylor Poitevent to any legal repercussions. As recounted in detail by the Fifth Circuit, here is what happened. On October 5, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Taylor Poitevent, uniformed [...]

Immigration courts busy as obstacles to representation continue, government statistics reveal

Without much fanfare, last month the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency that oversees the nation’s immigration courts, released its important annual compilation of statistical data. Though the report isn’t the only source of information about the immigration court system, it is a hugely valuable glimpse into the front-line adjudication of migrants’ attempts to remain in the United States. The fiscal year 2015 report, released in April 2016, reveals an immigration court system that continues to process hundreds of thousands of removal cases with glaring [...]

Policing and humanitarianism in migration control

Every day for years on end the story repeats itself. People fleeing their homelands in search of opportunity or survival lose their lives en route. The developed world—from Australia to the United States—bemoans the lost lives. We observe moments of silence, take pity on the dead, and skewer the smugglers who profit from clandestine migration. Rarely do we look inward to ask how our own policies lead to death. In Crimes of Peace: Mediterranean Migrations at the World’s Deadliest Border (2015), anthropologist Maurizio Albahari refuses to let us sit comfortably in our condemnation of others [...]

Expanding the prison critique

By now, critiques of the United States’ prison regime are commonplace. Whether in scholars’ specialized research or politicians’ sweeping rhetoric, people across the ideological spectrum regularly point out that we lock up huge swaths of our population and show a remarkable disregard for the racial skew of our imprisoned population. Too often, critiques ignore one segment of the population of people surrounded by barbed wire somewhere in the United State: those who have run up against the strictures of migration control. The nation’s immigration prisoners, as I’ve termed this population, [...]

“Our words have power”…but does that matter in immigration law?

Last week, a top Justice Department official announced that its important grant-making unit, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), would cease to refer to people convicted of crimes by stigmatizing labels such as “felon” or “ex-convict.” Instead, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, who heads the OJP, wrote that the OJP would “replace[] unnecessarily disparaging labels with terms like ‘person who committed a crime’ and ‘individual who was incarcerated,’ decoupling past actions from the person being described and anticipating the contributions we expect them to make when they return.” [...]

GAO Report Reveals Troubling Inconsistencies and Issues Regarding Immigration Detention Medical Care

By: Thamys Gaertner BACKGROUND The United States Government Office Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in February 2016 analyzing the disturbing costs and problems of the current on-site and off-site medical care in immigration detention facilities across the United States. U.S. Gov’t Accountability Office, GAO-16-231, Immigration Detention: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Management and Oversight of Detainee Medical Care (2016). During 2015, ICE held about 28,000 detainees per day in over 165 facilities. Id. at 6. In line with what has previously been reported on [...]