Obama’ Clemency Project

Today, Barack Obama freed 46 inmates under his authority to do so. Here is the listHere is the letter they receive. with his signature.

From the DoJ’s Deputy Attorney General as published by Washington Post: ‘More than 35,000 inmates are seeking clemency, but a complicated review process has slowed the Obama administration’s initiative. In February, Obama commuted the sentences of 22 drug offenders, the largest batch of prisoners to be granted early release under his administration and the first group of inmates who applied after the new criteria were set.

“Certainly, I don’t think I can ever be accused of being soft on crime,” Yates said. “But we need to be using the limited resources we have to ensure that we are truly doing justice and that the sentences we’re meting out are just and proportional to the crimes that we’re charging.”

We’re not the Department of Prosecutions or even the Department of Public Safety,” Yates said. “We are the Department of Justice.”

Enter the Clemency Project and Barack Obama having it both ways with a lottery system.

“Obama said that he had “revamped” the Office of the Pardon Attorney, and promised to be “more aggressive” with his clemency powers.

But memos from the White House obtained by USA TODAY revealed a different story. President Obama would “very rarely, if ever grant pardons for major drug offenses and guns crimes,” said one memo, and during his first 18-months in office, the President knowingly and deliberately allowed the Bush Administration’s clemency policies to remain in effect.”

Clemency Project 2014 – a working group composed of lawyers and advocates including the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as individuals active within those organizations – launched in January after Deputy Attorney General James Cole asked the legal profession to provide pro bono (free) assistance to federal prisoners who would likely have received a shorter sentenced if they had been sentenced today. Clemency Project 2014 members collaborate to recruit and train attorneys on how to screen for prisoners who meet the criteria listed below and assist prisoners who meet the criteria to find lawyers to represent them. Clemency Project 2014 lawyers provide assistance free of charge to applicants. Anyone asking you to pay is not working with Clemency Project 2014.


WASHINGTON – Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced today a new set of criteria the Justice Department and White House will use when considering clemency petitions from federal prisoners. The new criteria will help the Justice Department identify federal prisoners who, if sentenced today under current sentencing laws and policies, would likely have received a substantially lower sentence.

“Our federal sentencing laws have shattered families and wasted millions of dollars,” said Vanita Gupta, ACLU deputy legal director. “Too many people—particularly people of color—have been locked up for far too long for nonviolent offenses. The President now has a momentous opportunity to correct these injustices in individual cases. If we’re ever going to see truly systemic and smart reform of the federal criminal justice, however, we need Congress to step up and pass the Smarter Sentencing Act.”​

Clemency Project 2014, a working group composed of the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as individuals active within those organizations, wholeheartedly supports Cole’s announcement and the Justice Department’s plans to restore the integrity of the clemency process.

Numbers Even Backdoor to Front-door entry into U.S.

There are almost 20 different visa applications forms, each for unique circumstances to enter into the United States. Some are easier and more likely used than others for fast processing and requiring less background investigations.

The State Department outsources the processing of visas and in some visa classifications there are annual quotas that can be finessed by waivers and or exemptions.  There are even legal cottage industry members that handle the complex legal process with enough money, they know how to skirt the process and hasten the approval process.

Now, that these people have front-door entry, who are they and what happens if they overstay the visa time limit? Short answer is not much.

In March of 2012, John Cohen, the Deputy Counter-terrorism Coordinator for DHS provided written testimony to the House Sub-committee on DHS which fully explains the convoluted process and lack of resources.  In the same hearing, Peter T. Edge, Deputy Executive Associate Director of DHS Investigations for ICE offered his written testimony on the scope of fraud of the visa program. This was in response to Amine el-Khalifi, an individual who allegedly attempted to conduct a suicide attack at the U.S. Capitol, is not the first time terrorists have exploited the visa process.  In fact, el-Khalifi follows a long line of terrorists, including several of the 9/11 hijackers, who overstayed their visa and went on to conduct terror attacks.

Of particular note, the Visa Security program of 2002 is the basis of law today and reads in part from 2012 statistics:

The Visa Security Program
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assist in the identification of visa applicants who seek to enter the United States for illegitimate purposes, including criminal offenses and terrorism-related activities. The visa adjudication process often presents the first opportunity to assess whether a potential nonimmigrant visitor or immigrant poses a threat to the United States. The Visa Security Program (VSP) is one of several ICE programs focused on minimizing global risks.
Through the Visa Security Program (VSP), ICE deploys trained special agents overseas to high-risk visa activity posts in order to identify potential terrorist and criminal threats before they reach the United States. ICE special agents conduct targeted, in-depth reviews of individual visa applications and applicants prior to issuance, and recommend to consular officers refusal or revocation of applications when warranted. DHS actions complement the consular officers’ initial screenings, applicant interviews, and reviews of applications and supporting documentation.
ICE now conducts visa security investigations at 19 high-risk visa adjudication posts in 15 countries. In FY 2012 to date, VSP has screened 452,352 visa applicants and, in collaboration with DOS colleagues, determined that 121,139 required further review. Following the review of these 121,139 applications, ICE identified derogatory information on more than 4,777 applicants.

In 2012: The Obama administration doesn’t consider deporting people whose only offense is overstaying a visa a priority. It has focused immigration enforcement efforts on people who have committed serious crimes or are considered a threat to public or national security.

A House Homeland Security subcommittee is conducting an oversight hearing Tuesday. The panel’s chairwoman, Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., said El Khalifi “follows a long line of terrorists, including several of the 9/11 hijackers, who overstayed their visa and went on to conduct terror attacks.” His tourist visa expired the same year he arrived from his native Morocco as a teenager in 1999.

Going back to 2006, it was stated: “Many immigrants who are in the United States illegally never jumped a fence, hiked through the desert or paid anyone to help them sneak into the country. According to a recent study, 45 percent of illegal immigrants came here on a legal visa, and then overstayed that visa.” For the audio interview and Pew Research summary report, click here.

In closing, the LA Times proves the process on visa overstays with a few key cases.

* Laura Lopez first came to the U.S. at 15. She had joined a group of students from Guatemala who were visiting Orange County.

She remembers her first trip to Disneyland, eating at Taco Bell and strolling through the streets of downtown Santa Ana, with its impressive red sandstone courthouse.

“I felt so much energy,” said Lopez, now 30. “I looked around and saw that courthouse, and it was like something that spoke about freedom. I just didn’t want to leave.”

Lopez returned to Santa Ana two years later on a tourist visa. This time, she never left.

*Billy Lee came to California from South Korea with his mother when he was 5. Their trip included exploring Hollywood and spending time with relatives. “They told my mother they had great jobs, great schools — that this was a wonderful, open place to live and that we should take a risk and copy them,” said Lee, now 31.

So they stayed.

“Homeland Security Department officials estimate that up to 40% of the roughly 11 million people in the U.S. illegally arrived this way.  Jorge-Mario Cabrera, spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “It happens all the time.”

Yet, he said, no system exists “to follow up on what these folks do once they’re in the States. There’s no process by which officials can track if someone stayed the proper amount of time or beyond that.” For more cases covered by the LA Times, click here.

In the Obama administration, nobody knows anything or for that matter really investigates or reports the numbers.

Nobody is sure how many people are in the U.S. on expired visas.

A long-standing problem in immigration enforcement — identifying foreigners who fail to go home when their visas expire — is emerging as a key question as senators and President Barack Obama chart an overhaul of immigration law. The Senate is discussing an overhaul that would require the government to track foreigners who overstay their visas. The problem is the U.S. currently doesn’t have a reliable system for doing this.

The Center for Immigration Studies is the best source for visa overstays, yet few listen.

The General Accountability Offices does offer some insight that is useful.

Lastly, the piece parts are offered here from a 2013 hearing.

Written testimony of ICE Homeland Security Investigations Executive Associate Director James Dinkins, CBP Office of Field Operations Acting Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Wagner, and NPPD Office of Biometric Identity Management Deputy Director Shonnie Lyon for a House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing titled “Visa Security and Overstays: How Secure is America?”

In closing, the system is broken simply due to lack of will, enforcement and resources. Adjustments do need to be made especially when it comes to ‘visa waiver companies and countries, which should both be terminated.




Illegal Criminal Numbers Obama Goes to Court

Unpacking The Numbers

From Center for Immigration Studies: In 2013, a sample statistic is ICE is carrying a case load of 1.8 million aliens who are either in removal proceedings or have already been ordered removed. Less than two percent are in detention, which is the only proven way to ensure departure.

Most Wanted

Taking a walk over to the FBI’s 10 most wanted list has 7 foreign national criminals whose rap sheets are so extensive that rewards are offered for their captures.

Illegal Sentencing Statistics

Washington Examiner: Of the more than 2,200 people who received federal sentences for drug possession in fiscal year 2014, almost three-quarters of them were illegal immigrants, according to new data from the United States Sentencing Commission.

Illegal immigrants also made up more than one-third of all federal sentences, that data said.

The commission’s data showed a slight decline in the total number of illegal alien sentences from 2013 to 2014, but still showed that the illegal population is a major contributor to federal crimes in America.

In 2013, illegal immigrants were responsible for 38.6 percent of all federal sentencing, and that dropped to 36.7 percent in 2014.

But the sentencing of illegal immigrants for drug possession jumped significantly. In 2013, 1,123 illegal immigrants were sentenced on convictions of simple possession, and made up 55.8 percent of those cases.

In 2014, 1,681 illegal aliens were sentenced, and they made up 74.1 percent of the total. Illegal immigrants were also 16.9 percent of all federal drug trafficking sentences.

The data became public just as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has pushed for tougher immigration laws, and has cited last week’s shooting death of a California woman at the hands of an illegal immigrant as the latest example of the need for more enforcement.

Illegal immigrants were 20 percent of the kidnapping/hostage taking sentences in 2014, 12 percent of the murder sentences, and 19.4 percent of national-defense related sentences.

As expected, illegal immigrants made up vast majority of sentences for immigration-related crimes — 91.6 percent.

Overall, 27,505 illegal immigrants were sentenced in federal court in 2014, down from 30,144 the prior year.

All the non-citizens are combined — including legal and illegal aliens, extradited aliens and those with unknown status — contributed to 42 percent of all federal sentencing in 2014.

The commission’s statistics only include primary federal offenses, and don’t include local convictions or sentences, which is where most rape and murder cases would appear.

Obama Administration Goes to Court

From The Hill:

The Obama administration faces an uphill battle on Friday when it seeks to convince a panel of federal judges to let the president’s executive actions on immigration take effect.

The same two Republican-appointed judges who denied an earlier administration attempt to lift a hold on Obama’s immigration actions will hear arguments at the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Court watchers expect an unfavorable ruling for Obama from the three-judge panel, which sits on the most conservative circuit in the country.

“It’s likely to be a similar result,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. “It’s unlikely that [the two judges] will change their views.”

The White House is encountering legal roadblocks on immigration after two recent Supreme Court victories on same-sex marriage and healthcare, which gave the president a jolt of momentum late in his second term.

With just 18 months left in Obama’s presidency, the court battle has put his programs in peril. Experts believe the case will eventually end up before the Supreme Court, which could rule on the case as late as June 2016.

If the White House eventually wins, it could leave just a few months to implement the program. But if it loses, it would strip away a major promise Obama made to Latino groups in the run up to the 2014 midterm elections.

The atmosphere surrounding the hearing is certain to be charged. Reps. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), as well as immigrant-rights advocates, plan to demonstrate outside the courthouse to call on the judges to allow Obama’s programs to go into place.

It will also take place against the backdrop of a recent fatal shooting of a California woman, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant, and amid fallout from incendiary remarks on immigration from Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump — both of which have further roiled the debate nationwide.

After Congress failed to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul last year, Obama issued executive orders in November allowing certain immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizen or legal resident children to apply for deportation reprieves and work permits.

They also expanded a 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), providing similar relief to immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The orders, if fully enacted, could affect as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Led by Texas, 26 mostly Republican-led states sued the administration, arguing the moves overstepped Obama’s executive authority.

They also claimed the programs would harm the states by imposing added costs related to drivers licenses for people who receive deportation referrals.

The White House has steadfastly maintained that the president acted within the law by using “prosecutorial discretion” to exempt non-criminal immigrants from deportation. They also say the states ignored economic benefits, such as added tax revenue.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen, a George W. Bush appointee, sided with the states in February, handing down an injunction blocking the programs from taking effect while the court considers the lawsuit.

In May, circuit Judges Jennifer Elrod and Jerry Smith rejected an emergency request from the Department of Justice to allow the actions to proceed.

They argued the states made a compelling case they would suffer harm if the program was let to move forward, and that the administration’s appeal was unlikely to succeed on the broader legal issues.

The administration also contended the 26 states that brought the suit don’t have standing, though the two judges appeared skeptical of that argument as well.

On Friday, Smith and Elrod will again hear arguments from Obama administration lawyers and attorneys representing the states — this time focusing on whether the Texas judge’s order was legal.

“The two judges were convinced that Texas was likely to prevail on the merits,” said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law, who helped file a legal brief backing the lawsuit against Obama’s programs.

Joining them on the panel will be Judge Carolyn King, who was appointed by Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

King in April ruled in favor of the Obama administration on a separate lawsuit challenging his 2012 immigration action, and advocates hope she will side with the president again.

Obama was set to huddle with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the White House Thursday afternoon, one day before the arguments.

“The administration continues to have a lot of confidence in the power of [our] legal arguments,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

Immigrant rights advocates, meanwhile, have expressed frustration at the delay. While they continue to press for the programs to go into effect, some advocates are turning their attention to other efforts as the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

“I think there is a realization the delay is longer than we have hoped for,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Four different advocacy groups are convening a strategy session in New Orleans to raise awareness of other immigration actions not affected by the lawsuit, Hincapié said, including new guidelines that seek to reduce deportations of immigrants who are not deemed to pose a threat to public safety.

Advocates remain confident the orders will eventually go into place. But until then, they intend to punish Republicans for supporting the lawsuit.

The executive actions are popular with Hispanic voters, who will play an influential role in the 2016 elections. Candidates such as Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) want to end Obama’s programs.

House Republicans introduced a bill this week that would cut off funding for the initiatives if they take effect.

“This might be short term victory for the GOP. But a year from now, they are going to be looking at a much bigger lawsuit before the Supreme Court, which will be magnified by the fact it will take place in an election year,” said David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a backer of Obama’s programs. “In the long term, they are going to be the big losers.”

A victory in court, however, could embolden Republicans who have accused Obama of abusing his executive powers.

“It is inconsistent with the law,” Cruz said during a recent interview with Jorge Ramos. “What Barack Obama is doing is what dictators in other nations have done.”