El Paso’s congresswoman, Veronica Escobar owes El Pasoans an answer to the allegations of immigration judges abuses on asylum seekers in El Paso. On April 3, the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed an administrative complaint “regarding El Paso Service Processing Center Immigration Court Judges.” El Paso readers may remember that Escobar’s husband, Michael Pleters, is an immigration judge appointed by the Donald Trump administration.
According to the Department of Justice online listing of judges, which I accessed yesterday, April 4, 2019, there are four judges assigned to the El Paso Service Processing Center. They are William L. Abbott, Stephen Ruhle, Dean S. Tuckman and Michael S. Pleters. Pleter’s is Escobar’s husband. (https://www.justice.gov/eoir/eoir-immigration-court-listing#TX)
The complaint alleges the misuse of “problematic standing orders by Immigration Judges (“IJs”) at the El Paso SPC Court that undermine due process and diminish due process and diminish access to counsel.” It also alleges that “a culture of hostility and contempt towards noncitizens who appear at the El Paso SPC Court,” and “the use of problematic court practices which undermine due process.”
The complaint adds; “the court’s asylum grant rate is so low that one IJ referred to the El Paso SPC Court as ‘the Bye-Bye Place’.”
The complaint is based on evidence provided by immigrant lawyers who have appeared before the El Paso SPC. The complaint document states that many attorneys are so fearful of retaliation by the El Paso immigration judges that they would not provide information that may identify them, or their clients.
Under “key findings,” the complaint states “a culture of contempt and hostility towards respondents and their legal counsels exists in the El Paso SPC Court.” As examples, the complaint showed that “attorneys and court observers witnessed” El Paso’s immigration judges saying, “you know your client is going bye-bye, right?” They also witnessed an unnamed immigration judge state that “due process is an opportunity, not a privilege.” Another El Paso immigration judge mocked a mentally ill immigrant by “openly calling” the immigrant “crazy”.
Immigration judge Michael Pleters, Veronica Escobar’s husband, was directly named in the complaint for his use of “standing orders” that “effectively prevents” immigrants from submitting evidence for the court to consider once they have submitted their initial application for asylum. He was included in the other allegations alleged by the complaint.
As many readers likely know, the issue of asylum seekers is at the top of the national dialog. What the complaint is alleging behind all the CYA and legalese language is that the El Paso immigration judges are working to fulfill Donald Trump’s demand that immigration be curtailed and that those seeking asylum be deported as quickly as possible. All this at the expense of the law and due process.
In particular, as the congresswoman representing El Paso, Veronica Escobar has stated that she supports the immigrants and disavows Donald Trumps’ demand for a wall and the detainment and impediment of immigrants seeking asylum. Yet, as per the report, her husband is included in a quartet of immigration judges in El Paso that are openly hostile to asylum seekers.
Veronica Escobar has some explaining to do.