Heritage Expert: Eric Holder’s New Plan Violates Federal Law
New findings by Border Patrol agents indicating the Obama administration’s policies have encouraged the recent surge of unaccompanied minors crossing illegally into the U.S. probably won’t phase the administration, some of whom already deny that Obama’s policies have anything to do with it.
The recent trend hasn’t made Attorney General Eric Holder rethink the administration’s handling of the situation either. On June 6, Holder announced the Justice Department will use taxpayer funds to “enroll approximately 100 lawyers and paralegals as AmeriCorps members to provide legal services” to “young people who must appear in immigration proceedings.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky explains that his new plan to fund legal representation for illegal aliens violates federal law:
Federal immigration law (8 U.S.C. §1229a) lays out the rules governing removal proceedings in the immigration courts, which are administrative courts run by the Justice Department, not Article III federal courts. Under Section 1229a(b)(4)(A), aliens have the “privilege of being represented, at no expense to the government, by counsel of the alien’s choosing.” Thus, there is no question illegal aliens can be represented by lawyers in immigration removal proceedings, but it also is clear representation cannot be at the expense of the government.
Holder’s press release cites no legal authority for this move other than a supposed “direction” from Congress to the Executive Office of Immigration Review “to better serve vulnerable populations such as children and improve court efficiency through pilot efforts aimed at improving legal representation.” Where this “direction” came from is not explained. In any event, any such “direction” from Congress cannot overcome a direct, statutory prohibition on providing legal representation at the expense of the government.
Holder claims that with this program, “we reaffirm our allegiance to the values that have always shaped our pursuit of justice.” But the value that has primarily “shaped our pursuit of justice” is allegiance to the rule of law. As explained in a previous Heritage paper and by John Fund and me in our new book, “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department,” the attorney general and the president have shown no qualms about bending, breaking or ignoring laws passed by Congress when it suits their purposes.