About Me

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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Thursday, March 29, 2018

A year of fear: Immigration policy under Trump

The Hill (Op-Ed)
By Harlan York and Sandra Feist
March 28, 2018

Make no mistake about it. Our immigration system has been challenged going back long before the current presidential administration.

The 1996 immigration reform act signed by President Bill Clinton (Illegal Immigration Reform And Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 [IIRAIRA]) effectively eviscerated the rights of millions of immigrants. After the horrific events of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush changed how immigration laws would be enforced. The Obama administration oversaw record-breaking deportations, to the tune of 2.5 million immigrants removed and a vast expansion of family detention. President Trump’s anti-immigrant actions and rhetoric during his first year in office are set apart from previous immigration crackdowns in that it has been marked by a host of efforts to frighten both legal and undocumented immigrants.

Starting with the failed travel bans, President Trump has shown that while he mentions plans with “heart” and “love,” he has done anything but show compassion to foreign nationals.

Here are a few of his first year’s “greatest hits”: Rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for many countries, and the abandonment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the use of prosecutorial discretion, indiscriminately arresting and detaining those with no criminal history in an apparent effort to push deportation numbers ever higher.

Somewhat less attention has been paid to the fear and intimidation the administration has also extended to legal business immigration cases as well, such as the attacks on the Indian community and the idea of ending H-1B extensions for workers on the road to permanent residency, efforts to derail work permits for H-4 spouses, and delays in the processing of petitions for H-1B visas. Add to that, the administration’s cumbersome and redundant Requests for Additional Evidence. In our own practices, we’ve seen demands such as requiring a graduate of a U.S. university to submit some other evidence than a certified transcript and confirmation of graduation to prove they’ve been educated to a certain level.

These are roadblocks thrown up, both big and small, throughout every avenue of immigration-related policy. And you should care. It’s having an impact already.

Fewer foreign visitors are traveling to the United States, which translates to fewer tourist dollars spent and fewer international students are coming to study. From nurses trying to cross the Northern border to work on TN visas to asylum seekers stopped at the Southern border when they attempt to claim protection under existing laws, we’re seeing the impact. From the Pacific Northwest and Silicon Valley where jobs go unfilled and innovation fails to thrive, we’re seeing an impact. From the New England tourist industry without enough H-2B visa holders to keep resorts open full-time to the farms across our heartland without employees to fill the breadbasket, we’re all hurting.

Well, we are tired of hurting, of ignoring our pain without pushing for change. The Trump administration has made every effort to shift the perception of immigrants from innovators and entrepreneurs to a community that represents danger and terrorism. However, as the nonpartisan Cato Institute reports, the annual chance of being murdered in a terror attack on U.S. soil committed by a foreign-born person stands at 1 in 3,808,094. But our country’s chance of having a poorer future if immigration is further stymied is 100 percent.

So, we urge the Senate and the House to push forward on commonsense bipartisan immigration reform like the Dream Act. We urge legislators to ask agencies for more information about what the impact of changes is going to be and what their true purpose is. We urge businesses to advocate on behalf of immigrants who are their employees, their customers, it’s their lifeblood. We urge all of us to reject the Trump administration’s nationalist call, which asks us to betray our history as a nation of immigrants. Let us instead stand against fear and intimidation, together.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Report unpacks trends in the H-1B visa program

Politico Pro
By Ted Hesson
March 28, 2018

Companies that used a high proportion of H-1B workers paid their employees significantly less than companies that used a smaller proportion of such workers, according to a report released today by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

The top 20 “H-1B dependent” companies paid an average salary of $82,788 in fiscal year 2017, the report said. By comparison, the top “non-dependent” companies paid an average of $110,511.

The H-1B visa program, which allows employers to bring highly skilled temporary workers to the United States, will begin to accept petitions Monday for its annual allotment of 85,000 visas. In recent years, high demand for the visas has triggered a random lottery.

Although the lottery draws the most attention, the total number of H-1B workers in the country far exceeds the 85,000-visa mark. In fiscal year 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved more than 345,000 H-1B petitions, according to MPI. The additional visa petitions were for “uncapped” categories such as visa renewals and universities that apply for foreign workers.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Draft rule details how poorer immigrants could be denied green cards

Politico Pro
By Ted Hesson
March 28, 2018

The Trump administration has drafted an extensive regulation to block people who receive public benefits from obtaining a green card, the Washington Post reported today.

The Post obtained a 223-page draft of the so-called “public charge” rule, which the administration expects to release in July.

According to the draft, federal immigration officials could deny a green card to an immigrant who has used nearly any form of welfare or public benefits.

The restrictions would extend to some refundable tax credits, including the earned income tax credit, which is available to low- and moderate-income individuals or couples.

The Post cites an estimate that shows roughly 19 percent of people filing taxes claim the credit.

The proposed rule would also require more immigrants to pay a cash bond if they’re considered likely to require public benefits. Under the plan, the minimum bond amount would be $10,000.

The Homeland Security Department told the Post the regulation has not been finalized.

“The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S. are self-sufficient,” DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in a written statement.

The administration announced in December it would seek to outline who could be considered a public charge under federal immigration law. Details about the plan have been previously reported by Reuters and Vox.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

ICE Won’t Deport the Last Nazi War Criminal in America

Daily Beast
By Justin Rohrlich
March 28, 2018

Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 226,119 people. Jakiw Palij wasn’t one of them.

During the first three months of ICE’s 2018 fiscal year, the agency deported 56,710 people, 46 percent of whom had not been convicted of a crime. This year, ICE expects to deport 209,000 people (PDF). It is highly unlikely that Palij will be among them—even though Palij is a war criminal, the last Nazi war criminal living in the United States.

Palij served as a guard during World War II at the Trawniki forced labor camp, which also trained those participating in “Operation Reinhard,” a plan to exterminate every Jew in German-occupied Poland. He entered the country in 1949 without divulging his past and was later awarded citizenship, of which he was stripped by a federal judge in 2004 and ordered deported.

“During a single nightmarish day in November 1943, all of the more than 6,000 prisoners of the Nazi camp that Jakiw Palij had guarded were systematically butchered,” Eli Rosenbaum, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), said after the ruling. “By helping to prevent the escape of these prisoners, Palij played an indispensable role in ensuring that they met their tragic fate at the hands of the Nazis.”

But Palij, now 94, remains a free man because no one else wants him, either. As Rosenbaum told The Daily Beast in an email, “Unfortunately, the governments of Germany, Ukraine and Poland have declined to admit Palij and no other nation has agreed to accept him.”

Palij lives quietly in Jackson Heights, Queens, on a leafy, tree-lined street less than 2 miles from Citi Field.

“Who is this?” Palij grumbled in his still-thick accent when contacted by phone. Asked about the status of his case, Palij snapped, “Forget it, forget it, forget it,” and hung up. No one answered the door during a visit to his home.

Palij arrived to America in 1949, falsely claiming on his immigration forms to have been a farmer, not a guard at a concentration camp. Jonathan Drimmer, a former federal prosecutor who worked under Rosenbaum at OSI, was the one who first tracked Palij down.

When Drimmer first went to interview Palij at his home in 2001, it felt like he had somehow been expecting him. Old Nazis who settled in New York City “were waiting for that knock on their door for a long time; they knew that one day someone was going to show up asking questions,” Drimmer told The Daily Beast.

“It was like puncturing a balloon,” Drimmer recalled. “When I said, ‘I’m Jonathan Drimmer from the Department of Justice, I’m here to talk to you about your wartime service,’ you could see all the air just go out of him.”

“You know, we’re throwing people out of this country who have been living here for 20 years and have families, and here we have a Nazi living in Queens. How can that be? How is this possible?”

— Dov Hikind

Guards at Trawniki were used by authorities to clear out ghettos in German-occupied Poland, including Warsaw, Częstochowa, Lublin, Lvov, Radom, Kraków, and Białystok. The Trawniki forces were also used as escorts for trains carrying Jews from ghetto to death camp.

Drimmer had obtained a copy of a wartime statement placing Palij at the Warsaw Ghetto Liquidation in the spring of 1943. Palij, unsurprisingly, denied being there. If he wasn’t in Warsaw, Drimmer asked Palij, then where was he? Palij then placed himself himself at Trawniki to avoid implicating himself in connection with atrocities committed in Warsaw.

Palij signed an affidavit confirming his Nazi service before Drimmer left the house. Denaturalization and deportation proceedings began shortly thereafter.

Though Palij lost his citizenship, his attorney, Ivar Berzins, knew the complex issues surrounding Palij’s deportation would be tricky and used it to his client’s advantage.

“His whole strategy was, ‘I don’t think you’re going to be able to get this guy out of the country, so we’re not going to waste our time and waste his money putting a spirited factual defense together,’” Drimmer said. (Berzins declined to be interviewed for this article.)

OSI, which was renamed the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section in 2010, employed a team of full-time historians who specialized in Nazi Germany and had access to archives of captured wartime documents throughout Europe and the United States. They combed through these files looking for the names of people who served in units responsible for war crimes, then compared those names against American immigration records looking for a match.

It was painstaking work made oddly easier by the Germans’ penchant for precise and systematic record-keeping, said Stephen Paskey, who was a senior trial attorney at OSI with Rosenbaum and Drimmer and led the government’s case against another former Nazi guard, John Demjanjuk.

“If a group of guards was transferred from one concentration camp to another, an inventory clerk would record every item each one left with, down to the number of socks and underwear, and then the inventory clerk at the camp they went to would sign them in, down to the number of socks and underwear they had with them,” Paskey told The Daily Beast.

“The problem [building cases against] modern human rights violators is that there are lots of people from places like Rwanda and Somalia that have blood on their hands but there’s no way to prove it. In the WWII cases, we didn’t have to rely on eyewitnesses,” Paskey added.

Nazi war criminals can’t be prosecuted in the U.S. under the War Crimes Act because their crimes were committed overseas, the people who committed them were not U.S. citizens at the time, and the victims weren’t U.S. citizens, explained Paskey. Instead, they are tried for lying about their Nazi service on their American immigration and citizenship applications.

Germany has prosecuted a handful of them, including Demjanjuk in 2009. Recently, the German constitutional court ordered 96-year-old Oskar Groening, the so-called Bookkeeper of Auschwitz, to serve four years in prison for his wartime activities. Groening died on March 9, before he could begin his sentence. Germany has also indicted 11 former death camp guards who are scheduled to face prosecution in 2018. But Efraim Zuroff, a former OSI researcher and current director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, told The Daily Beast that a change to the country’s prosecution policy all but ensures Palij won’t face charges there.

“They’ve done a pretty good job the last few years in pursuing individuals for Nazi atrocities who were found in Germany,” said Drimmer. “What they have not done a good job of is taking guys like Jakiw Palij, who were found outside of Germany, but are every bit as culpable, if not more culpable, than the individuals found inside Germany’s borders.”

Every November, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind leads a rally outside Palij’s house.

“You know, we’re throwing people out of this country who have been living here for 20 years and have families, and here we have a Nazi living in Queens,” Hikind told The Daily Beast. “How can that be? How is this possible?”

Hikind, whose parents both personally survived Holocaust concentration camps, has called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take Palij into custody as an illegal alien and hold him in detention while his deportation case continues to wind its way through the system. Hikind says he has been “pushing every button imaginable, there have been many attempts over the past six months to make something happen—we even got in touch with the son-in-law [Jared Kushner].”

Last October, the State Department told Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in a letter that the governments of Germany, Poland, and Ukraine had rebuffed their overtures in negotiating Palij’s return. However, the letter said officials remained “hopeful that ongoing engagement with our allies will eventually result in Mr. Palij’s long overdue removal.” In November, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote to Hikind, “The Department agrees fully that Palij should not live out his last days in this country.”

“The real issue is whether it’s a priority for anyone at the State Department, and generally I don’t think it has been. I don’t know for certain what they’ve done, but I think the results speak for themselves.”

— Steven Paskey

It will continue to be an uphill battle. According to ICE statistics, 8,275 people with deportation orders remained in the U.S. between 2012 and 2015 because no other country would take them (PDF); the agency says it “does not have the authority to force removals upon a sovereign nation” (PDF). An ICE spokesperson said nine countries are currently classified as “uncooperative”: Burma; Eritrea; Cambodia; Hong Kong; China; Laos; Cuba; Iran; and Vietnam. Germany, Ukraine, and Poland are not on the list.

ICE declined to comment and said to speak to the State Department, which also declined to comment. A U.S. government source who is close to the situation and requested anonymity to speak freely said of Palij, “ICE cannot remove him unless he has travel documents and Germany would have to provide those to the U.S. government to remove him and that has not happened. This has been over a decade now since he was ordered removed, but we haven’t gotten Germany to comply. Here is someone who wore a German uniform and represented Germany in WWII, and the German government hasn’t made any effort to ensure he is back there.”

However, said Stephen Paskey, “The real issue is whether it’s a priority for anyone at the State Department, and generally I don’t think it has been. I don’t know for certain what they’ve done, but I think the results speak for themselves.”

And so, Palij will almost certainly live out his last days on U.S. soil. It’s happened before. Take the case of retired auto worker and accused Nazi war criminal John Kalymon. In the late 1990s, investigators accused Kalymon of having served in an SS-allied Ukrainian auxiliary police unit during the war; in 2007, as with Palij, a judge ordered him denaturalized and deported for hiding this fact on his decades-old immigration forms. He died seven years later, at home in Troy, Michigan. (Kalymon’s son, Alex, told The Daily Beast that admitting the truth about his Nazi service to U.S. officials would have been a death sentence for his father “at that time, under Stalin, especially because he had been employed while the Germans were in charge of the town, working for the Germans.”)

“I’m just hoping that one day I wake up and I’m pleasantly surprised that we’re finally getting rid of this individual from this country,” said Hikind. “It’s way overdue.”

To Jon Drimmer, the notion that Palij remains in the United States brings up “an interesting philosophical question.”

“We in the United States obviously care about being able to pursue people who participated in genocide as vigorously as we can, but do others feel that way?” he asked. “You have a guy like Jakiw Palij, who participated in the slaughter of thousands of people, who is stuck in the U.S. because no one else is willing to take him? Are we that deeply out of sync with the rest of the world in terms of pursuing individuals who participated in genocide?”

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Exclusive: Under Trump, prosecutors fight reprieves for people facing deportation

By Reade Levinson
March 29, 2018

The Trump administration has sharply curtailed a once-common practice of granting long-term reprieves to immigrants targeted for deportation, a Reuters analysis of court records shows, adding to an already huge backlog of cases in U.S. immigration courts.

The trend underscores how the Trump administration’s broad crackdown on illegal immigration has sometimes had unintended consequences. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions had vowed to reduce that case backlog, but the government’s aggressive opposition to reprieves has caused the opposite to happen.

Under a procedure known as “administrative closure,” judges can indefinitely shelve deportation cases of immigrants who have lived illegally for years in the United States but have not committed serious crimes and have strong family or other ties in the country. The immigrants are not granted full legal status and their cases can be reopened at any time. In the interim they can remain in the country and often are eligible to work legally.

The practice became more common after the Obama administration instructed prosecutors in 2011 to prioritize immigration cases involving criminals. Closures accelerated further after a 2012 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which gave judges additional authority to close cases.

As a result, the number of shelved cases rose steadily for several years. In the last year of the Obama administration, more than 56,000 such cases were closed, the Reuters analysis of court records found.

In the first year after Donald Trump became president, the trend was sharply reversed, with about 20,000 cases closed, 64 percent fewer than the previous year.

Immigrant advocates say some of the most vulnerable immigrants – victims of domestic violence and unaccompanied minors – could potentially be deported even though they are eligible for a visa, because the courts will not set their cases aside.

In January, Sessions announced he will review a recent decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals and consider whether judges should have authority to close cases. He sought legal arguments from all sides as he considers the matter.

In a December speech, Sessions skewered the Obama administration for closing “nearly 200,000 pending immigration court cases without a final decision” over a five-year period. “We are completing, not closing, immigration cases,” he said.

About 542,000 cases were pending three weeks before Trump took office in January 2017, according to a Department of Justice estimate. Since then, the backlog has grown by another estimated 145,000 cases, a 27 percent increase.

In comparison, the Obama administration added an average of 41,000 cases to the backlog each year, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a New York-based research organization.


Trump was elected on a platform of tightening border security and speeding the removal of people living in the country illegally. Early in his presidency, he announced that all categories of immigrants in the country illegally would be considered targets for deportation.

Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley declined to comment on Reuters’ findings and on when Sessions might conclude his review of whether judges can close cases.

Groups advocating stricter immigration enforcement have long opposed the policy of administrative closure.

“We see this as one more example of attempts by the Obama administration to work around the rules of law,” said Michael Hethmon, senior counsel with the conservative Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington.

In a legal filing in the Sessions’ review, the American Bar Association cautioned that “withdrawal of administrative closure … would have profound and long-lasting consequences on the operation of the immigration adjudication system and the lives of those who must proceed through it.”

Supporters of the policy also say it allows judges to focus on cases involving criminals and ones in which an immigrant has little possibility of gaining legal status. They note that many of the closed cases involved immigrants who had applications pending for legal status, through asylum claims, marriages to citizens or other means.


After gangs shot her father, paralyzing him and placing him permanently in a wheelchair, Jennifer Mendoza fled Honduras by herself in 2016. She was 10 years old.

She was detained after crossing the border, placed in deportation proceedings and held for four months at a facility for unaccompanied minors in Texas until she could be reunited with her mother, Ruth. The two applied for a U visa, which is granted to undocumented immigrants who are victims of violent crime and who help law enforcement try to catch the perpetrators.

In February this year, Mendoza moved to close her deportation case while she waited for a decision on her visa. The immigration court judge agreed, but the government lawyer objected and appealed. The case is now pending at the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Mendoza’s lawyer, Vicky Dobrin, said the case shows how aggressively the government is fighting closures. Prosecutors used to routinely support closing cases like Mendoza’s, said Dobrin.

“Within a few months they were starting to oppose everything,” she said.

During the last four years of the Obama administration, prosecutors appealed less than one percent of all case closures. Since Trump took office in January 2017, ICE prosecutors have appealed decisions to close cases 10 times more often, Reuters found.

Ashley Tabaddor, president of the immigration judges’ union, said the pushback from prosecutors has meant more work for judges.

“The case is going to take much longer and is going to take more resources,” she said.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Feds: Detainee at airport for deportation escapes in taxi

March 28, 2018

Federal authorities say an immigration detainee about to be deported to Senegal escaped custody at New York’s Kennedy Airport and fled in a taxi.

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Mohamadou Lamine Mbacke was in the custody of its agents at the airport Tuesday night when he bolted and got into a cab.

The agency says Mbacke entered the country lawfully in 2005 but violated the terms of his status.

Mbacke was ordered deported in September 2015. ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls says the 31-year-old Mbacke has criminal convictions for weapons offenses.

Walls says Mbacke had not been located Wednesday.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Orange County area mayor says joining DOJ lawsuit likely to cause ‘chain reaction’

Washington Times
By Sally Persons
March 28, 2018

Aliso Viejo Mayor Dave Harrington said Wednesday that other parts of California are also interested in joining the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the state.

“I think you’re seeing a chain reaction. I think you’re seeing it happen,” Mr. Harrington said on Fox News.

Orange County is the latest area to join the DOJ’s lawsuit against California over the state’s sanctuary city laws. The suit argues that three of the state’s laws prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with the federal law regarding illegal immigrants.

President Trump praised Orange County’s decision in a tweet on Wednesday.

“My Administration stands in solidarity with the brave citizens in Orange County defending their rights against California’s illegal and unconstitutional Sanctuary policies. California’s Sanctuary laws….” he tweeted adding, “….release known dangerous criminals into communities across the State. All citizens have the right to be protected by Federal law and strong borders.”

“I think you’ll see more people joining. I hope so,” Mr. Harrington said.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf made headlines earlier this month for warning immigrants of a upcoming check on the city by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the action was an “embarrassment” to the state.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com