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Hans A. von Spakovsky

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department. He is the coauthor of the book “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk”.
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Our Immigration Courts – Built to Fail

Monday, May 23rd, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Tomorrow, the Center for Immigration Studies will host a panel discussion at the National Press Club over a new report being released by CIS about our dysfunctional immigration court system. The report, “Built to Fail: Deception and Disorder in America’s Immigration Courts,” is authored by Mark H. Metcalf. Andy McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor of the Blind Sheik, and I will both be on the panel.

Mark Metcalf is a former Justice Department lawyer I worked with when I was at the Department. He knows of what he speaks in the immigration area – he is a former immigration judge and also served as Special Counsel at the Domestic Security Section at Justice. If you think our border security is disorganized, chaotic, and inadequate, wait until you hear about the scandalous flaws in our immigration court system.

I don’t want to give away Mark’s shocking findings, but they include the fact that the Justice Department has manipulated its immigration reports for years to make things look better than they really are. For example, he found that while Justice said that only 39 percent of aliens missed their court appearances in 2005 and 2006, the actual number was 59%. This means that the vast majority of aliens here illegally who were detained but then released pending trial disappeared into the heartland and never showed up in court. Another appalling statistic Mark found is that the number of outstanding deportation orders that remain unenforced by the Department of Homeland Security is over a million! In essence, the enforcement of deportation orders issued against aliens by immigration judges is non-existent.

More startling findings tomorrow starting at 9:00 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington.

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The Biggest Nomination Fight of the Year

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion for cloture yesterday on Goodwin Liu. (If the latter name is unfamiliar, please see yesterday’s PJ Media article on the “Most (Un)Wanted Judges.”) The cloture vote is expected to come on Thursday.

Liu is probably the worst of the worst of President Obama’s judicial nominees. He lives and breathes “empathy.” This should generate the most important fight over a judicial nomination of the year.

If confirmed to this lifetime appointment to the federal system, Liu can be expected (on the basis of his record), to do more damage to the Constitution and the rule of law than almost any judge who has taken a seat in decades. Worse, confirmation to this judgeship would put Liu on the short list for the Supreme Court, should another vacancy occur during this administration.

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Republican Senators demand Obama administration keep politics out of government contracting

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

PJ Media broke the story last week about the draft Executive Order being circulated by the White House that would implement portions of the DISCLOSE Act on federal contractors.  Now Sen. Susan Collins (who oversees federal contracting as the ranking minority member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with 25 other Republican senators, have sent a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns over the draft EO.

They point out that requiring government contractors to disclose information about campaign contributions and other political expenditures “would have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of individuals to contribute to the political causes or candidates of their choice.”  Prospective contractors would obviously “fear that their livelihood could be threatened if the causes they support are disfavored by the Administration.”  The fact that the White House would require such information to be submitted to the contracting agencies before those agencies award federal contracts would give “at the very least, the appearance that contract award decisions could be predicated on – or influenced by – political contributions or considerations.”

As the letter correctly points out, in the name of keeping politics out of the federal contracting process, the draft EO would actually “make political considerations a part of every federal contract offer.”   It then asks President Obama to answer a series of six questions, ranging from how the political contribution information would be used to whether the “Administration intend[s] to extend these requirements to unions…”  It will be interesting to see what, if any, response is made by the White House to the very serious legal, constitutional, and public policy concerns raised by these senators.

Click on ‘more’ to read the senators’ press release. And here is their letter to President Obama. And uploaded to Scribd.

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Ragin’ Over the Caguns’ Redistricting Plans

Friday, April 15th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

The Times-Picayune reports that Governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law a new congressional and state legislative redistricting plan for Louisiana.

The state’s Legislative Black Caucus objects to the plan, claiming that it doesn’t create enough black “majority/minority” districts. The new plan creates 11 black state senate districts (up from the current 10) and 29 black house districts (up from 27). It also realigns Louisiana’s seven congressional districts into six (the state lost a seat due to population decreases) and preserves the single black district Louisiana has currently. But the Caucus claims the state plan should have provided 30 black house districts and the congressional plan should have created a second black district.

The most disturbing news in the Times-Picayune story is that the state Senate president and House speaker won’t be asking the federal court in Washington to clear the plan as nondiscriminatory under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Instead, they will submit it to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for administrative review. Christian Adams and I have been reporting for the past year about the rank politics that drives decision-making in that Division, including in the Section 5 review process. Louisiana has about as much chance of getting a fair, unbiased, and nonpartisan decision under the applicable law as the Washington Nationals have of winning the World Series.

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An Unconscionable Speaker

Monday, April 11th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

The American Constitution Society certainly knows how to pick its speakers. The Washington, D.C., chapter is having a brown bag lunch discussion on April 26 at the law firm of Jenner & Block on “Voting Rights and Redistricting.” The featured speaker will be J. Gerald Hebert.

The invitation identifies Hebert as a former senior official in the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Unmentioned is the fact that he has also been one of the main redistricting lawyers for the Democratic National Committee.

Luncheon attendees might want to think twice about acting on any advice from Hebert on how to handle voting rights cases. He once cost American taxpayers $86,626.24 in attorneys’ fees and costs awarded against the Justice Department for bringing an unjustified case under the Voting Rights Act.

Not only did Hebert lose, but Justice was castigated by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Jones, 125 F.3d 1418 (1997), for what it concluded was “a very troubling case.” (Hebert is listed as the Justice counsel of record in the district court opinion, U.S. v. Jones, 846 F.Supp. 955 (1994)). According to the 11th Circuit:

“A properly conducted investigation would have quickly revealed that there was no basis for the claim that the Defendants were guilty of purposeful discrimination against black voters…Unfortunately, we cannot restore the reputation of the persons wrongfully branded by the United States as public officials who deliberately deprived their fellow citizens of their voting rights. We also lack the power to remedy the damage done to race relations in Dallas County by the unfounded accusations of purposeful discrimination made by the United States.

We can only hope that in the future the decision makers in the United States Department of Justice will be more sensitive to the impact on racial harmony that can result from the filing of a claim of purposeful discrimination. The filing of an action charging a person with depriving a fellow citizen of a fundamental constitutional right without conducting a proper investigation of its truth is unconscionable…Hopefully, we will not again be faced with reviewing a case as carelessly instigated as this one.”

Need I say more?

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EU meddling in U.S. domestic matters

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty as a constitutionally-protected punishment. It’s supported by two-thirds of the American public, according to Gallup. But that hasn’t stopped the European Union from funding death penalty opponents in the United States, to the tune of $3.6 million in 2009 alone.

For example, the EU showered almost $1 million on the American Bar Association’s Fund for Justice and Education to support its “Death Penalty Assessments Project: Toward a Nationwide Moratorium on Executions.” Apparently the ABA not only likes foreign law, it’s happy to take foreign money to help implement it here.

You can get all the details about the EU’s largesse toward American anti-death penalty activists in Nile Gardiner’s exposee in The Telegraph. It raises some interesting questions about the EU’s attempted interference in our country’s internal affairs. “Imagine the outcry in Brussels if the US government funded policy groups in the EU,” Nile suggests. “[C]harges of ‘American imperialism’ would inevitably follow.”

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Not Faithfully Executing the Law

Thursday, February 24th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

On President Obama’s decision to violate his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” and defend DOMA, I would refer the readers of The Tatler to the opinion of Benjamin Civiletti, United State Attorney General for the final two years of the Carter administration.

In a 1980 letter to the Senate on the attorney general’s duty to defend and enforce legislation, Civiletti said that “if executive officers were to adopt a policy of ignoring or attacking Acts of Congress whenever they believed them to be in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution, their conduct in office could jeopardize the equilibrium established within our constitutional system.” When confronted with such a choice, “it is almost always the case that [the Attorney General] can best discharge the responsibilities of his office by defending and enforcing the Act of Congress.”

This politically-driven decision by President Obama and Attorney General Holder contravenes the Justice Department’s long, well-established policy of defending a federal statute unless no reasonable argument can be made in its defense or the statute would infringe on some core presidential constitutional authority. Neither of those situations applies to DOMA. Numerous reasonable arguments can be (and have been) made in its defense, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with presidential authority.

Given the behavior of the current president and attorney general, it almost makes one long for the days of Jimmy Carter and Benjamin Civiletti.

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So Much For Civility

Monday, February 7th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

The silence of liberals is sometimes just as revealing as what they say. What would be the reaction if protesters at a Tea Party rally were heard saying the following about Attorney General Eric Holder?

• He should be impeached and “put… back in the fields.”

• We should “cut off his toes one-by-one and feed them to him.”

• “I’m all about peace… but I would say torture” him.

• “String him up… and his wife, too.”

• “Hang him.”

Of course, none of these vile, racist and violent things were said about Eric Holder at a conservative political rally. But they were said at a liberal protest affiliated with a Common Cause-sponsored conference on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on January 30 in Rancho Mirage, California. This was captured on video by an independent journalist.

This has been well covered by conservative opinion and news websites – Bryan Preston posted the video on The Tatler last Thursday. But unlike what happened just a few weeks ago, information about this protest and what was said have not made it to the front pages of liberal media outlets. It has been more than a week since this information surfaced; yet there have been no loud calls denouncing such violent rhetoric from the Left. In fact, it has pretty much been ignored.

As Deneen Borelli of Project 21 correctly says, “calls for torture and lynching are not a matter of left and right – they are always wrong.” Bryan asked where the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP were. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for liberal websites to cover this or for organizations like the NAACP to denounce it, given the double standards they have long exhibited in their unfair and degrading criticisms of principled black conservatives like Justice Clarence Thomas.

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Double Standards Indeed

Friday, February 4th, 2011 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

President Obama’s nomination of James Graves to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in a voice vote. Sources tell me that both Republican senators from Mississippi support his nomination. This is quite ironic, given Graves’ apparent racial double-standards (as I outlined in an article in PJ) and the history of this particular seat on the 5th Circuit.

Readers of the Tatler may recall that Charles Pickering, another Mississippi judge, was also nominated to the Fifth Circuit by President George W. Bush. But Pickering was filibustered by Democratic senators because of false claims made about his ruling in a 1994 hate-crimes case that involved a cross-burning. (This despite Pickering’s personal history; he and his family needed FBI protection after Pickering testified against the Ku Klux Klan in 1966, helping the FBI and the Justice Department prosecute Klan member Sam Bowers, who was on trial for murdering civil rights activist Vernon Damer.) The Clinton Justice Department actually revised its initial views on the 1994 case and later agreed with Pickering’s position.

Pickering was supported by local Mississippi leaders of the NAACP, including Charles Evers, the brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, even though the national organization opposed him. Pickering served briefly on the 5th Circuit in a recess appointment, but was never confirmed in his regular nomination. So Democratic senators successfully stopped Pickering from becoming a judge on the 5th Circuit because of false claims about racism. Yet Graves, who apparently ruled differently in several matters before the Mississippi Supreme Court based on race, gets approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Talk about a double standard!

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