More Charges of Misconduct in Immigration Detention Centers

October 22, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

The Nation adds a new perspective to my story from earlier this week about Pedro Guzman, a man fighting against deportation charges in Stewart Detention Center near Atlanta. Jacqueline Stevens visited the Stewart Detention Center and tells of numerous abuses of justice in the immigration courts there, including by William Cassidy, the judge dealing with Guzman’s case. Cassidy and other judges ordered deportation for 83 percent of the detainees held in Stewart Detention Center during 2008, a higher rate than the 72 percent of detainees who were ordered deported nationwide.

Stevens, a Northwestern University political science professor, writes that she documented numerous examples of misconduct by Cassidy over an 18-month period, but claims the Executive Office of Immigration Review ignored her reports. What’s so bad about Cassidy? Quite a few things, according to the long history of complaints that have been made against the judge:

The disregard for due process in Georgia, which has the country’s third-largest docket and respondents from across the country, is a national catastrophe—although the effects are personal to Logan Guzman, a 3-year-old who for more than a year has missed the affection of his father, Pedro, because Cassidy is resisting a recommendation from the Board of Immigration Appeals to grant Pedro bond based on his close ties to US citizens. (Cassidy turned this around, ruling that these close ties would make Pedro a flight risk and held him even though Guzman had a slam-dunk case on the merits.) Fogle, Guzman’s attorney, says, “That’s the logic of someone who wants to keep somebody in jail no matter what, to make them give up on their case and leave. That’s this whole system, not just [Cassidy]. It’s a strategy used by the DHS. You don’t give someone a bond or give them a high bond, and they’ll give up on their case and just leave.” [...]

Protecting misconduct is old news at the EOIR, which has been receiving complaints about Cassidy for years, including in the late 1990s from David Farshy, an attorney who attracted Cassidy’s ire for protesting his due process violations. In one case, Cassidy left a message on Farshy’s answering machine revealing an unlawful private conversation with the government’s attorney and stating that he had decided Farshy’s client’s case before the hearing. Rather than fire Cassidy for these flagrant violations, the agency hired the government attorney with whom he’d had the conversation—Sease, now an Atlanta adjudicator who attracts her own misconduct complaints.

Guzman’s wife, Emily, told me she hoped another judge would hear Guzman’s case and release him on bond, as recommended by the Immigration Board of Appeals once before. Cassidy ignored the board’s recommendation, but under a new judge the board’s decision might carry more weight, she said.

Immigrant rights advocates argue the entire immigration court system needs an overhaul, particularly when it comes to oversight. In addition to charges levied against Cassidy, Stevens mentions many problems with transparency, including efforts in the detention center to keep information from journalists and the public.