Image taken on 2008-01-09 07:41:55 by Chris Devers.
The Constitution for Dummies 1/4 ~ Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Andrew Napolitano Great speech by Ron Paul supporter and Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano
National security hotline
The objective of this performance audit is to assess whether the Attorney‐General’s Department effectively manages the operation of the National security hotline set up in December 2002. Social Policy
Read more on Australian Policy Online
Arizona appeals immigrant law ruling amid protests
Arizona on Thursday appealed a judge’s decision to block key parts of the state’s crackdown on illegal immigrants and police in Phoenix arrested scores of activists protesting the remaining measures in the law.
Read more on Reuters via Yahoo! News
By Michael Webster Syndicated Investigative Reporter: April 18, 2009 at 12:00 PM PST
The USA PATRIOT Act broadly expands law enforcement’s surveillance and investigative powers and represents one of the most significant threats to civil liberties, privacy and democratic traditions in U.S. history. The act in its current form gives sweeping United States Constitution
Page one of the original copy of the Constitution
search and surveillance to domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies and eliminates checks and balances which had been the difference between the free world and the suppressed.
That difference previously had given courts the opportunity to ensure that those powers were not abused. PATRIOT and follow-up legislation now in development threaten the basic rights of millions of Americans and has turned America into a suppressed state. A new bill introduced in this 110th Congress is designed to extend the USA Patriot Act allowing what many experts say are illegal provisions which will continue to allow the FBI, DEA, ICE, ATF, U.S. Military and other federal agencies to spy on investigate and arrest innocent Americans. The law because of the act allows for violations of Americans constitutional rights that our fore Fathers did not intend. Constitutional lawyers all across America say the Patriot Act should be repealed not reinstated. President Bush signed into law the earlier renewal of the controversial Patriot Law on December 30, 2005 as the provisions were due to expire they were extended with Public Law 109-160 that pushed the date from December 31, 2005 until February 3, 2006. The date of expiration was again changed from February 3, 2006 until March 10, 2006.
The origenal Patriot Act was passed into law on October 24, 2001 by the Congress of the United States, just 45 days after the September 11 attacks, with few Congressman even reading it and virtually no debate. There are significant flaws in the Patriot Act, flaws that threaten your fundamental freedoms by giving the government the power to access your medical records, tax records, information about the books you buy or borrow without probable cause, and even worse the power to break your door down at your home at any time of the day or night and conduct unconstitutional searches and seizures or if your lucky and are not home they can search your home or business in secret without telling you for weeks, months, or even indefinitely.
According to Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) the law dramatically expands the ability of states and the Federal Government to conduct surveillance of American citizens. The Government can monitor an individual’s web surfing records, use roving wiretaps to monitor phone calls made by individuals “proximate” to the primary person being tapped, access Internet Service Provider records, and monitor the private records of people involved in legitimate protests.
PATRIOT is not limited to terrorism EFF writes on their web site. They point out that the Government can add samples to DNA databases for individuals convicted of “any crime of violence.” Government spying on suspected computer trespassers (not just terrorist suspects) and all of this and more requires no court order. Wiretaps are now allowed for any suspected violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, offering possibilities for Government spying on and monitoring any computer user’s searches, e-mails and in fact record every stroke on any computer. Foreign and domestic intelligence agencies can more easily spy on Americans.
Powers under the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) have been broadened to allow for increased surveillance opportunities. FISA standards are lower than the constitutional standard applied by the courts in regular investigations. PATRIOT partially repeals legislation enacted in the 1970s that prohibited pervasive surveillance of Americans. PATRIOT eliminates Government accountability. While PATRIOT freely eliminates privacy rights for individual Americans, it creates more secrecy for Government activities, making it extremely difficult to know about actions the Government are taking. PATRIOT authorizes the use of “sneak and peek” search warrants in connection with any federal crime, including misdemeanors. A “sneak and peek” warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to enter private premises without the occupant’s permission or knowledge and without informing the occupant that such a search was conducted.
The Department of Justice, with little input from Congress and the American people, is developing follow-on legislation – the Domestic Security Enhancement Act (nicknamed Patriot II) — which would greatly expand Patriot’s already sweeping powers. The federal government has turned American freedoms into a world wide mockery with their unchecked spying on ordinary Americans, part of a broad pattern of the executive branch using “national security” and or “suspected terrorism ” as an excuse for encroaching on the privacy and free speech rights of Americans without adequate oversight. It eliminates many protections against unlawful imprisonment and now many rights in U.S. legal system are absent — such as the important right of habeas corpus.
As written the act violates due process for all Americans. All the president has to do is call a citizen an “enemy combatant,” and the person’s due process rights disappear. The US Government says that U.S. citizens can be detained and then tried in secret trials – in absentia, and can use secret evidence that the accused cannot see or challenge. If evidence is obtained by coercion, or torture government lawyers contend that it should still be allowed as a basis for conviction, there by erasing 300 years of Anglo-American jurisprudence.
You should be very uncomfortable with the collection of your records by the governmentwhich are using the Patriot Act to demand your social security number and other private financial or medical information by order of secret courts and the muzzling of those citizens who receive such orders from speaking publicly about them. This is a violation of both the 1st and 4th amendment. You should also oppose the collection of both private and business records by banks, pharmacies and other businesses which are using the Patriot Act to demand your social security number and other private financial or medical information. Criticism of former President Bush’s admission that he had received warnings only weeks before September 11th has made it more important to understand the origins of the act. There has never been a more urgent need to preserve fundamental privacy protections and our system of checks and balances than the need we face today. As illegal government spying, provisions of the Patriot Act and government-sponsored torture programs transcend the bounds of law and our most treasured values in the name of national security and just the allegation of suspected terrorist activity be it true or not. The current Act that was extended and updated you can read online at this site: www.epic.org.
The sections of the Patriot Act that deal with financial transactions fall under Title III, which is also known as the International Money Laundering Abatement and Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001. It stands on its own as a separate act of Congress as well as being part of the Patriot Act, and is an amended version of the 1986 Money Laundering Control Act and the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act. The earlier acts tended to focus on preventing money laundering and international cash flow as it related to the drug trade, or to gambling, smuggling, and other types of criminal activity. In the 2001 version, the focus has shifted towards money laundering as a means of financing international terrorism.
The current act encourages financial institutions to collect certain data to identify customers and their transactions in case any of the activity should be flagged as “suspicious” by a government agency. “Suspicious” in most cases means involving any foreign nationals or corporations. The Patriot Act considers any such accounts or transactions worthy of intense scrutiny. (Although the scrutiny will, of course, be more severe for certain nationalities than for others.)
What if you are a US-born, US citizen, do not have any arrest record, and are not involved in any type of criminal activity? If you’d just like to open a bank account or engage in another banking transaction, can a bank force you to provide your social security number? How about fingerprinting you? Is either of these strictly required by law? Not exactly – although if you do not wish to provide your social security number you will have to obtain an alternate taxpayer identification number. This information (along with your name, address, and date of birth) is used as part of the required Customer Identification Program (CIP) used to verify customer identity (and to compare customer information with lists of known terrorist suspects). Such information may also be required by other money service businesses such as currency exchanges. All having the effect of the financial institution acting as agent to and for the US Government.
Fingerprints are not a requirement of the Patriot Act, and they are certainly not required by all financial institutions – so if your bank insists on this procedure, you may wish to take your business elsewhere.
Cash transactions are certainly not prohibited, but they bring more government scrutiny, and they are now more inconvenient for certain vendors to process. If you deposit, withdraw, or make a purchase involving more than $10,000 in cash in one day, the other agency involved has to file a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) with the IRS that reports details such as your name, address, and taxpayer identification number. If you purchase over $3,000 of traveler’s checks, money orders, or cashier’s checks, such a transaction will also be reported to the IRS via a Monetary Instrument Log (MIL). And should you engage in any activity that indicates you may be engaged in money laundering or otherwise violating the law, your transaction may even trigger your being put on the no fly list and on the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). The SAR will be filed without your knowledge – it is, in fact, against the law for you to be informed of the SAR as your knowledge would compromise the subsequent investigation.
If you want the Patriot Act to be repealed you should immediately write your Congressperson and express your concerns, if you and millions of others don’t America’s leadership in freedom and many of our own basic freedoms and liberties will be a thing of the past.
Hey, check out these auctions:
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Cool, arent they?
Immigration Delays – Suing U.s. Citizenship and Immigration Services Uscis Through a Writ of Mandamus
Writ of Mandamus in Minnesota
by Kent B. Gravelle, Esq.
According to Black’s Law Dictionary (8th Ed. 2004), a writ of mandamus is a “writ issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform a mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly.” In immigration law, writs of mandamus are most often utilized when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows an I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), N-400 (Naturalization Application), or I-589 (Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal) to languish for years while a criminal and national security background check is conducted.
The immigration bar in Minnesota has been quite active (and successful) in writ of mandamus litigation against the federal government. Most recently, a published opinion was released in Burni v. Frazier, 545 F.Supp.2d 894, 897 (D.Minn.2008) in which the spouse of a U.S. citizen “…filed an I-485 application for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency on or about December 10, 2004.” The applicant’s security checks were not completed, thus placing his final approval in limbo. Id. The applicant exhausted his administrative remedies by “…making written inquiries to the Department of Homeland Security, making Infopass appointments at the local district office to inquire about the status of his case, and writing to various government officials.” Id.
Finally, after more than three years of delay, the applicant brought a suit requesting the issuance of a writ of mandamus which the government attempted to dismiss due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota denied the government’s motion to dismiss, holding that it had jurisdiction because the failure to make a decision on the I-485 application was not a discretionary action within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. §1252(b)(2)(B)(ii) and that 28 U.S.C. §1361 (the Mandamus Act) and 5 U.S.C. §§551 et seq. (Administrative Procedures Act or APA) afforded the applicant relief. Id. at 902, 903. The Court explained that 8 C.F.R. §245 requires that an I-485 applicant “shall be notified of the decision” regarding the application and thus “USCIS has a non-discretionary duty to adjudicate an application…and that the APA requires the applications to be adjudicated in a reasonable time.” Id. at 904.
A year earlier, the Court issued three decisions in three separate mandamus cases in October of 2007: Sun v. Chertoff, 2007 WL 2907993 (D.Minn.); Sawad v. Frazier, 2007 WL 2973833 (D.Minn.); and Asrani v. Chertoff, 2007 WL 3521366 (D.Minn.). All three were favorable to the immigrant-plaintiff.
In Sun, a Chinese immigrant filed an I-485 with the Nebraska Service Center of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) on August 19, 2004. Id. at *2. On September 2, 2004, the FBI received Sun’s name from USCIS for a name check. Id. In 2006, Sun sought the help of her congressman and senator to no avail and Sun received information pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request which showed that the FBI had no records pertaining to her. Id.
Sun filed her suit for a writ of mandamus against various DHS, USCIS, and FBI officials on March 13, 2007, about two and one-half years after her submission of the I-485. Id. The government brought a motion to dismiss which the Court denied, holding that “…the APA requires that the applications be processed in a reasonable time.” Id. at *8, citing 5 U.S.C. §555(b). The Court also ordered that the government “provide to the court and plaintiff within 60 days evidence specific to plaintiff’s application showing that the delay in processing her name check and adjudicating her application is reasonable.” Id. at *12.
In Sawad v. Frazier, 2007 WL 2973833 (D.Minn.), a husband and wife filed their I-485 applications on March 1st and December 27th of 2004. Id. at *2. The FBI acknowledged receipt of USCIS’s name check requests shortly after each I-485 was filed, but as of September 14, 2007, the date of the court hearing, plaintiffs’ name checks had not been completed. Id. Thus, one of the applications languished for more than three years and the other for almost three years.
On March 30, 2007, plaintiffs brought suit against the USCIS and FBI officials, requesting a writ of mandamus. Id. at *3. The government brought a motion to dismiss which the Court denied, holding that “plaintiffs have a clear, indisputable and nondiscretionary right to have USCIS adjudicate their applications in a reasonable time.” Id. at *10.
In Asrani v. Chertoff, 2007 WL 3521366 (D.Minn.), at *1, an immigrant filed an I-485 application on March, 18, 2005 and on April 7, 2005, USCIS initiated a mandatory FBI name check. The Court noted that:
In the thirty months since Petitioner filed his application
for an adjustment of status, Petitioner’s mandatory FBI
name check has not been completed and USCIS has not
adjudicated his application. As of May 29, 2007 the St.
Paul office of USCIS had 406 name check requests that
had been pending longer than Plaintiff’s request.
Id. at *2.
The Asrani Court analyzed in detail whether it had subject matter jurisdiction under the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. §1361 stating:
The Mandamus Act provides for subject matter
jurisdiction only in extraordinary circumstances and
when (1) the plaintiff has a clear and indisputable right
to the relief he seeks, (2) the defendant has a non-
discretionary duty to honor that right, and (3) the
plaintiff has a lack of an alternative, adequate remedy.
Id. at 3 (citing Castilla v Ridge, 445 F.3d 1057, 1060 (8th Cir. 2006).
With regard to the first prong of the test, the Court held that the applicant “has a right to have the USCIS adjudicate his application within a reasonable time.” Id. at *5. The Court quoted language from 8 C.F.R. §245.2(a)(5)(i) which states, “‘the applicant shall be notified of the decision of the director and, if the application is denied, the reasons for the denial.'” Id. at *4. The Court explained that “This language makes it clear that USCIS has a duty to actually make a decision and the Plaintiff has a right to be notified of the decision.” Id.
Regarding the second prong of the test regarding whether the government had a non-discretionary duty to make a decision regarding the I-485 application, the Court explained that the applicant only requested a decision, not a favorable decision, and thus the duty is not discretionary. Id. at *5. With regard to the third prong on whether the applicant has an alternative, adequate remedy, the Court found that waiting is not an alternative remedy. Id. at *6. Thus, the Court found that subject matter jurisdiction existed under the Mandamus Act and that the government’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction would be denied. Id.
In December of 2006, a decision was issued by Judge Donovan Frank which appears to have laid the ground work for the subsequent immigration mandamus decisions discussed above. The style of the case is Haidari v. Frazier, 2006 WL 3544922 (D.Minn.) and in it, three Palestinians filed I-485 applications with the Nebraska Service Center, all of which languished for four to six years while the FBI conducted name checks (Senator Mark Dayton’s office confirmed that one of the FBI name checks was completed on October 13, 2006 and forwarded to USCIS but as of December 1, 2006, USCIS had still not adjudicated that I-485 application). Id. at *5.
The Haidari Court analyzed the three-pronged test as in the Asrani decision, above, and found that jurisdiction existed under the Mandamus Act. Interestingly, with regard to the third, unreasonable delay, prong, the Court noted that USCIS waited between one and three years just to request a name check from the FBI. Id. at *12. The Court held that the delay was unreasonable and that the APA explicitly forecloses USCIS from exercising “unfettered discretion to relegate aliens to a state of ‘limbo’, leaving them to languish there indefinitely.” Id. The Court ordered USCIS to completed its adjudication of the I-485 applications within 30 days and promptly notify the Court and the Plaintiffs of its decisions. Id. at *13. The Court also retained “jurisdiction over the matter in the interim to ensure that the USCIS complies with this order.” Id.
Finally, the only case from this jurisdiction that the Government may cite in its favor is Chaudry v. Chertoff, 2006 WL 2670051 (D.Minn). In Chaudry, the applicant filed his I-485 on July 23, 2004. Id. at *1. USCIS interviewed the applicant on April 21, 2005 and told the applicant that the background check would be completed in four to six months. Id. at *2. Almost a year after the interview, the applicant filed an action seeking a writ of mandamus. Id. Employing the three-prong Mandamus Act test, the Chaudry Court found that the applicant had not established a clear and indisputable right to the relief he sought because “the background checks must be completed” and the applicant had not shown that there was no other adequate remedy because “his remedy is to wait for the USCIS to process the petition.” Id. at *4. With regard to the APA, the Court held that the applicant’s documentation and interview process was completed seventeen months ago and that “This length of time is not unreasonable, especially in light of the fact that the Complaint alleges no particular inauspicious motives or unscrupulous actions by Defendants.” Id. at *5. The Court dismissed the applicant’s lawsuit without prejudice, allowing the applicant to re-file should “the FBI and USCIS persist in delaying adjudication of Plaintiff’s I-485 petition.” Id. at *6.
Fortunately, the applicant in Chaudry brought suit after “only” 17 months of delay, much less time than in the other cases above. However, even if a future litigant brings a suit requesting mandamus relief after “only” 17 months of delay, it is certainly possible that the court will not find Chaudry to be controlling. This is due to the fact that the only published decision on this subject from this jurisdiction, Burni v. Frazier, 545 F.Supp.2d 894 (D.Minn.2008), severely discounted the value of Chaudry in its opinion at footnote 8 when it stated:
This Court recognizes that in a fifth case out of this
District, Chaudry v. Chertoff, 2006 WL 2670051
(D.Minn. Sept. 18, 2006) (J. Magnuson) (the same
judge assigned to this matter), that the Court found
that the mandamus statute did not provide subject
matter jurisdiction, and that under the APA (which
was not pled), the delay (approximately 22 months
from application and 17 months from documentation
and interview) was not unreasonable as a matter of
law. Id. at *2-3. This Court notes that this was the
first case to be decided out of this District, plaintiff
was pro se, and Judge Magnuson did not have the
benefit of the extensive case law that has developed
on the subject since his decision. In addition, the
Court notes that Judge Magnuson did not foreclose
plaintiff from returning to court in the future. He
dismissed the case without prejudice “because
Plaintiff’s claims, if properly pled, may have merit
if the FBI and USCIS persist in delaying adjudication
of Plaintiff’s I-485 petition.” Id. at *3. Finally, the
Court notes that on February 4, 2008, the USCIS
issued “Revised National Security Adjudication and
Reporting Requirements,” which now require that if a
name check in conjunction with an I-485 application
has been pending more than 180 days and the application
is otherwise approvable, the application shall be approved
and the card issued.
A federal law suit requesting a writ of mandamus may be an immigrant’s only hope when the years drag on without any resolution from the government. Fortunately, Minnesota’s case law is favorable to such a remedy and thus it should be seriously considered by immigration attorneys and their clients once it appears that the government’s delay is unreasonable.
Kent Gravelle is an attorney with Cundy & Martin, LLC – Immigration Lawyers in Minnesota. www.cundyandmartin.com
www.pfaw.org — Martin Sheen narrates this video, produced by People For the American Way, about the history of separation of church & state and efforts by the Religious Right to undermine it.
Do you think that spirituality and religion are synonymous? I used to think that they were, but as I learned more, I discovered there are major differences. I found out that you can be spiritual and religious, spiritual and not religious, or religious and not spiritual. That may seem confusing. I will explain.
To being with, there are only two basic emotions, love and fear. The loved based emotions include compassion, forgiveness, caring, kindness, and unconditional love, which is true love because there are no conditions. Whereas fear based emotions include control, guilt, anger, abuse, and passive and active aggression.
It is also helpful to understand that we have four basic parts, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Our human personalities are composed of our mental, emotional, and physical parts. They make us unique. Our spiritual part is our higher-self, our all-good, all-knowing, unconditional loving part. It is also known as our God-self. We can connect with our spiritual truths through our intuition.
Therefore, spirituality comes from our spiritual part. When we commit to being honest, kind, caring, loving and accepting of others and ourselves, we are acting from our spiritual part. We have integrity, create win-win solutions, and do what we can to make a positive difference, see everyone as equals and deserving of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For example, I know of a policeman who stopped a truck driver for drunken driving. He knew that if he arrested the middle aged-man, he would lose his job and not be able to support his family. Instead, he drove him home and talked to him about his problem. He also counseled his family. I call him a “spiritual cop.” He cared enough to help the man and not just punish him.
Spiritual people support everyone having equal rights. They act considerate and responsible. They believe in the power of positive thinking and take responsibility for their lives. Spirituality means living from love rather than fear.
Where does God or a higher power come into all of this? If they do believe in a divine being that looks like a light or person, it will be a loving one that supports, protects, and provides for them. They feel supported to be their unique selves. Spiritual people accept that God is all-loving, and all-powerful, and wants them to be happy, healthy, abundant and successful. They often speak directly to God, instead of having a person relay God’s messages to them. Or, they are spiritual and religious because they have loving spiritual leaders and books that support them living from love and acceptance.
Spiritual people do not have any dogma or rules except Karma, (you reap what you sow) what you do to others will be done back to you. For example, if you are cruel to other people, you will probably experience people being mean back. Your kindness will be rewarded with a return of kindness.
On the other hand, religion has a dogma and a human being interpreting their God’s messages. As we all know, human beings have fears and they can alter the information, consciously or unconsciously. Religious books were translated by man throughout the ages. The information can be loving or fear based. It is my belief that if it is loving and supportive, then it is spiritual. However, if it is preaching guilt, control, superiority, judgment of others who are different, and believing only their truth is right, it is not spiritual. If it is teaching that you are sinful and here to suffer and struggle, it is not spiritual.
I do not believe that God tries to control us. God honors our free will, and wants us to be happy as any healthy parent would. “Joy and laughter are signs of God’s presence.” I believe that God gave us the proverb, “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.” Honor and accept everyone, and allow them to live their lives as they choose. Spiritual people live and let live. They see everyone as equals and support freedom and liberty for all. They live from love!