Bar Soap – February 2017

Here we are starting another new year. Seems as though we just started 2016 and here we are in 2017. I know, I know, many of you just want to put 2016 behind you. But many good things happened in our wonderful Contra Costa County legal community in 2016.

If it is January I am preparing for trial. Not sure how that always seems to happen, but once more I spent the vacation time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, preparing for a jury trial. At least this year it is in Contra Costa Superior Court. That makes it a little less stressful. Although I must say, trials have become much more stressful in the past few years. Anyone disagree?

I keep mentioning the MCLE Spectacular and indeed it was once again spectacular. The attendance at the event is truly amazing and it is always the time to catch up with old friends and acquaintances, as well as to earn those required credits. You better get there early as the main hall completely fills up for the morning breakfast session. As an aside, it was nice to see so many retired attorneys who still keep up with the required continuing legal education requirements. So, is one really retired from the practice of law if one keeps the license current? Not sure what I will do when that day comes. And you?

The Contra Costa Bar Association Holiday party was a hit, as was the Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court holiday party. Attending the local Bar party is a great way to get to know the members of the Bar
Board, and to get to know the hard working staff members of the Bar. Those are the folks who make it all run so smoothly. I highly recommend membership in the local Inn of Court. I have been in it from day
one and it has been a wonderful experience; and one can earn legal education credits at each meeting, most of which are the harder to get specialty credits like ethics. For years we had six meetings a year. Now we have eight. Between the MCLE Spectacular each year and the Inn of Court meetings, you can get all your required continuing education credits.

And speaking of holiday parties. I attended the Emison Hullverson holiday party in San Francisco. I think every plaintiff’s counsel in the City attended. I was all dressed up. I think when you really make it as a
successful personal injury lawyer, you no longer have to dress up for holiday parties. I think I counted two other attorneys with neck ties. Hope springs eternal.

The 2017 Contra Costa Superior Court Judicial assignments came out awhile back. Lots of changes. Jill Fannin is the new Presiding Judge. Barry Baskin is the Assistant Presiding Judge. That means in two years Barry Baskin will be the PJ. In my civil world, Steven Austin is taking Jill Fannin’s spot and all else in civil remains the same.

Still not getting the flow of jury trial results I need for a “Civil Jury Verdicts” column, so I will report a couple of trials in this “Bar Soap.” Steve Knuppel reported a trial he had in Alameda County Superior Court. DB Lin Construction v. Wang, Case No. HG15768198 was tried before the Honorable Robert McGuiness. Factually the case involved a home renovation gone bad. Steve Knuppel represented the homeowner defending a claim for payment and prosecuting a cross complaint for defective workmanship. Nancy Weng and Palani Rathinasamy served as co-counsel with Steve. Alexander Chen of Irvine represented the contractor. The jury returned a verdict of $124,410 in favor of the homeowner for breach of contract and negligence. The usual post-trial motions are pending.

Banta et al v. City of Walnut Creek et al was tried in the United States District Court, Northern District, San Francisco before the Honorable Charles R. Breyer. Case No. 3:13-CV-00342-CRB. Plaintiffs were represented by Larry Peluso of Topanga, Anthony Luti of Hollywood and Dennis Wilson of Burbank. Noah G. Blechman and Amy S. Rothman of the McNamara firm of Walnut Creek, represented the defendant City and police officers. Anthony Banta was shot and killed by Walnut Creek police officers after a confrontation. The police had been called to an apartment in Walnut Creek by Banta’s roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend. When the police arrived, they were confronted by Banta who was holding a large knife. Banta jumped down a staircase towards the officers and the police fired. Plaintiffs demanded $15 million in their complaint. The jury returned a defense verdict. As an aside, I was the Hearing Officer in the Coroner’s Inquest related to that Banta death.

I think I made a bit of fun last column with the plethora of organizations and awards given out to lawyers. Guess what folks? I was recently selected as a 2017 member of “Lawyers of Distinction.” Can you top that? Just kidding. I know there are many such awards. I just had not heard of “Lawyers of Distinction.” I think I get a customized plaque, among other things.

And finally, speaking of new organizations, I joined the Walnut Creek C.E.R.T. recently. That is the Community Emergency Response Team. Went through the training program and several advanced classes in communications and medical treatment. Believe it or not I actually got my HAM radio license and an actual radio. All interesting and fun. Pleased to join a number of citizens helping the community in the event of a disaster. Also surprised and pleased to see a number of attorneys already involved in the C.E.R.T. program.

As many of you know, I am a member of the State Bar Mandatory Fee Arbitration Panel. Several times a year I arbitrate fee disputes between clients and counsel. Nice to know someone reads my Bar Soap columns, as Attorney Lorraine M. Walsh advised she saw the mention of my role as a fee arbitrator and she is also on the panel. In fact, she is a member of the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee and currently serves as the Vice Chair. Recently Lorraine wrote an article on the subject for the Daily Journal, with a MCLE test included. Now I know whom to call when I have a question about fee arbitrations and legal malpractice issues.

Any of you inundated with proposals for marketing your practice through social media? I am swamped with such proposals. I must say in the past we have signed up for programs which purportedly get high value cases to our firm “And only to our firm.” But I must say we have never seen a benefit by way of real cases. I recently attended a seminar for marketing our practice areas. Sounds like the same pitch I hear from everyone. I would like to know, does anyone have a story to tell in which they have had great success getting case referrals from a social media marketing source? Let me know. And I am not asking for that source. Just want to know if it really works.

That’s enough for now. Please keep those cards and letters coming. Actually email or text please.http://cclawyer.cccba.org/2017/02/bar-soap-3/

Davis Move: Sharing Office Space – Find out more about Will Portello, Kira Wattenburg & Heather Tattershall

Here’s some additional information regardng our Davis office. There are three attorneys/firms sharing office space at 355 2nd Street, Suite B. They are Will Portello, Heather Tattershall and Kira Wattenburg.

Will Portello grew up in Davis, graduated from UC Davis, attended law school at the University of Oregon, and is a member of both the California and Oregon state bars. He has been practicing law since 1993. He has been with Guichard Teng & Portello since 1997. We have had an office here in Davis since 2004, and have other offices in Walnut Creek, Willows and San Francisco. We handle civil litigation and trial advocacy, including the representation of injured parties in personal injury matters, as well as the victims of sexual abuse. In addition, we represent employees in wage-hour disputes. Our additional practice areas include business litigation and insurance coverage issues. We also have attorneys who handle immigration and removal matters, administrative licensing appeals, and business formation. You can reach Will at wportello@gtplawyers.com.

Kira Wattenburg King attended UC Davis, and graduated from the UC Davis School of Law. She dedicates her legal practice to Estate Planning, particularly in the areas of Revocable and Irrevocable Trust formation and administration. Her advanced Estate Planning skills include probate avoidance, tax and business planning in close coordination with her client’s financial advisors. Kira also offers Probate Administration and Conservatorships among all other general Estate Planning legal services.

Heather Tattershall grew up in Davis, attended UC Davis, and graduated from the McGeorge School of Law. She has been practicing law since 1995. Her practice is limited to family law, including Dissolution of Marriage, Child Custody and Visitation, Child and Spousal Support , Complex Property Division, Stepparent Adoption, Restraining Orders, and Post-Judgment Order Enforcement.

Immigration News – Politico article attached

President Trump did not take any action today regarding NAFTA or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and Politico reports that, according to a USCIS spokesperson, DACA applications and renewals continue to be processed normally.

Here’s an article from POLITICO that you might find interesting:

Trump administration signals no immediate reversal on Dreamer program

Applications from so-called Dreamers seeking to renew their immigration status and work permits are being processed normally, despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the program set up by President Barack Obama is illegal, a government spokesman said Monday.

A spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told POLITICO Monday that there was no immediate change to how the agency handles applications and renewals under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Obama set up in 2012.

“We are still accepting/processing DACA requests under existing policy,” USCIS spokesman Steve Blando said Monday.

It’s unclear precisely how many applications USCIS approves each day, but according to the most recent public statistics — from the third quarter of last year — an average of about 140 initial applications and 690 renewals were approved each calendar day.

As of September 30, 2016, 73,705 renewals and 46,229 initial applications were pending. It’s unclear whether those numbers surged due to applicants fearing Trump might end the program and how much of that backlog was cleared before Trump was

However, no move to shut down the program was among the set of presidential directives Trump signed Friday and Monday.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested Monday that despite Trump’s promise to move “immediately” against the Obama immigration actions, discontinuing the DACA program is not a top priority of the new president.

“I think the president has been clear that he is going to prioritize the areas of dealing with the immigration system, both building the wall and making sure that we address people who are in this county illegally. First and foremost, the president’s been very, very clear that we need to direct agencies to focus on those who are in this country illegally and have a record, a criminal record or pose a threat to the American people. That’s where the priority is going to be,” Spicer said during his first briefing for reporters.

Spicer was vague about plans for those who currently have deferred action status or may be applying for it or renewing it soon.

“We’re going to continue to work through the entire number folks that are here illegally but right now the clear focus is on” those who pose a security threat, the spokesman said.

Later in the briefing, Spicer was vague about whether Trump plans any executive action and indicated that the White House is waiting to see what legislation on the issue might find traction on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t have anything further on the executive action front,” Spicer said. “Give us a little bit of time, we ‘ll see what Congress moves forward with.”

in recent weeks, Trump has struck a softer tone on immigration, especially with regards to the so-called Dreamers, who entered the U.S. illegally as children.

“We’re going to work something out,” Trump told Time magazine last month. “On a humanitarian basis it’s a very tough situation. We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud. But that’s a very tough situation.”

On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared to signal that Trump did not intend to move quickly to shut down the DACA program.

“I think we’re going to work with House and Senate leadership as well to get a long-term solution on that issue,” Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not going to make any commitments today, but, you know, I’ve obviously foreshadowed there a little bit.”

Josh Gerstein is a senior reporter for POLITICO.

 

http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/01/dreamers-applications-under-trump-administration-234046?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=8d911adf29-AILA8_1_23_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-8d911adf29-291535585

One Hundred Club of Contra Costa County

Matthew Guichard and Erika Portillo are members of the One Hundred Club of Contra Costa County. In case you don’t know what this club is we’ve posted the below from their website:

“The One Hundred Club of Contra Costa County was formed in 1984 by a group of concerned citizens who care about the welfare of families of peace officers and firefighters who lost their lives as a result of and while in the line of duty in Contra Costa County. We are a 501 (C) (3) Exempt Organization.

Upon our formation, we became the sixty-second club formed in the United States.”

You can learn more about it here and ways that you can help:

http://www.100clubcontracostacounty.org/

Bar Soap – November 2016

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Many things are happening locally with our legal community. So many in fact that it is impossible to learn about them, much less comment on all of them. But I will give it a try.

MCLE Spectacular, Spectacular!
You actually don’t need my reminder, but the Contra Costa County Bar Association’s 22nd MCLE Spectacular is taking place Friday, November 18, 2016. It is an event not to be missed. Not only is it a good opportunity to pick up necessary and meaningful legal education credits, but it is also a great opportunity to see and catch up with old friends. See you there.

Mock Trials
I had the privilege of sitting as a judge at the Federal Building in San Francisco for the Empire Mock Trial program for national high school teams. I saw several colleagues from Contra Costa County also sitting in as jurors and judges. Many of you regularly assist with our local Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Competition. Volunteer for the Empire program if you have the chance. I sat in on trials for teams from Cleveland, Miami, Riverside (California) and Washington State. Very impressive performances by all.

CourtCall Bandwagon
Back on my bandwagon concerning CourtCall appearances. Those appearances actually result in more court time than less. Please attorneys, listen to the Judge and offer information which is helpful to calendaring and case analysis. It is not a time to bring up discovery disputes, long-winded stories or long-winded excuses. It is painful to listen to attorneys wax eloquent on irrelevant issues and the entire audience in the courtroom an unwilling participant. Hey, I have an idea; pretend you are actually in Court! I did hear an excuse from a CourtCall participant which made me laugh. An attorney stated the reason a case had not been timely mediated as agreed was due to “Attorney lethargy.” Nice!
So, I have a thought about those pesky CMCs: Let’s go to the tentative ruling format. In most cases the parties file timely CMC statements and the Court issues a tentative CMC ruling setting further hearings, mediation completion dates and trials. No appearance is necessary, and we do not have to hear any more lawyers on CourtCall. That is of course unless the Court’s tentative ruling requires attendance.

People on the Move:
I note Manoogian Law has moved to 800 South Broadway, Suite 304, in Walnut Creek. And, not sure if I mentioned it before, but Robert M. Slattery (Bob) has officially wrapped up his litigation practice after 40 years and has transitioned into a full time “Neutral.” I’m happy for Bob, but a bit sad as he was a regular contributor to reports about “Local Civil Jury Verdicts.” Also, I’m not sure if it is just the local water, but we continue to hear of lawyers leaving firms (big and small firms that is) and going solo. An advantage is the only partner one has to deal with is that one in the mirror each morning and profits (if there are any) don’t have to be shared. Don’t forget to let us know if you have gone out on your own, or joined another firm. I love to write about people on the move, and speaking of people on the move, local retirees are making me jealous! I see many former government lawyers at bocce who report they love retirement and they love that retirement check coming in each month. Must be nice!

Rotary
I was invited to join one of our local Rotary Clubs. No surprise, I accepted the invitation. Very enjoyable presentations and pleased to see so many of our local attorneys as members of the various local clubs.

Super Lawyers
So, I thought I was something special being a Super Lawyer, but then I started to see that every single lawyer in the state is a Super Lawyer or a Top Lawyer, or a NorCal Top Lawyer, or an East Bay Top Lawyer, or a Top Ten Lawyer, or a member of The National Association of Distinguished Counsel, or whatever. We are clearly an over-performing group! Congratulations to us all!

Fee Arbitration
I sit on the panel as a State Bar Fee Arbitrator. Just a reminder to ALL attorneys: Ensure you have a legal services agreement with your client(s). (Hint: This would probably be an excellent topic for our MCLE Spectacular next year.) It is required in most matters and I cannot tell you the number of cases in which there is NO agreement. The first question in any fee dispute matter is “Did you execute a legal services agreement…?” And a little tip to go on top of that, even if there is a written fee agreement, the fees cannot be unconscionable. That means at a minimum there must be some relationship between the fees charged and the work performed.

Passings
Sadly I am reporting regularly on those we lost recently. Jim Hazard and Ted Merrill recently left us. Jim a long time local lawyer, previously served on the Walnut Creek City Council. He was a top notch attorney, a member of ABOTA and settled many a civil case in his role as a mediator. I only knew Ted Merrill as a judge, but many remember him as the head partner at the Merrill law firm in Danville. That firm later became the Gagan et al firm. As a Deputy DA, both my first murder trial and my last murder trial were held in Judge Merrill’s department.

I was also very sad to hear of the untimely passing of John T. Nejedly. John was a local attorney, a member of the Contra Costa Community College Board, the son of former District Attorney and State Senator John A. Nejedly, the brother of Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho and the brother of Central Costra Sanitary trustee James Nejedly. He was only 52 years old.

Musings
Circling back a bit on the concept of continuing legal education, I must say I am inundated daily with offers of programs on social media marketing for lawyers. For some years continuing education seemed to focus on evidence, ethics, mediations, etc. Seems now most of what I see involves marketing, web site crafting, blogging and how to be a super lawyer (just kidding on that last one). Nothing wrong with that, just a change in how we do business I guess.

Keep those cards and letters coming. I cannot write about your news if you don’t let me know.

Civil Jury Verdicts – October Issue of Contra Costa Lawyer

Civil Jury Verdicts

gavelIndeed it has been some time since I penned the popular Civil Jury Verdicts column. Same old story: Very few attorneys are reporting their jury verdicts to me. I will say, trials are getting out in our Contra Costa Superior Courts, so I know there are cases to report. I also know local lawyers who are going to trial in other venues, including Federal Court. And, I am aware of significant settlements here in Contra Costa Superior Courts, as well as in other venues. I will mention all of those cases in our Civil Jury Verdicts column. You just have to report those cases to me. Sounds like a broken record doesn’t it?

Now let’s get down to some case reporting.

Moore vs. Wiebe, Case No. S-1500-CV-282514 LHB was tried in Kern County Superior Court, before the Honorable Lorna Brumfield. Plaintiff was represented by Solomon Green of RG Lawyers, LLP of Encino, California. Our own Bob Slattery along with Denise Billups-Stone of the McNamara firm represented the Defendant.

The Plaintiff, a 49-year-old medically-disabled welder, sued the Defendant, a neurosurgeon M.D., for complications he developed after a laminectomy, facetectomy and a tethered cord release. The surgery took place at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.

Prior to the trial, the Plaintiff offered to settle for $250,000. Defendant offered to resolve the case by a CCP 998 offer of a dismissal in exchange for a waiver of costs. Doesn’t exactly sound like a meeting of the minds.

After a two week trial, the jury found for the Defendant doctor, in a unanimous verdict. The ouch part for Plaintiff in such med mal cases is there are generally significant expert costs and Plaintiff may very well be on the hook for those.

Thanks to Bob Slattery for reporting the case. He regularly reports cases to me, but looks like he has now transitioned into a mediator (See my next edition of Bar Soap), so I may not see any more Bob Slattery cases. Remember that “Mediation privilege? ” It means he cannot report the mediation cases to me.

An interesting note on medical malpractice cases: My research has reflected over the years medical malpractice cases have the lowest percentage of an outcome in favor of Plaintiffs of any type of personal injury matter.

In June of 2014 I wrote about Arnold vs. Padrah. Contra Costa Superior Court Case No. MSC12-02895.  The Honorable Steve Austin presided. Clyde Long just reported an appellate decision in that same matter.

Recall at the time of my report there was a verdict, but the bifurcated trial on the issue of punitive damages had not yet taken place, and Judge Austin had not yet ruled on the Plaintiff’s quiet title claim of prescriptive easement. Clyde promised to let me know the final result. It took 29 months from start of the trial to the appellate decision.

The jury subsequently awarded $20,000 of punitive damages on top of the $68,000 damages award. Judge Austin granted a prescriptive easement in favor of Plaintiff, and awarded costs of $112,000. The total judgment was $200,000. The judgment was appealed by Defendant. The Court of Appeal recently affirmed the judgment in its entirety.

Bar Soap – June 2016

Bar Soap: Judge Arnason Celebration Tops them All

bar-soap[1]Every time I report on an interesting local event, I keep thinking nothing can top it. Recall my mention of the MCLE Spectacular, the Annual Installation Luncheon, Contra Costa County Mock Trial Competition and other Bar Association events. Well, I do believe the Celebration to Honor the Life of the Honorable Richard E. Arnason topped them all. The ceremony took place in the Supervisors’ Chambers, with a reception afterwards at the Classic Courthouse. I must say it was a truly wonderful event. Unknown to many, Judge Arnason was a private man, and his funeral was a very private invitation-only ceremony. Because he was such a remarkable, respected and beloved man in our legal community many thought there should be a public ceremony to celebrate the life of Judge Arnason. Many thanks to all who worked so diligently to put the program together, particularly our Bar Association Executive Director Theresa Hurley.

The Judge Arnason program started out with an honor guard from the Martinez Police Department. The master of ceremonies was our presiding judge, The Honorable Steven K. Austin. Speakers included Judge Arnason’s long time court clerk Virginia Nelson, Public Defender Robin Lipetzky, District Attorney Mark Peterson, Attorney William Gagan, and the Honorable James J. Marchiano. Each one of the speakers had something interesting to say about Judge Arnason and his record-breaking term on the bench. Incredibly Judge Arnason spent just short of 50 years on our local bench. That is a record in the State of California. After he left the bench, Public Defender Robin Lipetzky found a spot for Judge Arnason to hang his hat at her offices in Martinez. I love that fact, as she obviously recognized Judge Arnason could not just hang it up, but needed a place to read his “advance sheets” and to continue his lifelong legal mentoring of attorneys.

The history of Judge Arnason’s life is one of the truly feel-good stories. He certainly will be missed.

As I often walk the halls of the Classic Courthouse, I note that civil jury trials are often taking place on the third floor. However, it seems harder and harder for me to get attorneys to report the results of those trials. Please do your best to let me know about civil jury verdicts. The Civil Jury Verdicts column is a very popular column in the Contra Costa Lawyer, but it doesn’t get written without reports from those involved.

Not sure if many of you know of the delightful work done by Justice James Marchiano in writing “Bray Building Stories” and “More Stories from the A.F. Bray Courts Building”. Get your hands on them if you can. Let me know if you would like me to help.

Last time I reported on the Contra Costa County Mock Trial Competition. We now have the results of this year’s competition. Miramonte High School came in first, followed by Acalanes, Heritage and California, as the top four schools. Keep an eye out next year and be sure to volunteer some time on that program. Contact John Lance at the Contra Costa Office of Education for information on volunteering.

Interesting legal issues arise with “self-driving cars.” The Yolo County California Inn of Court put on a very informative and thought-provoking program involving self-driving cars. A video of that program has been sent to the National Inns and it is available in the national program data bank. One of my partners Will Portello is in that Yolo County Inn. A few interesting points: (1) Is someone a DUI driver if the sole occupant of a self-driving car? (2) Does one need a driver’s license to occupy a self-driving car? (3) Can someone who is disabled be the lone occupant of a self-driving car? And what if that occupant is blind? (4) Does the accident avoidance program for a self-driving car choose between running into a child in a cross walk, or swerving into the oncoming lane of traffic to avoid a collision with the pedestrian? There are lots and lots of questions and legal issues. Sounds like we need an article on the topic. Who wants to volunteer?

I do recall I asked those of you who have been designated as “super lawyers” this year to let me know. Do not just limit it to “super lawyers.” Brag a little and let me know if you have achieved any other honors. I am very happy to mention such honors in the column.

I often receive confidential requests regarding the evaluation of persons applying for superior court judge positions. It’s nice to see friends and colleagues applying for positions as judges in the California Superior Courts. Keep an eye out for bar association programs for attorneys contemplating applying for positions on the bench. I see our own bar association is putting on such an event in May.

Although he was not an attorney, Dr. Mario M. Menesini was a very active member of our Contra Costa community for many years. The Central Contra Costa Sanitary District recently dedicated its environmental laboratory in Pacheco in honor of Dr. Menesini. He was way out front on issues related to the environment and assisted in the drafting of legislation to protect our environment. The lab is named the Dr. Mario M. Menesini Environmental Laboratory. Dr. Menesini passed away on April 28, 2013.

I know I mentioned in the last column that Patricia Kelly moved her office to Walnut Creek — just did not have the address. I do now have that address. Pat’s new address is Law Offices of Patricia M. Kelly, 700 Ygnacio Valley Road, Suite 300, Walnut Creek 94596.

On a funny note, I reported in my last column that Harvey Sohnen had retired. Harvey reported to me he felt a bit like Mark Twain reading his own obituary. In fact, Harvey has not retired. He is still working away in the same place in Orinda. Sorry Harvey.

It’s nice to see the Honorable William Kolin, Ret., has landed at Alternative Resolution Centers.

My friend Andy Port reported that Emard Danoff Port Tamulski & Walovich LLP has closed, and the members have joined Sedgwick LLP as part of Sedgwick’s admiralty practice.

And now my all-too-frequent report on attorneys who have passed away recently. Charles E. Townsend of Orinda passed away on April 5, 2016. You might recognize the name, as he was a founding member along with his older brother of the powerhouse firm of Townsend & Townsend.

Alvin Buchignani of Moraga passed away on March 11, 2016. He practiced law for 55 years, right up until the day he died.

William H. Plageman, Jr., of Oakland passed away on April 1, 2016. Bill graduated from Boalt Hall in 1968 and worked for years as a partner at Thelen, Marrin, Johnson, and Bridges, and ultimately Plageman, Lund & Cannon.

Keep me posted on your moves, interesting verdicts, interesting settlements or just local gossip. Email me at mguichard@gtplawyers.com.

May’s edition of Contra Costa Lawyer: Guest Editor, Erika Portillo, on Immigration

Inside: Guest Editor’s Column, May 2016

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Portillo.Ericka_webHow beneficial and realistic would building a border wall and removing millions of undocumented immigrants really be?

Immigration has been a top issue in the 2016 presidential race. In particular, the top contender for the Republican Party nomination, Donald Trump, has been very outspoken about illegal immigration. He has proposed the creation of a “Great Wall” that he plans to build between the United States and Mexico, and the removal of the approximately 11.3 million undocumented people living in the U.S.

Trump’s controversial comments about Mexican immigrants during his June 16, 2015, campaign announcement caused outrage among the Hispanic community, and many corporations decided to end their business relationships with him. In that speech, Trump said Mexico is “sending people that have lots of problems” to America including rapists, drug runners and other criminals.

Although during his campaign, Trump has never provided data to support his allegations and proposals, the number of his followers has increased, according to the polls.

The undocumented people who are living in the U.S. are not only from Mexico, but also from Central and South America, Asia and Europe. Many of them have overstayed their visas, meaning they came to the country legally.

Executing Trump’s proposal of sending undocumented people to their countries of origin may not be as easy as proposed. There are a few things that Trump and other candidates appear to have not taken into consideration. For instance, many undocumented immigrants own businesses, have entered into contracts and have applied for loans to purchase houses, vehicles, services and such.

If they were going to be removed from the U.S., what would happen to the American citizens that have a right to collect money on those loans and services? What would happen with the job vacancies and their much-needed contributions to the Social Security Administration, which are being used to pay pensions to American citizen retirees? Who would fill those jobs? Many U.S. citizen children would be left behind for our foster care system to care for. As a result, many of the public services costs would significantly increase.

The costs related to the transportation of those immigrants to their countries of origin would be burdensome to our economy. According to a report from the conservative American Action Forum, headed by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of undertaking such an operation would be absurdly high.

More precisely, removing 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in two years would require:

  • Increasing the number of federal immigration apprehension personnel from 4,844 positions to 90,582 positions.
  • Increasing the number of immigration detention beds from 34,000 to 348,831.
  • Increasing the number of immigration courts from 58 to 1,316.
  • Increasing the number of federal attorneys legally processing undocumented immigrants from 1,430 to 32,445.

The report concludes, “in just two years it would shrink the labor force by 10.3 million workers and reduce real GDP by $1 trillion.”

A system allowing people already here to obtain a work permit with a path to citizenship would be more beneficial than removing law-abiding families who are contributing to our economy and our society as a whole.

It would not only benefit the immigrants by improving the quality of their lives, but it would also benefit the country. People would be able to come out of the shadows and have normal lives without fear. Integration would be easier. As a result, crime would decrease and our society would prosper.

As for that “Great Wall” proposal, is it really feasible to build such a wall? There are millions of men, women and children who live in communities that fall on both sides of Mexico and the U.S. There are many tourists, workers, students and entrepreneurs who cross the border each day. There are billions of dollars that the trade between the two countries provide to our economy, which sustain millions of U.S. jobs. The two countries are economically and socially integrated.

Trump’s plan would severely damage that relationship. According to the fact sheet released by the Americas Society/Council of Americas Integration and Immigration Initiative:

  • The total value of U.S.-Mexico trade is more than $1 billion every day.
  • More than 13 million Mexicans traveled to the U.S. in 2010, spending $8.7 billion.
  • Roughly 6 million U.S. jobs are sustained by trade with Mexico.
  • More than 20 percent of all U.S. jobs are tied in some way to trade along the border.

As we can see, a wall may not be the best solution. What we need instead is infrastructure upgrades for ports of entry, and intelligence-driven law enforcement operations that target criminal organizations, as Republican Congressman Will Hurd addressed recently at a panel discussing hosted by the Brookings Institution, titled “A complex reality: Security, trade, and the U.S.-Mexico border.”

If we really want to solve the problem without building a wall and removing law-abiding families, we should focus our efforts on comprehensive immigration reform. As proposed previously in Congress, it will strengthen our communities, our economy and our country’s future.

Comprehensive immigration reform would provide undocumented immigrants with a legal way to earn citizenship; improve family-based and employment-based immigration systems (e.g., currently spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents must wait more than two years to reunite with their families, while adult children of green card holders may wait more than 10 years); provide visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in the U.S., creating job opportunities for U.S. citizens; help foreign graduate students stay in this country after graduation; give law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime; enhance our infrastructure and technology; and strengthen our ability to address threats to our national security.

Establishing a system to enable much-needed unskilled workers to come to the U.S. legally by applying overseas and increasing the number of skilled worker visas, including visas for highly educated professionals, are among other changes that would produce greater benefits to the U.S. than what Trump is proposing.


Erika Portillo is a partner at Guichard, Teng and Portello with offices in Walnut Creek, San Francisco, Davis and Willows. She practices immigration law exclusively and is fluent in English and Spanish.

 

 

Inside: Guest Editor’s Column, May 2016