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When green infrastructure turns grey: Plant water stress as a consequence of overdesign in a tree trench systemGreen infrastructure (GI) systems are often overdesigned. This may be a byproduct of static sizing (e.g., accounting for a design storm’s runoff volume but not exfiltration rates) or may be deliberate (e.g., buffering against performance loss through time). In tree trenches and other GI systems that require stormwater to accumulate in an infiltration bed before it contacts the planting medium, overdesign could reduce plant water availability significantly. This study investigated the hydrological dynamics and water relations of an overdesigned tree trench system and identified factors contributing to, compounding, and mitigating the risk of plant stress. Water in the infiltration bed reached soil pits only once in three years, with that event occurring during a hydrant release. Moreover, minimal water was retained in soil pits during the event due to the hydraulic properties of the soil media. Through a growing season, one of the two tree types frequently experienced water stress, while the other did so only rarely. These contrasting responses can likely be attributed to roots being largely confined to the soil pits vs. reaching a deeper water source, respectively. Results of this study demonstrate that, in systems where soil pits are embedded in infiltration beds, overdesign can raise the storm size required for water to reach the soil media, reducing plant water availability between storms, and ultimately inducing physiological stress.
Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum AdjudicationAddressing consistency in the application of the law, former Attorney General Robert Jackson told Congress in 1940: “It is obviously repugnant to one's sense of justice that the judgment meted out . . . should depend in large part on a purely fortuitous circumstance; namely the personality of the particular judge before whom the case happens to come for disposition.” Yet in asylum cases, which can spell the difference between life and death, the outcome apparently depends in large measure on which government official decides the claim. In many cases, the most important moment in an asylum case is the instant in which a clerk randomly assigns an application to a particular asylum officer or immigration judge.This study analyzes databases of decisions from all four levels of the asylum adjudication process: 133,000 decisions involving nationals from eleven key countries rendered by 884 asylum officers over a seven-year period; 140,000 decisions of 225 immigration judges over a four-and-a-half-year period; 126,000 decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals over a six-year period; and 4215 decisions of the U.S. courts of appeals during 2004 and 2005. The analysis reveals amazing disparities in grant rates, even when different adjudicators in the same office each considered large numbers of applications from nationals of the same country. For example, in one regional asylum office, 60% of the officers decided in favor of Chinese applicants at rates that deviated by more than 50% from that region's mean grant rate for Chinese applicants, with some officers granting asylum to no Chinese nationals, while other officers granted asylum in as many as 68% of their cases. Similarly, Colombian asylum applicants whose cases were adjudicated in the federal immigration court in Miami had a 5% chance of prevailing with one of that court's judges and an 88% chance of prevailing before another judge in the same building. Half of the Miami judges deviated by more than 50% from the court's mean grant rate for Colombian cases.Using cross-tabulations based on public biographies, the paper also explores correlations between sociological characteristics of individual immigration judges and their grant rates. The cross-tabulations show that the chance of winning asylum was strongly affected not only by the random assignment of a case to a particular immigration judge, but also in very large measure by the quality of an applicant's legal representation, by the gender of the immigration judge, and by the immigration judge's work experience prior to appointment.In their conclusion, the authors do not recommend enforced quota systems for asylum adjudicators, but they do make recommendations for more comprehensive training, more effective and independent appellate review, and other reforms that would further professionalize the adjudication system.
A Collective Response to Mass Violence: Reparations and Healing in CambodiaThis piece (authored by Jaya Ramji-Nogales) examines an area long neglected in current discussions of Khmer Rouge accountability-reparations for victims. It discusses the Khmer Rouge tribunal law's silence on this matter and presents several arguments, drawing on international human rights law, for the tribunal's awarding of reparations notwithstanding this textual blindspot. The chapter then reviews the various goals reparations can achieve-restitution, rehabilitation, and reconciliation; the types of reparations that can be awarded; and the mechanisms, individual versus collective, that can be used to distribute reparations. Turning to the Cambodian context, it emphasizes the need for a comprehensive study to understand the opinions of Cambodians with respect to reparations. The piece concludes by suggesting several alternative approaches to reparations that are sensitive to Cambodian attitudes and the unique Cambodian cultural context.
Interpretation Consistent with International Law? The Detention of Asylum Seekers in South AfricaOn paper, South African law concerning detention of asylum seekers appears consistent with international standards. However, the text of the Act is vague and overly broad, permitting interpretations inconsistent with international human rights standards. Further, in practice, officials often fail to uphold even the lowest standards of the Act, in violation of South African law. In order to protect the rights of asylum seekers, the South African government should institute formal guidelines and training programs, as well as a system of strong supervision and accountability, to ensure that the Act and Regulations are interpreted in a manner consistent with international law. Such a step will enable South Africa to live up to its noble post-apartheid human rights ideals.
Rejecting Refugees: Homeland Security's Administration of the One-Year Bar to AsylumSince 1980, the Refugee Act has offered asylum to people who flee to the United States to escape persecution in their homeland. In 1996, however, Congress amended the law to bar asylum—regardless of the merits of the underlying claim—for any applicant who fails to apply within one year of entering the United States, unless the applicant qualifies for one of two exceptions to the rule. In the years since the bar was established, anecdotal reports have suggested that genuine refugees, with strong claims to asylum, have been rejected solely because of the deadline. Many scholars and practitioners suspected that this procedural bar had a dramatic effect on the U.S. asylum system. Until now, however, there has been no systematic, empirical study of the effects of the deadline on asylum seekers and the asylum system. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is the first level adjudicator of affirmative applications for asylum, supplied the authors with a database of asylum claims that has never before been analyzed. This database includes demographic and other characteristics of all principal applicants for asylum before DHS since September 1998—more than 300,000 cases—and the decision reached in each case. In this Article, the authors report, for the very first time, what that database shows about DHS’s application of the one-year deadline. They find, among other things, that • over the entire time frame studied, DHS determined that nearly a third of all affirmative asylum applicants missed the filing deadline; • in the years immediately after the deadline went into effect, Fiscal Year (FY) 1998 through FY 2002, DHS found only 27 percent of applicants to be late, but after that period, DHS determined a significantly higher percentage to be late (35 percent from FY 2003 through June 8, 2009); • DHS has rejected the applications, finding no applicable exception, in the cases of 59 percent of those who were determined to have filed late, or 18 percent of all affirmative asylum applicants; • applicants from certain countries, such as the Gambia and Sierra Leone, are much more disadvantaged by the deadline than applicants from certain other countries, such as Haiti and India. The deadline may particularly impact refugees who, upon arrival, were not living among a community of emigrants from their home countries who could warn them about the deadline’s existence; • it is likely that as a result of the deadline, since April 1998 DHS has rejected more than 15,000 asylum applications, involving more than 21,000 refugees, that would otherwise have been granted. The authors conclude that because the costs of the one-year deadline exceed its benefits, it should be repealed as proposed by several bills that have been introduced in Congress.