Tiene un perro.
By: Kern Clarke & Blase Biello
Along with Jeff Kessler, I chose the bureaucratic task of filing for a Green Card. There are various ways to get a Green Card – through family, through employment, as a refugee, and more. Each way has its own particular paperwork. Everything is made even more confusing when the person filing is currently outside the United States. Jeff and I filled out the paperwork required for getting a Green Card through a marriage, which was not particularly difficult. However, many of the other types of Green Card paperwork are not nearly as straightforward.
Jeff and I first made the flow chart, dividing up the various routes to a Green Card between the two of us. I worked on getting a Green Card through family members, which has, in itself, various sub-options. The paperwork had two parts, and so we split that up. I filled out the shorter post, and spent extra time making our flow chart colorful and well-formatted.
The system for getting a Green Card is convoluted at best. I think that this is because, as various situations arise, complexity is added from necessity – but no one ever takes the time to weed out the now-outdated complexities. Also, I think that there is a motivation to keep people from being able to easily gain access to the country. If I could, I would make the three main categories (family, employment, refugee) still separate, but within each have just a clearly defined process, instead of many sub-processes.
I enjoyed this process. I thought it was a valuable experience: waiting on line, figuring out paperwork, following link trails online to find steps are all things that I will certainly have to do as I interact with the government throughout my life. I also liked making the flow chart, because it was a cool, math-related challenge.
This case is about the interaction between government at the State level and at the Federal level. For this reason, it has to do with Article 4 and Amendment 10. Because it has to do with fairness of sentencing, it also is related to Amendment 7. Finally, the question is related to power in the judicial branch (the court system) and power in the executive branch (the prison system), and so it is a question of checks and balances.
The specific question is: If someone is charged with a state crime and a federal crime, and the state court has not yet determined a sentence, can the federal court order the federal sentence to be served consecutively to the not-yet-imposed state sentence?
Facts of the Case
In 2006, Monroe Setser, of Texas, was sentenced to five years of probation for possession of methamphetamine. A year later, he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possession of 50 or more grams of methamphetamine, with intent to distribute. The crime was also an offense in the state of Texas, and so the federal court knew that Setser's possession charge could lead to a state sentence – not to mention to a revocation of his probation. Because of this, the federal court wanted to decide how all of those hypothetical sentences would interact. They decided that Setser's federal sentence would be served after any sentence that the state gave for the earlier possession crime, but at the same time as any sentence imposed for the 2007 possession-and-intent-to-sell crime.
The state court then sentenced Setser. For the 2006 crime, they revoked his parole and gave him five years in prison, and for the 2007 crime they gave him 10 years in prison. They ordered those two sentences to be served at the same time.
In 2010, he was paroled from the state crime and transferred to the federal prison system. The federal sentence was not shortened at all from time spent serving the state sentences.
Setser said that the court should not have the right to decide how his sentences were to be served, and so he appealed the federal sentence. The United States actually agrees with Setser, so the court appointed a man named Evan Young to argue the case against him.
Summary of the Arguments before the SCOTUS
Setser argued with that the prison system should have the right to decide how his sentences are to be served, and not the federal court. His argument is based on 18 U.S.C. §3584(a), a law which states that:
"If multiple terms of imprisonment are imposed on a defendant at the same time, or if a term of imprisonment is imposed on a defendant who is already subject to an undischarged term of imprisonment, the terms may run concurrently or consecutively… Multiple terms of imprisonment imposed at the same time run concurrently unless the court orders or the statute mandates that the terms are to run consecutively. Multiple terms of imprisonment imposed at different times run consecutively unless the court orders that the terms are to run concurrently."
His main argument is that, because his own circumstance does not fall under the specific cases outlined in the law, the judge of the federal court should not be able to decide how his sentences were to be served. Instead, he argues, the federal prison system should decide that matter at the end of his state term. He also states that, before that particular section was enacted, the Bureau of Prisons had the power to make sentences run at the same time – and so, since the statute does not apply to his particular case, the Bureau of Prisons should still have that right.
The counterargument is that the statute is a way of giving more power to courts, not specifying when they have power. In both of the situations outlined by the statute, the judge is allowed to decide whether to overwrite the default – so, even though Setser's particular case is not included in those situations, the judge should still be able to say how the sentences should be served.
Predictions on the outcome
The United States actually agrees with Setser. This makes me believe that the Supreme Court is likely to yield that the federal court did, indeed, make a mistake in specifying how Setser should serve his various sentences, even before the state sentences were decided.
Michael Dimino, Argument preview: Court to consider run-on sentences, SCOTUSblog (Nov. 23, 2011, 3:00 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2011/11/argument-preview-court-to-consider-run-on-sentences/
The task my partner and I selected was to complete an international adoption using the Hague Convention, which is the more strictly regulated process for adoption. To complete an adoption, we needed to first select the country we wanted our child from, and the adoption service that would direct us to the specific programs in the country. After this, a lot of paperwork ensued: forms 1-800 and 1-800-a and applications for Visas and passports. To complete the adoption, we needed to be "interviewed" by the consul of the country and only if they approve and issue our child's visa, could the adoption be complete.
Fortunately, the paperwork was straightforward, requiring similar information on every form such as our names, date of birth, current address and phone numbers. However, if we were to actually submit these papers, the difficulties would become evident through the restrictions for adoptive parents like the number of years they have been married or their ages. Each service requires something different and without approval for each step, a couple could potentially go through multiple adoptive services and countries before finally completing adoption.
The only thing I would change about this process is the redundant paperwork. As I said earlier, most of the forms required very similar information and to save time and space, the forms could be combined. This would allow the process to run faster and smoother. If this process were real, there would also be a lot of back and forth between the country and the couple that could be less chaotic if this turned into one big meeting where all of the child's information and the couple's information forms are exchanged at once. However, as far as bureaucratic processes go, this one is more straightforward than most. The only reason the process is slow and careful is because of what's on the line is this process goes wrong. If couples could easily walk into an adoption agency and pick a child, there would be a lot of unhappy children with poorly educated parents.
- Here is the link to our flowchart: Click here
The bureaucratic task that my group and I selected was filling out FAFSA forms for college. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is basically an essential part of the college process because it allows colleges to see whether or not you are eligible for financial aid, grants, and/or work study programs to help pay for college.
Essentially the overall process for this bureaucratic task is self explanatory and it really involves a lot of paperwork that you should already have before you start the process such as your driver's license, your social security number, and tax records from the previous year. You basically answer all questions that apply to you and once you finish, if you are older than indicated on the form, you have to sign your name and agree that what you put on that form is completely accurate. If you are under the age depicted on the form, then you have to have your parents fill out their information and both of you sign together indicating everything on the form is completely accurate.
The paperwork was really easy, it was pretty self explanatory and straightforward as I stated earlier and all you needed to do was have your information ready, read the directions, and answer the questions as follows.
I don't think I would change anything about this process because overall it's very easy to do, nothing really complicated, nothing overwhelming, all you need is your paperwork and you're good to go.
I think that some of the other systems have become so complicated because it sort of requires it because people try to get over on the system all the time and the harder you make that system, the harder it is to try to play the system. This in particular is set at the level it is to make this part of college process as painless as possible given there are other things people have going on, especially seniors in high school.
Overall this was a particularly great project to have participated in and I really learned a lot from this experience. I know now how to fill these types of forms out with no problem and feel really accomplished now that I have been able to get practice.
The bureaucratic task that was chosen was Unemployment Compensation Benefits. Many people get laid off from their jobs and are unemployed in society as of today. The flow chart that was made is the process of the application in order to receive such benefits. The application consists of six pages. In the instructions you are ordered to mail/fax the application to your designated office. Within the application, you are asked basic questions such as your social security number, address, phone number and etc. Also you are asked what employer you have worked for and if you have ever worked in another state and if you want to file for benefits for another state. Then there are questions such as if you have worked in the military in the past two years, or if you have worked for the federal government. Whatever pages that are blank are unnecessary for sending. The flow chart is more of a visual application. What was explained above is the paper version of the application though. The paper work was not at all hard, it was actually pretty easy if you follow the instructions. If I could change one thing about the about the bureaucratic process that was flow charted I would change the fact that you need to fill out a certain set of questions if your social security number ends with certain numbers. I think that was pointless without explanation of reasoning why on the actual application. I think that the systems have become so complicated because without complications people would more so get a greater chance of getting away with things.