Artesia On Our Minds — An Immigration Attorney’s Diary of a Detention Camp

photo-60Immigration attorney Helen Lawrence, who has helped ACJP families beat deportation cases, recently went to the Artesia immigration detention facility in New Mexico that houses women and children to provide pro-bono legal services.  Read about her powerful reflections on her experiences.

This past week I went with a 10-attorney contingent from the Bay Area to provide pro-bono legal services for a week in an immigration detention center in Artesia, New Mexico that holds between 400-500 ​women and children who were detained in the border refugee crisis this summer. Our primary purpose was to represent women and children in bond and asylum cases in this remote facility. We are all still unpacking the experience.

Our arrival ​day felt full of prescient moments. During our 4am ride to the airport, when our Senegalese Uber driver learned where we were headed and what we were headed to do, he played Redemption Song for us, hopefully setting the tone for this trip.​ ​On the four and a half hour drive from Albuquerque to Artesia under the big New Mexican skies, we encountered rainstorms and tumbleweeds. Continue reading

Family and ACJP Set Precedent in Stopping ICE Hold for Juvenile in San Mateo County

jairphotoRosario came to us at De-Bug last week for assistance regarding her son who had an immigration detainer hold at San Mateo County’s juvenile hall. We helped her create a “mitigation packet” — a package of letters, photos, and history that would be used to tell the fuller story of her son. He had already spent a good 7 months at camp, had an excellent report card, supportive probation officers, and a dedicated mom who kept every single certificate her son earned in school and at camp.  In San Mateo County, Probation Chief John Keene stopped the practice of referring juveniles to ICE on a routine basis, except for ‘rare and exceptional cases’ — in which he would have the sole power of deciding whether or not to transfer a youth to ICE custody.  This practice came after a four year campaign by the San Mateo County Coalition for Immigrants Rights, which De-Bug is a part of, to reverse this harsh policy.  This mitigation packet was to be presented to the Chief to ask him not to enforce an ICE hold on Rosario’s son.

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Time Saved Photo Essay: Cesar Beats Wrongful Sentence and Deportation

Cesar003Cesar’s family came to De-Bug almost at their wit’s end.  Their son was nearing the end of his 9 year prison sentence and was facing imminent deportation.  During the 9 years, his family had searched for a lawyer, only to be told it was too complicated.  However, we helped find a fierce immigration lawyer and advocate in Helen Lawrence to complete our team.  “Team Cesar” — his family, church, and community support — put together an almost 200 page mitigation packet of Cesar’s life; helped find experts for his case; organized community support at hearings; conducted fundraisers for his legal defense. His entire community bonded together to help push for Cesar’s release, which resulted in a habeas release granted in criminal court, re-sentencing, and a bond hearing in immigration court that freed Cesar from almost 10 years in custody (almost 9 years in prison, and over a year in immigration detention).  Click here to hear his story and see the photo essay.  Photography by Charisse Domingo

The “Storify” of Santa Clara County Preserving the Best Immigrant Detainer Policy in the Country

Media coverage, and our own media, chronicling the culmination of a year long campaign to beat back a challenge to our county’s immigrant detainer policy. This win for public safety & immigrants rights is a result of efforts by the FIRE Coalition, the Public Defender’s Office, and wisdom of the BOS. (Click here or image to go to Storify page that has videos, articles, infographics, tweets, and more from the win!)


1 Week at De-Bug’s ACJP: Family Brings Son Home from Immigration Detention, Other Family Stops a Life Sentence

Photos of a powerful week in De-Bug’s Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project (ACJP), where families fight to bring their loved homes home from jail, prison, and immigration detention. At Sunday’s meeting, one family brought a son home from immigration detention after two years, on Tuesday’s meeting, one family brings a son home who was facing a life sentence. To stay updated on the work, follow

Sunday at ACJP Meeting:
Home after 11 years in prison, two years in immigration detention. Got his conviction overturned, but then still faced deportation. The ICE agent told him he didn’t have a chance. ICE was wrong and he’s home now. Top left: We ask people to erase their name from our board when they get free, it inspires the other families there who are starting their journey. He asked his mom to do the honors since she was fighting for him all those years. Middle left: Mom hugging Charisse, last time it was for consolation when it looked impossible, today it was to celebrate. Bottom left: His sister shows the families a slideshow of his first day home, which was last week. Rightside: For those who ask, this is what we mean when we say #Debugthesystem. Gotta love Sunday afternoons at De-Bug.

Tuesday at ACJP meeting:
Remarkable. His mom started coming to our Tuesday De-Bug/ACJP meetings at East Valley Pentecostal Church a few months ago. He was facing life because they were charging him with a strike, and the lawyer and courts said he had 2 strike priors. But mom said he only has one strike prior. Lawyer said mom was wrong. Turns out he did only had 1 strike, the system just thought he had 2 strikes, and no one bothered to check the paperwork, until mom. This week, they also dropped the charge to a misdemeanor, and he’s home now, erasing his name from our board (meaning he resolved his case.) Gotta love Tuesdays at ACJP meetings, and gotta respect a mom’s commitment to bring her son home.

Echoes of ‘60s March: Sixties-Style Civil Disobedience Drives New Era of Activism


Graphic design by Adrian Avila

By Raj Jayadev

This August marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — that watershed moment of the civil rights era that showed how mass movement could force the nation to address issues of inequality, and change the political direction of the country. Had America not recently experienced some of the most poignant, traumatic, and racially-charged episodes in years, this march anniversary may have only been a nostalgic, obligatory, nod to the past. But a young Trayvon Martin was killed, a steady rise in deportations are breaking apart families, and prisons have become so savagely inhumane, inmates are starving themselves to death. As a result, the most captivating activists of today are not looking at the ‘60s as a history book, they are looking at it as a playbook. Continue reading

1377 Years of “Time Saved”: New Way to Quantify How Organizing Impacts Court Cases

In court systems across the country, the term used to show that someone has done their time of incarceration is called “Time Served.”  At De-Bug, we transform that term, and that time, to “time saved” through family and community organizing to change the outcome of cases. We quantify the amount of “Time Saved” by looking at the maximum exposure of incarceration based on the charges against an individual when they first approach us and subtract the total amount of incarceration time received by that individual after the family has intervened in the case through our organizing model. Sometimes charges get beat completely, some times charges get reduced, sometimes sentences get lowered as a result of the work. Continue reading

Mother’s Day Math: Mother’s Love > The System

We couldn’t fit all the ACJP mothers in one picture, but here are a few of them whose strength fuels us all to keep going, to keep fighting.  They come every Sunday or Tuesday — after their visits with their children in jail, or even way after their children’s court cases are over — to then uplift other family members who have faced the same struggles.  Happy Mothers’ Day to these Moms!  Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

NEW AMERICA MEDIA: Who’s Afraid of Immigrants With Criminal Records?

v_fernandez_criminalrecords_500x279With Comprehensive Immigration Reform possibilities becoming a reality, the immigrant rights movement has a decision to make — will the movement be inclusive, or will immigrants with criminal records be sacrificed in the negotiations? In alot of ways, CIR, as it’s currently being discussed, could very well make things more difficult for immigrants who are entangled in the criminal justice system. These families are ACJP families, and we hope CIR becomes an opportunity for all, and that our immigrants rights movement can be advocates for all. Here is a piece on the topic by Valeria Fernández of New America Media.

PHOENIX — In Arizona, more and more immigrants find themselves joining the ranks of a group that could be excluded from immigration reform: undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

The local grassroots pro-immigrant group PUENTE is calling on Congress to enact an immigration reform package that includes those whose criminal records are related to the state’s crackdown on undocumented workers.

But the question is a controversial one, and one that some immigrant rights advocacy groups may not be willing to touch. A movement that has long touted the motto, “We are not criminals,” may not want to fight for the legalization of those who have any kind of criminal record. Continue reading