A Day in Immigration Court with a 14-Year Old Defendant Facing Deportation

This is a photo of ACJP De-Bug’s youngest member — only 14 years old, who had an immigration court proceeding today in San Francisco.  He’s been coming to our weekly meetings for months now with his family and we’ve grown to know and love his quiet strength.

Scanning the courtroom, he was also the youngest person there who was facing deportation.  The air was thick with apprehension, of not knowing what was going to happen, and greater than that — of the fear of ICE agents coming into court right then and there.  In the waiting room that looks like a doctor’s office, the brown faces from Mexico, Central America, and Asia are furrowed.  But this young man has incredible courage, far more than what he realizes himself.  He stares down at his paperwork the whole time.  The pro-bono attorney of the day rapidly runs through paperwork to give him and says will ask for a continuance.  She battle-runs through the same set of questions we had seen her ask the Chinese person before us, and the Latino couple right before him.  “Where are you from?”  “Where is your family?”  — All questions that are loaded and sterile at the same time, given the place we were at this morning.

They call his name from the bench and the pro-bono attorney motions with two fingers to come to the front.  “You’re not alone up there,” I told him.  “I know,” he says. “God is with me.”  And he smiles.  It’s only 5 minutes that he’s up there, but the wait was about an hour and a half.  From the audience, I tell myself it’s all procedural today, but every pause of the judge pushes me closer to the edge of my seat.  At the end, another court date is set, and he breathes a sigh of relief outside. He looks up again and can’t wait to run to his mom.

Young people should be thinking about school, sports, what music they like — not deportation proceedings. I am hoping the human side of the immigration system breaks through for this young man, and for all young people and their families.  — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

Stopdeportingyouth.com — New Site Highlights Local Efforts to Stop Juvenile ICE Holds in San Mateo County

With the Stanford Immigrants Rights Clinic, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Youth United for Community Action, ACLU North Peninsula Chapter, Comite de Padres Unidos, and Nuestra Casa, we at Silicon Valley De-Bug have helped lead efforts to stop San Mateo County Probation’s practice of juvenile ICE holds in San Mateo County.  Families have come to De-Bug seeking support for their son’s or daughter’s cases where they have been caught up in juvenile hall and then sent to immigrant detention centers across the country — youth as young as 13. For the last four years, we’ve seen an increase in this number of families like no other, beginning with one mother from East Palo Alto who was so distraught at the thought of her 16 year old daughter being deported back to a country that she left when she was 3.  We learned that it was her PO who reported her to ICE, and initially, we thought it was a mistake.  But it turned out to be the complete opposite — this was actually routine practice.  In fact, San Mateo County is the second highest referrer of juveniles to ICE in California — second only to Orange County, according to statistics obtained by Immigrant Legal Resource Center from the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

As part of the coalition’s efforts in the last nine months, we at De-Bug created this page, www.stopdeportingyouth.com, to highlight not just the practice of referring youth to ICE, but the strong stance that a broad-based coalition has taken to urge our county to do otherwise. We believe San Mateo County can do better.  Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

Click here or on the picture below to take you to the site.

New York Times: Go To Trial – Crash the Justice System by Michele Alexander

Many times – -the 98% plea rate in Santa Clara County continues to allow the District Attorney to insist on–and to threaten– long prison sentences because in essence –we have allowed the DA to continue to hold all of the cards. The we in this case being our legal representatives — mostly the institutional public defender system– that we pay the taxes for to keep them in existence. In this editorial that appeared in the New York Times, Michele Alexander talks about how if the justice system can be turned around if more people just insisted on their cases going to trial.  Submission Post by Aram James

OPINION

Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System

by Michele Alexander
Photo by Edward Keating
New York Times
SAturday, March 10, 2012

After years as a civil rights lawyer, I rarely find myself speechless. But some questions a woman I know posed during a phone conversation one recent evening gave me pause: “What would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial? Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?”
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“We Know We Will Bring Our Son Home.”

About two weeks ago, Veronica and her family camped outside a juvenile detention facility hoping that their son won’t be picked up by immigration officials after he was placed on an ICE hold. However, to their dismay, ICE officials came.  In this picture, Veronica, the mom on the left, and Adriana (her sister on the right) waits in an attorney’s office right outside the ICE detention facility in San Francisco.  They were hoping that their son would be released to them right then and there and were waiting for a hearing, when Veronica got a phone call from her son that ICE had already put him on a bus and was an hour away heading to Sacramento.  As of now, they are still awaiting a decision of whether their son can return to the family as he fights his deportation case.  The words in the title of this post were spoken by Patricia, another aunt who would drive 8 hours from Riverside to attend her nephew’s court dates.  With the family’s perseverance and community support, we know this family will bring their son back.

San Jose Mercury News: Some living in Santee neighborhood allege security guards roughing up residents

About two months ago, Isaac Gomez, Victor Rivera, and their family came to ACJP raising the issue about the local security company, Admiral, who has been harassing many people in their neighborhood including using eviction as an intimidation tactic.  Victor himself was beaten up by security and their family served an eviction notice.  Their family chose to fight back, and  just last week, their family beat the eviction defense!  Here is their story featured in the Mercury News. 

San Jose: Some living in Santee neighborhood allege security guards roughing up residents

By Sean Webby
Photo by Nhat Meyer
11/7/11
San Jose Mercury News

Almost 15 years after a San Jose neighborhood was so afflicted by street gangs that a judge ordered landlords to hire their own private security force, some residents say it’s the court-mandated armed guards who are a threat.

Five teens, several adults who live in the Santee area and a gang suppression worker told this newspaper that guards from Concord-based Admiral Security have harassed and assaulted them. Continue reading

Santa Clara County Counsel Sends ICE New Detainer Policy for the County

On October 21, 2011, just days after the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed a detainer policy praised by many community members, legal service providers, and immigrant rights advocates as one that balances public safety, honors civil rights, and protects immigrants, County Counsel Miguel Marquez sends off a letter to ICE notifying them of our County’s official stance.  Click below to read the letter….

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Stopping Deportations Before They Start ⎯ How Advocates Can Protect Immigrants Facing Criminal Charges

by Raj Jayadev and Angie Junck

On the heels of the one-year anniversary of a historic Supreme Court decision, attorney Angie Junck and organizer Raj Jayadev share lessons learned from a case of a San Jose man who beat a deportation order.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Padilla v. Kentucky – arguably the most important U.S. Supreme Court decision to date in terms of the nexus between local criminal courts and federal immigration laws. This is also the first week of renewed freedom for Jeysson Minota, a 28-year-old legal permanent resident from Colombia who had been in and out of federal detention centers for the past four years due to charges stemming from graffiti. His detention and his ultimate freedom tell the story of the need and possibility of the Padilla standard.

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San Jose Mercury News: De-Bug Increases Role as Legal Watchdog With Soros Justice Award

by Tracey Kaplan, April 5, 2010

Ramon Vasquez’s urban nightmare began when San Jose police surrounded him at gunpoint in a parking lot of a Coca-Cola distribution center. Instead of coaching his son’s Little League game that day, the soft-drink deliveryman wound up jailed for a gang-related murder, facing a possible life sentence.

Few outside his family and friends believed he was innocent until his fiancee heard about a free legal clinic offered every Sunday near downtown San Jose by the grass-roots group De-Bug.

With De-Bug’s help, all charges against Vasquez were dismissed and he was set free five months after being arrested.

In February, he was deemed factually innocent by a judge, erasing his record and increasing his chances of remuneration from the county.

“It was like I had a law firm behind me,” Vasquez, 29, said of De-Bug’s efforts, including urging his government-appointed attorney to mount a more aggressive defense. “I probably would have fallen through the cracks if it wasn’t for my family and De-Bug.”

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