Immigration 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 →
Rosario 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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Cesar’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
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
Immigration court in San Francisco has two branches — one for those in custody, and ones for those who have been released. For those in custody, they remain shackled, are dressed in ICE jail clothes of green and soft orange shoes, and cannot have any contact with family or friends who are there to support them. Even when their case is up for deliberation, they remain in chains.
Usually, the courtrooms for the detained are deserts. It is the detainee, sometimes with their attorney, against the prosecutor and the judge. But yesterday, for this young man’s court, 16 people filled the courtroom. He had his fierce attorney by his side. And in the seats — family, clergy of various faiths, De-Bug, a San Mateo County District Attorney and a Private Defender who had helped see him through his case, sat to bear witness, to support, and to send a message that there is a community of people who want this young man home.
This is a picture of him and his mother holding each other for a brief moment, after nearly 8 months in ICE custody. This young man is now in his 30’s, but in this moment of embrace, he is the loved child, holding his mother tight in a difficult time. – Photo and Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
“It was the policy of the San Mateo County juvenile probation department to report youth to immigration enforcement officials regardless of the nature of their juvenile offense and before youth had even seen a juvenile court judge or met with their defense attorneys. In Yareli’s case, she had no idea that she was talking to an ICE official. She explained, “My probation officer asked me ‘do you have papers?’ I said no. I can’t lie to them, so I said no. Then they told me to go talk to this person. He just started asking me questions, and at the end he said, ‘By the way, I’m an ICE agent.”
…The underlying purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate youth and protect the community. In California, for example, the goals of the juvenile justice system include providing treatment that is in the minor’s best interest, rehabilitating youth, and preserving and reuniting families. Reporting youth to ICE directly undercuts these goals because it renders youth vulnerable to physical and emotional harm, undermines their prospects for rehabilitation, weakens family ties, and violates the foundational principles of the juvenile justice system to help youth successfully transition into adulthood.”
— Excerpt from “Two-Tiered System for Juveniles”, co-written by Angie Junck (ILRC), Charisse Domingo (De-Bug), and Helen Beasley (CLSEPA)
The Sentencing Project and First Focus released a new publication this month called “Children In Harm’s Way” that highlights the experiences of those caught in the crossroads of the criminal justice, immigration, and child welfare systems. One of the articles, “Two Tiered System for Juveniles” was co-authored by Charisse Domingo with Silicon Valley De-Bug’s ACJP, along with Angie Junck from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Helen Beasley from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. This article highlights the practice of juvenile ICE holds in San Mateo County and the local coalition’s efforts to stop it. It also features the story of an ACJP family who directly experienced the effects of this policy, and won her case through family, community and legal support. To read their article and the full report, click here….
This week, we at ACJP worked with a family and their attorney to put together an almost 100 page mitigation packet to help support their loved one’s deportation proceedings and hopefully convince immigration officials to let their brother stay in the US. Their brother and his siblings were victims of a horrific crime, one that has traumatized him and his family for years.
One of the parts of the packet is a photo album of the family with their brother. Sifting through hundreds of photographs that their mother and sister very diligently kept, one photograph stood out. This is a photo of the Christmas tree that they put up every year, and one of the most special ornaments is a picture of their brother with the family. He has spent nearly 9 Christmases away from them, struggling to fight his case. They put the picture up as a loving message to him that he is with them, and hopefully soon enough –he will come home.
On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, the East Palo Alto City Council unanimously adopted a resolution to urge the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and Probation Chief Stu Forrest from referring youth to federal immigration officials. San Mateo County continues to be one of the highest referring counties in California to ICE, even after the Department changed their policy in January 2012 after discovering they were referring youth under the jurisdiction of an outdated law. De-Bug’s ACJP has been part of the San Mateo County Coalition for Immigrant Rights that continues to assert that all youth, regardless of their citizenship status, should be rehabilitated — and that the threat of deportation should not be in anyone’s pocket as a potential for punishment. Our youngest ACJP member, a 14 year old from Redwood City, experienced 42 days in immigration detention before being reunified with his parents. He is still fighting his deportation case, but the lapse in services has impacted him tremendously — as now he has to also deal with the trauma of being separated 3,000 miles away from his family. We applaud the EPA City Council for standing with this young man and sending a message that an entire community has his back. — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
To read the resolution, click the image below….
This is a photo taken in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in San Francisco. Adults who are jailed and youth who are detained and catch an ICE hold are sent to this facility so they could be processed for immigration proceedings. One East Palo Alto youth remembers being shackled upon her release from Hillcrest Juvenile Detention facility in San Mateo County, put in a van where you can’t see what’s outside, and then taken here. She was then placed in a room for “hours and hours” until she was put on a plane to go to a group home in Southern California, where she spent four months before being reunited with her family to fight her deportation proceedings.
The flag that flies on a street pole by the detention facility reads “Change the World From Here”. In a place filled with fear and uncertainty, hope comes in the form of the families who fight tenaciously for their loved ones’ release. They all walk in the metal doors of the building knowing that they will bring their loved one home. — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
On Friday, July 20, this family stopped the deportation of their brother and son, through their unstoppable will, and successfully beat the process that makes criminal courts a waiting room for immigration court. This was a long road, but their loved one will be home next week as a result, and they created a blueprint for other families. Submission Post by Raj Jayadev