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.
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
“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….
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
Just last April, ACJP’s youngest member was at immigration court fighting deportation charges. Yesterday, he graduated eighth grade. In the fall of this year, he came back from an ICE detention facility after being referred there by San Mateo County probation. It’s been one tough year for this young man, but he’s got the love of his family and community to pull him through. Check out the campaign to stop juvenile ICE holds that ACJP De-Bug is working on with our allies in San Mateo County at www.stopdeportingyouth.com — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
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
Authored by Lena Graber of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the “All In One Guide To Defeating ICE Hold Requests” is designed to help communities disentangle local police policy and practices from immigration enforcement. ACJP at De-Bug has been one of the key organizations in the Santa Clara County FIRE (Forum for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment) Coalition that helped secure the most progressive detainer policy in the nation, spearheaded on the Board level by Supervisor George Shirakawa. Our Coalition’s yearlong efforts are featured on this guide. As we’ve always asserted, it’s not public safety vs. immigrant rights, but public safety THROUGH immigrant rights. Post submission by Charisse Domingo
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.