Author Archive

Mistreatment of LGBT Detainees Continues with Planned Mass Transfer to Remote California Facility

GeoOn June 19, 2015, ICE/ERO announced a new policy that could significantly change the way transgender women are treated in immigration custody. On the positive side, the policy acknowledges the possibility that transgender women can be housed in women’s facilities, and it promises to provide training on the work that must be done to respect an individual’s gender identity. AILA and other non-profit organizations greeted this new policy with cautious optimism, but expressed concern that it would result in members of this vulnerable community being isolated from counsel and community.  For example, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) commented that the policy was likely to “result in hubbing transgender women in remote areas where they cannot have meaningful access to counsel.” In the two months since ICE announced this policy, the concern over hubbing—and in particular in Adelanto, California—has only increased. Continue reading ‘Mistreatment of LGBT Detainees Continues with Planned Mass Transfer to Remote California Facility’ »

Witness to Inhumanity

shutterstock_167007272Paralegal Laura Tovar recently volunteered in Dilley and Karnes with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project. The experience changed her life and she wanted to share what she learned:

What did you see and how did it make you feel?

They all had the same look, eyes sunken with dark rings, hungry, and sleep deprived women with listless skinny children. As a paralegal who works in Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto behind a desk, I returned changed from a week volunteering at the Dilley and Karnes City Detention Centers in Texas. In the midst of my normal life, I’m still haunted by the visions and stories of women suffering from domestic violence or escaping from their country in order to protect their children from gang recruitment.

At the detention facility I spent my time preparing women for bond hearings and credible fear interviews.  I thought that the shortage of legal help might be the biggest problem I saw but no, the lack of medical care was what broke my heart.

Continue reading ‘Witness to Inhumanity’ »

Indian Independence Day

shutterstock_134525195“Progress is implied in independence. Without self-government neither industrial progress is possible, nor the educational scheme will be useful to the nation…” – Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

When you think of the phrase “Independence Day,” naturally you think of July 4th and wonderful images of BBQs, apple pie and fireworks come to mind. August 15th is Indian Independence Day, which is relatively recent, having begun in 1947. It certainly feels recent to me since my father was ten years old at the time. Of course he later moved to Britain, where I was born, making me a British Citizen, therefore setting me up for a lifetime of combined pride and self-loathing. In the U.S., Indian Independence Day on August 15th is celebrated in numerous cities, and with a number of parades and parties.

India has come a long way. Just shy of one quarter of the world’s population and the world’s largest democracy, it is amazing to see the progress over the last decade. Modern cities and developments have sprung up all over India. The economy is booming and India is creating many different items for export. Perhaps its largest and most valuable export though, is people, in particular, highly educated people.

Continue reading ‘Indian Independence Day’ »

EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 2

shutterstock_211305115…Continued (Read Part 1 of this blog post)

In general, AILA and other industry stakeholders are finding strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate for the EB-5 program.  And yes, Congress has extended the Regional Center (RC) program numerous times since 1992.

But, and this is important, the current legislative atmosphere is uncertain and complex – especially involving immigration issues.  Many legislators, from both parties, want to address all immigration issues as part of a larger comprehensive reform package.  Extending just the EB-5 program and other sunset immigration programs could be viewed as piecemeal and diluting a comprehensive approach favored by many.

Continue reading ‘EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 2’ »

EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 1

shutterstock_211305115The EB-5 “Regional Center” visa program again finds itself in an all too familiar place – unless Congress reauthorizes by September 30, the program will sunset. For better or worse, the EB-5 program remains connected with three other sun-setting immigration programs (E-Verify, Conrad and Religious Workers).  AILA continues to be actively involved in the extension process and here are some updates:

Let’s start with a quick refresher. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa classification has many street names, such as the “Entrepreneur” visa, the “Investor” visa and the “Jobs Creation” visa. By any name, the U.S. Congress created this program in 1990 with the goal of encouraging the infusion of foreign capital to benefit the U.S. economy. And to that end, it would offer the privilege of U.S. residency to an entrepreneur in exchange for creating 10 new jobs for American workers.
Continue reading ‘EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 1’ »

Recognition of Some Amazing Volunteer Work

ABA_Award_Winners_2015There are hundreds of individuals who have come together on the ground to work on family detention – in Artesia, in Karnes, in Dilley, and in Berks. There are people from every far-flung corner of our nation who have worked remotely on case after case, brought attention to this tragic and inhumane incarceration, and refused to give up.

This past weekend, it was a pleasure to see some well-deserved accolades bestowed upon the law firm of Jones Day for their remarkable pro bono work and leadership when the humanitarian crisis sent tens of thousands of children and mothers fleeing for safety to seek asylum in the United States. One of five 2015 Pro Bono Publico Award Recipients, Jones Day was honored by the American Bar Association for their steadfast commitment to helping those who need it most. A video produced about their pro bono efforts includes AILA’s own Susan Timmons describing how Jones Day threw itself into the new morass of legal access for detained families and unaccompanied children, helping countless incredibly vulnerable immigrants.

The ABA was not alone in recognizing the efforts of Artesia and CARA volunteers; the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project won the 2014 Super Lawyers Pro Bono award, as well as the 2015 Power of A Gold Award from the American Society of Association Executives.

Continue reading ‘Recognition of Some Amazing Volunteer Work’ »

The Pro Bono Clinic: Nuts and Bolts

DSC_0294You may know that there’s a lot that goes into a pro bono clinic. But planning the AILA Annual Conference Pro Bono Clinic takes it to another level. Here are some insights on the planning and logistics of this year’s event, sharing what we learned at the AC for anyone looking to run a pro bono clinic in the future – maybe even for Citizenship Day this September!

Planning began in earnest shortly after President Obama’s announcement regarding Executive Action. The number of clients potentially eligible for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area far exceeded the resources of area nonprofits, so AILA’s DC Chapter decided to use it as a way to give back and support the nonprofits. Originally the plan was to work with Ayuda, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, and CARECEN to assist their overflow clients who were ready to apply for DAPA since the timing would be perfect.  The clinic would take place several weeks after applications would start being accepted.  What’s that they say about best laid plans? The next thing we knew, the Texas lawsuit injunction happened and DAPA was officially in limbo.

Continue reading ‘The Pro Bono Clinic: Nuts and Bolts’ »

Acting in Haste

shutterstock_91837658National tragedies have long propelled political change. Often a terrible event will ignite a fervent desire in political leaders to take action on an issue that has been neglected or overlooked. However, it is in these times of passion and emotion that some of the worst mistakes are made.

Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, our nation felt justified in stripping thousands of Japanese-Americans of their land and forcing them into internment camps. After the horrible terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, our government implemented laws such as the Patriot Act that infringed on Americans’ constitutional rights.

On July 1, 2015, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed on Pier 14 in San Francisco, while walking arm-in-arm with her father. The man who reportedly shot her, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times and been convicted of several drug-related offenses in the past. This random and senseless act is fueling the urge on the part of Congress to do something.

On July 23, 2015, the House passed H.R. 3009 to punish local jurisdictions – known as “sanctuary cities” that don’t comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) indefinite detainer requests for non-violent criminals.  If enacted these provisions will have devastating fiscal and humanitarian consequences for these municipalities.  In addition to other penalties, non-compliant cities would be ineligible to get reimbursed for the cost of detaining immigrants accused of or convicted of crimes.  In California, where we are just emerging from a severe recession and still have unemployment levels above the national average, such a federal mandate would prove devastating to our recovering economy. Continue reading ‘Acting in Haste’ »

Preconceived Notions Shattered by Dilley

shutterstock_276175301Recently, Rochelle G. volunteered at the Dilley facility where nearly 2,000 mothers and children are incarcerated despite their status as asylum-seekers. Brian Hoffman, lead attorney for the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project which brings volunteers from all over the nation to help in this remote South Texas town, asked Rochelle about her experience:

Can you describe what you saw for us?

Small round tables surrounded by four plastic chairs.  Women holding crying and coughing toddlers sat in chairs against the back wall.  A children’s room with colored pages torn out of a coloring book papering the walls, and a large screen tv affixed to the top of one of the room’s corners, playing Frozen.  Signs on the walls of the outer room cautioned children in both English and Spanish about sexual abuse with colorful illustrations informing them about which parts of their bodies were off limits to others.  At first glance, I could have been in a pediatrician’s waiting room.

The children all seemed ill enough to further that illusion.  Every child seemed to have a wheezy cough and a congested chest.  Most of the toddlers lay listlessly in their mothers’ arms, pitiful caricatures of rag dolls. Continue reading ‘Preconceived Notions Shattered by Dilley’ »

The Global Team Effort that Freed a Mother and Child

shutterstock_172985966Last Wednesday, July 3rd, a client from El Salvador won her merits hearing! I appeared with attorney Melisa Peña from Miami over video conference, while Elora Mukherjee appeared by telephone from Tokyo, Japan and John Bradley appeared, sitting next to the client, from Dilley, TX. Thank you to everyone, particularly Elora and law student Swapna Reddy who helped to prep this case remotely as part of the off-site merits team.

This was our first case where the client appeared in Dilley and was represented by counsel in Miami. We began to prep the case on Friday, June 19th, after Brian Hoffman, CARA Project lead attorney reached out to let us know the client had a merits hearing and was in need of pro bono counsel. The client is a survivor of sexual violence, born and raised in rural El Salvador. Her withholding claim was primarily based on sexual violence she suffered at the hands of her cousin, an M-18 gang leader. The client’s cousin raped her and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. He also forced her to leave her home, so he and his gang members could stay there. She had previously fled to Honduras, but her cousin followed her there and threatened her with death if she did not join his gang and become “his woman.”

Our client had two previous entries and this was her third entry to the United States. She had been apprehended by CBP both times, detained for two months and then returned to El Salvador. After the third entry, the client had a negative Reasonable Fear Interview (RFI), a favorable review from an immigration judge, and then a second RFI. Continue reading ‘The Global Team Effort that Freed a Mother and Child’ »