Saturday, March 11, 2017
CNN reports that Daniela Vargas, a native of Argentina who was had been granted relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program but was detained by US immigration agents after she publicly criticized Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, was released yesterday, said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center.
Before her detention, Daniela Vargas, who was brought to this country at age 7 by her parents, spoke at a press conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about her hope that she and DACA recipients could remain in the United States. Minutes later, the 22-year-old woman was arrested by immigration agents and taken to a detention center in Louisiana.
Immigration Article of the Day: Seeking a Rational Approach to a Regional Refugee Crisis: Lessons from the Summer 2014 “Surge” of Central American Women and Children at the US-Mexico Border by Karen Musalo and Eunice Lee
Seeking a Rational Approach to a Regional Refugee Crisis: Lessons from the Summer 2014 “Surge” of Central American Women and Children at the US-Mexico Border by Karen Musalo and Eunice Lee, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, University of California Hastings College of the Law
In the early summer months of 2014, an increasing number of Central American children alone and with their parents began arriving at the US-Mexico border in search of safety and protection. The children and families by and large came from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala — three of the most dangerous countries in the world — to seek asylum and other humanitarian relief. Rampant violence and persecution within homes and communities, uncontrolled and unchecked by state authorities, compelled them to flee north for their lives.
On the scale of refugee crises worldwide, the numbers were not huge. For example, 24,481 and 38,833 unaccompanied children, respectively, were apprehended by US Border Patrol (USBP) in FY 2012 and FY 2013, while 68,631 children were apprehended in FY 2014 alone (USBP 2016a). In addition, apprehensions of “family units,” or parents (primarily mothers) with children, also increased, from 15,056 families in FY 2013 to 68,684 in FY 2014 (USBP 2016b). While these numbers may seem large and did represent a significant increase over prior years, they are nonetheless dwarfed by refugee inflows elsewhere; for example, Turkey was host to 1.15 million Syrian refugees by year end 2014 (UNHCR 2015a), and to 2.5 million by year end 2015 (UNHCR 2016) — reflecting an influx of almost 1.5 million refugees in the course of a single year.
Nevertheless, small though they are in comparison, the numbers of Central American women and children seeking asylum at our southern border, concentrated in the summer months of 2014, did reflect a jump from prior years. These increases drew heightened media attention, and both news outlets and official US government statements termed the flow a “surge” and a “crisis” (e.g., Basu 2014; Foley 2014; Negroponte 2014). The sense of crisis was heightened by the lack of preparedness by the federal government, in particular, to process and provide proper custody arrangements for unaccompanied children as required by federal law. Images of children crowded shoulder to shoulder in US Customs and Border Patrol holding cells generated a sense of urgency across the political spectrum (e.g., Fraser-Chanpong 2014; Tobias 2014).
Responses to this “surge,” and explanations for it, varied widely in policy, media, and government circles. Two competing narratives emerged, rooted in two very disparate views of the “crisis.” One argues that “push” factors in the home countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala drove children and families to flee as bona fide asylum seekers; the other asserted that “pull” factors drew these individuals to the United States. For those adopting the “push” factor outlook, the crisis is a humanitarian one, reflecting human rights violations and deprivations in the region, and the protection needs of refugees (UNHCR 2015b; UNHCR 2014; Musalo et al. 2015). While acknowledging that reasons for migration may be mixed, this view recognizes the seriousness of regional refugee protection needs. For those focusing on “pull” factors, the crisis has its roots in border enforcement policies that were perceived as lax by potential migrants, and that thereby acted as an inducement to migration (Harding 2014; Navarette, Jr. 2014).
Each narrative, in turn, suggests a very different response to the influx of women and children at US borders. If “push” factors predominately drive migration, then protective policies in accordance with international and domestic legal obligations toward refugees must predominately inform US reaction. Even apart from the legal and moral rightness of this approach, any long-term goal of lowering the number of Central American migrants at the US-Mexico border, practically speaking, would have to address the root causes of violence in their home countries. On the other hand, if “pull” factors are granted greater causal weight, it would seem that stringent enforcement policies that make coming to the US less attractive and profitable would be a more effective deterrent. In that latter case, tactics imposing human costs on migrants, such as detention, speedy return, or other harsh or cursory treatment — while perhaps not morally justified — would at least make logical sense.
Immediately upon the summer influx of 2014, the Obama administration unequivocally adopted the “pull” factor narrative and enacted a spate of hostile deterrence-based policies as a result. In July 2014, President Obama asked Congress to appropriate $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address the influx of Central American women and children crossing the border (Cohen 2014). The majority of funding focused on heightened enforcement at the border — including funding for 6,300 new beds to detain families (LIRS and WRC 2014, 5). The budget also included, in yet another demonstration of a “pull”-factor-based deterrence approach, money for State Department officials to counter the supposed “misinformation” spreading in Central America regarding the possibility of obtaining legal status in the United States. The US government also funded and encouraged the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to turn around Central American asylum seekers before they ever could reach US border (Frelick, Kysel, and Podkul 2016).
Each of these policies, among other harsh practices, continues to the present day. But, by and large they have not had a deterrent effect. Although the numbers of unaccompanied children and mothers with children dropped in early 2015, the numbers began climbing again in late 2015 and remained high through 2016, exceeding in August and September 2015 the unaccompanied child and “family unit” apprehension figures for those same months in 2014 (USBP 2016a; USBP 2016b). Moreover, that temporary drop in early 2015 likely reflects US interdiction policies rather than any “deterrent” effect of harsh policies at or within US own borders, as the drop in numbers of Central American women and children arriving at the US border in the early months of 2015 corresponded largely with a spike in deportations by Mexico (WOLA 2015). In all events, in 2015, UNCHR found that the number of individuals from the Northern Triangle requesting asylum in Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama had increased 13-fold since 2008 (UNCHR 2015b).
Thus, the Obama administration’s harsh policies did not, in fact, deter Central American women and children from attempting to flee their countries. This, we argue, is because the “push” factor narrative is the correct one. The crisis we face is accordingly humanitarian in nature and regional in scope — and the migrant “surge” is undoubtedly a refugee flow. By refusing to acknowledge and address the reality of the violence and persecution in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, the US government has failed to lessen the refugee crisis in its own region. Nor do its actions comport with its domestic and international legal obligations towards refugees.
This article proceeds in four parts. In the first section, we examine and critique the administration’s “pull”-factor-based policies during and after the 2014 summer surge, in particular through the expansion of family detention, accelerated procedures, raids, and interdiction. In section two, we look to the true “push” factors behind the migration surge — namely, societal violence, violence in the home, and poverty and exclusion in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Our analysis here includes an overview of the United States’ responsibility for creating present conditions in these countries via decades of misguided foreign policy interventions. Our penultimate section explores the ways in which our current deterrence-based policies echo missteps of our past, particularly through constructive refoulement and the denial of protection to legitimate refugees. Finally, we conclude by offering recommendations to the US government for a more effective approach to the influx of Central American women and children at our border, one that addresses the real reasons for their flight and that furthers a sustainable solution consistent with US and international legal obligations and moral principles. Our overarching recommendation is that the US government immediately recognize the humanitarian crisis occurring in the Northern Triangle countries and the legitimate need of individuals from these countries for refugee protection. Flowing from that core recommendation are additional suggested measures, including the immediate cessation of hostile, deterrence-based policies such as raids, family detention, and interdiction; adherence to proper interpretations of asylum and refugee law; increased funding for long-term solutions to violence and poverty in these countries, and curtailment of funding for enforcement; and temporary measures to ensure that no refugees are returned to persecution in these countries.
 US Border Patrol (USBP) defines a “family unit” as an individual apprehended with one or more family members (USBP 2016b). Thus, each family unit consists of two or more individuals. For example, USBP will count as one “family unit” a mother apprehended together with her two children.
 This article was drafted and sent into production prior to the November 2016 US presidential elections and the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. As a result, the recent policy changes of the Trump administration are beyond the scope of this article. The authors continue to stand by their recommendations, rooted in the US government’s international and domestic legal obligations towards refugees, as the proper course for the present day.
Friday, March 10, 2017
DOJ Seeking to Reduce Immigration Court Backlog by Sending IJs to Detention Centers, May Hold Night Court
Julia Edwards Ainsley for Reuters reports that the Department of Justice is detailing 50 immigration judges to immigration detention facilities across the United States, according to two sources and a letter seen by Reuters and sent to judges on Thursday. DOJ also is reportedly considering asking judges to sit from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., split between two rotating shifts, to adjudicate more cases.
Hat tip to Chicago immigration attorney Rob Gard.
CNN reports that the state of Washington, joining Hawaii, has asked a federal district court to block President Donald Trump's new Executive Order and travel ban, claiming that White House officials have admitted "current motivations are no different than the first time around."
This is not a new lawsuit. Rather, Ferguson asserts that the burden is on the Trump Administration to argue that the injunction the AG obtained no longer blocks the ban.
“My message to President Trump is — not so fast,” said Ferguson. “After spending more than a month to fix a broken order that he rushed out the door, the President’s new order reinstates several of the same provisions and has the same illegal motivations as the original. Consequently, we are asking Judge Robart to confirm that the injunction he issued remains in full force and effect as to the reinstated provisions.”
On Monday, January 30, Washington filed the first state lawsuit challenging the Administration’s move to restrict immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations and the resettlement of refugees.
U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, presiding over Ferguson’s challenge to the Trump Administration’s initial travel ban, issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on February 3, halting implementation of that Executive Order nationwide. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld that order in its entirety.
Key provisions of President Trump’s new Executive Order remain largely the same as the original travel ban and thus still subject to Ferguson’s lawsuit and injunction.
Ferguson’s ongoing lawsuit asserts that President Trump’s travel ban unconstitutionally violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause, by disfavoring Islam. Washington need not demonstrate that the ban impacts all Muslims, that it covers only Muslims or that it was motivated solely by anti-Islam animus. Rather, the state must establish that such animus was one motivating factor behind the Executive Order.
The AG’s lawsuit also claims that the President’s actions violate the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as well as the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Similar allegations that the Obama Administration did not comply with the APA formed the basis for court decisions suspending President Obama’s immigration reform programs in Texas v. United States.
The Attorney General’s Office anticipates filing an amended complaint on the underlying merits of the case early next week. Oregon and New York will seek to join the case."
Immigration Article of the Day: Securing the Borders Against Syrian Refugees: When Non-Admission Means Return by Elizabeth Leiserson
Securing the Borders Against Syrian Refugees: When Non-Admission Means Return by Elizabeth Leiserson, Yale Journal of International Law, Forthcoming, 2 Mar 2017
Ostensibly to protect its citizens, the European Union, like the United States and many other countries in the Global North, has developed policies that aim to stop refugees before they can enter their destination countries. The treatment of Syrian refugees provides a tragic example of this phenomenon: In the wake of terrorist attacks, it has become routine for politicians to call for an end to the admission of Syrian refugees. These non-admittance policies violate the Refugee Convention’s prohibition on refoulement, or returning refugees to persecution. An in-depth analysis of the Convention’s preparatory materials and the early practice following the drafting of the Convention shows that the order of the day was cooperation to admit refugees in the absence of particularized security threats — not cooperation to deny refugees access wherever a security threat could be imagined. As this Note explains, the Convention’s exception to the non- refoulement principle, allowing refugees to be returned when they become a “danger to the security of the country” of refuge, does not and was never intended to justify large-scale programs that bar refugees in the name of national security. This Note uses the European Union’s agreement with Turkey as a case study to showcase a possible method to challenge both overly narrow interpretations of the obligation to admit and overly broad interpretations of the national security exception to non-refoulement.
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Snopes reports that on 6 March 2017, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was the target of disdain for a statement interpreted by critics as likening the abduction and forced transport of African slaves to America with immigrants arriving on the shores of the U.S.: The controversial comment was made during Carson’s first address to employees since being confirmed as the Trump administration’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.
Israel's Immigration Story: Globalization Lessons by Assaf Razin, Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11877, 2 Mar 2017
The exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel in the 1990s was a unique event. The extraordinary experience of Israel, which has received three quarter million migrants from the Former Soviet Union, amounting to 17 percent of its population, within a short time, is also relevant for the current debate about migration and globalization. The immigration wave was distinctive for its large high skilled cohort, and its quick integration into the domestic labor market. Immigration also changed the entire economic landscape: it raised productivity, underpinning technological prowess, and had significant impact on income inequality and the level of redistribution in Israel's welfare state.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Today is International Women’s Day, which provides us an opportunity to reflect on the role of women in society—both where we have made progress and where there is still work to be done. Our contribution to this day is a new fact sheet on the powerful role of immigrant women workers.
The Impact of Immigrant Women on America’s Labor Force explains that immigrant women exist at both ends of the educational spectrum and, as a result, hold a wide range of jobs, many of which are lower paid, yet vital to the functioning of the U.S. economy. Immigrant women play crucial roles in healthcare as nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides and as registered nurses. Many also work as housekeepers and in a variety of service and light industrial occupations. Many of those who work at the lower end of the income spectrum are unauthorized, which severely hampers their upward mobility.
America needs policies that lift up and build on the contributions immigrant women make to our workforce. Creating paths to legal status for unauthorized immigrants would not only boost the U.S. economy, but would allow so many of our fellow women to realize their full potential.
Are Deportation Hearings Unconstitutional?: A View of SF Immigration Court from the East Bay Express
In this article published by the East Bay Express, Darwin Bond Graham (twitter: @darwinbondgraha) asks, "Are Deportation Hearings in the Bay Area Unconstitutional?" The piece presents a series of case examples from the San Francisco Immigration Court (which is often seen as a more immigrant-friendly jurisdiction compared to other immigration courts across the country), and illustrates the problem with a legal system in which immigrants routinely to do not have lawyers. These problems include individuals who give up their legal defenses out of desperation to leave immigration detention; the fact that the government is represented in every case (and the fact that the regular presence of a government lawyer in the courtroom allows for rapport-building opportunities between that lawyer and the immigration judge); and the variations in decisionmaking amongst immigration judges, particularly in asylum cases.
The article is a solid read and makes a good case for why universal representation programs, funded by local or state governments, could be a critical tool to restore an otherwise deeply flawed and broken immigration court system.
"On Monday, the Trump administration issued a revised version of its Jan. 27 Executive Order barring entry of all refugees and citizens from six predominantly-Muslim countries, hoping to fix the flaws that led multiple courts to strike down the original version. But sometimes the genie can’t be forced back into the bottle.
Although scaled back and sanitized, the new Executive Order continues to target citizens from predominantly-Muslim countries in a thinly-veiled effort to implement the “Muslim ban” that Trump promised while campaigning for president, in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause."
Immigrants wave flags at a naturalization ceremony in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo: Old Salem Inc.)
The Migration Policy Institute’s online journal, the Migration Information Source, today published its annual compilation of some of the most frequently sought-after current and historical U.S. immigration statistics, including a detailed look at the nation’s 43.3 million immigrants. This accessible, comprehensive resource, Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States, compiles data from MPI, the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and State, and other sources. The article answers questions such as: How does the current immigrant share of the U.S. population compare to earlier eras? How many green cards are issued annually? What are the top countries of origin for refugees and asylum seekers? How many children live in families with an immigrant parent? Have Mexican emigration rates changed? Are immigrants as likely as the U.S. born to have health care coverage? Among other findings, the article reports that:
- While the overall immigrant population is at a numerical high, reaching 43.3 million people in 2015, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population (13.5 percent) remains below the 14.8 percent high recorded in 1890.
- Immigrants represented nearly 17 percent of the total civilian workforce in 2015. Of employed foreign-born workers, the largest share (31 percent) worked in management, professional and related occupations.
- While 29 percent of the immigrant population ages 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2015, educational attainment is rising for recent arrivals, with 48 percent of those entering between 2011 and 2015 having a college education.
- Nearly 18 million children under age 18 lived with at least one immigrant parent in 2015, accounting for 26 percent of the 69.9 million children in the United States. Approximately 5.1 million of these children—4.1 million of them U.S. citizens—lived with an unauthorized immigrant parent during the 2009-2013 period.
- Between 2000 and 2015, the five states with the largest percentage growth in the immigrant population were North Dakota (137 percent), Tennessee (109 percent), South Dakota (106 percent), South Carolina (101 percent) and Wyoming (96 percent).
- Since implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, health insurance coverage has improved for both immigrants and the U.S. born. From 2013 to 2015, the immigrant uninsured rate fell from 32 percent to 22 percent, and the rate for the native born fell from 12 percent to 7 percent.
- Sixteen percent of immigrants have entered the United States since 2010, 28 percent between 2000-2009 and the remainder prior to 2000.
The article is available in the Migration Information Source, which provides fresh analysis and data from top researchers on U.S. and international migration trends.
From Reuters: "President Donald Trump's federal hiring freeze will not apply to immigration court judges under an exception for positions that are needed for national security and public safety[.]" It's a decision straight from AG Sessions.
That's good news. Immigration courts currently face tremendous backlogs and numerous IJ positions remain vacant.
Of course, it's less good news if IJ positions are filled entirely with judges in the Atlanta IJ mold.
DoNotPay is a chatbot, defined by google as "a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet."
This particular chatbot was created by a London-born Stanford student named Joshua Browder who was just 19 when the bot premiered. As the Guardian reports, the bot was tremendously successful in its initial endeavor - fighting parking tickets:
In the 21 months since the free service was launched in London and now New York, Browder says DoNotPay has taken on 250,000 cases and won 160,000, giving it a success rate of 64% appealing over $4m of parking tickets.
Browder thereafter expanded his program to assist folks with flight delay compensation, help the HIV positive understand their legal rights, and assist vulnerable people apply for emergency housing.
It's now expanding further - to asylum claims.
Using Facebook Messenger, the chatbot aims to help asylees complete immigration application forms in the US and Canada and, in the UK, it will help them apply for asylum support.
Here's how The Guardian explains Browder's program:
The chatbot works by asking the user a series of questions, in order to determine which application the refugee needs to fill out and whether a refugee is eligible for asylum protection under international law.
After this, it takes down the necessary details required for the appropriate asylum application – an I-589 for the United States or a Canadian Asylum Application for Canada. Those in the UK are told they need to apply in person, and the bot helps fill out an ASF1 form for asylum support.
Browder says it was crucial the questions were in plain English. “The language in these forms can be quite complicated,” he said.
These details are used to auto-fill an application form for either the US, Canada or the UK. “Once the form is sent off, the details are deleted from my end,” said Browder.
And, that's it.
Immprofs reading this may be aghast. You know how hard it is, how many hours of interviewing it takes, to get a client to open up about persecution. You know how hard it can be to make sure that any application presented is coherent, accurate, and actionable.
On the other hand, many, many asylum seekers in the US are unrepresented. Perhaps this will be a positive step towards aiding those who would otherwise be completing paperwork entirely on their own.
One thing is certain. The DoNotPay robot lawyer is unlikely to be subject to Lozada.
Immigration Article of the Day: Unfit for the Constitution: Nativism and the Constitution, from the Founding Fathers to Donald Trump by Jared A. Goldstein
Unfit for the Constitution: Nativism and the Constitution, from the Founding Fathers to Donald Trump by Jared A. Goldstein, Roger Williams University School of Law, Date Written: February 24, 2017
The executive order on travel issued by President Donald Trump in January 2017 does not use the word Muslim but instead identifies the foreigners who should be barred from entry as those who “bear hostile attitudes” toward the United States “and its founding principles” and who “do not support the Constitution.” As this article shows, anti-immigrant movements have long used hostility-to-the-Constitution as the touchstone for identifying unwanted immigrants. In the 1840s, the Know-Nothings opposed Irish immigration based on a belief that Catholicism was incompatible with the Constitution. In 1882, when Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, it declared that the Chinese were too foreign to embrace constitutional principles. In 1924, Congress enacted the National Origins Act out of the belief that members of the so-called Nordics race alone were genetically disposed to embrace constitutional values, while Jews, Italians, Poles, and others would destroy the nation’s constitutional system. Congress repudiated these nativist beliefs in 1965 when it adopted the Immigration and Nationality Act, which declares that people of any race or nationality are equally capable of embracing the nation’s constitutional values.
The executive order, however, demonstrates the persistence of the nativist belief that foreigners who do not share traits considered prototypically American are likely to harbor hostility to constitutional values. The history of nativism and the Constitution explored in this article reveals that the belief that American identity is defined by devotion to a common creed embodied in the Constitution has long been intertwined with beliefs that American identity is also defined by race, religion, and ethnicity.
"On March 7, 2017, the State of Hawaii filed a joint motion with the U.S. Government setting out a proposed briefing schedule, whereby it will file its complaint and TRO by March 8, the U.S. Government will file their Opposition on March 13, and oral argument would be held on March 15. The District Court has not yet ruled on this joint request.
On March 7, the State of Hawaii moved for leave to file an Amended Complaint that details their allegations against the new Executive Order. Here is the motion and proposed complaint. The latter document details the Plaintiffs’ grievances with respect to President Trump’s 3/6/17 Travel Ban."
Neal Katyal, the former acting Solcitor General of the United States, is the partner on the case.
As the Washington Post reports,
"The action — which lawyers for the state hope to file Wednesday in Hawaii — would mark the first formal legal challenge to the order, which the president signed Monday. Hawaii also sued over Trump’s first travel ban, and lawyers for the state told a judge in a court filing that they want to resume that litigation to ask for a temporary restraining order on the new directive."
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
As they say, everything is bigger in Texas. Here is some big news from the Lone Star state.
Indie-pop band Told Slant announced it was cancelling its performance at the SXSW Conference later this week in Austin, Texas because of language in the artist contract that allows the festival to “notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities” if they “or their representatives have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase.”
Featuring a variety of tracks that allow attendees to explore what’s next in the worlds of entertainment, culture, and technology, SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together. Explore Keynotes, Featured Speakers, and programming tracks below. Stay tuned to SXSW News for the latest 2017 SXSW Conference announcements and updates throughout the season.
Hat tip to Cappy White!
The Southern Poverty Law Center today announced a new project that will enlist and train lawyers to provide free legal representation to immigrants who have been detained in the Southeast and are facing deportation proceedings. When fully implemented, it will be the largest detention center-based deportation defense project in the country.
“Immigrants caught up in the deportation dragnet have a right to due process, and they deserve fair and humane treatment,” said Daniel Werner, SPLC senior supervising attorney. “Without an attorney, it is highly likely that their rights will be trampled, and highly unlikely they will obtain relief – even if they are entitled to it by law.”
The Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) will begin at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, in collaboration with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Immigration Council, the Innovation Law Lab and the American Immigration Representation Project.
It will then be expanded to other detention centers throughout the Southeast.
Through an innovative three-component approach, SIFI aims to ensure that the due process rights of every immigrant in a Southeastern detention facility are upheld. The first component will bring transparency to immigration courts by placing pro bono attorneys in them to observe and report on the practices of immigration judges. In the second component, pro bono attorneys take one-week shifts at the detention centers to handle intakes and initial case work. They then represent detained immigrants in the merits of their cases and through appeals in the third component.
Many detained immigrants lack legal representation because they can’t afford it and because most detention centers are geographically isolated. Immigrants who do have counsel are 10 times as likely to succeed in their cases as those who represent themselves.
Draconian immigration enforcement is being expanded dramatically by the Trump administration. It is driven not by facts but by the rhetoric of hate and fear. Undocumented immigrants are often dehumanized and wrongly described as criminals.
“Providing access to counsel for immigrants detained in remote and, for the most part, privately operated ICE facilities in the Southeast is both critically important and extremely challenging,” said Tamara Caldas, Pro Bono Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, a law firm that has joined the SIFI effort. “The Southern Poverty Law Center’s launch of SIFI and its commitment to this difficult mission will give pro bono attorneys an opportunity to serve this largely unrepresented and vulnerable population so that their claims and defenses can be fairly considered and adjudicated.”
Werner added, “Most of the men, women and children in detention are simply people trying to make ends meet, and many are fleeing persecution in their home countries. They are part of our communities –neighbors, students, church members – and they are entitled to basic human rights.”
On Monday, the SPLC, along with other civil rights and private lawyers, filed court papers seeking the immediate release of Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old DACA recipient who was brought to the United States from Argentina at age 7. She was a detained by ICE agents shortly after speaking at a press conference in Jackson, Mississippi, on March 1.
Attorneys may sign up for SIFI here.