Not Just Children at Risk on our Southern Border!-UPDATED
August 28, 2013: The eyewitness accounts continue to come in from Artesia. Click here to see a video update from Laura Lichter (former AILA National President and others) about what is happening. Additional video accounts can be seen here.
In the past two months, many of my professional colleagues and fellow members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have chosen to give up time from their practices and families to travel to Artesia, New Mexico. Many for more than a week at a time. However, Artesia is not the latest resort city slated to host an AILA conference and golf outing! They have chosen to travel to Artesia to provide pro bono representation to women and children, including infants, and to assure that, minimally, the government provides a fair credible fear hearing to those fleeing violence and likely death in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
While, these women, children and infant detainees are legally entitled to this hearing process, they are are not entitled to an attorney at the government’s expense. Consequently, without volunteer legal representation, these individuals are left to explain to the government why they qualify as refugees according to a legal definition they can’t read contained in a statute they don’t know exists in an environment that may has well be Mars to them. Not only the children themselves are at risk on our border. Our nation’s own commitment to due process equally hangs in the balance.
The threat to our basic national values is not theoretical, it is real and in practice. Consider some of the examples shared from my colleagues:
- Bond determination hearings in cases where the detained person has an attorney lasting an hour and half or more. (Typical bond determination hearings in Immigration Court last less than 30 minutes).
- Only two bonds granted in cases represented by pro bono attorneys and no bond less than $25,000. One additional bond granted in a case represented by a private attorney. The vast majority of detainees are simply denied bonds altogether. (The minimum Bond permitted under the Immigration and Nationality Act is $1500 and, even in cases where the person in removal proceedings may have minor convictions, an average bond before the Kansas City Immigration Court is $5000 to $7500). Of course, there is no such thing as bond agents or “10% cash allowed.”
- Attorneys in cases where the detainee is represented, are generally not allowed to participate in the hearing in any meaningful manner other than to take notes. (The USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual clearly details the role of the attorney to specifically permit the attorney to ask clarifying questions and to participate in creating a clear and complete record).
- AILA attorneys are routinely harassed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for so much as attempting to access public legal reference materials and conducting detailed interviews of their detainee clients.
And the list of due process complaints goes on and one. One can only shudder to think of what happens to the unrepresented detainees.
Accordingly, several non-profit groups, including the American Immigration Council, filed suit on August 22, 2014 in the Federal District Court for the District of Colombia bringing to light this attack on due process and abject failure of our immigration system to live up to the expectations of our American values. The suit filed last week and can be read in its entirety by clicking below.
If you are interested in supporting the work of the attorneys providing pro bono representation to detainees in Artesia, New Mexico, please contact our office by clicking here and indicate your desire. We will promptly follow up to get you in direct contact with them!
Download and read the entire law suit here: M.S.P.C. et al. v. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security