via_ostiense: Eun Chan eating, yellow background (Default)
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As you may have heard in the news, there are a ton of women and children fleeing violence (from abusive partners, violent gangs, corrupt police, and more) in Central America and coming to the U.S. to seek asylum. They are women. and children. and infants. They are refugees. They have friends and family in the U.S. that can feed and shelter them while they're pursuing their asylum claims in immigration court.

You would think that the Obama administration, which controls Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), would welcome these women and children, process them at the border, and then let them go on their way to join their U.S. sponsors, file their asylum claims, and build new lives free from gang violence, death threats, and brutal abuse.

You would be wrong.

The Obama administration has been detaining these refugee women and children in what's called "family detention." They think that asylum-seeking "family units," which means women and children, are a threat to national security, and so they process the refugees at the border and then ship them off to euphemistically named "family residential facilities" that are jails in everything but name. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which has the distinction of being a private prison company that operates many prison facilities and makes an obscene amount of money off of it, runs the immigration jail in Dilley, TX. You can call it the "South Texas Family Residential Center," but that doesn't change the fact that Dilley is a jail, and that the Obama administration is holding asylum seekers, traumatized refugees who have strong claims for asylum under U.S. and international law, in jail.

There are babies incarcerated in Dilley.

There are children incarcerated in Dilley.

There are women who have suffered rape, partner violence, death threats, beatings, gang recruitment, and more horrors beyond description, incarcerated in Dilley.

Immigration detention is not like criminal detention. You get put in criminal prison if you're convicted of a crime (this is oversimplifying, but let's go with this for now). You're supposed to get put in immigration detention only if (1) you're a flight risk and you won't attend your immigration court dates unless you are held in prison and escorted to your court dates; or (2) you're a danger to the community. With family detention, Obama has set a blanket policy of detaining all family units seeking asylum in the U.S. from Central America, without even first determining whether they're a flight risk or a danger to the community. This is a travesty against all notions of due process, liberty, and human decency.

Theoretically, the Dilley inmates (the CCA corrections officers--oops, I'm sorry, the CCA staff--call them "residents," but they are inmates no matter what euphemism you use) have the right to be released. An immigration judge will hold a bond hearing, during which s/he considers whether the asylum-seeker is a flight risk, or if she's likely to attend future court dates if released from immigration jail, and whether she's a danger to the community. The immigration judge has the power to release the refugees on their own recognizance (i.e. without setting a bond), or can impose a bond that the refugee and her family have to pay in order for her to get out of Dilley immigration jail.

I spent the last week representing and counseling women and children in Dilley on their bond hearings. Every single woman and child I met with has a strong case for asylum, and desperately wants to file and pursue an asylum claim. They want to go to their immigration court dates and will do so if they're released from Dilley; they don't need to be held in Dilley's immigration jail in order to attend their dates. They're also not dangerous; they're refugees fleeing danger, and the most that they want is to get asylum and rebuild their lives in safety.

Nonetheless, the immigration judges have been setting astronomically high bonds for release. Rather than release my clients and the other detainees on their own recognizance (i.e. without any bond), the immigration judges have set bonds of thousands of dollars. Theoretically, this means that if their family and friends in the U.S. can scrounge up the money, my clients can be released from immigration jail and pursue their asylum cases while free. This is a huge advantage, because at Dilley, my clients have virtually no access to counsel; no one to help them fill out their asylum applications; no one to translate the court filing forms from English into Spanish for them; and no one to guide them through the maze that is asylum and immigration law. My clients have excellent cases for asylum, and if they can pay the bond and get out of Dilley, they will be able to find pro bono attorneys and people to help them with their asylum cases, and will probably get asylum.

However, the bonds are far, far too high. The detainees' families cannot pay the bonds that the immigration judges are setting. They simply do not have the money to pay these unnecessary bonds. If the detainees can't bond out of Dilley and have to stay in immigration jail, where they have virtually no access to lawyers and no access to anyone who can help them with their asylum claims, they are absolutely going to lose their asylum cases, and the Obama administration will deport them. And then they will die.

One of my clients fled her home country because a violent criminal organization threatened to dismember her young child and give her back the pieces in a garbage bag. If my client can't get bonded out and has to represent herself in her asylum proceeding, in a legal system she doesn't understand, in a language she doesn't speak, the Obama administration will deport them to their deaths.

My classmates and I are raising money to assist the detainees' families in paying the bonds, so that these refugee women and children can get out of Dilley immigration prison, find an attorney, and file their asylum claims. Please donate to our Bond 4 Refugees GoFundMe. Every dollar helps, and every dollar goes straight to assisting the families with bond payment. Please share this link and please read more about family detention, and what our government is doing to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses fleeing to the United States yearning to be free from violence and the constant threat of death.



More on Family Detention

Mother Jones - Inside Obama's Family Deportation Mill" - an excellent article on all the problems with family detention. It's written about the Artesia family detention center that Obama shut down in December, but the Dilley and Karnes immigration jails have most of the same problems: they're an hour drive from the nearest major city and any appreciable legal community that can help the incarcerated women and chlidren; Dilley was refusing to set up legal calls (WHICH THE DETAINEES HAVE A RIGHT TO) until lawyers (aka my clinic team) arrived on the ground; the immigration judges are fast-tracking the cases; and the women have no idea what they're supposed to do, how they're supposed to fill out the court forms (the forms are only in English), and are being denied any shot at a fair legal hearing.

NY Times - Deported From the Middle of Nowhere - At an Immigrant Detention Center, Due Process Denied - a shorter piece that identifies all the problems with Obama's blanket detention policy on women-and-children seeking asylum from Central America.

"U.S. panel hears testimony on guard charged over involvement with inmate" - the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is hearing testimony on a culture of institutional sexual assault against detained women and children asylum-seekers at the Berks, PA "family residential center." There are criminal charges against one of the guards for sexually assaulting and raping one of the detained women.

ACLU - ACLU sues Obama administration for detaining asylum seekers as intimidation tactic" - the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for their policy of detaining asylum seekers as a deterrence policy.

You know, the Obama administration's position is that if you allow these women-and-children to go free when they cross the border, settle down with their relatives in the U.S., and pursue their asylum claims without being locked up in jail, then there'll be a swarm of refugees coming to the U.S. That is in all seriousness their actual justification for locking up all these women-and-children. Last week, I had a court hearing and the DHS attorney made that argument. This argument is ridiculous, because locking people up will not deter them. The women-and-children who are fleeing to the U.S. from Central America are not economic immigrants making a rational decision about where their employment prospects are better, they are refugees running for their lives. They are desperate, they didn't want to come here, and they didn't want to abandon their families, their friends, their church communities, and everything they knew in order to make a dangerous, grueling journey up through Central America to the U.S. border. They came because they had no other options. All the women-and-children who will come to seek asylum in the future will come because they have no other options and are scared for their lives, scared enough to leave everything behind. This blanket detention policy is not going to deter them one way or another, and so the most humane thing, and our obligation under our own laws and international human rights laws, is to admit the refugees, let them resettle, and let them pursue their asylum claims, rather than lock them up in situations that guarantee they'll lose their claims. And they'll be losing their claims not because their claims are bad, but because they don't understand English and can't fill out the application forms; because they don't understand immigration law and don't know what they're supposed to argue; and don't know how to send their forms to the court (which is in another state) and the government because no one tells them any of this. No one helps them with any of this.

Please help our clients' families bond them out of Dilley, so they have the best possible shot at getting asylum. Every last bit helps. Bond 4 Refugees.
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via_ostiense: Eun Chan eating, yellow background (Default)
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January 2015

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