Remembering the Postville Raid, 2 Years Ago Today

via NYTimes.com:

In the excellent video interview above, Erik Camayd-Freixas, an interpreter, speaks about the proceedings against undocumented immigrants arrested at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Iowa on May 12, 2008.

In an essay he wrote about the experience, Camayd-Freixas noted:

It is no secret that the Postville ICE raid was a pilot operation, to be replicated elsewhere, with kinks ironed out after lessons learned. Next time, “fast-tracking” will be even more relentless. Never before has illegal immigration been criminalized in this fashion. It is no longer enough to deport them: we first have to put them in chains. At first sight it may seem absurd to take productive workers and keep them in jail at taxpayers’ expense. But the economics and politics of the matter are quite different from such rational assumptions.

As an update to the Postville raid, just last month, a former manager of the kosher Iowa slaughterhouse was convicted of financial fraud and now faces a possible life sentence.

So in 2010, are we any better off?

Due Process for Detainees in the USA

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) will begin a review of human rights practices in the United States later this year.  Here is an excerpt from a report submitted this week to the UNHRC, by the National Immigrant Justice Center and 25 other organizations.  It highlights the primary concern of the Bond Fund:  it is difficult to have a fair hearing in immigration detention.

The Right to Due Process

Although U.S. law provides noncitizens a right to counsel in removal proceedings, the statute prohibits funding of counsel “at government expense.” Despite the efforts of NGOs and volunteer lawyers to fill this gap, 84 percent of noncitizens facing removal lack representation. Unrepresented noncitizens include vulnerable populations such as unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, torture survivors, or trafficking victims. For example, studies have found that asylum seekers are almost three times more likely to be granted asylum if they are represented by counsel than if they appear pro se in immigration hearings. By allowing noncitizens representation but at no government expense, the United States effectively limits representation to noncitizens who have, or are capable of locating, the financial resources to secure counsel on their own.

For many noncitizens, isolation in immigrant detention facilities compounds their inability to locate legal counsel. Noncitizens apprehended by immigration authorities are often moved to facilities hundreds or thousands of miles from the location of their arrest, even if they have well-established family and community ties there. Most immigrant detention facilities are located in remote areas, prohibitively far from cities where most pro bono attorneys or even private attorneys work. Even detained immigrants who manage to obtain representation may be transferred to immigrant detention facilities so far from their attorneys that they are forced to terminate the representation. In some cases, the rapid transfer of detainees between facilities creates situations in which attorneys cannot track and locate their own clients.

Noncitizens must have competent representation to have a fair day in court. Immigrants without legal counsel who pursue their cases in immigration court often face lengthy and arbitrary detention. The complexity of the system and the fear of prolonged detention results in noncitizens unintentionally signing away their rights and unknowingly agreeing to deportation. For example, noncitizens routinely sign stipulated removal orders, waiving their right to see a judge, without understanding that the legal consequences include deportation. Of the 80,844 stipulated orders of removal signed between April 1997 and February 2008, 94 percent were signed by immigrants who spoke primarily Spanish, and most had not been charged with a crime.

For the full report, go to:  http://www.immigrantjustice.org/resourcespolicy/detention/upr.html

Bond Fund to Tanisha Bowens: Why do you care?

Tanisha Bowens, CLINIC Attorney

The Bond Fund is asking advocates, donors, and others, “Why do you care about immigrants?”  In this interview we speak with Tanisha Bowens, attorney at CLINIC, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.  Until recently, Tanisha volunteered on the Bond Fund Steering Committee.  We appreciate her work on behalf of our project!

Bond Fund:  Did you know what you wanted to do after law school?

Tanisha:  Yes, I looked for internships and classes to learn immigration law.  I had a plan to look for work as an immigration lawyer at a nonprofit in Miami.  After I graduated, I worked at Catholic Charities and then the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Bond Fund:  Why were you interested in immigration law?

Tanisha:  It dates back to a trip I took in college.  A good friend was invited to speak at a conference in Canada.  She invited me to take the road trip with her, go to the conference, and stay with a local family.  Neither of us had much experience with travel – though she was here as a student from West Africa.  At the Florida airport, everything was fine.  When we changed planes in Houston, everything seemed OK, but I saw the airline staff keep something from my friend’s passport and staple it to the part of the ticket the airline keeps.  My friend did not seem to notice or care, so I didn’t give it much weight at the time.

After four days at the conference we rushed back to the airport to catch our flight.  But my friend was stopped at the gate, and ordered to go to another room to meet with an immigration agent.  The airlines personnel told me I could go ahead, but how could I leave my friend alone?  She looked so defeated.  She was quiet and startled as the immigration agent asked her about her passport and documents.  I was the one arguing with them, until the agent basically told me to shut up.  The agents were mean-spirited, and told my friend, “You are lucky we don’t arrest you.”

We were not sure what to do next.   We were so young, and of course we didn’t have any money or family with us to help.  So we called our host family in Canada.  The next day, my friend and I returned to the airport with our tall, white, male Canadian host.  He persuaded the agents to check with the airline in Houston for the passport document I saw the flight attendant misplace.  The immigration agents wouldn’t listen to me, but they listened to him.  We were able to confirm my friend’s lawful status as a student in the US, and re-book our flight home.

That experience – feeling so low and having someone look at us like we were dirt – I never wanted to be in that situation again.  It really influenced my decision to become a lawyer for immigrants.

The Next Generation

Late last year, local police in Florida stopped a vehicle for an alleged    improper turn at an intersection during morning rush hour restrictions.  The driver of the car was fair-skinned, and the three passengers were dark-skinned.  They were on their way to work together.  The local police did not arrest anyone; however, the police officer called the Border Patrol and held the individuals for over an hour because he suspected the passengers were in the country illegally. The local police was not deputized to enforce immigration law. The Border Patrol was aware that the police officer was unlawfully enforcing immigration law, yet decided to respond to the call. The Border Patrol arrested and detained the passengers, and they were put in removal proceedings.

Community organizers and lawyers from the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Corn Maya and the Jupiter Neighborhood Resource Center rallied to the defense of one of the young passengers.  They raised questions about the local police actions – was this a case of racial profiling?  Is it the job of local police to contact the Border Patrol about passengers in a traffic infraction?  Did the local police and/or Border Patrol respect the constitutional rights of the passengers?

The local organizers contacted the National Immigrant Bond Fund to help bond the passenger out of detention, and they recruited Rebecca Sharpless of the Immigration Clinic of the University of Miami School of Law to represent him.   Her students recently appeared in immigration court on his behalf.  Here is our interview with the students:

University of Miami law students Ben Quevedo (left) and Daniel Yibirin (right) on their way to immigration court.

Bond Fund: How did you get interested in immigration law?
Ben Quevedo: The law school clinic was an opportunity to do pro bono work, and a good opportunity to get hands-on training.  So much of the law school experience is confined to a classroom. The Immigration Clinic provides a chance to help real clients with a need for representation.
Daniel Yibirin: I came to this country as a child, and became a citizen five or six years ago, when I was a junior in college.  I knew the process first-hand and how stressful the process can be. Therefore, I’m interested in helping others with their immigration cases.

Bond Fund: What did you do on behalf of the client in this case?
Ben Quevedo: We identified several constitutional, statutory and regulatory violations that were committed during the arrest of our client, so we filed motions to suppress evidence and terminate proceedings based on those violations.

Bond Fund: Why did you file a motion to suppress?
Daniel Yibirin: We believe that the actions from the local police officer and from Border Patrol were unlawful for many reasons. Therefore, it was necessary for us to file a motion to suppress so that we could exclude the illegally obtained evidence. It was also important to file a motion to suppress to hopefully deter future Constitutional and regulatory violations.
Ben Quevedo: Every one in this country has certain constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer.

Bond Fund: What surprised you most about presenting a case in immigration court?
Daniel Yibirin: I had previously worked as a law clerk for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, so I was aware that the Court is often overburdened with a heavy caseload. However, I think it still surprises me the sheer amount of cases that are heard on a daily basis and how long it sometimes takes to get a final decision. We were present for two master calendar hearings but will not be in the clinic for the individual merits hearing.
Ben Quevedo: We hoped to have a resolution before the end of the school year, so it was anti-climatic for us and the client when the case was continued.  We won’t be with the clinic any more after this semester, but we will be following the case as the next student attorneys take over to see what happens next.

Bond Fund: Many thanks to you and all the people and organizations that pulled together to help on this case.

The Other Crim-Imm Conundrum: Bail and Bond

The Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla is an important step toward protecting the due process rights of immigrants.  However, there are many problems with the interplay of criminal and immigration law and procedure, including this catch-22 situation for people picked up by local police in North Carolina.  Tana Liu-Beers, attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at the North Carolina Justice Center explains:

County jails in North Carolina are full of people who should not be there and who do not have a chance to get out.

Normally, people arrested for all but the most serious offenses get criminal bail set for them. Certainly someone arrested for a noise violation, driving without a license, or even DWI would get a criminal bail set. She can then pay the bail and get out of jail while she waits for her hearing date. For people suspected of being undocumented immigrants, though, there is virtually no way for them to get out. Worse, the system traps immigrants in a vicious legal double-bind from which it is nearly impossible to escape.

North Carolina has a plethora of immigration enforcement programs, many of which deputize local law enforcement to serve as immigration agents. In addition to the well-known 287(g) programs currently operating in eight counties, a program called “Secure Communities” is rapidly spreading. Only the purchase of digital fingerprint technology stands in the way of this darling of the Department of Homeland Security being implemented in every jail in the state. Other federal immigration enforcement programs are also widely used in our state.

The upshot of all these programs is more arrests of immigrants for minor offenses like noise violations and traffic offenses. And a single arrest in a 287(g) or Secure Communities county, regardless of whether the charges are later dropped, is enough to put you on your way to deportation. If the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as ICE), thinks someone is in the country without proper documentation, it lodges a detainer. An ICE detainer asks the jail to hold someone so that ICE can pick her up. ICE usually declines to set immigration bonds or release people.

What this means is that the opportunity to get out on bail is usually worthless to someone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. If she pays her bail, ICE picks her up and moves her as fast as possible to an immigration detention center in South Carolina, Georgia or Alabama. The family then loses the bail money, and the immigrant is treated as if she jumped bail and fled from the law. Nevermind that the only reason she missed her state hearing is because she was in immigration detention in another state.

The only way to avoid this catch-22 is to find an immigration lawyer who is willing to request an immigration bond hearing for you. Unfortunately, immigrants in removal proceedings have no right to appointed counsel, so they are on their own to find and pay for someone. The vast majority of detained immigrants never get to consult with an immigration lawyer, much less be represented by one. Even with a lawyer, detained immigrants still have to get over the hurdles of convincing an immigration judge to set bond and getting together thousands of dollars to pay the bond.

Without a chance to get out of immigration detention, immigrants are wise to not pay their bail and just stay in jail. In many cases, these are people who pose no threat to the community and little flight risk. The state court said as much when it set bail for them. But because they are suspected of being undocumented immigrants, we insist that they sit in our county jails with no chance to get out.

Report from the Rally

Reform not Raids

Reform not Raids

People came from as far as California to attend the rally on Sunday in support of immigration reform.  Buses parked on side streets across the city of Washington, DC, as the mall filled with families, union members, religious congregations, community organizers, and immigrants from all walks of life.  Throughout the day organizers came back with estimates for the crowd size.  100,000!  150,000!  200,000!  Congress toiled inside to pass health care legislation.  “Health care today, immigration reform tomorrow!” said the speakers who took the stage.

The rally started at two in the afternoon, and was going strong as evening approached.  Congressional representatives spoke, including Senator Menendez and Congressman Luis Gutierrez.  Religious leaders, farm workers, union leaders, and immigration advocates addressed the crowd.  The Dream Act marchers sent a student speaker, and a video from the road.  They were not the youngest speakers, though.  A little boy told the crowd about one of his parents being deported, and his fear for his other parent in proceedings.  At the end of his speech he called out “Gutierrez for President,” and the crowd cheered.

Little Boy with Flag

Families attended the rally for immigration reform

The crowd was hopeful, at times chanting, “Si se puede!” and “Ya es la hora.”  President Obama sent a video to the rally, reiterating his commitment to immigration reform for this year.  “That drew a big response from the marchers,” said Allison Posner, a member of the National Immigrant Bond Fund steering committee, who attended the rally.  Still, some people were a little nervous about the trip home, she said.    “One union organizer, who knows I am a lawyer, asked for my phone number, ‘just in case’ there was a problem on the road,” said Allison.  Without lawful immigration status, people who attended the rally risked possible arrest and detention.  But they are hopeful for a path to citizenship.

The Bond Fund in North Carolina: One person’s story

Courtesy united-states-map.org

The Bond Fund recently started working with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham, North Carolina on a joint project.  Together we help immigrants who are arrested by local police on minor charges and referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for detention.

Here is the story of one client, Arnulfo:

Arnulfo was sixteen years old when he was taken from his home and inducted into the Salvadoran Civil War, a conflict which lasted 12 years and left 75,000 dead. Unable to find work in war torn El Salvador and eager to escape the growing gang violence there, Arnulfo came to the U.S. with temporary protected immigration status.

But he has never been the same since the war, said his sister Aida: he struggles with scizophrenia, thoughts of suicide, alcohol dependence, and he has been admitted to mental health facilities multiple times.

Arnulfo was living and working in Maryland when he was robbed and lost his legal papers, which he was then unable to renew. He came to North Carolina and was living with his sister when the police came to the house because of a noise complaint.

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Aida was beside herself when her brother was detained. “As his older sister, I always feel a responsibility to take care of him,” she said. She knew she couldn’t afford bond on her own — $5000 — and thanks God that she found the Bond Fund. “I’m so happy being able to spend time with my brother and knowing that he’s alright,” she said, “I know being in jail was not good for his already fragile mental health.” [Reposted from Southern Coalition for Social Justice]

Read more about the project in the Catawba Valley Citizen.