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Hours after the mass shooting in an El Paso, Texas Walmart, the American public learned of the shooting suspect’s hate-filled manifesto. Phrases like “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and “race mixing” described the alleged shooter’s apparent motive for the massacre that killed at least 20 people and injured 26 more. Posted online, the manifesto is an example of the toxic anti-immigrant wave that has been sweeping America during the past 20 years. Too often, the result is senseless violence and death.
Harassment of Immigrants
In our San Francisco law office, we have received phone calls in recent months from people who are afraid that ICE will discover their undocumented status. Clients recall instances of harassment and accusations that they are taking jobs away from Americans. Another client was told that the government was offering rewards to people who report undocumented immigrants. We have no evidence that the government is offering such a reward.
Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act
Much of the current anti-immigrant climate can be traced back to the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IRRAIRA) of 1996. Enacted during a time of increased illegal immigration, the IRRAIRA made it easier to deport both undocumented and documented immigrants who break the law while in the United States. Many of the crimes that trigger deportation are nonviolent. Even an immigrant with a green card could be deported just for committing a misdemeanor such as shoplifting or DUI.
The IRRAIRA puts severe roadblocks in the way of an immigrant who wants to return to the United States after deportation. For example, an immigrant who is unlawfully in the United States for 365 days or more may not re-enter the United States for ten years without a waiver. The result of the law was to make it more difficult and stressful for immigrants to stay in the United States. Deportations rose from 70,000 a year in 1996 to 400,000 a year while Obama was President, according to Vox.
Myths About Immigrants Taking From Americans
Much of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that we hear focuses on the fear that immigrants take jobs and benefits away from Americans. According to the current scarcity mentality, welcoming immigrants and their families results in fewer jobs and less aid for Americans. That belief is reflected in warnings about “Hispanic invasions” and other hateful rumors.
The facts, however, show that these fears are unfounded. An article in The Atlantic notes that immigrants work hard, pay taxes and actually strengthen the economy. When lower income immigrants receive aid from social programs, they are able to spend more money in their communities, find better jobs and contribute to the economy. Immigrants — legal or not — help increase city, state and federal revenue by paying taxes.
Embracing Cultural Diversity From Immigration
A bright side to immigration is the cultural diversity and new ideas immigrants bring to this country. Some immigrant children go on to Ivy League schools and contribute their skills, such as engineering, to our economy. Many become entrepreneurs who create jobs and provide important services. We are all enriched when artists from other countries bring their talents to the United States.
There are approximately 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. For years, government leaders have struggled to develop an effective immigration policy. Disgruntled Americans, looking for someone to blame during uncertain times, convince themselves that immigrants are taking jobs and finite resources and causing health care costs increase. It is a shame that immigrants are targeted by unfounded fears, suspicions and hatred.
It is just as easy — and more reasonable — to welcome immigrants as people who have much to offer society. We can choose to remember that America was built by immigrants. Diversity has always been our strength. The scarcity mentality need not overtake our thinking about immigration to America.
President Trump’s assertion that four US Congresswomen should go back to their countries raised alarms across the United States. All four women are United States citizens and three were born in the United States. The President’s statement also brought back appalling memories of a case we handled concerning a US citizen that the government mistakenly tried to deport.
Story of Daniel
My client, whom we’ll call Daniel, was born in California in 1985 to Filipino parents. He worked at a clothing factory in California. Like far too many Americans who have dark skin, he was arrested by ICE agents when he could not prove his US citizenship during a workplace raid.
When our staff attorney visited Daniel at a San Francisco detention center, the agent in charge would not release Daniel until we could provide proof of his citizenship. A passport, birth certificate or certificate of naturalization or citizenship would be accepted as proof. Neither Daniel nor his parents knew the location of his birth certificate, his only proof of citizenship.
Several days later, we were able to persuade an immigration judge that Daniel was a US citizen. Daniel’s ordeal is all too similar to other attempted deportations of US citizens.
Immigration Law and Mistaken Detentions
There are roughly 150 mistaken citizenship detentions in the United States every year. Many people who are detained find it difficult to prove their citizenship under our complex immigration laws. The New Yorker reports that James Busse was a 35-year-old stockbroker who was born in Barbados but came to the United States as an infant with his mother. She became a naturalized citizen when James was nine years old. James’s father was Canadian but died when James was a child.
If you were born in the United States, you are a US citizen. The law also says that people who have been permanent residents for five years can apply for citizenship. The required time to naturalize is three years if your spouse is a US citizen. If you were born outside the United States, you are a US citizen if both parents are citizens and at least one has lived in the United States.
You are also a citizen if your parent became a naturalized citizen when you were a minor. James Busse was an American citizen under this law. He had a green card as a child but never obtained a US passport. Nearly a year after his mistaken arrest by ICE, a judge dismissed Busse’s deportation case.
Frightening Times for Many Americans
One would think that the citizenship of four US Congresswomen would not be questioned. President Trump fanned anti-immigrant flames when he told these four US citizens to go back to their countries. American citizens of various ethnic backgrounds now worry about ICE raids. NBC News reports that US citizens are renewing and carrying their passports because they fear arrest.
Immigration law is complex. Mistaken detention is a frightening experience for an American who has no knowledge of the law. The current anti-immigrant climate is not the first in this country’s history. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, 450,000 Mexican Americans were deported to Mexico in a sweeping, often racist campaign. Roughly half of the deportees were US citizens. During the anti-communist scare of the 1950s, the US government sent more US citizens to Mexico. Once again in 2019, many Americans must be extra careful to avoid deportation by their own government.
Many Sunday sermons are addressing the suffering of immigrants at the United States border. The Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:25-27) is a good place to start. The story tells of a traveler who is left for dead after being robbed. A priest and a Levite see the injured man but pass him by. Only a Samaritan — usually an enemy of the Jews — stops to help. Jesus points out that the Samaritan looks beyond differences and sees a neighbor in need.
As Christians, we are called to help our neighbors who suffer in immigration detention centers. The Bible tells us, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
Conditions at Detention Centers
Bekah McNeel writes in Christianity Today, “The world, aching under the power and weight of sin, is grieving and we have always been called to weep with those who weep.” Observers have indeed lamented the inhumane conditions at border detention facilities. Shocking images of extreme overcrowding and unsanitary conditions have circulated throughout news channels and social media.
At one facility in Texas, a doctor reported cold temperatures and poor sanitation, lack of food and water, and inadequate medical care. Other reports stated that cells were so crowded at an El Paso processing center that migrants were unable to sit or lie down. Designed to hold 125 people, the facility held up to 900 migrants.
Children of Immigrants
The conditions at children’s detention centers has particularly shocked the public conscience. Observers at a facility in Clint, Texas stated that children were sleeping on concrete and wearing filthy clothes and lacked soap and toothbrushes. According to a May, 2019 NBC News report, seven children had died in border detention centers this year. No children had died the previous 10 years.
Myths About Undocumented Immigrants
Our faith compels us to dispute rumors and myths about undocumented immigrants draining the economy and causing violent crime. The Marshall Project studied crime rates associated with the 10.6 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Researchers found that undocumented immigrants either had no effect on violent crime rates or were associated with a slight decrease in rates.
Statistics also show that undocumented immigrants pay taxes and are less likely to take public benefits than native born Americans. Most social safety net programs require the recipient to be a lawful resident for five years.
Church Needs to Repent
Christians have called on the church to do more to end the suffering of immigrants. Max Lucado states that the church must lament and “repent for our complicity in their suffering.” He asks God to forgive us when we do not “see their humanity and trust in your bountiful economy.”
Chance to Act On Our Faith
As Christians, we cannot turn away when we hear about cruelty at the border. The American public as well as government officials have seen the conditions at immigration detention centers. NBC News reports that an internal report at the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged overcrowding, excessive heat, illness outbreaks and lack of showers at detention centers.
Our actions align with our beliefs when we work to ease suffering at the border. We can shorten the waiting lists for migrants to apply for asylum. We can reunite separated families. We can end prosecution of those who bring food and water to migrants at the border. When we care for our neighbors at the border, we live out the parable of the Good Samaritan.
A major operation by ICE is set again for this weekend (7/13/2019). The government is continuing the crackdown. But even before this announcement, we have already seen frequent immigration raids. Almost every day, there are reports of large-scale enforcement actions by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The main targets are usually the workplaces. Hundreds of undocumented aliens are being detained and processed for removal. ICE has announced that this time, it will be targeting homes. Many families are being torn apart. However not all removals are legal. Government agents do make mistakes. Now is the time to be vigilant and to insure that your rights remain intact.
Illegal immigration must be addressed. The government should enforce the laws. However, when immigration agents round up undocumented workers, the risk of someone being illegally detained remains. During a raid there is panic. Many will not have immediate access to an attorney. Sometimes, even though one has a right to see the immigration judge, the authorities may forget or may be too busy to process the court papers. Thus, one may spend many days, sometimes months, in jail while waiting for legal counsel. The Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory detention of aliens, including permanent residents, while removal proceedings are pending is constitutional
During the frenzy of mass removals or deportations, legal rights can be ignored. For example, lawful permanent residents are not subject to summary or expedited removal. This means that the government cannot just dump you on plane and ship you out. A long time resident is entitled to his or her day in court. The relief of “cancellation of removal” is available for those who have been staying for at least seven years. But if one fails to prove that he is a permanent resident, he may be removed from the U.S. We’ve talked to lawful immigrants who were almost placed in the same group of undocumented workers about to be placed on plane on the way out. We hear reports from cities like Atlanta Georgia and New Jersey that U.S. citizens with Mexican ancestry were being removed. It appears that these were due to government errors. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in New York seeking a court order blocking the operation. In the lawsuit, the lawyers claim that many of the migrants failed to appear for their scheduled appearances in immigration court because border agency officials failed to inform them of their court dates. These errors are costly.
Once in removal proceedings, many who don’t have attorneys and have limited English language skills are pitted against trained trial attorneys. Sometimes there are pro-bono attorneys to help the immigrants. But for those without government-appointed counsel, it is impossible to exercise legal rights
It is in our nation's interest to not only secure our borders, but also to provide for a realistic and practical immigration system that is in tune with our country's economic needs. We need a comprehensive immigration reform, including improved border security measures and a system to bring undocumented immigrants 'out of the economic shadows.' We don’t necessarily need to round up people like cattle and throw them out of the country. It is possible to create regulations to help immigrants instead of penalizing them. Let’s challenge our leaders to seek more civility and more just enforcement of immigration laws.
Different people come into our lives for different reasons – or so it is said. I do know that I have read in more than a few writings that the universe, in its mysterious ways, sends people to cross our paths so that we may develop, learn, expand. Unbeknown to themselves or ourselves, they assist us in finding some new meaning or new perspective regarding our existence. We may unknowlingly return the favor.
Often the reason we bump into a certain individual is not particularly obvious. However, over time we realize that the particular soul provided us with a perspective that affirms our beliefs, or tore down those beliefs to give us another try, or gave us new meaning regarding our place in this world in a way that we had never considered. One such gentleman – and he truly is – walked into my life.
Coyotes and Treks Across the Desert
Roberto came to America with the help of a coyote. No, not the four-legged variety that we know as a stealthy creature that often hunts or scavenges in the darkness of night. Because of those sneaky characteristics, “coyote” has become the term used for those humans engaged in smuggling people to the U.S. border. These human coyotes are almost always from Mexico, as are those seeking a new life in the U.S. However, citizens from Guatamala, El Salvador, and other nations to the south are represented as well.
For thousands of dollars per man, woman, or child, these coyotes lead their naive clients through remote and treacherous landscapes, and, if all goes well, ultimately to the United States border. Sadly, more than a few have not been able to endure the cruel journey and their bones now lie in arid Mexican deserts and boulder-strewn mountain passes. Nothing short of a miracle, Roberto somehow survived the sojourn, crossed the border, and wound up in California.
Hard Labor Due to Lack of Ambition?
For nearly ten years after crossing the border, Roberto earned a living as a fruit picker in the strawberry fields around the small towns in the valleys of California. Picking strawberries under the blazing sun in ninety-degree heat, the body always stooped over to reach the low-growing fruit, is not a cushy job. It’s also one of those jobs that most every U.S. citizen refuses to take. Every time I pass by one of those fields and see migrant workers bent down picking the fruit, my own body aches and my mind feels for the daily hardship and punishment that they endure to keep their families alive.
This is hard, hard labor. But for a man who had never learned to read or write to keep body and soul together, Roberto was content. More than content. This made me wonder about his ambition, or lack thereof. To me, a man with little or no ambition is hard to fathom. But who am I to judge? Maybe Roberto’s ambition is merely to have a job. Maybe he felt, with his particular condition, that he was blessed just to be able to find work and earn money.
Can It Get Any Worse?
Roberto's story doesn't end there. Aside from being illiterate, Roberto is deaf and mute. And, to add to a life that already had the potential for disappointment or failure, his status was "illegal alien." For those not familiar, the term “illegal alien” does not refer to a monster from outer space. In immigration law “illegal alien” is someone who is undocumented or someone who does not have the legal status to live and work in the United States.
Raiding Strawberry Fields
More than a few times, Roberto would be doing his job, only to look up and find himself alone in a strawberry field surrounded by immigration authorities. Roberto’s illegal co-workers had already fled, alerted by the government vehicle sirens that Roberto could not hear.
Confronted with a deaf mute person who didn't even know American Sign Language (Amsilan or ASL), and their obligation to the law as well (Miranda and other constitutional concerns), agents would usually leave him alone out of pure frustration. We used to joke about this with Roberto and his wife; but the thought of a dozen government agents, coming out of nowhere, surrounding you with guns drawn, can only be terribly frightening.
Immigration raids occur frequently in those fields even though it is generally known that many workers from Mexico and other central American countries crawl across the border to labor on U.S. farms. Many farming enterprises, large and small, depend on these illegal workers to tend and harvest their crops. This may be why, at times, immigration officials or local law enforcement agencies sound alarms before descending upon the fields. This could be a way to give the undocumented time to flee so that they can come back another day to resume their vital work.
Not So Sweet Honeymoon
After many years in the fields, Roberto met and fell in love with an American citizen. She is a lovely and very kind-hearted woman. They were married. As an adjunct benefit of the love affair, Roberto sought to legalize his status and he approached an immigration office. Well, an immigration office usually would not welcome an illegal person with open arms in a situation such as this. The charge of immigration officials in this country, especially under the Obama administration, is to “report and deport.” Some statistics show that Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other President in U.S. history. So, even though Roberto may have qualified to receive citizen status due to his marriage to a U.S. citizen, the immigration office viewed his claims as spurious.
So, they served him with a Notice of Hearing for Removal document. Essentially this is a formal notice that the government is going to start the removal process to get rid of an illegal and banish the individual forever from the United States. Though he could not read them, Roberto knew that the papers that were handed to him were not exactly an open invitation to become a new citizen. I met him soon thereafter. One morning he walked into my office in San Francisco, along with his lovely wife, and handed me those documents.
Since he could not speak, nor hear, nor understand any standard form of communication, his wife Lydia had to interpret for him. I wasn’t sure about their method of communication. It seemed to be an augmented or customized sign language, or perhaps something entirely contrived by the couple. Lydia would make some gesture that only Roberto could understand. I believed that since immigration officials could not communicate effectively with him regarding his rights and the charges against him, they could not legally detain him. Perhaps this is why they just served him with some papers regarding his deportation and left it at that, rather than taking him into custody, which could have complicated any future efforts they might have wanted to take to force him out of the country.
Just married, and on the brink of deportation from a country that he had been pleased to call his home for at least a decade, Roberto was seeking legal help. When he walked into our office, he was wearing what to him was his Sunday best. He looked as if he were an extra off the lot of an old western movie – the boots, the shirt, the hat, the whole kit. It was as if Clint Eastwood of the old “spaghetti westerns” had come galloping into our lobby. Thankfully, he had no guns, just great, warm smiles from him and his wife.
Roberto has broad shoulders and stands straight. His appearance perhaps does not belie the pleasant personality he possesses. In spite of his past travail and present circumstances, he seems content that he has a life in America. Perhaps because of the hardship he has endured due to his communication limitations, he has developed the strength to ward off the despair that usually accompanies hardship or difficulty. He passes through life lightly.
Roberto chiseled an important message on my heart. People deal with hardships and difficulties in many different ways. Some of us freak out or panic when faced with what seems to be insurmountable obstacles. Some would be resigned and take a defeatist attitude. What’s a defeatist attitude? That’s when you accept all the crap that’s happening to you and you sigh and you say, “That’s life, what can I do?” This type of mindset is very heavy both mentally and physically. It weighs down on you. You go around with this very negative attitude while carrying too much needless baggage. But, Roberto, despite bearing many problems, didn’t let those burdens decrease his light step through life.
A Wink and a Nod
At the outset, we knew full well the difficulties Roberto's case would present. A fundamental right, defined by the Constitution, requires that a defendant fully understands the allegations and the general proceedings put forth in a U.S. court. But, an ASL interpreter didn't quite fill the bill. Roberto never had any formal education. His informal signing consisted of some gestures and hand signs: A wink here and a nod there – and always his smile. Only Lydia really understood him with their home-made signals. I supposed their love for each other made it easier for them to communicate with each other.
Days In Court
Our legal team wondered if the legal system could even handle such a case. Among ourselves it was averred that no trial could proceed without competent interpretation for Roberto. It appeared that the judge was rather inured to the special circumstances of Roberto’s case and more interested in clearing his docket. Most immigration judges’ calendars are very congested.
This congestion has caused a directive from the chief immigration judge in Washington to expedite cases always and any way. If the judge had just declared Roberto incompetent to stand trial, he could have easily cleared one more case off his load, and Roberto probably would have been allowed to avoid deportation. But, the judge wanted to move on the case. His plate was full and he had many more lined up – I had checked his docket. He was determined to try this case and under his direction it looked like the government was determined to remove Roberto from the U.S.
The government’s iron hand was felt in its every motion. The government attorney didn’t give a damn if the person he was prosecuting had next to no idea about his legal situation. For him, this was just another “alien” that needed to be tossed out. He didn’t care if this guy picked the inexpensive strawberries that he had eaten that morning because no other U.S citizen wanted to do the back-breaking work. He didn’t care that Roberto was illegally under-paid. He didn’t care that Roberto’s extreme working conditions violated U.S laws. He didn’t care that Roberto was actually contributing to the U.S economy with his extremely cheap labor.
An immigration court room can be extremely dehumanizing. The entire deportation process treats people as mere cattle being herded in and out of the court room and cowed onto a bus back to the border. Sadly, once those people are no longer on U.S. soil, they are just dropped off and left without food, water, or any necessities for survival. The whole situation could almost be compared to the administrative ways the Nazi Party got the unwanted onto railway cars with a final stop at a concentration camp.
It almost seemed impossible to go to court with a client such as Roberto. The resounding question was: How do you defend someone who has but a scant knowledge of what’s happening? How do you communicate the complexities of a removal hearing under our arcane U.S. immigration laws to someone who has never set a foot inside a schoolroom?
Our legal team was determined not to the let the government, or its judges, railroad his case. Each time the government moved to go forward, we objected. We were steadfast that Roberto must comprehend everything about his accusation and his trial. Just because of his handicaps, he should not be deprived of a fair trial. Each time the judge scheduled one of several trials to deport Roberto to Mexico, we objected and resolved to take the case to higher courts, with the Supreme Court being a possible destination.
Not a Perfect Solution
We kept objecting to the government's lack of efforts or results in providing competent interpretation for him. We conducted our own research. We were having our own difficulties understanding Roberto. An expert interpreter who was also deaf and mute, known as a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI), was finally pulled in. He came all the way from the East Coast to interpret for Roberto.
The CDI would then interpret to an ASL interpreter who would then pass meaning on to the court and Roberto's advocates. Finally, Roberto's lawyers and the courts were satisfied that he fully comprehended what was happening to him. Though this was a rather clumsy solution, it worked and Roberto averred that he understood his situation.
Examining a Life
We proceeded to show the life that Roberto had managed to build during ten years of difficulty. His wife is plagued with health problems and depends on Roberto for many of her day-to-day requirements. They have a place in a small community, but neither has relatives close enough for any support. And we pushed home the point that, because of his handicaps, he would have great difficulty achieving anywhere near what he has here, should he be shipped back to Mexico.
One Day After Three Years
After the interpretation accommodations were made and the other matters settled, Roberto has been allowed to remain in the U.S. with his wife. The judge had little choice but to approve Roberto's application. One day after almost three years in U.S. court, a deaf, mute, illiterate man finally bumped into blind justice. Those handicaps don't impinge on the ability to cry. His counselors saw tears of joy in Roberto's eyes that day.
Let’s resolve to forget about last year’s immigration disappointments. When Congress failed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the hopes of millions came crashing down. Suffice it to say that the government failed in solving one of our country’s most troubling issues – immigration. However 2020 ushers a fresh perspective and lessons learned from the past can help in creating a solution.
Despite that relentless effort of thousands of immigrant groups and activists; we witnessed the slow and agonizing death of a comprehensive immigration reform bill on the floor of Congress. Despite criticism that the bill did not go far enough, it would’ve given some respite to the 12 million undocumented residents in this country.
But the shifting political winds may bring some needed solution in 2020. Immigration experts including law professors and veteran immigration lawyers agree that the immigration bill may be revived before the next election.
If democrats win this coming election, the bill may be much kinder and gentler than past proposals. Please recall that the Republican immigration bill called for more enforcement and raids and greater militarization of the border and erosion of some basic due-process rights. And under the Trump Administration this is exactly what we are getting. Critics pointed out that the Trump Administration abandoned long-standing US policy favoring the reunification of families and failed to protect workers’ most basic rights. This coming year the issues may be similar: Should US immigration policy become a labor supply system for corporations, or should it support families and communities? But the bottom line is something must be done.
There is guarded optimism in the air as we enter 2020 and the next election. The millions of families, workers, students, and parents who have been waiting for years for the government to legalize their status are again hopeful. It’s not too early to again prepare for what can be the next immigration amnesty. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
To become a US citizen, one must possess “Good Moral Character.” What that means is not clearly defined. However, you don’t necessarily have to be a “Mother Theresa” to become a US citizen. In fact there are many who get their US citizenships after a stint on criminal probation. Here is the legal definition: good moral character is character that measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides.
In a naturalization or citizenship proceeding, the immigration officer would first review the last five years preceding your application. What did you do? The officer would be looking for the bad acts. Here is a short list of offenses that may raise a red flag: habitual drunkards, incarcerated for 180 days or more, those with certain gambling-related issues, those who have given false testimony and those who have committed aggravated felonies, prostitution, and practiced polygamy.
Are you safe if the bad conduct is outside the five years? It depends. The immigration officer may take into account the prior bad acts. If the officer believed that you have not reformed after your prior bad acts then those will be counted against you. If the officer believes your prior bad acts are relevant to the current application, you can get penalized. Can you get deported? Yes. For this reason it’s not a good idea to apply for citizenship without checking with an attorney if you’re concerned about a prior bad act.
Giving false testimony to obtain any immigration benefit is often taken for granted. Be careful on this one. If the false testimony was made orally, under oath or affirmation, and with intent to obtain an immigration benefit, you can get nailed. Don’t take anything for granted. Take your time to recall your past history. Go slow. If you’re concerned about a past misrepresentation check first with an attorney.
Immigration Service will conduct a background check on each applicant. At the time of the interview, the bad and the good will show. It’s best to be prepared and ready to explain your prior bad acts and let the officer know that you have a good moral character.
Courtrooms are made to reflect the power of the law and of the state – the stern guy in a long dark robe sitting behind a high desk, the flags floating behind him, the secretaries flanking him, the big police officers lurking everywhere.
Courtrooms are often controlled chaos – the lawyers flitting around talking to clients, the clerks milling in and out of side doors, the public flowing in from the back to fill the gallery, the underlying feel of tension.
Into this extraordinarily busy and confusing milieu, throw a youngster, and have him or her looking up – alone – at a judge, while being told that he or she must return to a place where crime and poverty and death prevail.
On January 29, 2018, in a case concerning a young fellow named CJ (alias), the U.S. Ninth Circuit Courts ruled that children who enter the country illegally with their parents have no right to a government-appointed lawyer in immigration court.
The ruling held that neither the Due Process Clause of the Constitution nor the Immigration & Nationality Act creates a categorical right to court-appointed counsel. The court relied on a federal case that held that since immigration court proceedings are considered civil cases rather than criminal, there is no constitutional right to an attorney.
The consequence of this ruling is that experienced and seasoned prosecutors are pitted against young and helpless children in court. The children don't stand a chance. These hearings are incredibly complex and some judges even have difficulty explaining the proceedings to adults, let alone to children. Nationwide, there are thousands of children in immigration courts. The end result may very well be the mass deportation of bewildered youngsters.
CJ's Story – Join or Die
CJ filed for asylum when he was 13, claiming that he feared persecution because a gang from Honduras was trying to recruit him. When he resisted the gang, his life was threatened. The boy came to the U.S. with his mother and ultimately appeared in immigration court without an attorney. Denied a stay of deportation, the gangsters are probably at CJ now – to join or die.
Imagine living in a town that is controlled by a bunch of drug-dealing murderers. The drug and gang wars in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are forcing kids and their families to flee their homes to survive. As they arrive in large numbers, many of them will land in immigration courts around the country – without any adequate representation.
“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me ...”
According to Stanford University Immigration Clinic, the present government believes that recent arrivals of children and their families are not entitled to any immigration relief. Yet, with a little bit of legal help, studies have shown that many recent arrivals would legally qualify for refugee status, or some type of special status, especially for certain vulnerable juveniles.
Also, Stanford indicates that many low-cost or non-profit immigration organizations are operating at capacity and unable to take many new cases in the wake of the ruling. Many people who are in removal or deportation proceedings are pretty much destitute and cannot afford an attorney. Courts often have to ask pro bono attorneys to represent them. The phones at my office are already jammed with people requesting low or free legal services.
This ruling may mean that thousands of children will have to represent themselves in immigration courts. Despite the recent ruling, it seems the Department of Justice has been deporting kids without benefit of attorney since 2014, according to Immigration Rights Advocates. The rule of law is essential, but there must be some compassion behind the law.
Help on the Way?
Despite the recent ruling facing young immigrants today, there is a current bill in Congress called "Fair-Day-in-Court-for-Kids-Act" according to Human Rights Watch. The act that would mandate court-appointed counsel for children, no matter the charge, civil or criminal.
With only kids to represent themselves in Immigration Courts, there will be mass deportations, sending these children back to the violence and the drugs and the gangs they are running from. This is tantamount to the U.S. delivering sentences of gang-slavery or gang-death on a massive scale. The undefended youngsters seem to be the criminals here.
About the author: Johnson Lazaro and Lazaro Law Group has been practicing law for over 22 years.
What is Family Law?
Divorce, child custody and support, spouse support or alimony, community property division, prenuptial agreements are all under the umbrella of Family Law. This is an area of the law that presents the whole spectrum of human emotions. Under family law we see denial, anger, bargaining, depression, frustration and acceptance. However due to the volatility of human relationship, family law becomes an integral part of our justice system. What follows are some answers to common family law questions.
How long to get a divorce in California?
Generally speaking a divorce is usually concluded within six months in California. However a marriage will not automatically dissolve within six months. There are procedures to be completed, forms to be filed and fees to be paid.
The lawyer for my ex keeps asking for my records and documents, should I provide them?
A party to a divorce has the duty to fully and accurately disclose all assets and liabilities in which one or both parties have or may have an interest. This responsibility includes the duty to disclose all community assets. The failure to disclose, or provide inadequate disclosure, can be grounds for the court to set aside the entire judgment. This means even after your divorce is completed, it can be reversed.
What’s the best way to gain custody of my child?
The Court will look into what is in the best interest of the child. You must honestly look at the situation that your child is in and decide whether you would be able to provide a more safe and nurturing environment. If you believe that the other parent would not do a good job caring for the child then get ready to articulate your reasons if you go to court without an attorney.
I have not seen my child in years. Can I still get custody?
The family law judge would not instantly award you custody of the child. You may first get some visitation time and gradually work your way to more custody. You’ll need to prove that you can be a responsible parent and comply with court orders. The next step will be to file a modification of custody.
How can I get spouse support?
Obtaining spouse support can be complicated. Try to consult with an attorney. Generally, some experts argue that temporary spouse support is to enable one spouse to live in her accustomed manner or lifestyle during a divorce proceeding. If one has a high standard of living during marriage and all of sudden, the divorce has left you without a roof on your head; you have good argument for support.
What’s the difference between a legal separation and a divorce? The main difference of course is that divorce dissolves the marriage. One is again single and free to marry. Legal separation does not terminate the marriage. Some people use legal separation to get around the six month waiting period. One can initially file for legal separation and then amend the petition once the residency requirement is met.
My house was fully-paid for before I got married. Now that my wife filed for divorce can I keep my house? Generally, property acquired before marriage are ordinarily the separate property of the spouse who acquired it. Conversely, if you acquire property during marriage but after separation you may get to keep that property as your own. See an attorney about this.
My child is with me in New Jersey and I have filed for child custody here. Now my Ex-husband filed a case California to get custody of my child.
Can he take my child? This is a very common question. Generally, unless there is an emergency, if there is a child custody proceeding in another state, a California Court will decline to hear the case especially if it determines that the parties will have hardship proceeding in California. However, the California Court may retain jurisdiction over the issues of the case such as the divorce or community property division.
Changing Times Increases Scrutiny at the Consulate Since the Trump Administration has tightened the borders, those conducting your immigrant visa interviews at the embassy or consulate are looking closer at your documents and answers. Even the smallest irregularity can result in a denial of entrance into the United States. In years past, a copy of a document or the actions of a distant relative would not have caused a problem, but it might now. What are the most common errors detected during the immigrant visa process? Let's find out.
Bring the Right Paperwork The process begins with paperwork before you even get to speak to a representative of the United States. Your petition should be reviewed by an attorney experienced in immigration law before you submit it to ensure that it is complete and accurate. After your petition is approved, you will be asked to collect documentation to support your request for a VISA.
Lazaro Law Group, Managing Attorney