Dispatches on the Campaign
Campaign Dispatch 7/24/2020: Hope
In these heartbreaking times, it’s rare but precious to hear good news.
Our volunteer community has not stopped fighting side-by-side with men and women who seek release from immigration prisons during the pandemic. This edition of the Campaign Dispatch reminds us all how urgent this work is – and how much of a difference you can make.
Winston* just met his infant son for the first time.
Winston and his pregnant wife fled Cameroon after he was tortured for having participated in a teachers’ union protest. When they finally made it to the U.S., ICE detained Winston in the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, California, while his wife gave birth to their son in Maryland. When Winston met volunteer attorney Ruth, he had been in detention for over a year and had never seen his son. He had recently been transferred from San Diego to a detention center in Houston, Texas. Winston has high blood pressure, and his baby son had been in and out of the ICU with acute asthma. Over the course of their work together, Winston and Ruth brought unflagging energy and dedication to every challenge – including a completely non-responsive ICE office and required payment of a $5,000 bond. Their energy and dedication led to his release, and Winston finally reunited with his wife, whom he hadn’t seen in two years, and his infant son. Many Cameroonian asylum seekers like Winston remain confined in ICE detention during this pandemic and are acutely at risk.
Vihaan* was detained for 524 days before being released.
“Vihaan’s indefatigable spirit fighting for asylum showed me that it is actually our clients who teach us about strength, conviction, and justice,” said volunteer attorney Akash of his client, Vihaan.
Vihaan fled India because the majority political party threatened to kill him and attacked him so seriously that he was hospitalized. Police also threatened him and refused to protect him. The political party has continued to track him since his arrival to the U.S. Vihaan protested his detention in Krome ICE Processing Center in Miami, Florida by participating in a 216-day hunger strike. Vihaan was released on parole after 524 days in detention and is now living with his sponsor.
ICE kept Alvaro* in detention during the pandemic despite his diabetes, but he persevered and won release.
Alvaro had lived in the United States for over two decades when ICE put him into detention. He is at high risk for COVID-19 because he is diabetic. While detained, he experienced unquenchable thirst and blurred vision.
His volunteer attorney, Marcel, reported that ICE and the detention center would not communicate with him regarding Alvaro’s case. But Alvaro and Marcel fought hard, and finally, Alvaro was granted parole and released last month.
At a time when ICE continues to endanger countless lives, your volunteer legal defense is needed now more than ever. Thank you for joining this fight.
Campaign Dispatch 5/22/2020: Inspiring volunteer work amid COVID-19
Welcome to the “Campaign Dispatch.” This new series is designed to keep you informed about the important and inspiring work our volunteer community is doing during a period of great challenge and change.
Even in these trying times, our amazing volunteer community is continuing to come together to defend detained immigrants and help them reunite with friends and family across the country. Thank you!
Here’s what we’ve had to contend with, and how we’re facing those challenges together.
Transfers across the country: ICE continues to transfer detained individuals from one facility to another without warning. Unexpected mass transfers out of the El Paso detention centers in early March to Joe Corley Detention Facility near Houston, Adams County Correctional Center in Mississippi, and Folkston Processing Center in Georgia made it difficult for our remote bond project volunteers to locate and communicate with their clients. Some clients have since been released on bond, while others are still being forced to continue fighting their immigration cases in court while remaining confined in dangerous conditions in ICE custody.
Fighting barriers to free and confidential phone calls from immigration detention: This issue became even more urgent once in-person detention visits were no longer safe. In response, the Justice Campaign’s law firm pro bono partner Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe filed a lawsuit challenging these barriers in El Paso.
Advocating for release and holding ICE accountable: With the help of pro bono attorneys and partners, we filed a complaint to oversight agencies on behalf of 17 individuals fighting for release from detention. The complaint documents ICE’s failure to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in detention and protect those in its custody.
Happiness Corner ❤️: Despite these challenges, our volunteers have also celebrated recent successes. Since the pandemic began, our volunteers have helped their clients:
- Win 13 “merits cases” (or full trials) in immigration court
- Win release on bond or humanitarian parole for almost 40 individuals
And, volunteers have taken on 180 new matters, including merits, parole, bond, and habeas.
Where we work: To meet the overwhelming need for legal representation in this moment, we are now placing cases referred by new local partners, including the Immigration Justice Project in San Diego, ProBAR in the Rio Grande Valley, and Americans for Immigrant Justice in Miami.
What’s next: Together, we will keep fighting back through these difficult times. We need your help now more than ever. Please consider representing a client detained in Colorado or New Jersey in their asylum proceedings.
If you haven’t already, please join the hundreds of volunteers who have already reached out to their member of Congress to demand ICE release individuals from its custody to slow the spread of COVID-19. Your voice can make a difference.
Watch our new trainings on how to tackle habeas cases and parole cases – all ways to get more individuals out of detention and reunited with their loved ones.
You can also support the fight for a fair day in court by making a gift to the Campaign.
Thank you for your support.
The American Immigration Council warns non-citizens to guard against spoofing phone calls from ill-intended individuals seeking to create panic among our immigrant community. To learn more, please go to scam.immigrationcouncil.org.