U.S. memo weakens guidelines for protecting immigrant children in court

By Mica Rosenberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department has issued new guidelines for immigration judges that remove some instructions for how to protect unaccompanied juveniles appearing in their courtrooms.

A Dec. 20 memo, issued by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) replaces 2007 guidelines, spelling out policies and procedures judges should follow in dealing with children who crossed the border illegally alone and face possible deportation. Continue reading U.S. memo weakens guidelines for protecting immigrant children in court

You helped reunite a family

You may remember that I asked for your support to help us represent people who are in immigration removal proceedings. Your support helped reunite a family on Thursday.

This family’s story is not unique

Aurelina came to KIAC asking for help in September. Late last year she, her husband and three children fled persecution in the form of violence, severe discrimination, and extortion in Guatemala. They had been preyed upon for ten years by a gang, suffering repeated death threats and beatings because of their Mayan heritage. Upon reaching our border they were placed in removal proceedings, meaning our government wanted to send them back. ICE arrested her husband, Cristobal, when the family went to their monthly check-in in September and took him to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma for expedited removal proceedings.

KIAC stepped in with legal assistance

As soon as we heard about this we filed to be Cristobal’s legal representatives and filed for him to receive a credible fear interview to establish the veracity of his persecution. We represented him in his interview and the asylum officer validated his claim. That was just the first step. He would still have to appear before an immigration judge who would determine whether or not to deport him.

Our legal team of Ray Garrido and Lirio Webb, with help from Dr. Marsha Cutting, built Cristobal’s defense case. With help from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Cristobal and Aurelina as he leaves the Northwest Detention Center

and advocates around the country we filed a 225-page trial brief. On November 30th in a courtroom at the detention center, we argued his case for withholding of removal. The judge ruled in Cristobal’s favor! His case was so strong the government decided not to appeal it, so the judge’s order was final. At 4pm that day Cristobal walked out of the detention center into the arms of Aurelina. Shortly after, he was reunited with his children.

Our work for this family is not done

Aurelina, Cristobal and their legal team

Because of your support we accessed training that enabled us to represent Cristobal, secure his freedom, and reunite him with his family. But our work is not done. Aurelina and their three young children are in removal proceedings and we will apply for and represent them in their asylum hearing. We won’t rest until they have all been granted justice.

Currently KIAC has only one representative who can represent people in immigration court. There are so many more people who have no representation. We want to help as many as we can. We want to tell you many more stories like Cristobal’s.

You can make the difference. There are so many people like Cristobal and his family who need your support.  This is a time of year when we reunite with our families to celebrate holidays.  So as you gather with your family, think of the Lopez’s joyful reunion and those still yearning for one and give generously to KIAC to make more reunions possible.  Thank you.

Read more about the Lopez family’s reunion in this Kitsap Sun article:


We have a new Executive Director

The Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center (KIAC) has hired a new Executive Director.  Sally Hudson Tellekson follows in the footsteps of our founders April Borbon and Martitha May. She began work this week, leading the agency’s efforts to address the growing challenges faced by local immigrants in the current political landscape.Sally Tellekson

“The need for legal services has skyrocketed since the 2016 election,” says Tellekson.  “We currently have over 350 open legal cases and many in removal proceedings, some of whom are children.  Hundreds of local immigrants are being held in the Tacoma Detention Center. We’re training new legal assistants and expanding as quickly as possible.”

Community funding has enabled KIAC to expand its resources, she says.  “We’ve seen an outpouring of support from Kitsap County residents and organizations who want their immigrant neighbors to get the support they need.  We’ve raised enough money to step up our legal defense efforts and will be looking for more ways to fund these costs because the truth is, many immigrants are living in fear.”

Part of Tellekson’s new role will be overseeing the agency’s move to larger Bremerton offices early next year, consolidating family and legal services.  Founded in 2004, KIAC has stepped up its services in the past year, serving an estimated 17,000 immigrants in Kitsap County alone.

In addition to legal services, KIAC’s family services offer citizenship workshops, medical and dental clinics and language learning resources. KIAC clients come from over 35 countries of origin and its programs are offered in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties.

“Many of our immigrant neighbors are worried about issues like DACA and deportation.  They need legal representation in order to have any hope of finding justice in our courts,” says Tellekson.  ”Their families also need community health resources they can’t always afford.  My job is to make sure they find this support in the face of rising need.”

Tellekson practiced law in Chicago and brings over 30 years of experience in non-profit management, fundraising and consulting to her new position. She is active in social justice and serves on several community non-profit boards.

Representatives Jayapal and Smith Call for Reforms to Deeply Flawed Immigration Detention System

October 16, 2017
Press Release

SEATTLE – Today, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) convened local stakeholders in support of the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to dramatically reform the injustices in our current immigration detention system. At present, the detention system is driven by private, for-profit corporations that benefit from increased detention efforts, like the GEO Group which operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. This bill moves to end the use of private facilities; repeal mandatory detention; and restore due process, oversight, accountability and transparency to the immigration detention system.

“We must fix the injustices in our broken immigration detention system,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “As the Trump administration continues to push a misguided and dangerous immigration agenda, we need to ensure fair treatment and due process for immigrants and refugees faced with detention. This legislation will address some of the worst failings of our immigration policy, and restore integrity and humanity to immigration proceedings.”

“The high moral cost of our inhumane immigration detention system is reprehensible. Large, private corporations operating detention centers are profiting off the suffering of men, women and children. We need an overhaul,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “It’s clear that the Trump administration is dismantling the few protections in place for detained immigrants even as he ramps up enforcement against parents and vulnerable populations. This bill addresses the most egregious problems with our immigration detention system. It’s Congress’ responsibility to step up and pass this bill.”

In addition to repealing mandatory detention, a policy that often results in arbitrary and indefinite detention, the legislation creates a meaningful inspection process at detention facilities to ensure they meet the government’s own standards. The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish legally enforceable civil detention standards in line with those adopted by the American Bar Association. With disturbing track records of abuse and neglect,  DHS has a responsibility to ensure that facilities are held accountable for the humane treatment of those awaiting immigration proceedings.

Individuals held in our immigration detention system are subject to civil law, but are often held in conditions identical to prisons. In many cases, detained people are simply awaiting their day in court. To correct the persistent failures of due process, the legislation requires the government to show probable cause to detain people, and implements a special rule for primary caregivers and vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and people with serious medical and mental health issues.

“The immigrant detention and prison industrial complex breaks down the mental, emotional, and psychosocial development of our communities in various ways. I saw this firsthand when my family member was detained. I believe the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act provides transformative provisions that we have been working toward, to move the immigrant rights movement forward,” said Yvette Maganya, a OneAmerica youth leader and the niece of a survivor of the Northwest Detention Center. “I’ve seen the toll detention conditions have in our community. Our communities are being jailed in inhumane conditions with no accountability. Often they are jailed not because of what they did, but to fulfill cruel, arbitrary quotas. It is wrong to jail immigrants indefinitely with no accountability or oversight. This is why we need the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act.”

“We are grateful for the leadership of Representatives Smith and Jayapal in ensuring that the rights and dignity of all peoples are respected.  NWIRP supports the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2017 that they have introduced and see it as a critical step toward making our immigration detention system more humane and more consistent with fundamental American values,” said Jorge L. Barón of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

“The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is a crucial piece of legislation that introduces a wave of accountability that we desperately need. This officially puts the federal government on notice that we will no longer tolerate the rampant disregard for human life,” said Victoria Mena of Colectiva Legal del Pueblo.

“Today, we’re facing an extremist expansion of our immigration detention system, which makes the Dignity for Detained Immigrants bill even more imperative. We have continually seen the ways in which conditions in the detention center and the traumatic experience of being detained deters people from fighting their cases. We stand in strong support of this important piece of legislation that sets a new, humane vision to reform our flawed immigration detention system,” said Roxana Norouzi of immigrant rights organization OneAmerica.

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is cosponsored by 60 members of Congress: John Conyers Jr. (MI-13), John Lewis (GA-5), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Jose Serrano (NY-15), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-4), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Bobby Rush (IL-1), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Elijah E. Cummings (MD-7), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Danny K. Davis (IL-7), James P. McGovern (MA-2), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Betty McCollum (MN-4), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-3), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-4), André Carson (IN-7), Chellie Pingree (ME-1), Jared Polis (CO-2), Mike Quigley (IL-5), Judy Chu (CA-27), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Bill Foster (IL-11), David N. Cicilline (RI-1), Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-4), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Mark Takano (CA-41), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Katherine Clark (MA-5), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Kathleen M. Rice (NY-4), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Dwight Evans (PA-2), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34).

The legislation is also supported by 52 civil society organizations: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, Center for Community Change, The Center for Victims of Torture, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Church World Service, Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, Columbia Legal Services, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Democracy for America, Detention Watch Network, Entre Hermanos, FIRM, Grassroots Leadership, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Indivisible Vashon, Just Detention International, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Make the Road CT, Make the Road New York, Make the Road NJ, MoveOn.org Civic Action, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Center for Transgender Equality, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, OneAmerica, Our Revolution, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Southern Poverty Law Center, Tacoma Migrant Justice, Tahirih Justice Center, United We Dream, Wallingford Indivisible, Washington Community Action Network, Washington Defender Association, The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, Women’s Refugee Commission, 21 Progress, Asian Counseling and Referral Service.

Serving our sisters and brothers in the immigrant community

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