Last week we were called about a woman we’ll call Bertha (not her real name) who was in the Northwest Detention Center and who needed representation. Thinking this was a “simple” bond situation, and having time to investigate a new case, we visited her that evening. What we found was that not only was she unrepresented but she had represented herself in two court hearings and had already been ordered deported.
Bertha was fleeing persecution in her country because of her political opinion and applied for asylum when she reached the United States. She was immediately detained. By representing herself she had little chance of being granted asylum. And as is usually the case, the immigration judge ordered her deported. Luckily she had reserved the right to appeal the judge’s deportation order and with the help of another detainee had filed a notice of appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). That would give us some time to assess her case and build a defense.
When we reviewed the appeal we found that it did not have Bertha’s identification number on it. Without that number, the BIA would have rejected her appeal immediately and the time for the appeal would have ended. We called the BIA and found that they had indeed rejected the appeal. With only a few days left to make the deadline we quickly returned to the detention center and met with Bertha to write a new appeal. We filed the appeal overnight and met the deadline.
Now, the next step was to get Bertha released from detention while her appeal was being evaluated. We wrote a parole request and filed it with ICE. After several conversations ICE agree to release Bertha and on May 2nd she was united with her family outside the gates of the Northwest Detention Center.
Bertha came here seeking refuge from persecution and thinking she would get help in the US. Instead she was met by a government that is focused on denying asylum to as many people as possible and imprisoning them while their cases are being adjudicated. We were lucky to have learned about Bertha’s case before it was too late.
There are many more cases like Bertha’s and with your continued support we will endeavor to help as many of them as we can.