All posts by Ray Garrido

KIAC Responds to the COVID-19 Crisis

Information about Immigration Court

USCIS Information

COVID-19 is now impacting us here in Kitsap County. We want to let you know that in these times of uncertainty, the safety and health of our clients, volunteers, staff, and the wider community are our highest priorities. 
KIAC’s response to this unprecedented occurrence is guided by our ongoing commitment to our mission—to work for the well-being and empowerment of immigrants though education, advocacy and social justice. At the same time, we know that it is more important than ever to work together as an entire community.
With these thoughts in mind, KIAC has taken the following steps:

  • We are making client education and informational resources about COVID-19 a top priority, using guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington State Department of Health and the Kitsap Health District.
  • We are working to fast-track our capacity to reach clients via texting in order to better and more efficiently serve and inform
  • In order to do our part to “flatten the curve” as is being recommended by the CDC and health experts across the country, our office is closed except in the limited circumstances noted below. Staff and volunteers are working from home and conducting business as usual, utilizing email, phones and video conferencing
  • For Family Services, we will assist clients via video and phone conversations as much as possible, with in-person appointments as necessary with healthy individuals.
  • We are taking responsible steps to insure the health and safety of clients and staff who come into the office. This includes initial screening for COVID-19 symptoms; asking clients to wash their hands before being seen; serving clients only in the Family Services lobby and office, without access to the rest of the office; limiting the number of people allowed in the waiting area at one time in order to allow for recommended personal space; and thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing in between clients and at the end of the day
  • Legal clients and Tax clients are being offered video and phone consultations. A plan is in place to keep in touch with Accredited Representatives and tax volunteers and to keep current with all deadlines and office procedures. We are working with USCIS, ICE and the Immigration Court to make sure all our clients’ due process rights are protected.
  • Tax extensions will be offered to tax clients

We may need to call on you for financial, volunteer or advocacy support during this time. There will be an immediate impact placed on KIAC’s resources to help with client needs. We know that the ramifications of COVID-19 will hit our clients very hard—immigrants will be among the most vulnerable population during this crisis.  Many of our clients lack health insurance, paid sick days, child-care, and language skills to navigate complex and constantly shifting recommendations. Many are likely to lose their jobs.
From its beginnings, KIAC has been committed to the well-being of immigrants, and we stand ready to help during this crisis. We are so grateful to our friends for standing with us.

With gratitude,
Sally Tellekson
Executive Director, Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center

Althea Paulson
Board President

Annika Turner
Family Services Director

Ray Garrido
Legal Services Director

Ninth Circuit reinstates Injunction against “safe third country”

The Ninth Circuit has again stopped the administration from making people who arrive at the southern border, from a country other than Mexico, apply for asylum in the first country they entered on their way to the US. Several people have already been returned to Guatemala (an alleged “safe” third country) to apply for asylum there. Of course the administration will appeal this ruling but we maintain hope.

Ninth Circuit blocks and then reinstates inhumane Migrant Protection Protocol program but unrepresented asylum seekers are still without help

On Friday February 28th the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling blocking the Trump administration’s Migrant Protections Protocols, more accurately named Migrant Punishment Protocols. While this rule has been in effect, more than 60,000 people seeking asylum have been forced to wait in dangerous conditions along the border in Mexico. Since the program started only 263 people have been granted asylum while at the same time at least 816 cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping and other violent crimes have been reported against people placed in the program. Unfortunately later the same day a three judge panel stayed the block, allowing the government to appeal.

Of those waiting for an asylum hearing only 5% have found legal representation according to Beth Werlin, executive director of the American immigration Council.

How will this affect KIAC and its clients?

Although we are not clear about how this ruling will be implemented, we expect that some of the people who have been inhumanely blocked from pursuing their asylum cases in the US will come to our communities. We need to find a way to aid them in their pursuit of justice.

Even if this ruling is unsuccessful there are still thousands of asylum applicants who don’t have representation. The following information from the TRAC Immigration Project at Syracuse University demonstrates the difficulty migrants seeking asylum or other relief face if they don’t have legal representation.

Overall, federal immigration judges decided 67,406 asylum cases between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2019, TRAC reported. Of those, 19,831 won their cases and 46,735 lost them. Migrants with lawyers won their cases or got other forms of relief at a rate of 33%, compared to only 16% who self-represented. The overall national denial rate for asylum seekers was 69% in FY 2019. Not surprisingly, applicants who were not represented by an attorney (or accredited representative) and thus less able to present an effective case received a faster decision than those applicants who did have an attorney. Figure 2 compares represented and non-represented asylum cases.

Figure 2

Although all of the cases included in the graph were concluded in FY 2019, the graph shows the year each case began, which provides insight into the impact attorney representation plays on the speed of asylum cases. For instance, nearly half (45.3%) of the unrepresented asylum cases that began in 2019 have already been decided. In contrast, less than one in ten (9.7%) of the represented asylum cases that began in 2019 have been decided.

KIAC’s experience with people who are unrepresented agrees with these data. Without representation people go to court and don’t understand what the judge is telling them, they don’t get enough time to prepare their cases, they don’t or can’t read the forms that are given to them because they are in English, they don’t fill the forms out or fill them out incompletely and so don’t put forward facts that would benefit them, they miss court dates because they didn’t understand when they were or don’t have a way to get to them, they try to represent themselves in hearings that are complicated and confusing and where an experienced government attorney is opposing them. If you read the transcripts of one of these hearings you would be appalled that we call this justice. That is why the red line in the figure above is going vertical. People seeking asylum need representation. Help us to help them.