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  1. Bay Area Residents Stuck in Immigration Detention File Class Action Lawsuit Against Sessions

    by , 03-28-2018 at 11:39 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    March 27, 2018

    CONTACTS:
    Amalia Wille, Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, 415-821-8808, awil@vblaw.com
    Law Offices of Matthew H. Green, 520-882-8852, matt@arizonaimmigration.net
    Alison Pennington, Centro Legal de la Raza, 510-679-1608, apennington@centrolegal.org
    ACLU SoCal Communications & Media Advocacy, 213-977-5252,communications@aclusocal.org

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Two Bay Area fathers who have been detained for over six months at the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility in Richmond, California sued the federal government today in a class action lawsuit challenging their unlawful and prolonged detention.

    Plaintiffs Esteban Aleman Gonzalez of Antioch and Jose Gutierrez Sanchez of San Lorenzo are represented by Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, Centro Legal de la Raza, the Law Offices of Matthew H. Green, and the ACLU Foundations of California.

    Aleman Gonzalez and Gutierrez Sanchez were arrested by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the Bay Area in the fall of 2017. They are seeking protection in the United States, and asylum officers with the Department of Homeland Security have determined that both men have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture if deported. Because of this determination, the federal government does not have the authority to deport them.

    Nevertheless, the government has kept them in detention and refused to provide bond hearings – proceedings where immigration judges determine whether they can be released back to their families and lives. Both Aleman Gonzalez and Gutierrez Sanchez have young U.S. citizen children and are the primary providers for their families.

    “Esteban and Jose are part of our Bay Area community, and their families, including their children, are suffering while they remain detained,” said Alison Pennington, Senior Staff Attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza. “They are simply asking for the opportunity to show a judge that they should not be detained while they pursue their case. What the government is doing to them and to so many others should shock the conscience.”

    “When immigration judges refuse to provide these bond hearings, they are grossly misinterpreting federal law,” said Amalia Wille, attorney at Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP. “The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already decided that individuals like Aleman Gonzalez and Gutierrez Sanchez are entitled to bond hearings. Immigration judges are not free to ignore clear binding precedent. Just like all of us, they must follow the law.”
    In February of 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Jennings v. Rodriguez that federal laws do not authorize bond hearings for certain immigration detainees. The Court remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether due process requires a bond hearing. Plaintiffs argue that this ruling, which dealt with a different group of immigrants detained under different laws, provides support for their case.

    “The Supreme Court’s recent decision strongly supports Esteban and Jose’s claims,” said Michael Kaufman, Sullivan & Cromwell Access to Justice Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “Jennings makes clear that the federal laws at issue here must be interpreted to require a hearing in cases of prolonged incarceration. This is a basic and fundamental due process protection.”

    Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate the class size numbers in the hundreds. The class is comprised of people detained throughout the Ninth Circuit who have been or will be detained for six months pursuant to a particular immigration statute and denied a prolonged detention hearing before an immigration judge.

    “The federal government’s deportation machine is tearing families apart,” said Matthew H. Green, an immigration attorney representing the proposed class in today’s suit. “I see this every day. Time and time again, my clients are held in a cruel and unnecessary limbo while the government keeps them locked up and withholds their right to a hearing.”

    The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

    The complaint is here: https://www.aclunc.org/docs/20180327_AlemanGonzalez_V_Sessions_Complaint.pdf
    This press release is online here: https://www.aclunc.org/news/bay-area-residents-stuck-immigration-detention-file-class-action-lawsuit-against-sessions
    ###

    Updated 03-28-2018 at 02:04 PM by MKolken

  2. Refugees and the Power of Stories

    I've written here many times about the difficulties faced by asylum seekers in the United States. But the fact is, asylum seekers and refugees are not powerless. They need not sit passively while politicians and pundits impugn them as "rapists" and "terrorists," and pretend that America's problems are caused by "the other." In fact, asylum seekers have a powerful tool at their disposal to fight back against such accusations: They have their stories.

    Talk to any asylum seeker or refugee, and you will hear a great story. It is often a tragic and depressing story, to be sure, but it is always a story about overcoming adversity, about survival, about perseverance. It is, more than anything, an American story. My ancestors fled pogroms in Russia or conscription in the Czar's army. My wife's grandfather escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in Austria. Many American families have stories like these.

    The clients I talk to every day also have amazing stories: Eritreans who escaped national service (i.e., slavery) by outrunning military guards and then traveling through dozens of countries to reach the United States; Afghans who served shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers and who were then threatened by the Taliban; transgender women from El Salvador who face persecution from their families; journalists from Pakistan who were threatened by the ISI; a gay man from Rwanda who was subject to a bizarre and harmful exorcism ritual; a Chinese whistle-blower who exposed billions of dollars of corruption and then faced threats from powerful businessmen; democratic activists from Egypt imprisoned after the Tahrir Square crackdown; religious converts from Iran who face death for their apostasy. The list goes on and on.

    Indeed, people don’t come to America because they’re doing great in their homeland. They come here because they want a better life, and the stories about why they left and how they came here are often riveting.

    Here’s my theory: Even people who generally oppose immigration will support the immigrants that they know personally or who they feel a connection to. For example, the only legislative amendment to the legal definition of “refugee” came when pro-life advocates lobbied Congress to make asylum available to victims of forced family planning. Pro-lifers are not necessarily associated with liberal immigration policies, but through this legislation, they greatly expanded the number of people eligible for asylum. On a more interpersonal level, I have a friend who worked for Pat Buchanan, the anti-immigrant firebrand who once challenged President George H.W. Bush for the Republican nomination. My friend’s fishing buddy—an immigrant from West Africa—was arrested for assault and battery against a police officer. My friend referred the case to me, and when we ultimately won, my friend sent me a note: “You did the most important thing a person can do, you made me look good for recommending you.” I love that. The point, of course, is that even a Pat Buchanan supporter was sympathetic to the immigrant he knew personally.

    Why should this be the case? Why should people who normally oppose—and even hate—immigrants still support the immigrants they know?

    I think the simple truth is that immigrants are no different than anyone else. And for most people, when they hear stories of struggle and survival, and of love and gratitude for America, it’s difficult not to be sympathetic. In other words, if immigrants and their supporters can get people to listen to immigrant’s stories and to meet immigrants in-person, we win.

    The difficulty lies in making the connection, and in getting people to listen. How can we do that?

    First, I think we need to connect in-person, not through traditional or social media. The problem with the media is that it has become so Balkanized as to be largely useless for bridging ideological divides. In addition, media "interactions" are generally too superficial to change minds. Personal connections are harder to achieve, but they are far more powerful, convincing, and long-lasting.

    Second, we need to invite people in and make them comfortable. We should not put them on the defensive. This means engaging them on their turf, not ours. It means listening to people with different points of view, and not judging them. Most people who oppose immigrants and refugees are not bigots and xenophobes. They are not irrational. But in many cases, they do not have all the facts. They do not personally know refugees, and have not heard their stories. We may not be able to change their minds, but at least we can provide them with more information, and give them a more complete picture (a picture, by the way, which is sorely lacking in our partisan media environment).

    Finally, we need to accept that some people will not be persuaded, no matter how compelling the story, or how many statistics we cite. We need to respect that decision, and this often requires self-control. It also requires recognizing that it’s not easy for a person to change her views. Sometimes, all you can do is tell your story and accept that there is no perceptible change. Perhaps, though, we can hope that a positive interaction will at least plant a seed in the person’s mind, and maybe that is enough.

    So how does this work in practice? If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that my three favorite words are, I don't know (in fact, I don't even know if "I don't know" counts as three words or four!). But here's how I would imagine implementing this idea:

    Refugees and asylum seekers (and their supporters) would reach out to a church, school or community association, and ask to come tell their stories. The purpose would not be to debate refugee or immigration policy. Instead, it would be to tell a personal narrative and express gratitude for what American has offered. Hopefully, the audience would consist of people with little exposure to non-citizens. Or better yet, an audience that is skeptical of "illegals." Preferably, the speakers would be proficient in English (and presumably, if you've read this far, you are proficient in English). After the story, perhaps there could be a Q&A. And that's it. It does not have to be political. It does not have to specifically touch on policy. It would just be individuals connecting, telling stories, and listening.

    So maybe if you are an asylum seeker or refugee, and you've read this far, you would consider reaching out to your neighbors and telling your story. Or if you are a member of a religious or civic group that might benefit from hearing refugee stories, you'd consider contacting a refugee organization for a speaker. In this way, one person at a time, we can change the world for the better.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
    Tags: asylum, politics Add / Edit Tags
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