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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

Members of AILA Oppose Invitation of White House Representative as Keynote Speaker

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Individual members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association have requested that the organization rescind Cecilia Muñoz’s invitation to deliver the keynote address at the annual conference due to the Obama administration's policy of subjecting immigrant children to severe and prolonged physical and mental harm in detention centers in Artesia, New Mexico; Leesport, Pennsylvania; Karnes City, Texas; and Dilley, Texas.

Click here to sign the petition.

Below is the text of the letter.

May 21, 2015

Crystal Williams,
Executive Director
AILA National Office
1331 G Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Director Williams and AILA leadership:

I write this letter on behalf of the undersigned and for our law firm. I am also scheduled to speak as an expert on the panel titled UACs, Guardianships, and Other Minor Issues.Together, we represent hundreds of immigrant children who are being or have been intentionally harmed by Cecilia Muñoz’s decisions as Domestic Policy Advisor to President Obama and as Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

We hereby request that AILA rescind Cecilia Muñoz’s invitation to deliver the keynote address at our annual conference given that she is directly responsible for causing children to suffer severe and prolonged physical and mental harm in detention centers in Artesia, New Mexico; Leesport, Pennsylvania; Karnes City, Texas; and Dilley, Texas.

Additionally, Ms. Muñoz has fully backed President Obama’s multi-pronged policy to prevent Central American children from escaping death, severe bodily or mental harm, and rape. She is one of the principal architects of shocking, widespread, and ongoing human rights violations against vulnerable children fleeing Central America. As such, she should not be elevated or rewarded with the most prominent speech at AILA’s annual conference.

Ms. Muñoz’s actions and words, in part, directly caused the children described below to suffer unimaginable physical and mental harm.


  1. A 1 year old rushed to the hospital with pneumonia only to be sent back to detention immediately upon discharge.
  2. A 7-year-old boy raped and detained for months afterwards in the same facility as his abuser. He was released upon his family paying a $10,000 bond set by an immigration judge.
  3. A 4-year-old girl locked in an isolation jail cell with her mother for 9 consecutive days while suffering from untreated pneumonia and severe decay in all of her teeth.
  4. A 3-year-old who coughed up blood for more than 3 days who was told to just drink lots of water until finally she was brought to the hospital for treatment.
  5. A 2-year-old boy with a 107 fever whom, according to the emergency room doctor, was close to suffering cardiac arrest if he had arrived any later.
  6. A 4-year-old girl placed in foster care for two months after her mother attempted suicide in the Dilley internment camp because ICE extinguished her hope: she faced the certainty that life would end, either with indefinite detention or deportation to death in Honduras.


Dozens and dozens of similar accounts reverberate among us. Children suffer immense pain because of detention, and even death because of deportation. The above accounts are not unknown to Ms. Muñoz. Several high profile news outlets have reported on the physical and mental harm children experience as a direct consequence of detention.

Family detention is not even the worst of Ms. Muñoz’s acts. Starting last summer, she and the White House were desperate to do anything to stop Central American children from escaping into the U.S. in such high numbers. President Obama went so far as to request Congress to gut the 2008 Trafficking and Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”) so that unaccompanied children from Central America could be detained pending deportation without even seeing an immigration judge.

In the midst of the crisis, Ms. Muñoz told PBS News Hour that “the vast majority of those kids end up going back. There may be some isolated cases where there is some basis for them to be able to stay, but the borders of the United States are not open, not even for children who come on their own, and the deportation process starts when they get here, and we expect that it will for the vast majority of these kids.”

Contrasted with the reality that the vast majority of recent child arrivals are eligible to remain in the United States lawfully as special immigrant juveniles or asylees, Ms. Muñoz lied to the public to justify the unthinkable: deporting children back to be killed, abducted, raped, or harmed.

Opposed by Democrats in Congress, the White House was unsuccessful in eliminating the law’s protections. The President and his advisors went to plan B: hire Mexico to apprehend and rapidly deport Central American children back home while en route to the safety of the United States.

The White House’s plan is ongoing and the primary cause of the drop in Central American apprehensions in 2015: Mexico deported 3,289 Central American children in January and February of 2015 alone, a 105 percent increase from 2014.

The White House’s plan to trap children in countries torn asunder by a war even reaches the conditions of financial aid designated to ameliorate the crisis. In the 2015 budget bill, any Central American recipient of aid to improve conditions such as safety, security, and education would be stripped of all aid if the respective nations fail to keep their own citizens from fleeing harm to the United States.

Admittedly, it is important to maintain communications with the White House. However, even leading Senate and House Democrats speaking out against family detention as early as October of 2014 were unable to secure significant changes in the policy.

Rather, the administration continues its aggressive and unlawful campaign to deter Central American children and their families from lawfully obtaining asylum or other relief in the United States.

Family detention surged forward in its no-release-no-matter-what form until litigation in the District Courts in Washington D.C. and Central California blunted its power in February and April of 2015, respectively. However, litigation is not a miracle cure. Public pressure, which has been difficult to gain steam up until recently, plays a large role in affecting policy decisions from the White House and others. Public pressure is not gained by affording a leader who has ignored all pleas to stop harming children with more agency than all of the 14,000 AILA attorneys present at the conference.

Given that Ms. Muñoz is responsible for such unconscionable human rights violations against children fleeing to save their lives, we respectfully request that her invitation as the keynote speaker be rescinded immediately.

Very Truly Yours,


Bryan S. Johnson, Esq.
Ala Amoachi, Esq.
On behalf of the following:
Matthew Kolken, Esq. Christine Popp, Esq.
Amy Maldonado, Esq. Daniel M. Kowalski, Esq.
Ivan Yacub, Esq. Matthew Udall, Esq.
Norma Sepulveda, Esq. Mac Nayeri, Esq.
Matthew Archambeault, Esq. Isabel Guzman, Esq.
David Bennion, Esq. Carol Anne Mauer Donohoe, Esq.
Robert Barron, Esq. Scarlett Leiva, Esq.
Danielle Rosche, Esq. Bridget Cambria, Esq.
Marty Rosenbluth, Esq.

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Updated 05-21-2015 at 03:23 PM by MKolken

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