Issue link: http://ailahub.aila.org/i/49654
OPINION AIC Makes Stand Against DHS Policy by Ken Mayeaux and Mark Shmueli T
he AIC filed suit November 8, 2011, against DHS to compel the release of records relating to noncitizens' access to counsel before
USCIS and CBP due to the mounting evidence that the agency routinely denies attorney involvement. While access to counsel is certainly pervasive at USCIS and CBP, nowhere is it more evident than in the case of ICE detainees. By placing detention centers far from immigration attorneys, moving detainees arbitrarily throughout the country with a concern more for bed space than access to counsel, family, and friends, DHS has served to foster an atmosphere in which access to counsel, fee based or pro bono, has been severely restricted.
Aſter many years of discussions, EOIR is seriously examining the appointment of counsel for children and mentally incompetent respondents. As such, the role of pro bono attorneys has become more crucial both because of the immense need and to assure that the system works in a more just manner. Many detained calendars proceed with few or no attorneys present for any of the respondents. As DHS continues to mandate the use of Secure Communities and encourage the use of 287(g)
programs with local police, which overloads both detentions centers and courts in its blind adherence to the congressional mandate to deport 400,000, AILA, as the central immigration lawyers organization, must play a greater role to make sure to not only use the powers of liaison work to assure access to counsel but also to provide representation.
It is in that light that the AILA Pro Bono Services Committee is continuing its mission to assist local chapters in working closely with the courts, local community based organizations, state and local bar associations and other interested organizations to provide representation to as many individuals as possible. Until DHS ceases its policies, which have both thwarted its own enforcement priorities and leſt in its wake an overwhelming number of detainees, AILA attorneys must vigorously advocate for an end to these inhumane policies. We must also offer our army of attorneys and other resources to ensure vulnerable immigrants get the representation they need.
Ken Mayeaux and Mark Shmueli represent AILA's National Pro Bono Services Committee. Mayeaux is a law professor in Baton Rouge, LA. Shmueli is in private practice in Takoma Park, MD.
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The AILA Atlanta Chapter has been extremely busy with vari- ous pro bono projects this fall. In addition to the annual AILA Citizenship Day held in March, the AILA Atlanta Chapter in conjunction with the Georgia Association of Elected Latino Officials hosted a Fall Citizenship Day on November 12th, 2011. The Latin American Association and Catholic Charities of Atlanta were the host sites for this event which was supported by volunteer attorneys from the AILA Atlanta chapter, law students and community advocates.
The ACLU of Georgia has also wrapped up its initial stage of the Immigration Detention Human Rights Documentation Project this fall with reports published in 2012. The project seeks to detail the current conditions at Stewart Detention Center and Irwin County Detention Center and to highlight the inadequacies of the current detention system in Georgia. Attorneys and law students traveled to these centers, which are many hours away from Atlanta, to interview detainees about various aspects of their incarceration.
Finally, the AILA Atlanta Military Assistance Program Committee held an event for Moody Air Force Base at the State Bar of Georgia on November 17, 2011. A representative from USCIS spoke about military naturalization and several AILA attorneys spoke on a wide array of topics including family adjustment of status, consular processing, criminal issues, and consular processing.
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