Much of the world rejoiced yesterday upon seeing the photos of Caitlyn Jenner’s exquisite transformation on the cover of the June issue of Vanity Fair. Much of the commentary I saw focused not so much on her physical appearance, but how she looked at peace and contented to be herself. As an immigration lawyer who has represented many trans asylum seekers, I know and have seen that look.
VM is our Client of the Month for May 2015. VM became a client of Benach Collopy attorneys starting in 2008, when she was detained upon her arrival at the airport from Brazil. Today, after seven years, fights with four immigration agencies, and three immigration applications (asylum, adjustment of status, and naturalization), VM is now a United States citizen. VM fled terrible violence in Brazil because of her gender and sexual identity, and arrived in the United States in search of protection.
Yesterday, several prominent House Democrats called on the administration to end family detention. Organized by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, the Democrats decried the Obama administration’s detention of women and children fleeing violence in Central America. From the creating of a truncated form of due process in refugee protection to a novel interpretation of bond eligibility to conditions which have caused serious illnesses in the children being jailed by the administration, the entire experience of the gulag archipelago of detention centers was designed not to follow the law and protect asylum-seekers, but as a means of deterrence to other potential refugees.
Once a year immigration attorneys from all over the country march to Washington, D.C. to meet with their elected officials and to encourage them to take action toward fixing this country’s broken immigration system. The event is organized by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is appropriately called the National Day of Action. This year, one of the issues we put on the list of things to discuss is family detention.
Great news right out of our own backyard. Montgomery County, Maryland, the county that surrounds most of Northwest Washington DC and the most populous county in Maryland, announced today that its jails would no longer honor detainers issued by Immigration & Customs Enforcement except under very specific circumstances. This decision places a vice grip on one of the region’s most reliable ICE enforcement pipelines and is further evidence that local municipalities are rejecting the damage done to communities by the heavy-handed enforcement activities of the current administration.
Olsi Vrapi is a Friend of Benach Collopy who practices in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He recently found himself on the front line of the battle of how to handle the major influx of refugee children at the Southern Border. In this chilling blogpost entitled “The Artesia Experience,” Olsi describes his experience visiting his client in the new facility in Artesia, New Mexico where the government is detaining Central American children and families.
Dear Congressman Bachus, Thank you very much for speaking out about the overuse of detention by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in civil proceedings to determine the removability of individuals in the U.S. By stating and asking “it looks to me like there is an overuse of detention by this administration. If these people are not safety risks . . . why are we detaining them?,” you have joined the growing chorus of Americans who wonder why the government, during a time of fiscal crisis, spends so much money locking people up during immigration proceedings when they present no danger to society.
Earlier this month, Benach Collopy authored a brief on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association in the case of Michael Sylvain v. Attorney General before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In Sylvain, the court must decide whether the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) requires the detention of individuals convicted of certain offenses regardless of how long it has been since they were released from criminal custody.
The Migration Policy Institute recently released a study documenting that the U.S. government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement, dwarfing the $14 million spent on other federal law enforcement agencies. The FBI, the DEA and the ATF, combined, received $14 billion. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s budget, alone, is $6 billion. Something is seriously out of whack here. None of this is surprising to immigration attorneys. ICE runs a gulag archipelago of detention centers across the country, holding immigrants who have overstayed visas, entered without inspection, seek asylum, and committed minor offenses.
Ever heard of Mo Farah? If you watched the London Olympics last summer, the name likely rings a bell. Mohamed “Mo” Farah is a Somali-born British track and field superstar. He is the current Olympic champion at the 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters. He is also World Champion and European Champion at the shorter distance. A few days ago, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in honor of his athletic achievements.