Detained Immigrants in California Need Lawyers

Photo by Samantha Sais/Reuters

REUTERS/Samantha Sais

California and its cities and counties are purported to be ‘sanctuaries’ for immigrants, but they aren’t.

While many local police forces do refuse to check the status of their detainees or hold prisoners on ICE’s behalf, many cases have shown that local law enforcement, municipalities and the state prison system are more than willing to cooperate with Homeland Security and other federal agencies to remove parents, students and workers from their peaceful, everyday lives to throw them into jail and and legal limbo.  Once detained, their families are destroyed, incomes disrupted, childcare left up in the air, dreams smashed, and lives lost.

“Almost half of all California children have at least one immigrant parent,” reports the California Coalition for Universal Legal Representation, an umbrella group consisting of dozens of leading immigrants rights and legal observer groups that have joined together to promote a state fund that would provide legal help to detained immigrants in the state.  They show that 68% of detained immigrants have less access to legal help than would be required under the Constitution, and that the minority who do receive help are five times more likely to succeed in their cases.  They deftly show that legal representation is at the crux of a major immigration battle, and that helping immigrants at this important leverage point can lead to hugely beneficial outcomes for their cases, for their families, and for fighting back against federal immigration policy.

This paper highlights the inhuman circumstances detainees, especially indigent immigrants, face. “Immigration law is complex,” they say, and while the federal government has a skilled and well paid immigration lawyer on their side, “the indigent immigrant does not.”  Further:

This is especially problematic as removal proceedings carry far fewer procedural protections than criminal trials, even beyond the absence of appointed counsel. To take just one example, many immigrant respondents do not appear in person, but instead by video teleconferencing from the detention centers where they are held, and while wearing the detention facility’s uniforms, those who do appear in person are shackled.

They propose a fund of just $37M dollars to manage these cases.  This would, of course, net savings for the state who currently bears the cost of continued detention and prosecution of these pointless charges.  But far more important is the moral imperative to provide suitable legal defense for any human being accused of a crime, especially when that crime is simply to exist beyond a border whose only relevance is to subjugate and divide.

h/t to Jessica Salans

A link to the proposal: http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/0783.pdf

Categories: los angeles, people

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