Recent Blog Entries
- New Americans Campaign comes together for Citizenship Drive in Los Angeles
- Ushering in a New Season for CLINIC and our 11 Million Undocumented Neighbors
- Living in God's Image, Embracing the Immigrant
- Lent: A Reform of the Heart
- Immigration Policy and New Estimates of the U.S. Unauthorized Population
- A Lenten Call to Embrace Acts of Charity
- CLINIC Holds Unique, “Mega” Workshop Training Event in Los Angeles
- Do Immigration Laws Deny Religious Freedom?
- Joyful Anticipation
- Las Posadas: An Invitation to Hospitality
Tackling Enforcement: Release from Detention is Step One
In October 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided a poultry plant in Greenville, SC. More than 300 individuals were arrested and a humanitarian and legal crisis erupted. As coordinator of the CLINIC Raids and Response Project, I travelled to Greenville to work side by side with local advocates to assist individuals and families affected by the ICE raid.
Catholic Charities offices of Greenville and Charleston were among the first organizations in the area to respond. They partnered with local attorneys to screen almost 80 individuals for possible legal relief. In fact, these 80 individuals were the lucky ones; more than 200 other immigrants were transferred to a facility in South Georgia, where they were detained and remained uncertain about their future and their families. Our small group of 80 had been released for humanitarian reasons and allowed to return to their homes and families in Greenville.
As I sat in a local church listening to the heart-wrenching stories of these individuals, I could not help thinking of the others that remained in detention. Although another group of pro bono attorneys was working with the detained immigrants, they remained far from the people and things that could bring comfort, such as family, mobility, and access to their possessions and relevant documents.
We worked feverishly to seek relief for the group we had. However, it became clear the advocates in Georgia faced an even greater challenge. With our group we had the luxury of assisting individuals who were able to collect documents, make appointments, and visit offices. In Georgia, the immigrants were stuck in remote detention centers with limited access to phones and minimal ability to communicate with the outside world. The attorneys and other advocates had to work all the harder to seek relief for these individuals.
Sadly, Greenville was one of a dozen large-scale enforcement actions that have taken place across the country during the past year. The scenario above had already been repeated too many times. And in the wake of the raids, individuals were traumatized, families were separated, and communities were ravished.
In early 2008, a group of immigrant advocates, including CLINIC, created the National Immigrant Bond Fund. The Bond Fund provides a bridge for immigrants in need of resources and legal assistance to the advocate community. More importantly, it helps eligible immigrants post bonds so they can get release from detention, be with their families, and gather the documents needed to assist in their case. Most immigrants do not have enough money to cover their bonds and, even with the help of their families, do not have access to financial and legal resources. The Bond Fund aids individuals captured in workplace raids and other enforcement actions by providing 50 percent of the required bond amount.
This week, the Bond Fund announced a new partnership with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in North Carolina. This new collaboration will shore up the network of support to immigrants and families facing enforcement actions. Immigrants can secure release from detention while their cases are pending. More importantly, the partnership will aid in providing effective legal support to individuals and the opportunity for contingency planning by families. This new collaboration means more immigrants will be able to access immigration legal services and social services and fewer immigrants will suffer the trauma of imprisonment in remote detention centers.
Tanisha L. Bowens is an attorney with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. Ms. Bowens is the Raids Project Coordinator for the organization.
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