Friends – I share the good news that Lisa Weinberg successfully has obtained parole for one of our clients, a mother with a very sick toddler who had stopped walking and eating solid food since arriving in Artesia. As far as I know, this is the first order allowing release on parole of a family detained at Artesia.
The sad reality is that this is a child who should have been released from Artesia weeks ago, who had been hospitalized with pneumonia upon arriving, and who has never recovered from various illnesses in Artesia. The mom and child plan to leave as soon as travel may be arranged.
This case is yet another example of why family detention should not be the government’s default setting in response to the regional humanitarian crisis. These families are fleeing persecution and violence but instead of offering safety, we make them jump through legal hurdles to get a sick kid out of jail.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the mother and child are entirely free to go, they will be required to fulfill their obligation to appear for the immigration court proceedings that their case warrants, but at least they will be out of this unsanitary facility in the middle of a desert. They will be able to be cared for by family here in the U.S. and God willing, the child will get better.
Don’t take my word for the unsanitary conditions, read the Department of Homeland Security’s own Inspector General’s report of August 28, 2014. Pages 2 – 3, note the presence of communicable disease, unsanitary conditions in the bathrooms, inadequate cleaning services, and unpalatable food – conditions that anyone who has spent time at the Artesia center can verify.
I urge my colleagues, and the public, to be aggressive in seeking release from detention for these women who are bona fide asylum seekers with viable claims of relief.
One very gratifying thing is that this victory is the outcome of perseverance and attention by a relay team of lawyers and other legal volunteers who worked sequentially and together to achieve the clients’ parole. The mom was first represented by attorneys from Portland and Denver, then by NYC counsel, then Columbus, OH counsel, then Montana and El Paso, and finally by Lisa and her colleague Karen from Cambridge, MA.
This is the most “team” of team efforts I’ve ever been a part of, and I will continue to fight with all of you to provide these women and children the due process they deserve but that our government is trying its best to withhold from them. Our in-the-trenches model is truly a remarkable means for providing legal services to detained people in a remote location.
I am so proud to work with all of you.
Written by Deborah S. Smith, AILA Member and Artesia Volunteer