Artesia changed me. It changed me as a lawyer and it changed how I interact with people. I know that it changed all the volunteers, it changed the officials who worked there, and more than anyone, it changed the children and mothers who were held there, sometimes for months on end, in fear.
For those of you who are coming to this subject for the first time, Artesia is shorthand for the Artesia Family Residential Center in New Mexico. While only in existence for less than a year, its impact was profound.
I saw inhumanity at Artesia – in the treatment of kids and moms, in the lack of communication and information, in the denial of due process, in the lack of care for sick and traumatized asylum seekers.
I also saw humanity at its best – in the attorneys throwing themselves into helping these families and packing months of case work into days, in the remote lawyers working from afar to help in any way they could, in the efforts of those in the Denver area who could physically go to the court handling the cases, and from the multitude of donors who shared their funds to help Team Artesia keep the battle going.
The few remaining Artesia moms and kids who haven’t been released (either on bond or grants from immigration judges) have been transferred to facilities in Karnes and Dilley, Texas. Our two stalwart on-the-ground staff members have shifted their lives from Artesia to San Antonio and continue to work on the remaining cases not yet assigned to a permanent pro bono attorney. The boxes of files are being reviewed, and the number of on-the-ground volunteers is dwindling.
As I look back over what had been accomplished, and what still remains to do, I started putting my thoughts together and the end result is an interactive report that details Artesia from start to finish. I hope you’ll read it, consider what was done by our government and why, consider what was done and why by our volunteers, and continue to fight with me to end family detention. Because what the leadership of our government has done, by condemning these children and mothers before any word left their mouths, before any evidence had been submitted, is wrong.
Everyone has the right to due process. When our own government starts to strip away the rights of some, under specious and faulty arguments, then our nation’s foundation is at risk. End family detention, not just in Artesia, but everywhere, for the sake of the moms and kids, and for our own sake, too.
Written by Stephen W. Manning, Member of the AILA Board of Governors and Artesia Volunteer
If you are an AILA member who wants to volunteer at a family detention center, please go to http://www.aila.org/beavolunteer or feel free to contact Maheen Taqui at firstname.lastname@example.org–we are looking for more as the work wraps up and we could really use your help.
If you aren’t able to come help in person, consider donating at http://www.aila.org/helpthevolunteers. And thank you!
To watch videos of the volunteers at Artesia and elsewhere sharing their experiences, go to this playlist on AILA National’s YouTube page. To see all the blog posts about this issue select Family Detention as the category on the right side of this page.