A whole lot can happen in 365 days—good and bad. As I reflect on the year that is rapidly moving into the rearview mirror, I am reminded first of the struggles: the forcible separation of families at the border; attempts to bar asylum seekers from entering the U.S.; a proposed regulation that would allow for the indefinite detention of children; a decision by the Attorney General that threatens to deem victims of domestic abuse or gang violence unworthy of long-term safety in the U.S.; suicides and deaths of detained individuals who lacked access to adequate medical and mental health care in detention. The litany of injustices goes on. This December, I hold close to heart and top of mind, the brave individuals who fell victim to the Trump Administration’s inhumane policies.
There is no denying that the road we have traveled, and the road ahead, is one rife with challenges. However, 2018—for all of its trying days—had victories, moments of inspiration, and opportunities for collaboration that we must recognize, celebrate, and take to heart.
For instance, in 2018, through the Immigration Justice Campaign, 926 volunteers served 15,296 families detained in Texas; 573 volunteers served 469 individuals facing deportation around the country; 236 separated families had an attorney by their side. In sum, 1,499 volunteers made a difference in the lives of nearly 20,000 immigrants.
Meanwhile, thousands of advocates took part in our advocacy campaigns against attempts to strip asylum seekers of rights and protections, and over 7,500 attorneys, translators, mental health workers, and advocates joined the Immigration Justice Campaign community.
These numbers translate into real, human stories. Like Mr. Y and Mr. R, both of whom fled torture and beatings in Azerbaijan due to their involvement in the Talysh National Movement. And Mr. B who, with his 12-year-old daughter, fled violence and persecution in Central America, only to be separated from her at the Southern border. And Mr. M, who fled Angola following torture and death threats by the country’s secret police force. And nearly 80 mothers and children who, after being separated at the border, were incarcerated together for upwards of six months. Thanks to the advocacy of thousands, and collaboration with Amnesty International, these families were released and will continue their pursuits of safety in the United States, no longer behind bars.
These stories remind me that despite the difficulties of the past 12 months, the Justice Campaign team, hand in hand alongside AILA and the American Immigration Council, and all of our volunteers, will enter 2019 with something that cannot and will not be deterred by anti-immigrant executive actions and rhetoric: hope.
Thank you to those who joined the fight for a fair day in court this year. We are grateful, inspired, and most importantly, more motivated than ever, together!