A Little Inspiration I am the proud daughter of immigrants…and the proud teen mom of a 3 year old
Ana Dominguez is first year student at UC Davis Law and a 2019 ChangeLawyers Scholar.
More of This Lawyers are fighting to release immigrant children amid coronavirus outbreak. This federal judge agrees.
A federal judge in Los Angeles has given the Trump administration until April 6 to deliver an account of why it can’t quickly release many of the roughly 7,000 immigrant children at risk of contracting the coronavirus in shelters and detention facilities across the U.S., and unite them with waiting sponsors.
On Monday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., expanded the ruling to apply to their detained parents as well.
The Justice Department declined to comment Monday on whether the administration planned to appeal in either case, both of which also mandate oversight of the detention facilities’ preparedness for the pandemic. The White House did not respond.
While praising the rulings, Karen Tumlin, a Los Angeles-based lawyer and director and founder of the Justice Action Center, said the administration was forcing “ad hoc justice” amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“If you’re lucky enough to have a lawyer, to get a judge to do a telephonic hearing, then we’re getting common-sense results in favor of release — during a pandemic,” said Tumlin, who represented three children who’d been in Office of Refugee Resettlement custody for nearly a year and were released to their father just before the administration announced it would suspend many family reunifications, including in California.
Judge Dolly M. Gee of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles noted in her decision late Saturday that while children appeared less susceptible to COVID-19 than adults, in detention they were more vulnerable — not just to the virus, but to trauma.
“The severity of the harm to which plaintiffs are exposed and the public’s interest in preventing outbreaks of COVID-19 among families and children in ICE or ORR custody that will infect ICE and ORR staff, spread to others in geographic proximity, and likely overwhelm local healthcare systems, tips the balance of equities sharply in plaintiffs’ favor,” Gee wrote.
Read the story on LA Times
Say it Louder Decarceration will save lives. Release prisoners now.
Rachel Barkow is the author of “Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration” and the vice dean and a professor at NYU School of Law.
As our political leaders scramble to address one of the worst health crises the country has ever experienced, it is imperative that they prioritize the release of some of the country’s most vulnerable people from prisons, where containing the spread of COVID-19 is simply not feasible.
Many people in prison are over the age of 60 and have chronic medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes. Coronavirus is more likely to be devastating, even deadly, for these people, but correctional facilities do not give them the option of avoiding close contact, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prescribed in order to contain the virus’s spread. Most U.S. detention facilities force people to bunk with one or two others, and some require them to sleep and eat in large communal areas. Social distancing in these environments is impossible. Even basic hygiene is a luxury: Many people in prison have no access to hand sanitizer and struggle to pay for soap.
We are already hearing reports of incarcerated people, corrections officers, and medical staff testing positive in jails, prisons, and detention facilities around the country. Everyone in these facilities is vulnerable to infection, but the risk goes further. Throughout rural America, local prisons provide employment to a large number of a town’s residents, which means that an outbreak in prison could extend to the families and neighbors of staff members, and overwhelm already resource-starved hospitals and health facilities. The problem, in short, will not stop at the prison gates.
Thankfully, President Trump and state governors have the tools to address this potential health catastrophe before it spirals out of control: Their clemency powers allow them to release people from prisons temporarily or permanently, in many places without the need to get separate approval from a pardon or parole board or go through additional processes. These leaders can bring relief with the stroke of a pen.
Read the story on The Appeal
Less of This For undocumented people, everyday is a double fear
Carina has lived in South Florida, where she works as a customer-service representative for an insurance agency, for almost twenty years. She rents a two-story home on a quiet street in a diverse neighborhood, which she shares with her two daughters—Karina and Carolina, both in their early twenties—and also her brother and their parents. A few cousins live nearby. The older of her daughters, Karina, works at a performing-arts center downtown, where she’s risen from intern to box-office manager. The center closed indefinitely last week, on account of the coronavirus, and her pay has been halved. Carolina had been working the cosmetics counter at Macy’s. She was recently sent home indefinitely, the result of pandemic-related belt-tightening; she hoped to be brought back when it’s safe to touch the faces of strangers again. Carina’s father, whom they all call Tata, is a mechanic who does house calls. He usually brings in the most money, but many of his customers are now balking at having him visit. Carina’s employer has remained open, and she has continued to go in to the office, working from nine until six o’clock every day, for her usual pay. But it’s never been enough to support everyone.
Carina has other worries. Her mother, who is in her late sixties, had open-heart surgery two decades ago, in their native Argentina, and still has heart problems—in recent years, she has suffered multiple heart attacks and a stroke. (She asked that I not use her name.) She left Argentina for the United States not long after the heart surgery, following Tata, who had immigrated two years before and had sent money home so that she, their son, and Carina and her two daughters could join him. (The father of Carina’s children stayed in Argentina; he and Carina are divorced.) Now, when Tata and his wife need medical care, they go to a clinic nearby, which offers free services to those who qualify, including those who—like Tata and his wife, and like Carina and her daughters—are uninsured and undocumented. (Karina and Carolina are both daca recipients.)
“If my grandparents need medical attention, I don’t know what would happen,” Karina said recently. The clinic has limited resources—it lacks a ventilator and has been closed since March 20th. (According to a voice-mail recording, the clinic is closed for spring break and will reopen on March 30th.) Karina went on, “Most Americans have health care. Most of my friends have it. They’re calm about it. They go to private doctors and stuff.” It is already harder for the undocumented to get medical attention, Karina said, and, “in times like this, when everybody needs it, it will be even harder.” She wondered how her family members would be asked to identify themselves at a hospital. “They have only expired Argentinean passports,” she said.
Read the story on The New Yorker
Less of This Too Judges keep second guessing progressive prosecutors who dare challenge the status quo
PARISA DEHGHANI-TAFTI last fall ran for commonwealth’s attorney on a promise of criminal justice reform, and voters in Arlington County and Falls Church chose her — and that platform — over the longtime, tough-on-crime incumbent. Now her efforts to deliver on her promise of progressive justice have run into opposition from judges who have taken highly unusual — and some say inappropriate — steps to undermine her discretion as the jurisdiction's top elected prosecutor.
The four judges who sit on the Circuit Court for Arlington County — Chief Judge William T. Newman Jr., Daniel S. Fiore II, Louise M. DiMatteo and Judith L. Wheat — issued an order this month requiring prosecutors to file motions stating all the factual reasons when they amend indictments, decide not to prosecute a case or dismiss charges. The March 4 order is framed around the need for the efficient administration of justice and the court’s ability to properly consider issues, but there were no such requirements of the commonwealth’s attorney in the past. Indeed, legal experts characterized the standing order as unheard of, telling us they are unaware of anywhere else such requirements are in place.
That’s because, according to Miriam Krinsky of Fair and Just Prosecution, for elected prosecutors the exercise of discretion is “fundamental, well settled and an integral part of their obligation to pursue justice.” No prosecutor has the ability or resources to prosecute every case or every violation of law, so every day they make the very kinds of decisions — about how to charge cases, what cases to dismiss, what plea bargains to offer — that the Arlington judges are now challenging.
Read the story on Washington Post
Perspective What it’s like to be a public defender right now
Todd Oppenheim is a supervising attorney in the felony trial division of the Baltimore City public defenders office.
As citizens, we know that for the good of everyone we should simply stay home until the coronavirus is under control. For me, a public defender in Baltimore, and my colleagues, it’s not that easy.
Public defenders and most other Maryland state employees have been instructed by Gov. Larry Hogan to telework. Based on my personal situation, I have been able to comply. Understand, though—asking public defenders to work remotely is like asking an NFL team to train in a swimming pool. Our work, by its nature, necessitates contact. Contact with clients or witnesses who are both on the street and in jails. Contact with colleagues with whom we hash out trial scenarios, jointly review evidence, seek advice, and commiserate about injustices. And, most importantly, contact with courts, where we perform the main functions of our jobs in representing clients. Through remote lawyering, we can prepare most of our cases, sure. But we cannot fully advocate for clients, especially under the limited and ever-shrinking capacity in which Maryland courts are now operating. Basically, under the current regime, defendants can plead guilty, but if a client wants to profess his innocence, the case is postponed (likely without a hearing). In an environment where sitting in jail could, in itself, result in serious illness or death, a system that was already heavily weighted toward guilty pleas has only become more so when, in some cases, clients have options of going home on probation or languishing indefinitely in jail awaiting trial.
Until last week, we had the option to appear with incarcerated clients in court—with no one else present—to secure a deal that might send them home. In Baltimore, “court” normally occurs in inadequate, close quarters in an outdated, tiny room in an ancient courthouse in need of repair. Court has since shifted to a surreal, call-in basis only. We can still seek bail reviews for certain reasons, including for people vulnerable to the virus like the elderly or those with underlying illnesses.
Public defenders needed to be in courtrooms advocating to get people out until restrictions were imposed. And we continue to have to go to court to file motions in person, since the courts have no electronic option. We are pushing prosecutors to do the right thing and possibly agree to release, drop cases and recharge them later, or offer plea deals that don’t involve further incarceration—things that prosecutors could take leadership on and do without requiring defenders to file motions or have parties gather in court. We are identifying nonviolent individuals—which often has a much narrower definition for the state—and virus-vulnerable populations for release. Of course, we also have to represent newly arrested individuals on a daily basis at initial bail hearings, which are also now done by phone too. Our lawyers are selflessly stepping up amid a health emergency. One lawyer rushed to the jail just to translate effectively to a client before a bail hearing. Social distancing sometimes gets thrown out the window, but the job demands it.
Read the story on Slate
April 16 at Noon:
Do you have to say your name 2-3 times each time you introduce yourself in a new setting? Do you code switch at work because you know you can’t be your authentic self in certain environments?
This workshop will be led by Karen Fleshman, a social justice lawyer and activist, founder of Racy Conversations, and author of the upcoming book White Women, We Need to Talk: Doing Our Part to End Racism.
April 16 at 12:00 Noon. Register here
With support from California ChangeLawyers℠, UnCommon Law seek to hire a full-time, year-long legal Fellow to support the work of our New Pilot Program. The Fellow will be a part of a team of advocates, counselors and attorneys supporting Pilot program participants in navigating the discretionary parole process, including supporting those participants in developing new self-narratives to heal from past trauma.