by California ChangeLawyers
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by California ChangeLawyers
Watch This Six year old Salvadoran girl finally reunited with her mom
Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid walked out of a Houston airport early this morning to cheers, holding her mother’s hand, one month after they were separated at a Border Patrol detention facility and the 6-year-old’s voice was captured in an audio recording, begging for a phone call.
Jimena was bundled out of a shelter in Phoenix on Thursday evening, loaded onto an airplane at supper time and flown three hours to Houston, where she kept herself awake all night in a passenger lounge in Terminal A with crayons and coloring books. Meanwhile her mother, Cindy Madrid, fresh out of a detention facility in south Texas, got word about the government’s plans too late to catch a flight, and barreled with her lawyer six hours down the highway to reach the little girl.
For her daughter’s sake, Madrid says she won’t dwell on their monthlong separation. In an interview, however, she wondered aloud whether anything had been accomplished by it.
“It’s unfair what they are doing to the adults,” she said. “But what they’re doing to children is worse. They’re harming them, possibly for life. What’s the point of that?”
Read the full story and watch the video on ProPublica >
The following Facebook post was written by Kat Russell, a lawyer at RAICES.
Speaking of… How ICE abuses gay and trans immigrants
Jade Quintanilla had come to the northernmost edge of Mexico from El Salvador looking for help and safety, but five months had passed since she had arrived in this border town, and she was still too scared to cross into the United States and make her request for asylum.
Violence and persecution in Central America had brought many transgender women such as Ms. Quintanilla to this crossroads, along with countless other L.G.B.T. migrants. They are desperate to escape an unstable region where they are distinct targets.
Warnings about trans migrants being neglected and abused in United States custody have amplified fears for Ms. Quintanilla and other trans migrants. A 2016 report by Human Rights Watch detailed pervasive sexual harassment and assault at detention facilities, based on interviews with dozens of transgender women.
In May, a transgender woman named Roxana Hernandez died in New Mexico, while held in custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after experiencing cardiac arrest and H.I.V.-related complications.
In interviews with The Times, several trans women described humiliation by guards and said they had been sexually assaulted by other detainees.
“A lot of the queer men experience threats and physical assault and sometimes sexual assault. The trans women who are put into men’s facilities experience sexual assault at remarkably high numbers,” said Aaron Morris, a lawyer and the executive director of Immigration Equality, which provides legal assistance related to immigration and asylum to L.G.B.T. people.
Reports of abuse at detention centers range from guards making fun of natural facial hair that grows in between grooming to other inmates threatening violence.
One trans woman from Honduras said she had been harassed and sexually assaulted several times by men while in custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, which is operated by CoreCivic.
Speaking in an interview with her lawyer present in Los Angeles, she described several safety issues that stem from the center grouping trans women with men and having them share bathrooms. At one point, she said, she awoke to a man forcing himself onto her and shoving his tongue into her mouth; she said she was told to ignore it by the guards, even though she was afraid that she would get in trouble because of rules against physical contact.
In other instances, she said, men would pull back the curtains in the shower to masturbate in front of her and other trans women.
“They say we have support and protection in there, but the reality is different,” the woman said. “I’m not the only one. Ask any trans woman, they will each have a bad story about something that happened to them in detention.”
Story by NY Times >
More of This California bill would deem children under 12 too young for court
A bill winding its way through the California legislature would bar the juvenile justice system from hearing most cases of children younger than 12, an idea that has sparked a fierce backlash from district attorneys.
California, like most states, has no minimum age that would prevent courts from hearing cases of children who are charged with criminal offenses.
“The vast majority of young children in California who’ve been accused of an offense are exhibiting behaviors or minor behaviors that did not require any justice involvement,” state Senator Holly Mitchell, a Democrat and the bill’s co-sponsor, said at a hearing last month. “Involvement with the juvenile justice system can be harmful to a child’s health and development.”
“I think people have an assumption that juvenile court is potentially a helpful intervention for young children,” said Laura Abrams, one of the UCLA researchers who looked at state juvenile justice data. “But in most cases, the charges aren’t sustained or they’re dismissed, so the family doesn’t get any help at all.”
For the children who do end up in the justice system at an early age—and especially those who end up incarcerated at juvenile halls and camps in the state—the impact can be harmful to their healthy development, leading to lower educational outcomes, among other issues.
That perspective has drawn strong opposition from several law enforcement entities in the state, including the California District Attorneys Association, the California Police Chiefs Association and the Chief Probation Officers of California.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has been a particularly vocal critic of the bill since it was introduced last year. A letter sent last month to a committee considering the bill highlighted several lurid cases that the office believes show the juvenile justice system is the only way to rehabilitate children and protect public safety.
Proponents of SB 439, like Patricia Soung of Children’s Defense Fund-California, say that the juvenile justice system hasn’t had a strong track record of providing effective supportive services to young people, especially those that address the trauma that many are facing.
“Early exposure to the justice system is harmful and it can increase the likelihood of recidivating and young people aren’t getting the help they need,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respond, but let’s respond in a more appropriate way that actually addresses the underlying causes of their behavior.”
Story by the Appeal >
Even More of This The Court Watch Movement wants to hold prosecutors and judges accountable
In a New York City criminal courtroom on a hot June day, a familiar ritual was unfolding: a middle-aged judge sat on a mahogany platform above the rest of the courtroom, the words “In God We Trust” lettered in silver over her head, as mostly Black and Latinx people paraded before her to plead their cases. Some were accompanied by lawyers; most stood next to a public defender who argued in favor of their release.
Louise Williams, a 27-year-old white woman wearing a nondescript black T-shirt, jeans, and round glasses, her blond hair held back in a clip, sat among the defendants’ girlfriends and siblings assembled on benches in the back of the room. But she wasn’t there as a supporter. She was there to watch.
She’s part of a new program called Court Watch NYC, launched in February to send volunteers into the city’s courtrooms to observe what happens, gather data, and shine a light on how the system works.
Often she discovers there’s much more to a case than the charges suggest. A frail Black woman who walked slowly with a limp was charged with assault. Yet when the details of what happened were discussed in the courtroom, it became clear that she was the victim—assaulted by someone using her own cane. She reported what happened to the police. She was arrested despite never having been arrested before.
Since launching in February, the groups say they have watched over 200 court shifts, collected data on 544 cases in its first month alone, and trained more than 300 watchers. They have people watching first appearances, when bail is typically set, six days a week in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“We believe that they should know that they’re being watched,” Foran said. It’s about “shifting power.” One important interaction, she said, is between district attorneys and court watchers on Twitter. After the announcement that district attorneys wouldn’t request bail in certain misdemeanor cases, Court Watch NYC’s Twitter account reported it was still happening. The district attorney’s office responded to say that those cases were exceptions to the rule. “That shows that they’re paying attention,” Foran said. It also illuminates the wiggle room in these policy reform announcements.
There are conversations underway in other cities about starting similar projects, and just as Court Watch NYC relied on the experiences of those who came before, they are paying it forward by sharing their insights. But, Foran warned, “Court watching is a tactic, like bail funds are a tactic.” It’s not an end in and of itself; the point isn’t just to send people into courts to experience what happens. “All of these things have to be specific to a particular place and should be leading toward something, oriented toward a focus area they’re trying to effect change in."
“The whole system is like a house of cards,” VOCAL-NY’s Encalada-Malinowski said. “It’s propped up on the reliance of the public’s false understanding of what’s happening. As soon as people really appreciate what’s happening, it will be forced to change.”
Story by the Appeal >
Less of This How the Trump Administration is using USCIS to reshape the face of America
The following editorial was written by Carlos Guevara, a lawyer and Senior Policy Advisor for UNIDOS US.
Much of the criticism of the Trump administration’s harsh immigration agenda has focused on its draconian and untethered approach to interior enforcement, its indiscriminate targeting of undocumented and documented immigrants alike, and the ways in which it has harmed many American families.
Yet, there’s more going on here than meets the eye. It might well be another agency with significant jurisdiction over immigration matters -- the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) -- that ends up having the most lasting and damaging impact on the diversity and composition of the country.
Quietly, previously marginalized opponents of legal immigration have been given new life and prominence within the Trump administration. Today, many of them work in, oversee, or have a direct link to USCIS, and those hardliners won’t be satisfied with slashing legal immigration, so they are also looking for new ways to torment anyone (with the wrong skin color) who was not born here, including authorized immigrants and even naturalized citizens, in order to strip their legal status and force them to leave the country.
USCIS has also been quietly restricting who can secure green cards by changing the way existing rules have been implemented. The press has observed that Trump officials at USCIS are making it more difficult and expensive for foreign students, skilled temporary workers, and those seeking humanitarian protections under our laws to enter the U.S. legally. Meanwhile, recent reports reveal that USCIS intends to establish an internal-affairs division to oversee agency caseworkers who are deemed too “lenient”.
But that’s not all.
Their latest, most pernicious rule proposal takes clear aim at legal immigrants who are living and working in the U.S. (along with their family members, U.S.-citizen children included).
On March 28, 2018, The Washington Post reported details of a leaked proposal that would target decent, hard-working immigrants (and their families) in low-wage jobs by greatly expanding the “public charge” criteria to include participation in non-cash assistance programs. This includes programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Women, Infants and Children (WIC); the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, and housing or home-energy assistance -- all services, by the way, that many authorized immigrants are legally entitled to by virtue of substantial work (and, by extension, taxpayer) histories.
If the rule becomes final, will an individual with a pathway to permanent residency think twice about applying for SNAP or CHIP for their U.S.-citizen child, lest that cost them their shot at a green card?
What is a horrifying realization about a sitting President of the United States is that Trump wants to punish immigrants of color by forcing them to choose between staying here with family and taking care of their own health and that of their kids.
And, the quiet assault on the legal immigration system happening at USCIS belies the cover story that it is only seeking to protect our borders from illegal immigration.
Essay published on Medium >
Explained The criminalization of homelessness
The following explainer was written by Bidish Sarma and Jessica Brand, two lawyers at the Fair Punishment Project.
In San Diego, police arrested a pregnant Alexis Leftridge as she slept in her tent and jailed her for several days. Leftridge became homeless after losing her nursing job in 2014 — without money for rent, she was evicted. To get out of jail, she agreed to an order to stay away from the area, but she now has so many that she does not know where to go. According to pleadings filed in a lawsuit against the city, she is afraid she will be arrested for “walking along the wrong street.” She has subsequently given birth to a baby boy and currently has a room at a shelter. But, because the shelter is within the “stay away” area, she is at risk of re-arrest.
Every day, law enforcement officers across the country issue tickets to those experiencing homelessness as they engage in basic, life-sustaining behaviors, like sleeping on the streets or cooking a meal in public on a griddle. Prosecutors then frequently charge those individuals with crimes
Below, we discuss the destructive and often devastating human and financial costs of criminalizing homelessness in America.
Experts believe that as many as two million people in the country experience homelessness at some point in a given year, with about 500,000 living without a home each night.
While African Americans represent about 12.5 percent of the general population, they represent over 40 percent of the homeless population.
In some communities, there has been a significant increase in the population of Latinos facing homelessness. [Esmeralda Bermudez and Ruben Vives / Los Angeles Times] Many experience acute fear or face unique obstacles as a result of their uncertain legal status. [Leslie Berestein Rojas / scpr.org] Consider Hector, a homeless man in New York who does not utilize shelter services because he is afraid that he will be identified and then deported. He lives near the train tracks along with several others who have refused to enter shelters since President Trump’s immigration crackdown.
2. The criminalization of homelessness is growing.
Hundreds of jurisdictions across the U.S. have criminalized homelessness, and the trend shows no signs of abating. Laws criminalizing homelessness have multiplied in the last 10 years in 187 studied cities.
3. Criminalizing homelessness does nothing to address its root causes.
The causes of homelessness vary, but experts largely agree that both structural and individual factors play a role. Structural factors include poverty, inadequate affordable housing, inadequate access to meaningful public assistance, decreased availability of mental health care, and discrimination.
In Detroit, for example, advocates report that an increasing number of families experience homelessness because the city lacks affordable housing and has a high rate of evictions. About 3,000 children experience homelessness each year in Detroit.
5. Laws criminalizing homelessness make the problem worse.
Individuals who are saddled with criminal records for engaging in survival activities like sleeping on the street face steeper challenges finding jobs, housing, or other benefits like food stamps, thus perpetuating the cycle of homelessness.
Stay-away orders—often issued alongside tickets for sleeping in public—also keep people from accessing social services that they urgently need. In San Diego, for example, most social service providers are downtown. But police regularly issue stay away orders from these locations to those found sleeping on the street. This means they can’t get food stamps or other assistance without risking arrest.
8. Prosecutors and state legislators can choose to stop criminalizing homelessness.
Prosecutors can refuse to charge for violations of laws that specifically target the homeless population, like bans on camping and panhandling. [Violeta Chapin / The Appeal] In Spokane, Washington, for example, the city and district attorneys have embraced initiatives to dismiss citations for offenses that homeless people incur when engaging in life-sustaining activities in exchange for commitments to utilize housing and social services.
Prosecutors can agree to dismiss outstanding warrants for unpaid fines and quality-of-life offenses. In Los Angeles, in 2015, the city attorney agreed to do just that if people accepted social services, job training, and drug and alcohol treatment. His office put together clinics to help the homeless population participate. [Gale Holland / Los Angeles Times]
Read the full explainer on the Appeal >
Event Scholarships for Justice
Scholarships for Justice is an event that celebrates the bright, diverse students who will become tomorrow's legal changemakers. Featuring former Attorney General Eric Holder and Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund founding member Nina Shaw.
October 4 at 5:00 PM. RSVP here >
Free Clinic FEMA Clinic hosted by Legal Aid of Sonoma County
The FEMA process is incredibly important and many survivors rely on FEMA assistance for recovery. Please help us help the community by sharing, posting, tweeting, or whatever else you can think of to spread the word.
144 South E Street in Santa Rosa
July 28, 2018.
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