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Posts tagged ‘Immigration and Customs Enforcement’

More video on ICE’s willingness to sentence severely disabled 4-year-old to total paralysis or death for father’s crime

This footage was taken by our office and has subtitles in English:

ICE willing to sentence severely disabled 4-year-old U.S. citizen girl to death or total paralysis for crime of her father.

Danna Palma is 4-years-old. She is a U.S. citizen and suffers from a severe form of Cerebral Palsy. She lives with her mom, dad and 5-year-old U.S. citizen sister, Shakira.

She cannot walk without both mechanical and human assistance. In order for her to maintain the ability to move, Danna must engage in daily occupational and physical therapy.

If she does not do her therapy, she risks becoming totally paralyzed.

The most important person in the world to Danna is her father, Miguel Palma.

In 2011, Miguel was arrested and convicted of his second DUI offense. Miguel was subsequently detained by ICE for approximately a month.

He eventually was released and served another month in jail for his arrest. On June 12, 2012, Miguel completed rehabilitation and has stayed clean since.

When Miguel was detained in 2011, Danna was devastated. She refused to do any of her therapy and did not sleep for two weeks straight.

Her ability to move regressed significantly. Since her dad’s return, she has returned to normal, participating in therapy on a regular basis.

I have met her three times now and can say that she is a very happy girl, playing with her sister and playfully calling me: “Abogado.”

If Miguel is deported to Peru, she will again be devastated. If she does not participate in therapy for a significant amount of time, she risks becoming totally paralyzed, which can also lead to death.

Given that Miguel is not eligible for a defense to removal, I submitted a request for prosecutorial discretion on his behalf to Immigration and Customs Enforcement so that he would not be at risk of being separated from Danna.

First, an Assistant Chief Counsel formally denied my request on September 17, 2012.

In a discussion prior to his decision, I asked him about the hardship that Danna would face if her dad was removed. He dismissed the concern, responding that: “He could have just gotten into the car with his daughter.”

Ultimately, Chief Counsel of New York declined to reverse the original ICE attorney’s decision to deny prosecutorial discretion.

Lastly, I requested ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Adviser’s headquarters to review the New York office’s decision.  Today, they informed me that they would decline to disturb the original denial.

The evidence is irrefutable: If Miguel is removed from the United States, Danna will suffer exceptionally extreme hardship. She could become totally paralyzed or die.

ICE has the power to save Danna’s life by exercising prosecutorial discretion in favor of Miguel. Yet they refuse, citing “public safety” concerns. ICE has stated that they “sympathize” with Danna, but are not willing to act on this sympathy.

Danna is a U.S. citizen who deserves a voice to represent her interests. Her interests are inextricably linked with being with her father here in her home country, the United States.

Our federal government has more than just an obligation to enforce laws; they also have an obligation to consider what their enforcement actions will have on their own people.

Here, the answer is clear:

Danna’s life should trump that of a hypothetical danger that her father presents to the public. Anyone who has met this little girl and her family could not disagree.

An Important Step Forward: ICE Unveils Detention Center to Look & Feel Less Like Prison.

The new ICE detention center in Texas. Credit: Ben Sklar for the New York Times

I have witnessed a civil detention center used solely by ICE that looked and actually was more restrictive than jails designed to house criminal suspects. As an attorney, I have visited the detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey on several occasions.

The building is located in a bleak industrial area (what Jersey is infamous for) and the detainees are not even allowed to go outside. They are cooped up inside for their entire stay, which can be for months or even years.

To visit a detainee, the entry process feels like a maximum security prison, with morose security guards screening you like you are intent on causing a prison riot.

Monmouth County Jail, which is primarily used to house criminal suspects but also by  ICE,  inmates are free to walk the halls and can be seen playing sports or exercising outside. In other words, criminal jails often treat their detainees better than civil detention centers, which by their definition hold persons that are not criminals.

Today, ICE revealed that it has not completely ignored advocates’ requests for more humane treatment of immigrant detainees. According to the New York Times:

 On a patch of Texas farmland near the Gulf of Mexico, immigrationofficials on Tuesday unveiled one of the most visible results of a three-year-old plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration detention system: a brand-new center intended to provide a less penal setting for detainees…

Inside, behind high tan-colored walls, the center has the feel of a school, with dormitories of bunk beds, a gymnasium, a library, computers with Internet access, cable television, a medical center, landscaped courtyards, an outdoor soccer pitch and courts for basketball and volleyball.

There are also courtrooms for immigration hearings, which will be conducted before judges in San Antonio and Houston via video conferencing.(emphasis added)

As an attorney representing detained immigrants, the biggest single challenge is communication with the client. It is often prohibitively expensive or simply impossible to communicate with a detained immigrant. If the client does not have money in his account, he cannot call his attorney. Even if he does have money in his account, the one moment he has time to call, his/her attorney may not be available. And more times than not, no one can call the immigrant. Furthermore, detainees are often housed far away from family, friends, and their attorney, making a personal visit extremely difficult.

Therefore, the introduction of internet access to detained immigrants is a very important step in affording detainees with the proper due process rights guaranteed to them by the US constitution.

The Detractors

Some anti-immigrants, like the oft-quoted Congressman Lamar Smith, raise misleading criticisms of the new guidelines:  “a hospitality guideline for illegal immigrants.”

Smith went further, stating that: “The administration goes beyond common sense to accommodate illegal immigrants and treats them better than citizens in federal custody,”

Smith dishonestly analogizes “illegal immigrants” to “citizens” in federal custody. The latter are being held on suspicion of violating criminal law while the former upon suspicion of violating civil immigration laws. Many if not most of the time, the “illegal immigrant” that Smith so effectively dehumanizes by stripping that person of its humanity with the adjective “illegal”, is in fact a great person, who has raised a family, led an upstanding life,  and has contributed to our society.

In the worst case scenario, immigrants held in detention are extremely vulnerable: they may be fleeing persecution, mentally ill, or even victims of serious crimes within the United States. I have seen, for example, a person that was twice the victim of rape be detained for months solely because of her immigration status.

In fact, many of these “illegal immigrants” subject to detention have done exponentially more for the US than its own citizens (such as those that Smith refers to in federal custody).

We hope that this new detention center is not the first of its kind. Even though there is no empirically concrete benefit gained by detaining and deporting anyone–apart from getting politicians elected–the government should at least treat the cannon fodder it has coerced into its system with dignity and respect.