As lohud.com reports, a select group of Pace students (Luis Rosario Rodriguez, Ryan Koleda, Maria Ouzlian, Jonathan Campozano, Amy O’Donohue, Karine P. Patino) along with Miguel Sanchez-Robles, Rebecca Merton, and professors Vanessa Merton, Thomas M. McDonnell, and Vikki Rogers, spent their ‘2016 spring break’ in Dilley, Texas assisting the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project by offering legal assistance to women and children apprehended by ICE who are seeking asylum status in the United States. This was an intense and intimate lawyering experience for the students in the Pace Immigration Justice Clinic, lead by Prof. Merton, who worked closely with detained Central American children and mothers in the country’s largest family immigration detention center. Not only were the students able to work with the incredibly intricate and arcane immigration asylum law – many of these women and children face physical danger or death in their native countries – but they did so in a context that, as one of the students reported, required them to gain sufficient trust to make the representation effective. As result of their efforts, more than 90 women and children were released to join family members already residing in the United States.
- Adrienne Sanders, Pace Students, Profs Help Asylum Seekers in Texas, Lohud the Journal News (May 2, 2016).
- Madlin Mekelburg, State Sued for Licensing Detention Centers, The Texas Tribune (May 3, 2016).
- AILA, CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, AILA Doc. No. 14100656 (Apr. 5, 2016).
- Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, Texas Officials Want Controversial Family Detention Centers to be Labeled as ‘Child Care’ Centers, Think Progress – Immigration (Feb. 8, 2016).
- Grassroots Leadership, The Facts About Family Detention: A List of Resources, Facts, and Media Coverage on Family Detention (Feb. 29, 2016).
- National Immigratnt Justice Center, Stop Detaining Families (last visited May 4, 2016).
- Migration and Refugee Services / United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Demanding Dignity: The Call to End Family Detention (2014).
- US ICE, ICE’s New Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas to Open in December (Nov. 17, 2014).
- Department of Homeland Security, US ICE, Supplemental Environmental Assessment for Housing of Family Units at the South Faxas Family Residential Center, Dilley, Texas
- CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project
- US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, South Texas Family Residential Center
- South Texas Family Residential Center
The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a challenge to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA) and an expanded version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Texas and twenty-five other states sued the administration to prevent DAPA’s implementation on three grounds.
Here are some initial thoughts from Vanessa H. Merton, Professor of Law and Director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Pace Law School, about the relevance of this ruling to the criminal justice community. She notes:
If the plaintiff states were to prevail in this case, it should mean that a citizen could sue a local district attorney for 1) failing to take care to faithfully execute the law because s/he has not rounded up and prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law every single litterer whose lawless littering may have diminished the value of my property, or 2) failing to enforce to the maximum – no plea-bargaining – every single inspection sticker violation, noncompliant equipment violation, or moving violation that might conceivably cause excess traffic and the risk of unsafe vehicles. As much as prosecutorial discretion can be abused, a world without this kind of prosecutorial discretion would be absurd and dysfunctional.
Ironically, the temporary suspension of deportation available in these Presidential executive-order programs would not be available to most people who have any significant involvement with the criminal justice system. No one with either a felony conviction or a conviction for many misdemeanors can qualify.