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
Virtually unnoticed, on February 8, President Obama signed a new bill (H.R. 515), International Megan’s Law, requiring that 1) the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency notify foreign officials when a convicted child sex offender is traveling to their country; and 2) the State Department put a “unique identifier” on the passports of persons who have been convicted of a sex crime involving a child (even if they were children at the time themselves and no matter when the conviction arose) who have been listed on a public sex offender registry. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this law has been filed by California Reform Sex Offender Laws (CA RSOL). The plaintiffs include CEOs of major international companies who travel extensively – and innocently – for business.
The bill was signed eight days after it left Congress and four days after it was received by the White House. Supporters say that the law will help prevent sex trafficking by making it more difficult for sex offenders to “[plan] their trips around locations where the most vulnerable children can be found,” in the words of Congresswoman Ann Wagner, who co-sponsored the bill. Critics assert that there has been no connection established between people on sex registries and international sex trafficking; that the branding passports will do nothing to protect the United States from its own sex offenders who, indeed, will be limited in traveling, even for innocuous purposes; that such limitations are unconstitutional; and that the “unique identifier” endangers the safety of such tourists and anyone flying with them. Moreover, a large percentage of people on the registry for child sex offenses were themselves minors when they were convicted, usually of engaging in sexual conduct as with a minor incapable of consent only because of age. Significantly, many Americans use their passports not for travel but simply for identification purposes – and those people will be unfairly subjected to all of the negative consequences of such identification.
A personal observation: Is there no limit to the US urge to stigmatize and punish the other? Is the urge to punish and stigmatize really justified by the desire to help prevent sex crimes in other countries? Shouldn’t that be done by the legislatures of other countries, who might want to restrict the entry of various people and are fully capable of doing so? Reciprocal international efforts to limit sex trafficking are legitimate, but this Act is overbroad, unhealthy, and probably unconstitutional.
- David Post, The Yellow Star, the Scarlet Letter, and ‘International Megan’s Law’, The Washington Post (Jan. 6, 2016).
- Press Release, Congresswoman Ann Wagner, Wagner Speaks in Support of International Megan’s Law (Feb. 1, 2016).
- Press Release, Florida Action Committee, Lawsuit Filed Against International Megan’s Law (Feb. 9, 2016).
- International Megan’s Law, H.R. 515, 114th Cong. (2016) (summary for H.R. 515).
- Obama Signs Controversial Legislation Designed to Prevent Sex Tourism, NYTLive (Feb. 9, 2016).
- Doe v. Kerry et al., No. 3:16-cv-00654 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 9, 2016) (complaint).
- Lissa Griffin & Kate Blacker, Megan’s Law and Sarah’s Law: A Comparative Study of Sex Offender Community Notification Schemes in the United States and the United Kingdom, 46 Crim. L. Bull. 987 (2010) (SSRN).