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Sheridan: When a Community Responds

by Stephen W Manning, Executive Director at the Innovation Law Lab and Mat Dos Santos, Legal Director at the ACLU of Oregon

In late May 2018, the Trump Administration imprisoned Karandeep Singh, and hundreds other men like him, because he had fled to the United States to seek asylum. The administration’s goal, as President Donald Trump stated, was to “immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases bring them back from where they came.”

Mass imprisonment and rapid deportation are supposed to be the new norm because, according to the president, immigrants “are animals.” The Trump Administration is actualizing its immoral and unlawful plan to deport immigrant communities of color en masse. Immigrants with legitmate asylum claims are being deported faster and in larger numbers than we’ve seen before.

Like more than 120 other asylum seekers, the administration locked Karandeep in a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, denied him access to lawyers – and therefore the law – and then was going to immediately deport him in spite of his legitimate claim to asylum. That was supposed to be it.

But, exactly 90 days after he was thrown in prison, Karandeep was freed from his cell in Sheridan to fight his asylum claim outside the electrified confinement of immigrant detention.

How did Karandeep get out of Sheridan?

Oregonians came together to provide necessary support for these asylum seekers in the best ways we each know how. We came together in the courts, on the streets, in the headlines, in our community, fighting for these men on both sides of Sheridan’s walls.

Grassroots organizations working within the Rights Architecture in Oregon deployed their best strategies, with their best hearts, and their clearest thinking to collectively defend Karandeep and all the men immorally imprisoned in Sheridan in order to build sustainable, inclusionary pathways for Oregon and everywhere.

Unidos Bridging Community, the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), the Rural Organizing Project (ROP) and others built solidarity outside the detention center with everyone inside the detention center through vigils, marches, and and public manifestations of connection, support, and hope. These actions kept what was happening in Sheridan in the headlines and in public consciousness, letting the men know the community supports them and letting the government know that their actions don’t align with Oregon’s values.

Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Causa, and others activated a massive network of volunteers to engage in the challenging and vital work of defending everyone in detention so that no one was forgotten.

The ACLU of Oregon – in collaboration with attorneys from Stoll Berne – as well as the Federal Public Defender of Oregon broke open the Trump Administration’s attempt to isolate Karandeep and others from the law by fighting the government in federal court. The successful lawsuit finally paved the way for the asylum seekers to have access to attorneys from the Innovation Law Lab.

APANO, ROP, Unidos, and the newly-formed ICE out of Sheridan group established a special post-detention respite network to provide a welcoming einvironment and transportation from the doors of the detention center to a safe, sheltered, dignified space, allowing the men to recover from detention and build plans for onward travel to their family and sponsors. This crucial support network engaged several religious organizations, like the Dasmesh Darbar Sikh Temple to St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, and dozens of community members.

And Oregon Ready, a statewide coalition of community organizations, collectivized attention on developing a lasting policy resolution to end asylum-seeker incarceration at federal prisons.

Karandeep’s journey is only partially complete. And many more immigrants of color are still confined within Sheridan and other facilites around the country. Yet when Karandeep walked out of Sheridan on August 21, he won an important victory in the long journey to protect the rule of law.

FCI Sheridan Update June 18 | What Happened & What’s Next

What happened today?

Today, we sent a team of pro bono lawyers to FCI Sheridan. And once again ICE denied our entire team of pro bono lawyers access to the asylum-seeking men they have hidden inside a federal penitentiary.

Why is this happening?

The Trump Administration has chosen to use the immense weapon of incarceration and family separation to punish and terrorize immigrants, particularly immigrants from communities of color. The law never required that these men be detained; the law never required that these families be separated; and the law certainly never required — in fact, it is rather unprecedented — that these men be imprisoned in a federal penitentiary.

But in the deportation process, when people are detained and hidden deportations come fast and easy. Keep them hidden. Keep them isolated. If no one cares, then it is as if it never happened at all. Right?

And that’s the mistake the Trump Administration made.

They weren’t expecting hundreds of Oregonians to step up and say: we are in this to win it. Unique in the United States, Oregonians–hundreds of you– have promised to defend these men in the courts, their families, the law of asylum — and by that simple Constitutional fact of due process and fairness, you are defending the rule of law and democracy.

What’s next & what can you do now?

  • Be ready. As soon as we open access–and we will–things will happen very very fast and you will need to be available. We cannot say when yet.
  • Learn about asylum. We’ve developed an online training curriculum to show you the basics.
  • Learn why the role of counsel in rapid removals is so important.

Be well & more soon,

The Sheridan Pro Bono Project

Chanpone Sinlapasai, Eileen Sterlock, Stephen Manning, Caroline van der Harten, Luis Garcia

FCI Sheridan Update, What’s Next, How to Get Involved

Thank you for your interest and willingness to defend democracy, end family separation & support the pro bono legal effort at FCI Sheridan.

What happened?

As you know, the Trump Administration has launched an assault on immigrants, particularly immigrants from communities of color. The immigration authorities are physically tearing children from parents, prosecuting asylum-seekers, and incarcerating mothers, fathers, and children–separately.  Here at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon, the Trump Administration has incarcerated more than one hundred men who are seeking asylum

Nearly 300 people have volunteered to defend the law of asylum by supporting the legal defense work at FCI Sheridan. Thanks to your support, in just a few days:

  • We’ve opened a base camp (otherwise known as a very modest law office) in a donated space in the lovely rural town of Sheridan just minutes from FCI. The base camp will serve as hub of support & training for pro bono lawyers & advocates.
  • We have created a data system, legal templates, and are arranging for interpretation services. We are collecting asylum country reports.
  • We’ve established a toll-free hotline for the detained men and their families.
  • We’ve established an email for lawyers, advocates, and press to contact the on-the-ground team (otg-sheridan@innovationlawlab.org).
  • We’ve connected with our colleagues around the country to help piece families back together and collectively defend the law of asylum.
  • We’ve established a web page for up-to-date reports.
  • We’ve created a volunteer registration form.
  • We are working collaboratively with our colleagues at the Innovation Law Lab, Oregon Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Oregon Ready, and members across the state including faith communities and others.

What’s the strategy?

  • The ability of the detained men to access counsel is still very compromised (you can read our demand letters here and here).
  • We are working on creating better, more meaningful access that complies with the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States so that every individual experiences a fair process that is free from bias.

What happens next?

  • If you registered to be a volunteer, you will receive a few more emails about organizational things. If you haven’t registered, please do. There is a lot of work to be done.
  • We will soon have a scheduling system in place to train and deploy volunteers. We are working non-stop to get ready. To defend democracy and the rule of law means all-hands-on-deck and we are really glad you are on the team!
  • On Monday, June 18 at 5.30pm, you should be in Sheridan for a vigil planned by local advocacy and faith-based organizations. Details can be found here.

Be well & more soon,

The Sheridan Pro Bono Project

Chanpone Sinlapasai, Eileen Sterlock, Stephen Manning, Caroline van der Harten, Luis Garcia

Defend Everyone: Creating the Equity Corps of Oregon to Provide Universal Representation

Last month, the Innovation Law Lab, in partnership with other members of Oregon Ready, published and presented a report entitled “Defend Everyone: Creating the Equity Corps of Oregon to Provide Universal Representation.”

The report calls on government bodies in Oregon to provide legal defense funding for community members in removal defense proceedings. The concept that no individual should face possible deportation without a lawyer is often referred to as “universal representation.”

Furthermore, the report recommends adopting an innovative approach to truly achieving a state of universal representation. The model proposed draws on the power of technology and collaboration for scalability and effectiveness. A visual can be found on page 18.

Legal representation is the single most predictive factor in whether an immigrant will prevail against an unjust deportation. With an attorney, immigrants will fare better at every stage of the court process. However, as immigration law is considered a civil matter, defendants are not entitled to a government-provided lawyer.

The federal government has activated the machinery of mass detention and deportation–ICE arrests are up in virtually every part of the country, and Jeff Sessions’ has proposed changes that would pressure judges to seek deportation over options for relief. State and local government are in a unique position, in which they can support policy and programs that stop the deportation of immigrant communities of color.

Read the report

The report was authored by Stephen W. Manning, Executive Director of the Innovation Law Lab; Leland Baxter-Neal, Immigration Attorney at Metropolitan Public Defenders; Lindsay Jonasson, Student at Lewis & Clark Law School; Juliet Stumpf, Professor at Lewis & Clark Law School; and Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, Development Director at the Innovation Law Lab.

The Universal Representation Committee of Oregon Ready is comprised of individuals from Causa, Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Immigration Legal Services, Immigrant Defense Oregon of Metropolitan Public Defenders, Immigration Counseling Service, Innovation Law Lab, Transformative Immigration Law Class at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

Please direct any questions to Victoria Bejarano Muirhead at victoria@innovationlawlab.org.

Building the Resistance: Innovation Law Lab Impact Report

We are thrilled to share our latest report with you. “Building the Resistance: Innovation Law Lab Impact Report” is now available online.

The mass incarceration and deportation of immigrant communities of color has long been underway in the United States. With the election of President Donald Trump, what few safeguards existed for immigrants and refugees are now under attack. The need for scalable immigrant representation models and sites of resistance is greater than ever before.

Our impact report captures the collaborative work we have done over the past 18 months. Some of the highlights include:

  • Established four Centers of Excellence across the country, which provide pro bono representation for families formerly held in family detention centers
  • Launched BorderX, our model to scale representation of adult immigrants in detention
  • Trained 296 attorneys
  • Placed over 70 pro bono asylum cases affecting over 150 people
  • Been recognized by Financial Times as one of the most innovative legal organizations in North America

Read the report

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