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Legal access to continue in Sheridan

Today marks a crucial legal victory for Innovation Law Lab, as Judge Michael H. Simon granted our motion for a preliminary injunction, ensuring our clients detained in Sheridan continue to have access to legal counsel.

At the time of today’s hearing, 74 out of the 80 clients represented by the Innovation Law Lab had received positive determinations in their credible fear interviews. One client opted to forego his interview and return to his country of origin. Five decisions, for interviews that occured late last week, had yet to be issued.

The judge’s initial temporary restraining order undoubtedly had an effect on the efficacy of the credible fear process. Prior to his June 25 order, Innovation Law Lab attorneys, staff, and volunteers had been turned away from the facility numerous times, despite attempts to schedule visits with Bureau of Prisons and Immigration & Customs Enforcement staff ahead of time.

Once the court mandated access, the Innovation Law Lab quickly mobilized to provide “Know Your Rights” presentations to the majority of those detained, conduct over 100 screening interviews, hold over 150 additional one-on-one meetings, and enter into pro bono representation agreements with 80 individuals.

As the order expired this month, the Innovation Law Lab and our counsel, the ACLU of Oregon and Stoll Berne, made the decision to move forward in seeking a preliminary injunction. The preliminary injunction assures that our attorneys and volunteers will continue to have regular access to meet with our clients in Sheridan, and assure that clients are not transferred to other facilities without our prior consent.

While the credible fear interview positive determinations mark a key step forward in our clients’  cases, there is still more work for attorneys, interpreters, and legal assistants to do. Ultimately, this preliminary injunction will allow us to move forward unimpeded with the important work of securing release for the immigrants being detained in Sheridan.

Belong: A Comprehensive Report on Inclusion & ORS 181A in Oregon

Today, the Innovation Law Lab released a comprehensive report on inclusion and Oregon’s statute, ORS 181A.

From its inception as a state, Oregon has struggled with exclusionary policies against immigrants and communities of color. In 1977, the unlawful and discriminatory interrogation of long-time Oregon resident Delmiro Trevino led to a lawsuit and culminated in the legislation known today as ORS 181A.820. Though overlooked and underenforced for many years, this “sanctuary” statute is an important and powerful tool in the effort to build a more inclusive Oregon by combating unlawful and discriminatory practices through the disentanglement of state and local police from federal immigration enforcement.

As President Trump’s administration advances a corrosive and divisive deportation policy, ORS 181A.820 is a crucial component of Oregon’s efforts to advance racial and cultural inclusion.

  • By building trust across communities, ORS 181A .820 helps local law enforcement keep Oregon safe . Law enforcement agencies in Oregon and across the country support disentan- glement policies because they empower state and local police to focus their limited resources on key public safety objectives: preventing, investigating, and punishing crime. Disentangle- ment policies also improve public safety and effective policing by building trust and encourag- ing crime reporting at a community level.
  • By protecting diverse communities from rights violations, ORS 181A .820 strengthens the rule of law. Oregon’s disentanglement policy is grounded in state powers enshrined by the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Disentanglement strengthens the rule of law by preventing the illegal and selective administration of federal civil immigration law by state and local officials untrained in immigration proceedings. This clear separation of roles reduces the risk of racial discrimination, profiling, harassment, and other rights violations by Oregon law enforcement agencies. It also promotes the uniform application of immigration law and protects Oregon localities from liability.
  • By furthering inclusion, ORS 181A .820 improves Oregonians’ collective prosperity . Powerful empirical evidence shows that disentanglement policies not only improve community safety and the rule of law but also enhance civic engagement and raise the level of collective prosperity. These benefits are particularly strong in Oregon, where immigrants are an integral part of the state’s social fabric, history, and economy.

In contrast to the collective benefits of disentanglement, the Trump administration’s racialized agenda of immigration detention and deportation threatens to divide and destabilize Oregon communities. Looking ahead, it is critical that Oregon acts to fortify and expand its inclusionary practices and policies.

Read the report here.

Important victory in court

On Monday, June 25, a federal judge granted emergency relief to allow pro bono attorneys to provide legal counsel to the 121 individuals detained in Sheridan, Oregon.

This ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Oregon and Stoll Berne on behalf of the Innovation Law Lab and Luis Javier Sanchez Gonzalez, one of the individuals detained at the federal prison in Sheridan. The suit was brought after repeated denials by ICE and the Bureau of Prisons to allow pro bono attorneys and legal assistants with the Innovation Law Lab meet with individuals in detention and provide Know Your Rights presentations.

Luis Javier, an asylum seeker who was separated from his partner, his five-year-old son, and 18-month-old daughter upon arriving in the United States, has spent nearly a month at FCI Sheridan. When given the opportunity to call his family for a three-minute call, he took the opportunity to ask for a lawyer.

For individuals seeking asylum, access to counsel can be the difference between life and death. And in the era of family separation, counsel can be critical to facilitating the reunification of families fractured at the border.

To read the full lawsuit, follow this link.

Legal Teams Again Denied Access to Immigrants at Sheridan Prison

SHERIDAN, Ore. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and Innovation Law Lab said today that pro bono legal teams were again denied access to the federal prison in Sheridan where 121 asylum seekers are currently being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The groups wrote a letter to ICE earlier this week demanding access to the detainees.

“I am shocked that our legal teams were turned away again,” said Mat dos Santos. “Local ICE officials keep telling us we can meet with the detainees, but when we go to the prison we are turned away. This is unacceptable.”

The groups said that they notified ICE last night that they would send a team today to visit four detainees who have requested legal representation. This afternoon, the first legal team was turned away at the gate during the visiting hours and denied access to the detainees. Another pro bono legal team was scheduled to give a “Know Your Rights” presentation to some of the detainees this evening, but they were also turned away at the gate. A group of six clergy and faith leaders were also turned away from entering the prison today.

Dos Santos said he is also disturbed by reports of conditions at the prison including detainees being confined to their cells over 22 hours per day as well as a scabies outbreak.

“The men who are being detained by ICE at Sheridan prison are suffering,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon. “We will not stop fighting to get pro bono attorneys in to meet with the detained men. Sheridan clearly is ill-equipped to house immigrant detainees and the local ICE staff seems to be in way over their heads.”

The asylum seekers were sent to Oregon during the unprecedented move of 1,600 ICE detainees to federal prisons in five states earlier this month. The ACLU of Oregon submitted a FOIA request this week seeking information on the decision to move the people now at the federal prison in Sheridan and any policies or guidelines for handling the detention of immigrants there. They are also seeking information about whether detainees are being allowed to locate and contact their missing family members.

The 121 detained men are from 16 countries and speak 13 languages. Advocates believe that they have been in detention since mid-May after being detained while seeking asylum at southern border.

This post was originally published by the ACLU of Oregon here.

Immigration experts and elected officials call for justice for immigrants detained at FCI Sheridan

The federal government continues to restrict access to Oregon attorneys offering to provide pro bono legal counsel to the immigrants detained at FCI Sheridan.

On Sunday, June 17, Senator Ron Wyden met with a group of Oregon immigration experts advocating for the rights of the men at FCI Sheridan. Experts included Stephen Manning and Ian Philabaum of the Innovation Law Lab, Mat Dos Santos of the ACLU of Oregon, and Chanpone Sinlapasai and Luis Garcia of the law firm of Marandas Sinlapasai.

In a press conference following the meeting, Stephen Manning acknowledged the outpouring of support from the Oregon community: “Within days of the announcement that there were going to be asylum-seeking men held at [the Sheridan] facility, more than 300 Oregonians have already stepped up. We will be able to provide free lawyers for every person that is detained in that facility.”

The challenge that remains is connecting immigrants at FCI Sheridan with pro bono attorneys. Currently, there is no way for individuals in detention to make a phone call to an attorney and attorneys wishing to visit potential clients have been turned away. Stephen explained, “We need the government to meet us halfway and provide the constitutional baseline of access.”

Luis Garcia, who visited FCI Sheridan last week at the invitation of the Mexican Consulate, noted that some of the men had been separated from their children. “As a new father, it is extremely difficult for me to drop my child off at daycare. I cannot imagine what these individuals are going through where they haven’t seen their relatives or children for over two months.”

Luis further added, “Our government is accomplishing what cartels and gang members were not able to do, and it is destroying families and separating them.”

This meeting comes a day after Senators Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer toured FCI Sheridan. Elected officials learned there are 16 countries and 13 languages represented at FCI Sheridan.

Watch the entire press conference here.

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

Asylum Seekers Denied Access to Lawyers at Federal Prison in Oregon

One hundred and twenty three asylum seekers are being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a federal prison in Oregon without meaningful access to attorneys in violation of the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration laws, and international treaties said lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) and Innovation Law Lab. The groups today sent a letter to ICE outlining their concerns for the detainees’ rights. The Oregon detainees, all men, are among the 1,600 immigrants marked for expedited deportation that the Trump administration sent to federal prisons in five states in an unprecedented move last week.

“Detention should never be used to punish or deter a person from applying for asylum to save his life,” said Stephen Manning, immigration attorney and executive director of Innovation Law Lab. “It is a core principle of the United States that no person in this country should be imprisoned without due process of law.”

In the letter, the groups say that while the courts decide the fate of these men’s asylum claims, ICE must ensure that the federal prison at the very least complies with the current civil detention standards.

Last week, lawyers with Innovation Law Lab and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Oregon Chapter sent a letter to the prison warden offering pro bono lawyers for the detainees. The volunteer lawyers were able to meet with some detainees yesterday, but were not allowed to see detainees this morning and have been denied access through the weekend.

The groups say the detainees being held in Oregon are men from different countries around the world including India, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Ukraine, Guatemala, and Mexico. Many of the detainees applied for asylum at points of entry along the southern border of the U.S. Some of the men reported being forcibly separated from their partners and children and lack information about their family members’ whereabouts.

“There should be no deportations until all one hundred and twenty three men have meaningful access to lawyers,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director of the ACLU of Oregon. “These men  presented themselves to request asylum as allowed under U.S. laws and international agreements. They are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries and they deserve their day in court.”

Dos Santos explained that it will take weeks for each detainee to meet with an attorney for an initial assessment because the federal prison only has four meeting rooms and offers extremely limited visiting hours. The detainees also cannot call lawyers and the prison’s video teleconferencing system is broken.

“People come to the United States at great personal risk seeking freedom from despots and cruelty at the hands of their government,” dos Santos said. “We cannot meet them at our borders with more of what they have fought so desperately to escape.”

A vigil is planned outside the prison on Monday, June 18 at 5:30 p.m. Details about the event are online.

The letter to ICE is online at https://aclu-or.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/lt_t_homan_6.15.18.pdf.

The letter to the warden is online at https://innovationlawlab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Sheridan-Letter.pdf.

This release is online at https://aclu-or.org/en/press-releases/asylum-seekers-denied-access-lawyers-federal-prison-oregon

Please direct inquiries to Sarah Armstrong of the ACLU of Oregon at 503.756.3147.

Lawyers meet with 10 individuals detained at FCI Sheridan

On Thursday, June 14, upon the invitation of the Mexican Consulate, two attorneys were able to meet with 10 of the 123 individuals detained at FCI Sheridan to provide legal orientation and advice.

The attorneys learned the following:

  • Almost all of these individuals have been denied access to phone use, for any purpose, for up to a month.
  • Some have been separated from their children and spouses and lack information about their family members’ whereabouts.
  • Some some have critical and untended medical needs.
  • All were deprived of an advisement of their consular rights for nearly a month.

The Innovation Law Lab and other organizations will continue to advocate to assure that individuals at FCI Sheridan have access to legal counsel. If you would like to volunteer with these efforts, please fill out this survey.

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

 

Community demands justice for immigrants at FCI Sheridan

On the evening of June 11, 2018 over 60 concerned community members–lawyers, activists, clergy, mothers, fathers–came together to kick off a statewide organizing effort in response to the unjust detention of immigrants at the federal penitentiary in Sheridan, Oregon.

Miriam Vargas Corona, Executive Director of Unidos Bridging Community, a nonprofit in Yamhill County (where FCI Sheridan is located), described how on Sunday, June 10, the community held a rally on an overpass near FCI Sheridan. Over 50 people attended to protest the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance policy,” which has resulted in the separation of immigrant families and rapidly expanded the practice of immigrant detention. Unidos Bridging Community issued a statement, echoing the demand that the individuals detained be allowed access to legal services.

“The legal response to Sheridan must be powerful and strong,” explained Stephen Manning, Executive Director of the Innovation Law Lab. “With our pro bono teams, we will aim to represent everyone so that justice can be served.” He explained that 123 adult immigrants, all male, are currently at FCI Sheridan. There are also confirmed cases of family separation. As of the Monday community meeting, attorneys wishing to provide legal counsel had not been granted access to meet with immigrants at FCI Sheridan, despite their attempts to visit the facility.

Several representatives from Oregon’s Congressional delegation shared that Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, together with House members Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, had that day demanded that ICE immediately allow individuals at FCI Sheridan to access legal services through free phone calls.

Members of the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ) and the larger faith community, as well as members of the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC), participated in the event and have committed to organizing statewide community and clergy responses to detention of individuals by ICE in the federal prison in Oregon.

For individuals wishing to volunteer in the legal response network, a survey has been created to capture volunteer information. We anticipate a need for attorneys, legal assistants, translators, medical professionals, and clergy. We also anticipate a need for office space near FCI Sheridan, local lodging, and financial support to sustain this grassroots effort.

Donations to support the legal response network may be directed to the Innovation Law Lab. Please make a note in the comments section that your gift is intended to support the Sheridan effort. Donations for general organizing and advocacy efforts, as well as funds for telephone cards and commissary needs for the individuals detained, may be directed to Unidos Bridging Community.

The community meeting was organized by Oregon Ready, a coalition of organizations working to advance immigrant inclusion. Oregon Ready is responsible for Oregon’s Rights Architecture and coordinates and supports work throughout the state to create permanent pathways to immigrant inclusion.

Organizations present at the forum included the Oregon Chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association, Innovation Law Lab, Causa, and Unidos Bridging Community. In attendance were representatives from a number of Oregon-based organizations, including Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC), Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), the Oregon chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), and Catholic Charities of Oregon. Staffers from the following congressional offices were also present: Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Ron Wyden, Representative Earl Blumenauer, and Representative Suzanne Bonamici. Special thanks to the First Unitarian Church of Portland for hosting the meeting.

Interested in volunteering? Fill out this survey.

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

 

Immigrants unjustly detained at federal prison in Oregon

Today, the Innovation Law Lab demanded the Trump Administration provide access to counsel and legal resources to immigrants being improperly and unjustly held at the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon.

“Tragically, the Trump Administration continues to engage in its constitutionally-risky behavior regarding immigrants,” said Stephen Manning, the Law Lab’s executive director. “The practice of family separation must end.” Over 100 immigrants have been improperly transferred to a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. Among those transferred are parents who have been separated from their children as a result of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.

The sharp increase in the number of immigrants incarcerated by ICE has led the federal agency to turn to the Bureau of Prisons for additional bed space. ICE intends to utilize federal prison facilities in Sheridan, Oregon; SeaTac, Washington; La Luna, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; and Victorville, California.

In a letter submitted to ICE and FCI Sheridan, the Innovation Law Lab stated: “Many, if not most, of these individuals may have legal remedies. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as a host of statutes, regulations, and long-standing practice provides that these individuals are entitled to access counsel to understand their legal remedies and pursue the same.”

Read the full letter submitted by the Law Lab here.

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.

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