After receiving repeated threats from a gang notorious in Honduras, Francisco* decided to make the long journey to the United States in search of refuge. The trip was not easy — some days he went without food and, at one point, he was robbed.
Once he arrived in the U.S., he was placed in a shelter for unaccompanied minors, but because he was 18-years-old, was eventually transferred to the Caldwell County Detention Center in Kingston, Missouri. An all-adult facility, Caldwell is over fifty miles northeast of Kansas City.
Right around the same time Francisco was transferred to Caldwell, the Deportation Defense Legal Network (DDLN) was officially launched by a group of legal advocates in Kansas City with the express purpose of providing legal representation to immigrants in bond hearings.
DDLN is a truly collaborative project consisting of community organizers, immigrant rights advocates, and local attorneys. It was formed in partnership with Innovation Law Lab, the Clinic at Sharma-Crawford, Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation (AIRR), El Centro, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) MO-KAN Chapter. Participating firms include Stinson Leonard Street, Polsinelli, Lathrop and Gage, and more.
Working with AILA attorneys, DDLN trains non-immigration attorneys to take on bond representation before the immigration court. Using the LawLab platform, DDLN collects referrals of bond-eligible cases from local immigration attorneys, organizations, and churches to facilitate case placement and assist in case management during the length of the case. DDLN also engages pro bono attorneys, interpreters, and community members to support and assist families impacted by ICE arrests.
Francisco’s family could not afford private legal representation. Without legal representation, an immigrant’s chances of winning release from detention and having a favorable bond set are unlikely.
When DDLN learned of Francisco’s case, they placed his bond case with a pro bono attorney. With the help of volunteer interpreters and remote volunteer legal assistants, the attorney was able to successfully argue for Francisco’s release from Caldwell.
Francisco’s bond was set at $3,000, a relatively low amount that may not have been possible without legal advocacy. After the bond was set, Free Our Neighbors, a NATIONAL advocacy organization, mobilized to cover the cost of his bond and a local pastor offered him a temporary place to stay until he could travel to meet his family in the United States.
Since Francisco’s bond was granted in mid-July, DDLN volunteers have successfully won bond for five individuals — a sign that the coordinated legal advocacy made possible by DDLN is working. And not only is DDLN set on winning individual cases, but along the way, aggregating data about detention conditions, bond amounts, judge decisions. This data will contribute to an even larger narrative of what the immigration court system looks like locally and nationally and help us focus in on hostile jurisdictions.
After leaving Caldwell, Francisco shared with Ramón Valdez, Innovation Law Lab program manager, that he looks forward to continuing his schooling and finding a job in construction.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy
If you live in the Greater Kansas City region and would like to be part of the Deportation Defense Legal Network, please contact Ramón Valdez, Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.