10th Dec 2014
Yesterday was one of the happiest days in my life as an immigration lawyer.
I’m helping out pro bono with clients at the Karnes Family Detention Center in Texas and yesterday Immigration Judge Glenn McPhaul granted a $1500 bond to my client from El Salvador and her 19 month old toddler. They’ve both been incarcerated by our government for over two months.
My client is one of the bravest people I have ever met. She has suffered through unspeakable domestic violence and gang abuse and is still just a teenager. We’re working now to post this bond and to get Mama and baby on their way to their sponsor in New York.
At the end of our hearing, Judge McPhaul turned to me and asked if I wanted to speak with my client.
I certainly wanted to explain to her in my best Spanish that we’d won the lowest bond amount possible from this court and that soon she and her toddler will be freed and traveling to New York. But I got so choked up I first had to compose myself. With tears in my eyes, I explained the good news. She also cried with joy and relief. Everyone in the courtroom, including the judge, seemed to be very happy at that point.
Please understand that I’ve concentrated my immigration career on employment and family based
immigration cases. I was worried that my training and experience hadn’t prepared me for this kind of case, and that I hadn’t been around immigration court enough to be a competent advocate for my valiant client. Fortunately I wasn’t in this alone.
I had my long-time mentor, Barbara Hines, telling me why I needed to volunteer for a Karnes bond case, about the difference I could make, and her promise to help me.
I had another mentor, Kate Lincoln Goldfinch. Kate was with me as I traveled to Karnes when we first met my client (and her own pro bono client). She accompanied me to two immigration court appearances in San Antonio including yesterday’s bond hearing. Kate fielded my texts, emails, and calls, and gave me wonderful advice and encouragement.
There are a number of other wonderful lawyers who encouraged and helped me. I now have a much greater admiration and respect for all pro bono immigration defense lawyers, and all the lawyers and support staff at the nonprofit agencies who fight these righteous battles each and every day.
Although I’m elated that my client and her baby will be free to await the remainder of their court proceedings while being kept safe and secure by relatives who wait with open arms, I’m absolutely appalled and disappointed that our country is detaining children and families. It is unconscionable for our country to detain children and families.
The happiest day for me as an immigration lawyer will really be when family detention stops and when our government acts in a way that reflects our values and our history. That day is not today. I hope it’s coming soon. I urge you to step forward to oppose family detention and help these clients who so desperately need our advocacy and protection.
Written by Paul Parsons, AILA Member and Karnes Volunteer