A letter from my friend Julia in the Eloy Detention Center arrived this week. I opened it eager to find out if she received her bail to leave the facility. NOTE: Julia is not her real name as I want to protect the privacy of people I visited at the Detention Center this past year. After the wonderful warm greetings and best wishes for me and my family, at the end of the first page, she writes:
"I want to tell you a great blessing that God gave me today as I received notice that the Florence Immigration and Refugee project will provide me an attorney free or gratis."
I am so excited for her, at last a sign of hope for her who has been in the detention center for nine months. With a lawyer her chances of getting bail to leave the detention center and then, hopefully, continued legal support for an asylum hearing, just increased ten-fold. Detention center life is monotonous, especially for the women who do not have family visitors. I met Julia as part of the Casa Mariposa, Tucson, Arizona, Detention Center visitor program in late November, 2015.
Visitors are not allowed to take photos inside the Detention Center but I found a professional photo on-line taken in July, 2010 (Getty Photos) Day after day the women live in these cramped quarters waiting for meals or a visitor or something to relieve the boredom of their days. There usually are two women to a room. Some women work in the kitchen to earn a little money to buy stamps or purchase a phone card.
Julia is hoping to be released on bail as she has a cousin in a nearby state that will help her if the bond is lower than $10,000. She wrote me in late February asking if I could write her a letter of support. Of course, I replied. "Please, Pat, tell them how bad the situation is in Guatemala. You have just returned from there so you know.
Here is an excerpt from my letter of support:
I found (Julia) to be an honest and direct person. She left a very difficult situation in San Marcos – domestic abuse and drug violence. I just returned from Guatemala. During my three week stay I read in the major newspaper, the Prensa Libre, that the Guatemalan drug enforcement agency had destroyed a large cache of drugs and arrested many drug traffickers operating in San Marcos. San Marcos is a region that is experiencing a great deal of violence against women and due to drug trafficking. The Guatemalan government has done very little to combat the violence.
I believe that she is an excellent candidate for a bond release. She will not flee nor disappear if released. She has some family that will support her upon her release from detention. I urge you to approve her bond release. She has spent over six months at the Eloy Detention Center and desperately needs to be allowed to leave.
I do not know yet the outcome of the bond hearing but the fact that she has an attorney is very good news. According to a Stanford Law Review study (2007) asylum applicants with an attorney succeed in getting asylum 46% of the time; without an attorney, only 16% receive asylum. Granted, this is a bond hearing but one lawyer from the Florence Immigration and Refugee Project told me that over 75% of the cases they take in the Detention Centers in Arizona qualify both for bond and asylum IF they have an attorney.
ACTION: If you want to get involved, check out http://www.endisolation.org/visitation/ This organization works to connect People with those in detention either through a visitor's program or letter writing. This is one way that we can provide support to those in detention.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, join me and others for the Mother's Day Vigil at the Tacoma, WA Detention Center on Saturday, May 7th.
8th Annual Mother's Day Vigil - Northwest Detention Center
"No more goodbyes: Honoring immigrant families, calling for an end to detentions and deportations"
Saturday, May 7, 2016 - 12:00pm
Tacoma Detention Center - front gate entrance
1623 East J Street
Carpool from Portland: Meet up @ Ascension Catholic Church parking lot, 734 SE 76th, Portland. 8:30am.
Once again, the immigrant justice community and supporters of Sanctuary gather in a Vigil of love and support for all families impacted by unjust immigration policy.
Event co-sponsors: Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, Washington New Sanctuary Movement, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Puentes, Franciscan Action Network, JPIC Committee-Sisters of St. Francis
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?