Helping Victims of Violence
Attorneys with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA) helped Daniel have his removal order terminated by an immigration judge. Daniel who was the victim of a violent shooting that left him paralyzed from the waist down, is an exemplary member of his community. He turned his negative circumstance into an inspirational one by volunteering his time at a local rehabilitation center and teaching Cal State Los Angeles’ medical students about living with a disability.
With LAJF funds, the AAAJ-LA team worked on the motion to reopen his case and the motion to terminate his removal. In his motion to terminate, the judge mentioned that the letters of support Daniel had received demonstrated “his character, volunteerism, and commendable civic spirit.”
Juan’s family brought him to the U.S. from Mexico when he was just two years old. He grew up here, went to school here and has worked at a job he’s held for so long he considers it his second home. One evening, Juan’s wife Paula picked up their four young kids from school as Juan was driving home to meet them for dinner. Just three blocks from home, he was pulled over by ICE officers who had been following him as he left work. He was immediately taken into custody and sent to detention.
The trauma caused the family significant stress and financial strain, leading the kids to act out in school and Paula to suffer from stress-induced black outs. Juan’s stress of being away from his family and impending court process was compounded by what felt like an ongoing assault to his dignity while he was detained. He recounted that he was constantly hungry in detention and taunted by guards as they served him frozen tortillas. Juan met with an LAJF attorney who took his case and helped secure his release on bond.
Today, Juan is reunited with his family in L.A. and back to his longtime job but his case is still pending and his family’s stress has not disappeared. Paula acknowledged the possibility that he could still be deported but saw the value of having an attorney saying “when you walk into court and you are trying to represent yourself, they don’t take you seriously. An attorney makes you feel comfortable.”
Taking Care of Unaccompanied Children
Ira is a three-year-old girl from El Salvador who fled her home country with her uncle and grandmother due to threats against their family after Ira’s uncle agreed to testify against members of a local gang in court. Despite being placed under witness protection, the gang found out where the family was living and placed a gun to Ira’s grandmother’s head while she held Ira in her arms. The attack forced Ira and her family to make the difficult journey to the U.S., where they are now seeking asylum and protection.
After arriving in the U.S., Ira was placed with a foster family that did not properly care for her. She had to be hospitalized for skin rashes and diseases. Once out of custody and finally released to her family, Ira was treated properly and is now in a better home than before. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) are working to find a volunteer attorney to represent Ira in her immigration case so that the young girl may remain with her family.
Empowering College Students to Act
Los Angeles college student Gabriela usually hears from her father every day so one day when he was not answering her calls, she grew concerned. She discovered that immigration authorities had apprehended him as he was getting ready to leave for work. An immigrant from Mexico, Gabriela’s father had lived in the U..S. for nearly thirty years. The trauma of learning a parent is in immigration detention could not have come at a worse time for Gabriela, as it was the week of her college final exams.
As Gabriela quickly discovered, immigration detention disrupts not only the lives of those who are detained, but also threatens to derail their children’s lives. She missed her final exams in order to devote all her time to searching for a lawyer and gathering information in support of her father’s defense. She also assumed the responsibility of paying her father’s rent and took many costly trips to visit him in the remote detention center, all while trying to save money for his bond. She feared the financial burdens she took on as a result of her father’s detention would make it impossible to continue paying college tuition.
Although many in Gabriela’s situation do not have access to free representation, she found an attorney through the Justice Fund who helped secure her father’s release on bond. Having an attorney freed Gabriela from the stress of being the only advocate for her father, allowing her to get back on track academically. Gabriela has been so profoundly impacted by the work the LAJF attorney is doing on behalf of her father that she is considering a legal career when she graduates from college.
Supporting Heads of Households
Juan has called Los Angeles County home for the last three decades. It was a shock to he and his family, many of whom are US citizens, when he was unexpectedly arrested by ICE officers. He was leaving for his job at the San Fernando Swap Meet, where he has worked for the last 20 years, when officers falsely accused Juan of having stolen vehicles on his property.
At his initial immigration court hearing, attorneys with Immigrant Defenders were able to help Juan to demonstrate the unreliability of the claims. The immigration judge agreed, and Juan was released on bond at his first hearing. Without a lawyer, it would have been impossible for Juan to demonstrate that the accusations made by the arresting ICE officers were unfounded. Juan is now home with his family as he continues to fight his case.