This year, we experienced the landmark of 2 million deportations in the past six years and the flat lining of Congressional efforts to enact comprehensive immigration reform. While these two facts are well known, the reality that an unprecedented number of families have been permanently separated as a result, depriving hundreds of thousands of American children the opportunity to be raised by their parents, is much less publicized. With your support and partnership, IDP works to bring these stories to the fore and to fight against the separation of families due to harsh immigration laws and overly aggressive deportation policies.
Howard Bailey and his family are one example of the millions devastated by deportation. Howard was shocked when ICE mandatorily deported him for a conviction from when he was young, despite having served two tours of duty in Operation Desert Storm, raising his U.S.-born children, owning a home and running successful businesses.
Howard moved to the U.S. in his teens after obtaining a green card through his mother who worked tirelessly to give her children a better life. He joined the Navy after high school and served in Desert Storm for four years. Upon his return at age 25, Howard found work, married and became a father. He also made a mistake. After agreeing to receive a package from an acquaintance on his military base, Howard was arrested as the package contained marijuana and had been tracked by federal agents. Howard, who had never been in trouble with the law, heeded the advice of his attorney, plead guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and served 15 months in prison due to sentencing guidelines that his judge – though sympathetic – was obligated to impose.
After doing his time, Howard devoted his energies to supporting and caring for his family. He started two successful businesses, bought a home for his wife and children, and mentored vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Howard started fun traditions with his kids, such as Friday dinners at their favorite restaurant, and was grateful for his second chance. In June 2010, five years after applying for citizenship and fifteen years after his conviction, ICE agents came to Howard’s home in the middle of the night and arrested him in front of his children. He was held in immigration detention for over two years and ultimately deported.
Howard, who had not been to Jamaica in close to 25 years, is now struggling to survive as a pig farmer. His family lost their home, and his business closed and his employees lost their livelihoods. The community also lost a good citizen and volunteer. There is no way to quantify the emotional harm that has befallen his teenage children as a result of Howard’s deportation. IDP has been working hard to bring Howard back home. Along with our Immigrant Justice Network partners, we have been doing media (see insert), legal, and political advocacy, including bringing Howard’s family to Congress to tell their story. We are currently working with a U.S. Senator, the Boston College Post-Deportation Project, and others to bring Howard back home with his family.
Howard’s Story Highlights the Harms and Inequities in Our Linked Criminal Justice and Immigration Systems, and the Collateral Damage that Ravages our Children and Communities as a Result.
It was not always this way. In 1995, the government deported 51,000 immigrants in total. Since the passage of harsh immigration laws in 1996, this number has climbed dramatically peaking with over 439.000 deported in 2013. During the period of 2010 to 2012, over 200,000 immigrants with American children were deported. ICE continues to hone in on immigrants with convictions, touting that close to 60% of those deported in 2013 had been convicted of a crime. The need to continue to roll back the harsh and disproportionate policies of the last decades remains paramount, and the momentum that is gradually being gained through litigation, public education, local and national advocacy and training and resourcing of lawyers must continue to advance if we are to return to a more equitable and humane nation.
It is only with your Generous Partnership that IDP Can Continue Its Efforts to Work for Justice and Family Unity on Behalf of All Immigrants and their Families.
We want to continue to build on the holistic work we do in collaboration with our partners and supporters, and share these highlights from 2014.
- Inauguration of Family Unity Initiative
IDP welcomed Lee Wang, our first Skadden fellow, this fall.. Before joining IDP, Lee worked as an investigative journalist and field producer for the PBS program Frontline, MSNBC and Newsweek and went on to graduate from Georgetown Law School. Lee is launching IDP’s Family Unity Initiative which seeks to redress laws and policies that fracture and destabilize families and communities. Lee will also be developing resources and training curricula to equip family court attorneys to understand the potential immigration consequences of family court outcomes.
- Key Victory in Rolling Back NYC Collaboration with ICE
On October 22, 2014 the New York City Council passed groundbreaking legislation dramatically expanding laws that limit the circumstances under which the NYPD and Department of Correction (“DOC”) will honor an ICE detainer. This new law will greatly benefit noncitizen criminal defendants. Very few, if any, individuals will be transferred from NYPD and DOC to immigration detention, impacting thousands of immigrant New Yorkers a year. The law includes several other protections. For example, ICE is no longer allowed to keep an office on Rikers Island and DOC cannot expend resources assisting in civil immigration enforcement, including sharing information about clients with ICE, except under other limited circumstances. Lastly, the NYC Department of Probation announced it will soon issue a policy consistent with this legislation. IDP played a critical role in the ICE out of Rikers Coalition over the past five years to help bring about these changes. IDP is also working with others across the country to fight for similar reforms
- IDP Engaged National Stakeholders on Inclusive Immigration Reform and Highlighted Real Stories of the Harm from the Immigration System
IDP has spent the past year working with our Immigrant Justice Network partners (National Immigration Project and Immigrant Legal Resource Center) and the CAMBIO campaign to fight for federal immigration reform that provides a just and inclusive path to citizenship for all immigrants—including those who have had contacts with the criminal justice system. Though federal reform did not materialize, IDP made great strides in engaging allies and policy makers to embrace the ideal of inclusive reform. We facilitated the sharing of stories on Capitol Hill and in the media, including a cover story in Politico, articles and op eds in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, and interviews on WNYC and MSNBC. IDP and its allies are engaging with DHS Secretary Johnson and others in the Obama Administration to adopt administrative reforms that will provide real relief to those facing detention and permanent separation from their families and communities. IDP also waged two successful case campaigns and was able to secure administrative closure for two long time greencard holders who were facing mandatory deportation due to felony convictions.
- IDP Collaborated with Criminal Justice Advocates to Roll Back Policies that Affect Communities of Color Disproportionately
IDP has been working closely with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) to ensure that drug reforms protect citizens and noncitizens alike. Racial disparities in drug arrests combined with the harsh consequences of drug offenses funnel immigrant communities into a jail-deportation pipeline. Because of the complicated nature of immigration law, some reforms proposed by criminal justice movement, though seemingly positive, actually harm immigrants. IDP will continue to work closely with the DPA and other allies to ensure that proposed drug reforms, such as the Fairness and Equity Act, protect all our communities. In addition, IDP and Cardozo Law School Immigrant Justice Clinic are partnering to advocate for “364 legislation,” which would cap New York misdemeanor sentences to 364 days rather than a year—a change that would prevent many immigrant defendants from being subjected to mandatory detention and deportation.
- IDP Had a Busy Impact Litigation Docket in 2014, and has a Potentially Groundbreaking Case at the Supreme Court
On June 30, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Mellouli v. Holder, an important case that may enable immigrants to defend themselves against deportability for minor drug-related offenses. The decision in this case—which deals with a state misdemeanor drug paraphernalia conviction—may impact the showing the government must make when seeking to deport for other types of drug-related offenses. The IDP is working with Mr. Mellouli’s lawyers as well as allies across the country to plan strategy, develop legal arguments, do communications work, and coordinate amicus briefing.
- IDP Launches Creative Education Tool to Protect Against Deportation
In October, IDP, in collaboration with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, launched an innovative web-based interactive Know-Your-Rights community education tool, ”Don’t Get ICEd: A Guide To Protecting Immigrants From Deportation After Arrest.” Available at dontgeticed.org in English and Spanish, this website provides guidance to immigrants, attorneys and community organizations on how to protect immigrants who have been arrested from being detained or deported. Trina Realmuto, of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer’s Guild, says “I think this website is amazing. It makes a complex process understandable to non-lawyers and is incredibly user friendly. If only every city/state could have something like this!”
- IDP’s Hotline Served Over 2,000 Attorneys and Immigrants
IDP, with support from Brooklyn Defender Services and a wonderful cadre of volunteer attorneys, fielded over 2,000 inquiries on our free, national criminal-immigration hotline. We provide detailed analyses to and shared legal strategies with criminal defense attorneys, immigration advocates, immigrants and their loved ones on their cases. IDP is in the process of expanding its hotline to include distinct consultation services to family attorneys, appointed counsel and appellate attorneys.
- IDP Continues to Train and Mentor Defender Offices Across the Country
IDP’s Defending Immigrant Partnership, a collaboration with ILRC and NIPNLG, successfully advocated that ABA standards should protect immigrants from being allowed to waive their constitutional right to be notified of the immigration consequences before entering their pleas. Given the highly influential nature of the ABA, thousands of immigrants should benefit in the future. IDP provided dozens of trainings in New York and nationally to educate defense counsel on how to effectively represent immigrants and minimize harmful immigration outcomes, including at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) national conferences. In July 2014, IDP and NYSDA began a collaboration to provide criminal defense attorneys statewide with formal training, one-on-one advice in individual cases, and legal updates on the intersection of criminal and immigration law.
In addition to educating defender offices, IDP staff intensively mentored immigration attorneys within defender offices across the country and helped them prepare customized protocols, elicit “buy-in” from legal staff and develop the knowledge and analysis needed to provide effective “crim-imm” consultations to defenders in their cases with the goal of seeing each defender office ultimately have institutional capacity when defending immigrants.
Because of supporters like you, IDP has been able to enter its second decade as the only organization in the nation exclusively focused on the most marginalized community in the United States—immigrants caught at the crossroads of the criminal justice and immigration systems. If you believe that justice and family unity belong to all of usregardless of where we were born, we urge you to send in a generous donation in the enclosed envelope or by clicking the donate button on our website at immigrantdefenseproject.org.
By making a recurring or one-time gift, you will be a partner who enables IDP and its allies to fight for a day when there are fewer and fewer stories like Howard’s and fewer and fewer children torn from their parents and homes. You literally make a difference and we are grateful for you. On behalf of the staff and advisory board, we wish you much peace and joy this holiday season and throughout the New Year.
Alisa Wellek Andrea Panjwani
Co-Executive Director Co-Executive Director
P.S. By making a recurring or one-time donation by December 30, 2014, you will enable IDP to make its Family Unity Initiative a reality, and be part of a movement that that is seeking to transcend gridlock and transform unjust laws and policies so that all people, regardless of where they are born, have access to justice and family.