This has been a week of immeasurable heartbreak, angst, and outrage. Make no mistake, the Trump family separation policy was working exactly as intended, and was only braked when outrage nationally as well as in congress at the intended outcome became too intense. Late in the week came a feel good story of charity and hope, but the deeper underlying import of the story isn’t being reported on yet.
The story itself is simple. A California couple with a two year old were deeply affected at what they were seeing and hearing coming from our southern border. As Rachel Maddow explained on her show a couple of nights ago, one of the features of our legal system is that there is normally a lag, sometimes a long one between a preliminary hearing and the actual trial. People with the resources can post bond, and go free while awaiting trial. The couple’s thought was to try to crowd fund enough to get at least one immigrant parent out of jail on bail, so they could be reunited with their child(ren). They set a goal of $1,500, what they though sounded about right for bail on such a charge.
Most of you already know the happy ending. In less than a week, the fund has topped $17.5 million, and still climbing. The couple has turned to a well established immigrant advocacy group in Texas to coordinate the expenditures for legal assistance and bail.
Think about this for just a moment. We know that there are approximately 2,300 children ripped from their parents arms. Let’s go long here, and say that each child was accompanied by both parents, and that bail would be $2,000 each. 2,300X2=4,600. 4,600X$2,000=$9,200,000. At the current count, that still leaves almost half of the raised total, $8,400,00 left over. And here’s where it gets important, and why the government is about to be in a butt load of pain.
The advocacy group is thinking big. Their goal is not just to locate and identify every parent and every child that has been separated, they want to make sure that each and every one of them has a lawyer present to represent them! And if they’re successful, this is where the Trump bus goes flying off of the cliff at 100 mph.
When an illegal immigrant is caught in the United States, they are dragged before a puppet judge in immigration court. The immigrants, many of whom suffer from a language deficiency, seldom have the money for a lawyer, and end up in court representing themselves, the same is true of children, regardless of age. Obviously, deportation verdicts are the norm, not the exception.
But these immigrants, and their children are not in the country illegally. They have been caught crossing the border illegally, a violation of federal law. Which means that these cases are being tried in federal court, not the wicked immigration courts.
The main problem for these immigrants is still the same, money for representation. Most immigrants appearing in federal court on these charges represent themselves, and the cases are normally slam dunks for the prosecution. And the Trump administration knows full well how important legal representation is in these cases, that’s why they quietly cancelled the government grant that provided money for legal aid for immigrant minors in the lead up to implementing the policy. They want the children facing this music by themselves, just like their parents.
But, if these parents and their children have lawyers showing up in court with them, the entire paradigm shifts drastically. These lawyers are familiar with the protocols and procedures, and they can fight the prosecution every step of the way. They can push for bail, which few immigrants understand, and they can argue for continuances, to allow them to properly prepare for trial. They can also correctly identify asylum cases, and file for and demand asylum hearings, something most immigrants are ill equipped to do on their own, they tend to end up sleepwalking through the process. The entire process gets much more complicated, extended, and fair minded, and also ties up a shitload of DOJ lawyers.
And that’s not the only way a lawyer comes in handy. It was reported on CNN this afternoon that the Guatamalan woman who last Friday became the first person to file a federal lawsuit against the removal of her son was reunited with him today. But that isn’t the end of the story. She also sued for punitive damages, and pain and suffering, that part of the lawsuit still has to be settled. The more of these immigrant parents that have qualified legal representation, the more their immigration attorneys are going to refer them to outside civil attorneys to sue the government for reunification and damages. This is going to tie up even more government lawyers, and may well end up costing the government more than the tax cuts for the billionaires.
Don’t ever let anybody tell you that one person can’t change the world. This whole thing started with just one couple in California, wanting to spring just one immigrant parent to be reunited with their child. And in less than one week, it has set into motion the machinery to give every immigrant parent and their child(ren) a fair shake in this thing, the only thing those immigrants asked for when they crossed the border. And that doesn’t even cover the Washington state law firm offering pro bono legal representation to any federal employee that wants to act as a conscientious objector to taking part in the separation of families at the border.
This entire Trump initiated human rights violation depended on two things, apathy, and ignorance. Apathy was an administration pipe dream, the people of this country have reacted to this in the same way they reacted to the Muslim ban, forcing their will on both their elected officials, as well as the Trump administration. My reference to ignorance was the ignorance of the immigrants to their rights, and adherence to proper legal procedure. And as more and more immigrants and their children gain access to qualified legal representation, this whole administration policy will explode into dust like a vampire struck by sunlight. Keep the faith my brown brothers and sisters, help is on the way.