We present legal defenses for those who cannot afford to defend themselves. This means we often take on cases without a guarantee of payment.
In June of last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided a chain of flower suppliers in northern Ohio. In a surprise raid, they detained more than a hundred workers and placed most of them into deportation proceedings. Nearly all of the defendants are women and are the primary breadwinners for their families. Many were processed in the Cleveland Immigration court, but some were referred to the Detroit court. A local partner in their community referred a number of these families to SWIRC.
Unlike in criminal court, defendants in immigration court are not entitled to be represented by an attorney. Everyone has the right to counsel if they can afford it, but the court does not appoint attorneys. 80% of the defendants in Detroit’s immigration court are not represented by an attorney. These cases are complex and nuanced. The likelihood of a favorable outcome increases nearly tenfold when someone has quality representation. Without help, these families, many with US citizen parents or children, will be split up by the court–often with the primary income generator for the family deported.
We asked Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to help us defend these families. We’ve taken on nine cases already–spending countless hours in preparation and standing before judges. None of these families can afford the legal fees charged by private immigration attorneys. Because of the distance they travel for court appearances, these families face significant travel and child care expenses as well.
Thanks to our partners at the Presbytery of Detroit and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance we have been awarded $24,000 to support families caught up in this ICE raid. PDA’s grant will help with legal fees and out-of-pocket travel expenses that these families simply cannot afford to pay. It is also securing legal defense for more defendants from their group looking for help.
We believe families struggling to live and work in the U.S., who came here because of the suffering they endured in their home countries, should have a fighting chance to stand before a judge and ask for relief. Having legal representation will give these deserving families their fighting chance at a fair outcome.
We can do this only because of the support we receive from partners like Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and friends and volunteers who support our work. Please help us help workers captured by ICE whose only crime was supporting their families. We need your time, your prayers, and your financial support.