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In February of 2017, ICE announced that the gloves were coming off. In the months that followed, ICE agents nationwide began engaging in increasingly aggressive and discriminatory practices. Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program is committed to fighting these abuses with every tool at our disposal including representing individuals detained by ICE and filing cutting edge litigation that challenges the way that ICE operates. Much of that litigation is ongoing.
Where ICE agents in the field violate immigrants’ constitutional rights, such as by racial profiling or warrantless home raids, we fight back by aggressively filing Motions to Suppress and turning the spotlight on ICE to defend its actions in the field. And we have provided training to over 60 private and nonprofit attorneys in using this strategy to defend immigrants in deportation proceedings.
Last fall ICE agents invaded the home of a U.S. citizen, began searching his house, including barging into a bedroom where a grandmother and child were sleeping, and rounded up any one who appeared to be Latino. A few weeks later, these same agents blocked the car of two Latino men who were trying to go to work, and proceeded to detain the men without any reason to believe they had committed any crime or violated immigration law. We’ve brought a case against these agents, the first case of its type during this administration. We won an initial decision, and the other side has appealed to the 4th Circuit.
When the family of an immigrant came to us because their family member, who was in withholding of removal proceedings, had been detained with no hope of being released on bond, we took his case and built on it. We found similarly detained immigrants in Virginia who were being held in long-term no-bond detention and brought a first-in-the-nation class action lawsuit. This suit established the right to bond hearings for people in withholding of removal proceedings and has resulted in the release of dozens upon dozens of immigrants on bond.
When a father being detained in Farmville, Virginia called us frantic that ICE was about to transfer him to a detention center across the country and he wouldn’t get to see his four U.S. citizen children again, we filed a motion that night to stop the transfer. We then brought a lawsuit that aims to force ICE to take into consideration the family unity rights of U.S. citizen children, before they can bounce a detained parent around the country like a ping-pong ball.
When the immigrant community in Arlington, with whom we’ve worked for years, was so terrified by the threat of ICE and this administration that they worried if it was still safe to send their children to school, we partnered with the Arlington County government to create an immigrant defense fund, the first in the state of Virginia. Through this program we provide know-your-rights workshops and immigration consults, help families create emergency care plans in case a parent is detained, and represent community members in immigration bond hearings so they can return to supporting their family.
Every immigrant we free from detention is another child reunited with their father or mother. Every case we bring slows down the ICE deportation machine and leaves them scrambling for resources. Every case we win strengthens immigrant families and our community.