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Immigration Matters: Attorneys Needed to Help Respond to Immigration Raids

New America Media, Commentary, Keith Kamisugi Posted: Feb 12, 2009

Editors Note: The increase in immigration raids over the past year has highlighted the need for attorneys to represent detainees. A new partnership in San Francisco is setting up a rapid response network of immigration attorneys to help immigrants in that situation. Keith Kamisugi is director of communications for Equal Justice Society. IMMIGRATION MATTERS regularly features the views of organizations working on immigrant rights.

The Equal Justice Society and the San Francisco Immigrant Legal & Education Network (SFILEN) have formed a new partnership to identify and train attorneys willing to provide initial representation and consultation to raid detainees in the event of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid. Many of the people swept up in recent immigration raids do not know their legal rights and have no access to an attorney.

These attorneys would be part of the Rapid Response Network responsible for establishing initial representation, gathering facts about the raid and advising detainees of their rights. Once an attorney has asserted representation at the detention center, law enforcement and immigration authorities have a harder time transferring detainees to other jurisdictions.

After a Rapid Response attorney has asserted representation, attorneys from SFILEN would then represent the client for his or her full case or, depending on the organizations capacity, the client would be referred to another pro-bono attorney.

SFILEN represents a unique and groundbreaking collaboration of 14 organizations, including some of the regions pioneering immigrant service providers and some of the citys leading legal advocacy organizations.

The network provides free legal immigration assistance and community education to low-income immigrants in San Francisco from African, Arab, Asian and Latino communities. SFILEN provides services in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Toisanese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, French and other languages.

Sin Yen Ling, staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, and Francisco Ugarte, staff attorney at SFILEN, have offered to train interested attorneys in becoming a part of the network.

After the training, lawyers will be added to a Rapid Response list of attorneys who are called upon if there is another ICE or local law enforcement raid.

With President Barack Obama leading a new administration, we have turned a page in our nations history, wrote Evelyn Sanchez, executive director of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, and Angela Chan, juvenile justice attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, in a Jan. 23 opinion piece for New America Media.

By asking us to let hope, not fear, guide us, he has challenged us to think differently about how to best solve our problems. Problems are not solved when people are afraid, when they arent sure how they are going to earn a living or keep their children safe. Fear does not inspire compassion or compromise, and certainly does not inspire trust. In contrast, hope is an undeniably better inspiration for problem solving, and has always been a driving force in the immigrant community. Immigrants are part of our communities and they are part of many of our families. If we are going to solve our problems, and create just and humane policies toward immigrants, policies that we can be proud of, we are going to have to let hope lead us there.

In order to join the SFILEN Rapid Response Network, interested attorneys need to attend a two-hour training that will be held on Feb. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Rosenberg Foundation, 131 Steuart Street, Suite 650, San Francisco. MCLE credit is pending approval.

Space is limited so attorneys interested in joining the Rapid Response Network should contact Claudia Pea at cpena@equaljusticesociety.org or at (415) 398-3099.

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