04/02/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/02/2018 16:00
Last month, 12 UDC Law students, Dean Shelley Broderick, and Professor Lindsay M. Harris spent their spring break in Berks County, Pennsylvania, working with ALDEA - The People's Justice Center to assist immigrant families detained there. The Berks County Detention Center holds asylum-seeking families predominantly fleeing Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. UDC Law and ALDEA were on hand to assist these men, women and children as they seek refugee status in the United States.
Broderick and Harris appeared on WPFW FM's Community Watch & Comment on March 19, to talk about the trip and discuss next steps for the student attorneys as well as for the families they helped.
If you have questions or want to learn more about the trip, please join us Tuesday, April 3, at UDC Law for a full report from Harris, Broderick and the students.
The students who participated in the trip, from left. Back row: Denisha Jones, Keli Cochran, Larry Rodriguez, Arquimedes Leon, Carmen Diaz Jones, Cassandra Simon, Sesia Cruz, Amina Malik. From row, from left: Alexander Maldonado, Daniel Munoz, and Heather Kryzak.
UDC and ALDEA pose for a photo.
Transcript of Community Watch & Comment, March 19, with Professor Lindsay M. Harris and Dean Shelley Broderick.
Minott: You're listening to the Monday edition of Community Watch & Comment. I'm your host Gloria Minott. This is WFPW Radio 89.3 FM. Dean Shelley Broderick of the University of the District of Columbia School of Law and she's joining me with Professor Harris and we're going to be talking about a number of things happening at the law school. Lindsay Harris and Dean Broderick. Both of you, good morning. How are you?
Broderick: Good morning Gloria.
Harris: Good morning, Gloria. Thank you for having us.
M: Thank you for joining me. So, a trip to rural Pennsylvania.
B: Let me set the scene.
B: A couple of years ago, the fabulous medical malpractice lawyer Jack Olender made a decision to give a three-million-dollar gift to the law school over time, which he's now completed. And it's allowed us to double our capacity in our Immigration & Human Rights Clinic and bring in the fabulous professor Lindsay Harris.
M: Hm. Go ahead.
B: Well, I want to let her, because she's the driver on this amazing effort that our students undertook over spring break, and I really want Lindsay to tell you about it.
M: I want to say that, dear Jack, we all know him so well. So generous, and I'm going to put in a bid for a couple million for myself.
B: Good luck! I wish you all the best. [crosstalk]
M: Alright. Professor Harris. You have the mic.
H: Sure. So this spring break, we had 12 students who decided to spend their spring break in a rather different way, and we traveled to Berks County, Pennsylvania, where there is a little known detention center that actually holds immigrant women, men and their children who are seeking asylum here in the U.S. They're actually detained here in this former residential nursing home in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
M: And so I know that - that this is one of the things that UDC Law school is known for, going to the community that needs your skill sets, the ones that you use to help tenants, people in areas like Pennsylvania that ordinarily don't have access to lawyers and we applaud you for doing that. So once you got to Pennsylvania, in the rural area, what did you find? What were the needs of the people legally that you were able to help unravel?
H: So Gloria, these families-and most of them at the moment are actually indigenous language speaking men with their children from Guatemala who are seeking protection here in the U.S. So they are fleeing all kinds of violence and threats to their lives, often from transnational criminal organizations. You hear them in the news referred to as gangs, MS-13 and Mara 18. Our Attorney General likes to talk about them, too. So these folks are fleeing their countries-Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador. We had some Brazilian families we met with during the week-because their country cannot protect them from the violence that they're fleeing, and so they're asking for refugee protection for asylum here in the U.S.
M: And we hear so much about the DACA students and their struggle to stay in this country, but we don't - but of course we hear about the raids taking place all over the country, in Texas and California, and families being broken up. What are the chances of these people who are locked up - what are the chances of them getting asylum in this country because if they have to go back to Guatemala and Belize and these countries that they're fleeing oppression and violence, that's awful, isn't it?
B: It - it takes your breath away. You know, I've been reading about this, so I've been distant. You know, I'm a dean. I go to meetings, right? And so this week, with Lindsay and 12 of our just amazing students, many of them immigrants themselves - one is a former DACA recipient, a Dreamer, who managed to get citizenship - gave up their spring break to go sever as translators and be the student attorneys in interviewing these clients to help them understand how to tell the asylum officer during their interview what happened and to make the credible fear claim. They have to have a well-founded fear of persecution if they go back and they've been persecuted as well. And so, our students interviewed them and I sat there listening to stories that would take your breath away. It's just horrifying what they lived through. And they didn't want to leave. They didn't know how to leave. They didn't know how to get here. They didn't have any money. They were in debt for their lives - for the rest of their lives. But they had to. It's literally life or death. And they get to this country and they get picked up in the desert, or they turn themselves in when they get to the border, and our country incarcerates them. We don't welcome them with open arms. We incarcerate them. Then they throw them on a plane because it's a family and send them to Berks County, Pennsylvania, where they're, you know, detained. You know, detained is another word for jail. They're locked up. And watching my students get to know them and hear their stories and help them give voice to what they've been through was transformative. And we were - our students were just so successful. All weekend, we've been getting reports of folks who were released, and they're going to have a few months, and they'll be able to get work permits and they'll be able to make the case before - you know, for refugee status. They haven't got it yet, but at least they'll be released pending their opportunity to be heard.
M: You're listening to the Monday edition of Community Watch & Comment. I'm your host Gloria Minott. This is WPFW radio. We are 89.3 on your FM dial. My guests, Dean Shelley Broderick of the Dave Clarke - the UDC School of Law - the Dave Clarke School of Law and Professor Lindsay M. Harris. She's the co-director of the Immigration & Human Rights Clinic led by the UDC Law contingent. Some of them have gotten, as you've just said - gotten their release from jail. Now what? Where do you go from here?
H: So, it is actually a very long and arduous road to actually being granted asylum and this service learning trip has been part of a semester long course so now that we're back from our week of providing intensive services within the detention center, this week, we're going to be examining that topic: what happens next? So families are released, usually they have to have a sponsor, a family member, a friend pay for their bus ticket. They're usually wearing an ankle monitor, which most of them call a grillete - a bulky electronic ankle monitor on their foot - and then they have to wait for a court date, which could be years at this point. There are more than 600,000 cases backlogged in our immigration court system, and the wait could be anywhere from a year to six years. I have a client who is going to wait 8 and a half years after being released from this same detention center in Berks to present his asylum claim in court.
M: Ladies, if - if someone listening today wants to get in touch with both of you, where can they do so?
H: Absolutely! We would love to hear from you if you have an interest in these topics. My email address is Lindsay - L-I-N-D-S-A-Y - dot - Harris at UDC.edu, and I would be happy to educate folks or share how you can get involved with this type of advocacy.
B: And I'm Shelley Broderick, sbroderick at UDC.edu. I don't know much about immigration law, but I'm passionate about it and I know Lindsay [all chuckle] so I can help you that way. [laughter]
M: Dean Broderick, Professor Lindsay Harris. Thank you both for joining me this morning.
B: It was our pleasure, Gloria. We love your show and we're so appreciative of your interest in letting us tell this story about our amazing students' work.
H: And I'll just add, Gloria, that if people are interested, there is, I think, on the front page of the Washington Post today, an article about immigration and about our government separating immigrant families at the border, taking kids away from their parents, which is another phenomenon and something the families we met with last week were very, very concerned about and it was very troubling, of course, for them.
M: Thank you both.
M: Oh, go ahead, Shelley.
B: Some of these kids are toddlers, Gloria. They're two years old or three years old, um, and they're without - it just breaks your heart.
M: We'll keep following this and keep our audience informed as to what happens as we go along. Thank you both.
B: Thank you, Gloria.