AIJN has been incredibly busy lately and wanted to give everyone an update on what is going on.
Very happy to announce that the beginnings of our legal fund last year are starting to show some important wins. We have confirmed that 3 of our clients have now received U.S. Legal Work Authorization Permits and 2 of them received Social security cards within the last 2 weeks. Several others have legal work permits coming down the pipeline. Our clients are VERY happy and excited to be able to work in the United States legally while their asylum cases wind through the immigration courts. One man wrote to us that "I want to tell you that my work permit arrived. Thank you very much for all you have done for me and my family. May God bless you always." He went on to tell us that he now dreams of starting a construction company.
A few weeks ago, a local man, "Franklin", came to our attention after he received an ominous letter in the mail from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) asking him to show up at their office for "an interview". Franklin has lived in the United States for over 20 years, has U.S. children and is undocumented. He was very scared. In just a few days, we helped connect him to a great lawyer, Kate, in Baltimore. Franklin was facing possible incarceration or bond but Kate was able to negotiate with I.C.E. BEFORE he arrived at his interview so that he would not be incarcerated or forced to pay a bond. Instead, they released him on his own recognizance within an hour! He was so relieved about this and was so grateful to us for connecting him to a great lawyer. Kate said that Franklin is actually eligible for relief so although he is now in immigration court proceedings, she will represent him as he pursues an avenue of relief to stay here in the United States. The concerning part of this whole story is that he explained to us that when he sat down with the I.C.E. Officer, he noticed that his old passport picture was showing up on the ICE Officer's computer screen. It turns out that he had submitted that older passport when he applied for his driver's license at the Maryland MVA several years ago. (In Maryland, you can apply for a drivers license if you have lived here for more than 2 years and can show proof regardless of your immigration status). Which I think begs the question ---- is the MVA sharing information with I.C.E.? Kate told us that this is the 4th case that has come across her desk lately with the same kind of scenario.
Lastly, last night we had an AMAZING night. After AIJN was swamped by families arriving to Anne Arundel County from Central America, we decided to have an "open house". I wasn't sure everyone would be able to travel to our open house but I was shocked when almost all of the families showed up before we even started. We had 3 interpreters (Audrey, Brian and Karen) along with our case manager, Patricia Dorn-Lopez, our Vice President, Kelly Price, and another volunteer, Ellie. I have all of them to thank for an AMAZING job they did last night in helping every single family with answering questions. One man thought he had a hearing in 2 weeks and that he was about to be deported but we taught him how to call the 1-800 hotline number where he discovered his next court hearing is not until 2022!! He was so relieved. We made it very clear to the families that we are not lawyers but a group of volunteers who care and want to try and help connect them to lawyers. Many of the families came up to each of us and gave us hugs as they left. All of us realized last night how critically important our group is to the immigrant community and it showed me that AIJN has clearly built up a level of trust within the immigrant community. We will be spending the next few weeks lining these people up with legal consultations to assess their cases, assist them on their asylum applications if needed, provide accompaniments to immigration hearings and ICE/ISAP check-ins and help out a few who have been wearing ankle monitors for over 8 months (ridiculous) and are having health issues because of it.
Hope we see all of you on Monday, June 24th at Sandy Point Park (1-5pm) for the 2nd annual Fastest Servers on the Bay Relay being organized by the Point CrabHouse and Grill. Great food, live music, beer, crush bar, silent auction table, raffle and so much fun watching local area restaurants compete for the Fastest Servers on the Bay Relay! It will be such a fun afternoon! So grateful to the Point Crab House for all of their support! If you are interested in donating an item or gift card for our silent auction/raffle, help out in volunteering during the fun event or know of a business owner who might be interested in donating some money towards our event, please contact Kelly Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to make a donation to AIJN, you can mail a check to AIJN:
8 Carvel Circle
Edgewater, MD 21037
Annapolis Immigration Justice Network