According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), more than 32,000 cases were pending in the Georgian Immigration Court in fiscal year 2019, making the state the tenth-largest arrears in the country. This dire situation inspired immigration attorney Martin Rosenbluth, of Raleigh, NC, to move to a house near the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia to represent inmates.
“I’ve been making human rights law for over 20 years, and I’ve never felt like I’ve done more to affect people’s lives than I did in my two years at the Stewart Detention Center,” said Rosenbluth.
On September 19, he and immigration attorney Carolina Antonini (JD ’96) held a discussion at the College of Law on the state of immigration in Georgia. Emily Torstveit Ngara, director of Georgia State Law’s new immigration clinic, moderated the conversation.
They first spoke about the day-to-day requirements of being an immigration lawyer. Originally from Venezuela, Antonini has practiced before the Atlanta Immigration Court since 1996. She described many occasions when she promised her husband that she would take a weekend off, then go to the bathroom and pretend to shower when it was really her work on her laptop.
“Being an immigration lawyer is very difficult,” said Antonini. “You win one and 5,000 more when you’re in the office. Your win rate is not very high. It’s a job that keeps you up at night, and it’s a job that keeps you working. “
Rosenbluth recalled his first sitting in Atlanta immigration court – he saw 25 people deported within 35 minutes. In Stewart, where Rosenbluth occurs frequently, 96 percent of asylum cases are rejected. Most dishes have an average of 30 to 40 percent. He says his company has been able to get one person a week out of Stewart for two and a half years.
“I will meet potential customers for asylum cases several times a week,” said Rosenbluth. “I’ll say they have a good asylum case and it could be three or four months or more before I can get them out. Usually they say, “No way, get me out of here” because the conditions and isolation are tough to bear. “
Torstveit Ngara added, “The faster things go, the less attention people pay to the need for translators and due process. Usually they take the cases represented by lawyers first, so no one is around to see how people are treated. “
Rosenbluth and Antonini agreed that the politicization of immigration is at the heart of the problem. On the precipice of the 2020 presidential election, immigration on the southern border was a hotly debated topic. Rosenbluth pointed out that while xenophobic rhetoric was not as widespread under President Barack Obama, he deported more people than any president in the 20th century combined.
The panel also gave the students an introduction to the immigration clinic, which will open in January 2020. Law students at the clinic will represent clients in Georgia with asylum cases. The clinic will host 12 law students, who work in pairs to do research, write briefs, make affidavits, and fight cases in court.
Antonini encouraged students to visit the clinic and find an area of law they love.
“I know the history of immigrants,” said Antonini. “I live the history of immigration. I understand what we’re bringing to the country and how important it is to be accepted in the country I love. “