Legal professionals and college students sort out the obstacles to entry for Georgia immigrants

Navigating the immigration courts is difficult. Today immigrants and lawyers threaten to end the Trump administration, protective measures, legal scams, barriers to entry for prisoners and thousands of cases in the Georgian system alone.

In January 2020, the state of Georgia will open the first law clinic at a Georgia university specifically dedicated to immigration law. The Immigration Law Clinic is directed by Emily Torstveit Ngara.

“Our current system is very complicated, it’s overloaded, it really doesn’t work well for everyone,” said Ngara. “There’s a lot of pressure on immigration judges.”

The road to US soil isn’t the only journey immigrants must take to become Americans. Once you’re here, there’s a second expedition that is almost impossible on your own.

“The need for immigration-related advice is pretty dramatic,” said Darcy Meals. “People compare it to the IRS or tax legislation to show how complicated the immigration law is. Assistance and assistance in navigating this system is vital. “

Darcy Meals is the associate director of the Center for Access to Justice in the State of Georgia, which aims to highlight the importance of access in the judicial system.

Access begins with the rights granted all on US soil – Citizens or non-citizens – through the fifth and sixth amendments.

“In relation to immigration, as a non-citizen you have the right to due process, but you do not have the right to an appointed lawyer,” Meals said.

The “right to advice” may be confusing to some, but it simply means that a person can have a lawyer. It doesn’t mean one will be provided for them.

“Often times it is financially inaccessible to humans,” said Meals. “And there is also a lot of fraud in the immigration world.”

An example of this are “notario ”fraud. They use their name to capitalize on the lack of information immigrants have about a foreign legal system and the language barriers they face.

In Spanish, a “notario público” is a lawyer, but a “public notary” when translated directly into English is a profession that is available to almost everyone – and it is not someone who cannot keep promises of relief, protection or provide citizenship.

The meals stated that the access that the center is fighting for goes beyond the struggle for fundamental rights and resources. Access can often be hindered by so-called “physical barriers”, which also come into play with a language barrier.

A physical barrier can be as simple as physically entering a building or following directions when the signs are written in English. In addition, it is difficult enough to read and understand legal documents in a person’s native language.

In Georgia there is currently 32,337 pending immigration cases According to TRAC, a non-partisan data research organization, there is a backlog in court.

“A lawyer can’t get your claims to the top of this list, but an attorney may know how to navigate what types of relief are available to you, as well as which ones can move faster,” Meals said.

One form of relief is asylum, a request someone makes when they come to the US and are afraid to return to their home country. Another term that is very similar to an asylum is a refugee. The main difference is that a refugee usually applies for protection while still in their home country.

Many asylums have Fears like Death threats, torture, imprisonment, discrimination, or threats against their family. Asylum can be seen as a possible route to citizenship as after one year of asylum they can apply for legal permanent residence or a green card and eventually apply for citizenship.

Under President Donald Trump, Efforts were made to limit the number of migrants seeking asylum by restricting who can apply. Detaining migrants while awaiting trial has been used as a deterrent to others considering applying.

“It is not illegal to come to the border and say,” I fear for my life in my home country and want to seek asylum, “said Ngara.

Each of these barriers is aggravated when someone is held in a detention center while their case is pending. It was explained at meals that access to the contacts, documents and evidence needed to substantiate an allegation is immensely difficult in detention.

It is even more difficult for a pending asylum application as detainees are essentially cut off from government agencies that they must rely on to prove the conditions of their home country.

“It’s basically impossible to do this out of immigration detention here,” Meals said.

According to the Southern Poverty Law CenterOne in six immigrants detained in the Southeast does not have access to legal aid. But having a lawyer is ten times more likely to win your case.

By the Pro Bono & Public Service Recognition ProgramThe state of Georgia, for which Meals acts as a faculty advisor, connects law students with the SPLCs Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, which provides free legal representation to immigrants who are detained or facing deportation proceedings.

The program enables students to work under the supervision of an attorney while they collect the necessary documents for an application for loan. This allows someone held in custody to get off while waiting for their trial, and speeds up the otherwise impossible detention situation that Meals has set out.

During the spring break, the program sends at least one group of law students to the Stewart Detention Center in South Georgia to conduct face-to-face interviews with detainees.

“Usually they are asylum applications. That includes learning their history and finding out on what factual basis they are responsible for their case,” she said.

While Meals said it gave non-citizens due process rights, there is one catch: expedited removal.

It is possible that someone will be deported without hearing before a judge at accelerated removal. Three months ago, the accelerated removal only applied to people caught within 100 miles of the border within two weeks of their arrival.

Well under a policy change From the Department of Homeland Security in July, expedited deportation applies to everyone regardless of where they are in the country and have lived in the US for less than two years.

“There is a precedent for deporting people without a hearing or appeal through expedited removal,” Meals said.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union83% of people deported from the US did not get a hearing before a judge in 2013.

“There are many questions about when the law itself does not provide justice, but it is still the law. It’s not illegal, it’s not a loophole – it’s just the state of affairs, “Meals explained. “But it doesn’t offer what you would consider a fair process. In certain circumstances, a certain group of people will be excluded from what would otherwise be expected of due process. “

For students looking to pursue a career in immigration law, the clinic application is open from September 18 to October 2 for second and third year law students. Ngara expects to take on 12 students in the first semester and eventually expand to 16.

“For many students, it is their first opportunity to slip into the role of a lawyer,” said Ngara. “It gives them the opportunity to build their professional identity before they even graduate.”

September 19th is Georgia State Hosting an event to open the clinic’s establishment with a panel to discuss the status of immigration law in Georgia.

The clinic specifically focuses on deportation procedures, the legal term for deportation, and will handle cases on a referral basis as recommended by the clinic’s community partners. Legal work is free of charge for clients.

One area where students provide assistance is in cases where someone has removed their protection.

One protection is DACA, formally deferred action for child arrivals. This policy enables people who have come to the United States under the age of 16 to be protected from deportation and to obtain work permits.

The program was threatened by President Donald Trump who tried to end the DACA 800,000 “dreamersMany of them do not remember their home countries, where there is a risk of deportation.

TPS, or Temporary Protection Status, is another form of protection given to people from certain countries whose return would be dangerous for them.

For example, El Salvador was struck by a catastrophic earthquake in 2001 that provided TPS to Salvadorans in America. There are 250,000 Salvadorans who live in the United States, many of whom have rooted their families and careers in that country.

TPS has also been attacked by the Trump administration with threats to end the program for several countries, some of which its citizens have made America their home for decades.

“Both [DACA and TPS] were threatened with disappearing, ”said Ngara. “If someone has DACA and loses it, they may be vulnerable to removal.”

According to Peter Isbister, senior lawyer at the SPLC, the argument that immigrants “should only come and stand in line legally, as my ancestors did,” has not continued.

Isbister stated that there were no restrictions on immigration to the United States until the beginning of the 20th century, and no line for much of American history.

“For many people, there is simply no limit because family immigration only allows certain types of relatives to go, not one family member,” Isbister said.

Despite the protection afforded by legal programs like DACA, TPS, and Asylum, there are other ways to legally immigrate to America. But Isbister says to some: “The ‘line’ can be almost twenty years long.”