Observing the non-detained docket at immigration court
I've been to immigration court many times when I worked with American's for Immigrant Justice, but it's been over 5 years since my last visit. As I stepped into 26 Federal Plaza I started to imagine what it must be like for a teenage kid to enter this gargantuan building with hyper-security. After removing my shoes, placing my backpack through a scanner, and walking through a metal detector I moved my way up to the 12th floor.
I was invited to join Professor Lenni Benson from Safe Passage Project while she and her group offered free legal services to children and their families that arrived to court without representation. Alongside Lenni were several other immigration service agencies that make up ICARE (Immigrant Children Advocates’ Relief Effort). After introducing myself, Lenni jumps right into a quick tour of the probono wall where legal information is displayed for immigrants to pick up text heavy packets of information, which is a great resource but daunting to anyone who isn't well-versed in immigration law.
Lenni isn't giving me this mini-tour. There's a Spanish interpreter and recently graduated law student along with me. After taking a look at the posted docket list we make our way up to the 14th floor where the Judge will see 30 kids that are scheduled for the afternoon docket. We turn a corner and they're all there. Kids and their sponsors and possibly other family members. They're all standing up against the hallway wall, observing, waiting, taking it all in. I can feel their anxiety, the butterflies in their stomachs. Again, I think what would it be like for me to be 13 and going before a judge.