shutterstock_217215274It was some months ago, which seems like yesterday, that volunteers representing the detained children and women in Artesia, New Mexico, were confronted with immigration judges in Arlington, Virgina who said no.

There were hearings before one Immigration Judge who would go on and on and on about national security as if the breast-feeding infant appearing on the video screen in front of him was something akin to a nuclear warhead. There was another Immigration Judge who overruled reasonable objections, ignoring ordinary rules of law, and setting aside common sense to decide that $20,000 (his average amount of bond held steady around $17,000) was required to protect the nation from the toddler and his young mother facing him.  Not to mention the Immigration Judge who stormed out of court because a volunteer attorney raised a few questions. Or even the Immigration Judge who in one case imposed a high bond on an indigenous Guatemalan client from a rural village because she didn’t show awareness of American political figures.

That was then. Then it became this: the court docket moved to the Denver court. Volunteers wept when more reasonable bonds were issued. The hearings were grueling affairs without any real need for it. The bond amounts dropped but were stuck above the national average and were not truly matching the facts. It was progress of sorts. Our aim though was always liberty without unnecessary strings.

Artesia closed and Dilley opened; eventually this month we saw the docket shift from Denver to Miami. A new court, a new set of judges, a new set of opportunities to argue these cases on the facts. Now, this week we approach liberty – the concept embodied in the Fifth Amendment that the Obama Administration, through its components at the Department of Homeland Security, have so routinely ignored. In court this week, volunteer attorney Elora Mukherjee asked for conditional parole from the Immigration Judge. The Immigration Judge said, well, I’ve never been asked for that before and I see that the law says I can, and the facts suggest that it is correct.  And so it was. Conditional parole. Leaving detention because detention was unnecessary and so was posting a bond. Lovely. The Fifth Amendment and liberty together again.

Written by Stephen Manning, AILA Member and CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project Volunteer


If you are an AILA member who wants to volunteer at a family detention center, please go to the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project page or feel free to contact Maheen Taqui at – we could really use your help.

To watch videos of the volunteers sharing their experiences, go to this playlist on AILA National’s YouTube page. To see all the blog posts about this issue select Family Detention as the category on the right side of this page.