Drunk & Disorderly

On the Docket of a Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney

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Letter from Beijing

[Editor’s Note: He Jiahong is a professor of law at Renmin Law School in the Chinese capital, and one of his country’s foremost experts on criminal justice. Professor He is author of a series of crime novels featuring criminal defense lawyer Hong Jun, a rare (to the West) depiction of contemporary Chinese criminal justice. Latest to be translated is Black Holes. Professor He has generously permitted “Drunk & Disorderly” to publish, serialized in seven chapters, his nonfiction work, Back From The Dead: A Landmark Ruling of Wrongful Conviction in China, translated into English earlier this year. What follows is Chapter One.]

In 1994, the eyes of the world fell on the American football star O.J. Simpson, who was alleged to have murdered his wife. At the same time, in a mountainous village in China, another case of suspected murder was taking place. But these two cases took very different paths.

The Emerald of Hubei

In the centre of Hubei Province lies Jingshan County, a simple and honest place with a long history. 1 ‘The Emerald of Hubei’ is a place of mountain forests, rivers and lakes lying at the foot of Dahong Mountain, on the northern side of the Jianghan Plain. About two thousand years ago, the Green Wood Uprising – the second great peasant revolution – began here, and the name ‘Green Wood’ (Lülin) has stayed with one particular town. In Lülin, there is a creek whose name – Mandarin Duck Creek – is synonymous with couples in love. It runs through a deep canyon and the scenery there is expansive and lush. It is said that the winding curves of Mandarin Duck Creek are like a ten-mile-long art gallery. Its waters appear clear and jade-green against the heavy forest. To the southwest of Lülin is another famous small town, Yanmenkou. But the reason for its fame is quite different.

In the early morning of 11 April 1994, an inhabitant from the small village of Lüchong in Yanmenkou was walking home after taking his child to school. Spring had arrived but there was still a chill in the air, and the mountain forests were shrouded in mist. The villager noticed something floating in a pond along the route. It looked like a person. He rushed back to find the village chief, and the two of them returned to the pond to take a closer look. On confirming that it was indeed a body, the villager and the chief went to the local police station to report the matter.

The officer on duty rushed to the scene, and with the help of the villagers fished the body out of the water. The corpse had begun to decompose and the face was very bloated. But it was clearly a young woman. The officer asked the onlookers if they recognised her. None of them knew her. In fact, none of them had ever seen her before and they were adamant that she could not be a local. The police searched the body but found nothing to identify the woman, and reported the situation to the county police.

The forensic investigation team from the Jingshan County Public Security Bureau 2 then hurried to the pond to examine the body. They found six wounds to the head: not bumps or bruises, but blows from a blunt instrument. However, they couldn’t ascertain whether the woman had died as a result of the blows or if she had drowned after being knocked unconscious. The dead woman was 150 centimetres tall, and had a comely figure. She had short hair and looked to have been about thirty. At some stage she had given birth. From the appearance of the body and the winter clothes she had been wearing, the forensic team concluded that she had been dead for a while, perhaps two months or more.

What bewildered the investigators was that the pond in which the woman was found was small. Although it was on a mountainside, villagers passed by all the time, and sometimes even fished there. If the body had been in the pond for two months, how could no one have noticed it? It was feasible that a submerged body might float to the surface as it decomposed, but it was unlikely to have taken two months to do so. It seemed that the pond could not have been the scene of the murder: there was no flowing water source, so the body could not have drifted there, and this meant that the body must have been deposited there intentionally. But why dump a dead body after two months? Why would a murderer wait so long? If the body had been submerged, why had it stayed under water for so long, and what had made it float all of a sudden? The forensic team had no time to pursue these questions. It had been decided that this was a case of homicide and, as such, the crime squad would take over the investigation.

The investigators searched the scene of the crime and found no evidence relating to the case. After photographing the scene and making a report they removed the body and returned with it to Jingshan County Public Security Bureau. They had to decide whether or not to go ahead with an autopsy.

Jingshan is a peaceful county where major criminal cases – such as intentional homicide – are rare, so the senior police treated the case seriously. They formed a special investigation team headed by Han Hua, the deputy chief of police, and with Lu Cheng, the head of the crime squad, as his deputy. The other members of the team were He Liang and Pan Jun, both highly experienced policemen. After receiving the local investigators’ report, the special investigation team began by looking into missing persons reports. When they requested that Yanmenkou and nearby villages inform them of any recent disappearances, a lead appeared immediately: someone had reported their daughter missing, a woman named Zhang Aiqing. The investigators asked her relatives to come and identify the body.

When Zhang Aiqing’s mother and eldest brother arrived at the public security bureau, the investigators first asked them to describe the missing woman. Mrs Zhang said that Aiqing was twenty-nine, 150 centimetres tall, of medium build, with a round face and a slightly upturned nose. She added that Aiqing loved to keep up with fashion and had pierced ears, and that she had had surgery after a difficult birth.

When the investigators showed the body to Mrs Zhang, she began to cry. She managed to nod, confirming that it was her daughter. But, unlike Mrs Zhang, Aiqing’s brother was hesitant, and said simply that it looked a lot like Aiqing. He added that the clothes she was wearing didn’t seem to belong to her. Pushed to confirm absolutely that it was Aiqing, he asked if there were any other means of identifying the body. They told him there were other methods, such as cranial matching or DNA-testing, but these procedures could not be carried out locally, and would have to be performed by specialists in the provincial capital or even in Beijing, which would cost a lot, maybe even 20 000 yuan (US $ 2 300). 3 If the family really wanted such confirmation, they would have to foot the bill themselves. Hearing this, Aiqing’s brother waved his hands in surrender and said: ‘We have absolutely no money.’

Meanwhile, Mrs Zhang had stopped crying, and said she agreed with her son. The clothes were not Aiqing’s.

The investigators said: ‘We need you to identify a person, not her clothes. It’s possible that she had changed clothes.’ Mrs Zhang then confirmed the unidentified woman as her daughter. Aiqing’s brother assented.

After the body had been formally identified, the investigators made another careful inspection. They found the physical details on the body as described by Mrs Zhang: the holes in Aiqing’s earlobes and the scars on the left side of her vagina that could have been a result of Aiqing’s surgery. The close fit between testimony and reality seemed to demonstrate Mrs Zhang to be a reliable observer. Given the overall facts of the case, the forensic investigators came to the conclusion that the body was Zhang Aiqing’s. Some questions still remained, however, and the investigators suggested an autopsy be carried out so they could submit a final forensic medical examination and expert’s report. What continued to puzzle the investigators was the cause of death: did she die from blows to the head, or did she drown? And how long had she been dead? Most crucially, how had the body remained in the pond for so long without anyone discovering it?

Once the body had been identified, the direction of the special investigation became clearer, or rather, it made the process of identifying suspects clearer. The team began to question Aiqing’s mother and brother for information. Mrs Zhang said that when she had heard that Aiqing had died, she immediately suspected that her daughter had been murdered. After all, Aiqing had not had an easy life and lately her problems had begun to mount. With a deep sigh Mrs Zhang began to describe the many misfortunes in Aiqing’s life.

NOTES

1 The People’s Republic of China, is divided into thirty-one provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Hubei is one of these provinces. It is divided into thirteen prefecture-level divisions, which administer 102 counties, which in turn administer 1234 towns and villages. Villages and towns are managed by village committees, led by village heads (or mayors).

2 In Chinese, the term ‘public security bureau’ is used to refer to local police forces. ‘Public security bureau’ and ‘police’ are used interchangeably in the text.

3 This value is based on the average historical exchange rate in 1994. In 1990, 1 Chinese yuan was worth 0.21 US dollars. After economic policy changes in the early 1990s, the yuan’s value dropped to 0.11 US dollars in 1994. Its value has remained relatively stable since then, gradually rising throughout the 2000s to 0.16 US dollars in 2012.

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Beam Me Up

Scotty

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

When I was growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was “I Spy.” Robert Culp was Kelly, whose cover was international tennis star; Bill Cosby, his trainer Scotty. A white kid, I wanted to be Scotty.

Scotty was a man of great dignity who didn’t smoke or drink, a Rhodes Scholar. Not like the black stereotypes I knew then: Stepin Fetchit, Amos ’n’ Andy, Eddie Anderson (“Rochester” on “The Jack Benny Program,” or even Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. He was kind and self-sacrificing. He had indomitable courage.

Or maybe I wanted to be Bill. It was hard to tell them apart, just as many people still have trouble telling apart Cosby from Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the wonderful husband and father he played on “The Cosby Show” two decades later.

Scotty and Bill had much in common. Both started out as a child, in North Philadelphia. Both of their mothers were maids. Both had absentee fathers who served in the Navy. Both followed their fathers into the Navy. Both were scholars and athletes at Temple University.

Only one has been accused of serial rape.

I can’t say I was disappointed in Bill Cosby. Not when the reports started to dribble in like a faucet leak over the past decade, then like a flood in the past month or so.

I already knew he was a monster. He had raped my friend, many years before. Drugged her, like he was supposed to have drugged the other women who have come forward, told their stories, been called liars and worse. For complicated reasons, I made her a promise not to tell anyone, not to go after him, in print or in anger.

A half-dozen years ago, I warned the woman who cleans our house about Bill Cosby. She was so proud that her daughter was going to Temple University, and told me how excited her beautiful child was that she was going to meet this great man. Great men have great secrets, I told her, sometimes the kind you don’t want your daughter discovering in a room alone with them.

My own father had secrets, or thought he did. The man who married my final stepmother was not the man who fathered his children. Not to her, he could not be that to her. The man who married Camille Cosby — who sees her husband as the victim of these stories — is not the man who raped my friend.

We think we know those closest to us, and sometimes we do. (It’s a little irritating how much my wife knows me: makes it hard to win arguments, brazen out moments of assholiness. She’s told me she wishes I wouldn’t always say what I’m actually thinking. At least not to the kids, friends, total strangers.)

But sometimes — maybe most times — we don’t know them.

I still want to be Scotty. I just don’t want to be Bill.

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Letter from California

[Editor’s Note: Kevin Johnson is one of four primary contributors to the ImmigrationProf Blog and shares this story, originally published on that blog. Just in time for Christmas is this controversy over an immigration-themed video game containing alleged pornographic content. Where once wholesome nudity was featured, Apple censors have broken out the granny panties.]

Here is an out-of-the-ordinary story that should appeal to the gamers in the crowd.

Yesterday, Papers, Please made its debut on iPad, but the game was missing a key aspect: all nudity had been removed after Apple considered it to be pornographic. According to the game’s developer, it turns out it was a mistake and not censorship.

Papers, Please puts you in the role of an immigration officer, and the offending bits involved scanning potential immigrants with an x-ray, which allowed you to see them in the nude. That feature was present in the original PC version from last year, but when game creator Lucas Pope submitted the game to Apple it was rejected for containing “pornographic content.” A revised version, featuring characters in their underwear instead, was released today.

The game is described below:

“A Dystopian Document Thriller.

The communist state of Arstotzka has ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin.

Your job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants and visitors looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission’s primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested.”

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Crimes Against Nature

Photo by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew

Photo by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew

 

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

It started with an image of terrible beauty: a man who appeared to be falling gracefully to his death from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Thirteen years after, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, released this month, reveals the image of a nation — our nation — fallen from grace.

Four hundred ninety-nine pages detail that fall. That’s just the executive summary; the government won’t let you read some six thousand five hundred pages more for fear you might use them to start a fire to burn down Washington.

United States Senator John McCain — whose body and mind was forged in torture in Vietnam — said CIA torture interrogations “actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.”

“It’s about us,” he said, “what we were, what we are, and what we should be, and that’s a nation that does not engage in these kinds of violations of the fundamental basic human rights that we guaranteed when we declared our independence.”

These were the key findings:

  1. Torture doesn’t work.
  2. The CIA used torture because it mistakenly believed torture does work.
  3. The torture was far worse than the CIA let on.
  4. Conditions of confinement were worse than the CIA told policymakers.
  5. The CIA lied to the Department of Justice so it couldn’t properly analyze the torture program.
  6. The CIA would rather not be supervised by Congress.
  7. The CIA would rather not be supervised by the White House.
  8. The CIA would rather not cooperate with the FBI, the State Department, or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
  9. The CIA would rather not be supervised by its own Office of Inspector General.
  10. The CIA told lies to the media about what it was doing, but that was okay because they were telling the same lies to Congress, the Department of Justice, and the President..
  11. The CIA didn’t know what to do with the suspected terrorists it captured, and had no plan to ever turn them loose if it discovered it was wrong.
  12. The CIA put people in charge of torture interrogations who had no idea what they were doing.
  13. The CIA torture interrogation program was designed by two Air Force guys who had no experience in interrogation, had barely heard of al-Qa’ida, and whose knowledge of the language and culture was confined basically to belly dancers.
  14. CIA detainees were tortured by means not only unapproved by the Department of Justice, but unauthorized by the CIA.
  15. The CIA was never sure just how many people it detained, why they were detained, or what happened to them.
  16. The CIA never tried to find out if torture was actually working.
  17. The CIA rarely reprimanded or in any way held accountable torturers who might have gone a little over the top.
  18. Criticisms, critiques, and objections about the torture interrogations, even from within the CIA, were like water running off a duck.
  19. The CIA torture interrogation program essentially collapsed under its own weight when other countries tired of hosting torture sites and started blabbing about it. All but one country, whose name is still classified (but you probably wouldn’t want to live there), bailed on the program.
  20. The CIA torture program damaged U.S. standing in the world, created tensions with U.S. partners and allies, and screwed up bilateral intelligence relationships.

Well, duh.

Welcome to the rabbit hole.

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Letter from New Mexico

Suitable for Families

Suitable for Families

 

[Editor’s Note: Kit Johnson is a primary contributor to the ImmigrationProf Blog. At the beginning of this month, she spent a week assisting immigrant families awaiting deportation hearings at the Artesia detention facility in remote southeast New Mexico. Open only since June, it is already closing down, and families are being transferred to a massive and barren dirt enclave in Dilley, Texas, by month’s end. The center was sued by immigration and civil rights groups who called it a deportation mill that routinely violated detainees’ constitutional rights. One of those detainees, an eleven-year-old boy, turned out to be an American citizen. Professor Johnson has kindly consented to share this look at what these families leave behind.]

 

LIVE FROM ARTESIA

 

Day One

I arrived in town just before sunset. The radio was playing The Eagles’ Hotel California – I kid you not.

I spent the evening getting a very intense orientation from the wonderful on-the-ground (OTG) team here in Artesia. I was particularly pleased to hear the soothing and familiar voice of immigration professor Stephen Manning – welcoming us to the OTG team in an innovation lab video, naturally, with psych-up background music.

I have two bond hearings and two continuances to prep for tonight and tomorrow morning. And I expect to meet with additional clients about their bond cases. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is trying to secure bond for as many of the Artesia detainees as possible – all of whom are hoping to avoid transfer to Karnes. [Editor’s Note: Karnes County Civil Detention Center in Texas is the site of alleged sexual assault by guards of immigrant mothers, sometimes in front of their children.]

 

Day Two, Morning

Today was my first visit to FLETC – the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center that is the Artesia detention facility.

I arrived at 7:00 a.m. to meet with three clients about what would happen in court that morning. Of course, nothing that we prepared for actually happened. All three cases were continued to later in the week.

I’d heard stories about the surreality of immigration court in Artesia. It was, indeed, surreal. The clients and attorneys sat in front of a large video screen where they interfaced with an extremely pixilated immigration judge (IJ) in Denver.

The clients’ kids and other families waited in the background – trying, sometimes in vain, to remain quiet.

While the cases today were all bond hearings or continuances of the same, and so less sensitive than merits hearings, it still felt wrong to have the kids in the room.

One adorable young boy, about 3, kept running up to his mom and trying to catch her attention during her bond hearing. I ended up sneaking him off to a corner to try to keep him amused with the few entertainments in the room. He scribbled on a paper airplane and flew said airplane around the “courtroom.” He also played with a small dixie cup and a little yellow plastic figurine that looked like a game piece from Candyland.

Another boy, about 5, was disturbing in his quiet. He sat perfectly still, silently watching the somewhat rambunctious 3 year old’s antics.

 

Day Two, Afternoon

There is a client consultation trailer at the Artesia detention facility. It is split into different zones.

Along one edge of the trailer there is a narrow “lawyers-only” corridor. It runs the length of the trailer and is perhaps 5 feet wide.

There’s a table near the entrance to the lawyer’s corridor where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents sit. These are the guys who bring clients to the trailer. They also escort lawyers to and from their cars and to the restrooms. (We are dangerous folk who cannot walk around unaccompanied.) These guys are by and large incredibly friendly – to us, the women, and especially the kids.

The trailer also has five modular “offices” for meeting with clients. Each has sliding semi-opaque doors and walls that don’t reach to the ceiling. It therefore has neither the appearance of privacy nor actual privacy.

The rest of the trailer is essentially a waiting area. There are eight tables each with four chairs. There’s a brightly colored oval right in front of a TV that is always playing a children’s movie – sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in English. (I can now tell you the entire plot of Ice Age: The Meltdown. Be jealous.)

I spent the afternoon in the trailer meeting with clients. I saw six different women and, for the most part, spoke with them about their upcoming bond hearings. Some were stoic. Some were weepy. Some were sick. All were tired of being in detention. All prayed to God that their bond hearings would be granted.

I can’t sign off without noting what was, for me, the biggest surprise of the afternoon. I walked into the ladies’ bathroom and found a volunteer barber cutting kids’ hair. The boys all seemed to be sporting identical buzz cuts. But a little girl, maybe 7 or 8, was getting a careful trim of her very long locks. She looked so happy to be sitting in that chair, having her hair so carefully combed and trimmed.

 

Day Three, Morning

This morning’s docket was much busier than yesterday. In addition to hearing continuances, Denver Immigration Judge Donn Livingston held five substantive bond hearings. All resulted in grants – but at vastly differing sums from $7500 to $2000. He seemed particularly concerned about: (1) whether the respondents used a coyote to gain entry to the U.S., how much they paid said coyote, and how many people joined them on the journey; as well as (2) whether the respondents had strong family ties in the US.

For the second day in a row there was a rambunctious six-year old boy present who wanted to bother his mom while she was being questioned by the judge. I managed to entice him away by appropriating some paper and making cootie-catchers for him. And paper airplanes. But this kid straight up schooled me on the proper way to fold an airplane. My sons will be thrilled when I come home with new knowledge.

The absolute highlight of my day was seeing the huge smiles on the faces of one mother and son who got bond today. The son was about 2 and when I told him he was guapo y adorable, he just nodded with a big grin on his face. He also gave me two very big hugs, the sweetie!

 

Day Four, “Everyone Cries in Artesia”

I’d heard that everyone cries in Artesia. At some point, I was told, everyone hits a wall and breaks down.

I don’t know that I really believed that until today.

This morning I was covering IJ Livingston’s docket with the lovely Julie Braker (more on her in another post). Julie was holding a bond hearing for an indigenous-speaking client. This client had a son, a little over two years old, who started acting up and demanding his mother’s attention. So I picked him up and rocked him in the back of the courtroom. But then, this boy decided that wasn’t what he really wanted. He started to really fuss and cry for his mom. So I left the courtroom with him in my arms.

I spent the duration of the hearing (20 minutes? 30? 45?) outside with an inconsolable toddler. I say toddler, but this kid was so small. He was about the size of a 10 month old.

And all this kid wanted was mom – to nurse, I think. I tried singing to him, rocking, bouncing, distracting him with trucks and planes, all of my mom tricks. Nothing worked. Well, the plane thing worked for the 10 seconds he could see the plane in the sky. But then it was back to crying for mama.

I was outside with an ICE agent. This fellow valiantly tried to help as well. He played soothing baby music on his phone. He performed magic tricks with a quarter. He blew bubbles with his gum. He even tried to get me a pacifier but wasn’t allowed to requisition one from the warehouse. We were given an empty bottle but, 30 seconds after finally getting this, mom returned.

At which point I had to literally run back to court to cover a bond hearing.

I don’t know why this child’s anguish has affected me as much as it has. I think it’s that he genuinely thought he might never see his mom again. And the horror of not being able to get him a pacifier just killed me. And then I think about his mom, who while trying to testify on behalf of her bond application, to get herself and her sons out of detention – she had to listen to her son’s wailing.

It’s a few hours later and I’m still shaky and overwhelmed.

 

Day Five – Laughter Amid Tears

Today wasn’t a tear-free day. I prepped one woman for her bond hearing tomorrow and just welled up with tears reading her credible fear determination (of persecution or torture if deported to the home country). This woman has suffered the most horrendous acts of domestic violence. I had to stop and try to compose myself. And, of course, my near-tears caused her near-tears. It was tough.
.
But I want to tell you not about the tears, but the laughter. Because today, I laughed.

First, I want to tell you about a kid who I’ll call Arturo. Arturo is three or four years old. He came to his mom’s bond hearing this morning. And since I was covering the docket by myself, there was no one I could pass him off to when he started to get a little antsy with the proceedings. I just kept my eyes on the video camera, tore off a few pages from my notebook, and handed him a pen so he could color. But here’s the thing. At some point the IJ was looking a few things up on his computer and everyone was silent. Arturo climbed into his mom’s lap for what looked like a snuggle. Instead, he used the vantage point of her lap to lean over, right over the microphone, and whisper “Hola.” It was the damndest thing. I couldn’t laugh out loud in the middle of court, but I had a hard time keeping a straight face when I told him not to do that again.

And now a tale about a kid whom I’ll call Isabel. Isabel is not yet three. She is a teensy tiny little thing. And she showed up to her mom’s bond prep with me this afternoon wearing this bright teal sweatshirt with a raccoon on it that inexplicably said “Hug Me.” Miss Isabel was so well behaved that I was able to have a great strategy session with her mom. At one point, I got excited, slapped my hand on the table and pointed at the mom to say something along the lines of “That’s it!” Before I knew it, Isabel did the exact same thing. She slapped her hand to the table and pointed right at me. I laughed with explosive, gigantic cackles.

It’s amazing that kids can continue to bring such spontaneity and joy here amidst the chaos, uncertainty, monotony (please, God, no more Frozen on the TV tomorrow), and fear.

 

Day Six – The Last Hearings

Today I had my final hearings in front of IJ Livingston.

While in court I, yet again, needed to help a fellow AILA pro bono attorney (this time the wonderful Megan Jordi – more on her later) with a disruptive toddler. I had the unenviable task of actually peeling a 2 year old off his mother and forcibly removing him from court.

I spent the next (20? 30? 45?) minutes with another inconsolable toddler. I again tried to distract him with construction equipment, planes, anything. This time, I had not just one but three other ICE agents trying to help me calm this child down. One brought a sucker. Another brought a toy. Another (clearly a supervisor) asked if I needed milk or juice or anything else that he might be able to provide. But nothing really calmed him down. I bought a few precious moments by pointing to things (a bulldozer) and asking him to tell me what the word in Spanish is to describe it. But, again, all he wanted was mama.

The upside of handling an inconsolable toddler is that you’re allowed to walk wherever you feel like it to calm the kid down. So I was able to see the other parts of our complex that I might not otherwise see. I was able to discern that we were in a small segment of the FLETC campus that was blocked off by chain link fencing with interwoven wood slats. It is about 3 trailers by 2 trailers. So it was just a small part of the bigger facility – one kept locked away and isolated.

One of the places I got to see was a dayroom. Like the attorney trailer, this room had a brightly colored rug. It also had a couch in front of a TV that appeared to have some sort of gaming system attached. There weren’t tables and chairs like in the consult room. Instead, the rest of the room is more or less open. There’s a table where the ICE officers sit (b/c nothing says “Hey, relax in the dayroom” like constant supervision). There was one of those foot-powered plastic trucks for toddlers to sit in and drive. And there was a pack-n-play occupied by an infant.

Eventually mom finished her testimony and I was able to reunite her with her son – at which point I headed back into my own bond hearings.

I had three bond hearings today. All the women bonded out. One at $2000, one at $5000, and another at $2500.

The $5000 bond was set in a case that I knew would be difficult. The client had paid a coyote a substantial sum of money and she wasn’t going to be staying with close relatives in the U.S. – two of IJ Livingston’s big concerns. But she had a rock solid asylum case based on DV with a horrendous and documented/documentable history. Unfortunately, the client’s case just didn’t present in court as well as it had in prep. I had prepared the client that I was going to talk about her substantive claims and even arranged for Megan to take her young son out of the courtroom during her testimony. But the IJ shut down any questioning along these lines. So I was pretty disappointed in the outcome, although I hold out hope that she’ll be able to bond out at that high amount in any event.

The $2500 bond was set in my last case of the day – indeed, my last case in Artesia. Just before the IJ announced the bond in Spanish to my client, her 7-year-old son started to cry. I think he thought they had been denied or that something bad had happened. While his mom was comforting him, the judge told her (through the translator) that her bond had been granted. She just broke down crying and told her son over and over “We’re leaving! We’re leaving!” At this point, I completely lost control. I started to cry. On the record. In front of the IJ. I just cried. I grabbed some tissues and tried to compose myself, but I wasn’t very composed. I eked out a motion to withdraw representation and then hugged and hugged this family.

It was the end of a very long week. And to end on such a high note (for IJ Livingston $2500 is a very low bond) with the joy and relief that family felt – it was overwhelming.

I met with more clients in the afternoon. I followed up with women who’d been granted bond. I prepared others for hearings. But, for me, the true “end” of my time in Artesia was that $2500 grant. And the absolute joy and relief it brought to that family. That is something I will never, ever, forget.

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