What's the end of the line?
Lately (and really, always), I've been thinking a lot about systems -- immigration, legal, judicial, law enforcement -- all of those and more. And each system has existed for a significant amount of time -- almost like sedimentary rock building upon itself.
And with any institution that has been "building" for decades and hundreds and hundreds of years -- where's the justice? I am deeply interested in somehow reshaping the trajectory of that sedimentary rock and what is going to grow on top of it.
But the deep question remains: how do we change the trajectory when so many layers have been built over the years? What's the end of the line?
Here in Chicago, I have been doing appellate-based work -- and my latest task is completing an appeal brief to the Bureau of Immigration of Appeals for another detainee in Eloy, Arizona (a notorious detention center to say the least).
This client has been through the layers of the immigration system to date: 1) his detention at Eloy; 2) he represented himself thus far in his own removal proceedings; 3) he was able to successfully represent himself during his Immigration Judge review only to 4) have the Department of Homeland Security file an appeal against the decision.
That's a lot of freaking layers of that systemic sedimentary rock.
There's always a next step
The National Immigrant Justice Center was able to pick up the appeal from this particular client and I was assigned this case. I must admit that writing 20 pages of an appellate brief is not my preferred cup of tea, but here's the rub:
There's a person and soul behind that appellate brief and this person deserves hard fought advocacy for their human rights.
That was enough to motivate me during periods of writer's block.
The other attorneys here and I think this client has a strong case -- but we will see what the outcome is after we submit the appellate brief.
But what happens in those cases where a client's potential legal remedies have been potentially exhausted? Where justice has not been served?
These are questions I ponder frequently -- not only within the immigration system, but our justice system at large. As the chant goes: no justice, no peace.
Community advocacy and better policy
When I have worked in detention centers throughout the US, there were difficult moments of sitting down with a client and telling them that we had reached the end of what could be done legally in their case.
But I have a deep rooted belief that this is not where advocacy ends -- both in my role as a lawyer and as a concerned community member. So, in those moments, I would still ask them what their plan was to move forward after this -- there is always a next step.
There are multiple building blocks to chipping away at those systemic layers that can often be so oppressive. Last week, I reflected on the one-on-one conversation and how those conversations can help build bridges between people.
Another huge one is policy. In this recent article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic, he accurately says that we can try to improve more in terms of "problems of implementation" but the broader question of policy is how we really try to move forward. (Yes, I acknowledge that this is regarding the law enforcement system but I really think this principle applies to just about every other system out there.)
In order to help impact policy, we must continue to organize through one-on-one conversations and relationships which ultimately help build a movement through strategic tactics and action.
Some big news next week
Ever since I left Oakland over a year ago, I have been thinking about the most heartfelt and effective way to contribute to the movement and when this blog drops next Tuesday, I will be able to share with you exactly what's next!
Until then, may you & yours be well.