Information, legal advice empower detainees to make informed decisions

September 15, 2015

The Adelanto Federal Immigration Detention Facility, located 90 miles east of Los Angeles, houses roughly 1,300 unauthorized immigrant men awaiting deportation proceedings. If they can’t find or afford an attorney, they will face the judge on their own, which almost always results in deportation. The Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, a program of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, can’t afford to represent them in court, but it does give them the next best thing-free information and legal advice.

Three times a week, Esperanza staff members visit the detention facility to explain the court process and advise the men of their rights, most of whom cannot read or speak English. They talk one-on-one with the men, hearing the details of each situation and offering their best legal advice.

Some men have a good case for staying in the United States and can be successful in court with an attorney; most do not. But either way, the men can decide how to proceed, whether it’s preparing to defend themselves in court, finding an attorney, or waiving their court hearing and preparing themselves and their families for their deportation. Being able to make informed decisions is empowering in a process that has rendered them so powerless.

Some of the detained men have come straight from a California prison. Some were picked up at the border. Others were apprehended in local communities. But they’re feeling much the same way: sad, confused, anxious, isolated, and thoroughly alone in the court process before them. Explaining the process and preparing them for court means a lot. And even if there is no way for them to stay in the United States, they know the Esperanza program staff witness their plight and recognize them as deserving of dignity.

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