For specific resources and information for families and friends of detained immigrants, click here.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) holds over 32,000 noncitizens in detention on any given day. Asylum seekers, survivors of torture, long-term permanent residents, families and children are routinely detained for months during their immigration proceedings. Charged with only a civil violation, they are not afforded a public defender in these high stakes proceedings.
With initial funding from the Vermont Bar Foundation, Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates has provided legal assistance to those immigrants held by DHS in Vermont for over 17 years and in Plattsburgh, N.Y. since 2006. Now all immigrants arrested by immigration enforcement in Vermont are now held for less than 72 hours in VT before being transferred out of state.
Clinton County Jail is a dual purpose facility holding both immigrants, charged with civil but deportable violations, and others, either facing or convicted of criminal charges. These populations are mixed and everyone wears the standard black and white striped uniform. For many immigrants, the very fact of being detained, kept in isolation until one has proved clear of tuberculosis, unable to communicate, bewildered by the process, and adrift from family and community is, by its very nature, (re)traumatizing.
VIAA provides an essential service by explaining the process of immigration removal proceedings and working with the detainees to determine their eligibility for relief and the means to obtain it. We prepare them for their one opportunity for a bond redetermination hearing which will often be conducted pro se. We provide self-help legal materials and educate and enlist the support of family and community members to best assist them. If they are asylum seekers or other particularly vulnerable individuals without representation, VIAA works with them to prepare a case history and then try and find them free or reduced fee legal services in the district where their hearings will be held.
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