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Report from the Front:
Law School's Immigration Clinic Director Visits Federal Detention Facility

 

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It’s one thing to read about the government’s handling of migrants on the southern border in the newspapers. It’s quite another to go see what is going on for yourself. 

Catholic University adjunct Professor Dree Collopy, who directs the Columbus School of Law’s Immigration Litigation Clinic, chose the latter, spending Sept. 8-14 at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, NM.
 
Collopy, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Benach Ragland LLP, provided pro bono legal representation there to women and children who have fled horrific violence in Central America. 
 
Her reasons for making the trip were explained in a blog post prior to her departure. In a nutshell, Collopy said America’s legal obligations to asylum seekers under existing domestic and international law were being ignored with dire consequences.
 
“What is happening there is a tragedy and is fundamentally un-American. The government’s attempt to conceal this embarrassment in the middle of a barren desert is shameful,” Collopy blogged. 
 
“In Artesia, women and children are being detained at length in inhumane conditions, intimidated and coerced by immigration officers, refused a chance for a fair hearing and access to counsel, hurled through a removal process with predetermined results, and ultimately, being sent directly and expeditiously back to the danger from which they fled,” she concluded.
 
Upon her arrival and fluent in Spanish, Collopy learned that the treatment of migrants was, if anything, even worse than she first thought. Together with a fellow volunteer, Collopy (on left) recorded a video journal each evening, summing up what they saw that day.
 
In many cases, asylum-seekers are denied the basic tools required to prepare a meaningful claim. They are prevented from consulting with attorneys, accessing legal help, or obtaining notice of their hearings.
 
They are also humiliated, said Collopy. Central American women have been forced to recount horrific details of a rape or sexual assault in front of their children, rather than in a confidential screening with an immigration officer. Some are called names and their children are refused medical treatment.
 
Back in Washington, D.C., Collopy plans to brief members of Congress on what she saw and discovered. She is also calling for fellow immigration attorneys to provide pro bono hours on behalf of the immigrants.
 
Artesia, New Mexico is a remote, hard-to-reach place. Collopy says she is nonetheless glad she made the difficult journey “in the hope of restoring a little bit of humanity to our system and shedding a little bit of light on this dark place.”