Advocacy Groups Hold Rights Trainings For Jailed INS Detainees

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
March 13, 2002 12:00 am

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NEWARK — The American Civil Liberties of New Jersey and coalition organizations today said that they have completed three “Know Your Rights” training sessions in the last week for detainees being held by the Immigration and Nationalization Service in Hudson, Passaic and Middlesex County Jails.

“These trainings inform detainees of their basic rights and educate them about the immigration courts and legal process they will experience,” said Amy Gottlieb, Program Director of the Immigrant Rights Program at the American Friends Service Committee, which has also participated in the trainings. “Because many of the detainees do not have attorneys, it’s essential that they understand their basic legal rights.”

Advocacy organizations are entitled to provide “Know Your Rights” presentations to detainees under the INS Detention Standards, which state that, “INS encourages such presentations, which instruct detainees about the immigration system and their rights and options within it. All facilities shall fully cooperate with authorized persons seeking to make such presentations.”

The presentations include information about the immigration court process, bond eligibility, possible defenses to deportation, and post-removal order proceedings. Following the trainings, detainees are able to confer with the presenters individually to discuss their cases outside of the presence of INS and jail staff. As needed, translators accompany the presenters.

The advocacy groups initially requested the opportunity to give the trainings from the INS in a December 28, 2001 letter and received written approval from the INS in late January. However, it still took several more weeks to coordinate and schedule the presentations, including receiving approval for the content from the INS.

Other groups participating in the briefings include the Center for Constitution Rights, Desis Rising Up and Moving, and the Human Rights Education and Law Project and representatives from the Center for Public Interest Law at Columbia Law School, the Immigrant Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law, Seton Hall Law School, and CUNY School of Law.

The groups told the media today that there is still a tremendous need for experienced immigration lawyers in New York and New Jersey to represent detainees directly and to provide advice to volunteer lawyers who may have less experience in immigration law. The groups working on these issues have already provided one training session to volunteer attorneys to prepare them for immigration work.

“It is clear that large numbers of detainees are without representation and in great need of legal assistance,” said J.C. Salyer, a staff attorney with ACLU-NJ. “It is unreasonable to expect that the immigration court system will produce a fair result when, in so many cases, the government is represented by a prosecutor, but the detainee must stand alone. Our fear is that many detainees are being deported or accepting voluntary departure without knowing their legal rights or how to raise defenses to deportation,” Salyer added.

The “Know Your Rights” trainings will continue to take place at Middlesex, Hudson, and Passaic County jails on a periodic basis.

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