Meet Casey Mangan, a third-year Justice Fellow at Innovation Law Lab in El Paso, Texas, where he represents detained clients in western Texas and New Mexico, geographies where access to counsel is hard to come by. Over 75% of immigrants in removal proceedings in New Mexico do not have a lawyer. Below, Casey reflects on the unjust immigration system that places innocent people in detention.
American and international law protect the rights of asylum seekers to enter the country without penalty. However, the Department of Homeland Security routinely punishes asylum seekers with prolonged & arbitrary detention in jails that are strategically hidden in the middle of nowhere.
As an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow working with Innovation Law Lab in west Texas and New Mexico, I see the harsh reality of immigration detention that asylum seekers often face upon entering the United States. The joy in a client’s voice when we offer them free legal representation speaks volumes to the lack of care they receive in ICE custody. The change in a client’s tone of voice when they see that they are worth advocating for always warms my heart. However, it also frightens me as it reveals how poorly our clients are treated by ICE, its contractors, and the Department of Justice.
The advocacy is much broader than I had initially anticipated. The breadth of our advocacy continues to grow since our clients are detained in failing facilities and routinely denied basic liberties of due process & physical liberty. I did not think I would need to advocate for bare necessities for my clients. The prison industrial complex and anti-immigrant agendas of both political parties are a potent combination. In June, the Supreme Court limited the power of another check and balance on the use of immigration detention by limiting the ability of immigrants to have a bond or bail hearing. Something that would be unthinkable for someone in criminal detention just happened to immigrants in so called “civil detention.”
Our clients have asked for help getting basic necessities: water that does not cause rashes, edible food, inhalers to treat their asthma. Our clients have asked us heartbreaking questions.. Where am I? Why am I here? How long will I be here? Why am I in jail if I didn’t do anything wrong?
In response, I have several questions myself. Why does this system need to exist? How long will it go on for? Why do we need to detain people seeking safety and protection?
These questions make the status quo unacceptable for my current clients. These questions also inspire my colleagues and me to push for abolition of the prison industrial complex and the deportation machine. Until those oppressive systems are abolished, we will continue to advocate for our clients and look after ourselves to do so sustainably.
Without competent counsel like Casey, thousands are deported even though they have viable claims to immigration benefits. IJC Justice Fellows are on the frontlines of the fight to expand access to immigrant justice and to challenge a system that is directly harming immigrant communities.
Want to be a Justice Fellow like Casey? Applications for our 2023 Class of Justice Fellows are open until November 18. Apply now!