Minnesota Students Recruited by Human Rights Advocacy Group to Monitor Immigration Courts

Legal advocates for illegal immigrants seeking asylum and those facing deportation have stepped up their efforts to educate millennials about the asylum process.

One such effort is the “Court Observers” project of The Advocates for Human Rights that recruits immigration court observers from colleges such as Macalester College in St. Paul.

The project, which gives immigration lawyers extra eyes and ears on the U.S. immigration court system, is described on the group’s website as such:

The Human Rights Defender Project Court Observers help bring transparency and accountability to this system. Court Observers attend hearings and report on issues of concern including access to counsel, family and community support, and interpretation; the manner of arrest; and the ability of individuals to raise defenses to deportation.

One Macalester student, Guy Chinang, who learned about the program through his junior seminar called “Critical Prison Studies,” told reporters for his school newspaper that he observed court proceedings for a Somalian who was supposed to be deported last year.

In fact, ICE attempted to remove 92 Somalis in December 2017, many from Minnesota, but while en-route to Somalia, the plane returned to the U.S. due to an unexplained logistical problem.

After additional legal wrangling, many of those Somalis were granted another visit to immigration court to make their cases again.

From the Advocates for Human Rights’ Facebook page: “It is all hands on deck today at The Advocates as staff members pitch in with emergency case management for the Somali 92 deportation challenge cases. Pictured here: staff are trained on the Innovation Law Lab client database”

One of those cases was witnessed by Chinang who reported that he didn’t think the defendant had done anything too serious to warrant deportation. Chinang told The Mac Weekly that “the judge hasn’t made a ruling yet, but the outlook doesn’t seem great.”

The Court Observers project is collaboration of The Advocates for Human Rights, the University of Minnesota Law School James H. Binger Center for New Americans, and Robins Kaplan LLP.

Fatiya Kedir, another Macalester student  who works as a Somali translator with the Binger Center for New Americans, told Mac Weekly that those in deportation proceedings are treated like criminals (often handcuffed and in prison orange jumpsuits) and complains:

Most of them are applying for asylum, which is perfectly legal under international law and national law. So it’s not like they’re criminals, but they are treated as so [sic] which is really frustrating.”

She says the presence in court of student observers sends a message of support to those in bond hearings or facing deportation.

And, after describing how “respectful” the judges are, as well as the government’s attorneys, Kedir lamented that she doesn’t know “who to blame outside of people who are higher up in the system who enforce these rules.”

For students wishing to observe immigration court proceedings, the Court Observers project warns that government-issued photo IDs are required in order to enter the courtroom.

According to a recent IRS Form 990, The Advocates for Human Rights, a national organization headquartered in Minnesota, received grants and contributions of $1.4 million, and paid salaries and employee benefits topping $900,000. The James H. Binger Center for New Americans is a top donor.

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Anna Marie Bolton is a reporter for Battleground State News.
Photo “Advocates for Human Rights” by Advocates for Human Rights.






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