AI Justice Attorneys Reflect On Their Time At The Border: Day 1

Adonia Simpson, Director of AI Justice's Family Defense Program, and Jessica Shulruff Schneider, Director of AI Justice's Detention Program, reflect on their experiences volunteering as legal service providers along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

January 15, 2019

It is 3:30 a.m. Miami time, and we just arrived to our hotel in Chula Vista, California, 7 miles from the Southern border. Looking at the map to plot the next part of our trip in a few hours, we see familiar names: Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. These are places that grace the immigration charging documents we see for clients every day. We are anxious to see what awaits us tomorrow, but immediately on my mind is the shutdown. We are entering day 25 of this ridiculous standoff, the longest shut down in US history.  As immigration attorneys, we could talk about the counterproductive impacts of the shutdown—tens of thousands of immigrants have had their court cases canceled and estimates from Syracuse Trac Data state that as many as 100,000 individuals awaiting their day in court may be impacted if the shutdown continues through the end of January. Florida ranks 4 in the nation with the amount of clients impacted. This manufactured crisis is supposedly about national security, but as a traveler today, I didn’t feel particularly safe.  TSA lines were visibly longer, and we sat on the tarmac waiting to take off for nearly 40 minutes—all consequences of our most vital federal employees being forced to work without pay. 

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AI Justice is an award-winning non-profit law and advocacy firm that protects and promotes the basic human rights of immigrants. In Florida and on a national level, we champion the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children; advocate for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence; serve as a watchdog on immigration detention practices and policies; and speak for immigrant groups who have particular and compelling claims to justice.