After a tumultuous end of the summer and fall representing clients in immigration courts, I can finally come to some conclusions about what it takes to represent clients in removal proceedings in the current immigration climate.
First I will say that I was surprised (or not) of the tremendous response the recent Georgia immigration law had upon the local police officers. They were extremely busy arresting every person they could stop, for even a minor traffic violation, if the person was a suspect illegal immigrant. In the past couple of months, hundreds of people were arrested and, most of them, ended in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) custody.
I have read numerous articles that were describing the conditions in which these people were held in jail (for a civil offense). Even more disturbing, there were articles talking about people that have died in these "immigration jails".
I had the occasion myself to visit such a jail, in the process of helping my client, and I thought it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I had to see my client inside the jail, passing through concrete wall corridors without any windows, hearing the heavy metal doors closing behind me, and avoiding any eye contact with the prisoners that were staring behind glass walls. My client lost a lot of weight in jail because they were served one meal per day and he got sick from the air conditioned since he only had his underwear and the prisoner's jumpsuit on him. He has also told me that the immigration offenders were mingled with all the other criminal offenders.
My experience in representing the client in front of the immigration court was otherwise positive because I believed the judge was fair and the process itself enfolded the way I expected it to.
One thing is for sure: if someone does not have proper immigration documentation in United States these days, they need to seriously consider the possibility that, one day, they can find themselves in one of these immigration jails and be deported. Therefore, any person in this situation should consider talking with an immigration attorney that can evaluate their legal rights and help them to obtain legal immigration status before it is too late.