Sunday, September 7, 2014

Day 11 & 12, leaving Artesia

Yesterday was my 11th day in Artesia and the end of the 7th week of the AILA Pro Bono Project here. It was my quietest day at the facility. I hadn’t scheduled too many meetings because we were down to just a handful of attorneys again (myself, Lisa, Frank and Rosa- an all New England crew!). But we had help from Allegra, a amazing New Mexican volunteer from Week 6 who came back with a colleague, Barbara, to help for the weekend, as well as Stephanie, a volunteer from a previous week that I hadn't met yet. As the project continues, there is rapidly growing number of attorneys who have been in Artesia and have either “adopted” clients to work on from their home offices, or stopped back in to help for a few days. This network is invaluable because every fresh volunteer requires an average of 2 days to adjust to Artesia; despite all the warnings, no one really expects or is prepared for the chaos, emotions and long nights. Each person reacts to it differently, but people get angry, overwhelmed, frustrated, tearful, until there is a turning point and the attorney hits a stride and becomes integrated into the project. In Week 7, two people had to be talked out of quitting the project because they felt completely overwhelmed and like they could not give anything worthwhile.

Yesterday, the last clients I met were an adorable 3-year old girl with pig tails and big brown eyes, and her worn out mom. As I tried to comfort mom, the girl kept smiling at me and giving me crayons. It was a difficult conversation because mom doesn’t speak Spanish very well, coming from a remote village where she grew up speaking a mayan language: K'iche'. Her daughter’s face will be my last impression. 

Reflections on Artesia

Before I came to Artesia, I had heard reports of human rights violations in the facility. I heard about lack of food, lack of blankets, mistreatment of detainees, substandard to completely unavailable medical resources. I have seen these things. The medical situation is particularly wretched and the stories from the early days in the facility are horrifying, especially when the lawyers could not get access. But my own experience with the ICE officers has been a positive one. I saw an ICE officer playing catch with a young boy, have seen ICE officers yelling at other officers for driving too fast in an area where kids might be around. A couple of them have also indicated that they appreciate (off the record) the work that we're doing and to keep up the fight. They are making efforts to improve the place and are letting us conduct a survey of food preferences since almost all of the kids are losing weight because they are refusing to eat anything but breakfast. 

But nothing gets around the fact that Artesia is a jail for Central American children. It is surrounded with barbed wire fence and contains a few hundred of them averaging 6 years old. The food and medical care follows the guidelines for detention of adult U.S. prisoners, because a detention facility for hundreds of children is unprecedented. They are trying to adapt the jail to childrens’ needs, mainly in response to AILA’s immense activist effort, but no amount of toys or playrooms will make it acceptable to detain children. Kids need to be free to grow, play, learn and thrive. Their mothers need to be allowed to nourish and nurture them; they are watching their children lose weight and become less playful, less inquisitive as the weeks drag on. It is killing them. 

The jail exists to send a message to the women of Central America to stop fleeing to the United States. They are not welcome. Our government is using Artesia as a tool to communicate down the continent that the U.S. is not a safe haven. Our country has acquired a reputation for freedom and safety. It is such a glorious place that people are willing to travel hundreds of miles with small children by bus and by foot in the desert to reach US soil. Our government wants them to know that if they are looking to escape the violence, rapes and death by coming to the U.S., they will have to keep looking, because we will not make room for them.

We don’t agree, and this is why we’re in Artesia. Racism has deep roots in the U.S. but we have fought long hard battles against it and our laws no longer support it. We have a history of being a safe haven for refugees. Many of us have ancestors who fled persecution or death to start a new life here. It's a source of pride and something worth fighting for. Perhaps they thought the location was remote enough that no one would notice. 

Under international law, detention is only permissible when necessary, reasonable and proportionate to the legitimate purpose to be achieved, and then only after less coercive measures have been found unsuitable. In all of our bond hearings, DHS is putting forth an argument that the detention is necessary to prevent more migration, which would be a "security risk" to the U.S. In other words, the "legitimate purpose" of all this suffering is to deter future unnamed asylum seekers. By law, in determining a bond amount, the judge should consider the security risk to the U.S. and the flight risk. Usually for bond hearings, we show that the individual is peace-loving and non-dangerous, but in these warped Artesia hearings, even the release of a 2-year old is a "security risk" because of the signal it sends to other mothers back in Honduras. 

Aside from the human rights concerns, it is vastly expensive for the U.S. to run a detention program on this scale. Almost all of these women have people who are willing to assist them financially. Instead of allowing them to do  it, the U.S. is paying for all of their food, medical and other expenses. If the concern is that they will flee and fail to attend their asylum hearings, they could be given ankle bracelets as a start, saving hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars for both the government and the lawyers. 

The Legal Battle

During my 11 days in Artesia, I witnessed tremendous evolution of the project. When I arrived last week, the mood was grim and defiant- it was trench warfare, with a chaos of files and clients and a small group of lawyers each week drowning in the work, writing briefs until well past midnight only to attend court in the trailer the next morning at 7 and listen to heartbreaking tales all day. That was Week 6. Week 7 brought in more than a dozen volunteers. They each got their own caseload, they organized the client files, they filed motions and took statements and made arguments all week. The leaders of the program descended on Wednesday to guide the first two asylum trials in Artesia on Thursday and Friday, and both were tremendous victories. When I left last night, the atmosphere was hopeful. Week 8 will be even better, since the next group of volunteers are some of the best removal defense experts around, and we have crossed a threshold in terms of organization and unity of vision. 

I have never experienced this level of camaraderie with other lawyers (or anyone). I was humbled with admiration for Danielle, Kely, Bridgit and Cynthia, all brilliant and beautiful lawyers from Southern California, who fought like hell for these kids all week. I met Danielle on Saturday; on Tuesday, she moved into my hotel room and by the time she left yesterday morning, we were fast friends. My first meltdown was when I came back to the hotel last night and she wasn’t there. Also a shout-out to Frank, a business immigration attorney from Boston who came with no experience in asylum or removal work and only very primitive computer skills. Yet he has been sitting with these clients each day, giving them his full devotion and commitment and stretching himself to the breaking point trying to learn the ropes in a new field and struggling with technology. Rosa from Rhode Island came later in the week and has also been amazing- I passed the torch to her last night, nominating her as the one to bring the our portable office to the jail tomorrow and run the show for the morning until Christina (an Artesia regular who won the Thursday asylum case) takes over for the week. 

We have put our all into this battle to seek release of our clients on bond, and we have been breaking ourselves against this rock. The govt seems to be doing everything possible to create procedural barriers for the clients. The clients are placed 200 miles from any decent-sized city, forcing lawyers to spend many thousands of dollars to get to them and assist them. We are exhausted. We have no legal assistants. We are working by day in a corner of an attorney trailer, and by night in a florescent lit cockroach infested room that we rent from a local church. (Ok, maybe not "infested" but they are pretty huge cockroaches). Yet faxed submissions to court are rejected because the fax machines are “too old” or “broken”, causing sometimes a delay of up to 3 or 4 weeks for someone to get a new hearing to look at bond eligibility. DHS sometimes inexplicably hasn't received our emailed submission to them and requests a continuance. 

But this week, we won our first two asylum cases and that has spread a ripple of hope. Lisa, another New England recruit, is bringing the third case to merits tomorrow. Laura Lichter and Stephen Manning have led the effort and held everything together and inspired us all to do this work.  They have kept us going and helped us keep sight of the big advocacy picture instead of just keeping our heads down and burying ourselves in the work. They never seem to tire, and they both have been able to play to everyone’s strength creating a great team. It has been a privilege to know them and be able to stand with them in this.

I'm finishing this post back in Massachusetts, but I think it will take a couple of days to really come home. Fortunately, Curran & Berger has been supportive of this whole effort and have even purchased a massage for me, apparently. It's been a tough couple of weeks but nothing compared to what the ladies in Artesia have been through. 

If you want to donate to the project, money is the best way. This will go towards the funding of lawyers on the ground and office supplies. We are also looking for volunteers; please be an attorney or paralegal, Spanish-speaking, and experienced in removal and asylum work (or have a genuine desire to learn these skills). If you want to write letters in Spanish to the children or their moms, we could probably also get those through. Stickers and colored paper also seem to be safe. This week's gift of colored paper led to a garden of folded flowers and a full out paper airplane war zone.

The chicken pox quarantine was up yesterday- this means new detainees coming in starting today, and they will need help. 

Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about Artesia or would like to volunteer. 

Thanks for following along (-: 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Artesia- Day 10

Day 10:

Tomorrow's NY Times:

(That's me second from the right)

Tomorrow's LA Times:

We are at the church, about to have some tequila shots. No more blogging needed tonight!

Artesia- Day 9

Today was one of the most intense and emotional days of my life. We, the AILA Pro Bono Project, WON our case- our first asylum case to go through to adjudication within the detention center in Artesia. A Honduran mother and her two children were converted to lawful "asylees" and they are now free from FLETC and sleeping in a hotel that's a block away from my own. Some of our lawyers took them out for pizza this evening, where the kids ordered everything on the menu. They then bought out the local Walmart with toys, car seats and creature comforts for the newly freed family.

Everyone was well-dressed and on their best behavior at FLETC today, knowing that the reporters would be coming for the big hearing today. Our crew consisted of our leaders- Laura Lichter and Stephen Manning- Christina (who handled the case today), Danielle, Kely, Brigit, Cynthia, Claudia, Katy, Marty, Linda, Rosa and Frank. We also had a pro bono attorney from Jones Day, two semi-local attorneys that stopped by to help out for the day, an attorney from the ACLU, an attorney from the UC Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, a professor of gender and refugee issues and another attorney that studied under her. It's quite a change from last Friday, when our numbers dwindled to 4.

The day started out quiet in the attorney trailer. 6 of the attorneys had morning bond hearings in the court trailers, and transportation problems in the facility delayed the arrival of all of our clients. For me, the day quickly became emotional as one by one, the attorneys returned from their hearings demoralized and defeated. Cynthia's bond hearing involved almost two hours of testimony, and ended with a canned decision from the judge granting bond of $20,000. His decision did not appear to be uniquely tailored to the facts of the case. Later in the day, she recalled that her client's daughter kept waving at the judge, the DHS attorney and the Spanish interpreter over the video, but only the interpreter returned a smile. Brigit's client had a powerful claim for asylum, having suffered serious domestic abuse in her home country and discrimination for her Mayan ancestry. She also testified for almost 2 hours, and received a $25,000 bond, despite showing a powerful claim for political asylum. Danielle and Kely were prevented from seeking bond for their clients because of filing issues in their cases. We have been seeing this all week- judges are inconsistent about their willingness to accept faxes and mailing from Artesia requires at least 2 days. Some judges prefer faxing in certain situations but concede that their faxes are extremely old and sometime not working. Over and over again, we are told that either DHS or the Court has not received our arguments and exhibits, and our clients' hearings are set off another 3-4 weeks.

At big table tonight, Christina said, "We are a team here. Every win is everyone's win. And each loss is everyone's loss." Each time one of these amazing attorneys came back from court deflated, angry and/or embarrassed, I felt it like it was me. These girls are some of the best immigration attorneys I have met and they each fought like tigers in their hearings, brilliantly and passionately, but it was not enough in the end. We are set up for failure at every step here. Lisa, another attorney, could not even make it to FLETC today because filing next day mail required a 1.5 hour drive to a bigger town once she had rushed an asylum package together. The futility of everything finally overwhelmed me and it was all I could do to stay focused on the families at hand.

Just when I was at my most hopeless point in the day, Christina's client walked into the attorney trailer and we got the news that she had won her case for political asylum. This elicited a standing ovation and hugs and high fives all around. Our other clients hugged her too, with a sense of hope. We channeled all the emotion again at the "Big Table" over cake and champagne.

Today was a major victory. I wish her luck in the new life she is about to start in the U.S. and am proud to have played a role in it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Artesia- Day 7 & 8

Things are heating up in Artesia this week; you can feel the energy.  For some reason, this week has attracted more volunteers and attention than we know what to do with. Yesterday, we were up to 11 volunteer attorneys. Given my vast experience (3 days = 3 years in Artesia time), I've shifted into the role of coordinator and manage the flow of detained families to attorneys throughout the day at the detention facility, though I continue to have some of my own cases. Both today and yesterday, we saw between 50 and 60 moms and attended a number of hearings and "credible fear" interviews. Today, the number of volunteer attorneys increased to 14. At the "Big Table Meeting" at the church tonight, 3 more recruits arrived and asked me for jobs to do tomorrow. At the nightly meeting tonight, we had about 25 people- many had to sit on the floor. Our group tonight included a professor of refugee and human rights law, a doctor prepared to provide psychological evaluations to detainees, and a reporter.

With so many volunteers, every table in our little attorney trailer was always occupied today, as were the 4 semi-private cubicles. Artesia only confines mothers with children, so this meant that we also had 10+ small children running around our trailer at any given moment. At one point, some of the little boys started making paper airplanes and the trailer quickly became a war zone, with paper airplanes flying back and forth across the room while moms quietly relayed stories of domestic and gang violence to their attorneys. It was becoming hazardous for some of the unsuspecting female toddlers, who occasionally took an airplane in the nose while they were trying to color. At one point, I gathered all the young boys (aged 3-7) for a long-distance flight competition. I have to admit the attorney trailer was trashed by the end of the day. This is a pet peeve of the ICE guard for our trailer. But then again, what do you expect when you detain small children for hours on end in a little room?

Today we discovered that one of our children was skilled in the art of origami. He started with notebook paper, and one of our attorneys provided him with colored construction paper that she had brought. Soon we had several elaborate, colored roses. We discovered the writing skills of another child, who spent most of his mother's meeting drafting a mournful letter to President Obama. He was 8 years old. We had a similar letter from an 11-year-old last week that was published by Mother Jones:

We were scheduled for several bond hearings today. In the regular world, "bond hearings" in the immigration court last 10-30 minutes. In Artesia, they take almost 2 hours a piece. DHS has developed a theory that the Artesia children and their mothers pose a threat to national security if released on bond, because it will effectively encourage mass migration of more children and their mothers to the United States. We respond that these families are fleeing their lives in response to violence and persecution, rather than pursuant to a detailed understanding of the detention/bond process in the United States. Laura had some luck with her judge, earning a $5,000 bond for her family to get her out of Artesia. The hearing had to be stopped in middle so that our client could breastfeed. Our third bond case had to be continued for lack of time- it was approaching 5:00pm on the east coast. That client and her attorney waited for 9 hours to be called for court, only to be told to come back on another date. This same client went through the exact same ordeal Friday, when I was appearing with her. The judge had made an effort to set her to Wednesday because of what had happened Friday. To her credit, she said she will come in tomorrow on her day off to do it. My own hearing could not go forward due to lack of time and has been re-set to September 29 for a hearing on bond. The judge's calendar is full, so it will be an additional 26 long days in detention waiting for his schedule to be free.

The attorney who waited 9 hours yesterday spoke movingly about the experience at "Big Table" last night. She said at first she had been extremely irritated because she was trying to use the empty time to write bond motions and was having a hard time concentrating over the crying of the children. Then, she started to think about what it would be like to be a mother trying to care for her children in this environment, after already going through abuse in her home country for being a female and being Mayan, and making the long lucky she was that she would never have to go through anything like that, just because of the luck of where she was born. She burst into tears. We had to pass around the tissue box.

Another attorney managed to get a Q'anjob'al interpreter to interview one of the women who cannot speak Spanish very well. We have a fair number of people who speak this and other Mayan languages. These languages are not remotely related to Spanish, and these women cannot communicate with anyone in detention. They cannot communicate when their children are sick, or when they need anything. They cannot talk to other detainees. They can't talk to the lawyers.

Tomorrow, we will have our first "merits" hearing in Artesia. This means that the individual has not been able to post bond and is pursuing a request for asylum in the immigration court in Artesia at trial. Everyone will be watching tomorrow, including some news outlets. We have another hearing on Friday and on Monday.

Tomorrow will be insanity, with one trial, several bond hearings, master hearings, almost 70 people that we will try to meet, and about 20 volunteers from the AILA pro bono project all trying to be useful in a small space. If that weren't enough, the ACLU will be here tomorrow morning meeting with clients who are class action members in the law suit against the government. We are all still running on junk food, coffee and little sleep, but somehow it doesn't seem to matter right now.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Artesia- Day 6

Today, we had an excellent team and we were on fire. We had four fabulous lawyers from Southern California who all jumped right in and met with clients all day long, professionally and passionately. This was their first day, but they each handled about 7 cases a piece, and were still working on motions well past 11pm. We have a handful of other recruits that are struggling with the assignment. One of them broke down crying by the end of the day and had to be talked out of leaving the program. This week, I'm the coordinator, which means I sort out the list of clients to be seen and speak to the guard to call our clients out of the holding pen where they stay until we are ready for them. With 9 lawyers and 50 clients, this kept me pretty busy.

This morning, I did bond preparation with the first client I met in Artesia (last week). Her bond hearing is Wednesday. She was the victim of multiple gang rapes in El Salvador. Her 7-year old daughter was also kidnapped for 10 days, and her brother badly beaten. She spent over a month in total in the hospital recovering from serious injuries sustained in the beatings, including a broken nose and jaw, and internal bleeding. During one of the episodes they forced her whole family to watch, including her daughter. I had to leave in the middle of the interview to get a hug from one of my colleagues.  I cannot imagine any worse suffering than what she has been through. If the bond on Wednesday is set high, I will truly lose all hope.

She gave me the government's submission in opposition to her request for bond. The government is submitting identical 100+ page briefs in every bond case in Artesia. They argue that releasing the women and children detained in Artesia on a low bond would create a security risk for the United States because it would encourage further migration of central American women illegally across the border. In other words, we are detaining some Central American women and children as an example, to deter others from coming to the United States.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuge of your teaming shore. Sent these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Artesia- Days 4 & 5

Posting now at about 2am, Sunday night on Labor Day weekend. Hoping for at least 3 hours of sleep tonight because it will be a long day at the FLETC tomorrow. Yesterday, we took a "day off" to organize everything, because this operation has been in guerrilla mode for the 6 weeks of its existence, with perhaps 100 volunteer attorneys rotating in for a few days to a week or so at a time. It's chaotic, but we cleaned up, went through our 400 or so cases and made a plan for receiving the ELEVEN new volunteers starting the week of 8/31/14. Laura (our fearless leader), Meredith and new girl Danielle worked in the church for 12 hours living on tortilla chips, without sight of daylight (except for a trip to the post office to mail court filings), and finished our evening at the local IHOP, unable to find another open restaurant. It was the first day in the entire 6 week period that AILA attorneys were not at the facility. The guards told us to today they were bored without us.

It was a welcome respite, but today we were back meeting clients. Yesterday, I was able to distance myself from some of the weight of this project, but it rushed back in my first meeting with a playful 2-year old and her mom. It's impossible not to be moved by children. You smile at them instinctively. You want to protect them. But these children have been in jail for two months. Many of them don't eat. They don't like the food. They have diarrhea. Most of them have lost weight, some as much as 20% of their body weight. And above all else, these are bored little kids. They are now allowed crayons and coloring books in our waiting room, so they color for hours on end. There are few other toys. One of the moms today told me her daughter hates it. "Let's GO, Mommy! Let's get out of here!" She was amusing herself by throwing all the crayons on the floor and picking them up again, over and over. Unaccompanied minors who are caught at the border are being released from custody fairly quickly, but not so in Artesia, which is full of children that were far too little to cross on their own. It seems the idea runs that it's ok to detain these kiddos because they have their mothers with them.

One of my clients today asked me to arrange for her deportation. She was breastfeeding and said that her son will not consume anything at the facility and is sustained entirely on breast milk. He is constantly sick. She had her bond hearing and the Judge set a $20,000 bond for her and another $20,000 for the 1 1/2 year old. I'm concerned that returning to living in fear of her life in Honduras is preferable to her life in ICE custody. She cannot stay in Honduras; she is a refugee, but she will find another country to flee to next time.

Today, we welcomed Katy, a volunteer from North Carolina. She has no experience with removal defense, asylum or bond hearings, but she was willing to learn and jumped right into client meetings. This evening, no less than 4 new recruits showed up, all struggling to get a handle on things. With my 5 days on the ground, I am organizing the new recruits and they think I've been here for months. This will be an exciting week. We have 50 client meetings scheduled tomorrow, and a long list of hearings this week, including our first 3 full asylum trials in Artesia.

I've decided to extend my stay.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Artesia- Day 3

Today, the presiding judge had hearings scheduled for about 15 women and their children. I was representing five of them and was hoping for a full bond hearing on three of them. These last three were the reason I was at the office until 1am last night. Due to attorney shortage, there was no one to prepare their cases until yesterday and I ended up drafting all the relevant legal arguments, motions and materials last night and faxing them to the court around 12. My colleagues were in the same boat.

At the start of the day, the judge (appearing televideo from D.C. area in the court trailer) re-arranged the order of her cases for the day which created chaos for the guards who were trying to coordinate the transfer of women and toddlers to the court section of the facility. Some were originally scheduled for the morning and were brought into the waiting room at 6am, only to wait the entire day for their hearing. Obviously, this is especially tough for the children, who are bored sitting in a small room all day with nothing to play with except a coloring book. On the other hand, it probably differs little from their other days in Artesia.

My day mostly consisted of running back and forth between the lawyer trailer and the court trailer, trying to guess what cases would go forward and when, and how to prepare my clients, who were staged in various places waiting for their hearings.

One of my clients had a bond hearing; the other two were delayed until Wednesday for lack of time. The client who had a bond hearing came from Honduras with her 17 year old son, her 9 year old daughter and her 3-year old daughter. She was threatened at gunpoint by a gangster in her home town and left the country with her 3 children, fleeing the gangster, the increasing violence in Honduras, and crushing poverty. When the judge announced a bond amount of $22,000 for her to be released from Artesia, she disintegrated. I was at a complete loss as I saw my client burst into tears and collapse into the arms of her son. I sat with her in the next room afterwards as she wept, unable to look at me. Having slept only a few hours, I was exhausted and emotional and it was all I could do not to blame myself and break down crying with her. The 9-year old had tears in her eyes too. The 3-year old went back to coloring in her book. All the mother could say was, "I have been detained for so long..." This family has been detained in Artesia for about 2 months and will likely remain there for at least 1 or 2 more unless she acquires the $22,000 to secure her release. I should specify that it is $10,000 to secure her own release, $6,000 for the 17-year old and $3,000 a piece for the 9-year old and the 3-year old.

Today, I had more undirected interaction with the moms and kids, because of all the waiting around for hearings. In the afternoon, I went into the bathroom trailer and encountered a child of about 4 playing in the sink. She was enjoying covering her face in the foam soap and splashing around the water. This seemed to absolutely delight her. While there aren't many toys in Artesia, kids find ways to play- it's just in their nature, and this is part of what makes Artesia and the sight of detained children an uncomfortable experience. Her mom could not speak Spanish- only a Mayan language, so she could only communicate with me through the help of her 11-year old son who spoke some Spanish. His mom was confused because she thought she had court but they had been waiting for 8 hours and no one was able to explain what was happening.

Late in the afternoon, I was finally getting ready for the last two hearings, and I sat in a waiting room chatting with my two client mothers and another woman waiting for her hearing. Their children played together or slept in their mothers' arms, while their moms shared their stories. They said that the ICE officers were alright- "if we don't bother them, they don't bother us"... but they added "they don't seem to understand kids, though." They explained that all the children were denied sweets, at all times, which drives the kids nuts. The guards will eat chocolate in front of the kids, but not allow the children to enjoy sweets. One woman said that in the beginning, the guards would offer candy to kids who would clean the bathrooms. Many, of course, would run to clean the bathrooms to earn their candy. She thought this was unfair to her toddler who was far too little for bathroom cleaning, so she herself stepped in to clean the bathroom and collect the prize, only to be told the officers were out of candy. It seems this and many other troubling practices tapered off as the media and attorneys began to catch wind of the situation down here.  They all agree that the medical service for the children is inadequate and were frequently sent away with the advice to give their children more water as a remedy for things like fever.*

The attorney team is in constant flux here. People come down for a week or a few days, and then have to return to their practices. Wednesday, we lost Alvaro. Last night we lost Allegra, and tonight we will lose Fiona and Ali. But a new recruit, Meredith, came in last night. To her credit, she actually got into town at midnight and went straight to our church/office to see if she could help. This morning, she was thrown into the chaos- she was set up with a woman who was scheduled for a hearing later the same day, with no prior preparation, because the rest of us were at capacity. She met the client and within 30 minutes had bonded with her and was 100% committed to seeing her case to the end, even if she had to do so from her home office in LA over the coming weeks. She spent her whole morning passionately preparing her new client for a hearing. I'm sure it was the sleep deprivation/heightened emotional state, but I teared up thinking about the way everyone on this project hits the ground running; it's disorienting to arrive in this strange place, but put a client with a claim in front of a lawyer and she knows what to do, whether it be in a city office or the middle of the desert. This is the way each of us begins here. By tomorrow, Meredith will be a veteran.

In the evening we finally gave ourselves a break to have a few cocktails at one of the 5 bars in Artesia. Though it's only been a few days, it feels like we're all fast friends. Tonight we welcomed Danielle, our newest addition.

*Though I have heard sickening stories about ICE officers in Artesia, I want to give a shout out to those officers who have in fact been a pleasure to work with. Most of the officers are here on 45 day rotation and, like us, come from different states and backgrounds. They control government policy no more than we do.