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Conversation: Undocumented On Center Stage

Cover image for podcast episode

Dulce Garcia is undocumented, but her status has mostly fueled her ambition, not stifled it.

Dulce’s an immigration lawyer. And she’s recently become one of the most high profile immigrant advocates working on the border today.

Dulce GarciaDraft 3-25-20
[00:00:00] Hey everyone, I hope y'all are staying safe and healthy and you're settling into some sort of new rhythm of life in quarantine. To help stop the spread of coven 19 most of KPBS is working from home just like you, and as you probably know by now, the border has been closed to all nonessential traffic.
I'm still unclear on what that exactly means. The border is the center of our show in a lot of the episodes. We're actually out there with folks as they cross through it, and that's why we have to take a break on production. Of the high quality super produced pieces you're used to hearing from us. We think it's best if everyone who can stays where they are right now.
The plan is to continue only here by having important conversations with border people. We won't be in the studio, so you'll have to forgive us for the quality of the recordings, but we will keep working on ways to make it better. This week's episode was actually recorded at KPBS before we all started practicing social [00:01:00] distancing.
And we felt like it was important to call and get a post coven 19 update from doula , who you'll hear about shortly to talk about her biggest concerns and thoughts on the coronavirus and how it relates to her work at the border. You can hear that update at the end of the interview. If you're having any issues related to the border and the virus, please reach out to us by calling or texting at (619) 452-0228 thank you and hang in there, y'all.
Now onto the show.
Okay, so we'll start at the beginning. You were born in Mexico, right? Yes. What do you remember about life there? I remember my grandma's house, concrete walls. Um, the roof was sheet metal and there were gaps in between them.
The floor, uh, was actually muddy. I remember [00:02:00] when he would rain running to the bed to make sure that the covers wouldn't fall off because then they would get muddy. So we come from a very humbled background, but I mean, there, there are good memories. Up until when we did cross, when we arrived in Tijuana.
And I remember being robbed at gunpoint. Um, so I, I only remember vaguely flash, uh, flashbacks of my childhood. Where, where was your childhood? Um, from Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico. I often hear stories about how beautiful it is, how I should go visit. That I really can't. So being undocumented means that I can't travel.
Even with DACA, uh, our ability to travel abroad has been rescinded. So I don't know the burial place for my grandparents. Um, I don't remember much of it. I was really young when I came to the U S
do you remember when your parents told you you were moving. [00:03:00] You were very young. I know. Yeah. My parents told me that we were going to be going to Disneyland.
And I was really excited because I was going to go visit Mickey's house. That's what they told me. So when we took the train ride, we were as kids, really excited, and my siblings and I were going on this adventure and we were going to visit America. And so it was, it was actually very exciting for me as a, as a child to ride the train to see other people from, from Mexico, uh, ride the train with us.
Uh, I remember a very humble family that had really high heart and they sprinkled salt on them. And that was their meals throughout the few days that we were on the train. That's all they were eating. But more than anything, I remember being excited.
Why did your parents decide to move to America?
My mom's a visionary.
My mom knew that if we had remained in Mexico, that we wouldn't have had the same opportunities. Um, and [00:04:00] she was absolutely right. You know, I'm a lawyer today, but. Uh, she had struggled with extreme poverty growing up. And as much as she tried to obtain an education, it was nearly impossible. She just wanted, uh, us to have a chance at life.
And so, uh, it was, uh, our, our parents that make the sacrifice of moving the family over to the U S in hopes of not only surviving, but thriving. Was that a difficult transition for you and your family? Do you have some early and prejudice like, I dunno, walking into for his classroom or I, yeah, there were a lot of, first, it was very different from, from my Heiko, but more than anything, as the lifestyle that changed, all of a sudden we became vigilant.
We were over looking at shoulder constantly. I was told not to trust anyone in school, not even teachers or nurses. If I got injured, I kept quiet. I, if I was sick, I [00:05:00] would keep quiet. If this idea of not being able to trust anyone that was very different in Mexico because as a child, I remember running around my grandma's house and chasing bunnies, and then when we came here to the U S a Weaver, very sheltered.
And over vigilant to see who was approaching the house and why somebody was knocking in the door, or why was somebody knocking on our neighbor's door and you know, afraid that they might, someone would come and take them. And so I think that was the biggest shock for me. How did you make sense of that?
Or how did your parents explain that? Because as I understand it. You weren't aware that you were undocumented until later in life. Right. So what was that like growing up and not knowing that, but still feeling like you have to always be looking over your shoulder? Yeah, I didn't really understand it. I couldn't comprehend it.
It was just don't trust anyone. Don't tell anyone where you're from. There is even around around that time, a stigma. You know, I grew up here during the prop [00:06:00] 27 era in California. And the rhetoric was one based on hate, very similar to what we were hearing on the national level today. And so there was even that shame of admitting that I was from and that.
Coupled with the idea of being caught and deported. I didn't really understand it as a child, you know? How do you explain to a child the possibility of being caught and deported or or hate? How do you explain to a child the rhetoric that was surrounding our family now that I can go back and see all those instances where I was trying to hide who I was.
Was because we were undocumented and all the things that we were going through was precisely because we were undocumented. You know, as an example, we suffered homelessness, and now I know it was very difficult for us because we were undocumented. To secure a job, to be able to pay for the rent, to be able [00:07:00] to pass background credit and credit checks required to get a place, um, was hard to be able to prove income is difficult.
So a lot of things now as an adult that I can go back and reflect on. I know where a direct consequence of being undocumented, but at the moment, being a child, I didn't understand it.
What do you think your parents chose? Not to tell you. I don't know. Do you feel like it? Do you feel like it was the right decision?
My parents were trying to shelter me as much as they could from the pain and the hurt, and they wanted me to be a child and worry about homework and a worry about my, my education and my mom, as I mentioned, she's a visionary and she knew the education was going to be the way for us to thrive in this country.
So she. But focus, education, and she would drive that point to us. She would give us extra homework as much as she could, and so she would keep us busy. [00:08:00] Um, I think she was trying to distract us from what was going on around us. My parents just didn't as much as they could to shield us from, from what we were living.
Did you speak English when you moved here? No, it was that hard to learn. Um, my mom would give us extra English homework, not knowing English herself. Um, say it was just like another, another task that I had a hand as a child. I was lucky enough to enrolled in Logan Heights where they had an ESL program.
It was a shocker for me to have kids in classrooms that were black and. Mexican and white. I think that was, I was really lucky with that, and in the beginning it was difficult to have these conversations with other kids that weren't speaking Spanish, but it was just work. But I was lucky enough to have other Companeros in the classroom that spoke Spanish.
So there were some classmates that I could communicate with in [00:09:00] Spanish. What did you a dream of being in those days? I read that you were. Pretty ambitious that you wanted to be making $1 million by the time you were 30 yeah. I was lucky enough to know from from very young that I wanted to be a lawyer.
But I thought I was going to be a criminal defense lawyer because not understanding that I was undocumented as a child. I thought everything that was happening to us was because we were poor, and I thought, you know, all these injustices that were happening in my community sometimes at the hand of our own police department.
I thought all of that was because we were in this neighborhood, primarily folks that were. A struggling financially and primarily Brown and black folks. And so I thought, we need a criminal defense attorney here. And that coupled again with a reading and in the homework and what my mom was instituted in us and the education that she would give us, even though she was also limited in her education.
You know, my mom's a stay at home mom. [00:10:00] She cleans houses and hotels, and today she works at a taco shop, you know? And so her education is limited, but she knew. The importance of math and English. And so you would always see me with the book. You would always see me with the book, and as a child, I would read all these books where the lawyer was the hero.
And so I thought I wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer to protect my family and my neighbors. And it wasn't until years later that I decided to practice immigration law, but it was my mom's vision that was instilled in me from bare little, uh, she didn't tell me to be a lawyer that just so happened to be from the movies that they would rent and the books that I was reading.
I do remember one occasion when my mom came home crying. From the store. And then the years later she told me that it was because a police officer had shot someone in our neighborhood, a young man, and she thought. And was [00:11:00] concerned and worried that it would be one of her sons one day. And so all those, all those incidences had an impact on me at a level that I didn't understand as a child.
But I wanted to be that hero lawyer that would protect our neighborhood. Years later, as I was going to school and working in a law office, my younger brother. Gets arrested, uh, and her, his car gets turned over to the police. There's no criminal charges, but he, nevertheless, the Les gets turned over to ice.
And then they start an immigration case and deportation proceedings. And I didn't know anything about immigration law at that point. I didn't know anything about our immigration policies, how the system worked. And so it was that confusion, that anger, the desperation, the frustration, and my family was going through a, that made me decide to be an immigration lawyer.
When my [00:12:00] brother was detained, the immigration officials were asking for $15,000 to get him out of the detention center. But for those of us that are undocumented, to earn one single dollar in the black market, as they call it, you know, less than earning less than minimum wage to earn anything. And to save it, it's, it's impossible to save $15,000.
And so there we were, um, trying to figure out how to get my brother out of the detention center. And at that point, we had been here well over 15 years in the U S you know, that's, this is all we knew. And my younger brother, his Spanish is broken Spanish. So, you know, he was even more confused as to why he was facing deportation after being here in the us for so long.
He was transported to an ice facility about a hundred miles from San Diego County, which meant we would have to go through checkpoints. [00:13:00] And I risked. I'm going through one of those checkpoints where immigration officials, my question, my status, but I knew that this could very well be the last chance that I had to see my brother.
So I missed driving through that checkpoint and going to see my brother at the detention center. And, um. I noticed that my brother was not the same anymore, being the youngest. I think he was the one that was unaware really of what it meant to be undocumented, and he was just a, a normal child, you know, in high school, my brother was the life of the party.
He's always smiling, he's playing sports. He's. Hair was always on point. Hey, his shoes and his shirt were always matching. Um, I was the nerdy one, but when I walked into that detention [00:14:00] center to, to meet with him, he was different. He had been given a jumpsuit, uh, shoes without shoelaces so that he wouldn't attempt suicide.
His hair had outgrown. He hadn't shaved in his face, and he had lost like 15 pounds in the two months that he was there. And I could tell he had been crying, but he was trying to be strong and trying to smile for me, but he really couldn't. And I saw confusion in his eyes and frustration I knew who had been degraded, dehumanized.
His being referred to by his alien registration number, which is that nine digit number and and not by his name, and that dehumanization solely because we were lacking this [00:15:00] piece of paper that said we were authorized to be here. That also changed me. It transformed me. I image of seen my brother behind the glass wall and the feeling.
Of hopelessness and outreach that after growing up here, studying here too, in everything that we were being told to do, that it wasn't enough that we still didn't belong here after so long and because of that confusion, I realized that I needed to learn immigration l aw, learned immigration policy because we weren't sure what was going to happen to my brother.
Where's your brother now? I brother received an order of removal from that case. My mom, in attempting to save him testified in his case and was also put in removal proceedings. What? What does that mean? It [00:16:00] means that I tried to deport my mom too because of the efforts of so many people fighting form her humane immigration policies.
And, and pushing for folks like my family to stay here in the U S they know where we're put in limbo. And some of us have DACA today. Otherwise we would be deportable. Um, some of us have deferred action in one way or another, but you know, this administration threatened that from their very beginning and started to reopen cases where people were offered.
Deferred action cases were closed administratively, but they were reopened with this administration, and now we're seeing people deported. And so I'm afraid we're next. We don't know what's coming, but at least now I am armed with information as an immigration lawyer. At least now I understand what our [00:17:00] policies are, what our immigration laws are.
Now that it, I feel like the splendor has been taken off and I can see more clearly, and I know that there are other folks out there that are still confused and don't know where they stand or their families stand because a lot of us have mixed statuses. No, we can. We have, uh, family members that are us citizens, some of those undocumented, some with some level of protection.
And so it's that, that confusion sometimes that does empowers people. So being an immigration lawyer and standing up for those who have that threat, hanging over them at all times and being removed from the country. And putting yourself in front of officials who have that power to remove you, who you are.
You also don't have your all, you're also undocumented. That sounds, that sounds terrifying. Does that not scare you? When, when I'm in court, it's all about the client. Um, so I'm 100% focused on my client and not me. But leading up to [00:18:00] that, uh, sometimes, you know, there's a waiting period in court, and I do think about that as I've sat on the, on the bench waiting for my case to be called, and I hear the judge say the words, I'm ordering you to port it.
That strikes me at a different level than I believe it strikes other immigration lawyers because I've heard those words when it came to my brother's case. And I imagine them being told to me. And so leading up to the case, and even sometimes after the case, and I know, look at the, the, the attorney for the government, I think this guy's going to enjoy deporting me.
You know, I get that feeling sometimes where I do see the opposite side, the government lawyer just enjoying deporting me, you know, and doing so with a smile. And that terrifies me. I have asked art director in San Diego, our [00:19:00] ice director, what happens when my DACA expires and they have said if they're, they would deport me.
Yes. So they know that you're undocumented as you're fighting for these people? Of course, yes. I mean, I sued the president. It's not a secret. And I know as soon as my DACA expires. Um, not only deportable, but they would make good on that promise. And so that scares me because I've seen these folks in court and I have practice in front of these judges that have ordered my own family deported.
So yeah, sometimes I'm reminded when other families go through it and they get deported. And I see my own family reflected on this community members. And then I think it's just a matter of time. It's not if it's when, if things don't change, we don't get more humane immigration policies. It's just a matter of [00:20:00] time till they, I hear the words I'm ordering.
You're removed in my own case. Yes. So, so you being one of the faces of the lawsuit, the DACA lawsuit against Trump is a very personal issue for you. Which probably makes you one of the perfect people to fight for it because the, there's no one who's the fire is greater within where, where is that case?
And then in the process, our case was heard at the Supreme court on November 12 2019 we're waiting for a decision. So as of today, we still have our DACA protection in place. If it wasn't for our efforts in court, if it wasn't for our lawsuit, some of us would have already had our DACA permits expired.
Thankfully we have been winning. We won at the district court level. Uh, we want at the appellate level, and now we're at the last step. So right now he's just waiting. It's just, we were just waiting. When you're done, you've done all you can for it. Right, [00:21:00] exactly. But at the same time, you know, DACA was always just a compromise.
Uh, w we wanted a path to citizenship. We wanted protection permanently. From deportation and DACA doesn't offer any of those things. All of DACA does. It gives us a work permit that we renew every two years and that we pay for this. We're paying for the privilege of working and we contribute to the system.
As an example, the social security system, I pay a ton in employer taxes and employee taxes, and even then. I will never, ever, ever be able to get a single dollar from her social security system because I am not a legal permanent resident. I'm not a us citizen. This privilege that we have of working and being here in the U S has an expiration date on it.
That was never what we wanted. We wanted a path to citizenship and being not only [00:22:00] seen as American would be able to have the protections and privileges such as voting. Having a saner elections to fully be part of the society is the hopes with his lawsuit that DACA will be reinstated or. Or something that's a little more permanent.
So since September, 2017 there, there were folks that never applied for DACA, but would have applied for DACA that were left out of the program because it closed on September 15 2017 if we are able to get a favorable opinion, that means we might be able to open DACA so that these folks can apply for it.
Last year we had over a hundred thousand people graduate from high school. Without DACA, without any protection from deportation, undocumented folks wondering what their future is going to look like in this country. We, we hope that, um, the Supreme corporate tax DACA so that we are able to keep it in the books that we are able to take advantage [00:23:00] of, of being here in the U S without the feeling of overlooking our shoulders because we might be deported next.
This administration was really smart to use us as political bargaining chips. Every time you go to DC, and I've been in these conversations with both Democrats and Republicans, they keep asking what we're willing to compromise on in exchange to protect dreamers in exchange for a DACA or a dream act.
And if we lose this case, we come with a disadvantage at the bargaining table. How does it feel to be a client rather than a lawyer in this. It's strange to be a client. Um, I, I keep telling myself, be a good client. Don't be that client. I place 100% my trust on these lawyers, but I am, I don't often keep quiet, so I do voice my opinion.
Just because I know this is much more important than any one person. This is about a movement. This is [00:24:00] about not only 700,000 DACA recipients. But it's a UN, an a movement of hundreds of thousands of people and really all 11 million undocumented folks that meet this win. And so it's a little strange to be a client.
And I hope that I haven't overburdened the lawyers, but because I do understand the nuances in the brief, the arguments, I do understand what the technical language is. I'm able to offer a different opinion. And I think you should ask the lawyers how much they welcome them. Uh, but from my perspective, I'm trying my best to protect our folks, our undocumented folks, our movement, our momentum.
And so hopefully I haven't done too much damaged, but it feels strange. It feels strange to be part of a, of a litigation as a client, because they were times in. Both at the district court level and at the Supreme court level where I just wanted to stand up [00:25:00] and screaming and clarify the reality of being deported.
The idea of being deported is very real. It's terrifying, and it's not just, we're not talking in the abstract. We're seeing ice deport DACA recipients. That is something that I feel was not exactly emphasized in the courts, how terrified we are, how scared we are of not just losing our jobs, but primarily being deported.
Especially for those of us that are here in the border where we have. The double deportation force where we have border patrol and ice, and now we're hearing talks of the military are constantly being told the national guard is going to be deployed, you know, whatever. This administration comes up with two terrorizes.
And so I think that feeling, being scared wasn't exactly told to the judges in new way that it was compelling, or [00:26:00] at least that's not how I heard it. And so a part of me wanted to. Get up and scream and say, no, this isn't about deportation. This is about hearing the words I'm ordering you removed and actually going through the process of being put in a detention center and eventually deported, it seems like.
Yeah. That fear is, you're really using that for you as motivation. It's not paralyzing you and because now you're working even outside of the legal space, you. Are now also the executive. I don't know how you have time for others, but yeah. Now you're also the executive director of border angels. How did you first get involved with border angels?
The very first time I heard about people dropping water at the desert was when I was 18 years old in a church group, and I didn't have DACA then. And so my parents prohibited me from going on the water drops. Yes. For going in and water job. Um, when I received DACA, that was the first thing I did. [00:27:00] I signed up to do a water drop with border angels and we went up to the wall.
And I remember there was a Porter for troll agent. They're looking at us, and I remember when I saw the wall for the first time I was impacted and I started sobbing because that wall had been the reason why I was so. Sheltered and constrained, and as much as I love every opportunity that has been offered in this country, that wall was also the reason why I couldn't leave the country I was in caged and still am today for folks like my parents.
Those walls are even closer in because San Diego County has these checkpoints, and so the side of the wall was a reminder. Of how constrained my life has been as a result of my undocumented status. [00:28:00] And I remember sticking my hand through that wall, and part of me was in my ego. Part of me was here in the U S and at that time there was a little dog and in a rancher on the other side and the Mexican side that was talking to us, and the little dog was crossing back and forth through that wall, through the slots.
And I remember saying, man, that dog has more rights to travel than I do.

And it was that moment that was very impactful to me. Um, and so I knew I wanted to be involved with bordering. Just from there on, it must be wild that you went from being a volunteer. On the border, angels water jobs, to now being the executive director.
How does that, how does that feel? That must be, that's quite an accomplishment. Thank you. Yes. Uh, I served on the board, uh, for a year and a half. The executive director today, we have a lot of beautiful programs and really that's [00:29:00] what I'm doing it because. Uh, border angels does such beautiful work, not only the water drop program, but the ability to do good in the world.
I think that was the most enticing part of the job, to be able to provide direct humanitarian aid to folks in the Quanta bordering. It also supports like 16 migrant shelters in Tijuana has this about 15,000 people in Tijuana and the MPP program and the remaining Mexico program being housed in about 32 shelters.
We provide assistance to 16 of them. We, we help them with pain, things like the water bill or their electricity bill. We provide donations and kind like food. Every two weeks. We line up our cars, uh, at the office. We load them up with donations, and then we take them across to the Quanta. I say we as an organization, because obviously I can't travel.
But I see these, these videos in these pictures that folks come back with to show when the moment when we provide, um, toys [00:30:00] or shoes for kids, and I see those images in it. It reminds me, it takes me back from when I was a child, when I was a newly arrived here. I remember. At one point, uh, receiving here in San Diego, our used toy for Christmas, and it was missing parts.
It was a, it was a, a game and it was missing parts that I was just so excited to receive a gift that that Christmas that I was just so grateful and that gratitude. I see it when, when folks come back to me with the images after providing something as simple as shampoo. Or toilet paper. These kids are just so grateful for the litter that they have.
They're just so grateful. And then we also have our newly formed, um. Immigration bond fund program and that is to help folks like my brother was in one point and [00:31:00] detention without being able to pay for their Liberty. Essentially. We've been able to so far, to help eight migrants, uh, some that have been intention for eight months.
You know, these folks have nothing. And so they're remaining, they're in detention and told their cases. Heard. I have sometimes with the minimum bond of $1,500 in these, so can't come up with that. It's a lot of money for people that are knocking on our doors asking for help. And so border angels has been able to allocate $50,000 to help these folks.
And so I've had the privilege to go into the ice offices and asked them to bond out folks. And some. That is surreal to me that the idea of an undocumented person going to ice offices and signing the paperwork to release a migrant and asylum seeker, for example, it makes my day every time. And it gives me hope that even if we're able to help one person at a time or doing good in this [00:32:00] world, even if we can't help all 32,000 people, or, um, I think now it's closer to.
56,000 people in the NPP program along the Southern border. The silver lining, I guess with this humanitarian crisis that we have here at the Southern border, one of the really good things that has happened is that we've seen an influx of volunteers, people wanting to get involved, and so we're experiencing some growing pains, which is a good thing because people have responded to this call.
For help. There is a humanitarian crisis that we didn't expect to see in this way, and we weren't really ready for it. And so people stepped up because there's families now crossing through the desert because we were telling them they cannot, uh, go through the asylum process and they have to wait, uh, nine months or 12 months in thi Quanah, which is now the most dangerous city in the world.
Based on the murder rate. And so they see the desert and [00:33:00] they become so desperate and they try to cross it. And so we see that migration pattern, and luckily people across the U S hub come to help with that. I just want to thank folks, anyone who has ever participated in a water drop or any of our programs that has volunteered, not only with ordering angels, with other great organizations that are doing amazing work, like I know on the legal side, for example, just for folks to get involved in one way or another.
Uh, if you are unable to physically provide assistance here in San Diego, please visit our and get involved. There's many other ways. Stay informed. As I mentioned earlier, education is very important, and and keeping up with what's happening is it's crucial. So border we're also on social media, Instagram, Facebook.
Thank you so much. Thank you for coming. Thank you. I hope y'all enjoyed getting to know the Lucy. [00:34:00] Like I said in the intro, we recently jumped on a call with her to get a better understanding on how the Corona virus and the resulting border closure is impacting her work. I also asked her about her biggest concerns on how this will play out moving forward.
Oh my God. I keep telling myself, today's the day I'm not going out at all and I, there's one reason or another way it has to go out. Well to put deposit money to the shelters. Uh, they won't let us do it, uh, online because of pharma, nonprofits or an individual. There's a lot of restriction. spending money.
Yeah. Are you using like MoneyGram. I have to physically go to the Walmart and deposit money. Someone can pick up the cash flow side of the border or to bond folks out from the detention center. We spent a good, uh, five, six hours doing that, uh, yesterday. Um, and the challenges that are being in place now with ice.
And the federal building, [00:35:00] you know, like I plan on being in Doria all day and indoors all day. And then I just received some requests from , from a couple of folks, from two different shelters asking me for donations because, uh, you know, there prepping or wherever the virus, they hit them too. I am, I expect to be out and about later today, although I really don't want the cause I'm myself.
I'm scared. Uh, I have, uh, my mom that's a little bit vulnerable. She's like, you know, in the high risk category. So, yeah, I'm trying to minimize exposure, but at the same time, yeah, the job requires that I be added about what have been the primary changes to the work that border angels does. As one of the primary ones have been the shelters.
Um, we stopped the caravan of love a couple of weeks ago, even before the U S federal government announced the closing of a border. Uh, we no longer take donations and kind of across the borders to be Quanta or to . So [00:36:00] instead of what we're doing, we're donating directly a monetary, uh, donations. Um. So that folks can use that money in preparation for the Corona virus.
Now the border is closer. We definitely can't take any a donations or, and that has been a challenge as well. Mmm. But we, we promoted social just in a couple of weeks ago. And with that we had to cancel the, uh, why the public water drop and do only smaller, more advanced water drops with our experience, water drop pain.
Um, so we're, we're still doing the work. We're just doing it, uh, a different name where we're at. Promoting social distancing that way. The, I mean, national Nita is a immigration bond fund. I still very much active, but we don't know whether, but in order for us to place the bond, that means we ourselves have to come out from, um, uh, quarantine or from [00:37:00] isolation and physically go to the federal building and post this bond.
Mmm. So, you know, there's the challenges right now with, with this a very real fear. Is exposing ourselves and our loved ones. We posted five bonds. That's weak, but these folks have zero criminal history. Four of them are asylum seekers. They have all suffered torture by their own government in one way or another.
Horrible, horrible torture. And we put them in a detention center. Some of them . And the government's asking $5,000 to release them. These are asylum seekers. They don't have, you know, a dollar, see their name, much less so $5,000 so we were able to allow them to come out of the detention center and, and not be exposed to the Corona virus and meet with their family.
Unfortunately, I so very much doing enforcement, and not only that, but they, [00:38:00] the federal government has requested funding. For them to continue to do. They're border enforcement, so ice and border patrol. I've very much open, strong in our communities, and. Apprehending people for immigration violations, putting them in a detention center, uh, where there are at risk of contracting the virus.
We are, we're telling the public to practice social distancing. Yet we have this population in federal detention for immigration violation. Um, and you know, as I told the ice officers yesterday, this all could be fixed if we just release those folks from the immigration detention center. And then the ice officers that were.
Dealing with me yesterday wouldn't have been exposed and I wouldn't have been, you know, exposed to no one in those attention centers would be . Oh. But there we are as a immigration lawyer, is and is a nonprofit organizations doing this work because the federal government refuses to release our people from immigration detention.
And again, these are folks that. Uh, [00:39:00] are there only because they have, they don't, they're lacking the fun for their Liberty. Judges have already determined that they are not a risk to the population. There are not a risk of flight. They will likely be showing up for their court hearing. Um, and we're just arbitrarily placing a $5,000 bond on their Liberty.
It's frustrating with the federal government is, you know, telling the public, be safe, uh, practice, social distancing and isolation. Yeah. We have this very vulnerable population in immigration detention center. Are they, are they taking any kind of protocols? I mean, I mean, I S uh, in order to ensure. I guess just safer, a safer environment so that the virus is not spread, or is it just business as usual for them?
They have, uh, actually their form of precaution is by restricting visitors to the detention centers by restricting, uh, the legal visits. And, uh, [00:40:00] lawyers are required to take certain precautions, like, Oh, wear masks and gloves, and. Thanks to protect ourselves as immigration lawyers from, um, the client.
However, inside of the detention center, you still have a large amount of people gathered in a detention center supposing be being exposed to potentially getting the virus in there. Uh, so there are restrictions that are in place, but they're not, uh, from the humanitarian perspective. Um, you know, there are the wrong things to focus on if we really wanted to protect those vulnerable people in there, especially the ones that have, uh, that are a higher risk with medical conditions or eight of a certain age, they're the ones that should be really immediately.
So the kinds of precautions that I's are taking and they're focused on on the public, going into the detention center and not [00:41:00] really focused on protecting the folks that are already in the detention center. But as far as the, like the federal building, they have closed down the, the federal building downtown where the ice, uh, uh, enforcement offices.
And so in order to place a bond or go up there, they have restricted that area very much. And they have stopped. But I check in for now. So people that would go in and check in, sometimes yearly, sometimes monthly, uh, with ice, they have restricted that. So there are no longer doing that for the moment. Mmm.
So at least they're doing that protect people where they don't have to come in and check in with ice and possibly be deported that day. But they're still very much doing enforcement concerns or what are some of the biggest issues related to the border? Now that it's closed and the virus, what my biggest concern is empty Quanta.
There's no labor laws protecting book and our fear is that they're not [00:42:00] going to be practicing isolation. They're not going to be practicing social distancing because they cannot afford it because the laws there are not protecting those folks. Our biggest fear is that the virus is going to reach. The shelters and they don't have the adequate supplies to combat it.
They don't have the medicine. They don't have the, you all the Lysol and the antibacterial gels that we were buying here. Um. I'm afraid that they're not going to have them in, in those shelters, or even a way to do like laundry. Uh, you know, all of that becomes challenging when you have 250 people in a shelter.
We're so grateful actually, that they have a temporarily close to the border because a lot of folks were from the U S buying supplies in the Quanta and potentially exposing these folks in who are very vulnerable right now in those shelters. So I know there's other organizations on the ground that are helping folks get prepared for it.
Like, uh, [00:43:00] um, the refugee health Alliance and the doctors from border kindness are on the ground ensuring that uh, we'll have a basic medication, but I'm afraid that they can't reach every single migrant in for a moment.

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Only Here

“Only Here” is about the unexplored subcultures, creativity and struggles at the U.S.-Mexico border. The KPBS podcast tells personal stories from people whose lives are shaped by the tension reverberating around the wall. This is a show for border babies, urban explorers or those who wonder what happens when two cultures are both separated and intertwined.