Before we could find local pro bono counsel for her, the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) fought to change the location of her upcoming hearing in immigration court. Although Luz lived in Washington State, her court hearing was scheduled in Texas, a state Luz had no relationship to except for her time in detention. Her son had a separate court date in Washington State two days after her hearing. Luz had the nearly impossible task of getting to Texas and getting back to Washington State in time for her son’s hearing in Seattle, only two days later.
We quickly filed an emergency motion to change Luz’s hearing from Texas to Washington State, working with the organization Annunciation House in Texas. A week later, Luz was informed that the motion was denied because we did not include a complete asylum application, which is not generally required to change the location of one’s hearing. This unusual request from Luz’s immigration judge was followed by the judge’s decision not to let Luz appear by phone for her court hearing.
We then worked diligently with Luz to prepare an asylum application and once again request her hearing be transferred to Washington State. Luz did not have the resources to fly back to Texas, and she understood that failure to appear at her hearing would result in her receiving a deportation order. Just four days before her hearing in Texas, Luz’s immigration judge approved the change of venue to Washington State.
We were then able to focus on getting Luz access to local representation. We successfully connected Luz to an attorney at Catholic Charities, who is now representing Luz and her son fight for asylum.
At the end of the case, Luz shared these words with us:
“I knew that I had a hearing in a different place far away, but I couldn’t think of a way to get there. I felt so depressed watching the days until my hearing, thinking that the judge would send me back because I couldn’t get to the court. ASAP kept fighting with me and they never stopped. After I was separated from my son, I couldn’t think clearly. I have to ask things many times but ASAP was always so patient with me, and they never made me feel bad for asking questions again. It means so much to have someone with you to listen to your experience and tell you what is happening. I am sad that our time together is closing, but I know that they have connected me to another great attorney who will be with me. Everything I am able to do from here is because of God’s blessings and ASAP.”
Luz is one of the many reunited families we have helped connect to pro bono counsel. ASAP has focused on supporting reunited families in the United States and ensuring they have the opportunity to present their asylum claims in court. We continue to support national coordination efforts to connect these families to the representation they deserve for their day in court.