Our last meeting of the week was with Veronica Barba, director of the Immigration Justice Project of San Diego because we wanted to learn more about the legal side of the immigration issue in San Diego.
IJP is a small organization (3 staff plus interns) that works in immigration law. Much of their work is doing legal orientations at the San Diego Otay-Mesa detention facility. Under immigration law, defendants do not get a public defender, so (awesome, pro-bono) legal organizations often will go in the facilities to do presentations on forms of relief, or scenarios under which they may choose to fight their deportation. IJP wants each detainee to see their presentation and if someone comes forward and has the means of relief to fight their case, IJP will take on their case or look for a volunteer attorney in the area who will take it on. They also spend time at the downtown immigration court, presenting to the non-detained docket.
Immigration Justice Project recieved funding from the Department of Justice, but also grant money that has few strings attached which allows them to take on some of the long-shot or more difficult cases. They primarily work on LPR cancellation of removal, asylum cases, and with people who have mental health disabilities, which is especially important in San Diego as the detention facility there has 32 beds reserved for people with mental health disabilities.
Eric and I were especially interested in cases of Mexican nationals seeking asylum because of the violence in Mexico, as that is a huge population that Annunciation House currently works with, but Veronica said she hasn't seen many cases come through yet, but believes they are on the increase. They see asylum seekers from all over the world (especially Haiti, Somalia and Iraq) as the San Isidrio port of entry south of San Diego is the busiest port in the world. We also learned that San Diego does not do Operation Streamline (more on that when we are in Arizona) and asylum seekers are almost always immeadiately paroled out, instead of being detained (as they customarily are in other areas).
What a whirlwind week in San Diego!