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The Artesia Experience: A Due Process Travesty

July 18, 2014 (2 min read)

Albuquerque immigration attorney Olsi Vrapi describes what it is like to try to represent refugees locked up at the Artesia, New Mexico detention the middle of nowhere.  "I went to Artesia the morning after I was hired on a case and not only one of my clients had been interviewed, she had already received a negative credible fear determination. Credible fear interviews are done quickly and fast. Like I said, I can’t seem to catch any clients before they are already interviewed. The interviews are also lasting way too little. In one of the cases I reviewed while I was there, the entire interview lasted 1 hour 8 minutes; that includes translation time which cuts the interview in half, so it is the equivalent of 34 minutes of an English interview. Take off about 10 minutes where the officer has to read several mandatory advisals and you are left with about 25 minutes of questioning in which the detainee will have to answer questions to determine whether there is credible fear of being persecuted in their home country if returned. That’s ludicrous. If the U.S. government thinks that’s an adequate time of listening to one’s horror story, it is deceiving itself and surely deceiving the public. I take 25 minutes just to establish rapport with the client, let alone begin to flesh out any of their story. A friend of mine who used to be an asylum officer in a past life tells me that when she used to be doing credible fear interviews she was scheduled for one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each interview lasting several hours. Judging from my one case, DHS appears to be scheduling about 8 per day. I don’t necessarily blame the asylum officers. What are they supposed to do when their typical interview load of 2 per day jumps to 8 per day and the top brass who signs their paychecks publicly states “we will send them home?” Are they going to embarrass their chief and err on the side of finding credible fear as is usually the practice or will they err on the side of sending them home so the president can be proud of them carrying out his word? Are we really that naïve to think that these poor folks who have gone through a hellish ordeal in their home countries and in one case molested and shaken down by Mexican federales on their way to the US are receiving a fair process. Travesty, I say, a due process travesty."  [There's more.  Please read the entire blog post.]