I know many of you out there are worried about your next reporting date with ICE under your Order of Supervision in Atlanta. I cannot paint a pretty picture for you and tell you that it is all going to work out fine, but I do want to share both the good and bad of this week’s experience with ICE while representing one of our clients in that same predicament.
First, the good news. After President Trump’s Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, we were all concerned about the changes that would now take place in this new era as ICE began detaining immigrants with prior removal orders regardless of their ties to the United States and hardship. While this has led to the heartless detention of many individuals, we can share that ICE has not forgotten what it means to be a VAWA recipient and protection for those with approved VAWA cases remains intact. It is important that ICE recognize victims in the midst of this era when every immigrant has become a “criminal” in the eyes of enforcement officials.
Now, the bad news. Let’s walk through a day of reporting for an order of supervision at the ICE office in Atlanta. You arrive at 9:00 am for your appointment, stand in line at security, enter the building, and then walk into the first waiting room on your left. There you will join many others who are waiting to meet with an officer. You may be left standing if you do not arrive in time to catch a seat. You will need to put your appointment papers in the basket at the front of the room in order to get in line, and then you wait.
ICE has over 200 people coming in on any given day for orders of supervision and they have no system in place to ease the burden of tedious wait times nor do they care about the inconvenience to you. There is no internet connection or television, so you may want to bring a book or tablet with games downloaded to entertain young children. You will likely be waiting for several hours for your appointment. When your name is called downstairs, you will be directed to the third floor of the building where you will check in once more and wait again for you named to be called to speak with an officer.
The inconvenience of the long wait compares nothing to the rude manner in which you will be treated. When our turn came to speak with an officer, we approached his desk where he gave us a look that said, “What do you think you’re doing here?” as if we wanted to wait hours just to speak with him. Ignoring his rude demeanor, I explained that our client was a VAWA recipient with a pending Adjustment of Status application. When he made the snarky remark, “shouldn’t she have filed that before the order of removal,” I knew he did not understand.
I didn’t have to ask for a supervisor, however, as he went to find one himself after I made another attempt to explain the situation to him. The tables turned in our favor when the supervisor appeared and apologized for our officer’s rude behavior despite no complaint from us. It was remarkable to me that the supervisor knew the officer was rude without us having to say anything because this is the routine, expected behavior of ICE officers in the Atlanta office.
Additionally, the supervisor noted that the man behind him was his supervisor as well. All of a sudden, we were speaking to two supervisors along with the original officer about our client’s case, all without a single complaint. It was clear to me that our client was getting special treatment merely on account of having an attorney present. I have no doubt that if I had not been there, her VAWA approval would have been ignored, the bullying behavior would have continued, and she may have carelessly been placed in detention.
But back to the good news. The supervisor apologized for our officer’s unfamiliarity with VAWA and assured me that ICE was not interested in deporting people with approved VAWA cases. I did not need to file a stay of removal as we had anticipated and from that point on the officer spoke with us on more friendly terms. We were able to discuss downgrading our client’s current order of supervision to fewer visits and removing her ankle monitor in the near future.
While it is encouraging that ICE continues to protect VAWA recipients, it is unfortunate that their officers are not trained to treat individuals with respect and are unknowledgeable about the victimization of immigrants with approved VAWA cases. My advice to you is to stay firm at your next order of supervision appointment in Atlanta, be clear that you have relief from removal if that is the case, and stay calm as officers treat you with disdain. Take an attorney with you if at all possible and know that you are not a criminal. You are a human being that deserves respect no matter the circumstances.