Yazmin Elias’ Case Highlights the Myth of Sanctuary for Immigrants Convicted of Crimes

For immediate release: May 19, 2017

Contact: Pangea Legal Services (415) 254-0475

 

After 15 months in immigration detention, Yazmin was only released after a Habeas petition

San Francisco, CA-- For many immigrants like Yazmin Elias, a client of Pangea Legal Services, California has failed them. The state has instituted a great number of policies to protect immigrants, yet everyday people like Yazmin fall through the cracks and end up in indefinite detention, at the hands of federal officials who have no interest in seeing them as human beings, capable of making mistakes, learning from them and becoming better people.

“Yazmin was convicted of 3 DUI’s, but was eventually, identified by a specialized DUI court as a victim of 20 years of domestic violence who deserved rehab and treatment, not incarceration,” said Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, one of Yazmin’s attorneys at Pangea Legal Services. “After completing 3-months of in-patient rehabilitation, and while enrolled in outpatient therapy, Yazmin was picked up by ICE after a court hearing in Sonoma County. Yazmin spent 15 months in immigration detention - 100 times longer than she ever had to serve for her past record - and for a charge that had already been resolved through rehabilitation by a specialized DUI court. She was only released after a Federal District Court issued an opinion that left the Immigration Judge with few options but to grant bond.”

Despite being a ‘sanctuary state,’ immigrants like Yazmin are routinely turned over to immigration officials who then punish them again for crimes they have already paid a price for. “In this case, after having been denied a bond three times by an immigration judge, Yazmin was released only after a Habeas petition we filed resulted in a strongly worded opinion by the Federal District Court,” said Etan Newman, another of Yazmin’s attorneys at Pangea Legal Services. "The District Court judge pretty much stated what we had been arguing for months, that the immigration court could not say our client was dangerous when the specialized DUI court had already said she was not.”

Yazmin’s immigration judge relented on May 11th by finally granting a bond of $25,000. Yazmin was released on May 15th, only after her community was able to raise the funds to post the immigration bond. “Yazmin, and others like her, are finding themselves serving indefinite years-long sentences through our immigration system simply because our State continues to cooperate with ICE agents,” said Reyes Savalza.

Pangea is committed to continuing to file Habeas petitions for clients just like Yazmin. “What the government has made clear to us is that they will only respect the rights of immigrants when we hold them accountable, and if that means filing a habeas petition for every wrongly detained family, that’s what we’re prepared to do,” said Newman.

What: Yazmin Elias to join community rally

When: Friday May 19th, at 11:00AM

Where: Women’s Building, 3583 18th St. San Francisco, Ca 94110

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7 Ways You Can Stand with Our Immigrant Community

7 Ways You Can Stand with Our Immigrant Community

Looking for ways to support the immigrant community? We’ve compiled a list of 7 ways YOU can make a difference!

 

1.     Become a Migra Watch Observer & ICE Raids Responder: Volunteer your time to document and monitor ICE officials during immigration raids in real-time.    

●      Interest form: Once filled out, you will receive emails informing you about upcoming Migra Watch trainings.

2.     Volunteer with Pangea – We are currently looking for Spanish to English translators. This is a remote position for those looking to make an impact!

●      How To Apply: If you think you are a good fit, please apply!  

3.     Take Action: Attending protests and rallies shows that our community is strong, united, and powerful. We will not sit idly by while our people are experiencing mistreatment by the new administration.

●      Bay Area Resistance & Rapid Response: Receive updates for actions in the Bay Area about immigration and other resistance efforts.

●      FreeSF: Upcoming events in San Francisco

4.     Make your voice heard: Call your representatives and speak up about policies that are important to you and directly impact our community.

●      5calls.org: Makes calling your legislator easy and effective! Research and a script is already provided for you.

5.     Boycott Trump: A small step, like boycotting business that support the new administration, can have great impact if we act collectively.

●      List of companies doing business with the Trump family – how to contact companies and demand action.

6.     Get Informed: Keeping yourself informed is vital to monitoring and responding to xenophobic policies. Being an ally means educating yourself about the issues of the communities you support. 

●      FreeSF: Immigrant policies in San Francisco

●      California Immigrant Policy Center: Current Immigration policies in California

●      National Immigration Law Center: Information about Civil Rights in ICE Encounters

7.     Donate: If you can, contribute to Pangea Legal Services to enable us to actively work alongside the immigrant community for dignity and freedom to move for all.

●      Donate and Subscribe to our quarterly newsletter to stay in touch!

Sign Petition to #FreeYazmin!

Yazmin Liliana Elias Obregon (A: 076-373-569), a single mother of three U.S. citizen children, has been detained at West County Detention Center in Richmond, California for over a year. Yazmin came to the U.S. at the age of 4 and lived in Santa Rosa, California. When she was 14 years old, Yazmin entered an abusive relationship with a man who would become the father of her children. He abused her for nearly 10 years: he beat her, sexually abused her, and forced her to use drugs in an attempt to cause her to abort her pregnancies. Her ex-partner, now in Mexico, has continued to threaten Yazmin. If deported to Mexico, Yazmin fears persecution by her former partner. Yazmin also suffered abuse from a subsequent partner who physically and sexually abused her. She has a U visa pending as a result.

Yazmin was apprehended by ICE after being convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol. As a long-time survivor of severe physical violence, Yazmin coped by self-medicating her trauma. Yazmin sincerely regrets the mistakes she’s made and has taken steps to rehabilitate. Yazmin’s children motivate her to recover and become a stronger mother in order to provide for her children. Yazmin completed a 3-month inpatient program to treat her alcohol and trauma and was continuing an outpatient 6-month program when ICE detained her.

Detained, Yazmin hired an attorney, Richard L. Bobus. Mr. Bobus took advantage of Yazmin and cheated her out of $3,250, prolonged her detention, and did not do any work in her case. Mr. Bobus was unprepared at Yazmin’s immigration hearings, submitted no evidence in support of her case despite instructions by the immigration judge to do so, and failed to apply for Yazmin’s U visa and asylum applications despite her eligibility.

Prior to being detained, Yazmin was well underway to building a new life for herself and her three U.S. citizen children. She was working two jobs to support her children and was finding community at a church. Her three children- Jeremiah, Isaiah and Elijah – suffer from PTSD, ADHD, and depression. After years of improvement thanks to their treatment, Yazmin’s children are now regressing due to their suffering from their mother’s detention.

“Since my mom got detained, I have been feeling sad and it’s hard for me to focus on school. I really need for my mom to come back. Adults think I need medicine, counselors, social workers, but all I need right now is my mom.” – Yazmin’s youngest son, age 12

SIGN THE PETITION TO TELL THE SAN FRANCISCO ICE FIELD OFFICE and THE OFFICE OF CHIEF COUNSEL THAT YAZMIN DESERVES AN OPPORTUNITY TO PROVIDE A STABLE LIFE FOR HER THREE U.S. CITIZEN CHILDREN

Community Defense Workshop!

Community Defense Workshop!

Are you undocumented? Want to know what to do in case of a raid?

Join us to learn about deportation prevention & preparation tools like:

  1. In depth practice of Know Your Rights strategies
  2. Family Preparedness Preparation
  3. Access to our Migra Watch Hotline

To RSVP, send an email to Yadira Sanchez: ysanchez@ciyja.org. Limited seating is available.

Hosted by the Immigrant Liberation Movement: CIYJA, EBIYC, Faith in Action/PICO California, & Pangea Legal Services


Es usted indocumentado? Quiere saber que hacer en caso de una redada? 

Acompanamos para aprender sobre herramientas de prevencion y preparacion contra deportaciones comoe:

  1. Practica de estrategias de conoce tus derechos
  2. Preparacion de Plan Familiar
  3. Accesso a nuestra linea de respuesta rapida Migra Watch

Para registrarse, mande un mensaje a Yadira Sanchez: ysanchez@ciyja.org. Hay asientos limitados.

Patrocinado por el Movimiento de Liberacion del inmigrante: CIYJA, EBIYC, Faith in Action/PICO California, y Pangea Servicios Legales

Resisting Mass Deportation - A Community Forum

Resisting Mass Deportation - A Community Forum

No Family should be torn apart because they can't afford an attorney. Join us & learn how San Francisco can provide lawyers to help immigrants fight deportation and how YOU can help!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

5pm- 7:30pm

Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Library - 100 Larkin St. (enter at 30 Grove Street), SF, CA

FREE EVENT

 

Sponsors: San Francisco Public Defender's Office, Pangea Legal Services, La Raza Centro Legal, Tahirih Justice Center, Asian Law Caucus, CARECEN, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Bar Association of San Francisco, Legal Services for Children, African Advocacy Network, Dolores Street Community Services

Vigil urges ICE to free detained mom ripped from children as Christmas approaches

Media Advisory for: Thurs, Dec 22, 6:00 PM

Case of mom, a survivor of domestic violence, highlights humanity of detained immigrants, underscores need for state legislation

Previous rally for Yazmin (San Francisco, Nov. 10, 2016)

Previous rally for Yazmin (San Francisco, Nov. 10, 2016)

What: Dozens of local immigrant rights leaders and advocates against domestic violence will stage a holiday vigil urging the release of domestic violence survivor Yazmin Elias, a 34-year-old resident of Santa Rosa who has been separated from her three US citizen children for 10 months. During the rally, advocates will unveil letter to Department of Homeland Security Chief Counsel which rebukes the courtroom conduct of a DHS attorney who re-victimized Yazmin on the stand last month.

When: Thursday, December 22rd, 2016 at 6:00 PM

Where: Immigration Customs Enforcement Field Office, 630 Sansome Street. San Francisco, CA

Who: Yazmin Elias’ family, local immigrants rights leaders and advocates against domestic violence.

Visuals: Rally Participants will display poster images of Yazmin that read “#FreeYazmin” and banners displaying #FreeYazmin will be presented.

San Francisco, CA-The story of Yazmin, a single mother of three US citizen children and a domestic violence survivor, highlights the humanity of community members who have received convictions and have been targeted for deportation. As we approach the holiday season Yazmin’s sons will spend another holiday apart from their mother. With Trump about to take over and expand the Obama administration’s painful deportation machinery, community groups are fighting to defend people like Yazmin - and point to new legislation in Sacramento that would uphold due process and protect against abuses.  

Yazmin’s story: Yazmin has been in ICE custody for the past 10 months separated from her three children: Elijah-17, Isaiah-14 and Jeremiah- 13 who are suffering from depression, PTSD and ADHD. From a young age Yazmin endured constant physical violence, dating back to her childhood, and her prime coping mechanism to survive her trauma has been self-medication. On August 2015, Yazmin was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol. Since then, Yazmin has completed a 3-month residential program where she learned to rehabilitate. Yazmin is applying for asylum and a U visa which would enable her to truly recover from over 10 years of abuse; her current detention is re-traumatizing her and preventing her from recovering.

Courtroom controversy. On November 10, 2016 community advocates, and social workers were shocked to witness the blame-the-victim narrative that a DHS attorney pursued during Yamin’ bond hearing. As a result, community advocates against domestic violence and immigrants rights leaders are also delivering a letter to DHS Chief Counsel Ms. Leslie Ungerman. Advocates hope to address the re-traumatizing experience Yazmin had to undergo through the inhumane court process and request Yazmin’s reunification with her children for Christmas.

The need for state legislation. Yazmin’s experiences also highlight the importance of key bills moving forward in Sacramento that uphold the values of due process and inclusion. The local jail turned her over to ICE for deportation; SB 54, the CA Values Act, would make sure local resources aren't used to fuel the deportation of people like Yazmin and countless others at risk from Trump’s threats.

Yazmin’s story exemplifies the ongoing criminalization of domestic violence survivors who need rehabilitation, not incarceration. In the face of a new administration community members will stand united for immigrant justice and for the prompt liberation of loved ones who have been torn apart from their families.

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Pangea Paves Response with Community Organizations, Public Defender, and Sup. Campos

Please join the community as we propose a plan to respond to the attack on immigrants. San Francisco to introduce a program for access to counsel, education, and outreach for immigrants.

Where: Steps of City Hall, San Francisco

When: Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 

Time: 12pm 

Who: Pangea Legal Services, Dolores Street Community Services, SF Public Defender, Supervisor David Campos, Supervisor John Avalos, Impacted Community Members

SF Chronicle Op-Ed on Ending Deportations by Pangea Executive Director, Niloufar Khonsari

Available here: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/It-will-take-a-village-to-end-deportations-10629264.php

It will take a village to end deportations

Niloufar Khonsari, November 21, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to detain and deport millions of immigrant families. Yet the United States has already hit record numbers of detentions and deportations in the past few years. In California, there is a growing movement to create access to legal counsel for immigrants in detention. However, legal advocacy in the courtroom is not sufficient. Trump’s election underscores the fact that our strategy must extend beyond the courtroom and include politically empowering our clients and their families. Immigration attorneys like myself must actively connect our work with grassroots groups, public campaigns and community organizing. 

Take the case of my former client Jesus Ruiz Diego. His parents brought him to the United States when he was 4 years old. When Diego was 11, a judge ordered him and his family deported.

Diego had no idea. He grew up attending elementary, middle and high school in San Jose. Based on that decade-old order, immigration officials raided Diego’s house when he was 22 and deported him from the country. 

They tried to deport him a second time after he returned, and Diego was detained. The legal scenario for him was grim. But thanks to grassroots advocacy, including thousands of petition signatures, vocal support from undocumented immigrants, multiple rallies, media campaigns and outreach to legislators, Diego was liberated from detention and later obtained relief from deportation. 

This experience transformed Diego — a former sheet-metal worker — into a community organizer. The key in Diego’s case was not only winning his legal case, but also building political consciousness and connecting him to a long-term political movement.

We need to build community-led deportation defense models that place directly affected communities at the center of their self-defense and advocacy. 

California already has programs that provide representation to immigrants who are not detained but are in removal proceedings in the immigration court. Efforts to create representation programs for immigrants in detention are also emerging in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles and statewide.

California’s new programs could be modeled on the successful New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, the first comprehensive program in the country to provide free legal representation to detained immigrants. However, as we build models in California, especially for detained immigrants, we must never lose sight of our goal to end deportations altogether. We need to work with grassroots partners, directly mobilize and work toward the endgame.

Time is of the essence. Attorneys must start connecting their work and clients to a broader movement against detention and deportation. And those of us concerned about Trump’s assault on the most vulnerable must take part in this movement by showing up. 

We must sign petitions, donate what we can and show up to the very rallies that helped keep Diego in this country. Together, we must organize, mobilize and protest detentions and deportations. 

Niloufar Khonsari is an immigration attorney and executive director of Pangea Legal Services, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.

Media Advisory: Local Immigrants Respond to Trump Victory by Ascending Vigorously Against Mass Deportation

Media Advisory: Local Immigrants Respond to Trump Victory by Ascending Vigorously Against Mass Deportation

Immigrants Pack Courtroom Demanding Release of Domestic Violence Survivor and Asylum Seeker Facing Deportation

Contact: Blanca Vazquez blanca@theiyc.org (916)225-1664, Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, Pangea Legal Services (415)254-0475

2016.11.09 #FreeYazmin.jpg

What: Dozens of local  immigrant rights leaders  and advocates against domestic violence come together to support immigrant mother, Yazmin Elias, facing deportation with press conference in response to contentious presidential election where Trump is elected President.

When: Thursday November 10th at 11:30am

Where: Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field Office, 630 Sansome Street. San Francisco, CA

Who: Yazmin Elias’ family, local immigrants rights leaders and advocates against domestic violence including Immigrant Youth Coalition, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, and Pangea Legal Services.

Visuals: Rally Participants will display poster images of Yazmin that read “#FreeYazmin” and banners displaying #FreeYazmin will be presented.

San Francisco, CA- Local immigrants rights activists vigorously rally against family separation and deportation after Trump is elected President, a man who has vowed to massively deport immigrants. Community advocates against domestic violence and immigrants rights leaders are also packing local immigration courtroom to show support for Yazmin Liliana Elias in her last bond hearing in immigration court. Yazmin is a single mother of three US citizen children and a domestic violence survivor. She has been in ICE custody for the past 9 months separated from her three children: Elijah-17, Isaiah-14 and Jeremiah- 13. who are suffering from depression, PTSD and ADHD. From a young age Yazmin endured constant physical violence, dating back to her childhood, and her prime coping mechanism to survive her trauma has been self-medication.

On August 2015, Yazmin was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol. Since then, Yazmin has completed a 3-month residential program where she learned to rehabilitate. Yazmin has began to break the cycle of violence, but instead of allowing her to rehabilitate, ICE has detained her and placed her in deportation proceedings. Yazmin is applying for asylum and a U visa which would enable her to truly recover from over 10 years of abuse; her current detention is re-traumatizing her and preventing her from recovering.

Yazmin exemplifies the ongoing criminalization of domestic violence survivors who need rehabilitation, not incarceration. Her current detention is a testament to the inflexibility of the immigration system to address the needs of those who have suffered emotional and physical abuse. Furthermore, her story is a prime example of the threat millions of immigrant communities have faced for years and the rise of Trump as president only entails the rise of  the power immigrant communities hold to continue resisting to exist.