El Paso, Forty Five Minutes, Five Years discussed on Morning Edition

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Of the el Paso immigration court so this is a building that we've been hearing about all week because so many of the people that we've been talking to are looking to have their asylum cases heard in this court one of them is a family from Honduras Tanya her husband Joseph and their three little kids tiny is one of those people who smiles all of the time even when she stressed out and right now she is very stressed out I met her and her family in a shelter in Ciudad Juarez that's the city just across the border from el Paso they were sent there after they crossed into the U. S. there among the thousands of people who are waiting in Mexico until their court date the only time that Tonya smile fades is when she talks about what brought her family to the border this is the story she told us earlier this week when we first met her she says that back in Honduras her mom like a lot of people was targeted by the MS thirteen gang Tonya's lawyer asked us not to say exactly why because it could affect Chinese court case but eventually MS thirteen got to Tonya's mother I mean I mean it but I don't remember the looks Nevada my mom was shot nine times and even after the murder they weren't satisfied with having killed her her bodies on the ground and he ran over her Michael Tanya watched all of this completely helpless and set up a little bit came upon a smart different these very hard to watch mother get killed right before your eyes and not do anything about it so she decided to do something about it she went to court she testified against the gang members she says she tried to hide her identity but the gang found out who she was tiny sister in law was a witness in that same case the gang kidnapped tortured and killed her and then left her infant daughter in a dumpster after that they came for Tonya then autumn this CA okay let me have a look that I'm quite into single men with those they told her basically you're next she says they left a note on her front door it said you have forty five minutes to leave sincerely MS thirteen that family has an awful story but they also have something that a lot of people don't they have a lawyer who heard that story and said I'm gonna take your case so on the day of the court hearing the lawyer Linda Refosco leads Tonya and her family into the court room I'm not allowed to record while I'm in there but Linda walks in looking like she knows what's up the judge jokes with her he says Hey it's been a while in the other migrants look at them and to me it looks like they're thinking that family gets to go first because they have a lawyer they get to sit in chairs in front of the judge he's gonna talk directly to that Linda the lawyer tries to get time his family out of Mexico she tells the judge in this the true story time his three year old daughter has a heart condition she's had a heart attack the judges eyebrows shoot way up he says the child yes this is what having a lawyer gets you a chance to tell your story but then after the hearing outside of the courtroom Linda read us this confident lawyer lets her guard down and she tells us that she has been wondering how much longer can we two says and are we really making a difference the problem in el Paso is this there are too few immigration lawyers too few Linda re losses for nine thousand migrants who are stuck in seat out war as a loan she is so overwhelmed right now this is what makes it so bizarre to then run into another lawyer whose buzzing around the courthouse openly saying Hey I'm here to help for free it's a woman named Taylor levy she knows this courthouse really well Taylor used to be part of something called the know your rights program she would walk in here and talk to migrants before their court hearings and make sure that at the very least they knew their basic rights but she says recently she was told to stop doing this the justice department ended this court's know your rights program it's ridiculous I'm here to help people for free they're going to be here all day there is a free attorney willing to talk to wanting to help orient people and we're being told that we are not allowed to speak to them so instead of legal advice she's now bring crayons and coloring books in fact I watched as a security guard told her she couldn't come into the court room we asked the justice department why they ended know your rights and that'll Paso court room and they told us in a statement that they want to make sure migrants aren't being misled or confused about their proceedings or otherwise taken advantage of but it is not just that program that sending Linda re last time his lawyer said for some reason she is also being given less access in this court even to her own clients today they don't even let me in to the waiting around there were guards that were physically standing at the waiting room is and I wasn't even allowed into the waiting room of a court an immigration court that I've been practicing before for five years the people without lawyers which is mostly everyone look confused or bored or anxious or all three they're given forms in English even though everyone has said Espanol when asked what language they speak one man raises his hand and says to the judge I can't find a lawyer and the judge seems sympathetic his advice appears to be you should keep trying at the end of the hearing every migrant in that room is in the same boat including tiny and her family they will likely be held by immigration authorities for a few days and then they'll be sent back to Mexico to wait some more the judge tells them I will see all of you again on August fifteenth for a second hearing by that date Linda reverse the lawyer says she will have an asylum application prepared for Tonya and her family but everyone else in this room who hasn't found a lawyer and most of them probably won't they will sit in that courtroom on that day with no one at their side making a case for them on today's show we also talked to an immigration judge about what this legal crisis is like for her and her colleagues on the bench.

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