As I promised in last week’s service (Music Sunday!), I’ll share information (below) about becoming an observer at immigration/ deportation trials. I recommend it. If you are unable to help out during the day, as this task requests, there are huge numbers of other ways to be of support to immigrants.
If you are interested in becoming a court observer, here’s good advice from my friend Amy Lange, who has gotten deeply involved with the process:
The Human Rights Defender Project is a collaboration between the Advocates For Human Rights, The Binger Center for New Americans (at UMN law school) and Robins Kaplan Law. The goal of this project is to bring transparency and accountability to immigration court.
When you sign up for observer shifts you get an automatic confirmation. You’ll get a reminder several days beforehand which will include directions to the building, instructions for how to go through security (similar to the metal scanners at the airport) where to find the courtroom, etc. The reminder email will also contain the observation forms you’ll use.
Court hearings take place Tuesday and Thursday morning and Monday-Thursday afternoon. Shifts are 1 1/2 hours long. They have two volunteer spots for every shift. There are usually about 6 weeks of openings on the signup site at a time. Spots fill quickly but cancellations happen frequently so it helps to check back often.
You really learn by doing, and gut impressions are instructive so don’t worry if you don’t understand everything that is being said. This project is constantly evolving and the observation forms are changing from largely factual data to observer impressions – ex: did the attorney seem competent, did the judge seem fair. Our presence is helping keep the process transparent and has the court on notice. This is powerful.
The most powerful part of the experience is just seeing the injustice of it all – you’ll become a fierce advocate for immigrant justice.
— Warmly, Meg