A group of around 100-150 lawyers mobilized to defend the people illegally detained last night at LAX. In two shifts, of anywhere from 50-60 or more attorneys at any time, they valiantly and vigilantly answered the call of duty. I was with one Los Angeles Based Attorney and received first hand interpretations and a following interview after one of the hardest battles of injustice yet. A call went out for attorneys who were able to help defend the rights of Muslims who were being targeting at LAX, detained, or deported and in the hours preceding the grant of the ACLU Stay no one knew how badly american citizens would need legal aid all they knew was that civil liberties were being wrongfully violated and they were willing to stand up and make themselves available for the fight. In an organic convergence, and at the same time, protesters gathered at Tom Bradley bringing the likes of celebrities, political figures, and the truly passionate dedicated voices to drive the movement onwards.
The experience alone was something I hope never to have to experience again, but something I would not want to forget. Los Angeles, you are passionate and you are unyielding when it comes to defending what is right in this world. As we chanted for the detainees, as we stood there just waiting for someone to cross over to freedom, tears were shed, emotions were high, but we were together.
As the Los Angeles Based attorney recalls one woman who had been detained, after she was released and upon speaking with an attorney looked into her eyes and gave her a long hug saying “This is why America is great.” Because complete strangers were there, they were committed to helping free the detained: and they were not going to leave them no matter what. The attorney said “To me that’s what America’s all about.” It was clear in the actions of the people, not just in their words, not just in their eyes, but in their actions. Attorneys dedicated entire days through the night just to be ready and available if someone needed help. They brought comfort, they brought sympathy, they brought legal advise in a much needed time of duress.
At 12:30 am as the crowd chanted “Let the Baby through” an Armenian with her 10 month old walked through the doors. “She was exhausted” the attorney could see it, “it was because she had been detained for at least 12 hours on top of her flight. She has a Green Card, and her swearing in appointment is just two weeks away.” Her baby was an American Citizen as well. “She was going to be deported too, but her look of exhaustion and her kid just conked out on her arm as she walked out, and she couldn’t even leave because her family was still inside” the attorney recalls. At 12:30am CPP went home for the night leaving the rest of her family inside still detained. The look on her face, the way she felt on the inside, the fact that she’s got her swearing in appointment just days away and none of this mattered to CPP.
At 1am a young woman who spoke mostly Farsi and some English with her sister who had been detained for hours on end approached the attorneys for help. She looked uneasy and put off. Thankfully because there were dedicated translators who also volunteered and answered the call they aided the attorneys throughout the night. This woman was a lawful Green Card holder, the US is her home, and by the looks of it she looks just like anyone we would expect to see on our streets because she belongs here just like all of these people. But CPP told her that they were releasing her, only, they either lost or gave away her Green Card to someone else. They told her not to worry about it and that they would ‘mail it back to her.’ She felt so uneasy by this, and uncomfortable, she didn’t know if she was being scammed out of her Green Card or what. The reason being that throughout the night the “US and LAX Customs Officers were having detainees sign a document that essentially indicated their wish to return to their homeland and waive their interest in being a resident of the US. All the while they were not allowed representation by attorneys or council even when an attorney had been attained for them by family members.” Los Angeles Based Attorney explained. And even though the ACLU was successfully able to stop them from continuing to use this form, what had been already done was done. Some people who didn’t read English were told to sign a form and did so. She elaborated “So here are people who don’t know they have an attorney, can’t talk to an attorney, and they’re being strong armed into signing that agreement, interrogated, detained, and threatened with deportation.” The detained can’t talk to anyone, not an attorney not family, not anyone. And if they do request to contact anyone, it is rumored, that they are then sent to the back of a very long, 10 hour line. In the case of this girl, whose Green Card was given away and was told to just leave without it, she now has no way of proving her citizenship. Knowing that what is going on during these detentions, the Los Angeles Based Attorney feels that the fact that they have given her green card away is very suspicious. Because it is.
I wrote of a young Iranian girl who we were desperately hoping would not be on that 7:30pm flight last night, counting down the minutes just hoping for her. She was the student who did get deported. The saddest part to me is that CPP called her sister who lives in Canada, they told her that her sister did not board the flight and that she was not deported. They lied to her sister because they were acting illegally, she found solace in a lie and woke up to the truth: that her sister was a victim. Anywhere from 40-60 people were unlawfully detained yesterday and through the night and although there hadn’t been more deportations LAX was acting defiantly and the people who suffered…the people interrogated relentlessly about their feelings of #Trump or America…They are not terrorists. They have not hidden themselves here and secretly lay in waiting, NO, they are American Citizens ALL of them. We love our Muslim brothers and sisters, and we accept all people.
In this battle we all have roles, last night was a great demonstration of exercising those roles when needed most. Muslim people were being illegally detained, and before the Stay was granted who knows what might have come: but we were ready for it. Our attorneys showed up, they worked relentlessly sometimes there was little to nothing they could do but they were there. No one gave up, no one gave in, and no one will stand by and watch as our Muslim brothers and sisters are treated with unfairness and bigotry on an institutionalized level. So we all truly do have our roles. You’ll know when it’s your time to rise.
These are some of the images that humanized things for me:
A family receiving tea:
A Tearful Embrace:
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