Page 18


Ruin Hain International Headquarters Come Visit us for LUNCH! In addition to our organic coffee, pizzas, empanadas, pastries and pies, we now prepare made to order sandwiches, salads, and even black bean gazpacho. 3601 S. Congress off E. Alpine Penn Field under the water tower check our site for monthly calendar Supporting The Texas Observer with every referral and transaction. You Know Me Get real estate help from someone you know. Call me today! Larry Hurlbert, Realtor 512.431.5370 [email protected] The Kinney Company, Real Estate Services, Austin, TX corpus court documents, which demands that the U.S. government give her a hearing before a federal judge. He then phones Brodyaga, who submits the documents online while Diez waits with the client on the bridge. “I’ve only used this procedure a handful of times,” Brodyaga says. “And I only resort to it in the most outrageous cases.” Attorneys once could meet clients in waiting rooms at ports of entry. Since 9/11, security has become tougher, and now border agents won’t allow people to linger in waiting rooms. So Brodyaga has clients meet her, or Diez, on the bridge. “Sometimes Border Patrol gets prickly about people standing on the bridge, so they send us back to Mexico,” she says. “Then we come back to the middle of the bridge after they’ve gone. Sometimes it’s like a dance.” Sometimes, as in the Castros’ case, it works. Brodyaga says her bridge procedure has never been tested in the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, so it’s risky. The court could rule that standing in U.S. territory on an international bridge does not qualify as U.S. jurisdiction. But she feels she has no other choice as long as U.S. citizens are left with no access to the U.S. court system. “When I started 30 years ago, I represented undocumented Mexicans. Then in the ’80s it was mostly Central Americans seeking asylum. Now the majority of my cases are U.S. citizens,” Brodyaga says. “That tells you a lot about what’s going on in this country right now.” Brodyaga says there are no statistics on how many U.S. citizens have been denied entry into the United States. “But I am convinced it’s fairly common,” she says. Both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of State said they do not track statistics on the number of people claiming U.S. citizenship who are denied entry. Part of the problem is a lack of judicial or legal oversight at ports of entry. In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. The legislation gave immigration agents at the border sole authority to determine whether a person can enter the United States. Prior to this legislation, people denied entry could request a hearing before an immigration judge. “This is basically putting all of the authority regarding whether or not a person is eligible to be admitted to the United States in the hands of U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” says Kathleen Walker, general counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “People have no right to counsel and no right to a phone call even.” Increasingly, security issues at the border have pre-empted U.S. immigration law, says Diez. This means anyone with a more complicated immigration claim is detained or simply refused entry into the United States. “They don’t allow for gray area anymore. The order seems to be, ‘err on the safe side,”‘ he says. “I think most people are for that if it means keeping the country safethat is, until they are denied entry into the United States. Then you realize you are fighting the U.S. government. It’s a very scary situation.” Diez says he’s sympathetic toward the plight of border agents. There is high turnover and a lot of burnout. Every year Congress requires that they do more. “They have a lot of pressures on them,” he says. “Not only are they supposed to keep terrorists out, but also look for drugs, fake documents, and understand all of the difficult laws that apply to immigration.” With the influx of new agents being assigned to the southern border, many come from northern states and aren’t familiar with border culture, Diez says. “They don’t understand families with mixed citizenship or why they cross the border so many times.” Walker says immigration agents should at least videotape their interactions with U.S. citizens and immigrants at the border, much like police officers do. “There is no true accountability for these government officials who are able to insulate themselves from oversight,” she says. Brodyaga and Diez hope the lawsuit they filed will force the U.S. government to establish due process for citizens like the Castros who find themselves in immigration limbo. “You shouldn’t be interrogated alone in an office for 11 hours, then have your papers seized,” Diez says. “You should at least have the right to a hearing and legal counsel.” CI READ about legislation to establish due process at txlo. com/legislation MAY 14, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11