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Volunteers accompany US immigrants to court to allay fears
Court Watch | 2017/04/25 23:38
When Salvadoran immigrant Joselin Marroquin-Torres became flustered in front of a federal immigration judge in New York and forgot to give her asylum application, a woman she had just met stood up to provide it.

"Thank you," the judge said. "What is your relation to Joselin?"

"I am a friend," responded retired chemist Marisa Lohse, who has accompanied dozens of immigrants to such hearings.

Lohse is among hundreds of volunteers, including preachers, law students and retirees, who've stepped up to accompany people in the U.S. illegally to court hearings and meetings with immigration officials, guiding them through an often intimidating process.

Some of them say the accompaniment is more important than ever since Republican President Donald Trump expanded the definition of deportable offenses to include all immigrants living in the country illegally, giving rise to immigrants being apprehended during routine check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"We want to increase the accompaniment because the crisis is more severe. The pain, the fear, is bigger," said Guillermo Torres, from Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice in Los Angeles.

The group escorts mostly women and children to immigration court hearings, where judges decide who can stay in the U.S. and who must leave. Volunteers also accompany immigrants who are required to periodically check in with federal agents because they have pending cases or have been ordered deported.

ICE said it didn't have national statistics on how often immigrants have been arrested during those check-ins. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups said they believe such arrests are increasing. Trump has said the arrests and deportations are necessary to keep the country safe.



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