Children suffer the most under ICE’s broken system

childBecause of the sensitive nature of the details provided below, ICIE is choosing not to identify the family.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has little desire to keep families together, as evidenced by their history of aggressive deportation. Perhaps even more egregious is their failure to assist foreign nationals here legally when they have problems. In a case currently being handled by ICIE, the failure by government officials to act has literally destroyed a local family.

The problems for the family began earlier this year when a mother of four, who was here legally on Temporary Protected Status (TPS), had to return to her home country when her mother had a heart attack. She thought her TPS allowed for short trips out of the country, but airline officials failed to notify her that her travel documents would not allow her to return to America. When she tried, her entry was denied, and even different government immigration officials could not agree on whether her travel documents allowed her to reenter. Her return was ultimately denied, leaving four children, all U.S. citizens, without their only parent. They are currently in the care of their godparents.

Complicating matters, since the mother was not allowed to return to the United States, she missed an appointment with ICE officials to renew her TPS, who now refuse to work with her to bring her back to her children.

While the mother suffers in a foreign country, her children have suffered the most. Her six year old, so traumatized by the separation from his mother, has stopped talking completely. The oldest child, 16 years old, has had to drop out of school to help support the family.

A third child, only 12 years old, has had perhaps the hardest struggle. After being constantly teased by schoolmates that her mother was a criminal and an illegal alien, and blaming herself for her mother’s situation, she attempted suicide.

“We just had all four kids in our offices, and they are all completely devastated over the separation from their mother,” ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg said. “This situation should never have happened. This mother should be here in America with her children, but our government isn’t willing to do anything about it. They could very easily resolve this situation.”

Isenberg remains in contact with the mother as they attempt to bring her home, and is ensuring the children receive proper assistance and treatment.

 

Ralph Isenberg and ICIE: Saving the world, one family at a time

Ralph Isenberg
Ralph Isenberg

Ralph Isenberg is a successful property manager in Dallas, but he is also a warrior for the rights of immigrants that have fallen victim to our present immigration system. Isenberg, who has no special training in field of immigration, founded the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) after he learned first-hand of the destructive nature of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) tactics and their total disregard for civil and human rights. “This agency, for the most part, is made up of FBI want-to-be types that are rejects because they act like thugs and bullies.” Isenberg said. “ICE agents that want to do well are clearly in the minority.” Isenberg points to the fact that ICE has more government watchdog agencies keeping an eye on ICE than any other law enforcement agency in the United States Government.

Isenberg is a first-generation American whose family came to the United States from Nazi Germany. The war in Europe resulted in the Isenbergs losing two-thirds of their family at the hands of Hitler. Isenberg’s parents made certain he was raised with a deep appreciation for the opportunities the United States gave new immigrants. His father earned a PHD and was a full professor teaching Organic Chemistry while his mother, an RN, headed a student health care program at university of over 20,000 students.

Isenberg took a keen interest in politics at a very young age after meeting Senator John F. Kennedy when he was running for president. During this time he also met several other well-known political types and civil rights leaders.

It was only natural that Isenberg would want to get involved in helping those with immigration problems, after his own family ran into what he describes as the “wrath of ICE.” Isenberg says, “There is no way I will ever forgive the United States for what they did to my family and the only fitting punishment is that I spend the rest of my life on the attack saving others.”

ICIE was founded to help Isenberg implement the principle that action, not inaction, will always be taken when ICIE finds a matter in which Constitutional law or “extreme family separation” is an issue to a foreign national. The organization does not charge a person it helps, no matter how much work is required. “We are a ‘resort of last hope,” Isenberg says. “ICIE is anything but conventional. We will do whatever we must to keep a family together. That is proven by the fact that ICIE has only had two setbacks in several hundred matters, involving thousands of foreign nationals and nationals. Losing a matter is not an option when you are dealing with a human life,” Isenberg points out.

The stated mission of ICIE is “to challenge our society to be more accepting of foreign nationals that have settled in the United States, whose presence has made them contributing members of our society and deserving of being Americans. When harm comes to these deserving foreign nationals, ICIE will engage those persons, whether it involves private or government concerns. The major tools used by ICIE to defend foreign nationals are the Constitution of the United States, the doctrine of extreme family separation and humanitarian concerns. ICIE will never permit simple prejudice to be a framework for resolution.”

Over the years, Isenberg and the staff at ICIE take on matters that most legal types run from. It is a daunting task, and Isenberg often finds his efforts thwarted by ICE agents who violate the civil rights of the foreign nationals he is trying to help. Through all the victories and struggles, Isenberg points out that it is always about helping one life, and one family, at a time. “I always tell folks about the story of the starfish,” he said. “A father and his child were walking along the beach and came across hundreds of starfish that had washed ashore. The child began picking up the starfish one at a time and putting them back in the ocean. That father told the child; there’s no point in doing this. There are too many starfish to throw back in the ocean. You can’t help them. It won’t make a difference. The child looked up at the father, holding up a starfish, and said, “it will make a difference for this one.” That describes ICIE perfectly.

“We at ICIE can’t help everyone; but to the person or family we do get to save, it makes a world of difference. We get to save one starfish at a time,” he said.

Keeping families together is not a partisan issue!

gingrichquote

Keeping families united should not be exclusive to any political party. It should be a universal principle. Please share this image on your social media if you agree!

ICIE’s Resolution for 2015: Fighting for Due Process

The start of the New Year is usually marked with resolutions to accomplish a significant goal in the coming year. At ICIE, founder Ralph Isenberg has set a resolution for the organization as well: ensuring the foreign nationals they help have a voice in court and receive due process. It’s something Isenberg is willing to sue for to achieve.

Because Isenberg and the ICIE staff are not attorneys, they rely on a provision in immigration law that allows “reputable individuals” to represent immigrants in court and with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). However, Isenberg has faced a number of roadblocks in his efforts. “One has to wonder why Congress would put this provision in the law if they didn’t expect people to use it,” he said.

“We are prepared, in 2015, to sue ICE for mistreatment over our advocacy for foreign nationals,” Isenberg said, who points out that ICE agents in Dallas often prevent him from helping immigrants they are trying to deport. “Some of the foreign nationals we help only have a fifth grade education from their country. They are not competent to understand our legal system or immigration law. They do not know how to stand in front of a judge and contribute to their defense.” Too often, these foreign nationals have to appear before an ICE agent or an immigration judge without legal advice or representation, a gap Isenberg and ICIE staff try to fill.

Isenberg has four cases that he and ICIE staff have targeted as priority for the new year: a pregnant woman who was deported despite having a U.S. citizen husband and children; a foreign national from Bangladesh who was deported back to his country even though he is not permitted to live there; a man who was deported after 21 years in the United States for a crime he did not commit, even though a witness is able to prove his innocence; and a young boy stranded in El Salvador hoping to reunite with family in the U.S. Each case involves matters of due process, extreme family separation, and Constitutional issues, which is ICIE’s specialty. Isenberg currently has two cases pending before the Bureau of Immigration Appeals, a last resort for immigrants who did not receive a fair hearing in front of an immigration judge.

To read the section of immigration law regarding “reputable individuals,” click right here.

ICIE’s Ralph Isenberg featured in Washington Times immigration article

President Obama’s recent order to defer deportations for about five million foreign nationals in the U.S. was both welcomed and criticized. While the order provided relief to many parents facing separation from their families, millions more still have the prospect of deportation looming. The Washington Times published an article this week detailing the problem, and turned to ICIE’s Ralph Isenberg for his insight.

“You’re threatening that entire family at the later stages of its family development with extreme family separation for something that has taken place scores of years ago, and the person [is] not a threat to the security of the United States,” Mr. Isenberg said in the article. He called the President’s plan too political, and warned “Do not sign up. There are other forms of relief available,” he said.

To read the article and check out more of Mr. Isenberg’s analysis of the President’s plan, click right here.

 

Judge rules shackling of immigrant detainees unconstitutional

“You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners.” – Fyordor Dostoevsky

A federal district judge has ruled that the practice of shackling immigrant detainees by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during court proceedings is unconstitutional. Judge Michael Ponsor of the U.S. District Court (Massachusetts) ruled March 9 that the shackles were “dehumanizing” and “demoralizing,” and interfered with a detainee’s legal defense. Until the ruling, ICE made a practice of shackling all immigrant detainees at the waist, wrists, and ankles, even though most posed no security threat and many were requesting political asylum.

Courts had long ago ruled that shackling of criminal defendants in U.S. courts was unconstitutional, but ICE has been shackling detainees during court appearances since 2012. The decision came after Mark Reid, a legal permanent resident and a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, was detained and shackled during his hearing, and filed suit over his treatment. Judge Ponsor not only found the ICE practice degrading, but noted that during the hearing, Reid was unable to write notes to his lawyer or put on his glasses because of the shackles. Reid prevailed in his bond hearing, was released, and had his legal residency confirmed.


In his ruling, Judge Ponsor noted “To deny or minimize an individual’s dignity in an immigration proceeding, or to treat this essential attribute of human worth as anything less than fundamental simply because an immigration proceeding is titularly civil, would be an affront to due process.” Judge Ponsor did rule that, in the future, an assessment of possible violence from the detainee must be done before the use of shackles could be approved.

In January, the San Francisco ICE office agreed to stop the shackling of detainees who did not pose a security threat after a human rights lawsuit was filed.

The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE), a Dallas immigration advocacy group, has seen the inhuman shackling of foreign nationals detained by ICE first-hand. It points to the case of Yadira Verdusco, who was detained by Dallas ICE for nearly a year before being released in January. Verdusco suffered from a medical condition that often left her so weak, she could not walk. Even so, Dallas ICE agents would shackle her when she would travel to a doctor’s office for treatment. At one point, Dallas ICE agents were confronted by law enforcement officials when they were seen dragging a weakened yet still shackled Verdusco to her cell at a local county jail. Dallas ICE officials were never reprimanded for their treatment of Verdusco.

ICIE said it welcomes the move to restore dignity to detainees by ending practices like the one Verdusco endured, but feels it is one of many improvements that must be made to the system

English classes fill vital need for immigrants

For Mexican immigrants looking to start a new life in the United States, there are many barriers to overcome, but perhaps none more imposing than the language gap. In the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, however, an immigration advocacy group is bridging that gap by providing free English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to families they are assisting with immigration issues.

Foreign nationals looking to gain legal residency status or fighting deportation often seek out the services of the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) in Dallas. According to Reyna Ruiz, who coordinates immigration cases for ICIE, most of the foreign nationals who they help understand the need to know the English language. “They ask us for help in taking English classes,” she said. “They just don’t have the money to afford the class. They want to learn. Many of them have been here for years, but they only know a little English.”


Initially, ICIE founder Ralph Isenberg would help immigrants take ESL classes offered locally, but he found it would be more effective to offer the lessons in-house. The organization is currently setting up a learning center in which foreign nationals can learn English when they visit to work on their immigration case. Isenberg believes that personal responsibility among foreign nationals is imperative, and learning English is essential to an immigrant’s success.

In the early stages of the program, foreign nationals will be required to spend three to four hours a week in the learning center using the Rosetta Stone program. Staff will monitor the progress of each individual to ensure they are learning the language and advancing to the next level of the program. If an individual does not live up to those requirements, ICIE will not help them with their immigration issues. “Our services are always free,” Ruiz said. “When families come to us for help, they only pay the fee that the government charges to file forms. They do not have to pay the $500 or $600 more that they would if they went to an attorney for help.”

ICIE is currently helping 40 families with immigration issues, and plans are to have the parents of each family use the Rosetta Stone program. If there are workstations available, other family members can use the program as well. “We want not just the mother and father to learn English, but the whole family” Ruiz said. “If only one person learns English, they won’t use it at home. They will only speak Spanish, and we want them all to learn English.”

Navigating the red tape of a confusing immigration process is hard enough if you know English, and the government provides little assistance to non-English speaking immigrants. One mistake in understanding or completing a form could jeopardize an immigrant’s efforts for legal residency status. It is a situation immigrants understand full well; although there is a common perception that they have no desire to learn English, Ruiz says that isn’t the case. “Everybody wants the program to start right now. They always tell us they want to take classes and learn English. When we told them we will have this program, they got excited and asked us to let them know when they can start.”

Working for ICIE is more than a job for Ruiz. Her parents, hoping for a better life for their children, brought her from Mexico as a child. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from West Texas A&M University. Her brother also earned his degree and plans to become a veterinarian. She understands where the families that come to ICIE for help are coming from, and how learning English makes a difference in the lives of immigrants.

“We need the person to learn to speak English. It’s tough when we’re trying to get information about their case and speaking two languages,” she said. “I tell people, if you can read English, you can fill out an immigration form. When filling out DACA forms, it’s not hard, but people are afraid to make mistakes. They might have to read it two or three times, but they can do it.”

Freedom remains elusive for wrongly imprisoned Dallas mother

Yadira and her family

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

Every July, Americans give thanks for their liberties and freedoms, but for one Dallas-area mother, there will be no barbecues or fireworks shows to enjoy with her family. Yadira Verdusco has been jailed in North Texas since March on a federal charge of illegal reentry into the United States. She has not been granted a hearing to present her case that she entered the country legally 14 years ago.

“Yadira’s case is one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice I have ever seen,” said Ralph Isenberg of the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE), Verdusco’s lone advocate in her struggle to be heard. “Ever since she was arrested in March, Yadira has never had the chance to give her side of the case, not even at her arraignment. All a judge has heard is the government’s claim that she is in the country illegally. This entire situation is a violation of both immigration and constitutional law. She has never had the chance to face and challenge her accusers. She has had no due process. Her treatment is no less than cruel or unusual punishment, and this sort of extreme family separation happens all the time to people accused of immigration violations.”


In addition to her claims of innocence, Verdusco meets the legal requirements for bail until her trial, but has not been granted a hearing. Verdusco is married to an American citizen and has American-born children. Her son currently serves in the United States Marine Corps. She also has a medical condition that requires constant treatment. Any one of these situations would qualify Verdusco for bond, but the government never disclosed them to her judge. Isenberg has asked three different judges to hold an emergency bond hearing to present her case, but none have responded.

“This sort of situation should not happen in America,” Isenberg said. “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released people accused of criminal acts, but kept this mother behind bars. She was a teacher for Dallas County Community Colleges and worked at Medical City Dallas. She deserves to be home on bond until her case is heard by a judge.”

The government recently moved Verdusco’s trial date from August to September, ensuring she will remain jailed and away from her family even longer. Independence Day will just be another Thursday behind bars.

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The Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) is “a resort of last hope” for foreign nationals. People come to ICIE because the system has failed, and as a result, someone is facing a wrongful deportation. Since their founding in 2011, ICIE has helped hundreds of deserving families, and provides all services pro-bono. The organization deals with the entire family unit, from teaching the basic fundamentals behind community service, to English education, to individualized counseling to build positive mental health.