Judge Promoted by Trump Administration Threatened a 2-Year-Old With an Attack Dog

On March 30, 2016, in an immigration courtroom in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 2-year-old boy was doing what you might expect: He was making some noise. But Judge V. Stuart Couch—a former Marine known to have a temper—was growing frustrated. He pointed his finger at the Guatemalan child and demanded that he be quiet.

When the boy failed to obey his command, the threats began. “I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you!” Couch yelled.

Couch continued, as a Spanish-language interpreter translated for the child, “Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?” Couch continued to yell at the boy throughout the hearing when he moved or made noise. 

Kathryn Coiner-Collier, the only independent observer in the courtroom that day, says her mouth was on the floor as Couch made his threats. She sometimes saw Department of Homeland Security dogs sweeping the court building, and it was completely plausible to her that dogs could have been there that day. Coiner-Collier, then a coordinator for a project run by the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to assist immigrants who couldn’t afford attorneys, says she “ferociously scribbled everything” Couch was saying. Soon after, she wrote an affidavit containing the dialogue above, and Kenneth Schorr, the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s executive director, submitted a complaint to the Justice Department in April 2016.

Read more at Mother Jones

Ignoring Flores to Detain Families is Inhumane

Because Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy defends migrant adults, families and children in Charlotte’s Immigration Court, we are extremely concerned by the Trump administration’s recent decision to indefinitely detain migrant children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

This week, the Trump administration announced a new immigration rule that attempts to override policy set by the Flores settlement to allow the administration to keep families in detention facilities while they fight their asylum cases.

The Flores settlement has prohibited the U.S. government from detaining migrant children for more than 20 days. The Flores settlement was reached because of the inhumane conditions in detention centers and because of the special psychological and emotional vulnerability of children.

The administration’s unilateral repeal of the Flores settlement is a shameful attempt to prevent Central Americans from availing themselves of our country’s asylum laws and to punish them and their children for seeking asylum by keeping them incarcerated. It is unacceptable.

The new regulations will further erode families’ ability to seek legal assistance, which is critical for anyone seeking relief in our immigration courts. Most detention facilities are in remote areas where few, if any attorneys practice, making it difficult for detained people to get representation. Only those who can afford an attorney can get the legal assistance they need.

All migrants, even children as young as 3 and 4, are expected to fight their own immigration cases against the government if they cannot find or afford an attorney.

The administration has claimed it is pursuing this policy in order to avoid “having to separate families [and] allow families to be released as they wait for their cases to be heard.”

There is no law that requires the Department of Homeland Security to hold asylum seekers pending trial. Contrary to what this administration would have us believe, the Department of Justice’s own statistics show that most respondents show up to their hearings in immigration court.

Those rates were even higher for respondents who participated in the Family Case Management Program, a program that was started in 2016. Instead of incarcerating immigrants at the cost of hundreds of dollars a day, immigrants were released and assigned a case worker who made sure they understood how immigration court works and what their rights and obligations were. The program cost about $36 per person per day and had a compliance rate of 99 percent. The Trump administration discontinued the  Family Case Management program in favor of incarceration.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes all people, especially vulnerable children, deserve legal assistance when their safety is on the line. That’s why we advocate for migrant adults, families and children, most of whom, have been subjected to some form of trauma over the course of their young lives.

Their cases will take years to process through an overburdened immigration court system. Now this administration wants to detain them indefinitely as they wait for their day in court.

This is unacceptable. As a community and nation of immigrants, we can do better.

Action Alert: “Show Me Your Papers” Bill Threatens Community Safety

Yesterday, the N.C. House approved a bill that strips local authority from sheriffs’ departments by requiring them to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and assist in enforcing federal immigration law.

The legislation now goes before Gov. Roy Cooper for consideration after the N.C. Senate passed the bill in June.

House Bill 370, the “Show Me Your Papers” law, would require all N.C. sheriffs and jails to comply with immigration detainer requests made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, even though these detainer requests are not considered valid warrants, which means sheriffs should have full discretion within their local authority to not recognize them.

The bill also requires police to determine the immigration status of any person arrested for a criminal charge and to notify ICE if the person is not a legal resident or citizen and forces jails to wait for federal approval before releasing an individual being held, even if the person is eligible for release under North Carolina law.

It would allow anyone to sue their local government if they believe it is not cooperating with immigration enforcement activities or breaking state law related to immigration.

HB370 is a direct response to local sheriffs across North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden, choosing to end federal 287(g) programs in their counties, which ended the requirement of local law enforcement to cooperate with and assist ICE in detaining undocumented residents.

Mecklenburg County participated in 287(g) for 12 years. During that time, the program diverted our local public safety resources away from protecting our community toward carrying out federal immigration enforcement policies.

Instead of addressing and preventing violent crime, the program incentivized local law enforcement officials to actively seek out undocumented residents with no criminal history through procedures that border on racial profiling and erode trust in the immigrant community.

Mecklenburg County Sherriff Gary McFadden was elected to office on a wave of local support for ending the 287(g) program.

Now the N.C. General Assembly is trying to override the will of Mecklenburg County voters to assert its own control over how our local law enforcement officials do their jobs.

Is this the best use of tax-payer dollars to keep our community safe? We don’t think so.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes this bill is a detriment to community safety, local autonomy and family unity for all Mecklenburg County residents.

We urge Governor Roy Cooper to veto this legislation.

287(g) facilitated thousands of deportations by arresting individuals for minor traffic infractions or misdemeanors. This practice has torn families apart, made immigrants vulnerable targets for exploitation and eroded the trust of law enforcement in the immigrant community.

None of these ramifications made our community safer and neither does a systematic dragnet that targets communities of color. Instead, it forces people to withdraw from their communities, from working, attending school, seeking medical care and reporting crime out of fear.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy continues to stand with our immigrant neighbors, advocating for inclusion and fairness under the law to ensure their safety, security and stability in our community.

What you can do

Contact Gov. Roy Cooper’s office by phone
(919) 814-2000 or email or sign this petition to express your concern for HB370 and call on him to veto the legislation.

Our community deserves safety, local autonomy and protected family unity.

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