CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- Bridging the gap between migrants and attorneys, a new program called Puentes Libres is using laptops to let lawyers from around the country video chat with clients told to wait in Mexico for their U.S. asylum cases to be processed.
Judges themselves have told migrants that asylum cases without an attorney are almost impossible to win. The Hispanic Federation donated the 50 computers that will be set up around Jaurez. Fifteen of them are already ready to go and being used in the Juarez Human Rights office.
It’s supposed to help people like Reinier, a Cuban man who said he was persecuted by the government there.
Reinier, a former attorney, said the Cuban government asked him to inform on any dissident activity. He fled the country, leaving behind two daughters and ask for asylum in the U.S.
“It’s not the same when you have someone who knows the American constitution and American laws on your side to help,” he said.
For attorneys at Las Americas, they’ve only had four 'Remain in Mexico' cases go all the way through, but they’ve helped about 80 people wait in the U.S. instead of Mexico. Even without final asylum decisions, these can be counted as partial victories.
“They can advocate for the individual if, for example, they’re sick or they’re the victim of a crime in mexico. The attorney can assist them be removed from the program and ultimately released into the United States where they can freely fight their case,” said Nicholas Palazzo, an immigration attorney with Las Americas.
Las Americas and the Hispanic Federation are asking attorneys to volunteer and be part of this Puentes Libres project.
The attorneys only need to be barred in any U.S. state and Las Americas will train non-immigration attorneys in asylum law.