The following is a general step-by-step guide to the process of conducting a public campaign against a person’s deportation. The guide includes information for people in deportation proceedings, their family members, community advocates, and grassroots organizers, including how to work on these cases with limited support from an attorney.
Please remember that each case is unique, and that while we try to account for a variety of situations, you may have to improvise. In fact, much of what we have learned about fighting publicly against deportations has been the result of people in deportation and community advocates being creative and thinking outside the box.
[ Click on Boxes to Expand ]
Recommended roles and responsibilities for community advocates: The role of a community advocate or organization should be to support the public campaign in a strategy led by the individual or family of individual facing deportation. Some responsibilities might include:
It is important that the person in deportation proceedings and their family know both the possibilities and the limitations of community advocacy, including:
If you are the individual facing deportation or a family member: Make sure that everyone involved in the campaign knows that it will take their active participation. If you are in communication with a community advocacy organization, review their roles and commitments, some of which are listed above. Know that you and your family will also have a role and responsibilities, including:
Consult with an Attorney: Whether there is an attorney representing the person in proceedings or not, they should talk to an attorney about whether they have any options besides prosecutorial discretion to fight their deportation, and about how a campaign for prosecutorial discretion might affect those other options.
If the person does not have an attorney, they should get legal advice about their eligibility for other forms of deportation relief before going ahead with a prosecutorial discretion campaign.
That’s because if they are eligible for other relief, it might be better for them to pursue that relief than to try to have their case closed through prosecutorial discretion
Community advocates can also try to help the person set up an intake interview with a local immigration attorney. (Many attorneys will do an initial case evaluation or consultation free of charge). If you cannot find a local attorney, contact NDLON to see if we can help refer you to someone.
Get a Privacy Waiver: A DHS “Privacy Waiver Authorizing Disclosure to a Third Party” gives DHS and ICE permission to share information about a person in deportation proceedings with a third party, including a community advocate. This includes information such as whether or not prosecutorial discretion has been granted, and whether an individual has been deported. If the person facing deportation is in detention, strategize on who can get the form to them, because they must sign it personally. Some organizations have been successful in mailing the form to the detention center.
A note about working with attorneys: If your organization is already working with an attorney who has agreed to represent the person in removal proceedings, or if you are in removal proceedings and already have an attorney, the attorney should have requested a signed G-28 form. The G-28 form establishes the attorney as the person’s legal representative before DHS, and gives the attorney access to information from DHS. A community organization or advocate should still consider getting the DHS privacy waver signed so that they can get information directly from DHS, without the attorney acting as a go-between. This might vary according to the relationship of each organization and individual to the attorney representing the case.
Research: It is good to have multiple sources of information about your case, or the case of the person who you are advocating for. Sometimes people are not aware of the charges facing their loved one or the location where their loved one is detained. It can be a huge help to provide them with this information. For people in ICE custody, try the ICE detainee locator at http://www.ice.gov/locator. For people in local criminal custody, use a search engine to see if the jail provides online information about inmates. Many do.
An Intake form: We have put together a series of questions that could be used as an intake form to find out more about the person’s immigration history and other factors that might affect their immigration status and public case. For organizations that have partnerships with attorneys, this has been a tool shared with the attorneys to support the intake process. The information in the form may also inform steps to take for the public campaign, including writing the petition and the prosecutorial discretion letter.
Find a sample intake form here.
Evaluate case: Is this a case that your organization wants to take on? What are the chances for prosecutorial discretion? Does the case let you raise important issues that have an implication beyond the case itself?
Evaluate urgency: Does action need to be taken today (for an imminent deportation)? Is the person in detention? Is the final court date/ date of removal soon? If immediate action must be taken, what resources do you have at your disposal?
Determine who has the decision-making power to stop this deportation, define primary targets, and figure out what you are asking for. Some possible asks and targets are:
This is a template letter to be sent from a community organization to ICE. The purpose of the letter is to provide ICE with information showing that an individual is a good candidate for prosecutorial discretion. Your organization should submit this letter only with the individual’s consent, and only after informing him or her that you are not an attorney, that you cannot provide legal advice or representation and that, if ICE offers to close his or her removal case in an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, he or she should consult with an immigration attorney before deciding whether to accept the offer.
Do NOT submit this letter for anyone who is not currently in deportation proceedings. If you are submitting this letter for someone who is represented by an immigration attorney, consult with the attorney before submitting the letter. You should also consult with an immigration attorney before disclosing any facts or details that could be used against the individual. This includes any details about arrests, criminal convictions, and past immigration violations. The information from the letter can come from the intake done earlier. This template is not meant to be legal advice. Every case is different.
The prosecutorial discretion letter can also be used when elected officials ask for more information about the case, as it gives them a full history of the person who they are supporting. You may edit the letter to protect the person’s privacy by including fewer details than you sent to ICE, as long as the letter remains honest to the totality of the case. Note that some elected officials require a family member to sign a privacy waver, usually found on their website, before their office will look into the person’s case or make a call on their behalf to ICE.
Important Factors to Include in the Letter: You can find a list of the factors that can be listed in Part II of the Letter in the Prosecutorial Discretion section at the beginning of this Toolkit. Include each and as many positive reason that applies to your case.
Possible Documents to Include with the Letter: It is important to attach documents to the letter to substantiate people’s claims and experiences. For example, if you or the individual in deportation proceedings explains in the prosecutorial discretion letter that you/he/she have a U.S. citizen husband or wife, the supporting documents should include a marriage certificate and proof of citizenship, such as naturalization documents, passports, or birth certificates.
Below is a list of possible documents that people could use to support a prosecutorial discretion request. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. Also note that you can submit affidavits from people to substantiate some of the claims, for example, you can submit an affidavit to substantiate facts about violence experienced, child custody, or economic hardship:
Show length of stay in the US
Show “good moral character”
Relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and establish hardship
Documents to show “compelling ties” and “compelling contributions” to the U.S.
Documents to show involvement in an activity “related to civil or other rights (for example, union organizing, complaining to authorities about employment discrimination or housing conditions)”
Now you are ready to send these to ICE. In an e-mail or mailing package, send:
* The supporting documents are an important part of the request. However, if immediate action needs to be taken—for example, because the person is facing imminent deportation or transfer to ICE—you may want to put together a “bare bones” prosecutorial discretion request, including just the details and supporting documents you have at the moment. You can send a more detailed request later (and you should, since ICE can deny the request based on there not being enough evidence).
Even in the “bare bones” request, though, it’s important to include the DHS Third Party Privacy Waver, because ICE does not have to respond to your request if they do not have permission to share information. If you don’t have the DHS waver and are unable to get it signed (for example, if the person is in detention or otherwise unreachable), immigration officials may be willing to give information to immediate relatives without a signed form.
Not all cases need to go public. With some clear-cut “low priority” cases, especially those without criminal backgrounds, a relationship with the above contacts/targets, plus a prosecutorial discretion request letter with supporting documents could be sufficient to stop a deportation. But most cases we will work on will need to go public.
Write the petition. Make sure it is brief, honest, and to the point. Humanize the person. Make people see their story. Identify a compelling fact that will help others relate to them. Work with NDLON to set up the online petition.
The text for the petition should have 4 parts:
You can find petitions and use them as samples here. Also, below are examples and pointers for how to write each part of the petition:
Part 1: The main text
[Catchy title for the petition] With Baby’s Life in Danger, Father Fights to Stay
[Introductory paragraph explaining the urgency and summarizing the case]
Paco Gomez (A 000-000-000) is currently being detained at the South Louisiana Correctional Center. He is a caring father of one U.S. citizen son, and has another baby on the way. His wife, Maria has been struggling to make her medical appointments and her husband’s deportation has caused stress on her pregnancy. Paco has no criminal record, is a contributing member of his community and church, and only wants to support his family.
[Ask for support in bold, with a direct action to be taken]
Please take a moment to sign this petition, and make a call in support of letting Paco stay with his family.
[More of the story, and why signing the petition is important]
Paco was detained when he and his wife were driving back from Church and were stopped by immigration agents at a checkpoint. Paco, who was driving, was asked for his identification. Because of a prior deportation, he was taken into custody. Now his wife is organizing with her community and asking for support for her husband. Paco already missed the birth of his first son, because he had been deported. With his family as the reason he came back, he wants to be here for the birth of his second child. Please sign below to stop Paco’s deportation.
Part 2: Message to the Target
[Subject heading for e-mail, include A number]
Subject: Paco Gomez (A 000-000-000) has a baby whose life is in danger, please stop his deportation
[Text] Hello —
I am writing in support of Paco Gomez (A 000-000-000), who is currently detained at the South Louisiana Correctional Center. He is a caring father of one U.S. citizen son, and has another baby on the way. His wife has been struggling to make her medical appointments, and her husband’s deportation has caused stress on her pregnancy. Mr Gomez has no criminal record, is a contributing member of his community and church, and only wants to support his family.
I understand that Mr. Gomez has been deported in the past. However, he poses no danger to the community, and is a contributing member of his church, and a caring father and son. I urge you to consider using prosecutorial discretion in his case to stop his deportation.
Part 3: Thank You E-mail and calls
[Subject] Thank you for supporting Paco!
[E-mail text] Dear [[Name]]
Thank you for your signature. These checkpoints and detentions happen routinely in the neighborhoods of [State] Your support for Paco and his family helps us fight the effects of these detentions in our communities. If you haven’t made a call, please consider taking another minute to support:
[Call the national target, and the local target. Calls are important]
[Include a sample call-in script. Give out the A number again, ICE often keeps track of the calls made for a person by their A number]
Sample script: “I am calling to ask that Immigration and Customs Enforcement stop the deportation of and close the case against Paco Gomez (A number 000-000-000). He is a caring father of one U.S. citizen son, and has another baby on the way. Paco has no criminal record, is a contributing member of his community and church, and only wants to support his family”
Sincerely, [YOUR NAME, YOUR ORG]
Note: It is super important to make those calls. ICE pays more attention to calls than e-mails.
Determine petition targets
Use the petition as a tool: The petition is a tool that gives people direction on how to help with the case. Make sure to spread it through your networks, ask people in key positions (executive directors, legislators) to make a call, ask ally organizations to send it out through their networks, use your social media, have people sign the petition AND make calls at meetings, encourage the family or individual to participate in making calls, etc.
Gather letters of support from elected officials. Look for Senators, representatives, city officials, or other federal, city or state elected officials who might be supportive of the case:
Organize with community organizations, churches, and other types of organizations that may relate to the cause (medical associations, teachers unions, mental health agencies—be creative!) to:
Get media to call ICE: Urge any media covering your story to call the ICE office (or your targets) and inquire about your case. We have been told by detainees that when media are asking questions, ICE will take a second look at the deportation cases.
Escalate. Consider a plan for escalation, such as a direct action or civil disobedience to move your primary or secondary targets, especially as the deportation date draws near. This can increase the public attention on the case, which can help.
Follow-up, Evaluation and Documentation
Work to continue to involve the family members and friends to support others in deportation proceedings.
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