Justice Matters, For Everyone
Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) is one of the three agencies that benefit from the funds raised by the Combined Campaign for Justice. Last month, at CCJ’s 7th Annual Combined Campaign Cup, CLASI’s Deputy Director, Laura Graham, spoke poignantly about her client, Omar. CLASI’s representation of vulnerable youth, like Omar, is possible in part due to CCJ funds.
When she met Omar, he was 16 years old, had just fled abuse in his home country, and was facing deportation from the United States. He is now a Delaware high school graduate and is looking to attend a local post-secondary program this fall. Omar’s story and journey to the United States are reflective of many immigrants seeking safety from abuse and a better life.
When he was young, Omar’s father was murdered in his town by a rival family who wanted the family’s land. After his father’s death, Omar’s mother married another man who physically abused Omar. Omar was forced to work to support himself and was never able to receive medical care. As a teen, Omar identified as gay, and as punishment, his mother and stepfather abused him physically and emotionally. Omar sought the protection of local law enforcement in his home country, who advised him that they could not protect him from “family matters”. At age 16, Omar fled his home country alone and traveled to the United States. He was detained at the United States border, placed in deportation proceedings, and eventually released into the custody of a relative here in Delaware.
CLASI represented Omar in immigration proceedings, and due to CLASI’s advocacy and representation, Omar’s deportation was stopped and he obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. This status enables abused youth like Omar to safely remain in the United States. His case for permanent residency is still ongoing.
CLASI’s immigration work is critically important to the health and safety of Delaware. Ensuring that immigrants, regardless of their status, can effectively access justice and legal representation is vital to a functioning justice system that operates effectively for all of us. Due process and legal representation are imperative in an immigration system where the federal government is looking to expedite the process to remove vulnerable youth from the country. Further, educating survivors about their rights and the services available to them, and encouraging them to report the violence they’ve experienced, is imperative to keeping our communities safe. Without immigrants knowing that they can trust the Delaware Criminal Justice System and being aware that they are safe coming forward and sharing their stories, violence in our communities will go unreported, leaving all of us in greater danger of victimization.
Laura Graham and her colleagues at CLASI represent immigrant survivors of crime every day. By contributing to the Combined Campaign for Justice you are helping to ensure that legal services and access to justice are attainable for all of Delaware’s most vulnerable populations.