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What I went through in immigrant detention

David final

Hear from David, a New Jersey resident  who was imprisoned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for two years. David talks about his confinement and the devastating impacts of being separated from his wife and children.

AFSC’s Newark Immigrants Right Program provided legal representation to David, helping him to secure his release in the spring of 2020. 

As COVID-19 rapidly spreads through immigration detention centers across the country, release from immigration detention is a matter of personal and public health. Many people in immigrant detention need legal representation to fight their deportation and separation from famlies. But most are forced to fight their deportation alone because they cannot afford an attorney. 

In 2018, AFSC and partners in New Jersey created the groundbreaking Detention and Deportation Defense Initiative (DDDI) to address this critical issue. DDDI offers free legal representation to indigent immigrants who are detained and facing deportation in the in the state. Since its inception, the program has demonstrated tremendous impact in preserving family unity, protecting due process, and assisting vulnerable individuals in immigration detention.

A report by the New Jersey Coalition for Immigrant Representation analyzed the program's first year. The report, titled "Legal Representation Keeps Families Together and Strengthens Public Health," found that: 

  • Publicly-funded representation expands access to due process for detained immigrants: DDDI attorneys conducted interviews with 1,532 detainees and opened 857 new cases in New Jersey in the first year of the program’s operation, providing the following services: consultations, advocacy and full representation in immigration court.
  • Representation strengthens public health and safety for New Jersey residents as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic: More than half (52%) of immigrants who were represented by a DDDI attorney were released from detention. In comparison, only 17.6% of all immigrants facing deportation without representation in New Jersey were released from detention.
  • Representation supports family unity: Many individuals represented by DDDI are parents with spouses and children who live in the United States.
  • Representation results in above national average success in releases on bond: 60% of individuals represented by DDDI attorneys who were eligible for and received bond hearings were subsequently released on bond, outpacing the national average of 48% released on bond.


Get involved

Learn more: Read our report "Legal Representation Keeps Families Together and Strengthens Public Health" to learn more about the importance and impact of universal representation. 

Take action: Are you a New Jersey resident? Contact your legislators and urge them to fully fund universal representation for immigrants in our state. Use this webform created by the New Jersey Coalition for Immigrant Representation, which AFSC is a member of. 

Make a gift: Support AFSC's work to provide free legal representation to immigrants detained in New Jersey. 


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