Jurisdiction for Mesa Verde Detention Facility Cases Moved From San Francisco to Van Nuys, Impacting Access to Counsel
January 23, 2020, San Francisco—The Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco (JDC) denounces the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) decision to transfer the jurisdiction of noncitizens housed at Mesa Verde from the San Francisco Immigration Court to the new Van Nuys Immigration Court.
JDC’s Immigrant Legal Defense Program (ILDP) runs the pro bono Attorney of the Day program at the San Francisco Immigration Court. Through this program, most noncitizens detained at Mesa Verde receive a consultation before they see an immigration judge. ILDP staff also refer individuals to other non-profit immigration legal services organizations, pro bono attorneys, and Bay Area Public Defenders offices for full-scope representation. Similar programs do not exist in the Van Nuys Immigration Court.
If jurisdiction for all detainees at Mesa Verde is transferred to Van Nuys, noncitizens will lose access to legal advice, counsel, and the pro se assistance that ILDP provides to detainees who cannot secure counsel. While Van Nuys is geographically closer to Mesa Verde Detention Center, which is in Bakersfield, California, all cases are heard via video teleconference. Accordingly, ease of transfer of detainees to court is not a factor in this move. Rather, as the San Francisco and Alameda County Public Defenders Offices asserted in their press release, ILDP believes that the administration is purposely transferring jurisdiction to prevent noncitizens detained at Mesa Verde from accessing counsel. Moreover, EOIR’s lack of transparency about this major change is distressing. In December, EOIR officials advised stakeholders that Mesa Verde cases would not be moving to Van Nuys. Without notice, last week, EOIR announced that jurisdiction was changing and that such change would go into effect in three weeks.
JDC’s ILDP, as part of the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ), sent a letter to EOIR leadership requesting that the agency halt the transfer of jurisdiction, or at least delay implementation of the move until a stakeholder meeting can be held. CCIJ will continue to push for a stakeholder meeting with EOIR.
Valerie Zukin, Legal Director of CCIJ and ILDP’s supervising attorney explained in the letter to EOIR, “Mesa Verde has been part of the San Francisco Immigration Court jurisdiction since the detention facility opened in 2015, and CCIJ organizations and partner agencies have been working diligently to increase regional capacity to represent individuals detained at the facility since that time.”
The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) advances fairness and equality by providing pro bono legal services to low-income people and educational programs that foster diversity in the legal profession. JDC is the largest legal services providers in San Francisco. JDC’s programs serve approximately 9,500 disadvantaged San Franciscans a year, with the overarching goal of assisting the community’s most vulnerable members with accessing the judicial system and strengthening their personal, professional, and economic security.
The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of attorneys, law students, and legal professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF enjoys the support of more than 7,500 individuals, law firms, corporate legal departments, and law schools. BASF provides a collective voice for public advocacy, advances professional growth and education, and attempts to elevate the standards of integrity, honor, and respect in the practice of law.