SAFE aims to defend immigrants in the U.S. as they navigate the judicial system. Jurisdictions or cities applied to be part of the network through a proposal process. Those chosen were able to demonstrate “their commitment to deportation defense by investing public dollars,” as stated in the press release.
“Immigration is part of our nation’s past, present, and future, and our communities will find more opportunities to grow and thrive when we recognize and embrace this fact,” says Nicholas Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice. “That means that all residents must see their justice systems—from our law enforcement to our courts—as delivering on our country’s promise of fairness.”
Turner believes “common sense immigration policies” like the SAFE Cities Network ensure “that all people, regardless of background, income, and history, are guaranteed a fair day in court.”
Using public funding to aid immigrants facing deportation helps build trust, increases public safety and keeps families together, says Turner.
The Vera Institute of Justices, the organization that launched SAFE, created the network after studying the impact of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). NYIFUP started in 2014 and has represented immigrants facing deportation who otherwise didn’t have access to legal resources.
According to the study, Vera found that immigrants that had adequate representation in court had a higher chance of winning their case before an immigration judge. Forty-eight percent of immigrants who had proper representation in court were successful in their cases – an increase of 1,100 percent. It’s a stark contrast to the four percent success rate typical in similar cases.
The SAFE Cities Network includes:
Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, Baltimore, MD, Chicago, IL, Columbus, OH, Dane County in Wisconsin, Oakland/Alameda County in California, Prince George’s County in Maryland, Sacramento, CA, San Antonio, TX and Santa Ana, CA.
The U.S has a massive criminal enforcement network across the world. From Europe to Australia and across Latin America, the United States works with local governments (among others) to play the part of international police force.
This huge network has helped bring down some of the world’s largest criminal organizations. But, often times, it’s not the U.S. officers making the biggest sacrifices – it’s the criminals who join forces with the FBI or DEA as part of a plea bargain. However, those plea agreements don’t always work out in the end.
The leader of one of Honduras’ largest cartels, helped the U.S. bring down serious criminals.
According to report by VICE, Valle has a long history of helping U.S. authorities. For example, just months after her arrest, her brothers were extradited to the United States to face charges related to drug trafficking. Meanwhile in Honduras, authorities seized more than 50 properties owned by Los Valles.
And although it hasn’t been confirmed, many contribute the arrest of Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez – a former congressman and brother of Honduras’ current president – on drug trafficking charges.
Needless to say, this woman has helped U.S. authorities aggressively pursue the dismantling of a massive drug network (along with its ties in the US) across Latin America.
Her criminal empire was especially adept at building coalitions among cartels.
According to court documents, Los Valles was based in Western Honduras – near the Guatemalan border. The family allegedly moved tens of thousands of kilos of cocaine every month – taking the valuable drugs from Colombia, through Honduras, and into the United States using speedboats, submarines and small airplanes.
Her organization often worked together alongside Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel – formerly headed by drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán (now serving life in a United States prison).
As the kinder face of the organization, Valle was focused more on finances and logistics instead of violence. In fact, she was often sent to broker new relationships with the country’s criminal and business elites. Sources close to her said she also helped construct churches and gave money to charity during her time in criminal power in Honduras.
Valle was arrested on arrival in Miami by United States law enforcement back in 2014.
Valle served four and a half years of an 11-year prison sentence and was then realeased. But shortly after being released from prison, she was picked up by ICE and sent to a detention center in Atlanta. Her asylum claim to remain in the United States was denied—a decision she is currently appealing.
Now, after more than six years helping U.S. officials – she’s facing deportation back to Honduras, and likely death.
Since her arrest and plea deal in 2014, Valle has been acting as a key witness for the U.S. She’s helped the government arrest some of the strongest drug lords in the region, including her own organization. If she’s sent back to Honduras – she faces an almost certain death.
“There is a hunt on right now in my country for people who collaborated and then co-operated [with law enforcement] in drug trafficking cases,” former Army Capt. Santos Rodriguez Orellana told VICE by phone from Honduras.
It’s death sentence for her,” according to Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations at the DEA, who also spoke with VICE News.
He added: “Her chances of survival in Honduras are slim to none. Honduras is, without question, a narco state. The highest levels within the political spectrum along with the military and police are in the pockets of drug traffickers. Given the fact that she cooperated in key drug trafficking trials, she is not likely to survive in Honduras. She is going into a fiery cauldron and is definitely going to get burned.”
Her case shows why so few people see the U.S. legal system as a partner – they become disposable just like that.
As if it wasn’t dangerous enough for Valle to return to Honduras with a network of criminals hunting for their revenge, there’s a hunt for her at the highest levels of government.
Honduras Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that Valle faces charges of money laundering in Honduras, and there is a warrant for her arrest. Her arrival in Honduras wont go unnoticed and being imprisoned will offer her little protection from violence.
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People who have spent nearly their entire lives in the United States – are not immune to the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies. Even if you show up every month and check-in for your routine meetings with ICE officers, you’re still subject to the whims of an ever-changing legal scene and moody ICE officers with too much power.
That was the case for Lisandro Claros Saravia – who after having spend the past 11 years in the U.S. was deported back to his native El Salvador.
Lisandro was a rising star in the soccer world and had received an athletic scholarship in North Carolina.
If things had gone as they had for more than 10 years, Lisandro would still be with his family in the United States. His former coaches in the U.S. think he would likely have been drafted by a Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit.
For more than a decade, Lisandro had routine check-ins with ICE officers. But in the summer of 2017, everything changed.
Instead, Lizandro and Diego were deported seven months after President Trump took office and implemented a new immigration enforcement regime that did not exempt any undocumented immigrant from the threat of deportation, not even a college-bound teenager with a clean record and a soccer scholarship.
The two brothers had been in the U.S. for more than a decade and had big dreams.
Lizandro and his brother Diego arrived in the U.S. in 2009. They were just 11 and 14-years-old respectively and came into the country on visas that weren’t theres. Their parents and two siblings were already living in the U.S. at the time – so they came to be reunited with their family.
It was in 2012 when the two brothers had been ordered removed. But they received a temporary order granting them safety from deportation. When that protection expired, ICE didn’t deport them, but instead required them to check-in periodically.
Then, years later, the two brothers hoped to take advantage of an expanded DACA program. But the expansion was blocked by a federal judge after several Republican states sued, a decision affirmed by a 4-4 deadlock in the Supreme Court in 2016.
Having been deported from the home they knew for more than a decade, forced the brothers to rebuilt their lives in a country they left as children.
Despite the huge challenges these two brothers have faced, they’re not letting it stop them from chasing their dreams – even when they’re thousands of miles away from their family.
“Deportation really made me strong. It taught me to keep moving forward in life and to keep going because things will get better in the end,” Lizandro told CBS News.
Less than three years after his deportation, Lizandro has earned a starting position in Independiente F.C., a team in El Salvador’s top professional soccer league. He is now one of the most promising soccer talents in El Salvador and part of a young generation of players many expect will ultimately bolster the ranks of the national team.
Although he wants to be with his family in Maryland, Lizandro relishes his new responsibilities as a role model for the children in his hometown of Jucuapa, which used to be known for a booming coffin-making business.
Lizandro’s uncle, Romeo Mejicanos, said his nephew’s success has challenged the stereotypes associated with young, working-class Salvadoran men, who are often recruited by the country’s warring gangs. Lizandro is a beacon for the entire municipality of Jucuapa, which used to be known for its thriving coffin-making business, fueled by El Salvador’s extremely high murder rates.
“That stigma that you have to turn to violence if you are young has been eroding. We can no longer say that the local youths are heading down the wrong path,” Mejicanos, a longtime Jucuapa resident, told CBS News in Spanish. “Jucuapa now has a new face, and it is that of Lizandro and of Diego, who are both excelling and have humbly demonstrated that things can be accomplished the right way.”
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