Immigration lawyers are often the front line of defense for immigrants who have involvement with multiple justice systems: Adom’s story

Adom’s experience reinforces the many issues that converge in immigration defense cases and the crucial role lawyers play in helping clients navigate multiple legal systems and issues. Adom’s story began with a routine traffic stop. He said he was told he was being pulled over for a tail light being out, though he is certain the tail light wasn’t out and suspects he was being racially profiled. The police officer then issued Adom a ticket for driving with a suspended license. Because Adom had never received notice he had a suspended license, he went to traffic court to challenge the ticket.

When Adom got to court, his case was put off for several hours. He had an unpleasant exchange with the police officer who had pulled him over and, as he was waiting for his case to conclude, Adom, a black man from West Africa, began wondering, “is it anything that I did wrong, or, I mean, if there’s any room for our race [in the United States].”

In the meantime, the police officer had coordinated with local ICE agents to have them apprehend Adom in the traffic court building. Adom was immediately taken to detention, leaving him unable to communicate with the babysitter caring for his young son. The babysitter had to unexpectedly stay with his son for the next several days until Adom’s wife could leave her job as a live-in nanny. During this time, his son developed an infection on his head that required Adom’s wife to miss more work. The family fell behind on the rent.

Adom, a black man from West Africa, began wondering, “is it anything that I did wrong, or, I mean, if there’s any room for our race [in the United States].”

The financial stress Adom’s family experienced was exacerbated by the emotional devastation Adom felt being away from his son and imagining what would happen if he was deported and permanently away from the little boy. While Adom was detained, his son was brought to visit him, but did not understand why he could not touch his father on the other side of the plexiglass divider in the visiting room, and Adom became emotional as he recounted the young boy kept “trying to push through the glass to come to me.”

Adom met his SAFE attorney when her organization gave a presentation in the detention center. With the attorney’s assistance, he was eventually released on bond and, at the time of the interview, his attorney was working to restore his expired work authorization. Adom emphasized what a big deal it was that his lawyer had helped him secure bond, reflecting, “whenever someone gets bonded, all the [detainees] are happy, they clap for you, once you’re getting out, they, they’re all happy for you. So when I said I got $3,000 bond, they’re like, that’s the lowest they heard in this [facility] . . . all thanks to the lawyer, she did a great job.” Adom noted that his attorney “tried to put herself in [his] shoes.” Maybe, he reflected, he just had a good case, “but it all depends on how [the SAFE attorney] presented it.