Spring 2016 Newsletter
"Brother, I'm Dying" Chosen as The Big Read 2016

E xecutive Director Cheryl Little joined award-winning Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat in conversation on March 31 at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. Their conversation centered on Edwidge's memoir, "Brother, I'm Dying", that focused on her elderly uncle's death while in immigration custody and the many injustices new arrivals often encounter while in Immigration detention. Reverend Danticat spent 5 days in custody, initially in Miami's Krome  Detention
Center where he was accused of faking his illness, and died in the prison ward of Jackson Memorial Hospital.  Cheryl worked closely with Edwidge following Reverend Danticat's death, calling for a high level investigation and filing a lawsuit in federal court to obtain his medical records.
" Brother, I'm Dying" was chosen by The National Endowment for the Arts as the Miami Big Read book for 2016. The Miami Book Fair, with support from The Green Family Foundation, organized programs focusing on the book throughout March and gave away over 1,500 copies to lucky recipients.

Two Federal Court Wins in Early 2016
AI Justice Wins Landmark Settlement for Asylum Seeker Detained by CBP

I n February 2016 AI Justice, along with co-counsel Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli and Pratt, P.A., settled a landmark Federal Tort Claims Act case on behalf of Alba Quiñonez Flores challenging the inhumane conditions of her detention in multiple holding stations operated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the southern Texas border. The holding cells are called hieleras (ice-boxes) because they are deliberately kept at low temperatures and are maintained in deplorable conditions.  Ms. Quiñonez, like thousands of other immigrants detained by CBP every year, was held for several days in dirty, overcrowded cells with no mattress and denied access to proper medical care, clean drinking water, and basic hygiene products.
"When I thought all was lost and that I would be deported, [AI Justice] arrived with help and supported me in my federal case against the U.S. government for the abuses I suffered in their detention centers.  And thanks to AI Justice, I learned about my rights as a human being." 
-Alba Quiñonez

AI Justice obtained a substantial monetary settlement of $80,000.00 on behalf of Ms. Quiñonez to compensate her for the damages suffered during her time in CBP custody. The suit, filed in New York District Court, also resulted in two precedent setting rulings regarding venue, which in the future should be instrumental in preventing the Government from forcing non-citizens to unnecessarily litigate cases far away from where they live.

AI Justice Wins Important Settlement in Freedom of Information Act Case

The federal suit, filed in Miami District Court, sought to compel CBP to produce comprehensive documents regarding detention conditions at all short-term holding stations located in the Rio Grande Valley and resulted in the production of thousands of pages of substantive information over a period of several years. Additionally, AI Justice negotiated compensation for attorney fees and costs. A recent American Immigration Council report, 
" Hieleras (Iceboxes) in the Rio Grande Valley Sector: Lengthy Detention, Deplorable Conditions, and Abuse in CBP Holding Cells   , " was based in large part on the quantitative data obtained through this litigation.
"The data obtained from CBP will facilitate and inform AI Justice's continued work advocating for reform in federal detention facilities as well as assist in educating the public and other non-profit organizations about such conditions."
- Jennie Santos-Bourne, AI Justice Attorney

AI Justice Celebrates 20 Years of  Upholding the American Dream

AI Justice held its 20th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Awards Dinner on February 26th. The theme, "Upholding the American Dream," celebrates the dreams of freedom, justice and opportunity that have brought immigrants to our shores since our nation's beginnings. AI Justice's guests were inspired by the remarks of Janet McAliley, recipient of The Holly Skolnick Human Rights Award, and Dr. Zakia Subhani, recipient of The America's Immigrant Spirit Award. Michael Putney entertained guests as the MC and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist, Sonia Nazario, delivered a moving and powerful Keynote Address. Honorary Chairs, Sharon Kegerreis & Mitchell Berger, and Dinner Host Committee Chairs Diana & Khalid Mirza, helped to ensure the evening's success. A generous $50,000 matching grant from the TriMix Foundation provided further inspiration for support of AI Justice's critical work.

A short film, "AI Justice: 20 years of Upholding the American Dream," was featured at our Dinner.  Click here to watch the film.
AI Justice Welcomes New Board Member
Sharon Kegerreis
Of Counsel
 Berger Singerman
Sharon Kegerreis is a brilliant trial attorney  with extensive experience in a wide variety of litigation matters, including white-collar criminal cases, intellectual property disputes and complex commercial matters. She has tried over 40 cases before juries and has briefed and argued numerous appeals in the federal and state appellate courts. Sharon represents individuals and corporations in federal grand jury investigations, SEC enforcement proceedings, and other regulatory matters. She has handled internal investigations involving all aspects of corporate misconduct including bank fraud, accounting fraud, mail and wire fraud, FCPA violations, tax violations and bribery. She has advised companies on the design of corporate compliance programs related to money laundering, Patriot Act issues and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  Sharon has been involved with AI Justice for many years and was honored by the agency in 2001 for her countless hours of pro bono work on behalf of a female detainee who was sexually abused by an Immigration official at the Krome Detention Center.  

"I am delighted to join the Board at AI Justice not just because of its longstanding advocacy for sensible immigration reform, but because this organization defends the people directly affected by our immigration laws and policies -- the undocumented children crossing the borders in record numbers, the victims of sex traffickers and the Dream Act children who lived most of their lives here and know no other country. I couldn't be prouder of the work that AI Justice does and  am happy to do my part to support it."     

Support from The W.K. Kellogg Foundation allows Lucha Program to expand its advocacy efforts
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, has awarded AI Justice a two-year, $400,000 grant to serve immigrant families affected by abuse and exploitation. The grant supports the critical needs of urban and rural populations in Florida, and enables AI Justice to increase advocacy on behalf of immigrant families affected by violence at the local, statewide and national levels.
"Our survivors have spoken with a consistent voice - they want to rebuild their lives with their children. Without our help, their citizen children may end up in the foster-care system or, worse yet, in the custody of the abuser."
 - Michelle Ortiz, AI Justice Deputy Director  

Vera Institute of Justice Contracts with AI Justice to Represent Unaccompanied Immigrant Children
AI Justice was recently awarded a five-year, $7.5M sub-contract to serve unaccompanied immigrant children throughout South Florida. The federal grant was awarded to Vera through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and enables our staff to continue conducting Know Your Rights presentations and legal screenings to children in local shelters.  Staff will also represent children released from custody who reside in South Florida in both immigration and state courts. Additionally, AI Justice will coordinate training, technical assistance and mentoring for pro-bono attorneys representing this population. 

AI Justice is grateful to all of our funders and supporters. Click here to see the full list.
AI Justice Sharing Expertise

Children's Legal Program Supervising Attorney, Jennifer Anzardo Valdes, spoke at a community forum held by the Guatemalan Mayan Center in Indiantown, Florida. She educated the community about potential enforcement actions and their rights if a raid were to take place at their home or workplace.  Jennifer also spoke on a panel, "Unaccompanied Minors in Our Own Backyard," as part of Temple Beth Am's Social Justice Speaker Series.

On April 11, AI Justice Deputy Director, Michelle Ortiz, was a panelist during Miami-Dade Coll
ege's "Where's the Justice?" forum, a series that provides an opportunity for the community to weigh in on the inequality prevalent within our criminal justice system. The free event focused on ways to improve what many consider a broken institution. The forums are in collaboration with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Spanish American League Against Discrimination (S.A.L.A.D), and the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office.

Greenberg Traurig Holly Skolnick Fellow, Abel S. Delgado, and Staff Attorney, Patricia Mendez, trained Citizens Review panelists at the Miami-Dade County Children's Courthouse about immigration issues facing children in the dependency system.  Many of these children are in the dependency system due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect at home. Abel and Patricia informed panelists on how to identify potential immigration issues and how to refer children in need of representation to AI Justice's Children's Legal Program.  

AI Justice participated in the White House Regional Convening on New Americans on February 26. This was a special, invitation-only event at Miami Dade College that brought together federal, state, and local agencies, service providers, the private sector, along with local community leaders.
Freedom Network Human Trafficking Conference

On April 4, 2016, AI Justice Lucha Program Attorney Carson Osberg moderated a panel with USCIS officials at the 14th Annual Freedom Network Human Trafficking Conference in Chicago. The conference brings together experts, practitioners, government officials, and survivors of human trafficking. The Freedom Network USA is a national alliance of experienced advocates working with survivors of all forms of human trafficking to ensure that trafficked persons have access to justice, safety, and opportunity. At the conference and throughout the year,  Lucha staff navigate the complexities of human trafficking and forge partnerships across disciplines to explore root causes and best practice interventions.

Lucha staff and Freedom Network members from around the country.

AI Justice Welcomes New Staff
Jennifer Anzardo Valdes is the Supervising Attorney for the Children's Legal Program at AI Justice.  Before joining AI Justice, Mrs. Anzardo Valdes worked at Sanctuary for Families' Immigration Intervention Project in New York City. Her work focused on the immigration legal needs of survivors of domestic and other forms of gender violence as well as representing immigrant youth in Family and Immigration Courts.  Mrs. Anzardo Valdes has trained and written on legal matters related to immigrant families, with particular emphasis on immigrant youth and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.  She published articles for Practising Law Institute (PLI) and the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) Children's Law Manual, regarding immigrant youth and families facing domestic violence.

"I've followed AI Justice's work for several years and have been impressed by its work locally and nationally on behalf of immigrants and refugees. I am excited to join an organization that provides both advocacy and direct representation and look forward to making a positive impact as part of the Children's Legal Program."

-Mariana Ferreiro, Senior Staff Attorney, Children's Legal Program

"I am excited to work with the Children's Legal Program because I know that we have the capacity to change children's lives. As an immigrant myself, I have a personal understanding of why families-like my own-have fought and will continue to fight so hard to come to this country and gain lawful status."

- Thais De La Cuba, Staff Attorney, Children's Legal Program

"I have always been passionate about anti-trafficking and human rights work. Some of the children we serve are victims of trafficking among other abuses and I feel blessed to be able to make a difference."

- Karis Williams, Paralegal, 
Children's Legal Program

"I was looking for a people oriented job. I wanted to make a difference while making a living. I believe by working with the Children's Legal Program I will be able to accomplish my dream. I find purpose in my work. I find energy from helping others."

- Marie Darline Louis, Paralegal, 
Children's Legal Program


Americans for Immigrant Justice is an award-winning non-profit law firm that protects and promotes the basic human rights of immigrants. In Florida and on a national level, it champions the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children; advocates for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence; serves as a watchdog on immigration detention practices and policies; and speaks for immigrant groups who have particular and compelling claims to justice.

Americans for Immigrant Justice
3000 Biscayne Blvd. Suite 400 Miami, FL 33137