Summary: Pima County Justice for All is asking our community to support a 2022 ballot initiative that gives Pima County residents facing detention or deportation access to a public defender. People who go to immigration court without an attorney stand very little chance of winning their cases and are often unjustly deported. These are our families, friends, and neighbors who have been in the area for years, paying taxes and helping build our communities. Their removal results in family separations, orphaned children, employers without employees, fear of law enforcement, loss of taxpaying residents, and poverty.
Pima County Justice for All is asking our community to support a 2022 ballot initiative that gives Pima County residents facing detention or deportation access to a public defender.
In the U.S. criminal justice system, when accused of a criminal offense, a person is entitled to an attorney; if they cannot afford one, a public defender is provided. However, when someone is accused of an immigration offense, if they cannot afford an attorney, none is provided.
Immigrants who go to court without an attorney stand very little chance of winning their cases. An October 2019 study conducted in Tucson found that they are successful only 14% of the time; with an attorney, they are successful 62% of the time.
Last year, close to 24,000 cases were processed through Tucson Immigration Court. In 98% of those cases, people did not have a lawyer to represent and defend them. These are our families, friends, and neighbors who have been in the area for years, paying taxes and helping build our communities.
A typical scenario: someone is stopped for a taillight being out. They cannot produce proper identification, and ICE is alerted. The driver is put in detention, despite having lived and worked in Pima County for a decade or more. Bond amounts commonly begin at $10,000. And unlike criminal bonds, where only 10% needs to be posted, with immigration bonds 100% has to be posted to get out of jail.
Detainees often face extended time in jail, awaiting trial. Some are able to raise bond money from family and friends, resulting in financial hardship. Other consequences of incarceration or deportation include family separations, orphaned children, employers without employees, fear of law enforcement, loss of taxpaying residents, and poverty.
Our Organization and its Supporters
Our organization was formed as an Arizona non-profit and an IRS 501(c)(4) social welfare entity with a mission of supporting Universal Representation for residents of Pima County.
Our campaign is led by Pima County Public Defender, Margo Cowan, who is also a founding member of Keep Tucson Together, a primarily volunteer organization that runs a weekly immigration clinic; Isabel Garcia, a co-founder of Derechos Humanos and a nationally prominent immigrant rights activist, who headed the Pima County Public Defender’s office for 22 years; Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith, Co-Director of the Binational Migration Institute at the Department of Mexican American Studies at UA and Founding Faculty Emeritus at Pima Community College; and historian Guadalupe Castillo, also Faculty Emeritus at Pima Community College, and a Tucson human rights activist for more than 50 years.
Cowen, Garcia, Rubio-Goldsmith and Castillo first came together in the early 1970s at the Manzo Area Council, a War on Poverty program begun under President Johnson, and became known as las Mujeres de Manzo. In the ’80s the group was the lone voice identifying and opposing the militarization of the border. In solidarity with other activists, they went on to shape humanitarian relief groups such as Coalición de Derechos Humanos and No More Deaths, and to be actively involved in the Sanctuary Movement. Their collective efforts have given rise to many of the international human rights activities in our region. In January 2020, the Mujeres de Manzo were honored with the Local Genius Award by Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).
Keep Tucson Together (KTT) is a project of the non-profit organization No More Deaths/No Más Muertes. Since 2011, this pro-bono legal group has worked with volunteer attorneys to stop deportations and the separation of families in Southern Arizona. Under Margo’s leadership, KTT has handled approximately 3,200 DACA cases and continues to process renewals in two-year increments. KTT is currently handling 700+ active deportation cases with 52 people in detention in Eloy and Florence. KTT has also successfully guided approximately 3,100 immigrants through the naturalization process. The KTT Immigration Clinic, which offers weekly information and case intake sessions, is staffed by volunteers who have become highly experienced leaders in the immigration legal defense processes. Ms. Cowan was awarded the Pro Bono Champion Award for 2018 by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
We are confident that with experienced leadership, broad grassroots support, and a highly motivated core of experienced volunteers, we will ultimately prevail in our mission to get this initiative on the ballot and pass it into law.
Our broad grassroots support includes the following people and organizations, and continues to grow every day.
Congressman Raul Grijalva
Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick
Pascua Yaqui Tribe Chairman Robert Valencia
Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris
Mayor Regina Romero
Tucson City Councilmember Lane Santa Cruz
Tucson City Councilmember Richard Fimbres
Tucson City Councilmember Paul Cunningham
Tucson City Councilmember Paul Durham
Tucson Unified School Board member Adelita Grijalva
Tucson Unified School Board member Kristal Foster
Sunnyside Unified School Board member Eva Dong
Andres Cano, Arizona State Representative
Pima Area Labor Federation
Democratic Party of Pima County
Richard Elias, Chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors (in spirit)
Green Valley Samaritans
No More Deaths
Ron Barber, Retired Congressional Representative
South Side Worker’s Center
Barbara Carino, Tucson Hispanic Business Woman of the Year
American Immigration Lawyers Association of Southern Arizona
22 Pima County churches