Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Traffic Stop

Published on 19-June-2018
Written by Jeramee Sikorski,
Research assistance from Dalene Baird
Editing by Lisa Frank & Janelle Dixon

Grand Rapids, MI

Dear Ms. Dye,

     I am writing to you because I do not know what to do to clear up this misunderstanding.  I am so sorry, but I still do not understand why I am here? You are my court-appointed lawyer, but I barely get to see you i.  Can you please help me?

    This all started a month ago, 29 days now, to be exact.  I have been counting every day.  I went to pick up my daughter from practice after school.  As she was walking out of the school, playing with her friends, she tripped and hurt her arm badly.  I helped her get into the car and tried to calm her down.  She was trying to be brave and hold back the tears, but the pain overwhelmed her and she couldn’t stop crying.  It must have been awful because I could see the pain was scaring her. I could see the fear in her eyes.  She was scared because it hurt too much and she didn’t know how to cope with it.  When you see your child hurt and they cannot fight the pain, you tend to get very worried very fast.  I knew that I had to take her to the hospital.

     I guess I must have been driving pretty badly because the police officer who pulled me over said I was weaving within the lane and speeding, so he was charging me with misdemeanor reckless driving.  I knew that I was speeding, but I was getting scared ii for my little girl.  I thought he would understand.  I live in the next town over, so it was a longer trip to get her to a doctor than it would have been for most people in the city.

     I guess I should have stayed on the highway until the next exit, but traffic had been slowing down and it looked like a total traffic jam with stopped cars ahead iii. I just had to get help for my little girl, so I took the exit before that into a slower speed limit area.  But I was watching all around me – I swear I was.  I knew I was going fast, but I was watching all around, and there were no other cars near me.  I was even paying extra attention to the sidewalks to make sure no pedestrians would run out into the road, but there was nobody on the sidewalks either.

      I was trying to do the right thing iv.  I was trying to make sure my daughter would be safe.  That she would be ok.  I didn’t try to avoid the police officer, either v.  As soon as I saw him turn on the lights of his car, I felt better.  I thought he would help me get my daughter to the hospital so a doctor could check on her. Instead, he arrested me for reckless driving, even though he could see my daughter was hurt and scared in the car.  I did what he said.  We went with him, thinking that they would do the right thing and help me get her the help she needed.

     Then, when we got to the station, an officer said that my daughter needed a shower vi because she was dirty.  She was a little dirty from falling down and her face looked disheveled because she had been crying, but I didn’t want to argue with the officer.  I just wanted to get my ticket and court summons so that I could go take my daughter to a doctor.  I waited for her to come back.  I knocked on the door to ask the officers where she was.  They ignored me for over an hour.  Finally, one of them opened the door just long enough to tell me that my family didn’t exist anymore.  I could hear her crying in the next room, but he slammed the door before I could run out to find her vii.

     Another officer came in and told me that I would be held without bail until my first court hearing viii, where I can tell the judge my story.  He said it would be about 2 weeks until then.  I asked for a lawyer, and they told me that I’d get to see one, eventually.  They refused to tell me anything about my daughter, except for the officer who told me that my family does not exist anymore ix.

     So, I waited, and worried, and despaired for 2 weeks.  Some days, I could not even eat.  Other days, I could eat, but I’d throw up a lot too.  Finally, after 2 weeks, I saw you for a few minutes.  I had about 10 minutes with you.  Another guy in here told me that I was lucky, that there are so few of you attorneys that we usually only get a couple minutes of your time x. You told me that there have been a lot of arrests without bail lately, and the court docket is backed up because of the new zero-tolerance policy. xi I pleaded with you to find my daughter, to see if she was ok.

     A couple of days later, you stopped in to tell me that the prosecutor does not know where my daughter is. xii  From the sheriff's office, they transferred her into child protective services.  Apparently, their new policy is that they did not even attempt to contact my wife or any other family.  They just put her directly into this other government system, but they have no paperwork that tells us who to even contact in Child Protective Services to even find her! xiii   I have not even been allowed to contact my wife to tell her what has happened.  She must be worried sick as well.

     Then, yesterday, you came in to tell me about my hearing that will happen tomorrow.  You told me that I will not get to tell my story tomorrow.  I only get to tell whether I want to plead guilty or not guilty, but the officers told me that I would get to tell my story 2 weeks ago already.  Every day since they arrested me, I’ve been sick to my guts and I feel the fear in my bones.  I’ve forgotten how many times I have thrown up into this stainless steel toilet because I’m so scared for my baby girl.   Why can’t anyone tell me if she’s safe? Or even alive? xv

     Then, the prosecutor came in to talk to us.  He told us that, again, that we only get to plead guilty or not tomorrow.  He does not care about why anyone was arrested.  A few of us tried to tell our stories, but he said he didn’t care.  He has us “dead to rights,” in his words.  He said that we can tell our stories if we plead not guilty, but then he said that he would keep us in this jail until the trial, just like we are, until then xvi.  That's probably 6 months from now.  6 months!  He says it’s now the state’s policy to keep everyone locked up until trial.  I asked if I could at least call my daughter, and he said that he doesn’t care about that.

      How can he not care about any of this?  I was just trying to get my daughter to safety and to a doctor.  I cannot understand how these people cannot understand this?  I may not have been driving the best, but I never hurt anyone or even put anyone in danger xvii.  I just wanted to make sure that my daughter was going to be alright.

     I put my last picture of my little girl in this letter.  She was fishing with her grandpa in this picture.  Can you please show her picture to CPS and see if she's safe?

     If I plead guilty tomorrow, I have to report that to my employer and it will probably cost me my job, if I even have a job anymore.  I do not know how I will be able to support my family without a job, and I’m sure that bills are piling up for my wife now that I have been kept away for so long.

     I will, at least, be able to try to find out where my daughter is, maybe, if I plead guilty, but the prosecutor says they do not have records of who came and took her xviii.  Where do I even begin?

     What should I do? If I plead guilty, you told me that it can be used against me in other cases, including with CPS, so the state might try to take my daughter away forever just because I was driving fast to take her to the hospital.  But, I did not hurt anyone.  Why are they doing this?

    If I do not plead guilty, then they tell me that I will not see my daughter or my family until the trial is over, and that could be months from now.  I’ve been a good American. I do everything that President Trump has said to Make America Great Again.  I only wanted to take care of my little girl and make sure that she was ok.  Why are they doing this to me?

     I feel like they have stolen my baby, my little girl. I have nightmares every night because I don’t know if my baby is alright. I don’t care what the ransom is anymore. I’ll pay it. Just give me my child back, please.

Please help.


Bradley Warner

Dear Mr. Warner,

     I wish I could help you, but my power is limited.  To begin with, I am merely a public defender.  We are forced to take on approximately twice the number of clients that even top private defense attorneys have, so it is impossible to give you the time that you need for a proper defense xix.  It is not as bad here as it is in other places, though xx.  Refugees only get a few minutes in total with their attorneysxxi  There is only so much that I can do under the law.

     Though we base our decisions in law, they are also guided by precedent, which is the example that others have made.  This particular series of precedents began years ago when federal agents began splitting up families and holding refugees virtually incommunicado for the alleged misdemeanor xxii (just like you were accused of a misdemeanor) of crossing the border at a place other than an official border crossing xxiii. Many of them pleaded that this was where their transport agents, the coyotes, dropped them offxxiv, and they sought out and surrendered to border patrol immediately.  They claimed that they were not trying to evade the law, but people did not hear them.

     Just like you, they posed no threat to anyone.  Like you, they were running to get their babies out of a horrible situation – to make sure that they would be ok, but it didn’t matter to the new government.  As justices in the federal government backed down and allowed the prosecutors to keep the children and their parents separate xxv, it set a precedent, an example, for all the state level prosecutors and judges.

     Federal prosecutors found this to be an extremely effective way to process refugee claims since most refugees did not understand their rights and were willing to plead guilty to those minor crimes in the hopes of being reunited with their children.  By holding them and denying them bail, and threatening them with the possibility of never seeing their children again if they didn’t plead guilty, they got a lot of guilty pleas very quickly.  It did not matter to the prosecutors that many of them had valid asylum claims as refugees.  It did not matter that the law granted the refugees the right to claim asylum “whether or not” they arrived “at a designated port of entry,” xxvi and that they had a recognizable legal defense to the misdemeanor charges.  The prosecutors were out for convictions, not justice, just as they are with you.

     Once they got those convictions, they went on to use the conviction against the immigrants in their asylum proceedings.  This is just like the problem you have: if you plead guilty, then you may lose your job, and any conviction makes getting the next job extremely more difficult. Plus, the prosecutor can offer any conviction against you in a CPS proceeding to take your children away.  But it worked great for the prosecutors. Their conviction rates went way up.

     With that example set, it was only a matter of time before members of the president’s party started to change the law to mimic the process at the state level.  That has brought us to this moment where you are being held without bail after being accused of, what seems to me, a very minor offense.

     One of the other precedents that were set during the refugee crisis was the use of forced detainee labor xxviii.  Even though critics declared it slave labor, it was hugely profitable for the private prisons that ran the programs, and who donated heavily to the president’s party xxix.  Many Republican lawmakers even defended the practice as “good for the detainees.” xxx  These companies now contribute to local prosecutor’s campaign funds as well.  Since that has started, local prosecutors have been prosecuting everyone for everything possible.  Prosecutors with the best conviction rates are given more donations from the private prisons.  I have heard of prosecutors making deals directly with detainees to drop charges if they agree to spend their time waiting for trial in one of these “alternative holding facilities,” as the private prisons are trying to re-brand themselves now.  I cannot make that offer for you, however, as it is illegal and violates legal ethics.  Some prosecutors are rumored to be making those deals, though, but there is no guarantee that they will keep their bargain at trial time.

     Now, finally, to add to our problems, our state has passed laws that do not allow me to inquire about your daughter.  I have made copies and placed your original photo in this letter to return to you.  I will ask a social worker I know if there is anything we can find out about your daughter.  I know that this must be tearing your heart to pieces.

     When those feckless judges chose to cower against government authority run amok, it emboldened state and local prosecutors to demand that those limits on the rule of law be made permanent.  It happened quickly because they already had ALEC, a shadowy organization [that] uses corporate contributions to sell prepackaged conservative bills -- such as Florida's Stand Your Ground statute -- to legislatures across the country,” xxxi to do their bidding and get those laws passed.  The lawmakers at the time said that this would aid the federal government in getting rid of illegal immigrants to Make America Great Again.  Now, I cannot tell you which decision to make, as each of them seems equally perilous to your future.  I cannot tell you which way to go.  Where we go from here as a country is anyone’s guess.


Attorney Lauren Dye

Thanks for taking the time to read this piece.  We sincerely hope that it helps people to open their hearts and see what is happening on the southern border now.  We have provided multiple links in this story to the similar things that are being done to refugees running from the violence in Latin America right now so that you can see that (1) this is an honest depiction of the horrors going on, and (2) this is happening right now.

v “She’s one of the 2,200 parents – and counting – who have been separated from their children under Attorney General Jeff Sessions' new “zero tolerance” policy for undocumented entry. The US Department of Justice plans to prosecute all irregular entries, even people like this mother, who approach immigration agents seeking asylum.” Emphasis added. Retrieved 19-June-2018
vi “The two were only able to say goodbye after BranĂ© asked the officials to give the family a few more minutes together.

Many families don’t get that chance:
parents have been told their kids are going for a shower or will see them after court. Neither is true. The border officials are lying to parents.Emphasis added. Retrieved 19-June-2018
vii “Thirty to 40 percent of these women came with children who had been forcibly taken away from them. None got a chance to say goodbye to their children—they were forcibly taken away. One said she was deceived, because they were in detention together. Then the CBP officers told her she was going out to get her photograph taken. When she came back, she was put in a different room, and she never got to see the child again. Some of them said they could hear their children screaming for them in the next room. The children ranged anywhere from one to teenagers.” Emphasis added. Retrieved 19-June-2018
ix “Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who visited a federal prison where some mothers were being housed on Sunday, recounted stories of women being told by Border Patrol agents that “their ‘families would not exist anymore’ and that they would ‘never see their children again.’” “ Retrieved 19-June-2018
xiii ““Operators of these facilities say they are often unable to locate the parents of separated children because the children arrive without proper records,” wrote the Times‘ Caitlin Dickerson.

Once in the shelter system, “there is no firm process to determine whether they have been separated from someone who was legitimately their parent, or for reuniting parents and children who had been mistakenly separated,” a Border Patrol official told the
xiv “On Wednesday, [Attorney] Aleman-Bendiks asked [Judge] Ormsby to order the government to hand over lists of children separated from their parents so that immigration attorneys could ensure they were reunited.

“My concern is that there are lost children here in the system,” she said. “We are hearing it every day, your honor, and it’s not right.”

Ormsby noted that “children are not within the jurisdiction of this court. These people are here because they have a criminal case here.”

He invited her to prepare a brief on how he could order the government to provide lists. “But on its face,” he added, “it seems questionable to me that the court would have the authority to do that.””

Yes, you read that right. Children are being kidnapped from refugee parents by government agents, and the judge is too weak to exercise authority over this human rights abuse to even find out if those kids are still alive. But, hey, don’t take our word for it. You can check the link below. Retrieved 19-June-2018
xv “Once in the shelter system, “there is no firm process to determine whether they have been separated from someone who was legitimately their parent, or for reuniting parents and children who had been mistakenly separated,” a Border Patrol official told the Times.” Emphasis added. Retrieved 19-June-2018
xvi “As Allison Moody, a special assistant U.S. attorney, read the charges against the immigrants, they stood, one by one, in front of the magistrate to plead.

Culpable,” they said, again and again, using the Spanish word for guilty. By 10:30, the count was 56 culpables and ­running.

But when it came time for number 57, Diego Nicolas-Gaspar hesitated.

The Guatemalan fleeing violence and poverty had rafted across the Rio Grande a day earlier with his son, only to have the 11-year-old taken from him by Border Patrol agents. Now he feared that if he pleaded guilty, he’d be deported without the boy.

No culpable,” he said uncertainly.

As Ormsby began to set a trial date for the following week, the immigrant’s attorney interjected.

Your honor, he’s been separated from his son,” said assistant federal public defender Azalea Aleman-Bendiks. “We would prefer to have him not continued in custody because he is traveling with his 11-year-old son. He’s been separated from him and if he doesn’t get back today, the chances of him being reunited with him go down.”

As she consulted with Nicolas-Gaspar, dressed in the same dirt-caked tennis shoes and mud-stained shirt in which he’d been detained, the immigrant in his late 20s began to sob. She told him the best chance he had of seeing his son soon was to plead guilty.

Culpable,” he told the judge when court resumed minutes later. “Culpable. Culpable.” (Italics in original)
Note: Yes, prosecutors are using the terror caused by having people’s children ripped away from them as a bargaining chip to force immigrants to give up their rights to a trial. Retrieved 19-June-2018
xxi On April 30, [Attorney] Torteya was on duty and was informed that he had 41 “illegal entry” cases — about six times more than usual. Accompanying each of these immigrants’ criminal cases was paperwork from the U.S. Attorney’s office with a label at the top reading Attorney General Zero Tolerance Initiative.” Attorneys and staff from the Federal Public Defenders were ordered to represent this startling mass of defendants who would go into court at 10 a.m. The public defenders had less than two hours to speak with all 41 people. That worked out to just a few minutes per defendant. retrieved 19-June-2018
xxii Anyone charged with illegal entry — which is a misdemeanor on the first infraction are now jailed and separated from their children, according to NBC News. Previously, most parents had been allowed to remain with their children in family shelters while awaiting asylum cases or deportation proceedings, ... [NBC] reported.” retrieved 19-June-2018
xxv  My concern is that there are lost children here in the system,” she [the defense attorney] said. “We are hearing it every day, your honor, and it’s not right.”

Ormsby noted that “children are not within the jurisdiction of this court. These people are here because they have a criminal case here.”

He invited her to prepare a brief on how he could order the government to provide lists. “But on its face,” he added, “it seems questionable to me that the court would have the authority to do that.”

What kind of feckless judge would allow children to be used as prosecutorial pawns like this? What kind of monster must you be to blithely say that you, a federal judge, lack authority to investigate an illegal practice being used against defendants in your courtroom?
xxvi 8 USC 1158;; retrieved 19-June-2018
xxxi emphasis in original byline. retrieved 19-June-2018

Picture downloaded on 20-June-2018 from   The site stated public domain usage.