Photo of Sawyeh Esmaili

Sawyeh Esmaili

  • Hosted by Americans for Immigrant Justice
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Holly Skolnick Fellowship
  • Service location Miami, Florida
  • Law school University of Miami School of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Sawyeh monitored and advocated against the conditions of confinement of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities throughout Florida.

ICE incarceration is quickly expanding at an unprecedented—and unnecessary—rate. Immigrants in ICE custody are often subject to harsh conditions of confinement and denied necessities and human rights, such as access to medical and mental health care, information about their legal case, and family contact. The legal designation of these facilities as “civil” detention, rather than criminal, allows ICE to eschew basic protections generally afforded to those in government custody.  Yet four out of the six primary detention facilities ICE has in Florida are county jails. ICE’s lack of accountability allows facilities to continue operating without any fear of having to answer for the inhumane treatment of immigrants in ICE detention facilities. This project aimed to create alternative systems of accountability through independent conditions monitoring, direct representation, and advocacy (both in and out of the courtroom) on behalf of detained non-citizens.

Fellowship Highlights

Sawyeh toured each of the six primary ICE detention facilities in the state of Florida, documenting and advocating against the harsh and inhumane conditions of confinement at each facility. She also co-wrote a report, in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center, on the conditions of four ICE facilities in the southern region of Florida, which has been uplifted by the media and cited by members of Congress in letters directed to ICE. During her Fellowship, Sawyeh also had the distinct honor of representing detained individuals before the immigration court and ICE. One of the best strategies against inhumane conditions of confinement is release, and Sawyeh was able to work towards securing the release from ICE custody for many of her clients. 


Access to Counsel in Immigration Detention in the Time of COVID-19

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