Attorney Marty Rosenbluth spends his days working for no pay and for rare victories—he represents Mexican immigrants who have been detained in a detention facility in Georgia, one that has the reputation of being one of the most brutal in the U.S.
All his clients face deportation, after arrests for minor law infractions. “I have defended people who ended up in removal for ‘crimes’ including driving and fishing without a license, riding public transport with the wrong type of ticket, loitering on [a local college’s] campus, and swerving too close to the yellow line—not crossing it, just coming too close,” says Rosenbluth.
Even when these “lawbreakers” are married to U.S. citizens, even when their children are U.S. citizens, they can be legally deported.
Sometimes all Rosenbluth can do is explain their situation to them and point out, realistically, that it would be futile to challenge their case in court – over the past several years, Rosenbluth has managed to prevent deportations only about a dozen times. Detainees with no lawyers have no chance at all.
Rosenbluth is usually the only attorney coming to the facility to meet with clients. Other detainees who do have lawyers never see them till they get to court. “It never gets any less depressing,” he says. “It’s just so completely unfair, unjust, illogical, [and] counterintuitive against all principles of justice.”
Since his clients can’t possibly pay him, Rosenbluth lives on the small royalties he gets from films he made back when he was a videographer.
Still, he persists—against hostile guards, against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), against the judges. He often advises his clients to take “voluntary departure,” which means that they can leave the U.S .by their own route rather than being dropped off by ICE on the Mexico/U.S. border. “Gangs know where people get dropped off,” says Rosenbluth, “and they wait for them.”
In such a grim situation, what is success? Rosenbuth says, “I can save people from months and months in this hellhole and explain the system to them, so they don’t get ripped off. I find that very satisfying… Getting someone out of detention and seeing them back with their spouses and kids is amazing. I still tear up sometimes.”