Glenwood Springs attorney heads to border camp to provide legal aid to children | VailDaily.com | VailDaily.com

Glenwood Springs attorney to help children at border detention facility

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Claire Noone talks about the drawings made by children in a South Texas residential detention city while she spoke with their parents. The supplies were provided by Noone after she snuck the crayons into the facility and let kids draw on her legal paper.
Chelsea Self, Post Independent

Attorney Claire Noone, who lives in Glenwood Springs, is headed to the Lone Star State Wednesday to provide legal assistance to children being held at a temporary detention facility in Tornillo, Texas.

Noone’s trip was made possible, largely, because of a GoFundMe page that the attorney set up. In two days, it had almost reached its fundraising goal of $1,500.

“I went to law school in Denver, and I have always had a strong urge to help … the most vulnerable populations, and it just so happens that right now asylum seekers and people crossing the southern border of the United States are suffering extreme human rights violations on our watch,” Noone said.

“I truly believe that, as citizens of the United States, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect people fleeing to us — fleeing violence, fleeing persecution, fleeing war — that it is our duty as citizens, not just the government, but as citizens to do everything we can.”

In August, Noone did similar work at a family detention center in Dilley, Texas, where mothers and children apprehended along the southern border were transported and housed.

“As noncitizens, they don’t have rights to attorney, and so a lot of them are in trauma, do not speak the language, are very scared and are up against a really complex asylum system, so a lot of them just get chewed up and spit right back out,” Noone said of her previous experience. “On my own, in one week, I was able to get 100 mothers and their children out of detention.”

Encouraged by the work she was able to accomplish in Dilley, when the 30-year-old, bilingual attorney was asked just a few days ago if she could travel to Tornillo to offer similar services, Noone immediately agreed.

However, while the detention center in Dilley held families, Tornillo’s “Tent City” detains unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended at the border.

“Initially, [Tornillo’s “Tent City”] was only meant to be super temporary, a couple hundred children, and then when the policy ended, after much public criticism, instead of breaking down the tents … it has just grown and now, according to Health and Human Services, there is enough for 3,800 children to be housed there,” Noone said of the facility.

Located just southeast of El Paso, according to Noone, very little information about the “Tent City” was known because of restrictive media access.

According to her GoFundMe page — Legal Aid to Unaccompanied Minor Tent City — Noone will work alongside other lawyers from all over the nation to complete client intake, deliver “know-your-rights” presentations and provide preparation and accompaniment to immigration court.

“There, money directly goes to getting an educated, experienced legal person on the ground to provide legal services to about 20 children a day, and the more money I get the longer I will be able to remain,” Noone said.

“It is not that I am trying to beat the system and get these kids to become U.S. citizens,” she added. “I am trying to just grease the wheels of the system to get these kids processed, get them determined on whether they have credible claims or not, and then either get them processed to the next step where they are given into custody of their families, or get them deported.

“I am not a political advocate. I am an advocate for the system doing its job and for children not being left to have the suffering consequences of detention heaped upon them.”

Noone said any money raised in excess of her needs will go toward funding another pro bono attorney at the border.

mabennett@postindependent.com