At 47, Marty Rosenbluth decided to go back to school. After 20 years working on international social justice issues, he thought that a law degree could help him get higher-level jobs with organizations he admired, like Amnesty International and Greenpeace.
But while he was working on his degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, he began to hear stories of human rights concerns that hit much closer to home. The Obama Administration had ramped up deportation efforts, and increasing numbers of immigrants across the country were being arrested and deported without ever seeing their families again. Rosenbluth realized there was plenty for him to work on right in his own backyard. He now lives and works in Lumpkin, Georgia, a town that he describes as “an hour away from the middle of nowhere.” It is also the home of the Stewart Detention Center, a private prison contracted by ICE to house immigrant detainees. Rosenbluth is the only private immigration attorney in Lumpkin and says the lawyer sign in sheet is usually empty at the facility. If the detainees have lawyers at all, their representation calls in instead of physically showing up in court. Rosenbluth joins host Frank Stasio to talk about his work, life, love for cooking, and why he packed up his life and moved to the middle of nowhere. Rosenbluth is associate counsel at Polanco Law in Durham where he has been an attorney since 2016.
On the remote location of Stewart Detention Center:
They build these detention centers on purpose in really remote areas to block the detainees from having access to counsel to make it more difficult for families to visit, and it’s a very difficult place to practice law.
On the lack of attorneys at Stewart Detention Center:
Most of the attorneys who participate in court hearings down at the Stewart Detention Center participate in the hearing by telephone. I’m the only attorney with an office in town who’s in the court every single day.
On the track record at Stewart Detention Center:
It has one of the worst records by any metric. If you look at bonds, if you look at asylum, the average denial rate for asylum cases nationally is 45 percent. At Stewart it’s 96 percent.
On opening a law office in Lumpkin, GA:
There are 2,100 detainees down here. The main reason my firm opened an office down there was there’s no long term detention center in North Carolina. So, anyone, everyone who is picked up by ICE in North Carolina ends up down at the Stewart Detention Center, which is why I’m here. It’s why I moved down.
On the profile of his clients:
A lot of my clients have been living in North Carolina for 15 to 20 years. They have two or three U.S. citizen kids. Very often they’re married to a US citizen. Basically, if you don’t have an attorney — and in fact, in immigration court, you’re not entitled to an attorney if you can’t afford one — you can be deported without ever even knowing what your rights are under the law.