In times of COVID-19 and growing anti-immigrant sentiments in America, very few people have been willing to step up and defend those who come to our country looking for a better way of life. The United States, a land built by immigrants, has long been viewed as a place of refuge by those fleeing persecution and poverty in their home countries. Once in the U.S. however, many immigrant families face steep legal battles and a daunting court system before they can officially settle in their new home. That is where immigration attorney Sheree Wright steps in.
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Wright’s work took on another note of urgency. With thousands of immigrants stuck in ICE detention centers on our southern border, COVID-19 stands as a huge threat to those detained by ICE and its many contractors. While ICE itself has adopted three sets of detention standards, including PBNDS 2011, it does not require contractors to adopt any recent standards, leaving the system open to abuse. As a result, many immigrants have contacted attorneys such as Wright to help bring their case forward and quickly find solutions for immigrant families in need.
The medical dilemmas provoked by this lack of regulation are perhaps most apparent in Wright’s home-state of Arizona, which has seen more than two weeks straight of high numbers of reported cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. In immigrant detention centers at Eloy, Florence, and La Palma, COVID-19 infections have spread at a rate higher than any other detention centers in the country. This has set off alarm bells across the state, especially in the immigrant communities of Phoenix and its suburbs. As the representative of many immigrant families, including current detainees, Wright’s law firm has had to step into high-gear to address these issues within ICE detention centers.
Wright’s personal connection with immigration law stretches back to her own life as an immigrant, as well as her time at law school. A graduate of DePaul University, Wright worked hard to familiarize herself with immigration law and other immigrant communities. She soon co-founded a non-profit organization called The Wright Way Foundation, which seeks to reduce poverty and homelessness while generating and providing educational resources necessary to support youths, families, groups, and educators in Jamaica. Wright also became a volunteering member of Mi Familia Vota, a national civic engagement organization that unites Latinos, immigrants, and allied communities to promote social and economic justice through citizenship workshops, voter registration, and voter participation.
Going forward, Wright hopes to successfully represent immigrants in ongoing cases around the ICE detention centers, while expanding access to her firm into neighboring states and immigrant communities. She also hopes to inspire other prospective attorneys to follow her path into law: “I always say go for it, especially for minorities, because we lack representation in the legal communities. Only 5% of lawyers are African American, while 5% are Hispanic and only 3% are Asian. Higher representation is absolutely necessary and calls on every one of us to pursue our own careers and education into law.”