Jameel Manji turns on cruise control and takes a swig of coffee as he heads south in his silver Mercedes.

He glances at the map on his iPhone. Destination: Stewart Detention Center. Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 14 minutes.

It's 150 miles away and a world apart from the hip Atlanta neighborhood where the 34-year-old immigration lawyer lives.

The highway is desolate. Street lights are scarce. The sky seems to darken with each passing minute.

The sun won't come up for hours. Manji shuffles through radio stations, searching for songs to keep him awake.

An R&B station is playing Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day."

Manji cranks up the volume. He hopes it's a sign. A good day is exactly what he needs.

He's been talking on Skype with his client every week. But today will be the first time they meet in person.

And it will be the first time Manji argues before a judge at one of the toughest immigration courts in the United States.


Brian Hoffman types on his keyboard with the flourish of a performer at a piano bar.

He sways from side to side, fingers arched, fielding questions and firing off emails.

A note taped to his laptop screen reminds him not to pound the keys. These days, as the Trump administration ratchets up its crackdown on illegal immigration, Hoffman says he finds it increasingly hard to avoid "rage typing."

In a white-shingled house on Main Street in Lumpkin, Georgia, Hoffman sits in what used to be a breakfast nook. Now it's a war room, strategically located less than a mile from the Stewart Detention Center.

For months, a small army of lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center -- staff and volunteers -- have made this house their home base.

On one wall, a painting depicts an immigrant arresting an ICE agent.

On another, a handwritten note outlines a rallying cry:

"We the undersigned, who gather to protect human liberty and dignity and the rule of law for all, hereby designate Stewart Detention Ctr as a site of resistance."

This resistance doesn't involve tanks or guns. Its weapons are legal pads, fax machines and piles of paperwork. Here in this office, Hoffman and other SPLC staff are leading the charge, bolstered by volunteer lawyers who serve as reinforcements.


For the lawyers who pass through, this is boot camp. And Hoffman is the sergeant at the helm.

Week after week, he teaches a new generation of advocates about the grim realities of a system where -- as he puts it -- the deck is stacked against you, "and it's being shuffled and dealt at the same time by the other side." Then, he sends them into battle and keeps fighting the war.

Manji was one of the first recruits. The Atlanta lawyer spent a week here learning the ropes from Hoffman, observing court proceedings and meeting with detainees. That was months ago. Still, when Manji thinks back on his first visit, he can hear the ominous sound of the detention center's gate slamming behind him.

Different and deeply personal paths led these lawyers -- the sergeant and the soldier -- to this small town in rural Georgia. But they share the same mission: Fighting the US immigration system on the front lines and finding new ways to win.

The biggest hurdles they face: In this court, chances are slim to none they will. And just making it into the trenches is much harder than you'd think.


The Stewart Immigration Court is a battlefield inside a fortress.

Its four courtrooms are steps away from one of the country's largest immigrant detention centers.

Guards monitor the entrance. Visitors who want to attend public hearings have to walk through two razor-wire gates, a metal detector and three locked doors.

The chances of winning are so low that many immigration lawyers refuse to take cases here.

And the court is so remote that attorneys who do accept cases often opt to make their arguments over the phone.

For Manji, who also trained in tax law and worked years at accounting firms, numbers can tell a story.

And at Stewart, the picture is particularly bleak.

Judges there denied more than 92% of the cases they heard in 2017.

As he barrels down the highway, Manji knows the odds are against him.

He knows it's crazy to drive more than two hours for a hearing that may only last two minutes.

But he also knows this: Sometimes, the key to winning a case is as simple as showing up.


Hoffman showed up in Stewart months ago.

And he stayed -- even though the six-month tour of duty he signed up for is a far cry from any prime-time legal drama:

Leave behind the comforts of big-city life, the support of a firm, the potential prestige of making partner. Come to Lumpkin, population 1,159, where there's no grocery store, the best shop in town is a Dollar General and the closest Walmart is 45 minutes away. Live in a double-wide with your colleagues. And spend your days in a court where, time after time, you're likely to lose.

But Hoffman doesn't look or act like a flashy TV lawyer, strutting around in a suit and tie. His shorts and sneakers are red. So is his bushy beard. He grew up on a farm in Ohio; he's not fazed by the idea of living in the country.

Sometimes, the months he's spent in Lumpkin feel like minutes. Other days, the stream of heartbreaking cases crossing his radar seems never-ending:

A detainee who didn't renew his DACA protection because he couldn't afford it and now is on the verge of deportation. A carpenter who's crying in his cell, crippled by pain from a debilitating arm injury and desperate for help. A client who was granted asylum months ago but remains stuck at Stewart while officials appeal.

Hoffman darts around his office with the urgency of a man who knows there's no time to waste.

He rushes into the kitchen, pours himself a glass of iced coffee and sets it down on a window sill next to a book, "The Power of Logical Thinking." As he drinks, he combs through a stack of documents and tries to make sense of a system that, to him and his colleagues, doesn't seem logical at all.

Here, Hoffman hosts attorneys from all over the country who bring extensive experience in different branches of law. But no matter how many hours they've clocked in courtrooms, they're shaken by what they see.

Each visit from a new group of volunteers reminds Hoffman not to grow numb to things that are normal inside Stewart.

He tells volunteers it's no coincidence immigrant detention centers like this one are so far off the beaten path, away from public view.

Beside his desk, there's a quote taped on the wall:

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the work. Do justly NOW. Love mercy NOW. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

Hoffman knows each case he fights is a window into a system the public rarely sees.

And each argument he makes is a piece of a much larger puzzle.

When he leads his team into battle, he never forgets the war.


Before Manji got into his car and headed to Stewart on a crisp winter morning, before he sharpened his legal strategy, before he ever spoke with his client, he opened up the case file and found a letter that gave him chills.

It's only a paragraph long, but it sums up why this is a case Manji is determined to fight.

It's a pediatrician's note describing a 6-year-old boy with a severe speech impediment who struggles to communicate. The child had finally started making headway in speech therapy. But everything changed when immigration authorities arrested his father.

"He has gone to only speaking a few words," the doctor writes. "He says 'papa' and 'find him.'"

Manji knows exactly where the boy's father is, but where he's heading next is anyone's guess.

A traffic stop in South Carolina landed Aparicio Avila-Hernandez behind bars and put him on the radar of immigration authorities. The 36-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant had been at Stewart for more than five months, away from his 6-year-old son and the rest of his family, when the SPLC referred his case to Manji as part of the pro bono project.

Now, Manji is the only man standing between Avila and a one-way ticket to Mexico.


Manji sits in his fourth-floor office in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, staring at his iPhone. It's weeks before he'll drive down to Stewart and meet Avila in person. Today he's waiting to hear from a judge there so he can schedule Avila's next court date. The call could come any minute. But why isn't the phone ringing?

The hearing was scheduled to start hours ago.

A text message flashes across the screen. It's Avila's wife, asking how everything went.

Manji goes to Google Translate to craft his reply.

Se retraso. It's delayed.

He knows how stressed she must be. He thinks of his own mother, who fled Uganda in the 1970s after Idi Amin expelled everyone of Asian descent from the country.

She was 18 then -- practically a child herself, suddenly living in a YWCA in Montreal in the dead of winter.

Manji's parents are both of Indian descent, and their families had lived in East Africa for generations when they were forced to flee. They became refugees long before Manji was born. But the stories of their struggle to start anew infused his childhood.

It's made him empathetic when he hears clients describe the conditions they fled.

"You can't control the circumstances of what's going on in your country," he says. "Things can turn on you overnight."

Manji was born in Canada and grew up in the United States. He became a naturalized US citizen right after he finished law school. Barack Obama was President then.

Manji wonders what it's like now, when America's newest citizens hear a message from President Trump as they recite their oath.

Even as a citizen, he'll always feel like an immigrant. Almost every day, someone asks whether he speaks English.

Manji calls the court over and over. Finally, a clerk tells him the judge assigned to the case is out on vacation, so a judge in Atlanta is filling in. He should be calling soon, she says. Just wait by your phone.

Thirty minutes later, Manji's phone finally rings.

The man on the other end of the line speaks with the formal tone of a Southern gentleman.

"This is Judge Houser sitting in the Atlanta Immigration Court. In court we have Mr. Steve Fuller, representing the Department of Homeland Security. We have Jameel on the phone. I can't pronounce your last name."

Manji smiles and sounds it out: MAN-gee. Then he tells the judge he wants to schedule an individual hearing.

There's a pause on the other end of the line.

"I can't get that to you at this moment," the judge says. "I will make a note that it needs to be set."

Since Houser is just filling in, he doesn't have access to the individual hearing calendar. Scheduling the date will have to wait.

"Anything else then, counsel?" the judge asks.

"No sir," Manji replies.

"Thank you. I'll let you go. Good-bye."

Manji bolts out of his chair and smacks his forehead in frustration. He spent most of his day waiting for a call with nothing to show for it.


Hoffman pulls into the Stewart Detention Center's parking lot on a quiet afternoon.

He does a double take as he approaches the front gate.

Two lines of men, wearing flak jackets and dressed in black, are walking toward him.

Their eyes are trained straight ahead, their expressions blank as they follow orders from a stern, slender man in uniform beside them.

Patches on their chests say, "Special Operations Response Team."

For Hoffman, it's eerie to see what looks like a military drill unfolding steps away from the immigration court where he argues cases almost daily.

The men march in place, singing softly with each step.

Left, left, left right left.

The detention center's gate slowly clanks open.

The men in black march into the parking lot. As Hoffman heads toward the court, he can still hear them chanting.


A guard's face flashes across Manji's computer screen.

Driving to Stewart takes hours, but today, the lawyer is traveling to the remote detention center with the click of a mouse.

Manji has finally secured the court date he wanted. The hearing that will decide Avila's fate is just weeks away, and it's time to start preparing.

Manji sits at his desk in his office, wearing a suit coat and tie, an interpreter by his side.

Avila sits alone in a carpeted room with blank white walls, wearing a navy jumpsuit, an ID badge clipped to his pocket.

This is the only way they've ever spoken -- in hour-long video chats the detention center facilitates for lawyers who can't meet their clients in person.

The guard clicks a button, then walks out of the room, leaving the lawyer and client to speak without interruption.

Avila pulls his chair closer to the screen.

Manji greets him with a joke.

"How's things?" he asks. "You look like you got some sun."

Avila laughs before the interpreter has even started her translation.

Manji laughs, too, but then strikes a serious tone. He says he spoke with Avila's wife yesterday about the upcoming court hearing.

"We also discussed having your children there," Manji says.

Avila raises his eyebrows.

"It's probably going to be very difficult for them to be there. ... You will not be able to touch your children," Manji says. "You won't be able to give them a hug. And there's a decent likelihood that you will be ordered removed from the country. So, that might be difficult for them to witness."

Avila rubs his eyes, then pauses for a minute, taking in the Spanish translation. The smile that spread across his face a few minutes ago is gone. He delivers a matter-of-fact reply with a straight face.

"Yo creo que es mejor que no vengan. ... Van a sentir mal." I think it's better that they don't come. ... They are going to feel bad.

Lawyer and client discuss possible witnesses and questions that could come up in court. Manji tells Avila he should be ready to talk about his son's health problems, about his wife and other children, about when he came to the United States and about what life is like in his hometown in Mexico.

The audio is spotty. Sometimes, when Avila talks, it sounds more like a series of distorted sounds than discernable words.

Manji asks about his record, which includes a handful of traffic violations and a citation for rummaging through trash.

"Is there anything else that might pop up in court that I need to know about?" Manji asks.

Avila says no. But then he pauses. There is one thing, he says.

"Cuando robaron mi carro." When they stole my car.

Back in 2008 or 2009, he says, a group of thieves ambushed him at gunpoint. They made him drive to the middle of nowhere and took his car.

Manji flips through a stack of papers and finds a report about the crime, signed by a South Carolina police chief. It says Avila was a victim of abduction, felonious assault and unlawful criminal restraint.

"I'm going to think about whether we're going to introduce that into court, and how," he says. "That does make you eligible for what's called a U visa ... visas given to victims of crimes."

But he warns Avila not to get his hopes up. He's planning to mention it, but he's not optimistic it will make much of a difference.

"As soon as I bring it up," he says, "the judge is going to brush it aside."

For Manji, talking with clients before a big hearing is a delicate balance. He wants to be supportive but also realistic.

"Apa, continue keeping your head up," he tells him, using Avila's nickname.

Manji hangs up. But he's still thinking about what Avila said.


Hoffman flips through his own stack of papers, writing notes in the margins as he refreshes his memory about the case he's about to make.

He's sitting in the immigration court's waiting room. Behind him, a family fills two rows of seats, their faces blank with exhaustion. In one chair, a young boy leans back, his head tilted upward and his mouth agape. The sound of snoring fills the air.

Hoffman tries to tune it out as he gets ready for court, but he can empathize. He knows they probably drove all night to get here. And he knows how draining it is to fight a loved one's deportation.

Three years ago, he was sitting in waiting rooms like this, too -- not as a lawyer but as a family member clinging to hope.

Back in 2013, his partner, Alfonso, spent nearly a year in immigrant detention in Ohio.

Sometimes for Hoffman, it seems like just yesterday authorities deported Alfonso to Mexico. They've built a new life together now; Hoffman splits his time between Mexico and the United States.

But it's an experience Hoffman says he'll never forget: the devastating detention center visits, the stressful court battle, the agonizing wait for answers.

"One night he's sitting in the living room. And that's the last time he's ever home," he says. "You're just sort of plucked out of your life in America."

It's something Hoffman keeps in mind when he tells volunteers how to talk to detained clients.

One of his first suggestions: Welcome them to the United States.

Tell them, "We're glad you're here."

He knows they may have never heard that before.


Hoffman's mission today: A last-ditch legal battle for a client who has just one wish -- to get physical therapy before he's deported.

Nelson Perdomo was undergoing treatment for a serious arm injury from a work accident when immigration authorities detained him nearly six months ago.

At Stewart, Hoffman says, Perdomo hasn't been able to get the medical treatment he needs. On Day 1, the pain was so excruciating that a guard had to hold up Perdomo's head when officials snapped his photo. Months later, spasms still shoot through his arm, and his hand turns purple and becomes cold to the touch.

Weeks ago, a judge at Stewart denied bond for Perdomo. The 34-year-old Honduran who'd entered the United States illegally, he ruled, was a flight risk.

For Hoffman, Perdomo's story strikes an ominous chord and shows just how dangerous things can be for undocumented immigrants swept up by a system that sees them more as threats than human beings.

He heads to court with more than 100 pages of documents that outline his case.

A sworn statement from Perdomo:

"The pain was so intense and unbearable that I was crying in my cell."

The expert opinion of a doctor who recently evaluated him:

"Based on his current treatment, his medical condition will worsen and lead to further complications. ... Inability to receive specialized physical therapy can lead to loss of arm function and worsening pain."

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement's assessment:

"Nelson Perdomo-Vaidez has received, and continues to receive, all appropriate necessary medical treatment while in ICE custody."

In the motion he filed before today's hearing, Hoffman didn't mince words about how he feels immigration authorities are handling the matter.

"Shockingly divorced from reality."

"Far from promoting public safety or the fair and effective enforcement of the law."

"Barbaric and shameful."

But in court, Hoffman is measured and polite.

He says he'd like the doctor who evaluated Perdomo to testify on the phone.

It takes only a few minutes for Judge Randall Duncan to weigh in.

He says he won't be calling the doctor who evaluated Perdomo.

"The court does not wish to engage in a battle of the doctors," he says. "There's no indication in any of the filings that there's any deliberate indifference to the respondent's medical situation."

As the judge speaks, Perdomo squirms in his seat. Sometimes, his pain medication makes him nauseated.

A guard approaches the table to make sure he's OK.

Neither side gets to outline their arguments or call anyone to testify. The judge denies Hoffman's motion.

But he grants Perdomo what's known as voluntary departure. Rather than face a deportation order, he'll be allowed to buy his own plane ticket back to Honduras.

Hoffman thanks the judge and whispers words of reassurance to his client.

But he's frustrated by the ruling.

What did the judge mean by a battle of the doctors? Hoffman has Perdomo's medical records, and he knows every doctor who's seen his client has come to same conclusion: He needs additional care -- care he likely won't get in Honduras.

As Hoffman drives back to the office, he tries not to dwell on that.

He's already thinking about the letter he's going to send to the Honduran consulate, asking for help.

He's sketching out the appeal he'll file and the new arguments he'll make.

He's wondering whether anything he's learned in this case might help him win the next one.


Manji stands at the detention center's gates, waiting for them to open.

Outside, a guard is getting ready to hoist an American flag.

Inside, the court's waiting room is so packed there's barely enough room to sit.

Hanging on the wall is a portrait of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, smiling.

Below it sits a row of family members, the men sporting suits, a little girl wearing a white lace dress. Their faces look sullen and scared.

Manji finds a seat behind them.

A few weeks ago, today's hearing wasn't even on his calendar.

But something his client said during their Skype call stuck in his mind.

Flipping through Avila's paperwork, Manji saw something he hadn't noticed before.

A previous attorney had argued Avila was eligible for a U visa -- granted to victims of crimes who help authorities prosecute the perpetrators -- but had never filed an application.

Manji filed the paperwork with immigration officials, then filed a new bond motion with the court.

He hopes it will be a game changer.

If the judge agrees, Avila could post bail and see his family for the first time in seven months.

It won't be the final hearing in the case -- but Manji knows the argument he makes today is Avila's best shot.

If he wins today, Avila can go home, gather evidence and have his case transferred nearby, which could improve his odds. And the speed of his case could shift from a sprint to a crawl. As a detainee, it's been on an accelerated track; on bond, it could take years to wind its way through backlogged courts.

What Manji is trying to win for his client today boils down to one word that could change everything: time.

A guard opens the locked door that leads to the courtrooms. He calls out the last three digits of Avila's case number.

It's time for the hearing to start.

Manji feels like an actor about to take the stage. The adrenaline kicks in. He imagines the music from "Rocky" playing as a guard escorts him into the court.


Hoffman slides into the passenger seat of a white Subaru Impreza, a legal pad and suit coat in hand. Gracie Willis is behind the wheel.

It's Hoffman's last week in Lumpkin. Willis is taking over as the project's lead attorney. Hoffman is ready to pass the torch. Willis is ready to make her case. In a matter of minutes, they'll be in court, arguing their next client should be released on bond.

But first, it's time for a jam session. Willis plugs a cable into her phone and hits play. A thumping bass line pulses through the speakers, backing up hip-hop singer Lizzo's refrain.

I do my hair toss, check my nails

Baby how you feeling'? (feelin' good as hell)

Willis keeps one hand on the steering wheel as she sways to the beat.

Hoffman harmonizes as they head down Main Street.

The judge they'll be facing this morning already sided with them months ago, granting their client asylum. But immigration officials have refused to release him while they appeal the ruling. Hoffman and Willis know getting him out of detention will be tough.

So right now, on this three-minute drive, they have a simpler mission: getting pumped up.

Baby how you feelin? Feelin good as hell

Baby how you feelin? Feelin good as hell

Willis pulls into a parking space just as the song ends.

The two attorneys look ready to go on the offensive as they charge past the razor wire fence, through one gate, and then another.

But it's not long before they're back in the parking lot.

The judge told them her hands were tied. She doesn't have the authority to release their client as long as an appeal is pending.

It's another discouraging result, but Hoffman knows their fight isn't over.

On the way back to the car, he's already planning his next move: posting about the case in a Facebook group for immigration lawyers to see if he can come up with a fresh approach.

To Hoffman, every moment they spend on this case is time well spent. He knows somewhere in the world, there's a kid who will seek asylum someday -- and win -- thanks to what they're learning.

Before he leaves Stewart on his last day in court, Hoffman stops on the sidewalk and shakes Willis' hand.

"Good work, counselor," he says. "We're still feeling good as hell."


Inside Courtroom #4, Manji meets Avila in person for the first time. He almost doesn't recognize his client; he looks tired and disheveled.

Manji imagines how hard it must be for Avila. His client's entire life depends on the packet of papers Manji holds in his hands -- and it's completely out of Avila's control.

"Are you good?" Manji asks, hoping to help him stay calm.

A bespectacled man in a black robe enters the room and announces that court is in session.

Judge Dan Trimble presides over dozens of cases weekly. President Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, appointed the former military judge to the immigration bench in 2010, and he's been hearing cases at Stewart ever since.

Last year, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, Trimble denied nearly 96% of asylum cases in his courtroom.

The judge has a stern look on his face as he flips through the stack of papers Manji has just handed him.

"What's the new information?" he asks. "I saw a lot of this before."

Manji directs him to the U visa application.

Years ago, according to Manji's motion, Avila "was kidnapped, robbed and had a gun placed to his head and cocked as if he was going to be killed." Then, he helped police catch the men responsible.

Applying for the U visa, Manji says, is a "material change in circumstances" -- a requirement for the court to reconsider bond.

The judge looks toward the prosecutor, who stares at a computer screen.

"Does the government agree?"

The prosecutor shakes her head.

"The government does not believe that filing an application is a change in circumstance," she says. Avila, she says, could have applied for a U visa sooner.

"But the difference is, he's filed it now," the judge says. "All the time people say they're going to get married or they're going to file something, but in this case, there's no doubt that he has."

He asks Manji to outline why his client should be released on bond.

Manji thinks back to the pediatrician's note. He tells the court about Avila's youngest son, and how much he's regressed without his father at home. Avila isn't a flight risk, Manji says, or a danger to society.

"How much can your client afford to pay?" Trimble asks.

It's a question Manji wasn't sure he'd have a chance to answer.

"I've spoken to his wife, and she says they can pay $5,000," he says.

Again, Trimble turns toward the prosecutor.

"I just would ask that a $10,000 bond be set in this case, since I did not see any tax returns or evidence of ability to pay."

Manji realizes things are tilting his way.

Seconds later, the judge rules, splitting the difference.

"Respondent may be released from custody with a bond of $7,500."

Manji looks over at Avila. His client looks like a kid at Christmas.

Manji also leaves the courtroom beaming.

As he walks down the hall, a guard laughs at the swagger in his step.

"You haven't seen that before?" Manji asks.

"No," the guard tells him. "Mostly, people just look sad."


Manji rushes over to the detention center next door to meet with Avila as soon as the hearing ends.

It's the first time they've had a chance to talk one-on-one, sitting in the same room. Even though they're separated by a thick pane of glass, Manji can feel Avila's joy.

The grateful client tells his lawyer he's been fasting and praying all night for six days straight.

"I've been praying for you," he says.

Manji knows the hearing could have gone differently. Earlier this morning, he dreaded the possibility that he'd have to help Avila come to terms with bad news.

Now, Manji feels like he won the lottery.

He drives out of the detention center parking lot, down CCA Road, taking one last look in his rearview mirror.

"Every time I leave," he says, "I hope I never see this place again."

It's not because he doesn't want to fight for his clients. It's because he hopes someday the detention center will be shut down.


Before he heads back to Atlanta, Manji has one more stop to make: the SPLC office. He needs to make a few calls, and he wants to share the good news.

As soon as he appears at the door, project coordinator Erica Thomas rushes to hug him and shouts out, "Yay! You got bond!" Word of the rare courtroom victory traveled down the street faster than Manji's Mercedes.

Manji takes a look around the office. It feels both familiar and foreign. Things were different the last time he was in Lumpkin.

Back then, the office was just getting off the ground. And Hoffman was at the helm.

Now the pro bono project is growing, with offices in several locations across the South. But there's an empty desk in Lumpkin where Hoffman once worked late into the night. He left after finishing his six-month stint and now helps as a consultant from afar.

Manji wishes Hoffman were here still. Together sergeant and soldier would celebrate the battle won.

Manji wanders into the conference room and finds his picture on a wall among the snapshots of volunteers who've passed through. At first there were a handful. Now there are hundreds.

Two bright green pieces of construction paper are taped below them. One says, "PARED DE LA LIBERTAD." Wall of liberty.

On the other, lawyers have signed the names of people they freed. Even after nine months, there aren't many on the list.

Manji pulls out a pen and adds Avila's name.

He steps back and takes it in.

Today was a good day, after all.


Nearly 30 people detained at Stewart have been granted bond or parole since the SPLC's pro bono project began there. And about 200 volunteer attorneys, law students and interpreters have traveled to Lumpkin.

This summer, in addition to helping clients request bond and fight deportation, the SPLC team worked to reunite families the government had split up as a result of its now-reversed "zero tolerance" policy. According to the SPLC, about 20 fathers held at Stewart were separated from their children at the border.

After finishing his stint at Stewart in November 2017, Brian Hoffman returned to Ohio, where he now works for another pro bono immigration project, representing clients who were arrested in recent ICE raids and training volunteer private attorneys to help with immigration cases.

Jameel Manji has taken on more clients from Stewart, and he's still helping Aparicio Avila-Hernandez make his case. Avila was released on bond and is living with his family in South Carolina. His next hearing is scheduled for December.

More from 'Inside America's Hidden Border'

A cell became his cemetery

Their loved ones are behind bars. Their lives are on hold. This house gives them hope.

In one of America's poorest places, detaining immigrants is a big business

About this series

CNN reported the stories in this series over the course of more than a year, conducting dozens of interviews and making multiple visits to the privately run, all-male Stewart Detention Center -- one of more than 200 facilities across the United States where immigrants facing deportation are held. The facility has the capacity to house nearly 2,000 detainees. Some have significant criminal histories. Others ended up in the crosshairs of immigration authorities when they were pulled over for traffic offenses. And some are seeking asylum after recently crossing the border.



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