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Justice for All: Angela Munson

Georgia Daughter relocates to Louisiana to help address surge in immigration court cases

On any given day, U.S. Immigration Judge Angela Munson hears a variety of languages in her courtroom. Spanish is common, given the proximity of the LaSalle Immigration Court in Jena, La., to America’s southern border. Judge Munson also hears Russian, Punjabi and even remote dialects of indigenous Central American populations. She relies on court-certified interpreters to help her communicate with many of the respondents who appear before her. “So far, I’ve heard as many as eight languages in a single day,” she said. 

Judge Munson is one of five judges in a newly established court located inside the LaSalle Detention Facility, the largest immigrant detention facility in Louisiana. The facility is designed to help process the growing backlog of pending immigration cases in the United States—a figure that surpassed 1 million last year. Judge Munson’s job is to determine whether the detainees appearing before her are eligible for deportation or qualify for relief that would allow them to remain in the country.

A challenge, for sure, but one Judge Munson was willing to accept. A former federal prosecutor, she was already used to juggling a heavy caseload. From 1998 to 2018, Judge Munson served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, working primarily with the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Despite her demanding position, Judge Munson never lost sight of her responsibility to work fairly and give each case its due diligence. “Those 20 years went by very quickly,” she said. “I had the privilege of working for and with remarkable and talented attorneys devoted to doing justice. When I say doing justice, I mean that the focus was always on doing the right thing—not just winning.”

In 2011, Judge Munson spent a one-year stint as resident legal adviser to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, focusing on restoring the rule of law in the Iraqi court system. There she represented American victims of crimes—mostly U.S. soldiers—and presented criminal cases involving acts of terrorism.

“It was a humbling experience to serve in a civilian role alongside military personnel,” she said. “I have a newfound appreciation and respect for the sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform, as well as their families.” 

It was an experience that led her to the DAR, which she joined in 2016. “Being a Daughter gives structure to the commitment to God, Home and Country already instilled in me by my family,” she said. “Daughters are committed to preserving crucial American principles that would otherwise be grossly overlooked.”

Fellow members from General Daniel Newnan Chapter in Newnan, Ga., made the 700-mile trip to Washington, D.C., to witness her investiture as a U.S. immigration judge. 

“I looked out and saw the wonderful women of the DAR who came all the way from Georgia to share in the moment with me,” she said. “Many Daughters unconditionally cheered me on and supported me every step of the way.”

And when she moved her family—husband, Brennan, and her two younger children—to rural Louisiana, DAR members were there to welcome them to their new hometown. (Her two adult daughters remain in Atlanta.)

“The DAR ladies have circled the wagons around our family and helped us settle in quickly,” she said.

In Georgia, Judge Munson lived on a small farm with cattle, goats and sheep. She traded that lifestyle for an equally demanding one in Louisiana: living in a home that is more than 100 years old. “We exchanged farm chores for restoration projects,” she said.  

When she does have a spare minute, she picks up her knitting needles. “Knitting is something that my grandmother taught me to do,” she said. “I find it therapeutic, and I always have something to knit if I have time to sit.”

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