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Lawsuit says ICE 'severely' limits attorney access to immigrant detainees
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Lawsuit says ICE 'severely' limits attorney access to immigrant detainees

  •  Immigration detainees at the Eloy federal contract prison.
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement Immigration detainees at the Eloy federal contract prison.

Lawyers for immigrant detainees at federal correctional centers in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Arizona say the federal government is illegally preventing them from effectively communicating with their clients.

Their lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that spells out the obstacles they have faced.

Attorneys said their access to clients is “severely limited,” according to a complaint filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs said they aren’t given access to private, individual visitation rooms to hold confidential conversations with their clients at ICE detention facilities. Onerous scheduling requirements and limited telephone access were also highlighted.

Charges for telephone access at ICE facilities are “exorbitant,” with the lawsuit citing a $20 rate for a 25-minute call.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Immigration Council are handling the lawsuit for five nonprofit legal services organizations:

  • Americans for Immigrant Justice, representing clients at Krome Detention Center in Miami;
  • the Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project, on behalf of detainees at Florence Correctional Center in Arizona;
  • Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA), for clients at River Correctional Center in Ferriday, Louisiana;
  • the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, for detainees at Laredo Processing Center in Texas;
  • and the Washington, D.C.,-based Immigration Justice Campaign, on behalf of all of the affected detainees.

“The right to a lawyer should be the minimum level of fairness that someone gets when the government puts them in jail,” Homero López Jr., ISLA’s legal director, said in a statement. “However, ICE attempts to remove even that minimal semblance of fairness by constantly placing barriers that limit one’s access to their attorney.”

The lawsuit also references an ACLU report that indicated lawyers with clients at ICE facilities nationwide reported the same shortcomings claimed at the four detention facilities named in the lawsuit.

An ICE spokesperson declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Upon detainment, ICE provides individuals with a list of free legal resources available to them, including an American Bar Association information line. The agency has also installed Virtual Attorney Visitation at 17 of its facilities, although the plaintiffs’ complaint says teleconferencing isn’t available at the Florence, Krome and Laredo centers.

At River Correctional Center, there is no publicly available information for attorneys to arrange virtual meetings with clients, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs asked the court to order ICE to correct the issues noted in the lawsuit, along with awarding “reasonable” attorneys’ fees and costs and any “other relief the court deems just and proper.”

This report was first published by the Louisiana Illuminator.


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