ACLU Suing ICE at Louisiana Detention Facility For Violating Immigration Law

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other legal services organizations filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at four detention facilities across the U.S., including one in Ferriday, LA. The lawsuit, filed on October 13, 2022, alleges that ICE is violating detainees’ federal law by preventing detained immigrants from being able to communicate with attorneys.

“The right to a lawyer should be the minimum level of fairness that someone gets when the government puts them in jail,” says Homero Lopez, Jr., legal director at Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA). “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 notes that in spite of the complexities of U.S. immigration law, the burden is placed on detainees to prove that they should be released from custody. Not only that, immigration proceedings are conducted through an adversarial process, with DHS attorneys – who are well-trained in immigration law – on the opposing side. In order to successfully navigate the process, detainees need access to an attorney who can gather detailed information and supporting documents regarding their personal and immigration history, criminal history, and merits of their claims for immigration relief.

“For example, at River, ISLA attorneys communicate with their clients in an open, heavily trafficked area that serves as a multi-purpose room. During attorney visits, there is a table where the ISLA attorney can meet with a client individually, while ISLA’s other clients (who are also scheduled to meet with the attorney that day) are lined up on chairs at the other end of the same room, with guards sitting next to them. Facility guards also go in and out of the room during attorney visits to purchase snacks from the vending machines located in the same room. This open-area meeting space renders confidential attorney-client conversations impossible.”
Even a smaller attorney-client meeting space at the River facility doesn’t provide any semblance of privacy, the lawsuit notes: “Even with the doors closed in this smaller room, conversations, and activities outside the room can be heard.”
“Access to counsel can be a matter of life or death for immigrants detained by ICE,” says Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “When people can’t communicate with their attorneys, they may lose their case – an outcome that ultimately affects whether or not they will be permanently separated from their loved ones or sent back to dangerous conditions from which they fled. It’s past time ICE followed the law and their own policies.”
You can read the full text of the filing here.

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