LAREDO, Texas —Several legal services organizations filed a lawsuit today against Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) for unlawfully preventing attorneys from communicating with immigrants detained in four detention facilities in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Arizona. The complaint details numerous obstacles attorneys face in attempting to communicate with detained people at the Laredo Processing Center in Laredo, Texas, including insufficient private attorney visitation rooms, onerous scheduling requirements for legal calls, and severe restrictions on arranging interpretation services, all of which negatively impact legal representation.
“Confidential and reliable communication between an attorney and their client is absolutely necessary”,” said Bernardo Rafael Cruz, attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “These ICE detention centers make that almost impossible, obstructing a person’s opportunity for a fair legal process and violating their constitutional rights.”
Research shows detained people with representation are almost seven times more likely to be released from custody and 10 times more likely to win their immigration cases than those without. Yet, in at least four immigration detention facilities at which the legal organizations provide services — the Florence Correctional Center in Florence, Arizona; the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Florida; the Laredo Processing Center in Laredo, Texas; and the River Correctional Center in Ferriday, Louisiana – attorneys have encountered numerous obstacles to communicating with detained people, making representation extremely difficult and, sometimes, impossible.
“The focus of immigrant detention by ICE has never been the protection of the rights of migrants and detained asylum seekers. There is very little interest in accountability, due process, and frankly, in treating migrants as humans. Rooted in the same racism and xenophobia as this nation’s immigration policy, immigrant detention seeks to deter, punish, and criminalize the very legal act of seeking asylum,” said Javier Hidalgo, director of pre-removal services, at RAICES. “The current administration continues the pattern of presenting migrants with hurdles and barriers to seeking asylum. Denial of meaningful access to counsel in immigrant detention is a big piece of that pattern.”
The complaint is brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Immigration Council, the ACLU of Arizona, D.C., Florida, and Texas, and Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP, and Millbank LLP on behalf of non-profit legal service organizations Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), the Immigration Justice Campaign for the American Immigration Council (IJC), Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA), and Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).