FLORENCE, AZ —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 Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona. The complaint details numerous obstacles attorneys face in attempting to communicate with detained people at the Florence Correctional Center in Florence, Arizona, including an insufficient number of private attorney visitation rooms, severe limitations on necessary interpretation services, and barriers to in-person access to counsel for individuals who are in medical and mental health observation or segregation.
“For immigrants fleeing violence, access to counsel can be a matter of life or death. Being unable to obtain an attorney, or even communicate with their attorney due to onerous policies, infringes on migrants’ constitutional right to due process,” said Vanessa Pineda, ACLU of Arizona Immigrants’ Rights Attorney. “The ICE detention system has a history of demonstrated cruelty towards the people in its centers – it’s time they begin to treat immigrants with respect and remove barriers to access to counsel.”
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.
“Immigration detention is intensely isolating and retraumatizing, and for many people, securing release from detention or winning their case is life-saving,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “Having access to legal counsel in these situations can be the difference between whether you fight your case from an isolated prison or from a supportive community, whether you face abusive conditions while you fight your case or not, and whether you win or lose your case. However, in too many instances, we encounter enormous and sometimes insurmountable obstacles in accessing our clients, which makes it nearly impossible to build rapport, learn about their cases, and provide meaningful legal counsel. Through this complaint, we are demanding that ICE provide free and confidential meetings for legal teams and their clients both in person and virtually.”
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 & 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).
Read the complaint here: