Legal Organizations Sue ICE for Illegally Preventing Attorneys from Communicating with Detained Immigrants in Four States

October 13, 2022

Contacts: Devra Gelman, Americans for Immigrant Justice, [email protected]
ACLU of Florida Media Office, [email protected], (786) 363-2737
Jocelyn De Carvalho, Milbank, [email protected]

MIAMI, FL — Several legal services organizations filed a lawsuit today against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (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 Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Florida, including no access to private, confidential attorney calls, numerous limitations on in-person legal visits, and barriers to arranging interpretation services, all of which negatively impact legal representation.

“ICE detention facilities are well-known for their horrific conditions and lack of access to legal representation, leaving individuals who are detained at an incredible disadvantage and drastically increasing the likelihood that abusive or inhumane conditions will go unchecked,” said Katie Blankenship, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Florida. “It’s crucial that individuals in ICE detention be able to exercise their right to counsel and advocate for their safe release to their communities and families in the US.”

Research shows detained people with representation are almost seven times more likely to be released from custody and ten 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. 

“We know that access to counsel leads to freedom, safety, and reunification with loved ones for so many people in immigration detention,” said Shalyn Fluharty, Executive Director at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “Instead, we’re seeing detained individuals deported to danger and permanently separated from their families because they could not place a confidential phone call to an attorney. No one should face death or never see their child again because they could not make a phone call.” 

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).