Detained person holding phone

U.S. immigration agency blocks lawyer access to detainees, groups say – Reuters

By Daniel Wiessner

“Groups that provide legal services to immigrants seeking asylum have filed a lawsuit accusing the U.S. agency that operates detention facilities of violating the U.S. Constitution by making it difficult for lawyers to meet with detainees.

The five nonprofit groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, claim U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has prevented regular contact with detainees by not providing sufficient meeting spaces, restricting lawyers from scheduling calls and leaving messages for clients, and denying access to videoconferencing technology. The lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C. federal court on Thursday.

The complaint focuses on four detention centers in Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, but the groups say the problem is more widespread. They accused ICE of violating detainees’ constitutional rights to due process and free association, and the groups’ free-speech rights.

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Bernardo Rafael Cruz, a lawyer with the ACLU’s Texas chapter, said in a statement that detainees cannot pursue their bids to avoid deportation without confidential and reliable communication with their lawyers.

‘These ICE detention centers make that almost impossible, obstructing a person’s opportunity for a fair legal process and violating their constitutional rights,’ he said.

The plaintiffs include Florida-based Americans for Immigrant Justice and District of Columbia-based Immigration Justice Campaign.

The groups say in the lawsuit that detained immigrants who have lawyers are almost seven times more likely to be released from detention, and ten times more likely to win their cases, than individuals who lack legal counsel.”

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