Lawsuit alleges migrants denied legal counsel at 4 DHS detention facilities

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A group of legal organizations has sued the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies alleging asylum-seekers at four detention facilities have been denied access to legal representation.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Immigration Council; Americans for Immigrant Justice; Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project; Immigration Justice Campaign; Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy, and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), against DHS, ICE, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson.

The complaint alleges that the Laredo Processing Center in Laredo, Texas; the Florence Correctional Center in Phoenix, Arizona; the River Correctional Center in New Orleans; and the Krome Detention Center near Miami have insufficient private attorney visitation rooms, difficult scheduling requirements for legal calls, and severe restrictions on arranging interpretation services.

Migrants are processed in soft-sided tent facilities in Laredo, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“Defendants’ restrictions on attorney-client communications interfere with the detained clients’ ability to communicate effectively with their counsel and plaintiffs’ ability to provide effective legal services to their clients. Defendants’ restrictions affect all aspects of attorney-client communication necessary for representation,” the 80-page lawsuit says.

“Confidential and reliable communication between an attorney and their client is absolutely necessary,” said Bernardo Rafael Cruz, a lawyer for 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.”

A 2021 report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found legal representation necessary to winning in U.S. immigration courts.

(TRAC Graphic)

The report found that during the past two decades, four out of five — or 81% — of asylum decisions, or other forms of relief from deportation, occurred when the migrant had legal representation.

“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,” Javier Hidalgo, the director of pre-removal services at RAICES, said in a statement.

Border Report has reached out to DHS for comment on the lawsuit. This story will be updated if information is received.

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