ACLU Sues Seeking Records on Access to Legal Resources in ICE Detention

July 11, 2023 4:00 pm

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SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit today seeking documents on the quality and availability of legal materials for people held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities. The legal challenge follows a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted in March that went unanswered.

“Legal materials provided in ICE detention facilities may be the only information that a detained immigrant may have for court hearings. For the more than 80 percent of detained people without counsel, the quality of these materials can determine the outcome of a case with life-or-death stakes,” said Marisol Dominguez-Ruiz, Justice Catalyst Fellow at the ACLU National Prison Project. “ICE’s own detention standards require regular access to a law library and robust legal resources. We must know if people’s due process rights are being violated, and we shouldn’t have to sue to find out.”

The lawsuit notes that ICE detains more than 24,000 people every day in approximately 200 facilities nationwide, but only 14 percent of people detained in ICE custody are represented by an attorney in their immigration proceedings, making access to legal resources critical.

“In the absence of counsel, and in light of the multiple barriers that impede effective attorney-client communication, detained people are overwhelmingly left to argue their cases against government lawyers pro se, with limited knowledge of the immigration laws,” the complaint reads. The lawsuit also notes that people with access to legal resources “often navigate immigration proceedings more quickly, which increases court efficiency and shortens the length of detention.”

ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledged the receipt of the FOIA submission in May, but neither agency has complied with the request to turn over related documents. The lawsuit seeks an order requiring ICE and DHS to hand over the records.

The complaint is here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/american-civil-liberties-union-v-united-states-immigration-and-customs-enforcement?document=Complaint

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