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Immigrant Agency Restricts Detainee Access to Lawyers.pdf (63.82 kB)

Immigrant Agency Restricts Detainee Access to Lawyers

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posted on 2023-07-28, 18:58 authored by Ariana Taborga SierraAriana Taborga Sierra

Immigrants in detention centers are now facing greater difficulty accessing fair legal representation. Since deportation is classified as a civil rather than a criminal sanction, immigrants facing removal are not afforded the constitutional protections under the Sixth Amendment that are provided to criminal defendants[1]. Very few immigrants can afford an attorney and most immigrants face deportation proceedings by themselves without any legal representation. Recently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have made it nearly impossible for detainees to be able to reach out and talk to lawyers to take on these cases.

Many detainees have difficulty finding representation due to their restricted access to communication with lawyers. Yet, in many of these cases, the government appoints a qualified immigration lawyer to argue for deportation. A lack of appointed counsel for people in detention centers means detainees face a much larger risk of deportation. ICE does not provide the necessary resources and meeting spaces for detainees to confidentially meet with their lawyers. Without proper communication and confidentiality, detainees will not be represented properly. Detainees with lawyers are ten times more likely to win cases than those without representation. There is unequal access to immigrant representation, specifically in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Louisiana. Within the six-year period, 2007-2012, 56 percent of detainees sat in prisons, jails, or detention centers awaiting a decision from the immigrant judge without lawyer access or representation[2].

While ICE has not completely banned lawyers from talking to their clients, they have instilled complicated barriers. When lawyers are allowed in detention centers, they are prohibited from using laptops, printers, cell phones, and virtually any form of communication that would facilitate the lawyer’s job in representing their client.

A complaint has been filed by five major non-profit organizations that help immigrants in legal battles[3]. These five organizations, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, have accused ICE of obstructing the detainee’s rights to legal process and well as having violated their constitutional right to free speech. The non-profits have brought forth a recent lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in hopes of removing some of these barriers so lawyers and clients can communicate freely and confidentially.



American University (Washington, D.C.); Juris Mentem Law Review


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