ICE Detainees Sue U.S. Over Restricted Access to Lawyers

(Bloomberg) -- Three immigrants held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Southern California detention centers sued the Department of Homeland Security, claiming they’re being denied proper access to lawyers while they fight the government’s attempt to remove them.

The men said in a complaint filed Dec. 14 in federal court in Riverside, California, that their ability to make telephone calls is severely restricted and that calls are prohibitively expensive, making it impossible for them to contact lawyers. Unlike criminal defendants, immigrants aren’t provided a lawyer by the government and need to arrange legal representation for themselves.

Representatives of ICE, a unit of DHS, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The immigrants seek to represent more than 2,000 other detainees who are in removal proceedings in three facilities in Southern California, run either by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department or by a private prison operator. They also allege that their legal mail is often delayed and that they hardly have any opportunity to meet face-to-face with their attorneys once they have been able to find one.

The lack of access to legal representation is particularly acute for the detainees since the Trump administration is trying to speed up removal proceedings by imposing quotas on immigration judges, according to the lawsuit.

The case is Torres v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 5:18-cv-02605, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside).

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