Posted: Friday, August 22nd 2014 at 5:42pm
Coalition sues to stop quick deportation of immigrants
By The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A coalition of lawyers filed a lawsuit Friday to halt the quick deportation of Central American women and children, saying immigrants at a New Mexico detention center don't have proper access to lawyers and are being forced to clean restrooms and retell stories of violence and rape in front of children.
The American Civil Liberties Union and three other groups filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of immigrants being held at an isolated detention center in Artesia.
The groups say U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials should be more accommodating to the volunteer lawyers who have traveled to the remote site to aid immigrants. Instead, the groups say, officials are putting illegal barriers between detainees and their lawyers by limiting consultation time and not allowing them to talk on the phone for more than five minutes. The lawyers from around the country are forced to operate in a law library without books and aren't given full access to their clients, the groups said.
"While expedited removal isn't new ... the manner in which it is being implemented in Artesia is new," said Melissa Crow, the legal director of the American Immigration Council, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit. "Essentially, our government has created a deportation mill."
The immigrants are being sent back to their country without any meaningful opportunity to present their claims for asylum, Crow said.
The Associated Press sent an email to an ICE spokeswoman seeking comment. Agency officials have said in the past that all detainees were being afforded their legal rights.
The lawsuit claims that women being detained at the center are being forced to clean restrooms to earn more phone privileges. It also says that in asylum hearings with a judge listening by closed-circuit television from Arlington, Virginia, they often have to recount stories of rape and violence in front of their children.
The lawsuit comes before what many expect will be a broad effort by President Barack Obama to protect millions of immigrants already living in the country illegally from deportation. In June, he announced that he would act on his own to address whatever immigration issues he can while immigration legislation stalls in Congress.
Republican lawmakers have been swift to decry previous administrative actions on immigration, including the president's decision in 2012 to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows many young immigrants to avoid deportation and get a work permit for two years.
At the same time Obama is considering protecting millions of immigrants from deportation, he has pledged to return newly arrived immigrants, mostly from Central America, who have been arrested along the Mexican border since Oct. 1.
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