RAICES: Immigration and Customs improperly denying migrants access to free lawyers
John Moritz, Corpus Christi Caller TimesPublished 2:56 p.m. CT May 8, 2019 | Updated 5:13 p.m. CT May 8, 2019
Immigration and Customs Enforcement says policy changes were needed because of population increases, but disputes assertion that detainees are denied legal assistance.
An organization that provides free legal assistance to migrants detained in federal immigration detention centers says recent policy changes at a facility in South Texas have limited the ability of lawyers to work with people needing legal aid.
Lawyers affiliated with the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, said the policy changes at the center in Karnes County run counter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention standards and improperly deny migrants legal services.
“We request that ICE immediately address changes in policies and practice that have made this statutory right to consultation impossible for many persons detained at Karnes who seek to consult with RAICES and pro bono volunteers,” according to a letter signed by a RAICES program director of five volunteer lawyers.
The eight-page letter asserts that staff at Karnes is not allowing lawyers to meet with detainees in their rooms and have delayed detainees from meeting with lawyers. The letter also says RAICES teams have not been permitted to enter the Karnes rooms to meet with detainees “until there was a 1 to 1 ratio of prospective or current clients available to meet with each person on our team.”
“This has resulted in a sharp decrease in our capacity to meet the legal needs of persons detained at Karnes,” the letter says.
In a statement, ICE said some policy changes were needed because the number of detainees at Karnes has risen in recent weeks.
“Consequently, more residents are represented by private attorneys,” the statement said. “To ensure attorney access to visitation, the number of daily group meetings were reduced.”
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