A Los Angeles federal judge ruled Thursday that immigration detainees held at the prison complex in the High Desert must be allowed contact with attorneys in person and by phone.
In a victory over a Trump administration detention policy, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II approved a temporary restraining order forcing government officials to give the detainees access to legal help. In his ruling, he wrote that the detainees “will suffer irreparable harm” if blocked from consulting with attorneys.
The American Civil Liberties Foundation of Southern California filed an emergency lawsuit Tuesday to put an immediate end to what it termed the “unconstitutional” denial of attorney access to hundreds of immigrants being held “incommunicado” at a medium security prison in Victorville.
Wright also ordered that immigration proceedings, including deportations, be halted until detainees had an opportunity to consult with attorneys or attend a “know your rights” training session by the Immigrant Defenders Law Center group that provides free legal advice to immigrants in Southern California.
Wright has scheduled a full hearing on the matter on Monday in Los Angeles federal court.
“This ruling puts a stop to the Trump Administration’s shameful and blatantly unconstitutional practice of incarcerating immigrants incommunicado,” said Michael Kaufman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of SoCal. “Detainees will finally have an opportunity to seek legal assistance and communicate with family members. We will keep fighting to secure permanent relief that vindicates detainees* rights to legal assistance.”
As part of the court order, the judge specifically said that attorney Gabriela Lopez must be permitted to meet with her client, detainee Gustavo Rodriguez Castillo, by phone or in person. Before the emergency lawsuit was filed, she was not permitted any communication with Castillo.
The judge also ordered that Immigrant Defenders attorneys be permitted to conduct “know your rights” trainings at the Victorville prison by July 9.
The emergency lawsuit, filed against officials of the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and others, charged that the actions by the Trump administration to hold the detainees incommunicado violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, the First Amendment, federal detention standards, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Legal assistance is especially essential for non-citizens trying to navigate the notoriously complicated immigration laws and regulations that are commonly considered second only to the tax code in complexity, the suit argued.
The legal help is particularly critical for asylum seekers who face deportation to a country where they might be persecuted, tortured or killed, the ACLU said.
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