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Detained immigrants sue ICE for preventing them from making phone calls to family and lawyers

Contact is essential so that people in detention centers can prepare for their deportation hearings

Two inmates complain that the quality of the calls is also poor.

Photo: John Moore / Getty Images

Two immigrants Undocumented detainees at the Otero County Processing Center in Louisiana filed a lawsuit on Wednesday demanding that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stop preventing inmates from telephone contact with your lawyers and family.

The lawsuit, on behalf of Franklin Gómez Carranza and Rubén Torres Jáuregui, filed in federal court for the New Mexico district by the American Immigration Council (AIC), asks the court to order ICE to suspension of practices that restrict access to the telephone, and that it gives detainees a meaningful way to communicate with the outside world.

Restricting that access, AIC noted, interferes with the detainees’ ability to obtain or consult an attorney to gather evidence and the information they need to present their cases in court, and to prepare before hearings deportation.

He ICE has more than 21,000 men in custody, women and children awaiting the hearings that will decide, in immigration courts, whether they will be deported.

“Immigrants in detention face obstacles to using the telephone at all times. It’s almost impossible to schedule free calls, poor sound quality it often makes those calls useless, and the lack of privacy makes confidentiality impossible, “said Kate Mellow Goettel, AIC’s chief legal officer.

“This would be alarming in any circumstance, but it is even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic when lawyers and others cannot safely visit the Otero center,” he added.

For her part, Paige Pavone, from the law firm that is handling the case, said that “at a time when ICE publicly recognizes the need for greater access to telephones due to the decrease in personal visits, there can be no rational explanation for the deterioration of telephone access in Otero ”.

“Expensive calls, five to ten minutes on a line where everything is recorded and where other detainees and staff can hear what is being said, impede the development of a legal defense and obstruct the relationship between client and lawyer,” he added.