Maryland residents may be aware that detention facilities operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been widely criticized by civil liberties and immigrant advocacy groups. Most of these complaints have focused on the conditions in these facilities and the treatment of immigrants, but the federal agency has also been accused of depriving detainees of the due process guaranteed to them by the U.S. Constitution.
Many of these complaints concern immigrants who have been denied access to a telephone. Detained immigrants are not entitled to a public defender, and they may find it very difficult to contact an attorney or procure necessary documentation when their access to a telephone is severely limited by unreasonable and sometimes arbitrary restrictions. ICE has policies in place to prevent such abuses, but the American Civil Liberties Union and the Government Accountability Office have both reported that these rules are frequently overlooked or ignored.
In 2013, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against federal immigration authorities over the use of telephones in California detention facilities. The lawsuit was prompted by the treatment of a former member of the U.S. Air Force who was unable to contact an attorney while being held in a California detention facility. The civil liberties group announced on June 14 that a settlement had been reached. The settlement will ensure that immigrants detained in California have access to a telephone during business hours and are able to leave or receive messages.
Experienced legal counsel may be able to assist those who are being held in ICE detention facilities or who are facing deportation. Attorneys could seek the release of such individuals from custody on bond or advocate on their behalf during deportation hearings or appeals.