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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
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ICE Detainees’ Case Over Lack of Phones Advances

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A class of immigrants claiming they were denied phone access while in U.S. custody awaiting deportation proceedings will go to trial on their procedural due process and First Amendment claims.

In a recent order, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said there were outstanding factual disputes on the availability of private phone calls at Immigration and Customs Enforcement's facilities throughout California, which kept him from granting the government full summary judgment.

The three-year old lawsuit claims ICE routinely restricts telephone access and prolongs detentions in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Four facilities are named in the class action: Yuba County Jail, Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Sacramento County, West County Detention Facility in Contra Costa County and Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Kern County.

Lead plaintiff Audley Barrington Lyon Jr., a Jamaican immigrant, was held at the West County Detention Facility between October 2013 and April 2015 where with the help of his wife, he worked on getting a visa granted to immigrants who are victims of crime. But he had difficulty communicating with wife because he couldn't afford to call her.

Plaintiff Nancy Neria-Garcia was held at three of the four ICE facilities between June 2014 and October 2015, and says she was often unable to make private phone calls with her immigration attorney.

Chen wrote that while he'd found "substantial undisputed evidence of prejudice suffered by the class as a whole," they nonetheless failed to show that immigration authorities denied them class-wide substantive due process rights, or the right to counsel and a full and fair hearing under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

"Here, while plaintiffs present evidence that telephone restrictions result in difficulty locating, retaining, and consulting with counsel, plaintiffs have not presented evidence that these restrictions were 'tantamount to denial of counsel,'" Chen wrote.

He added, "With the exception of the two named plaintiffs, plaintiffs' evidence shows that the vast majority of detainees are held for less than three weeks. Based on the evidence in the record, plaintiffs have failed to show that as a class they have established a substantive due process claim based on systemic prolonged detention."

ACLU attorneys representing the class were unable to comment, citing time constraints.

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