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Immigration Keeping Ties Quiet, Group Says

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - The nation's top immigration agency won't hand over documents that purportedly will show whether it has a special relationship with a company that facilitates immigrant bail bonds, a civil rights group claims in court.

The Legal Aid Justice Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of its investigation into Libre by Nexus, a company that says it promotes family reunification by securing bail bonds for immigrants through GPS bracelet rental rather than collateral.

The civil rights group, which says it helps detect and prevent scams against immigrants, alleges that Libre by Nexus has in the past threatened to revoke bail bonds it already posted, and remand immigrants back into ICE custody.

"In so threatening, Libre by Nexus implies that it has a special relationship with the government or somehow otherwise benefits from ICE's imprimatur," the five-page complaint says.

The Legal Aid Justice Center also claims that the company charges excessive fees for the GPS bracelet rentals that it requires the immigrants to wear in order to secure their bonds.

It filed the FOIA request with ICE on June 3 to determine if a special relationship exists, "or to the contrary whether that company's representations are fraudulent and constitute a scam on the immigrant community," the complaint says.

According to the complaint filed on Friday, the agency acknowledge receipt of the request by email that day but indicated it would need an extra 10 days to comply, "due to the increasing number of FOIA requests received by this office," the complaint says.

The agency also failed to acknowledge which documents, if any, it would produce or withhold, or if it intended to comply with the request, the complaint alleges. The civil rights group says the June 3 communication was the last it heard from the agency about its request.

"Without the requested records, LAJC is unable to continue its investigation and provide accurate counsel to its clients and to the community members LAJC serves based on the results of that investigation," the complaint says.

The Legal Aid Justice Center filed the complaint because it has exhausted "administrative remedies" for its request, which it says ICE has wrongfully denied. The organization is seeking an injunction to force the agency to comply with the request.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency did not return requests for comment over the holiday weekend.

The Legal Aid Justice Center declined to comment on the lawsuit on Monday.

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