On behalf of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU of SoCal) sent a letter to ICE this morning about the unlawful denial of access to hunger strikers.
On November 19, 2015, Jacqueline Dan (an attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA) and her legal assistants were informed by GEO staff that the Adelanto hunger strikers were “on a list” and that ICE approval was required before those individuals would be granted legal or non-legal visits. No legal ground was offered for the denial. Later that morning, Ms. Dan and CIVIC’s co-executive director Christina Fialho received a message from ICE, stating that clearance was denied. Again, ICE failed to disclose a purported basis for the denial of attorney access to detainees.
Two days earlier, Ms. Fialho, also an attorney, requested in writing clearance for certain non-attorneys to accompany and assist Ms. Dan with an upcoming legal visit scheduled for November 19, 2015. The request identified by name each of the non-attorneys and detainees and complied with the standard format and practice for requesting access. The list of detainees included some of the hunger strikers.
“The denial of access by ICE violates the hunger strikers’ First Amendment and Due Process rights to protest their prolonged detentions and the conditions at the Adelanto Detention Facility, violates their right to confer with prospective counsel, interferes with the practice of law, and improperly burdens public interest organizations,” states the ACLU of SoCal letter.
The denial of access represents an ongoing and troubling pattern of retaliation, and raises real concerns about mistreatment of people in immigration detention at this infamously abusive for-profit facility. On other occasions, GEO and ICE have arbitrarily and without valid grounds denied access to attorneys and visitor volunteers associated with CIVIC in retaliation for peaceful protest activities and public statements protected by the First Amendment. CIVIC with pro bono representation from the ACLU of SoCal and Sidley Austin LLP raised those concerns in a letter dated August 24, 2015, which to this day neither GEO nor ICE has responded to or in any way denied.
“Both ICE and GEO Group are depriving the hunger strikers of access to counsel and community support in unlawful retaliation for shining a light on their inhumane confinement at the Adelanto Detention Facility,” said Christina Fialho, attorney and co-executive director of CIVIC.
If the organizations do not receive a satisfactory response from ICE by Wednesday, November 25, 2015, the group intends to take prompt legal action in federal court to halt these unlawful practices.