Kyle Kim writes:
“Judy London merges onto the freeway, heading northeast toward a high desert already baking under a recently risen sun. From West Los Angeles, she faces a two-hour, 100-mile drive to the Adelanto Detention Facility to meet a client who is being deported. The commute time can double if rush-hour traffic is particularly bad.
London arrives at the facility and walks up a concrete path flanked by gravel to the detention facility’s entrance. Once inside, rows of chairs and lockers greet her, as does a guard. She checks in but can’t meet her client yet — the facility is undergoing its daily head count, and she has to wait until it’s finished.
It can take another hour from this moment. London still has to be cleared through security and have a guard escort her client to her.
Finally, she has to wait for an interview room. Adelanto Detention Facility has an average daily population of 1,785, but only a handful of rooms designated for lawyer-client meetings. And once a room is available, she’ll have to take all her notes by hand. The facility prohibits the use of phones, laptops and other electronic devices.
London, like many immigration attorneys, spends a lot of time just trying to meet face-to-face with her clients. It’s a good day when she actually meets them. On bad days, she can spend hours traveling, only to be turned away.
The facility in recent months has refused entrance to attorneys for a variety of reasons, including a chickenpox outbreak and hunger strikes.
“Generally, it is far easier for me, as an attorney, to walk into a high-security local or federal prison unannounced to visit a client than it is to get into a detention facility to see someone. And that is odd,” said London, directing attorney for Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Most immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while their deportation cases are being considered don’t have an attorney.
Immigration detention is considered civil detention and, as a result, detainees do not have a right to counsel as they would in criminal cases.
Immigration attorneys say geography is a significant hurdle.
Many ICE facilities in the U.S. are located in smaller cities, hours from cities where most legal aid organizations operate. So even if the government makes legal aid resources available, they can be miles away.
About 30% of detained immigrants are held in facilities more than 100 miles from the nearest government-listed legal aid resource, according to a Times analysis of 70 ICE detention centers.
Of these, the median distance between the facilities and the nearest government-listed legal aid was 56 miles.
The farthest is Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Ala. Alabama doesn’t have an immigration court, so immigrants detained there are referred to the Loyola Law Clinic — 408 miles away in New Orleans.
Immigrants facing deportation are provided with a list of available pro bono legal aid and services. The list is administered by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which calls it an “essential tool.”
Providers on the pro bono list — mostly nonprofits — aren’t required to offer free services to every detainee, according to the Justice Department, and only a lucky few get help from pro bono lawyers.
UCLA law professor Ingrid Eagly analyzed 1.2 million deportation cases between 2007 and 2012 and found that just 2% of immigration detainees had free legal representation. Most immigrant attorneys came from solo practitioners or small firms.
The location of detention facilities in remote locations can pose a logistical challenge to the court system as well as the attorneys. Court procedure can vary by jurisdiction. Some have judges at the facility. Some conduct business by teleconference. Some use a combination of the two.
. . . . .
ICE officials did not answer specific questions about why detained immigrants are significantly less likely to obtain counsel or allegations that systemic hurdles limit access to legal representation.
The agency has previously said that it is “very supportive and very accommodating” to detainees who wish to have a lawyer. ICE spokeswoman Jennifer D. Elzea said the department maintained that position.
“ICE is committed to allowing detainees access to visits, telephones, legal counsel and law library resources. Additionally, all facilities have notifications posted throughout providing information about pro bono legal services,” Elzea said in a statement.
No attorney or legal aid group interviewed for this report agreed with ICE’s position.
“The government is locking people up in remote jails and prisons hundreds of miles from attorneys, and arguing that having phones there that sometimes work is sufficient access to counsel,” National Immigrant Justice Center Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy said in response to ICE’s statement.
“The government spends billions of dollars to sustain — and expand — a system that obstructs lawyers’ ability to defend their clients’ due process rights. We’ve been told by ICE that the agency does not consider availability or proximity of counsel as any part of its assessment of the suitability of a new detention center, and we have no reason to believe that it cares at all whether people in detention have lawyers,” she said.
Immigrant rights proponents see little chance of reform under President Trump.
The administration’s executive orders on immigration have reversed enforcement priorities. Arrests increased by 37.6% during Trump’s first 100 days in office compared with the same period in 2016, according to ICE data.
The fight for reform will take place in more liberal cities and states, and through the efforts of legal aid groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently started the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. The goal is to provide counsel to every detained immigrant in the Southeast — a region with a high number of deportation cases.
But the program, said Dan Werner, who directs the initiative, was a stopgap measure built out of necessity.
“The real solution is systemic reform of immigration policy,” he said.
In March, New York became the first state to dedicate funding to providing pro bono legal services to every detained immigrant.
And in June, California lawmakers put $45 million in the state budget to expand legal services for immigrants.
Attorneys and advocates view such measures as incremental.
“In most cases, there won’t be accountability in the government,” London said, “so there’s no incentive for them to address it.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Next time you hear Jeff “Gonzo Apocalyto” Sessions deliver one of his self-righteous, fact-free attacks on asylum seekers and their advocates, remember that the REAL FRAUDSTER HERE IS “GONZO” HIMSELF and his knowingly false narrative about asylum seekers that he uses to “cover up” the intentional abuses of legal and human rights being carried out by ICE and EOIR under his direction. Accountability, addressing the real need for reforms in the immigration enforcement and Immigration Court systems to insure Constitutional Due Process? Not going to happen on “Gonzo’s Watch.”