The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a lawsuit Friday morning against the federal government for denying immigration detainees access to legal counsel at the federal prison in Sheridan, Ore., where 121 men are being held on immigration charges.
An emergency motion asks a judge to force prison and U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Officials to stop blocking the detainees' access to immigration attorneys. The ACLU says, by restricting access to legal counsel, the federal government is violating the Constitution's due process and free speech protections, the Administrative Procedures Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and federal detention standards.
"Incarcerating immigrants in a federal prison is a highly unusual move and unprecedented for Oregon," Mat dos Santos, legal director for the ACLU of Oregon said in a statement. "Denying these men access to counsel – at a time that they need it most to prepare for interviews with immigration officials or appearing before an immigration judge – is as outrageous as it is unconstitutional. For an asylum seeker, this could mean the difference between life and death."
The immigration detainees have been at the federal prison in Oregon since early June, and immigration attorneys say none of the detainees have been able to access legal counsel for weeks.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Innovation Law Lab, a nonprofit that has been trying to provide legal services to the detainees at the Sheridan prison without success. Other plaintiffs include Xochitl Ramos Valencia, the wife of one of the detainees, Luis Javier Sanchez Gonzalez. Ramos Valencia says immigration officials separated her husband from her and their two small children at the border when they tried to make an asylum claim.
A similar lawsuit filed in California led a judge to issue a restraining order against the federal government, forcing officials to allow lawyers to meet with immigration detainees held at a federal prison in Victorville, Calif.