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June 21, 2019

ICE Planned on Transferring Orange County Immigrants Out of State

RIVERSIDE — The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California won a preliminary injunction that blocks a plan by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from transferring jailed immigrants in Orange County to facilities outside of Southern California if they are represented by local attorneys.

In May, the ACLU SoCal sued in federal court, saying ICE's plan to transfer hundreds of jailed immigrants in Orange County to out-of-state facilities violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that allows immigrants to communicate effectively with legal representatives, as well as the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Late Thursday, Judge Jesus G. Bernal of the U.S. District Court in Riverside granted a preliminary injunction to prevent those jailed immigrants with attorneys from being transferred out of the area while the lawsuit is in progress.

"The court’s decision reinforces that ICE cannot simply move jailed immigrants around the country without regard for their constitutional rights," said ACLU SoCal Staff Attorney Eva Bitrán. "The judge rightly recognized the immediate, irreparable harm immigrants suffer when they are transferred away from their lawyers"

Legal representation, whether paid or pro bono, can be crucial to the outcome of immigration cases. A study last year in Orange County showed that approximately 27% of jailed immigrants with attorneys obtained relief from being deported. Of those who did not have representation, only 5% obtained that relief.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several named plaintiffs jailed in the James A. Musick and Theo Lacy facilities in Orange County, and also on behalf of two legal organizations — Public Law Center in Santa Ana and Public Counsel in Los Angeles — that provide free legal services to immigrants.

"We are glad that in this decision, Judge Bernal recognized the importance of access to legal counsel for detained immigrants, which in many cases is a life or death matter," said Monica Glicken, directing attorney of the Immigration Unit at Public Law Center. "This preliminary injunction will allow individuals like our clients, who are among the most vulnerable in society, to have a fighting chance at justice."

Judy London, directing attorney of the Immigrants' Rights Project at Public Counsel, said: "We are heartened that the court recognized the need for confidential in-person visitation between attorneys and their detained immigrant clients. This preliminary injunction will allow our clients to continue working closely with the attorneys in whom they have placed their trust."

Earlier this year, the Orange County Sheriff's Department announced it would terminate its contract with ICE to house up to 958 individuals because of planned renovations to its facilities. An ICE spokesperson said individuals now housed in them would be relocated in its "national system of detention bed space," likely outside of California.

The lawsuit calls on ICE to release the immigrants on parole or bond. An individual who could not be released could be transferred to a detention facility elsewhere in Southern California.

Read the preliminary injunction decision:

Read the lawsuit here: