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June 21, 2018

Judge Orders that Detainees Can Meet with Attorneys in Person or by Phone

LOS ANGELES — In a major victory over a Trump administration detention policy, immigration detainees held at the prison complex in Victorville, California will now be allowed contact with attorneys in person and by phone.

On Tuesday night, the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Southern California filed an emergency lawsuit to put an immediate end to the unconstitutional denial of attorney access to the detainees housed in the prison. Hundreds of detainees had been held incommunicado at the prison since being moved there earlier this month. Many have been subject to Trump Administration's "zero-tolerance" policies, under which the government has forcibly separated children from their parents.

This afternoon, Judge Otis D. Wright II of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles approved a temporary restraining order forcing government officials to give the detainees access to the legal help. In his ruling, he wrote that the detainees "will suffer irreparable harm" if blocked from consulting with attorneys.

The judge also ordered that immigration proceedings, including deportations, be halted until detainees had an opportunity to consult with attorneys or attend a "know your rights" training by the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (Imm Def) non-profit group that provides legal advice to immigrants in Southern California.

A full hearing on the matter has been scheduled by the court for Monday.

"This ruling puts a stop to the Trump Administration's shameful and blatantly unconstitutional practice of incarcerating immigrants incommunicado. Detainees will finally have an opportunity to seek legal assistance and communicate with family members," said Michael Kaufman, Sullivan & Cromwell Access to Justice Senior Staff Attorney. "We will keep fighting to secure permanent relief that vindicates detainees’ rights to legal assistance."

As part of the court order issued today, the judge specifically said that attorney Gabriela Lopez must be permitted to meet with her client, detainee Gustavo Rodriguez Castillo, by phone or in person. Before the emergency lawsuit was filed, she was not permitted any communication with Castillo.

The judge also ordered that Imm Def be permitted to conduct "know your rights" trainings at the Victorville prison by July 9.

The emergency lawsuit, filed against officials of the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and others, charged that the actions by the Trump administration to hold the detainees incommunicado violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, the First Amendment, federal detention standards, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Legal assistance is especially essential for noncitizens trying to navigate the notoriously complicated immigration laws and regulations that are commonly considered second only to the tax code in complexity, the suit argued. The legal help is particularly critical for asylum seekers who face deportation to a country where they might be persecuted, tortured, or killed.

Read the court ordered temporary restraining order here: