Oregon ACLU sues to open legal access to detainees
Oregon's American Civil Liberties Foundation sued the federal government early Friday morning to open access for attorneys to work with immigration detainees housed in Sheridan's federal correctional institution.
The lawsuit asks a federal judge to allow attorneys to visit or communicate with more than 100 detainees at the prison.
Matt dos Santos, legal director with the ACLU of Oregon, said incarcerating immigrants in a federal prison was highly unusual and atypical for the state.
"Denying these men council at a time when they need it most is as outrageous as it is unconstitutional," Santos said. "For an asylum seeker, this could mean the difference between life and death."
Victoria Muirhead, a lawyer with the Innovation Law Lab in Portland, said pro bono lawyers from the nonprofit have made several attempts to visit with detainees over the last few weeks. They have been turned away by officials every time. Santos said there have been numerous instances where the lawyers were given a time to visit with their clients, but were turned away the day of their meeting.
"The fact that we can't for our clients without theatrics from the agencies is really troubling," Santos said."
The Innovation Law Lab is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The federal government has not responded to the lawsuit. No court date has been set for the case.
The ACLU says the actions preventing attorney-detainee meetings by ICE and Federal Bureau of Prisons officials violates the Fifth Amendment's due process clause, the First Amendment and Administrative Procedures Act and the Immigration, Nationality Act, as well federal detention standards.
Attorneys say the detainees have been held in their cells for up to 23 hours a day and prevented from communicating with their families. "Our country allows those rights to be trampled upon, just because they are not a citizen. Protecting one is protecting everyone," said Keither Ketterling, an attorney with the Stoll Berne law firm who is working with the ACLU on the case.
Come to their senses
The Oregon ACLU's suit was filed similar to one filed in Victorville, California, helping hundreds of detained immigrants find access to attorneys at a federal prison. The federal judge in that case approved a temporary restraining order requiring government officials to give the detainees legal access.
On Wednesday, June 20, Corvallis attorney Jeffrey Goodwin sued President Trump in federal court on behalf of immigrant children who were being held in Oregon. His four-page lawsuit asks the court to order the Trump administration to stop separating children from their families. He also wants the federal government to pay the nearly 2,500 detained children $1,000 for each day they are held away from their families.
No court date has been set for the case.
This comes just after Portland's ICE detention center closed its doors Wednesday, June 20, citing safety concerns as protesters continue to camp outside. The group at Macadam Avenue and Bancroft Street is protesting the national occurences of families being separated and detainees not being granted their constitutional rights while in federal prisons.
A hearing is scheduled 8 a.m., Monday, June 25, before federal District Judge Michael Simon.
Lawyers had indications ICE would begin conducting credible fear interviews with the potential asylum seekers detained at Sheridan. He said they wanted to hasten the case because "failure to succeed in those interviews could mean deportation in a matter of days."
"Hopefully, the local officials will come to their senses that the simple thing we are asking for, as required by the Constitution, is easier to give us (access) than drag this out in court," Santos said.