The American Civil Liberties Foundation of Southern California and the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “for creating unlawful barriers to attorney-client communications” at Orange County detention centers.
Filed Dec. 14 in U.S. District Court in Riverside, the suit is also directed at private prison company Geo Group Inc., which operates the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County.
The plaintiffs are individual detainees and two legal nonprofits—the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Immigrant Defenders Law Center—that provide services to detainees.
One plaintiff, Jason Nsinano, has been detained for more than three years, initially in Adelanto and currently in Theo Lacy Facility in Orange. Nsinano has been kept in protective custody in his cell, where he has no access to a telephone for about 22 hours per day, according to the ACLU, adding that his “scarce” access to telephones usually falls outside business hours, leaving him unable to make legal calls. The phone system also prevents him from calling human-rights organizations, impeding his efforts to obtain critical information relating to his asylum case, the civil-rights group charges.
There are similar issues at James A. Musick Facility in Irvine, according to the ACLU, which accuses ICE, the GEO Group and the OCSD of violating the Immigration and Nationality Act and the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. “The Constitution guarantees immigrants the right to meaningfully communicate with their attorneys,” says Jennifer Stark, clinical supervising attorney with the Stanford Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, whose students Gracie Chang, Annie Shi and Josh Walden researched and wrote the complaint.
The OCSD denies violating detainee rights, noting in a statement that it is “under contract with federal authorities. . . . We do not deny the ability for detainees to have access to their attorneys or telephones. We follow federal guidelines and the law, while maintaining the safety and security of our jails.”
GEO Group reportedly responded to the suit by stating the company does not set phone policies or immigration law, and ICE officials say they do not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit asks that the court provide detainees the ability to make private, unmonitored legal phone calls; establish reasonable accommodations for detainees who cannot afford to make calls; and provide sufficient spaces for confidential legal visits. Read the complaint HERE.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.