Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that is tasked with enforcing federal immigration and customs laws. A large component of the ICE mandate is to arrest undocumented foreign nationals and initiate deportation proceedings against them. While these proceedings are pending (which can take several months to many years because of the backup in the immigration court system), hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals are detained in ICE centers.
A large percentage of these foreign nationals are women and children who have fled violence in their home countries or who have experienced violence at the hands of U.S. citizens while in this country. These vulnerable people urgently need access to immigration attorneys to assist them with their deportation proceedings. Thankfully, many attorneys across the country have volunteered their time to represent these foreign nationals on a pro bono basis. However, in an awful turn of events, ICE has begun to ban immigration attorneys from seeing their clients.
Why ICE is Banning Attorneys
Attorney Kim Hunter recently reported to the Associated Press that she had been informed via letter from ICE that the agency banned her from a South Texas family detention holding center because of her “belligerent” behavior when she demanded that the center release her clients last month. Another attorney, Mr. Andrew Free, was informed that ICE had banned him from the largest detention center in the country because he demanded to know why ICE officials spoke to his clients without informing him and without his presence.
To justify their actions, ICE officials claim that these two attorneys have violated the agency’s visitation standards that are put in place to regulate the meetings between attorneys and their clients.
Immigration Attorneys Fight Back
A group of approximately 500 immigration lawyers have volunteered to represent detained families in the Dilley housing center in Texas. At this facility, attorneys have reported that they are constantly confronted with ICE officials interfering with their abilities to contact and represent their clients. The attorneys have taken these issues to the courts and have already started winning victories. For example, just this past Friday, a federal judge ordered the release of hundreds of undocumented children and their mothers.
Why Attorney Representation is Important
Given the tremendous complexity of immigration law, it is very rare that any application or proceeding can be considered a do-it-yourself project – and deportation proceedings should never be undertaken without representation. Since many of these detainees are children, attorney representation is vital to ensure that the children receive adequate care and protection while their cases slowly move through the court system.
Additionally, many of these children and their families may have deportation relief available to them that they don’t know about because the immigration law is so difficult to understand. By working with an attorney, these foreign nationals are able to learn about any options that may be available to them.
We applaud these immigration attorneys who continue to fight the huge uphill battle in representing undocumented foreign nationals in deportation proceedings. It is our ardent hope that ICE officials will stop interfering with these attorneys and their good work. Continue to check back with our blog for all of the latest immigration news.
More Blog Posts
The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Policy Memo, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012