Immigrants' Rights Groups Sue US Government for Violating Immigration, Deportation Laws Against Mothers, Children
National immigrants' rights groups are suing the U.S. government over claims of lack of due process for "scores" of Central American women and children at the Artesia immigrant detention facility in New Mexico.
The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, National Immigration Law Center, and National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild announced their lawsuit in response to what they say is a failure of immigration laws. The national immigrants' rights groups claimed the federal government has denied fair deportation processes for mothers and children, notably in Artesia.
American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project Director Cecillia Wang said the purpose of the lawsuit is to "challenge" the U.S. government's procedures on policing immigrants, saying they are trying to deport them "as soon as possible." Wang said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's message to immigrants was "We will send you back" to their native countries, despite the ongoing difficulties happening at home.
Wang said their immigrant clients have "repeatedly" been told by border patrol that they will be deported. An immigration court judge told one client, who Wang said had a valid claim for asylum, that the client is responsible for finding a solution to her problems back home.
Wang added that the federal government's immigration policies are "intentionally designed," but officials are violating such laws.
According to American Immigration Council's Legal Director Melissa Crow, the Artesia detention facility is a "deportation mill." She added that individuals have the right to seek asylum but the processes in Artesia have been erroneous and present procedural hurdles. Crow commended lawyers who have made "heroic" effort to help and teach immigrants their rights despite the "draconian policies" of the federal government.
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild's Staff Attorney Trina Realmuto said the government has made it difficult for women to make their claims to stay in the U.S. Realmuto noted the Artesia detention facility lists three legal services for undocumented immigrants, but the attorneys are located hours away.
Realmuto said the detainees at Artesia are given "little to no advanced notice" about seeing an immigration court judge. Officials in the Artesia facility -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents -- "routinely" tell detainees they have three to five minutes to make phone calls and some are forced to clean the bathroom to earn a phone call.
"It's hard to believe the U.S. government is implementing this process," said Realmuto, adding, "there are no words, it's shameful."
National Immigration Law Center's Executive Director Marielena Hincapié, said the "deportation mill" at Artesia violates U.S. laws. She said if the Obama administration fails to act, then the U.S. will lose its place as a "beacon of hope" for families seeking a better life.
"Not only we're locking up women and babies, but the Obama administration has made it clear to deport them back to violent environments in their native countries," said Hincapié.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include mothers and children from El Salvador and Guatemala. One of the plaintiffs, a mother with two children, fled El Salvador following threats by gang members. A mother from Honduras left her native country after "repeated" death threats and the death of her children's father.
"Any mother will do whatever it takes to make sure her children are safe from harm's way. Our plaintiffs are no different: they have fled their homes to protect their children, only to find that the U.S. deportation system is intent upon placing them back in the dangerous situations they left," the National Immigration Law Center's Managing Attorney Karen Tumlin said in a statement. "We are filing this lawsuit today to ensure that each mother is able to have her fair day in court, and that we are not sending children and their mothers back to violence or their deaths."
Hincapié said, "Our lawsuit is a matter of life and death."
The lawsuit, M.S.P.C. v. Johnson, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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