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Family detention update: More attorneys denied access at CCA's family detention camp in Dilley; Judge rules (again) that ICE should free children

CARA volunteers wheel legal materials into Dilley family detention camp
CARA volunteers wheel legal materials into Dilley family detention camp
Last week, Bethany reported on attorneys that were being denied access to see their clients at the massive family detention camp in Dilley, Texas operated by Corrections Corporation of America.  Today's Austin American-Statesman has an Associated Press article by Seth Robbins detailing even more denial of access to pro bono immigration attorneys at Dilley.  According to Robbins:

"Attorney Kim Hunter received a letter earlier this month from immigration authorities telling her she'd been banned from a family detention center in South Texas for being "belligerent" in demanding the release of her clients one late July night.

Andrew Free learned Aug. 3 that he'd also been banished from the country's largest such facility after the attorney marched into a courtroom trailer 10 days before to ask why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were meeting with his clients without his knowledge.

ICE says the two violated visitation standards, but a coalition of immigration attorneys says the bans are unprecedented and is fighting to rescind them as part of its ongoing effort to improve access to the immigrant mothers and their children who are in the U.S. without legal permission and being held at the facility."

Transparency has been an issue at the facility and the other family detention center in Karnes County from the outset with legal support groups and advocates arguing that ICE and private prison corporations, CCA and GEO Group, have inappropriately denied access to academics, lawyers, paralegals, and human rights groups.  In fact, Robbins addresses this pattern in his piece:

"[T]he lawyers say immigration authorities are increasingly hindering their ability to represent clients. They gave examples such as citing security concerns as a way to deny access to counsel, limiting access to courtrooms, keeping out psychologists who've received clearance and sudden rule changes, such as not allowing cellphones to be left in lockers, meaning the lawyers must keep the phones locked away in hot cars."

While ICE seems set on keeping scrutiny of its facilities to a minimum, a judge's order may end the practice all together.  On Friday, Judge Dolly Gee reiterated her decision from July that the government had violated a settlement agreement from the 1990s governing the detention of migrant children.  According to McClatchy:

"A federal judge ruled late Friday night that the Obama administration has just over two months to begin releasing hundreds of migrant mothers and children who have been locked up in government family detention centers as they await their asylum hearings.

In a 15-page ruling that quoted Mahatma Gandhi, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Central California delivered a scolding rebuke of the government's expanded use of family detention centers. But she also granted the government one of its key requests for additional time – as much as 20 days - to continue to hold mothers and children under certain circumstances like last year's surge of nearly 70,000 Central American families into the United States.  

“This is a historic decision,” said Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration and asylum law at Cornell Law School. “If it stands, it will force major changes to the government’s family detention program.”

While this policy may be good for asylum-seeking families, it's bound to negatively impact CCA and GEO's bottom-lines. We will keep you posted with further developments on family detention.