PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge said Monday that immigration attorneys must be given access to more than 120 asylum seekers detained at an Oregon prison.
U.S. District Judge Michael Simon in Portland granted an emergency restraining order sought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Innovation Law Lab, a nonprofit whose attorneys have been denied access to immigrants being held at the federal prison in Sheridan.
Simon wrote that the right to counsel is firmly entrenched in the concept of due process and protected by the Fifth Amendment against governmental interference: “Further, this right is available to everyone in the United States, not just citizens or others who are here lawfully.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement transferred the immigrants to Oregon because other holding facilities have been overloaded since the Trump administration enacted a “zero tolerance” policy involving people entering the country illegally.
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The Sheridan detainees are from 16 countries, but more than half are from India and Nepal.
Defendants named in the lawsuit are Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE; U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions; and Hugh Hurwitz, acting director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, among others.
The judge said the defendants must provide at least two rooms for detainees to meet with lawyers. Those rooms will be available six hours a day for individual consultation or group “know your rights” training.
The defendants argued they were already planning that step, so the lawsuit is moot. Simon, however, noted that the defendants expected to make the rooms available starting Wednesday, one day before ICE officials want to start interviews to assess whether a detainee faces a credible degree of fear if deported.
“This is insufficient time to provide attorney access that satisfies the requirements of due process,” Simon wrote.
In his order, the judge said ICE officials can’t proceed with an asylum interview or hearing until after the detainee has meaningfully consulted with an attorney. Moreover, the detainees can’t be transferred from Oregon to an out-of-state facility without the consent of counsel or permission of the court.
Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub