Last week, four organizations — the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the National Immigration Law Center — filed a lawsuit alleging the Obama Administration is unlawfully limiting the filing of asylum claims of Central American mothers and children at the family detention facility in Artesia, NM.
LIRS has strongly advocated against any kind of family detention. Family detention is an inhumane way to treat some of our most vulnerable newcomers. Numerous organizations have documented the concerning conditions and treatment of vulnerable persons at the isolated facility in Artesia. LIRS staff recently visited the facility and recalled what they saw in our blog:
Nearly half of the families have expressed a fear of returning home and could therefore qualify for asylum in the United States. Legal orientation, know-your-rights presentations, and access to counsel are slowly getting up and running, but many of the women are still confused about the status of their immigration cases and are not aware free lawyers may be available to them. Their only means of communicating with family or counsel is by using cell phones that belong to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers staffing the facility. Because there is no child care and children must remain with their mothers at all times, children are typically within earshot of traumatic conversations that can take place between their mother and an attorney.
The new lawsuit, filed on August 22, accuses the Obama Administration of violating U.S. immigration law, denying mothers and children fleeing violence in Central America full and fair access to justice, and abandoning our obligation under international law to protect vulnerable refugees.
The lawsuit argues that the Artesia detention facility creates almost immovable barriers for those seeking asylum. The facility denies children and families adequate time to prepare for critical interviews used to determine their fate, prevents women and children from communicating with attorneys and the outside world, and denies families information about their rights under U.S. law, including their right to consult a lawyer and apply for relief from deportation based on feared persecution upon return to their home countries.
The allegations in the lawsuit are deeply troubling. For example, one supervisor reportedly yelled to families at Artesia that “our job is to get them deported.” We disagree and believe our nation can do better. Children and families seeking safety in the United States deserve the opportunity to have their stories heard. Vulnerable migrants in America should understand their rights and have the ability to seek safety and justice here. LIRS has consistently opposed the harmful practice of family detention, as it is inherently traumatic and prevents full access to legal services, visitation, and long-term integration for vulnerable individuals.
We will continue to update you as the lawsuit progresses and monitor conditions faced by parents and children in immigration detention.
We need your voice! To speak to your elected representatives, visit our August Recess Advocacy Guide. To directly help families affected by detention, learn about Houses of Welcome.