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DHS hit with federal lawsuit filed on behalf of immigrant detainees

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security found itself the target of a very interesting lawsuit filed last week over its treatment of undocumented immigrants currently being held at the Artesia Family Residential Center.

The facility, located in New Mexico, is currently holding several hundred single parents and their children, nearly all of whom entered the country illegally after traveling from Central America in a bid to escape the escalating violence in their home countries.

According to the lawsuit -- which was filed in federal court on behalf of three children and seven women by attorneys from a multitude of immigrant advocacy groups, including both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center -- the federal government's efforts to expedite deportation proceedings at the facility has served to violate their right to due process.

Specifically, the lawsuit makes the following claims against the DHS:

  • Communication between detainees at Artesia and outside parties, including attorneys, is being unfairly restricted.
  • Detainees at Artesia are being unfairly coerced into surrendering their rights.
  • Asylum cases at Artesia are being prejudged, such that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers are using an unfair higher standard for establishing credible fear, meaning only half of detainees are able to secure a hearing before an immigration judge. 

"These women and children are becoming pawns in a political game even though their lives are at stake. If there is one thing the United States should never sacrifice, [it] is due process and fair procedures, yet that is exactly what is happening despite the life-and-death stakes," an ACLU attorney handling the case.

The lawsuit not only requests that the plaintiff's deportations be halted and an asylum hearing before an immigration judge granted, but that the nearly 300 women and children already deported from Artesia be returned to the facility, such that they can also have their day in court, complete with legal representation.

For its part, the DHS declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, an official did indicate that the response of the federal government to the recent surge of both single parents and unaccompanied children at the southern border has been "both humane and lawful."

Stay tuned for further updates ...

To learn more about important immigration law issues, including deportation, family immigration and criminal defense, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Immigrant rights groups sue U.S. over fast-tracked deportations," Cindy Carcamo, Aug. 22, 2014

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