February 6, 2019
By Robert Haley, LSF Associate General Counsel.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how frustrating the process is for everyone involved including, the attorneys, immigrants, and ICE staff. The system seems very foreign to me. The detention of immigrants is overseen and managed by ICE. Additionally, ICE serves as the ‘prosecutor’ for detainee immigration proceedings. But that’s not all, they are even the adjudicator in some situations, like Parole. Whew…that’s a lot of power and many roles to play for one agency.
The lack of division between these entities is completely at odds with our basic principles of criminal justice, but I am reminded that this isn’t criminal court and these principles don’t really apply here. Many people don’t realize that immigration determinations and detainment are the responsibility of the Executive Branch, not the Judiciary. The difference between the two is painfully evident.
With that thought in mind, today we waited three hours to see a client just for his signature so his asylum application could be submitted. Once submitted, an asylum application currently carries a wait time of up to four years to be processed. Just to visit a single client takes hours of your day. It makes representing multiple clients incredibly difficult. There are 1300 detainees in the facility and only a handful are represented by attorneys. There are simply not enough people to help.
To add to the frustration, we were told our afternoon client was in ‘quarantine’ and we would not be able to see him. Initially, we were told it may be 15 days or so before we could visit. The guards would not say why he was in quarantine and stated they had no way of finding out for us. This of course was not true, and it was explained that the individual had the right to legal consultation, and we would be back to see him once we spoke with the Captain and/or Warden of the detention center.