A federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials must allow avenues for confidential conversations between detainees and attorneys at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Judge Jesus G. Bernal said the facility "must allow free, reasonably private legal calls on unrecorded and unmonitored telephone lines, and must devise a reliable procedure for attorneys as well as detainees to schedule those calls within 24 hours of a request."
Saturday's ruling came as result of a temporary restraining order request filed on March 26 by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, the Immigrants' Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School, and the law firm Sidley Austin LLP.
They had argued that changes in policies due to the health crisis had made it nearly impossible for detainees and attorneys to confer in private, whether in person or by telephone.
"Today the court recognized that ICE and GEO cannot simply shut off visitation for immigration detainees without opening other avenues of communication with the outside world," said Eva Bitran, staff attorney at the ACLU SoCal. "This order will protect detained immigrants' constitutional right to speak with their lawyers, enabling them to fight deportation and regain their freedom."
ICE officials could not be reached for comment.