RAICES, a nonprofit immigrant legal services group, has filed a legal complaint accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement of a variety of offenses that create barriers between immigrants and free legal counsel.
Those offenses include not making space for private meetings between lawyers and immigrants, eliminating a “walk-in” signup list and setting additional requirements that make it so fewer and fewer people can meet with lawyers.
The complaint specifically mentions a women-only immigration detention facility in Karnes, Texas as breaking ICE’s own standards that were set in 2014. The eight-page complaint says that ICE has stopped following its own policies.
RAICES is also accusing ICE of barring their volunteers from legal meetings until there was one prospective client or current client for every volunteer legal team member in the room starting on April 15. RACIES says that before April 15, they were able to meet with 100-150 people daily and now they can only meet with 40 to 60 individuals each day.
“ICE drastically changed its policies recently in a way that significantly limits the ability of pro bono attorneys to work with detained persons at Karnes,” RAICES said in its complaint.
ICE has denied the accusations and said that none of their policies have been changed, according to NBC.
But this wouldn’t be the first time that the Trump administration has blocked access to legal counsel for immigrants. In May 2018, President Donald Trump cut aid to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a program that helped unaccompanied minors to afford legal counsel in immigration court.
Just a few days after Trump implemented his infamously inhumane family separation policy, the Office of Refugee Resettlement told the groups it had been supporting to stop taking new cases.