Immigrant Rights Groups Demand Government Agency Provide Legal Services for Haitians
â ” National Immigration Project, Haitian Bridge Alliance â “
On November 5, a group of immigrant rights advocates and organizations delivered a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) demanding access to legal services for Haitian migrants detained at the Torrance County Detention Facility in New Mexico. ICE has repeatedly denied access despite multiple attempts by advocates to speak and meet with the migrants, many of whom were detained at or near Del Rio, Texas, in September. The letter demands that ICE halt the deportation of Haitians until they have had an opportunity to consult with counsel, that ICE grant access to pro bono attorneys to meet with all Haitian migrants at the facility for group and individual legal consultations within five days of the request, and that ICE ensure Haitians’ access to confidential legal calls. Attorney Allegra Love and immigrant rights groups Innovation Law Lab, National Immigration Project, Haitian Bridge Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, and the American Immigration Council delivered the letter.
As of September 30, based on interviews with migrants in the facility, the groups believe there were at least 45 Haitians detained at Torrance. In addition to ICE’s denial of their access to legal support, local groups have observed court dockets for Black migrants from Haiti moving disproportionately fast, leading to unfair, rapid deportation orders. Haitian detainees describe poor food, inadequate medical care and mistreatment, common to Torrance and ICE detention centres nationwide, as well as insufficient access to information in Haitian KreyÃ²l, which together amount to racist discrimination.
Immigrant rights groups that signed and delivered the letter made statements including:
“Many in the U.S. have no idea that our government is running what amounts to black sites designed to isolate and deport migrants. ICE has forcibly disappeared Haitian asylum seekers at Torrance, holding them in terrible conditions and hiding them from pro bono attorneys in an effort to swiftly send them back to a country reeling from a violent political crisis, earthquake and powerful tropical storms. This is not how we believe the U.S. should treat anyone, including Black migrants seeking safety. As long as immigration detention exists, we will join people in their fight for freedom.” — Casey Mangan, Innovation Law Lab
“At least 45 Haitian asylum-seekers are currently detained at Torrance County Detention Facility where they are being denied access to legal support and fast-tracked for deportation. Immigration detention needlessly deprives thousands of immigrants their liberty each day and the situation at Torrance further highlights how Black migrants are disproportionately impacted by an immigration system that is inherently cruel and racist. Our demands in this letter are clear: ICE must immediately halt the deportations of Haitian migrants at Torrance County Detention Facility and allow them access to the legal services and support they need.” — Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director, National Immigration Project
“For the last 42 days I have been begging ICE to provide us with information and access to the Haitian men detained at Torrance so we can provide them with critical pro-bono legal assistance and meeting resistance each step of the way. ICE is doing everything it can to deport these Haitian men without any semblance of due process. It’s racist, it’s wrong, and I am fed up with it. Torrance is a black box, especially for Black migrants.” — Allegra Love, immigration attorney
“It is unconscionable for ICE to block access to legal counsel for these Haitian asylum seekers who have already suffered horrific treatment at the hands of the U.S. government just for seeking protection from harm. By rushing their cases the government seems determined to deport these men to Haiti, where they face abuse and potentially even death, without due process and in some instances before they have even had a chance to talk to an attorney or submit their asylum application.” — Rebecca Sheff, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of New Mexico