Challenging ICE Interference with Legal Representation at Dilley

Dilley Pro Bono Project v. ICE, No. (D.D.C. filed June 1, 2017)


This case was filed after ICE barred Caroline Perris, a full-time legal assistant with the Dilley Pro Bono Project (DPBP), from entering the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas.

ICE claimed that Ms. Perris inappropriately facilitated a mental health evaluation by telephone in March 2017. She had, in fact, facilitated an evaluation with a mental health professional to avert the imminent deportation of a DPBP client and her child back to the terrible danger from which they fled. The evaluation proved critical to establish their eligibility for protection under U.S. asylum law. In May 2017, ICE for the first time stated in writing a policy requiring pre-approval for telephonic mental health evaluations. The agency retroactively relied on this policy to justify revoking Caroline Perris’ access to STFRC.

Because the mothers and children held in Dilley have fled countries with some of the highest levels of femicide and gender-based violence in the world, a mental health evaluation is often a crucial piece of evidence to obtain protection in the United States. Such evaluations often corroborate persecution in an individual's country of origin and may assist attorneys in determining if clients are competent to consent to representation and can participate meaningfully in their cases without safeguards. 

ICE’s policy placed DPBP legal staff in the untenable position of having to choose between potentially compromising the needs of their clients while awaiting ICE’s approval – for which there was no set timetable or standards­ – or putting themselves at risk of losing access to the facility by providing the legal services they considered to be in their clients’ best interests. 

Ms. Perris was reinstated shortly after the lawsuit was filed. On August 15, 2017, the parties reached a settlement that sets forth a timetable for the approval process and limits the grounds on which ICE can deny a request for telephonic mental health evaluation.  The settlement applies at both the STFRC and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes, TX. 

The plaintiffs were represented by the American Immigration Council, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.

Follow this case:

Most Read

  • Publications
  • Blog Posts
  • Past:
  • Trending