Coercion and Intimidation of Detained Mothers and Children Must Stop

Coercion and Intimidation of Detained Mothers and Children Must Stop

September 30, 2015

Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, submitted the latest in a series of formal complaints to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG), this one documenting intimidation, misinformation and violations of the right to counsel at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

The complaint describes how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are using coercive tactics to force detained mothers to accept electronic ankle monitors as a condition of release and forfeit their right to pursue bond hearings before immigration judges. The complaint documents case after case of ICE employing unlawful tactics to intimidate detained mothers and thereby prevent them from asserting their rights. These tactics include blocking attorneys from accessing their clients during compulsory ICE questioning, threatening to withhold medical care for children if mothers choose to seek bond hearings instead of accepting ankle monitors, and threatening mothers with deportation if they raise concerns or inquire about the status of their cases.

The affidavits recount instances where ICE officers:

  • Spread misinformation about the possibility of bond, such as telling incarcerated mothers that if they chose a bond hearing instead of an ankle monitor they would be detained for months and that CARA project volunteers were "lying" to them.
  • Actually removed a client from an ongoing consultation with a legal volunteer to attend a compulsory ICE meeting from which the volunteer was barred.
  • Threatened to withhold medical care to children unless the mother agrees to an ankle monitor.
  • Intimidated mothers into signing documents in English that they did not understand and refusing to let them consult with pro bono attorneys who could have advised them on the implications of what they were signing.

This mistreatment of an extremely vulnerable and traumatized group of mothers detained with their young children is appalling. These practices also directly interfere with a detained mother's right to counsel under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and federal regulations. CARA calls for immediate investigation of ICE's custody determination and release practices to ensure that they are free from coercion and systemic interference with detained mothers' rights to counsel and to fair process.

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For press inquiries, please contact:

AILA: Belle Woods, [email protected], 202-507-7675
Council: Wendy Feliz, [email protected], 202-507-7524
RAICES: Mohammad Abdollahi, [email protected], 210-544-7811 
CLINIC: Ashley Feasley, [email protected], 301-565-4831.

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