The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California says the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and federal immigration officers have prevented some immigration detainees in county jails from using documents and medical records that could have helped with their asylum claims, making it easier for some detainees to later be deported and unnecessarily extending the time others spent behind bars.
ACLU staff attorneys Sameer Ahmed and Michael Kaufman detailed several complaints from former detainees in a letter sent Wednesday, Sept. 13, to Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. The attorneys urged the law enforcement agencies to take steps to ensure detainees have access to documents needed to help with their immigration cases.
“These materials are necessary for the detainees to pursue their immigration cases and obtain relief from removal so they may be able to remain living in the United States with their family and friends,” the ACLU attorneys wrote. “Such denial of access to the detainees’ property and records violates the (ICE) detention standards and the detainees’ constitutional rights.”
The sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Orange County jails can house up to 958 immigration detainees at Theo Lacy and James A. Musick jails under a contract with ICE that can earn the department nearly $36 million annually.
In one case reported in the letter, the sheriff’s department denied Jessica Reyes-Zambrano, a Honduran asylum seeker jailed at Musick, access to a list containing the contact information of her friends and family in the United States. Reyes-Zambrano needed to contact those people to obtain evidence for her asylum claim, the ACLU wrote. After the sheriff’s department and ICE repeatedly denied her requests for the list, she was deported, according to the letter.
In another case, ICE and sheriff’s officials took possession of a flash drive from Houssem Eddine Douar, an Algerian asylum seeker jailed at Musick, and denied his requests for access to the storage device, which held evidence related to his asylum case, according to the ACLU. Douar eventually received access to the materials through his laywer following several delays in his removal proceedings, prolonging his stay in jail, the attorneys wrote.
The ACLU lawyers wrote that detainees’ attorneys often were allowed to access documents that the immigrants were not…