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Groups Demand ICE Allow Detained Haitians Access to Legal Services

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Posted: Nov. 9, 2021

For Immediate Release
November 9, 2021

Arianna Rosales, National Immigration Project,

ESTANCIA, NM - Last Friday, November 5th, 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 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 ACLU of New Mexico, and the American Immigration Council delivered the letter.

As of September 30th, 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 centers nationwide, as well as insufficient access to information in Haitian Kreyol, which together amount to racist discrimination and violate even ICE's own standards.

A 25-year old Haitian man detained at Torrance by ICE, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said "If I don't have an attorney I think that they can deport me. I don't know what asylum is. I wasn't allowed to speak. Nobody explained anything and they just told me I was supposed to have an attorney. I don't want to go back to Haiti. I can't go back. My family member was killed and his house was burned. My mom has just been crying because I cannot go back. If I go back I can't even leave the airport."

The immigrant rights groups that signed and delivered the letter made the following statements:

"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 at the ACLU of New Mexico

"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 of the National Immigration Project.

"This type of abuse, anti-Black racism and denial of rights against Haitian asylum seekers in Torrance County Detention Facility is commonplace in ICE detention. We receive calls from Haitians reporting similar abuse everyday from ICE facilities throughout the country, which almost always results in unfair deportations. But the abuse is rarely detected or reported. Through the brilliant work of Allegra Love and the courage of these migrants, we present this case to ICE as an opportunity to review their procedures and practices to assure that all migrants, in Torrance and throughout the country, have equal access to legal counsel and a fair chance to apply for asylum. It is paramount that none of these 45 or so Haitians is deported pending access to legal assistance." - Nicole Phillips, Legal Director, Haitian Bridge Alliance

"Many in the US have no idea that our government is running what amount 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 US 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, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at Innovation Law Lab


The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit organization that provides technical assistance and support to community-based immigrant organizations, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. NIPNLG utilizes impact litigation, advocacy, and public education to pursue its mission. Learn more at Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter and Instagram.