A federal judge in the city of Portland in the United States on Monday ruled that lawyers must be provided access to 121 immigration detainees being held at a federal prison in Oregon state, AP reported. More than half the detainees are from India and Nepal.
US District Court Judge Michael Simon granted the temporary order after hearing the arguments in a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Innovation Law Lab, a non-profit organisation, filed on Friday after lawyers were denied access to the undocumented immigrants.
The petitioners argued that the federal government was blocking the detainees’ right to counsel. The ACLU’s attorneys said immigration lawyers had been repeatedly turned away from the prison, Portland-based TV network OPB reported.
Simon, in his order, said the right to counsel “is firmly entrenched” in the concept of due process and “protected by the Fifth Amendment against governmental interference”. “This right is available to everyone in the United States, not just citizens or others who are here lawfully,” OPB quoted him as saying.
The detainees have been housed at a prison in Oregon’s Sheridan city since the end of May. ACLU’s attorneys said most of the detainees are asylum seekers without any pending criminal charges.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement transferred the immigrants to Oregon because other holding facilities have been overloaded since the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” immigration policy in May. The policy allows authorities to file criminal charges against undocumented immigrants. This has led to nearly 2,000 children being separated from their parents in just six weeks.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump called for the deportation of “people who invade” the country without any judicial proceedings. The following day, he tweeted that people must be stopped at the US-Mexico border border and “told they cannot come into the US illegally”.