October 21, 2014
Washington D.C. – Immigrant rights groups today filed Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) litigation to compel the release of documents regarding the use of the expedited removal process against families with children, including those detained at the family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. To date, the government has not publicly released critical information about the policies and procedures governing its operations at the Artesia facility, despite the potentially life-threatening consequences for the women and children detained there. The release of these policies and procedures is particularly urgent given that the government has opened another family detention center in Karnes, Texas and has announced plans to open a massive 2,400-bed family detention facility in Dilley, Texas.
The American Immigration Council, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union and co-counsel, the National Immigration Law Center and Jenner & Block LLP, brought this litigation after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to respond in a timely manner to their FOIA request.
In June, DHS opened a remote, makeshift detention facility in Artesia to detain women and children who fled violence in Central America. On August 22, the same groups, in coalition with others, filed litigation challenging the validity of the expedited removal process in Artesia. With this new FOIA suit, the groups are trying to shed light on a broad range of new government policies regarding the detention and deportation of families amidst a stunning increase in family detention under the Obama Administration.
“Lawyers representing clients in Artesia report that the processes are anything but fair and fall far short of the government’s obligations to provide due process,” said Melissa Crow, legal director of the American Immigration Council. “Compounding these injustices is DHS’s refusal to provide basic information about the policies and procedures that apply in these cases.”
“The American people have a right to know the truth about what is happening at Artesia,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We already know that the government is turning its back on the life-threatening risks these mothers and children will face if they are returned to Central America. But the government is still keeping its new processes for detaining and deporting these families a secret. This lawless lack of transparency will cost lives. It’s time for the government to come clean.”
“Over the past several months, the Obama administration has overseen a dramatic increase in its practice of locking up mothers and children, with very little public explanation of this change in policies,” said Melissa Keaney, staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. “Before they open the biggest family detention facility yet, federal officials should explain why they’ve decided to place toddlers and their mothers behind barbed wire and then whisk them back to the dangerous situations they fled.”
“With the administration poised to expand expedited removal processing in more detention centers, it is difficult to understand the rationale behind the government’s decision to refuse our requests for more information about its own procedures,” said Paromita Shah, Associate Director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. “This lack of transparency sends a strong signal to the world that the U.S. government is abandoning its obligations to provide detained families with children a meaningful opportunity to present their claims.”
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.