Groups Sue Over Fast-Track Deportations of Migrant Mothers

By Julianne Hing Aug 22, 2014

The Obama administration’s efforts to fast-track the processing and deportations of newly arrived migrants being held in New Mexico are violating the rights of women and children who are seeking asylum in the U.S., charges a lawsuit filed today by four immigrant and civil rights groups.

The ACLU, American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the National Immigration Law Center sued the the federal government over the way it’s treated women and children held in a detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. 

Women and children who have fled to the U.S. are being mistreated by deportation and detention policies that limit their contact with attorneys, intimidate women while they are detained, and "prejudge" asylum cases by prioritizing expediency over consideration of people’s individual circumstances.

"U.S. law guarantees [these women and children] a fair opportunity to seek asylum," Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. "Yet, the government’s policy violates that basic law and core American values — we do not send people who are seeking asylum back into harm’s way. We should not sacrifice fairness for speed in life-or-death situations."

Women who fear for their lives should they be deported were cut off from phone calls after three minutes, making it impossible to prepare for hearings or get legal help, the complaint states. Mothers were asked and forced to answer questions about rape and other traumatic events with their children present. 

This week Sarah Perez, an immigration attorney, wrote for Fox News Latino about her attempts to provide legal representation to women and children detained at the Artesia facility. Perez wrote:

You want to inform people about their rights? Not in Artesia. 

We created flyers to let the detainees know that they have the right to an attorney, and that there are pro bono attorneys ready to consult with them. 

In the morning we handed them out, but in the afternoon detainees told us that they’d been told that if they were caught with the flyers, they would be in trouble.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read the complaint at the ACLU.