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Coercion and Intimidation of Detained Mothers and Children

Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, submitted the latest in a series of formal complaints to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG), this one documenting intimidation, misinformation and violations of the right to counsel at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

The complaint describes how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are using coercive tactics to force detained mothers to accept electronic ankle monitors as a condition of release and forfeit their right to pursue bond hearings before immigration judges. The complaint documents case after case of ICE employing unlawful tactics to intimidate detained mothers and thereby prevent them from asserting their rights. These tactics include blocking attorneys from accessing their clients during compulsory ICE questioning, threatening to withhold medical care for children if mothers choose to seek bond hearings instead of accepting ankle monitors, and threatening mothers with deportation if they raise concerns or inquire about the status of their cases.

CARA calls for immediate investigation of ICE's custody determination and release practices to ensure that they are free from coercion and systemic interference with detained mothers' rights to counsel and to fair process.

Individual Affidavits

  • Affidavit of "Beatriz"
    "The [ICE] officer told me in front of the group that they were offering our freedom with the shackle, and if we refused the shackle, we were refusing their freedom, and wouldn't get any further help from ICE."
  • Affidavit of "Juliza"
    "During [my meeting with a CARA Pro Bono Project attorney], officers showed up and took me to the court. I did not know why they were bringing me to court. I was nervous because I had no idea what was about to happen. They would not let my attorney come with me."
  • Affidavit of "Olga"
    "[I]t gives us fear of the way ICE explains things to us. It gives me fear, sometimes, the way the ICE officers respond to our questions and constantly telling us that they can deport us immediately if we want."
  • Affidavit of "Lidia"
    "I was called by an ICE official to tell me they were going to return me to my country. I told them to give me asylum. Then they made me sign around seven sheets."
  • Affidavit of "Renita"
    "All I want is to receive protection in this country. I did not want to wear an ankle shackle because I did not want to suffer the stigma attached to it, or worry about charging it every day. I also don't want my young daughter to look at her mommy and think that I am a criminal."
  • Affidavit of "Juliana"
    "I heard on TV [ while at the Dilley Residential Center] that the bond was $10,000 or more. ... I saw this program at the same time as many women, around 30 total."
  • Affidavit of "Lillian"
    "I met with ICE officers with a group of about 40 other women, and were told that getting a bond would take about 35 or more days and that the quickest option out of the detention center is the ankle monitor option. ... The officers also informed us that the bond amount would be around 4000 dollars, even though they were not the judges."
  • Affidavit of "Yesenia"
    "I was summoned to court again. At this second meeting, there were more than four ICE officers. ... I signed the agreement to take the ankle monitor. The agreement was in English and no one translated or interpreted it... I didn't really understand what I was signing, but I thought that if I didn't sign, my children and I would be deported."
  • Affidavit of David Kolko
    "Through multiple confirmed accounts received by me and other [CARA Project] volunteers, it was clear that refugee women and their children were regularly (daily) being instructed to appear "in court", without their counsel being notified, at the location of the court trailers. During these meetings "in court" clients were examined by ICE and provided legal information and instructions on issues related to the progress of their cases and the terms and conditions of their release."
  • Affidavit of Katherine Shattuck
    "I said it was our understanding that a G-28 allows the CARA Project to act as counsel to clients throughout their detention. I said that any discussions between ICE and the client, especially when presented as a meeting in "court," would seem to have legal ramifications."

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 15093004.