© 2022 WLRN
MIAMI | SOUTH FLORIDA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Legal assistance at ICE Detention Center is turned away

A Guard with the GEO Group, Inc., uses an electronic device to log his visual inspections of cells in a special housing unit during a media tour of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, in Tacoma, Wash. The GEO Group is the private company that operates the center for the U.S. Government. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/AP
/
AP
A Guard with the GEO Group, Inc., uses an electronic device to log his visual inspections of cells in a special housing unit during a media tour of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, in Tacoma, Wash. The GEO Group is the private company that operates the center for the U.S. Government. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Last week, law clinics from three Florida universities, and the ACLU of Florida, launched a coalition that will provide legal assistance to people detained in the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Macclenny, Florida near Jacksonville.

The facility, known as the Baker Detention Center, has 131 complaints for mistreatment of detainees filed against it in the Florida Detention Database as of this writing.

"Immigrants in this country have a right to counsel,” said Katie Blankenship, deputy legal director at ACLU of Florida.

A difference, she says, is that the government does not pay for legal counsel for those in the immigration system, the way it does for those in the criminal justice system.

That is one reason why the ACLU of Florida, along with law clinics at University of Florida, University of Miami, and Florida State University, wanted to set up the assistance program. Another is the history of mistreatment:

"The reason we wanted to create this program is because we are very aware of the longstanding, historical, systemic issues at Baker that amounts to inhumane conditions and abusive mistreatment of individuals detained inside. One of the biggest things we can do to address that and provide some immediate relief for those individuals suffering at Baker is to help them have legal assistance," said Blankenship.

Detainees are twice as likely to obtain temporary or permanent legal status if they have legal counsel, according to the ACLU.

But when representatives of the coalition showed up September 9 for planned legal consultations that had been approved by the detention center, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office refused them entry without explanation.

On Sept 13, the ACLU, together with several immigrants rights groups, filed a federal complaint against ICE and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office for abuse and inhumane conditions at the Baker County Detention Center.
Copyright 2022 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Cary Barbor