A group of Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) accusing the agency of violating national immigration standards by overcharging illegal immigrants wanting to make non-emergency phone calls while detained.
In the letter, first obtained by Buzzfeed News, 150 congressional Democrats expressed outrage that detention facilities’ telephone access policy charged parents “exorbitant” fees to call their children separated under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. (RELATED: Ted Cruz Announces Legislation To Keep Illegal Immigrant Families Together)
Per ICE’s telephone access standards, detainees can call specified legal services and government representatives without charge. They are also given free telephone access to “immediate family or others for detainees in personal and family emergencies.”
However, the letter contends that communication between any separated parent and child should be considered an emergency since “they are clearly in a state of family emergency due to their forcible, prolonged separation and lack of communication.”
Currently, a non-emergency phone call to family members costs anywhere between $0.25 and $8.00 per hour, according to Buzzfeed News, which cited reports from the Texas Tribune and NPR.
“Every day, it seems there is new reporting regarding the troubling lack of process for reunification and serious barriers for parents and children to find one another,” the letter reads. “Given the urgency of this crisis, it is even more critical that our government remove obstacles — such as inexplicably high phone rates — for parents and children to communicate.”
“We write to urge you to implement immediate, nationwide changes that will permit individuals who have been separated from their children to make phone calls regularly and at no expense to them,” the letter continued. (RELATED: Democrats Introduce Bill To Abolish ICE, GOP Fires Back)
Democrats have been critical of ICE over the past few months and increasingly promulgating the abolishment of the agency. In July, three house Democrats introduced a bill to dismantle ICE, but immediately declared they would vote “no” if it was brought to the floor and referred to the potential vote as a “publicity stunt.”
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