Immigration and Customs Enforcement denies allegations that it shut down a hotline for detained migrants to contact a free lawyer.
The California-based organization Freedom for Immigrants offered a free hotline for detained migrants to request pro bono legal representation while in detention centers, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. ICE shut down the hotline less than two weeks after it was featured in an episode of “Orange Is the New Black,” according to the organization.
An ICE spokesman denied the allegation in a statement Saturday to the Daily Caller News Foundation explaining that detainees are still able to contact Freedom for Immigrants, though the hotline was removed from an ICE-approved list of free legal service providers for violating regulations.
“Detainees are further allowed to make free calls to an ICE-approved list of free legal service providers for the purpose of obtaining initial legal representation. Because these legal calls are unmonitored and unrecorded, certain prohibited activities, to include three-way calling and call forwarding, are strictly prohibited,” the statement said.
“Pro bono organizations found to be violating these rules may be removed from the platform. However, removal from this platform in no way limits the ability of an ICE detainee to phone such an organization directly should the detainee wish to do so,” it continued. (RELATED: Sanctuary County Ignores ICE Detainer Request, Releases Alleged Rapist Back Into The Public)
Remember when Gloria talks to Blanca about the @MigrantFreedom organization and warns Maritza about how to use the line?! Well, ICE shut down a hotline for detained immigrants after it was featured on ‘Orange Is the New Black’ – @latimes https://t.co/H0LsvtI91N
— Laura Gómez (@MsLauraGomez) August 23, 2019
The Freedom for Immigrants hotline was taken off of the list of pro bono legal services for violating the prohibition of three-way calls and call forwarding, according to Bryan D. Cox, southern region communication director for ICE.
Freedom for Immigrants responded Thursday with a cease and desist letter to ICE, challenging the removal of the hotline from the platform as being in violation of freedom of speech, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Even a freely given benefit such as the pro bono hotline can’t be taken away simply because the government is now unhappy with how we are sharing with the public what we know from our communications with people inside,” the co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, Christina Fialho, said according to the report.
The Freedom for Immigrants hotline was prominently featured on an episode of “Orange Is the New Black” that was released on Netflix in July, following the plotline of a character who was being detained in an ICE facility, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Freedom for Immigrants did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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