Lawsuit accusing DHS of blocking migrants' right to counsel can proceed in D.C., judge rules

Lawsuit accusing DHS of blocking migrants' right to counsel can proceed in D.C., judge rules

A federal judge ruled Friday that a court case accusing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of blocking migrants' right to counsel at a facility in Louisiana and two facilities in Georgia can proceed as one case in Washington, D.C., where DHS is headquartered. 

Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied the government's motion to separate the cases and move them to district courts. 

"In an exercise of its discretion, the Court decides not to sever the claims in this case into three separate cases," she wrote. "The Court also decides that the interests of justice do not warrant transfer of the unsevered case to a different forum." 

ADVERTISEMENT

The lawsuit, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), claims that there are barriers to accessing attorneys at immigrant detention facilities in Jena, La., Lumpkin, Ga., and Ocilla, Ga.

"The totality of barriers to accessing and communicating with attorneys endured by detainees in these prisons deprives SPLC’s clients of their constitutional rights to access courts, to access counsel, and to obtain full and fair hearings, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment," the suit argues. 

SPLC Deputy Legal Director Lisa Graybill praised the ruling in a Tuesday statement.  

“Friday’s ruling allows us to litigate the merits across all three detention centers so there is proper nationwide enforcement of standards governing access to attorneys for people in detention,” she said. 

The Hill has reached out to DHS and the Justice Department.