The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration Wednesday, seeking to block the transfer of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees at a New Jersey jail.
The suit is the first legal challenge against a Biden administration immigration policy. The ACLU is seeking to prevent detainees from being transferred to remote locations across the country away from their families and attorneys as New Jersey appears set to pass a bill prohibiting local and state correctional facilities from housing federal immigration detainees.
"True to form, we will sue any administration — Democrat or Republican — and hold them accountable when they take positions that violate civil liberties and civil rights," ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement. "This may be one of the first lawsuits filed against the Biden administration by advocacy groups, but I’m guessing it won’t be the last.”
The class-action lawsuit, filed in New Jersey federal district court, says that some ICE detainees at the Essex County jail have already been transferred across the country to facilities in states like Georgia and Nevada.
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild's National Immigration Project on behalf of the Essex detainees. They argued that transferring ICE inmates long distances will disrupt their legal right to counsel for immigration proceedings.
"Transferring Plaintiff and the members of the class to distant locations that are inaccessible to counsel violates federal constitutional and statutory law," the complaint reads.
"The Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not permit the government to effectively sever the attorney-client relationship by transferring individuals hundreds or thousands of miles away from their attorneys while their cases remain pending."