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Understanding undocumented immigrant rights in South Carolina

On Aug. 22, representatives of the National Immigration Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the U.S Department of Homeland Security. The case was filed on behalf of a group of Central American women and children who claim that fast-tracking deportation cases deprived them of due process. The group is currently being held at the Artesia Family Residential Center in California.

According to the lawsuit, those being housed in the facility are being denied the ability to communicate with others on the outside. This includes attorneys who are representing them. In addition, the suit claims that their cases are being prejudged regardless of their merits and that the detainees are being forced to give up their legal rights. The facility has already been routinely criticized for its unsanitary conditions.

Attorneys representing those in the lawsuit are asking for proper hearings. They are also asking for the return of 300 people already deported from the facility to give them a chance at a proper hearing. Typically, an undocumented immigrant who claims fear of violence back home has a right to an immigration hearing before being deported. A representative from DHS has said that the department cannot comment on pending litigation. However, the department says that any action taken has been humane and in accordance with the law.

An immigration lawyer may increase the odds of an undocumented immigrant remaining in the country. While immigrants are allowed access to counsel in a deportation hearing, the government is not obligated to provide one. However, it may be possible to find an immigration attorney who will handle deportation cases on a pro bono basis. This may make it easier for an undocumented person to establish grounds for why he or she should remain in the country.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Immigrant rights groups sue U.S. over fast-tracked deportations", Cindy Carcamo, August 22, 2014

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