The Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., is named in a Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit filed Wednesday in a federal court in Washington, D.C. JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com

SPLC suit targets immigration detention centers in Georgia, Louisiana

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Wednesday sued the Trump administration in federal court, alleging it is violating the U.S. Constitution by blocking people held in immigration detention centers in South Georgia and in Louisiana from seeing their lawyers.

Filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the lawsuit targets Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga.; the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga.; and the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, La.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are named as defendants. The suit alleges they are violating the detainees’ due process rights by placing them in remote detention centers, providing an inadequate number of visitation rooms, restricting their visitation hours, delaying their access to attorneys and making it difficult for them to communicate confidentially.

“DHS intentionally selects private companies who operate immigration prisons as cash cows in remote, rural areas of the Southeast that are beyond the reach of most lawyers,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for the SPLC, which is providing free legal help at immigration detention centers in the South. “Their profit model is to simply warehouse as many people as they can for as long as they can, and they resist having to accommodate legal visits while remaining immune from any scrutiny or oversight. With this lawsuit, we are demanding that DHS be held accountable for the choices it makes.”

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ICE and DHS officials said they wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, citing their agencies’ policies on pending litigation.

“However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations,” ICE spokeswoman Tammy Spicer said. “In DHS’s homeland security mission, our trained law enforcement professionals adhere to the department’s mission, uphold our laws while continuing to provide our nation with safety and security.”

Spicer added: “ICE respects the rights of all aliens in removal proceedings to hire and consult with a lawyer of their choice and has policies in place to ensure that aliens may do so to the extent required by federal law.”