Where Are They?

By Thereza Zephir, Daniel Neville, and Eleanor Trese
JAN. 8, 2019

Angelina Chapin of the HuffPost reported that since September 20, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has moved more than 700 women from Karnes County Residential Center without providing their lawyers and family with a way to locate them. A few of these women have been diagnosed with serious medical conditions such as cancer or HIV and have not received treatment for months. After more than two months, ICE still has not given the detainees’ lawyers and families any accurate information on where they are. ICE is not required  to contact lawyers when they move detainees, but they are expected to update this information on their online detainee locator system.

Editorial fellow Isabela Dias, of the Texas Observer, reported that ICE claimed to have contacted attorneys by phone and email, but several lawyers stated that they were never informed that their clients had been moved. According to Dias, half a dozen lawyers said that “attempts to call ICE field officers to get more information about clients went unanswered, and they had to rely on the women themselves or their family members for transfer information.” Private immigration attorney Emily Viruet-Lopez told Dias that some of her clients at the facility were taken in the middle of the night and were not able to reach her for days after being brought to a new facility. 

ICE’s actions have also created difficulties for the detainees’ legal cases. Dias reported that lawyers are worried that lack of access to their clients could possibly result in court dates being dropped or pushed back, leaving some in “legal limbo.” One consequence of court dates being postponed is that detainees are held for a longer time. The legal process for immigrant detainees is already “exceptionally slow” for immigrants according to Mrs. Antoinette Diaz, a South Florida