More than 700 women were moved out of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, some with serious medical conditions, and lawyers have no information as to where they are.
Starting in September, women were moved out of the Karnes County Residential Center and sent to detention centers around the country so the Texas center could be used to detain families. Lawyers soon after began to report not knowing where these women are and not having access to updated information on the ICE online tracking system.
The tracking system that ICE uses is often unreliable and inaccurate, only helping lawyers find their clients around “50% of the time, in part because names and birthdays are often entered incorrectly,” according to Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, a Texas immigration attorney. While the law does not require ICE to report where the detainees are, the system is supposed to inform the attorneys within 24 hours of relocation. However, lawyers have reported that it can take up to weeks, if at all. Some have stated that the system often simply does not work, that the tracking system can show that there are “no results found” for someone who is still detained.
These women’s lawyers report that some of them have serious medical conditions that, when untreated, could lead to death. Some of these medical conditions include HIV, cancer, and psychiatric issues. One immigrant reported that she was HIV positive and had not received any medical attention from doctors even as her symptoms worsened.
This is not the first time that ICE has neglected to give medical attention to detainees. One detainee in May was diagnosed with the flu and isolated from others. He did not receive the adequate resources and medical care and was found dead within 24 hours of being moved.
Another concern is that the lawyers will not be able to find their clients in time for trial. The detainees would then have to go through their cases without their lawyers or any legal representation. Immigrants are five and a half times more likely to not be deported if they have legal assistance, according to the University of Pennsylvania Law Review in 2015.
With more immigrants being held in ICE detention centers than ever before, some immigration lawyers and advocates worry that there will be no improvements on the current locator system because the system would help lawyers find their clients, therefore helping keep them from being deported.
Sources: Huffington Post 10/8/19, Huffington Post 5/22/19