Lyon v. ICE (Telephone Access for Immigration Detainees)

Active Case
Apr 23, 2019

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Phone booths in a line



Approximately 34,000 immigrants are held in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s (ICE) facilities on a daily basis, with roughly 500 to 600 of these immigrants held in northern California detention facilities. These detainees are not serving criminal sentences. They are being held in civil detention as they try to obtain legal counsel or represent themselves, fighting to stay in their adopted country against the government’s attempt to deport them. But, because they are held in extreme isolation, with very little access to the outside world, they hardly stand a chance to vindicate their rights under our immigration laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California (ACLU-NC), along with pro bono co-counsel Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP filed a class action lawsuit, charging that inadequate telephone access afforded individuals in immigration detention violates their right to a full and fair hearing under federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

Immigration detainees have the right to be represented by counsel at no expense to the government, but are not guaranteed legal representation. Most individuals facing immigration proceedings in northern California are held in remote locations that render in-person visits with legal counsel impractical at best. Telephone access is therefore critical to the ability of detainees to locate, retain and seek advice from immigration attorneys or other legal advocates. For those who cannot afford an attorney and are not able to retain pro bono counsel, telephone contact with the outside world is essential to gather the evidence and government documents critical to defending against removal charges, locate witnesses, and do other things necessary to represent themselves in complex legal proceedings.

The suit was filed in the Northern District of California and seeks sufficient time during business hours for detainees to make legal calls, a process by which attorneys can schedule calls with detainees, accommodations for those who cannot afford to make legal calls, the ability to make unrecorded and unmonitored legal calls from a private setting, and the ability to leave voicemail messages when making legal calls. 

November 18, 2016, the Court approved the Parties’ Settlement Agreement and the Parties were directed to implement the Agreement in accordance with its terms and provisions. Defendants had a full year to implement the Agreement.

April 23, 2019, the Court granted the Parties’ Joint Stipulation and Order to Extend Execution of the Settlement Agreement, originally approved by the Court on November 18, 2016. The Settlement Agreement was extended from November 18, 2021 until November 18, 2022, only as it pertains to Yuba County Jail in Yuba County. All other obligations under the Settlement Agreement will terminate on the original date of November 18, 2021.

Learn more

ACLU Settlement with ICE Will Allow Immigrants Held in Detention to Use Functional Telephones for Contacting Lawyers, Families, Government Agencies (June 14, 2016)

No Phone Calls, No Justice (Dec. 23, 2013)

Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement

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