Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials were called on Tuesday to restore suspended programs that allow visits with immigration detainees at the Santa Ana city jail and James A. Musick Facility in Irvine.
Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement activists claim the visitation programs were shut down July 24 after CIVIC co-executive director Christina Fialho posted a blog item criticizing the way ICE treats detainees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Fialho reportedly told City News Service that ICE routinely takes away privileges like visitations and even throws detainees into solitary confinement after CIVIC speaks up about basic conditions and human rights abuses.
An American Civil Liberties Union attorney reportedly warned that shutting down visitations could violate First Amendment rights.
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"There's no question that the visitation programs would still be operating today had CIVIC publicly praised ICE, rather than criticized ICE's treatment of detainees,'' ACLU attorney Michael Kaufman is quoted as telling the news service. "The suspensions raise grave First Amendment concerns, and give the clear appearance that ICE is trying to silence its critics and shield the public's awareness of detention conditions."
One official is said to have informed the news service that ICE objected to the way CIVIC brought in reporters without clearing it with the agency, but ICE's Lori K. Haley reportedly said restoring visitations is now being considered.
Haley claimed ICE "is committed to transparency and community engagement," to maintaining "robust relationships with community stakeholders at the national and local levels," as well as tours and visits to immigration detention facilities across the country.'