San Francisco-based nonprofit Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) says that it was denied access to immigrants in detention centers in retaliation for the organization’s advocacy efforts.
CIVIC says access was revoked to a detention facility in Adelanto, California as a direct result of past vigils the organization has held in support of the people detained there, and that they were barred from the Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama shortly after filing a complaint alleging physically and mentally abusive conditions inside facility walls.
“[Etowah] is the sixth CIVIC affiliated program to be terminated in the last two years after volunteers publicly criticized the immigration detention system. ICE is trying to make us choose between our First Amendment right and visiting our friends and clients in detention, and this is not a choice that our government can legally ask us to make,” CIVIC co-founder and attorney Christina Fialho told ThinkProgress. “Any attack against us as advocates is only an extension of a more serious attack on people in immigration detention. Volunteer visitors and attorneys play essential roles to support people in immigration detention, to support their families and when we see abuse we have to speak up.”
CIVIC has sent letters to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials demanding that the programs be reinstated, and Fialho says the organization will file a lawsuit if the government doesn’t comply.