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Federal Judge Orders ICE Hotline Restored

February 13, 2020 (2 min read)

Freedom for Immigrants, Feb. 11, 2020

"Freedom for Immigrants (“FFI”) and its pro bono counsel Hueston Hennigan LLP announced that the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted its application for a preliminary injunction and ordered U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to restore FFI’s National Immigration Detention Hotline (the “Hotline”).  The Hotline allows persons in immigration detention to report abuse, find resources, and bridge the divide between detained persons and their family and loved ones.

In 2019, FFI partnered with the popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black (“OITNB”) to help portray the plight of persons detained in ICE facilities and increase public knowledge of the work that organizations like FFI do. Season 7 of OITNB prominently featured the Hotline, and press surrounding the July 2019 season premiere focused on the immigrant-centric storylines and FFI’s work. After first restricting the national Hotline to only certain facilities in Florida, ICE completely shut down the Hotline within two weeks of the premiere of OITNB Season 7.

Hueston Hennigan filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of FFI in December 2019 to reinstate FFI’s Hotline that ICE had shut down in retaliation for FFI’s exercise of First Amendment rights, advocating on behalf of persons in immigration detention.

“For too long, ICE has censored our speech and invented imaginary rules to terminate our programs. Today, the court saw through this farce and restored our national hotline,” said Christina Fialho, the co-founder and executive director of FFI, the nonprofit organization that runs the National Immigration Detention Hotline. “This case should remind us all that the Trump administration is not a law unto itself, but rather accountable to the people and our Constitution.”

“The Court’s thorough and thoughtful preliminary injunction order affirms FFI’s First Amendment and Constitutional rights to be free from retaliation,” explained lead counsel Moez M. Kaba, a partner at Hueston Hennigan. “We are proud to work with FFI to protect fundamental First Amendment rights and reinstate their critical Hotline that has helped thousands of persons in immigrant detention report on the conditions of their confinement.”

 In granting the preliminary injunction, Judge Birotte found that “FFI has shown that its speech was a substantial and motivating factor behind DHS’s shutdown of the Hotline,” and ordered that DHS stop “further interference with the operation of the free and confidential” Hotline and restore FFI’s Hotline at “all detention facilities operated , controlled, and/or overseen” by ICE.

FFI’s National Immigration Detention Hotline is the nation’s largest immigration detention hotline and staffed by a team of highly trained multilingual advocates across the country. Prior to the shutdown, FFI received over 10,000 calls per month from people in immigrant prisons and jails nationwide. FFI received calls from immigrants from 148 countries that spoke 80 different languages. Most calls came from people originally from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, India, and the Dominican Republic.

“We are overjoyed by this ruling and eager for ICE to comply with the order and restore our Hotline,” said Cynthia Galaz, the National Hotline Director for FFI.  “As ICE has indicated it intends to destroy complaints from detained people about abuses and medical neglect, we will continue to use the Hotline to record abuses and elevate the stories that this system is trying to silence. We look forward to answering calls from people in detention once again.” 

Freedom for Immigrants is represented pro bono by Moez M. Kaba, Rajan Trehan, and Ashley Artmann of Hueston Hennigan LLP."