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The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School on Feb. 6. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School's Transnational Legal Clinic filed a complaint on June 23 regarding the rights of immigrants held at Pike County Correctional Facility in Hawley, Pa. 

The complaint focuses on the ability of noncitizens in Immigrations and Custom Enforcement custody to exercise their Fifth Amendment and statutory rights to counsel. It alleges that the facility is out of compliance with ICE standards relating to access to telephone communication and legal counsel. 

Drawing on testimony from two detained individuals and five attorneys, the complaint lists several ways in which the Pike County facility interferes with clients' access to adequate legal counsel. Its allegations include improperly charging detained people for legal calls, failing to maintain a working phone system, and failing to provide a private space to make calls. 

The Transnational Legal Clinic is a seminar that trains students in client representation and human rights advocacy, especially in relation to immigration relief. Clinic Director Sarah Paoletti and Visiting Practice Assistant Professor of Law Liz Bradley guided a student legal team in interviewing attorneys and their clients at the facility and drafting the complaint. 

The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke to Bradley, who believes the issues were perpetuated by a lack of staff and identifiable leadership at the facility.

“ICE does have these certain national detention standards,” Bradley said. “It's their responsibility to make sure that any county jails or people that they're contracting with at least meet these minimum national standards, and the Pike County facility just is not doing that right now.”

Third-year Penn Carey Law students Michael Pattis and Mengquan Zheng, who worked on the case as part of the clinic, emphasized their desire to help those most in need. 

“[The detained immigrants] are the ones who really lack attention and need a lot of people to fight for their rights,” Zheng said. 

The majority of the complaint was finished before the spring semester ended on May 5, according to Pattis, but Bradley and the nonprofits involved worked on finalizing it before it was officially sent. 

The Transnational Legal Clinic filed on behalf of the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition, the Pennsylvania Immigrant Resource Center, HIAS Pennsylvania, Nationalities Service Center, and their noncitizen clients detained at the Pike County Correctional Facility. 

Regarding next steps, the complaint requests that the United States Department of Homeland Security investigate the access to counsel issues at the facility. It further recommends that ICE intervene to ensure that the facility complies with national standards on access to legal phone calls.