February 12, 2020; KFMB-TV (CBS 8)
On Tuesday, US District Court Judge André Birotte Jr. granted a preliminary injunction to allow a free hotline for detainees to be reestablished by a California nonprofit named Freedom for Immigrants.
The hotline, which provided a way for detained immigrants to report custody conditions, was shut by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in August two short weeks after it was featured on the Netflix show Orange is the New Black. The hotline received between 600 and 14,500 calls each month. Detainees could still call out, but they had to do so on government-monitored lines that cost $1 each minute or on lines that allowed access only to preapproved legal service providers and disallowed three-way calls including family members.
Freedom for Immigrants sued the Department of Homeland Security, alleging a retaliatory violation of free speech. The judge ruled in the nonprofit’s favor despite the fact that the government has the right to regulate phone lines because, reports the Los Angeles Times, there was such a clear pattern of retaliation against the organization.
“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,” said Christina Fialho, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit, which also helps ease visitation by family members.—Ruth McCambridge