ACLU sues Biden administration to block transfers of ICE detainees

Lawsuit says ICE is moving illegal immigrants far away

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration seeking to block the long-distance transfer of illegal immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New Jersey.

The civil rights group, in its first suit against the Biden administration, is suing after a facility in Essex County is severing its relationship with ICE -- leading to detainees being moved to other facilities.

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ICE is already moving detainees away from the facility, including to Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana -- a practice the ACLU says is cruel and is in violation of the attorney-client relationship.

"ICE has already begun transferring ECCF [Essex County Correction Facility] detainees as far away as Georgia and Nevada, without regard for the devastating impact that such transfers would have on the detainees’ relationship with their counsel," the lawsuit says. "ICE has provided no specifics about the location of the facilities where detainees will be transferred but it has indicated that these facilities could be distant from ECCF rather than local. The recent transfers confirm as much."

The lawsuit claims ICE is moving immigrants to areas where they have no support networks and could be in jurisdictions with less favorable case law. 

The civil rights group noted that the case shows how it will continue its aggressive legal battles, even with a new, more liberal administration in place.

"We sued the Trump administration over 400 times, and the Biden administration is trying to resolve many of those suits," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement.

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The Biden administration has dramatically rolled back a number of Trump-era border protections and narrowed interior enforcement. But the lawsuit is a sign that, despite that, the administration will face further calls from left-wing groups keen for even more liberal immigration policy.

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"Today’s suit is a challenge to a decision made by the Biden administration — it’s not a Trump hold-over. True to form, we will sue any administration — Democrat or Republican — and hold them accountable when they take positions that violate civil liberties and civil rights," Romero said.