|Attorney Kim Hunter (Photo screen captured from YouTube video)|
Attorney Kim Hunter received a letter earlier this month from immigration authorities telling her she'd been banned from a family detention center in South Texas for being "belligerent" in demanding the release of her clients one late July night.
Andrew Free learned Aug. 3 that he'd also been banished from the country's largest such facility after the attorney marched into a courtroom trailer 10 days before to ask why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were meeting with his clients without his knowledge.
ICE says the two violated visitation standards, but a coalition of immigration attorneys says the bans are unprecedented and is fighting to rescind them as part of its ongoing effort to improve access to the immigrant mothers and their children who are in the U.S. without legal permission and being held at the facility.
"I have never encountered the constant unrelenting drum beat of ways to interfere with access," said Hunter, who arrived in late July from St. Paul, Minnesota, to perform pro bono work.
She is one of about 500 lawyers from around the country who have volunteered a week at a time at the 50-acre, 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, which currently holds some 1,000 immigrants. The center has faced intense political and legal opposition after the U.S. government opened it and another Texas center in response to tens of thousands of Central American mothers and children who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last year. On Friday, a federal judge ordered the rapid release of the children, along with their mothers when possible — something lawyers for Homeland Security had been fighting and could appeal.