Attorney Raymond Lahoud joins 109 Organizations, Academic and Legal Professionals in Submitting a Joint Letter to the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), Urging Relief for Immigrants in Detention and their Families.
Deportation Attorney Raymond Lahoud of the New York City Immigration and Deportation Law Firm, Baurkot & Baurkot, has joined 109 nationally recognized organizations, academic and legal professionals in forwarding a joint letter to the FCC urging the agency to take action on the "Wright Petition," which has been pending since 2003. The Wright Petition asks the FCC to establish benchmark rates to cap the high cost of phone calls made by people held in U.S. correctional facilities, including immigration detention centers. In adopting the Wright Petition, the FCC will give detained immigrants a better opportunity at ensuring that constant contact is kept with their deportation attorneys and also allows these immigrants, who, often, spend years in prison, waiting for the adjudication of their deportation proceedings, to call their family members—keeping their morale up and only furthers their desire to continue their fight to stay in the United States.
Attorney Lahoud, a longtime advocate of immigrant rights, particularly in the context of prolonged, mandatory detention and the ability of detained immigrants to remain in one detention facility (without being moved around the country), to retain counsel and to have adequate access to counsel and families, noted that “the exorbitant phone rates that immigrants in detention must pay make it difficult for them to contact their families, legal counsel, consulates and human rights organizations. This is a serious issue, especially given Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s unspoken policy of quickly moving immigrant detainees across to prisons far from their homes and across the United States.”
The Letter to the FCC notes that prison phone rates exceed thirty dollars for a typical, fifteen to twenty minute conversation and cites to a March 16, 2010 New York Times article that reports how the cost of phone calls increased 800 percent when immigrants were moved from a detention facility in New York to one in New Jersey.
“Forcing a family to spend thousands in phone calls is, quite simply, unreasonable and absurd. The prison phone system in the United States is a monopoly and something must be done. Acceptable phone access is necessary for immigrants in detention who, by virtue of their detention alone, are already unable to secure the information they need to build their case against deportation. Just because they are immigrants does not mean that they should be void of any rights, necessities or certain privileges,” said Lahoud.
In addition to Attorney Raymond Lahoud, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Detention Watch Network, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, UC Davis Civil Rights Clinic, Amnesty International USA signed the Letter.