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Immigrant Justice – IMPACT LITIGATION

OVERVIEW

On April 2, 2014, Columbia Legal Services and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit, Ramirez-Martinez v. ICE, 14-cv-05273 (W.D. Wash.), in which several detainees at the Northwest Detention Center claimed that ICE officials retaliated against them for engaging in First Amendment protected activities. The situation prompting the lawsuit began when approximately 24 detainees were asked if they would like to sit down with ICE officials to have a roundtable-type discussion to air their complaints about the conditions at the facility. Several people volunteered, and as soon as they left their living unit, they were placed in restraints and taken to segregation with no disciplinary charges made against them, although ICE officials later charged them with disciplinary offenses for “engaging in or inciting a group demonstration.” In response, plaintiffs began a hunger strike to protest the disciplinary sanctions.

In the initial Complaint and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, plaintiffs alleged that ICE placed them in solitary confinement for participating in a peaceful hunger strike, and used their discretion to attempt to expedite the deportation of plaintiffs who had pending U-Visa applications. The suit sought to bar ICE officials from restraining and holding immigrant detainees in solitary confinement for participating in the hunger strike in violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. Columbia Legal Services represented three named plaintiffs, Andres Ramirez-Martinez, Ericson Gonzales, and Mario Uriostegui.

Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed this case on May 12, 2014 without prejudice and without costs or attorneys’ fees because, immediately after Plaintiffs filed their Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, Defendants released Plaintiffs and other hunger strikers from solitary confinement and reinstated the privileges the hunger strikers enjoyed before being retaliated against by Defendants. Since Plaintiffs achieved the goals of their suit and since the detainees did not plan to engage in further hunger strikes, they were willing to voluntarily dismiss the case, but reserved the right to again seek redress through the courts if their free speech rights were threatened at a later date. On May 13, 2014, Judge Robert J. Bryan entered a Minute Order dismissing the case without prejudice.

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