published on February 12, 2020 - 12:39 PM
Written by Associated Press

(AP) — A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to restore a free hotline that let detained immigrants report concerns about custody conditions until shortly after it was featured on the TV show “Orange Is the New Black.”

U.S. District Court Judge André Birotte Jr. on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction ordering officials to restore the hotline that had been run by the nonprofit Freedom for Immigrants since 2013.

Freedom for Immigrants alleged that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement yanked the line in August after it was featured on the Netflix show, which drew attention to the group’s criticism of immigration detention conditions.

Birotte ruled that the nonprofit’s speech “was a substantial and motivating factor” behind the shutdown, and the move forced immigrants to pay $1 a minute to call the group on a line that is now monitored by the government.

“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,” Christina Fialho, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit, said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear when the line would be restored. A message sent to ICE seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement previously said the nonprofit had misused the hotline by using three-way calling to let immigration detainees speak with family. The line was not monitored or recorded, the agency said, so immigrants could find and speak with lawyers about their cases.

The nonprofit also runs visitation programs at immigration detention facilities across the country.

The hotline received between 600 and 14,500 calls per month, according to the lawsuit.


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