Demand for confidential info threatens attorney-client privilege, freedom of association, religious freedom, orgs say
March 22, 2023, Lafayette, LA – Three local immigrant rights organizations are challenging subpoenas from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is trying to force the organizations to turn over confidential information about their clients. In a request filed Monday in federal court to quash the subpoenas, the organizations say the “unduly burdensome” subpoenas threaten attorney-client privilege, freedom of association, and religious freedom. Disclosure of the requested information would harm the organizations, their clients, and the broader community, they maintain.
Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention (La AID), Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA), and Home is Here NOLA are small organizations that provide various kinds of mutual aid, legal, and other support systems to detained immigrants as well as to individuals who are returning to community from detention and those who are facing immigration removal proceedings. Landry issued subpoenas to these groups in what they call a tenuous effort to support his legal ability to allege legal claims to challenge the Biden administration’s immigration policies in the federal lawsuit, Arizona v. Garland.
“It is disturbing that the State Attorney General Office’s resources are being diverted for political gain against small, community-based nonprofits who are building relationships of care and belonging alongside residents who have few other options for support. Using state resources to target members of its own nonprofit community – particularly those who are working with residents who are already highly marginalized – is an attempt to tear down the social fabric of mutual aid people in Louisiana have always built together and counter to the office’s mission to protect the people of Louisiana,” said Julie Yael Ward, Co-Director of Home is Here.
Landry seeks these subpoenas based on his claim that Louisiana has incurred increased costs due to a rise in immigration. Yet the records and information that he alleges are relevant to this claim – the number of people seeking benefits and the amount – is not information that these organizations have and is already in the government's possession, the organizations note. At the same time, Landry is seeking additional, sensitive information irrelevant to the case, such as the identities of their clients.
“I am deeply unsettled by the state government's attempt to violate the sanctity of a church by asking for the identities of the vulnerable people that we serve. Jesus was a child refugee in Egypt. This subpoena represents an intrusion by the state into our constitutionally protected right to practice our faiths,” said Frances Kelley of LA AID.
The organizations’ work, they say, depends on the trust of immigrant communities, and a cornerstone of that trust is confidentiality, as many of their clients are in deeply vulnerable states after fleeing persecution, enduring detention, and seeking protection through legal status. To turn over information that the organizations promised to keep confidential would damage their credibility and undermine their ability to function as well as threaten fundamental federal rights and privileges that protect communications between attorneys and clients.
“As the Attorney General, Jeff Landry should know that our clients’ private, confidential information is protected by attorney-client privilege. If he’s allowed to tear through this fundamental legal principle in his attack on immigrants, what’s to stop him from doing the same against other political opponents? This subpoena demonstrates his willingness to abuse his office’s power in a sorry attempt to bolster his political career. We will not be bullied and will continue to defend our clients’ rights,” said ISLA Legal Director Homero López.
“These subpoenas are nothing more than a fishing expedition designed to bring these organizations to a grinding halt,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Jessica Vosburgh. “We stand in support of their indispensable missions and the work they do to help vulnerable immigrant communities in Louisiana.”
Local attorney Bill Quigley and the law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP are co-counsel. The legal team has also been partnering on this matter with Jeremy Jong of Al Otro Lado.
Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention is a state-wide organization that assists immigrants in the eight Louisiana detention centers and one Mississippi detention center in Natchez.
Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy is a legal services organization that defends the rights of our immigrant communities and advocates for just and humane immigration policy.
Home is Here is a community-based non-profit, whose mission is to cultivate community-based systems of support with newly arrived immigrants.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org. Follow the Center for Constitutional Rights on social media: Center for Constitutional Rights on Facebook, @theCCR on Twitter, and ccrjustice on Instagram.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.