Friday, February 12, 2010
ACLU Demands Varick Jail Tour for Nation Reporter: ICE Backs Down
Last week I wrote about ICE's long history of denying media requests for tours at its Varick Street jail, including my own requests since November 16, 2009. (The ICE lock-up is on the fourth floor of the federal building at the corner of Varick and Houston, a half block from the Film Forum.)
The facility will be either closing or changing to new management (ICE) on February 27, 2010, depending on the source, but it's not going to be what it is and that's why I had been pressing for ICE to finally and for the first time, allow a press tour.
Yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the Nation, the Nation Institute, and me sent a letter to ICE pointing out that its failure to approve any media tours at the Varick Street ICE jail was violating its own procedures as well as the First Amendment.
This morning, I received a note from ICE indicating that my request for a tour had been approved. It's scheduled for Tuesday, February 16.
This is great because it shows that there is some rule of law and that with enough mobilization the government, including ICE, may even follow it.
Thank so much to Lee Gelernt and the ACLU, Udi Ofer of the New York Civil Liberties Union as well as Betsy Reed, my editor at The Nation and Esther Kaplan of the Nation Institute for the thoughtful work that went into putting their imprimaturs on my request. Thanks also to Ben Wyskida at the Nation and Maria Archuleta at the ACLU for figuring out how to make the public aware of ICE's policies.
And thanks also to David Schulz, a media attorney who supervised the diligent efforts of students at the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Practicum. It's a new practicum, just started this year and two of its founding members, Adrienna Wong and Nabiha Syed, along with a new member Stephen Gikow assembled the underlying information that went into the letter.
I had been pressing the same arguments that appear in the letter for almost three months, but it took the efforts of Yale Law School students and backing from my colleagues at the Nation and the ACLU to make them heard.