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Detained Immigrants Suing US over Video Hearings

Rifat Moustafa, a Syrian immigrant, greets his 16-year-old son, Hasib Moustafa Rifat, living in the Middle East, during a video chat at his home in Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 22, 2018. Hasib has been waiting in the Middle East for 18 months to get a U.S. visa.

A group of detained immigrants is suing the Trump administration for forcing them to hold immigration hearings by videoconferencing in detention instead of appearing before a judge in person.

Lawyers representing the group say the case against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was filed in federal court in New York late Tuesday.

They say the policy violates the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.

"ICE's policy of denying in-person hearings when immigrants' liberty, unity and potential exile is at stake is a cruel extension of the federal administration's aggressive efforts to deny immigrants equal justice and due process," the Brooklyn Defender Services said.

The lawsuit claims that hearings held through video are plagued with technical problems. The asylum-seekers cannot clearly see the pictures, hear what is going on, or consult with their lawyers.

The Justice Department said it has successfully held hundreds of thousands of hearings by video and only a fraction were postponed because of technical problems.

Officials say there is a backlog of more than 800,000 immigration cases and that videoconferencing has become a "common sense strategy" for reducing the number of pending cases.

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