LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project and Stanford Law School Immigrants' Rights Clinic today won the release of three men held indefinitely while appealing their immigration cases. The men had been held between two and four and a half years without a hearing.
U.S. Immigration Judge D.D. Sitgraves found insufficient evidence that the three posed either a flight or safety risk and ordered them released on nominal bonds. The three may leave the Terminal Island Federal Detention Center in San Pedro as early as tonight.
"This is a victory for our clients who have been cut off from their families and livelihoods for years," said Ahilan Arulanantham, an ACLU/SC staff attorney. "It also sends a strong message to the government that it should provide hearings to the many other immigrants in indefinite detention who deserve to be released."
One man ordered released today, Reverend Raymond Soeoth, is a Chinese Christian who fled Indonesia with his wife in 1999 to escape persecution for practicing his faith. He was initially allowed to work in the United States while applying for asylum, and eventually became the assistant minister for a church in the Riverside area. However, when his asylum application was denied in 2004, the government detained him.
"I came to this country because it is a land of human rights and freedom, but now I have been inside this jail for two years, even though I have never committed any crime," Rev. Soeoth said last October, when his case was filed. "This is very hard for my wife and for my parish. I hope the government will let me out."
The Department of Homeland Security argued Rev. Soeoth was a flight risk, but the judge called that claim "disingenuous."
In the past two years, the ACLU has won the release of more than a dozen immigrants held indefinitely.