The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California added refugees from Somalia and U.S. residents from El Salvador and Mexico to its class action lawsuit in federal court here challenging the U.S. government’s right to detain immigrants indefinitely while they await the outcome of immigration proceedings.
Co-counsel in the lawsuit include the national ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, the Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, and the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP.
Named plaintiffs in the amended suit are six men held at the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, CA, for more than six months without having received a detention hearing, in violation of due process and the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The amended complaint revises the original lawsuit known as Rodriguez v. Hayes, which was filed in federal district court in Los Angeles in May 2007 on behalf of Alejandro Rodriguez, a man who was brought to the United States from Mexico as an infant, but was detained for more than three years without ever receiving a detention hearing while his immigration case was being adjudicated. In that suit, Rodriguez asked for a hearing to determine if his prolonged detention was justified and also sought to represent other similarly situated immigrants in the Central District of California.
The federal district court in California refused to grant the case class action status, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed that decision, noting that a class action would provide a remedy for immigration detainees who are unrepresented.
“These six men represent thousands of people forgotten in our immigration prison system, some of whom remain there for years without due process or the right to a lawyer,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, Director of Immigrants’ Rights and National Security at the ACLU/SC.
The six new plaintiffs include:

  • Abdirizak Aden Farah and Yussuf Abdikadir, Somalian refugees who requested asylum from their war-torn country but have been imprisoned for months while the immigration courts process their applications;
  • Alejandro Rodriguez, a lawful permanent resident from Mexico who came to the United States at the age of one;
  • Abel Perez Ruelas, also from Mexico, who entered the U.S. on a visitor’s visa approximately eight years ago and is now married to a U.S. citizen;
  • Jose Farias Cornejo, a lawful permanent resident whose family brought him here from Mexico before his first birthday; and
  • Angel Armando Amaya, a man from El Salvador who has lived in this country since the age of 11.
(l to r: Yussuf Abdikadir, Jose Farias Cornejo and Abdirizak Aden Farah.)
On an average day, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security detains approximately 35,000 individuals in federal detention facilities and local jails across the country -- more than a threefold increase in the detention population since just a decade ago. In the Central District of California alone, hundreds of detainees each year are subjected to prolonged immigration detention while they fight their immigration cases.
During the past few years, the ACLU has filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of individual immigrants who have been held for prolonged periods of time while fighting their immigration cases, winning the release of more than a dozen individuals who were being unlawfully detained. The U.S. government has released those individuals, but has refused to change its policy on a broader scale.