Hundreds of immigrants spend months or even years in federal immigration detention centers without being offered a bond hearing, attorneys from the ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU/SC) told a panel of judges of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday. ACLU/SC brought the case on behalf of immigrants detained across Southern California. Access to a bond hearing while they fight their cases in the immigration courts is part of due process guaranteed by the Constitution.
Last year, U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Obama administration to provide bond hearings for certain immigrants who have been locked up in Southern California for more than six months, to determine whether their continued detention is warranted. Judge Hatter’s ground-breaking decision helped ensure that the government does not waste resources detaining, for months and years, people who are not risks to public safety.
“All we seek is a day in court for hundreds of immigrants,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director of the ACLU/SC. “Many detainees are refugees fleeing persecution or long-time lawful permanent residents with American families. They have a right to ask a judge to consider releasing them on bond while the immigration courts consider their deportation cases.”
In the months following Judge Hatter’s order, hundreds of immigrants have had their first opportunity to ask an immigration judge for release on bond. Many have been found by immigration judges not to present dangers or risks and ordered released -- allowed to continue to litigate their cases outside of the prison-like conditions of detention centers, and in the presence of their families and loved ones. The government has asked the Ninth Circuit to reverse Judge Hatter’s preliminary injunction, and to permit it to return to its practice of imprisoning people for prolonged periods without an opportunity for a bond hearing.