SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a preliminary injunction in a class action lawsuit against the federal government filed by two Bay Area fathers who were denied bond hearings and held in ICE detention at the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility in Richmond.
"We are gratified that the Ninth Circuit recognized that our clients cannot be held for lengthy periods without due process," said Michael Kaufman, Sullivan & Cromwell Senior Staff Attorney at ACLU Foundation of Southern California who argued the case on behalf of plaintiffs. "At a time when immigration detention can place people at grave risk from COVID-19, it is all the more important that people have the right to seek release from extended confinement."
Plaintiffs Esteban Aleman Gonzalez of Antioch and Jose Gutierrez Sanchez of San Lorenzo were detained for over eight months. They filed suit in March of 2018, challenging their unlawful and prolonged detention. They are seeking asylum in the United States.
Homeland Security officials had determined that both men have a reasonable fear that their lives would be at risk if they were returned to Mexico. Yet the federal government detained them, refusing them bond hearings while they pursued their asylum claims.
In June 2018, a federal judge ruled that our clients could not be held by the government for more than 180 days without a bond hearing before an immigration judge. As a result, both men, who have young children and are the sole providers for their families, were released. Jose Gutierrez Sanchez was subsequently granted withholding of removal, while Esteban Aleman Gonzalez’s case remains ongoing.
"This is a tremendous victory for all immigrants," said Marc Van Der Hout of Van Der Hout, LLP, lead counsel in the case. "The Court soundly rejected the government’s attempt to force refugees and others seeking protection in our country into giving up their rights by keeping them incarcerated indefinitely."
"During this extremely difficult time, when our immigrant communities are particularly vulnerable, we are pleased to see the Ninth Circuit affirm our clients’ basic right to due process in the form of a bond hearing after six months of detention," said Judah Lakin of Lakin & Wille LLP. "While we worry about and advocate for all incarcerated individuals during this pandemic, we take solace in the fact that our clients will continue to have the opportunity to seek release from detention."
"We are incredibly proud of our clients, who have helped to secure bond hearings not only for themselves, but for hundreds of others unlawfully detained without hearings and separated from their families," said Lisa Knox, Immigrants’ Rights Managing Attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza, who has represented Mr. Aleman Gonzalez and Mr. Gutierrez Sanchez in their immigration proceedings.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The class is represented by Van Der Hout, LLP (lead counsel), Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigrant Legal Defense, the Law Offices of Matthew H. Green, Lakin & Wille LLP, and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundations of California.
A copy of the ruling is available here.