BALTIMORE — A federal court has ruled the Trump administration must provide fair hearings for people in immigration detention and requires the government to justify detention at a bond hearing. The ruling also requires immigration judges to consider people’s financial circumstances when setting bond amounts and forms of release.
The decision stems from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Maryland, the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, and Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP.
The lawsuit challenges policies that are in place in the Maryland Immigration Court and in many immigration courts nationwide. Today’s preliminary injunction applies to immigrants detained under these unlawful immigration court practices, and the case is ongoing.
“This ruling means people will no longer be locked up without any legal justification. It is a huge victory, and in a time of COVID-19, it could save lives,”said Michael Tan, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Many of these individuals, including asylum seekers, were denied release without the government ever having to justify their imprisonment, in violation of their rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Others were found eligible for release as they await their immigration proceedings, but are currently detained solely because they lack the financial resources to buy a bond for their freedom, in violation of their rights under the Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Immigrants often face bond hearings without legal representation, are provided no explanation of how the process works, and face language barriers. In addition to wealth-based discrimination, many are unconstitutionally being forced to bear the burden of making their case for freedom, rather than placing that burden on the government as to why their detention is even warranted.
“In a system that disproportionately affects people of color, no person should have their liberty stripped away because they could not afford to buy their freedom. We are ecstatic that bond proceedings in Maryland’s immigration court will change for the better. The constitutional problems with the immigration court’s bond procedures made it almost guaranteed that an immigrant would have to sit in jail, without the government having to prove why they should not have their freedom,” said Nick Taichi Steiner, staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland.
“Liberty and justice for all is an idea that everyone is entitled to — not just to those who have money in their pockets. This is a monumental step towards fairer procedures in the immigration court system and we are proud to have fought side by side with our partners for this victory. Together, we can make this unconstitutional practice a thing of the past,” said Jenny Kim, senior attorney for the CAIR Coalition.
“We are thrilled by Judge Blake’s decisive ruling granting urgently necessary class-wide relief to immigrants detained in violation of their fundamental rights. We are grateful that the court acted swiftly in a time when global pandemic makes the harms of unconstitutional detention exponentially greater,” said Clare Horan, an attorney with Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP.
The case, Miranda v. Barr, was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Maryland.