BALTIMORE, MD – Three plaintiffs, Marvin Amilcar Dubon Miranda, Ajibade Thompson Adegoke, and Jose de la Cruz Espinoza, represented by the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (CAIR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Maryland (ACLU-MD) filed a lawsuit today challenging the Trump administration’s failure to provide fair hearings to people in immigration detention.
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.
“When the judge announced that she was setting the bond for $20,000, I was shocked,” said plaintiff Jose de la Cruz Espinoza. “My wife and children were also very upset. We knew that we could never pay that amount.”
These unconstitutional detentions have inflicted enormous emotional distress on the plaintiffs. Ajibade Thompson Adegoke said: “Sometimes I get so depressed about being in detention and not knowing if my family is safe that I will stay in my cell for four or five days without coming out.”
Another plaintiff, Marvin Amilcar Dubon Miranda, said: “It breaks my heart that I cannot provide financially or emotionally for my son from within detention, leaving his mother without any support in raising him.”
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.
“Keeping people locked up because of their financial status and other inequities is bad enough. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be a death sentence for anyone held in detention,” said Michael Tan, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Detaining an immigrant because they cannot conjure thousands of dollars to buy their freedom is devastating for immigrants and their families, and is especially disastrous during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when we should be lowering the amount of people in detention centers for our public health.
Jenny Kim, Senior Attorney for the CAIR Coalition said: “Unnecessary civil detention wrought by unconstitutional bond procedures, especially with COVID-19 present in ICE facilities, is just plain wrong. All we’re asking for is fairer procedures. The immigration court should make the government prove why a person’s deprivation of liberty is warranted and consider a person’s ability to pay when setting a bond amount. When a judge sets a bond and has decided a person should not be detained, then a person’s inability to pay should not keep them behind bars.”
Not only is this an issue of wealth inequality, but it comes down to a racial one as well. ICE has a long and unfortunate history of racial profiling and discrimination against immigrants of color. The government’s disregard for the constitutional rights of immigrants who are arrested by ICE only deepens the systematic racism that is rooted within the immigration system. Black and Latinx immigrants should not have to suffer because our courts won’t recognize their rights and humanity.
Nick Taichi Steiner, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Maryland, said: “Proving whether a person who has immigrated to the United States should be locked up, along with setting a bond amount according to what an immigrant can pay, are supposed to be responsibilities of the government, not the individual. In a just court system, what we expect to find are these basic, fundamental rights because they are a part of our Constitution.”
The case, Miranda v. Barr, was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Md.
The plaintiffs are represented by Nick Taichi Steiner and Sonia Kumar of the ACLU of Maryland, Michael Tan of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, Claudia Cubas, Adina Appelbaum, Jenny Kim and Melody Vidmar of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, and Deborah Marcuse, Saba Bireda, Clare Horan, Austin Webbert, Lucy Zhou, Anneke Dunbar-Gronke, and Whittney Barth of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP.