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Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; 

August 4, 2016

New ACLU Report Details Excessive, Wrongheaded Mandatory Detention of Immigrants in Maryland

Most of Those Subjected to Mandatory Detention Could Be Safely Released on Bond While Their Cases Progress


BALTIMORE, MD - Telling the stories of some of the people who have been placed in no-bond immigration detention in Maryland, for long periods of time and at huge taxpayer expense, without being afforded due process, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland today publicly released a new report, "Detained Without Process: The Excessive Use of Mandatory Detention Against Maryland's Immigrants." The report details how many immigration detainees are held for months or years while they fight the government's attempts to deport them, without ever being provided a bond hearing in immigration court.

The report was authored by Sirine Shebaya, formerly a staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland, and Robert Koulish, University of Maryland Joel J. Feller Research Professor of Government and Politics.

"The current system of mandatory detention is heavily stacked against immigrants who have ever made any mistake, and unnecessarily and unlawfully results in the detention of many who should be eligible for bond," said Sirine Shebaya. "Excessive use of no-bond detention appears designed to discourage people from pursuing their cases, because fighting a court battle while detained for long periods of time becomes too difficult and unbearable-even for those with strong challenges to deportation. Mandatory detention should never apply to individuals who have substantial legal challenges, a substantial claim to relief from deportation, or whose detention is likely to last for a long period of time."

The stories in the report, recounted anonymously to protect interviewees' privacy after their ordeal, include a family man who had lived in the U.S. for three decades, was a lawful permanent resident and U.S. citizen family members, including a daughter with significant medical needs, whose only conviction was a theft offense for which he served no jail time. Another is of an elderly lawful permanent resident woman who some years ago was convicted of a theft offense but who otherwise has no criminal history and has lived peacefully in the U.S. for decades.

In 1996, Congress approved a provision requiring the mandatory, no-bond detention of immigrants facing deportation because of certain criminal convictions, based on the assumption that such individuals pose a greater risk of flight or danger. But many of those affected have strong challenges to being classified as mandatory detainees, are convicted of only very minor offenses, or have only a very old conviction from decades ago and many years of settled life in the United States.

The report details how mandatory detention laws are being applied overzealously, resulting in systematic over-incarceration of immigrants fighting their removal from the United States. Recent data shows that as a group, mandatory detainees do not pose a higher flight or safety risk than the general population of ICE detainees. In fact, they are usually a lower flight risk than other groups because of longstanding connections to local communities. In addition, many individuals classified as being subject to mandatory detention in Maryland should have been eligible for a bond hearing, and at least half of them may have been eligible for relief from deportation.

"This report shows that mandatory detention undermines even ICE's own assessment of flight and safety risk, by forcing the detention of individuals who are unlikely to flee and who have strong community ties in the United States," said Robert Koulish, University of Maryland Joel J. Feller Research Professor of Government and Politics. "If mandatory detention were scrapped, the data suggests ICE could likely release on bond a significantly higher number of individuals who do not pose a high flight or safety risk."

Production of the report was supported by the MURTHYNAYAK Foundation and the Murthy Law Firm.