PASADENA (CNS) – A federal appeals panel ruled today that the government must provide bond hearings for arriving non-citizens, certain criminal non- citizens and detained asylum seekers who have been held in the Southland for more than six months in order to determine whether continued detention is warranted.
The opinion affirms the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of a certified class of non-citizens who challenge their prolonged detentions, requiring the government to identify those detained as criminal or terrorist non-citizens and arriving non-citizens, and to provide each with an individualized bond hearing before an immigration judge.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena also held that the preliminary injunction is necessary to ensure that individuals whom the government could not prove constitute a flight risk or danger to public safety are not needlessly detained.
“Contrary to the government’s rhetoric, this injunction will not flood our streets with fearsome criminals seeking to escape the force of American immigration law,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court.
“The district court’s narrowly tailored order provides individuals, whose right to be present in the United States remains to be decided, a hearing where a neutral decision-maker can determine whether they might deserve conditional release from the prison-like setting where they might otherwise languish for months or years on end,” Wardlow wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California brought the suit on behalf of Alejandro Rodriguez, who arrived in the United States before his first birthday and, according to the complaint, had never left prior to a minor theft offense that sparked deportation proceedings.
He was held in immigration detention for nearly three years while fighting his case, which he eventually won, according to the ACLU.
Appearing before the appellate panel last month, a Department of Justice attorney argued that federal law does not entitle arriving non-citizens and criminal non-citizens to have bond hearings before a determination of their removal status has been made.
DOJ attorney Theodore W. Atkinson further argued that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not support the lower court’s order that bond hearings for the two classes of non-citizens take place after six months of detention.
Atkinson told the panel that there should be no “one size fits all rule” in terms of bond hearings. The district court’s rule, he said, is “too inflexible.”
In his response, ACLU/SC Deputy Legal Director Ahilan Arulanantham questioned why, at six months, an immigration judge shouldn’t simply consider whether a detainee can be released on bond.
U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. has set the next motions hearing in the case for May 6 in Los Angeles.
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