ACLU Argues Lawsuit Challenging Prolonged Detention of Immigrants in Pennsylvania

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Rachel Myers, ACLU national, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org
Sara Mullen, ACLU of Pennsylvania, (215) 592-1513 x122

ACLU Argues Lawsuit Challenging Prolonged Detention of Immigrants in Pennsylvania

Group Launches Video and Web Resource on Prolonged Detention of Immigrants in US

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The
American Civil Liberties Union is arguing in a federal court in
Pennsylvania today that the government is violating the law by
detaining people for prolonged periods of time - sometimes for years - 
while they fight their immigration cases, without ever giving them a
hearing on whether their detention is justified.

"Locking people up for years without bond hearings flies in the face of
the core American values of fairness and justice," said Judy
Rabinovitz, Deputy Director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, who
is arguing before the court today. "We don't live in a country that has
unfettered authority to imprison people without hearings for as long as
it takes to decide their cases. Our Constitution guarantees every
person a day in court, but many immigrants are denied this most basic
due process protection."

In today's oral argument in U.S. District Court for the Middle District
of Pennsylvania, the ACLU is representing two immigrants, Elliot
Grenade and Alexander Alli, both lawful permanent U.S. residents, who
have been held indefinitely without hearings in Pennsylvania prisons
while they pursue legitimate legal challenges to deportation. Grenade
and Alli are seeking to represent a class of other similarly detained
immigrants in Pennsylvania. The ACLU charges that the prolonged
detention of immigrants without bond hearings violates both the
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and due process.

Grenade, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, has lived in the U.S. for
nearly 28 years as a lawful permanent resident. His two children,
domestic partner and his mother are all U.S. citizens. Grenade has
spent nearly two years in immigration detention fighting the
government's efforts to deport him based on a drug sale offense that
took place over 10 years ago. During the entire length of Grenade's
detention, he has never received a bond hearing to determine whether
his detention is justified.

Alli, who came to the U.S. in 1990 from Ghana, is a lawful permanent
resident married to a U.S. citizen with whom he has three children. He
owns an established real estate company in the Bronx, New York. For the
past 11 months, Alli has been held in detention while challenging the
government's efforts to deport him because of convictions related to
major credit card fraud. An immigration judge has found that Alli is
eligible to apply for a waiver that would allow him to seek a new green
card and remain in the country. However, Alli has never had a chance to
present this information in a bond hearing so a judge can determine
whether his detention is justified.

Over the last several years, the use of detention as an immigration
enforcement strategy has increased exponentially. On an average day,
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detains roughly 33,400
non-citizens in federal detention facilities and local jails across the
country, over a threefold increase in the detention population since
just a decade ago.

"Many immigrants in detention have substantial challenges to
deportation and pose no danger to society or flight risk, yet they are
unable to endure the prospect of prolonged detention and end up
abandoning their cases," said Vic Walczak, Legal Director of the ACLU
of Pennsylvania, which is co-counsel on the case. "It makes no sense to
lock people up for years while their immigration cases wind their way
through the courts. We are spending millions of tax dollars
incarcerating people for no purpose."

The ACLU is launching a Web page today that features a video, profiles
and podcasts of several immigrants the ACLU and other organizations
have represented, including lawful permanent residents and asylum
seekers, who have been subjected to prolonged detention without
meaningful review.

Lawyers on the case include Rabinovitz, Michael Tan and Farrin Anello
of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, Walczak and Valerie Burch of
the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Schmidt III, Kathleen Mullen and
Frederick Alcaro of Pepper Hamilton LLP.

The new ACLU Web page on prolonged detention of immigrants, "No End in
Sight: Immigrants Locked Up for Years Without Hearings," can be found
online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/review/39906res20090617.html

More information on the case Alli et al v. Decker et al is available online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/detention/39687res20090527.html

###

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Share This Article

More in: