Pennsylvania Court Rules Two Immigrants In Mandatory Detention Are Entitled To A Hearing

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, ACLU national, (202) 715-0801 or (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Sara Mullen, ACLU of Pennsylvania, (215) 592-1513 x122

Pennsylvania Court Rules Two Immigrants In Mandatory Detention Are Entitled To A Hearing

Ruling Part Of Growing Consensus Among Courts That Prolonged Detention Of Immigrants Raises Serious Constitutional Concerns

HARRISBURG, PA - A
federal court in Pennsylvania ordered that two long-time lawful
permanent residents fighting deportation are entitled to a hearing to
determine if they have been held in mandatory detention for too long.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania noted
that there is a "growing consensus" among federal courts that the
prolonged detention of immigrants raises "serious constitutional
concerns."

In their request for hearings, the
two immigrants are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union,
the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Pepper Hamilton LLP.

"The court's message was loud and
clear," said Judy Rabinovitz, Deputy Director of the ACLU Immigrants'
Rights Project, who argued the case before the court last week. "The
Constitution does not allow unlimited detention without due process
just because removal proceedings will at some point come to an end.
There is a limit to how long noncitizens can be locked up without a
hearing to determine if their prolonged detention is justified."

The two immigrants in the case,
Elliot Grenade, a lawful permanent resident from Trinidad and Tobago,
and Alexander Alli, a lawful permanent resident from Ghana, have been
detained for almost two years and one year respectively while they have
been undergoing removal proceedings. In Monday's ruling, the court held
that Grenade and Alli are entitled to a hearing within 20 days to
determine whether their detention has exceeded the "brief and limited
period" permitted by law, and if it has, to a bond hearing to determine
if they pose a danger or flight risk that would justify such detention.
In reaching this conclusion, the court rejected the government's
argument that because their detention will at some point come to an end
at the conclusion of the proceedings, the plaintiffs' detention without
a hearing posed no constitutional problems.

Grenade and Alli had sought hearings
not only for themselves but also for a class of similarly situated
immigrants in the state of Pennsylvania who have been detained for
prolonged periods of time without bond hearings to determine if their
immigration detention is justified. The court, however, declined to
grant class-wide relief citing constraints imposed by the Immigration
and Nationality Act (INA). The ACLU disagrees with the court's
interpretation of the statute and is considering appealing that aspect
of the ruling.

"We are disappointed that the court
found it lacked authority to grant class-wide relief," said Rabinovitz.
"Absent such relief, many detainees in Pennsylvania – the overwhelming
majority who lack legal representation – will be unable to benefit from
the court's decision and are still detained without the most basic
element of due process."
 
The court's opinion held that the
prolonged detention of immigrants without bond hearings was
inconsistent with both due process and the INA and noted its "grave
concerns" about the INA's mandatory detention statute saying it "has
forced the [government] to repeatedly interpose arguments that torture
both law and logic."

"Many individuals in immigration
detention pose no danger or flight risk that requires them to be locked
up," said Valerie Burch, a staff attorney with the ACLU of
Pennsylvania. "Yet they are deprived of their liberty, often for
prolonged periods of time, without even a bond hearing to determine if
such detention is justified. This violates due process, results in many
individuals forfeiting meritorious claims, causes families financial
and emotional hardship and is a huge drain on taxpayers' money."

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 detains roughly 33,400 non-citizens in federal detention
facilities and local jails across the country, resulting in more than a
threefold increase in the detention population since just a decade ago.

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

An 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

 

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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.

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