ACLU Argues That Prolonged Detention Of Immigrants In Pennsylvania Violates The Law

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

 

ACLU Argues That Prolonged Detention Of Immigrants In Pennsylvania Violates The Law

PHILADELPHIA - The
American Civil Liberties Union today argued in two separate cases
before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that the
government is violating the law by detaining people for prolonged
periods of time - sometimes for years on end - while they fight their
immigration cases, without ever giving them a hearing to determine
whether their detention is justified.

In one case, the
ACLU argued on behalf of a man held by Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) for nearly three years while challenging its attempt
to remove him to Senegal, a country he fled 20 years earlier after being
persecuted and tortured by Senegalese military forces. In the second
case, the ACLU represented two lawful permanent U.S. residents released
from custody last year after being held for lengthy periods of time by
ICE in Pennsylvania prisons, and who are seeking to represent a class of
other similarly detained immigrants in the state. At any one time,
there are hundreds of other detainees in Pennsylvania subject to
prolonged detention without a hearing, the vast majority of whom are
forced to represent themselves and unable to vindicate their rights on
their own.

"Locking people up
for years without bond hearings is an affront to our core American
values of fairness and justice," said Judy Rabinovitz, Deputy Director
of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, who will be arguing the first
case. "The U.S. Constitution protects everyone in this country, but
immigrants across the nation are being denied the most basic due process
protection by a government that is claiming unfettered authority to
imprison them for as long as it takes to decide their cases."

The plaintiff in
the first case, Cheikh Diop, arrived in the U.S. at age 19 in 1990 after
family members helped him flee Senegal in the face of political
persecution and torture by Senegalese government officials. Several
members of his family in Senegal were killed or disappeared, and Diop
himself was detained and tortured with electrical shocks, sleep
deprivation, extreme heat exposure, malnourishment and beatings so
severe he suffered a broken jaw, permanent hip damage and at times was
rendered unconscious. He settled in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he
worked as a cook for many years, including nine years at TGI Friday's
where he was so valued he often was tapped to train new staff. The
father of four U.S. citizen children, Diop is seeking a ruling from the
court holding that no immigrant can be held for more than six months
without the government being forced to justify further detention in a
constitutionally adequate bond hearing.

The plaintiffs in
the second case, Alexander Alli and Elliot Grenade, were released from
custody last year after a federal district court judge ruled that their
prolonged detention without bond hearings was unlawful. But the judge
incorrectly ruled that a provision of the Illegal Immigration Reform and
Immigrant Responsibility Act bars class-wide declaratory relief. Alli,
who is married to a U.S. citizen and came to the U.S. in 1990 from
Ghana, was held for more than a year despite being eligible to apply for
a waiver that would allow him to seek a new green card and remain in
the country. Grenade, who has lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years
after coming from Trinidad and Tobago, was detained for more than two
years.

"It makes no sense
to lock up immigrants with legitimate challenges to deportation, who
pose no threat to public safety and who are not flight risks," said
Michael Tan, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project,
who will be arguing the second case. "We spend millions of taxpayer
dollars every year incarcerating people for no good reason."

For years, the
ACLU has charged that the prolonged detention of immigrants without bond
hearings violates both the Immigration and Nationality Act and the
right to due process. 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 nearly
35,000 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.

Along with
Rabinovitz and Tan of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, Alli and
Grenade are represented by Vic Walczak and Valerie Burch of the ACLU of
Pennsylvania and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton, LLP. Walczak and Burch
are also co-counsel in the case on behalf of Diop. 

More information
about the ACLU's work to combat unconstitutional prolonged detention,
including additional information about the two cases being argued today,
is available online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/detention  

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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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