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Federal district court mandates bond hearings for detainees

A federal district court in California recently held that suspected undocumented immigrants who are detained for six months or longer are entitled to bond hearings. The decision came months after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals afforded the same right to certain detained immigrants.

The class action lawsuit, Rodriguez v. Robbins, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which called the decision "another victory against one of the most draconian parts of our immigration system." The ACLU has argued that depriving detainees a right to a bond hearing not only is an infringement of rights, but also costs the American taxpayers billions of dollars.

In an example, the ACLU pointed to an undocumented immigrant who lived in the United States for close to 30 years before he was convicted of a non-violent crime. The man, who had opened several successful small businesses in the country, was faced with deportation and detained without a bond hearing for more than three years.

As a result of the ACLU's successful appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the man was granted a bond hearing and he was released after posting $2,500 bail. The U.S. government spent close to $200,000 to keep the man in custody until that point.

In addition to requiring bond hearings, the federal district court also ordered that immigration judges should consider alternatives to long-term detention for detainees, including ankle bracelets, so that the financial burdens and the human toll of these detentions can be avoided whenever possible.

It will be interesting to see if other courts follow suit with similar rulings affording detainees bond hearings and pushing alternatives to long-term detention for non-violent detainees. At this point, only the Los Angeles area is affected by the federal district court's ruling.

Source: ACLU Blog of Rights, "VICTORY: Federal Court Rules Immigration Detainees Deserve Fair Hearings," Michael Tan, Aug. 7, 2013

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