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Judge Rules Immigration Detainees Entitled To Automatic Bond Hearing

A federal judge has ruled that Immigration detainees in Southern California are entitled to bond hearings after remaining in custody for over six months. A preliminary injunction granting the bond hearings that had been in place for the past year are now going to be automatically granted. Senior U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. made the order permanent Wednesday and established that the hearings should be provided automatically rather than only at the detainee’s request.

The decision applies to more than 2,000 detainees in four Southern California facilities: Adelanto, James A. Musick, Theo Lacey and the Santa Ana City Jail. On an average day before the lawsuit, 400 to 500 people were in custody for more than six months as they contested their immigration cases, according to Kaufman.

Alejandro Rodriguez, one of the plaintiffs, was in immigration detention for more than three years while fighting his deportation. Two other plaintiffs were detained for more than a year. Such a long period of time without a bond hearing is a waste of government resources when the bond hearing might show that the person does not need to be detained during their deportation proceedings.

Before the preliminary injunction, immigrants who were caught as they entered the country did not receive bond hearings, though some were released through an administrative parole process. Some detainees with criminal records were also held without bond hearings. Immigrants without criminal records who were picked up within U.S. borders did receive hearings.

While Southern California detention centers will be changing the way they proceed with their bond hearings, similar litigation is under way in other parts of the country. In the 3rd Circuit, which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, immigrants cannot be detained indefinitely, but they must initiate the bond process themselves through a habeas petition.

In an April 2013 opinion, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals noted that 400 bond hearings had been conducted under the preliminary injunction, with about two-thirds of detainees obtaining release. Government attorneys have argued that the hearings will strain resources and that detention should be mandatory for criminal detainees, but this argument makes no mention of the resources necessary to maintain these facilities for detained individuals for the longer than 6 months they remain in custody.

“This injunction will not flood our streets with fearsome criminals seeking to escape the force of American immigration law,” Judge Kim Wardlaw of the 9th Circuit wrote in the April opinion. Without bond hearings, Wardlaw added, detainees could end up in a “prison-like setting where they might otherwise languish for months or years on end.” This not only shows an unnecessary delay in the process of the cases but that it is still a burden on taxpayers for maintaining these facilities for these cases.