Court says ICE can’t detain immigrants on the basis of poverty – Press Enterprise

A federal court has approved a landmark settlement that prohibits the U.S. Immigration and Customs Administration and the Southern California Immigration Judges from imposing unreasonable sentences on detained immigrants by disregarding their financial resources.

The settlement, which was finalized in U.S. district court on Tuesday, March 29, concludes a class-action lawsuit filed in 2016 and litigated by the American Civil Liberties Union, along with several private attorneys.

“The settlement ends the government’s disgraceful practice of detaining immigrants without even considering whether they can pay bail,” said Michael Kaufman, the senior attorney for Sullivan and Cromwell Access to Justice at the ACLU of the South. -California, Wednesday. “The constitution prohibits incarceration on the basis of poverty, for both civilians and non-citizens.”

Prior to the settlement, the federal government was not required to consider the ability to pay when instituting bonds for those deported. As a result, dozens of immigrants were locked up for months or years for failing to pay the bond, the ACLU said.

Cesar Matias, a resident of Honduras and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, fled to the United States to escape prosecution for his sexual orientation. He worked in Los Angeles as a hairstylist and in a clothing factory, according to the indictment.

Matias was arrested by ICE in 2012 and imprisoned in Santa Ana Prison for four years pending a decision on his asylum application. He was unable to pay a $3,000 cash bail to secure his release.

Matias said he was proud to have taken part in the lawsuit to help other immigrants. “I hope that no other people will be forced to be detained for years because they cannot pay their bail,” he said in a statement.

Specifically, the settlement requires ICE and immigration judges in Southern California to:

  • Consider an inmate’s financial circumstances and ability to pay bail.
  • Do not set a higher security deposit than is necessary to ensure that a detainee appears at all future immigration proceedings.
  • Consider whether the detainee can be released on alternative release terms.

“No one should be locked up because they don’t have the money to buy their freedom,” said Michael Tan, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The settlement will help us put a brake on our out-of-control immigration prison system and provide a model for reform across the country.”

When the lawsuit was filed, Kaufman said, in the Los Angeles area, 119 people were held on bonds they couldn’t pay, including some who had been locked up for years because ICE and immigration judges set their bails at amounts much higher than they had. expected. can afford.

“That number grew steadily over time as ICE continued to arrest and detain people as this lawsuit made it through the courts,” he said. “Now the settlement forces ICE and immigration judges to consider the ability to pay when setting bonds.”

While the settlement technically only covers Southern California, the ACLU expects the government to enforce it throughout the Western United States’ ninth circuit.

“We also hope it will be a nationwide model,” Kaufman said. “In all, the lives of thousands of people will be affected over time.”

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