VICTORY: Federal Court Rules Immigration Detainees Deserve Fair Hearings

Today we won another victory against one of the most draconian parts of our immigration system: the federal government's practice of putting immigrants in long-term detention without the basic due process of a bond hearing. In Rodriguez v. Robbins, a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, a federal district court held that the government must provide automatic bond hearings to immigrants detained six months or longer in the Los Angeles area while fighting their deportation cases. The decision follows on the heels of a victory at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this spring, which previously ordered bond hearings for some class members.

The government's track record on detention makes the importance of this ruling clear. The immigration lock-up system is massive, wasteful, and hugely expensive to taxpayers. In 2011, the government detained a record-breaking 429,000 immigrants at a price tag of $2 billion, even though most immigrants pose no threat to public safety and do not need to be locked up to make sure they show up for court. In many cases, the basic due process of a bond hearing would have prevented months or years of arbitrary detention and saved countless taxpayer dollars.

One example is Byron Merida. Byron has lived in the United States for nearly three decades and started several successful small businesses. All of his immediate family members are U.S. citizens or green card holders. Nonetheless, the government detained Byron without a bond hearing after it put him in deportation proceedings following his conviction for a non-violent crime. The government kept Byron behind bars while his immigration case wound through the courts, including his successful appeal to the Ninth Circuit. When Byron finally got a bond hearing as a result of our case, the immigration judge ordered him released on a $2,500 bond. In total, the government needlessly detained Byron for three years and four months—at a cost of nearly $200,000 to taxpayers.

Today's ruling also establishes key safeguards at prolonged detention hearings, requiring that the government provide them automatically and with adequate notice to the detainees, and noting that immigration judges should consider cost-effective alternatives to detention, such as ankle monitors, that avoid the fiscal and human costs of long-term lock-up. These safeguards will help ensure that the government stops arbitrarily stripping people of their liberty.

Rodriguez v. Robbins is being litigated by the ACLU of Southern California, ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, the Immigrants' Rights Clinic of Stanford Law School, and the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP.

Learn more about immigrant detention and other civil liberties issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (6)
Read the Terms of Use




Yes there IS someone who fights for them; the ACLU apparently does it.

I care more about the person than how much it's costing my taxes to keep him there. I'm more upset about taxes being spent for us to torture detained prisoners than what I MIGHT have to pay for health care. People get upset about health care and then don't give a fig if we spend a few billion dollars on a torture program. That implication makes its supporters look sick as far as I'm concerned.

I have no idea why THEY can't see what that makes them look like or if they even CARE, but I think it's sick. Get angry at paying for something that's designed to help people: DON'T get angry at a program that tortured people.

JoAnn Anglin

Re the rights of detained immigrants to bond hearings: will this also apply to Northern California? Has ICE issued any statements about this? How can I find out? Thank you! What important work this is you are doing.


It is totally wrong what happened to Mr. Merida, I can't believe this is happening to our citizens and immigrants. My family is from Mexico, some citizens and some legal immigrants, and I can't imagine if one of my relatives or myself was detained for this length of time. However, Mr. Merida committed a crime for which he was convicted and he has committed other crimes that affected my family, therefore, I feel had he not committed these crimes he would have not have put himself in that position of being in the 'system' and under the eye of the government. Thank you ACLU for looking out for Mr. Merida and all of us.


oh please,DEPORT THEM ALL as THEY have no more RIGHTS THAN any other illegal entrant that gets their rear end deported.
why are THEY a protected species ?
for what aclu ?
this is the AMERICAN civil right union ? the AMERICAN civil rights union doesn't have enough AMERICANS with outright civil rights vilations ?

flame away as AMERICANS have their rights VIOLATED 24/7 and you cannot get a case in here as the ILLEGALS are the PRIORITY.
and FOR WHAT ?
everyone ELSE had to enter legally OR ELSE they were deported.
commit a CRIME while naturalization pending ? DEPORTATION ACTION
and the aclu is not concerned either.


Your posting was blocked by our spam filter

NO it's blocked due to not going along the ACLU opinion of law breaking illegals being deported the SAME WAY anyone else outside their protected species gets deported.

Stay Informed