Whether the Immigration and Nationality Act requires a bond hearing for immigrants subject to prolonged detention while seeking protection in the U.S. from persecution or torture.

This case addresses whether the government can lock up immigrants for months or even years during immigration proceedings without providing the due process of a bond hearing to determine if their detention is justified.

The plaintiffs in this case are nearly all people who were previously deported from the U.S. and came back because they faced persecution or torture in their country of origin. One of the plaintiffs, Arturo Martinez, was deported to Mexico and then kidnapped by police officers, tortured, and held for ransom. Another plaintiff, Eduardo Gutierrez, was tortured by gang members because of his sexual orientation. 

Under U.S. and international law, Arturo, Eduardo, and individuals like them are legally entitled to seek protection in the U.S. All were found by an asylum officer to have a bona fide claim to protection, and are therefore entitled to a hearing on their protection claims. However, because of court backlogs, legal proceedings can take years to conclude and people are detained for extremely long periods of time.

In the decision below, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit interpreted the applicable detention statute to require a bond hearing after six months of detention, based on a recognition that prolonged detention without a hearing raises serious due process concerns. A long line of Supreme Court and common law precedents provide that, when the government seeks to detain someone for civil purposes, due process requires an individualized hearing before a neutral decision-maker.

The government argues that there is no due process problem because detained immigrants receive paper file reviews. However, these reviews—which are done solely by ICE, the jailing authority—are inadequate and no substitute for a hearing before a judge. Indeed, ICE routinely uses these reviews to rubberstamp people’s detention, for months or even years, based on completely arbitrary reasons.

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