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Class Action Challenging Prolonged Immigration Detention Goes Forward

Michael Tan,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
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August 20, 2009

Today a federal appellate court in California today ruled that a lawsuit on behalf immigrants who have been detained for more than six months without bond hearings can go forward as a class action. The decision is a huge victory for hundreds of immigrants who have been held in prolonged detention without the most basic element of due process: a hearing to determine if their detention is even justified.

The lawsuit, Rodriguez v. Hayes, was originally filed in a federal district court in Los Angeles in May 2007, on behalf of Alejandro Rodriguez, an immigrant from Mexico who was imprisoned more than three years pending completion of his removal proceedings without ever receiving a bond hearing. In the lawsuit, Rodriguez asked for a hearing to determine if his prolonged detention was justified and to represent other similarly situated immigrants in the Central District of California. The district court, however, ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to grant a class action.

In overturning the lower court’s decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the court had clear jurisdiction to allow the class action to go forward and that a class action would provide a remedy for scores of immigrants subject to prolonged detention. While there have been many good decisions invalidating prolonged detention in individual instances, the government has not been following them in other cases. Now that the 9th Circuit has allowed the case to go forward as a class action, many detainees — the overwhelming majority who lack legal representation — will be able to benefit from the court’s final decision.

The immigrants are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Southern California, the Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, and the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP. More information on the case can be found here.

The stories of individuals who have been subject to prolonged detention and other related resources are also available on the ACLU’s new webpage, No End in Sight.

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