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No End in Sight: Immigrants Locked Up for Years Without Hearings

Michael Tan,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
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August 4, 2009

Today, the ACLU argued in federal court on behalf of Alexander Alli, Elliot Grenade, and a proposed class of immigrants who are being detained in Pennsylvania jails for months, or even years, while their deportation cases are being decided.

The ACLU contends that these individuals are being locked up unlawfully and denied the most basic form of due process: a hearing over whether they need to be detained in the first place. Based on today’s argument, the federal court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania will decide whether Alli and Grenade should receive individual hearings on whether their detention is necessary and whether the class action can go forward.

Unfortunately, as the government expands its enforcement efforts, and Congress authorizes more and more detention beds, larger numbers of immigrants are being locked up without the process that the Constitution requires.

Consequently, the ACLU is launching a web page, No End in Sight, with an issue brief, links to resources, and profiles of immigrants who have been detained for prolonged periods of time without meaningful review. Many immigrants, including many featured on the site, ultimately win a right to stay in the country based on, for example, their fear of persecution in their home countries or their ties to family and community here in the United States. Yet they are forced to spend months or years in detention, at great expense to taxpayers and great hardship to themselves and their families, in order to win their right to rights to home and safe haven.

Forcing people into this devil’s bargain violates the most basic freedoms that this country stands for. While the government should not release someone when they have a reason to detain them, everyone has a right to their day in court.

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