ACLU and CAIR Coalition File Federal Lawsuit Challenging Lack of Fair Hearings for Immigrants

April 30, 2020 10:30 am

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BALTIMORE — The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Maryland, and Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Trump administration’s failure to provide fair hearings to people in immigration detention.

The case was filed on behalf of immigrants in detention in Maryland, but challenges policies that apply nationwide.

Many of these individuals, including asylum seekers, were denied release without the government ever having to justify their imprisonment, in violation of their rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Others were found eligible for release as they await their immigration proceedings, but are currently detained solely because they lack the financial resources to buy a bond for their freedom, in violation of their rights under the Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“When the judge announced that she was setting the bond for $20,000, I was shocked,” said plaintiff Jose de la Cruz Espinoza. “My wife and children were also very upset. We knew that we could never pay that amount.”

“Keeping people locked up because of their financial status and other inequities is bad enough. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be a death sentence for anyone trapped in detention,” said Michael Tan, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Immigrants often face bond hearings without legal representation, are provided no explanation of how the process works, and face language barriers. In addition to wealth-based discrimination, many are unconstitutionally being forced to bear the burden of making their case for freedom, rather than placing that burden on the government as to why their detention is even warranted.

“Proving whether a person who has immigrated to the United States should be locked up, along with setting a bond amount according to what an immigrant can pay, are supposed to be responsibilities of the government, not the individual. In a just court system, what we expect to find are these basic, fundamental rights because they are a part of our Constitution,” said Nick Taichi Steiner, staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland.

“Unnecessary civil detention wrought by unconstitutional bond procedures, especially with COVID-19 present in ICE facilities, is just plain wrong. All we’re asking for is fairer procedures. The immigration court should make the government prove why a person’s deprivation of liberty is warranted and consider a person’s ability to pay when setting a bond amount. When a judge sets a bond and has decided a person should not be detained, then a person’s inability to pay should not keep them behind bars,” said Jenny Kim, senior attorney for the CAIR Coalition.

The case, Miranda v. Barr, was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Md.


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