NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union and an organization whose lawyers represent immigrants are asking a New York judge to stop the indefinite detention of some immigrants awaiting deportation.
The ACLU and the Brooklyn Defender Services want to bring class-action status to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court recently on behalf of a detained 60-year-old Haitian man who became a permanent resident as a child in the 1970s and has lived in the U.S. for 46 years.
The man has been detained since September, when he was held for deportation on the grounds that he had two misdemeanor convictions for trying to ride mass transit for free, the ACLU said.
The ACLU and the Brooklyn organization asked the judge to declare that members of the designate class must receive a hearing before an immigration judge within six months. The immigration judge would then decide whether the individual is a flight risk or a danger to the community before deciding whether freedom is appropriate while the case proceeds.
A message sent to a Justice Department spokesman was not immediately returned.
The ACLU and the Brooklyn organization that provides free legal services to some immigrant detainees said in court papers that immigrants are being denied bond hearings because of a February change in federal policy following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a California case.
The bond hearings previously allowed some immigrants to remain free while their deportation cases proceeded because the government was unable to show they were a risk to flee or a danger to the community.
"Without the opportunity to request release, our clients, including asylum seekers and long-time green card holders, are indefinitely detained and separated from their families, their jobs, and their communities in horrific detention centers," said Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services.
Jordan Wells, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a release that the Supreme Court's recent ruling "does nothing to undermine the fact that the Constitution ensures that all people in the U.S. are entitled to due process protections."
The court papers noted that the Supreme Court in the California case ruled that a federal immigration law does not entitle immigrants to bond hearings, but it also returned the case to a California appeals court to address whether the U.S. Constitution requires bond hearings.