A California court has approved an agreement that will allow poor undocumented immigrants to have access to bail pending the resolution of their immigration cases.
Judge Jesús Gilberto Bernal, of the Central District of California District Court, on Monday this week upheld the agreement between the plaintiffs, Xochitl Hernández and César Matías, and the Department of Justice reached in October last year.
The court agreement prevents Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prisons in the Central District of California from connecting undocumented foreigners in the state without considering their ability to pay.
Lawyers consulted by Univision Noticias and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hope the agreement will be expanded nationwide.
“It opens the door so that people who have really strong cases to fight in court and have no resources can do so. This is a human opportunity. Many do not go free because they have no family here (in the United States). States) do not have “to help them”; says Alex Galvez, an immigration attorney who practices in Los Angeles, California.
In many cases, immigrants in deportation proceedings who had no offense other than the undocumented stay in the United States (a civil matter, not a criminal one) were detained for months because they could not pay the mortgage. which they did not set free. .
The court’s announcement is a “significant legal victory for immigrant rights,” the ACLU said in a statement. “The federal court has approved an agreement banning ICE and immigration judges from imposing unreasonable bans on detained immigrants because they did not consider their financial resources,” he added.
The ACLU explained that prior to this case, “the government was not obliged to consider the ability to pay when setting bail for individuals being deported.”
He added that “many immigrants stayed in jail for months or even years simply because they could not pay bail.”
Referring to a 2017 ruling by the late 9th District Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the civil rights group said that “while the temporary detention of non-citizens can sometimes be justified by concerns about public safety or flight risk …, no person can be imprisoned be put simply because of their poverty. “
The agreement reached between the parties and supported by the court, the class action, known as Hernandez v. Garland, originally filed in 2016 and litigated by the ACLU, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and pro bono attorneys for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and Mayer Brown LLP.
Hearing the court’s ruling, Michael Kaufman, chief prosecutor for Sullivan & Cromwell’s Access to Justice at the ACLU SoCal, said: “The settlement puts an end to the government’s scandalous practice of putting immigrants in jail without even bail, take into account. “
“The Constitution prohibits incarceration on the grounds of poverty, both for citizens and non-citizens,” he said.
Cesar Matías, one of the plaintiffs in the case, is originally from Honduras and worked as a hairdresser in a clothing factory. He was arrested in 2012 and taken to an ICE detention center in Santa Ana, California.
“I am proud to have taken part in this lawsuit to help other immigrants,” Matías said. “I hope no other person is forced to stay in custody for years because they cannot pay their bail,” he said.
Matías sought asylum in the United States because he suffered severe persecution in his home country because he was gay, according to court documents. He was released on bail of $ 3,000, but Matias did not have the money, which forced him to stay in jail for four years.
Following the filing of the lawsuit, Hernandez was released on a $ 5,000 bond that was posted with the help of a community organization, and was ordered to wear a single monitor. The lawsuit was certified in 2016 as a class action lawsuit.
Supreme Court trial
After hearing about the district court’s endorsement of the agreement, Stephen Yale-Loher, professor of immigration law at Cornell University Law School in New York, said the Supreme Court will hear “oral arguments in two cases this Friday on whether “Immigrants detained for more than six months are entitled to a mortgage hearing to be released.”
“Two lower courts have ruled that immigrants have that right in certain cases. “The conservative majority of the Supreme Court may not agree,” he said.
Yale-Loher added that “in one of the cases, Antonio Arteaga-Martinez argued that he and certain other immigrants should be entitled to a mortgage hearing after six months in detention to avoid a proper process violation.”
Last year, however, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 “that immigrants who return to the United States illegally after being deported should be kept out of court while awaiting a second deportation hearing.”
“Cases are important, partly due to the backlog of cases in the immigration court. More than 1.7 million immigrants have cases pending, a situation that “could take years to make a decision,” he said.
“If immigrants had to be detained for so long, the monetary and social costs would be enormous,” he said.