Monday, July 13, 2009

Held 5+ Years, Immigrant Finally Gets Bond Hearing

A long-time lawful permanent resident fighting deportation will finally get a bond hearing after being held in immigration detention for five and a half years.

A federal district court judge has ordered that the government must provide Errol Barrington Scarlett with a hearing within 60 days before an immigration judge where the government must demonstrate that he poses sufficient danger or flight risk to warrant his continued detention.

“The court affirmed a basic constitutional principle: no one should be locked up for prolonged periods of time without a hearing to determine whether their detention is warranted,” said Michael Tan, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

“We are relieved that after five and half years, Mr. Scarlett will finally get his day in court, but thousands of other legal residents are still detained for months or years without the most basic element of due process – a bond hearing to determine if their detention is even necessary.”

An ACLU and NYCLU lawsuit charged that Scarlett’s prolonged immigration detention without a bond hearing violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and the right to due process under the U.S. Constitution. Scarlett, originally from Jamaica , has lived in the United States for over 30 years and has four children and numerous siblings, all of whom are U.S. citizens. Because of his family ties and longtime legal residence, he is eligible for cancellation of removal – a permanent form of immigration relief. The ACLU argues there is no evidence that Scarlett poses a threat to the community or a flight risk, yet the government has subjected him to years of mandatory detention while seeking to deport him based on a non-violent, decade-old drug possession offense for which he had already served his sentence.

Over the past few years, the ACLU has filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been held for prolonged periods of time while fighting their immigration cases. Recently, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in Pennsylvania on behalf of lawful permanent residents who are being imprisoned without bond hearings in jails there while they fight their immigration cases.

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