Immigration

Immigrants in Long-Term Detention Have Right to Hearing, Judge Rules

| by Allison Geller

An American Civil Liberties Union case concerning a U.S. Army veteran who spent over a year in an immigration detention center was decided yesterday, concluding that the government cannot detain individuals whose legal status is in question for over six months without a hearing.

In Reid v. Donelan, a federal district court in Massachusetts ordered the government to provide Mark Anthony Reid with an immigration bond hearing, upholding his right to due process, according to the ACLU Blog. The case follows on the heels of a similar decision, Rodriguez v. Robbins, which states that immigrant detainees in the Ninth Circuit must have a bond hearing after six months.

Immigrants held in detention centers can endure months of imprisonment with no access to legal council. The ACLU reports that 84 percent of the individuals held in detention centers have no lawyer and enjoy little by way of due process. Many do not speak English or understand the legal system, on top of being held in jails without access to lawyers. Without a bond hearing, they must file individual lawsuits in federal courts, an unlikely possibility considering the circumstances of their detention. The court called it a “legal thicket” that most people held in immigration lock-up are unable to navigate.

Reid came to the U.S. at 14 and has lived legally as a green card holder for 35 years, including service in the armed forces. He has two children who are U.S. citizens. After being honorably discharged after six years in the Army Reserve, Reid faced some drug charges but has since gone through rehabilitation and continued his education. 

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Reid found a pro bono attorney at the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School who took his case. The lawyer was able to help him receive a bond hearing after a year behind bars with no clear reason for why he was there.

The ACLU reports that the immigration detention system costs taxpayers $2 billion a year.