People in Detention for Six Months Now Granted Bond Hearing!

If you haven’t heard yet, this is huge news!  The Ninth Circuit ruled that people in immigration detention (even those in mandatory detention) must be given a hearing within six months to determine whether they should be released. The ruling stands to benefit thousands of people in immigration detention across the Ninth Circuit, where an estimated 25% of people in immigration detention are held every year.

The Ninth Circuit today affirmed a lower court’s decision in a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU called Rodriguez v. Robbins, which has been in effect since last November in Southern California. In fact, some of the people we visit here in Southern California who are in “mandatory detention” have been granted bond under Rodriguez. I just met with someone last week who would not have been eligible for bond otherwise.

We believe that Rodriguez should now apply to detention facilities across the Ninth Circuit, but the government could argue that the Ninth Circuit was only affirming a preliminary injunction in the Central District and that the decision is limited to that geographic region.  CIVIC encourages everyone detained within the Ninth Circuit who meets the following requirements to apply for a Rodriguez bond hearing:

  • You are currently in immigration detention in Arizona, California, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • You are currently fighting your immigration case before the immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
  • You are subject to mandatory detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c).
    • You are probably subject to mandatory detention under § 1226(c) if the government is trying to deport you based on your criminal history. You are also probably subject to mandatory detention if you received a Form I-286 Notice of Custody Determination stating that you could not seek review of your detention from an immigration judge.  OR
  • You are subject to detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b).
    • You are probably subject to detention under § 1225(b) if you were taken into custody while trying to enter the country at the border or at an airport. You are also probably subject to detention under § 1225(b) if you received a document denying you release on parole.
  • You have been detained for six months or longer by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

Here is a packet on how to request a bond hearing under Rodriguez.  For Spanish, click here.  These packets were created by the ACLU for people detained in Southern California, but the process is the same throughout the Ninth Circuit.  

If you have any questions, please feel free to email CIVIC’s attorney and co-executive director Christina Fialho at CFialho@endisolation.org. 

And here is a blogpost written by Michael Tan, an attorney with the ACLU:

On Eve of Immigration Reform Rollout, Immigration Detainees Win Right to Fair Hearing
By Michael Tan

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a landmark ruling that curtails one of the most wasteful and draconian features of our immigration lock-up system: the government’s practice of putting immigration detainees behind bars for months or even years, without ever holding a bond hearing to determine if they should be locked up in the first place. In Rodriguez v. Robbins, a class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, the Court upheld an order requiring bond hearings for detainees locked up six months or longer while they fight their deportation cases. The ruling stands to benefit thousands of immigration detainees across the Ninth Circuit, where an estimated 25% of immigrant detainees are held every year.

The government’s track record makes the importance of this ruling clear. The immigration lock-up system is massive and hugely expensive to American taxpayers. In 2011, the government detained a record-breaking 429,000 immigrants at a price tag of $2 billion, even though most immigrants do not need to be locked up to ensure their appearance for court or protect the public from harm. In many cases, the basic due process of a bond hearing would have prevented months or years of such arbitrary detention and saved countless taxpayer dollars.

One such person is Byron Merida. Byron has lived in the United States for nearly three decades, during which time he started several successful small businesses. All of his immediate family members are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Nonetheless, the government detained Byron without a bond hearing after it placed him in deportation proceedings following his conviction for a non-violent crime. The government continued to detain Byron while his immigration case wound through the courts, including his successful appeal to the Ninth Circuit. When Byron finally got a bond hearing as a result of our case, the immigration judge ordered him released on a $2,500 bond. In total, the government needlessly detained Byron for three years and four months—at a cost of nearly $200,000 to taxpayers. And Byron is not alone. According to the government, immigration judges have ordered the release on bond of approximately two-thirds of the people given hearings under the lower court’s order, making clear that the vast majority of long-term detainees can be released without endangering public safety.

Indeed, the Ninth Circuit specifically rejected the government’s claims that we need mass immigration lock-up to keep our streets safe. As the Court held: “Contrary to the government’s rhetoric, this injunction will not flood our streets with fearsome criminals seeking to escape the force of American immigration law,” but “provides individuals . . . a hearing where a neutral decision-maker can determine whether they might deserve conditional release from the prison-like setting where they might otherwise languish for months or years on end.”

As comprehensive immigration reform gears up this week, today’s ruling is an important reminder that meaningful reform must include fixing our broken immigration detention system—a system that wastes money, ruins lives, and violates our constitutional values.

Immigration Detention: Christina Mansfield Speaks Out on Our Broken System

April 5, 2013 by  · Leave a Comment

486737_166876533463595_567981636_nOn this blog, I try to share both my thoughts and those of others standing for welcome at LIRS and nationwide.  Today, I’d like to introduce an interview by Luke Telander, Program Associate for Outreach at LIRS, with Christina Mansfield, co-founder of Detention Dialogues, the first detention visitation program in California, co-founder and co-Executive Director of CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement), and member of the steering committee of the Detention Watch Network.

The human cost of America’s immigration detention system is staggering.  While it’s not splashed across the news as frequently as other immigration issues,  conditions in detention frequently fall below United Nations standards, and include treatment such as solitary confinement. A lack of access to counsel and other basic human rights are all too common.

That’s why the work of activists like Christina Mansfield is so important. She and her colleagues are organizing detention visitation networks and advocating for humane and just alternatives to detention.  Through the dedicated work of activists, we can begin to move past our unnecessary and destructive detention paradigm.  Here are her thoughts, shared via email:

Luke Telander (LT): What first motivated you to work in immigration detention visitation?

Christina Mansfield (CM): I started studying the immigration detention system in 2007 when I was earning my M.A. degree in Cultural Anthropology.  I decided that I wanted to study a pilot program along the border called Operation Streamline, which criminally prosecutes people who are apprehended crossing the US/Mexico border.  As part of this research, I traveled to Tucson, Arizona, and sat in on an Operation Streamline court proceeding.   I was absolutely shocked by what I witnessed in that courtroom.  In the span of only one hour, 80 men and a few women, none of them white, were mass prosecuted for “entry” or “reentry” and sentenced to various terms in federal prisons.  The defendants were brought out in orange jumpsuits and shackled at the hands, ankles and feet.  The judge read out where each person was apprehended, at what time, and instructed him or her to plead guilty or not guilty.  No one pleaded not guilty.   When it was time for sentencing the defendants were brought before the judge in groups of 10 and each group of 10 was assigned to one public attorney.  The judge proceeded to sentence these migrants who risked their lives to cross the border to terms in prison, sometimes for years.   All of the defendants were criminally prosecuted and banned from returning to the United States for at least 10 years.  I remember being struck by how the experience felt like a sham performance, and an incredibly cruel one at that.  Even worse, I was the only person sitting in that courtroom.  I felt my own privilege that I had taken for granted and a tremendous sense of responsibility in witnessing that proceeding.  Outside it was a beautiful spring day and inside criminals were being manufactured, as human beings were sentenced to imprisonment and social death.  There are some significant differences between Operation Streamline, which criminally prosecutes migrants and immigration detention, which is a consequence (and punishment) for a civil violation of immigration law.  But at the end of the day, whether the system is criminal or civil, it is criminalizing (making criminals) immigrants and migrants, punishing them, and tearing families apart.

LT: What has been the most difficult thing about working in detention?

CM: I find the most difficult thing is witnessing the racism that I believe is the root cause of the immigration detention system and all of the unnecessary suffering it causes.  Also, I often feel an extreme sense of helplessness because our ability to advocate for people in immigration detention is restricted by the policies of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the jail/detention center staff with whom they contract.  For example, there is no legally protected right to visitation or a free phone call for immigrants in detention.  As a result, the people we meet in detention are very isolated, separated from their families and everything that makes life meaningful.  This is heartbreaking and our ability to end isolation and protect against human rights abuses is often thwarted by restrictive phone and visitation policies and concerns for “security.”  The concern for “security” is invoked often and what it really means is that jail/detention center staff and ICE will not allow CIVIC volunteers to remain in contact with people in detention.  The stated justification for perpetuating this isolation is that the government or jail staff is protecting the privacy and safety of people in detention.  However, I think this logic of “protecting” people by isolating and imprisoning them, while making a profit, is clearly ridiculous.  Although I am astonished every day by how advocates in CIVIC’s network are able to support immigrants in detention in inspiring and creative ways, for me there is always an underlying sense of defeat and despair.  I think this feeling is simply the nature of working to improve a system that is so corrupted and broken.

LT: One of Detention Dialogues’ programs focuses on student awareness.  What has been the response among students to this issue?

CM: Detention Dialogues and CIVIC, the national network of visitation programs that I co-direct, have engaged many students in education and advocacy to support immigrants in detention, including students who are directly affected by the system and students who are not.  The response among students who are not directly affected by immigration detention seems to be a combination of disbelief and outrage.  Students do not understand how a country predicated on the values of freedom and civil rights can so systematically deny these values to immigrants.  I think the subsequent outrage students feel is quite healthy and often translates itself into a foundation for strong and empowered advocates. Students who are directly affected by the immigration detention system do not share the privilege of disbelief that the other students feel, but their sense of outrage is often palatable and refined.  As a leader who has not been directly affected by immigration detention and who began this work as an ally, I rely upon the guidance and sense of urgency that people who have suffered the consequences of the immigration detention system bring to our work.

LT: What is the most common public misconception about detention?

CM: I think the most common misconception about immigration detention is that it is an unfortunate, but necessary system.  However, we know that there are many viable community-based alternatives to immigration detention (ATDs) that cost less, are much more humane, and that still achieve the governments goals of immigration regulation.  The reason these ATDs are not implemented is because the counties and private detention facilities with whom the government contracts to hold immigrants in detention would not be able to make exorbitant profits from these alternatives.  I think the recent releases of people from detention that occurred due to “the sequester” are the perfect example of this corrupt profit motive.  The government did not release people from detention in response to serious allegations and documentation of human rights abuses that occur in immigration detention across the country.  Instead, they released people from detention (in many cases on alternative forms of monitoring) simply because they ran out of the money required to hold them.  This makes clear the priorities of the government with regards to the immigration detention system and the way fiscal costs take precedence over human costs.

LT: Why must detention reform be a critical part of comprehensive immigration reform?

CM: Detention reform must be a critical part of comprehensive immigration reform because of the way families have been, and continue to be, torn apart by immigration enforcement and immigration detention.   I know that plans for comprehensive immigration reform, which may include a pathway to citizenship for some immigrants, also include a tightening of border security with programs like Operation Streamline that criminally prosecutes migrants to the United States.  CIVIC’s network of advocates understand the potential consequences of this tradeoff.  For example, we know of many people who spent up to years of their life in civil immigration detention, only to be deported in the end.  These same people risked everything to again cross the border and reunite with their families in the United States.  Many of them were caught in the dragnet of Operation Streamline and sentenced to years in federal prison for “reentry.”  This means that people who were held for long periods of time in civil immigration detention are now being criminally imprisoned for attempting to reunite with their families.  Plans for comprehensive immigration reform will only exacerbate these problems.  I believe comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the damage that has already been done to immigrant families through the enforcement and detention system and it must take responsibility for alleviating these consequences.

LT: What makes you hopeful for the future of immigration detention?

CM: The only thing I remain hopeful about with regards to the future of immigration detention is that the system may not have a future in this country.  The United States is plagued by a sense of amnesia and an unwillingness to take responsibility for injustices in our past.  I believe the immigration detention system will go down in history as another unjust and unnecessary system of social control.  I believe people in the future will feel ashamed of the way their country imprisoned vulnerable people who do not deserve such punishment.   I remain hopeful that through education, advocacy, and movement building we can induce this kind of reflection in the present and not wait until it is too late to act, when these injustices are only memories that live safely in the past.

Why the AP’s Choice to Drop the I-Word is a Crucial Victory

Why the AP’s Choice to Drop the I-Word Is a Crucial Victory

by Rinku SenShareThis | Print | Comment (1)

Wednesday, April 3 2013, 8:29 AM ESTTags: Associated PressDrop the i-word

We applaud the Associated Press’s announcement that it is eliminating the phrase “illegal immigrant” from the 2013 style guide. The AP Blog quotes Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll on the decision:

The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally…

Change is a part of AP Style because the English language is constantly evolving, enriched by new words, phrases and uses. Our goal always is to use the most precise and accurate words so that the meaning is clear to any reader anywhere.

The change reflects new practice in newsrooms across the nation, where editors have been replacing the word when they run AP stories on immigration.

This decision is a victory for immigrant communities. We took a word that has been normalized by anti-immigrant forces and revealed it as unfit to print because it is both inaccurate and dehumanizing. We startedDrop the I-Word in 2010 because we could see the harm that it was doing to our readers and community. In the early days, many people told us it didn’t matter, that the policy was all-important. But the word itself has blocked any reasonable discussion of policy issues, and we have been unable to move forward as a nation while its use has remained common.

The AP’s new guidance is also a victory for journalists, who strive daily to be accurate and honest with their readers. News people have nothing if not our ability to dig underneath the labels, as the AP says, that provide convenient categories for complex people and problems. When communities also experience those categories as demeaning of their humanity, we have failed at our jobs. The AP just gave us a little more clarity about how to avoid that. They’d like to hear our reactions, so send them a little note.

For years, immigration restrictionists have been stopping all discussion cold with “what about illegal don’t you understand?” Well, we did understand—that the word hid severe problems in the policy, that it has been applied selectively to people of color (undocumented, green-card holding, and citizens alike), and that it fuels hateful action.

People have lost their lives behind this word. Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadoran immigrant was beaten to death on the streets of Brooklyn by men yelling that he was a “f__ illegal.” That state of affairs could not be allowed to continue and thousands of people just like you took a stand to bring it to an end.

[INVESTIGATION: HOW THE RIGHT MADE RACISM SOUND FAIR—AND CHANGED IMMIGRATION POLITICS]

This campaign is inspired and instructed by historic and contemporary struggles over language. The civil rights movement made us stop saying “colored” and worse. The women’s movement changed newspaper standards to use “Ms.” The LGBT community and GLAAD got “homosexual” replaced with gay and lesbian. And most recently, the disability rights community has been pressing us all to stop using the r-word.

Ours is not the first generation to debate the i-word. In the 1980s, the “No Human Being is Illegal” campaign, which was named by Nobel prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and led by immigrants through the Sanctuary movement, helped humanize immigrants and mobilize support for the 1986 reform. Wiesel’s phrase has been the unofficial tagline for many people supporting this campaign.

Many people contributed to this moment. It would take pages to name them all, but you can see the early adopters here. The tireless staff of the Applied Research Center and Colorlines.com, especially Coordinator Monica Novoa, has lost sleep over this campaign. Roberto Lovato provided critical encouragement and was key to the early campaign strategy.

Before us, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists called for journalists to reevaluate use of the term and the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities challenged local outlets, including the Boston Globe, to make the change. Presente.org and the National Hispanic Media Coalition were stellar partners and Jose Antonio Vargas drove the project home with his impassioned plea to journalists last fall. Linguists, journalists, attorneys and public officials made it clear that they could not use the word in good conscience.

There’s more coming. The New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, who notes her own conversion to dropping the word but has nothing to do with their style guide, writes that a robust discussion is going on at the Times, but they aren’t likely to make such a sweeping change. Perhaps we could offer a broom? Conservatives like John McCain have pledged not to drop the word, but it’s only a matter of time now before even his own people recognize the last gasp of a dying strategy to divide American communities.

Finally, thanks to the ARC and Colorlines community for your relentless attention to this question of language. Your stories of what it’s like to live under the shadow of that word, your tweets, your petitions, your voices made all the difference. Immigrants, myself included, have had a bit of our humanity restored today, and we are most grateful.