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Federal Court Hears ACLU Arguments on Behalf of Detained Immigrants

A federal appeals panel Monday heard arguments but made no rulings in a case brought by a civil rights group, which maintains that two categories of immigrants have been detained in Southern California without the opportunity for a bond hearing while fighting their cases in the courts.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California won a preliminary injunction in which a judge ordered the federal government to provide bond hearings for arriving undocumented aliens, certain criminal immigrants and detained asylum seekers who have been held in the Southland for more than six months in order to determine whether continued detention is warranted.

Speaking before a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a Department of Justice attorney pushed to overturn that ruling, arguing that federal law does not entitle arriving immigrants and criminal aliens to have bond hearings before a determination of their removal status has been made.

Further, DOJ attorney Theodore W. Atkinson argued that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not support the lower court’s order that bond hearings for the two classes of undocumented immigrants take place after six months of detention.

Atkinson told the panel that there should be no “one size fits all rule” in terms of bond hearings. The district court’s rule, he said, is “too inflexible.”

In his response, ACLU/SC Deputy Legal Director Ahilan Arulanantham questioned why, at six months, an immigration judge shouldn’t simply consider whether a detainee can be released on bond.

The lead defendant in the suit, Alejandro Rodriguez, was brought to the United States before his first birthday and had never left prior to a minor theft offense that sparked deportation proceedings, according to the ACLU’s complaint.

He was held in immigration detention for nearly three years while fighting his case, which he eventually won, according to the ACLU.

U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. has set the next motions hearing in the case for May 6 in Los Angeles federal court.