District Court Grants Bond Hearings for Class of Individuals Seeking Protection from Persecution and Torture

For Immediate Release

April 4th, 2018

Contact:

Leila Kang, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 206-957-8608, leila@nwirp.org

Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 206-957-8611, matt@nwirp.org


 

Seattle, WA—Today the federal district court in Western Washington ruled that a class of individuals who are locked up at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) while applying for legal protection based on their fear of persecution in their home countries must be afforded bond hearings when their detention reaches six months. The class consists of persons placed in “withholding only proceedings” before an immigration judge: all of them have already been determined to have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture if forced to return to their home countries, and have been given an opportunity to seek withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture before the immigration court. These proceedings are generally lengthy, lasting months—sometimes even years, especially if there are any appeals—all the while the person languishes in detention, separated from their families and communities. Despite a Ninth Circuit decision issued in 2011 requiring the government to provide bond hearings to persons detained in this situation, Immigration Judges have continued to deny people at the NWDC any chance of seeking a bond.

 

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project filed a class action on behalf of these individuals in September 2016. Last December, the district court certified the class. Then, in January of this year, Magistrate Judge Brian A. Tsuchida issued a Report & Recommendation that the Court grant summary judgment on behalf of the class. As Judge Tsuchida declared, “it is past time for the Government to follow the law of this Circuit.”

 

The government subsequently argued that the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez, which denies bond hearings to people subject to detention without bond in other settings, should also be read to apply to persons in withholding only proceedings. Today Judge James L. Robart rejected the government’s arguments, adopting Judge Tsuchida’s report and granting relief to all class members.

 

The order requires that class members who have been in detention for more than 180 days without a bond hearing be given a bond hearing within 21 days.

 

“We are excited that our class members will finally have an opportunity to have a bond hearing,” said Leila Kang, staff attorney at NWIRP and counsel of record on the case. “Asylum officers and Immigration Judges have already determined that our class members have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture, yet they face many months of detention while the lengthy proceedings are ongoing. Unless a person in these proceedings presents a serious flight risk or a danger to the community, they should be permitted to return to their family.”

 

Judge Tsuchida’s Report and Recommendation can be found here and https://www.nwirp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/77-RR-granting-msj-on-statutory-grounds.pdf.

Judge Robart’s order can be found here.