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News from:
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Oakland joins Supreme Court battle to uphold constitutional protections for immigrants held in prolonged detention

OAKLAND, CA – City Attorney Barbara J. Parker announced today that Oakland, along with cities and counties across the country, has filed a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold basic constitutional protections for immigrants held in prolonged detention by the federal government.

The amicus brief filed February 10 in the Supreme Court case Jennings v. Rodriguez supports the arguments of a group of immigrants who were held in detention while awaiting deportation proceedings, often for months or years at a time, with no opportunity to be considered for release.

The Supreme Court is reviewing a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that immigrants in prolonged mandatory detention must be given a bond hearing every six months where an immigration judge can consider whether they can safely be released based on the individual facts and circumstances of the case.

“Imprisoning people for months or years without basic due process protection is a violation of human rights, period,” City Attorney Parker said. “Indefinite detentions of immigrants serve no public safety purpose, but the financial cost to taxpayers is astronomical, and the human cost to families that lose a father, mother or child for extended periods of time is staggering.”

“At a time when the federal government is focused on demonizing immigrants and building an East Berlin-style wall along the southern border, it is critically important for the Supreme Court to uphold fundamental constitutional principles and rights, including and especially for this population,” Parker said.

The amicus brief signed by Oakland, San Francisco, Baltimore, Seattle and 16 other jurisdictions argues that immigrants held in mandatory detention must be given the same basic constitutional protections granted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government to every person who is arrested for a crime.  These basic rights include a hearing where a judge can consider each individual for release based on his or her risk of flight and risk to public safety. 

Most immigrants do not present a significant flight risk or risk to public safety.  When immigrants are not given the right to a bond hearing, many who could safely be released remain stuck in federal immigration detention facilities for months or years, costing billions in taxpayer dollars annually.

The amicus brief argues that holding immigrants in mandatory detention without bond hearings also harms their children and families, many of whom are U.S. citizens or lawful residents.  Detention of an immigrant parent deprives families of the parent’s income and associated health benefits, and may lead to loss of housing and food insecurity. Children of detained parents often fall behind in school and suffer from psychological problems. The cities and counties filing the brief provide critical services to their local residents, and face increased and costly demands for social services when parents are detained, including foster care, health and mental health care, housing assistance and law enforcement involvement.

The County of Santa Clara drafted the brief, and signers include: the County of Alameda, California; the City of Austin, Texas; the City of Baltimore, Maryland; the Town of Carrboro, North Carolina; the Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; the City of Chicago, Illinois; the City of Cincinnati, Ohio; the City and County of Denver, Colorado; the District of Columbia; King County, Washington; the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota; the City of Oakland, California; the City of Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; the City and County of San Francisco, California; the City of San Jose, California; the County of San Mateo, California; the City of Seattle, Washington; and the City of Tucson, Arizona.

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