A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. government cannot keep certain immigrants locked up at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma without granting them a bond hearing.
The Department of Homeland Security routinely detains immigrants it apprehends for months, sometimes years –in one case a decade — after those people have resolved their criminal cases in state court and are released back into their communities.
While immigration officials begin proceedings to deport them, they are unjustly denied a hearing before an immigration judge who could determine whether they present a flight risk or a danger to the community, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones ruled late Tuesday.
“There can be no serious question that some of these aliens present no risk to their communities and no risk of flight, because some of them have been living in this country for decades and have families and careers,” the judge wrote.
“What the government thinks about a law that locks away peaceable family members without release, the court can only guess.”
The ruling comes in response to a class-action lawsuit filed last year on behalf of dozens of detained immigrants by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, along with the ACLU and the Seattle office of Gibbs Houston Pauw.
Although the ruling applies to the Northwest Detention Center, where at least four immigrants remained on a hunger strike Wednesday over conditions inside the facility, it could have implications at other facilities across the country, say attorneys with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency, whose attorneys represent the government in immigration cases, had no comment.