Federal Judge Blocks Trump Policy Keeping Asylum Seekers Detained

A federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration policy denying bond hearings to asylum seekers.

US District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled that people who are detained after entering the US to seek protection are entitled to bond hearings and the chance to be released from custody under the Constitution.

“It is the finding of this Court that it is unconstitutional to deny these class members a bond hearing while they await a final determination of their asylum request,” Pechman wrote.

Attorney General William Barr in April announced a policy that some asylum seekers who have established credible fear and are subject to deportation cannot be released on bond by immigration judges — a major reversal from a prior ruling that could lead to immigrants being held indefinitely.

Pechman addressed this possibility, taking issue with a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that its Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations does not intend to re-detain migrants “at this time.”

“The Government’s unwillingness to unconditionally assert that Plaintiffs will not be re-detained means that the specter of re-detention looms and these Plaintiffs and many members of their class face the real and imminent threat of bondless and indefinite detention absent the relief they seek,” she wrote.

The ban will go into effect in two weeks, Pechman added.

The decision means the Department of Homeland Security will not have sole discretion to decide whether to release immigrants who crossed the border illegally and later claimed asylum, as the policy would have granted.

The policy would have effectively blocked concerted efforts by immigration lawyers and immigrant rights advocates to push for bond hearings for detained asylum seekers. Supporters argue that there’s no reason to detain people who are seeking safety in the United States and have already cleared hurdles to prove they have credible cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and American Immigration Council brought the suit in May against ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and their parent department, Homeland Security.

Michael Tan, a senior staff attorney with ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, celebrated the ruling Tuesday as having “forcefully rejected” the administration’s efforts.

“The court forcefully rejected the Trump administration’s bid to arbitrarily jail asylum-seekers without a hearing,” Tan said in a statement. “Try as it may, the administration cannot circumvent the Constitution in its effort to deter and punish asylum-seekers applying for protection.”

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