Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Mandatory Detention | Missouri & Illinois Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking

We hear story after story about immigrants who make a single mistake and get placed into deportation/removal proceedings by Immigration & Custom Enforcement (“ICE”).  Such is the case for Garfield Gayle, a 59-year-old green card holder who is a native of Jamaica. Gayle has resided in the U.S. for the past 30 years, raising two daughters who are U.S. citizens while working as a union carpenter. His life completely changed due to a past run in with the law, which caused federal agents to come knocking on his door.

Eight months ago, federal ICE agents handcuffed and locked Gayle up for an alleged drug offense that occurred more than 17 years ago. Proceedings ensued in an attempt to deport Gayle.  Due to harsh mandatory detention laws, Gayle was not given the opportunity to post bail while his deportation case is pending.  This mandatory lockup was required even without a showing by the government that Gayle serves as a threat or that he is a flight risk. Regardless of the merit of Gayle’s deportation case and regardless of whether or not he will ultimately prevail, federal law requires his jailing and prevents the immigration judge from considering strong ties he has with his family and the long period of residence in this country.

Gayle’s lock up has had a detrimental effect on his family. “…the cost of losing him to immigration lock-up is devastating. Mr. Gayle is an emotional anchor in his family, supplying love and support to his children and grandchildren.  Not only is Gayle a family man, but he has earned nothing but the highest praise from his employers-he has been unable to work at his job for numerous months now.

The ACLU’s involvement has helped make this case more public. They have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Gayle and hundreds of other New Jersey immigrants in the same situation. The lawsuit is challenging “… the federal government’s policy of locking up immigrants in deportation proceedings without any chance for release on bail, even when they have strong arguments that they have a right to continue living in America.” Mandatory immigration lock-up is unconstitutional for people like Gayle who have strong ties to this country, according to the suit. The ACLU states that it is absurd to lock up individuals for months denying them their freedom if they have every intention of showing up to court and fighting for their case.

More importantly, many offenses that cause immigrants to be incarcerated are minor and nonviolent misdemeanors. Since the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, there has been a steep increase in the number of immigrants who are being detained. “In 2011, the Department of Homeland Security imprisoned a record-breaking 429,000 immigrants in more than 250 facilities across the country.” Not only is this costly, but it is inefficient.  The ACLU is fighting for fundamental equal rights for those locked up and denied hearings that determine whether their detention is justified.

Cases like these occur overwhelmingly across the entire U.S. not just New Jersey-Missouri is no exception. Our office has handled several of these cases, which can be very frustrating.  Having a client have to sit in jail when they pose no threat to society is a waste of federal resources.  Because of mandatory detention, our office does everything possible to seek relief in the immigration court as quickly as possible.  If you have questions regarding deportation or detention hearings, contact us at 314-961-8200.