WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced today that the District of Columbia has joined with 19 cities and counties across the nation to file an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief with the United States Supreme Court in Jennings v. Rodriguez. The brief asks the Court to uphold important constitutional protections for immigrants held in prolonged mandatory immigration detention by the federal government.
The Supreme Court is reviewing a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, 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 their individual circumstances. The amicus brief, authored by the County of Santa Clara, California and joined by a diverse group of local governments, supports the arguments of a group of immigrants who were ordered into immigration detention while awaiting deportation proceedings, often for months or years at a time, with no opportunity to be considered for release.
“It is well-established precedent that every individual in the United States is entitled to due process,” said Attorney General Karl A. Racine. “I am proud to join with jurisdictions across the nation in support of one of our most important constitutional principles. As the chief legal officer of the District of Columbia, I will continue to stand up for all of our residents and for the rule of law.”
Counties and cities involved in the amicus brief argue 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 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 as well as to 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. Those costs include costs to cover foster care, health and mental health care, housing assistance, other public assistance, and law enforcement involvement.
The cities and counties that joined the County of Santa Clara in the filing 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.
A copy of the brief is attached.