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ACLU lawsuit seeks to lower bail for indigent persons facing deportation

One of the unfortunate realities for those men and women who are detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in advance of deportation hearings is that they may be unable to cover the high cost of the bond granted, meaning they must remain in custody -- away from family and friends, and with reduced access to legal assistance -- indefinitely.

In recent developments, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in a federal court in California last week arguing that this arrangement is not only inherently inequitable, but a violation of the people's constitutional rights. 

Specifically, the lawsuit, which names such powerful government figures as Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, states that this indefinite detention of indigent immigrants is a violation of their right to due process under the Fifth Amendment and the Eight Amendment's prohibition against excessive bail.

Under the current system, ICE is vested with the authority to set bond amounts, such that if a person can pay the money, they will be released from detention and required to appear for their scheduled deportation proceeding.

The decision as to how high to set the bond is set ultimately depends on consideration of factors such as whether the person poses a flight risk, their family ties, the length of time they've lived in the U.S. and whether they have a criminal record, etc.

In the event bond is refused or a person would like to challenge the amount, they have the option of appealing to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, where immigration judges will review the matter with reference to the exact same factors.

The ACLU's lawsuit is seeking to change this state of affairs by forcing these parties to also consider the individual's ability to pay the bond.

Such a change, they argue, would prevent scenarios like the one that befell one Honduran hairstylist who has been in custody for over three years owing to the simple fact that he cannot afford his $3,000 bond.

Stay tuned for developments on this important legal matter ...

If you or a loved one has questions or concerns relating to deportation, or any other immigration matter, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.

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