Friday, January 24, 2014

No More Shackling of Detainees in SF Immigration Court

From the LA Times:

Immigrants fighting deportation in San Francisco will no longer be shackled during most court hearings, according to a settlement reached with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The settlement, which received preliminary approval from a federal judge Thursday, is limited to San Francisco Immigration Court but could affect how immigrants are treated in other jurisdictions.

People held at detention centers in the San Francisco area are transported to court shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, attorneys for four immigrants wrote in a federal lawsuit filed in 2011. The shackles are kept on during court hearings, which is humiliating to immigrants and may predispose judges to view them as criminals, the attorneys wrote.

While some immigration detainees have been convicted of criminal offenses, others are locked up because they cannot afford a bond as they contest their deportations.

“Often, the difference between showing up to a hearing in a suit like I’m wearing vs. a jumpsuit is the ability to pay $5,000 bond,” said Paul Chavez, senior attorney at Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which litigated the class action case along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and attorneys from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

The shackling is a blanket policy in San Francisco and may not be as widespread in other areas. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said they hope the settlement creates a precedent to reduce the shackling of immigration detainees throughout the country.

“Although this settlement applies only to San Francisco, we fully expect that this will be a model for future litigation throughout the country and reformation practices in other jurisdictions around the nation,” said Catherine Moreno, a partner at Wilson Sonsini.

In Southern California, immigrants from Orange County detention facilities are usually shackled during hearings in downtown Los Angeles, said Michael Kaufman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.

“It’s not only inhumane and uncomfortable, but it gives off the wrong image,” Kaufman said. “The judge is looking at somebody in a jumpsuit and handcuffs, as if they present some kind of risk and safety threat, which is not the case.”

ICE has not indicated whether it will change its detention practices outside of San Francisco. Read more....


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