SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union, co-counsel Cooley LLP and Holly S. Cooper, co-director of the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic, have prevailed in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of immigrant teenagers whom the Trump Administration had arrested and jailed for “gang affiliation,” despite there being no evidence of gang crimes. In an opinion issued on October 1, 2018, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction requiring the government to give the teenagers notice of the reasons for their arrests, access to the evidence being offered against them, and a prompt hearing in front of a judge, in which the government would have the burden to justify their detention.
The case involves a class comprised of teenagers who were previously released by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to the care of relatives while their immigration proceedings were pending. Starting in June 2017, many of these teenagers were rearrested by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) based on unsubstantiated claims of gang affiliation, turned over to ORR and then held by ORR in jail-like detention facilities for many months without a hearing. The ACLU filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging their wrongful arrests and illegal detention, and in November 2017, the district court judge granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, ordering that all of the teenagers must be given hearings within one week. He also ordered that any additional children who were rearrested under similar circumstances in the future would be entitled to the same prompt hearing.
Following the district court’s order, hearings were held for all children who were members of the class, and in nearly every case, the child was released from custody because the government could not provide satisfactory evidence of gang affiliation.
“Since last November, when the government was first required to justify its re-arrests by presenting evidence at a hearing, we have seen that in the vast majority of cases, the government’s claimed evidence of gang affiliation is flimsy or non-existent,” said William Freeman, senior counsel with the ACLU of Northern California. “The Ninth Circuit’s ruling confirms that the government must give these children an opportunity to respond to the charges against them, and we will continue to press for their rights as the case moves forward.”
“We’re thrilled by today’s decision, which reaffirms that these teenagers are entitled to due process and the right to defend themselves against meritless accusations,” said Martin Schenker, a partner at Cooley LLP.
“The arrests and detention of our class members are part of a larger effort to spread fear and misinformation about immigrants, in order to justify the Trump administration’s harsh enforcement tactics,” said Stephen Kang, detention attorney for the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “With this decision, young immigrants will get a meaningful chance to show that the accusations against them are unfair and unfounded.”
The preliminary injunction issued by the district court applies to a nationwide class of noncitizen children who came to the United States as unaccompanied minors, were previously detained by ORR and then released by ORR to a sponsor, and have been, or will be, rearrested by DHS on the allegations of gang affiliations.
The suit, filed in August of 2017, charged ORR with accepting DHS’s unsubstantiated gang allegations and wrongfully jailing immigrant children whom the government had previously placed in the custody of their U.S.-based parents. DHS transported many of the underage plaintiffs from New York to distant detention facilities in California and elsewhere, without notice to their parents or lawyers.
More information about the case is at: https://www.aclunc.org/news/aclu-challenges-trump-administration-s-jaili...
The Saravia v. Sessions complaint is at: https://www.aclunc.org/docs/20170811-first_amended_petition.pdf
The preliminary injunction order of the District Court is at: https://www.aclunc.org/docs/20171121-Gomez_v_Sessions...