Hearings ordered for immigrants in Massachusetts

Photo Courtesy: MGN Online
Photo Courtesy: MGN Online

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal judge says the government cannot hold certain immigrants in Massachusetts for longer than six months without a chance for a bond hearing, a ruling that advocates say is likely to benefit dozens of people picked up across southern New England.

The ruling was issued Tuesday in a class-action case brought by Mark Reid, a Jamaican ex-convict residing in Hamden, Connecticut, who was detained in Massachusetts for more than a year by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as he fought deportation proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor in Springfield wrote that allowing indefinite detention without an opportunity for bail can put immigrants’ rights at risk.

“The burden on the executive branch officials to manage our labyrinthine immigration system is heavy. The need to detain certain individuals pending removal cannot be denied,” he wrote. “But, where the government applies a statute without consideration for constitutional guarantees, the rights of vulnerable aliens are at risk.”

An ICE spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Nicole Hallett, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the ruling follows a number of court decisions in cases involving individuals that found the government is not permitted to hold them indefinitely.

“We hope it’s the beginning of a tide of these decisions,” said Hallett, of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School.

Central to the case was a “mandatory detention” rule for immigrants who have been convicted of certain crimes and have served a sentence, and come into the ICE dragnet.

Reid, who came to the United States in 1978 as a permanent resident, was convicted of several crimes in Connecticut state court in 2010 and sentenced to five years in prison. After he served two years, the state transferred him in 2012 into the custody of ICE, which moved to deport him based on four non-violent drug convictions, according to the ruling.

Reid won a bond hearing and was released earlier this year as he fights to stay in the United States.

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