Immigration Law

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Updated: A ruling by a federal judge has blocked the enforcement of a new policy that would require immigrants awaiting asylum determinations to be detained during their review.

Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington said in her opinion, filed Tuesday, that immigration officials were required to conduct bond hearings within seven days of a request, demonstrate why the immigrant shouldn’t be released on bond, and record the proceedings, Courthouse News Service reports.

Pechman, who issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the class of asylum-seekers in April, also modified the injunction to find it unconstitutional to deny bond hearings for immigrants who have a credible fear of persecution in their home country.

“The first decision was based not only on the court’s analysis of the constitutional due process owed to these class members but also on 50 years of statutory and case law supporting the right of persons detained for noncriminal reasons to be released upon posting bond,” Pechman said in the opinion.

After Pechman issued the April preliminary injunction, the Department of Justice announced that immigrants who were in removal proceedings and waiting for decisions on their asylum applications should be detained for the duration of that process. They could be released only under a “parole” system adjudicated by immigrant officials.

The policy was set to take effect July 15.

The federal government moved to vacate Pechman’s preliminary injunction. But she said in her opinion that “it is the finding of this court that it is unconstitutional to deny these class members a bond hearing while they await a final determination of their asylum request.”

Pechman emphasized in her opinion that the “balance of equities and the public interest” weigh in favor of the class of asylum-seekers rather than the federal government.

“The equities favoring plaintiffs continue to be: The deprivation of their constitutional rights, the physical/emotional/psychological damage engendered by their indefinite detention, the separation from their families, and the negative impact on their ability to properly prepare their cases,” she said.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who’s running to be the Democratic 2020 presidential nominee, also announced Tuesday that he would use executive authority as president to end detention for asylum-seekers, according to the New York Times and Bloomberg.

Also, as part of his immigration plan, detention centers would have to meet standards outlined by the American Bar Association or they would be shut down, according to Bloomberg. In March, the ABA Commission on Immigration delivered a comprehensive report on how the immigration court system should be reformed.

Booker said he would expand access to legal counsel, especially for children, and create “a presumption of liberty” by changing the bond process, according to Bloomberg.

On Wednesday, the White House blasted Pechman’s decision as being “at war with the rule of law,” the Washington Post reports.

“The decision only incentivizes smugglers and traffickers, which will lead to the further overwhelming of our immigration system by illegal aliens,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “No single district judge has legitimate authority to impose his or her open borders views on the country.”

See also:

ABA Journal: “ABA president urges Barr to reconsider detention of some asylum-seekers”

ABA Journal: “AG Barr orders detention of some asylum-seekers who pass credible fear interviews pending case resolution”

Updated July 3 at 2:14 p.m. to include the statement from the White House.