A Haitian immigrant facing deportation because he was caught trying to evade a subway fare has won the right to a bond hearing in a ruling that civil liberties advocates say may end up coming before the Supreme Court.
A Haitian immigrant facing deportation because he was caught trying to evade a subway fare has won the right to a bond hearing following a New York federal court ruling that civil liberties advocates say may end up coming before the Supreme Court.
Federal court judge Alison Nathan ruled Wednesday that Augustin Sajous, 60, a legal resident of the US who has been in detention the past eight months pending deportation proceedings, was entitled to a hearing to determine whether he could be released pending the final outcome of his case.
Nathan ruled that it would “violate” Sajous’ right to due process to continue to detain him without prompt access to an individualized bond hearing—a decision his attorneys said would allow him to demonstrate that his detention was “both cruel and unnecessary.”
Sajous was caught by a reversal in long-time federal policy allowing certain detainees to petition for bond hearings following a Supreme Court ruling last year in Jennings v Rodriguez that immigration law doesn’t automatically guarantee such bond hearings.
But the court also left open the question of whether “prolonged” detention might be classified as a violation of constitutional protections against cruel and unnecessary punishment—and would therefore earn relief.
Immigration lawyers said this week’s case might force the Court to weigh in eventually on the question.
“Despite the Trump regime’s efforts to attack immigrants and undermine their basic rights, courts have again affirmed that immigrants are entitled to due process,” Donna Lieberman, esecutive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
“Bond hearings are a vital safeguard against unjustified and prolonged imprisonment.”
The case could affect thousands of legal residents who have been caught in the government’s crackdown on immigrants—both documented and undocumented—who have been convicted of minor offenses.
Sajous has lived and worked in the US for 46 years, but his first and only brush with the law came following a bout of mental health problems that led to homelessness. He was convicted for trying to alter a subway transit card to avoid paying a fare in the New York City transit system.
Agents for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained him outside the court in September, 2017 and began deportation proceedings against him.
Sajous said he it was “impossible” to fight the deportation order while he was detained.
“If you need a book or certain documents for your case, you can’t get them because nothing is within reach,” he said in a statement released by the new York Civil Liberties Union. “If you don’t have any money, it’s impossible to call people to have thm help you get what you need.
“I just want the chance to explain to the judge that I’m not a flight risk.”
Under the ruling a bond hearing for Sajous must be held within the next 14 days.