Federal Court Rules Immigrant Detainees Must Be Given Bond Hearings

March 12, 2014


Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 206-957-8611,
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 212-549-2666;

SEATTLE – A federal court ruled late yesterday that a class of immigrants detained at the Tacoma-based Northwest Detention Center must be given bond hearings. The court’s decision comes at the same time that hundreds of immigrant detainees are participating in a hunger strike at the facility. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones also denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought on behalf of immigrant detainees by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union, with co-counsel from the Seattle law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw.

Robert Pauw said: “It makes no sense for ICE to lock up – without bond – people who have been living peacefully and productively in our community.  That is just what this administration has been doing.  Hopefully the court’s ruling will put an end to this inhumane practice.”

“The court’s ruling recognizes what is at stake, the anguish and hardship caused by being locked up for months,” said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “A bond hearing is not a free ticket out of jail. But at least a person has the right to present their case. That is all they are seeking, a fair shot.”

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Detained immigrants must have bond hearings, judge rules

The Seattle Times

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. government cannot keep certain immigrants locked up at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma without granting them a bond hearing.

The Department of Homeland Security routinely detain immigrants it apprehends for months, sometimes years –in one case a decade — after those people have resolved their criminal cases in state court and are released back into their communities.

While immigration officials begin proceedings to deport them, they are unjustly denied a hearing before an immigration judge who could determine whether they present a flight risk or a danger to the community, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones ruled late Tuesday.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Asylum Clock Class Action Settlement


B.H., et al. v. USCIS, et al., which was originally filed as A.B.T., et al. v. USCIS, et al. (hereinafter referred to as the ABT case), is a nationwide class action that challenged the manner in which the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) determine an asylum applicant’s eligibility for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  The suit was filed in the federal district court in Seattle, Washington in December, 2011 by the Legal Action Center (LAC) of the American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Gibbs Houston Pauw, and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

The lawsuit challenged five specific EOIR and USCIS policies for administering the “asylum EAD clock”[1] in removal proceedings.  The asylum EAD clock is the tool used by the agencies to calculate whether an asylum applicant has satisfied the 180-day waiting period for eligibility for work authorization.  Asylum applicants are not automatically eligible to receive an EAD while their applications are pending.  Instead, an applicant who is otherwise eligible can receive an EAD only after the asylum application has been pending for 180 days.  The running of the 180-day waiting period is suspended for applicant-requested or caused delay of the adjudication of the asylum application.

The parties reached a settlement of all issues in the case.  The settlement agreement was approved by the district court on November 4, 2013 and will be implemented as of December 3, 2013.  This FAQ will describe the terms of the settlement agreement and the process for implementation.

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Settlement Reached in Class Action Lawsuit Over Arbitrary Asylum Clock

November 5, 2013

Federal Judge Approves Settlement Agreement in National Class Action Lawsuit on Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers

On Monday, November 4, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones ordered the final approval of a nationwide class action settlement agreement. The settlement will help ensure that asylum seekers, who have fled persecution in their home countries, are not unlawfully prevented from working and supporting their families while the government adjudicates their cases. The changes will commence on December 3, 2013.

The agreement stems from a case filed in December 2011 by the American Immigration Council and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), with co-counsel from the Seattle law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. The complaint challenged widespread problems with the “asylum clock”—the system government agencies use to determine when immigrants who have applied for asylum may obtain permission to work lawfully in the United States.

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