Scott Lemieux has a good piece in The American Prospect about the federal court ruling blocking the indefinite detention provisions of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). While Lemieux expressed a lack of confidence that the injunction would be upheld by the appeals courts, he praised the action because of the potential for abuse:
As long as the statutory language exists, the potential for substantial abuse is there. We cannot be confident that a future administration won’t use this law to detain political dissidents. President Obama made a mistake when he signed this legislation, and the judiciary played its designated role in our constitutional order by preventing Section 1021 from being enforced.
As it turns out, a separate federal judge has issued another injunction against a separate kind of indefinite detention: the kind used against suspected undocumented immigrants. In Rodriguez v. Hayes, District Judge Terry Hatter has ordered that immigration officials must provide bond hearings to suspects detained in the Los Angeles area. Until now, hundreds of immigrants in the region with other criminal offenses, as well as immigrants seeking asylum, have been hauled into detention facilities and basically forgotten, without due process or the ability to challenge their detention. Under the order, these immigrants can now have a hearing where they can ask for their release from the detention facility or some other arrangement with active supervision.
Ahilan Arulanantham with the ACLU’s Immigrants Rights Project, said that some of the immigrants had been detained for years. “Detainees have a right to a bond hearing – that’s simple due process guaranteed to everyone by the Constitution,” Arulanantham said. “We’re thrilled to have that guarantee upheld.”
This case has been working through the courts for several years. The namesake, Alejandro Rodriguez, is a DREAMer brought to the US before his 1st birthday. He was arrested on petty theft charges and spent three years in a detention facility awaiting deportation before winning his case. Throughout that time, he was denied a bond hearing.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed this case to go forward in 2010 as a class action lawsuit. Other participants in the class action include Abdirizak Aden Fatah and Yusuf Abdikadir, two Somalian refugees seeking asylum in the United States. They both spent several months in ICE detention centers without a hearing despite having no criminal records. Both had sponsors willing to house them as well. Yet they were caught up in the deportation net, unable to even get a hearing to plead their case.
Read this complaint telling some of the stories of these non-citizens held for years without charges. It’s as much a form of indefinite detention as we see in the NDAA statute.