Jailed immigrants sue for right to hearing
Immigrant detained in Greenfield jail lead plaintiff in class action suit
GREENFIELD — A Jamaican immigrant who has been detained in the Franklin County jail for the past 15 months without a bond hearing will soon see his lawsuit against Sheriff Christopher Donelan and the U.S. Government expanded into a statewide class action case.
The class action suit will determine whether immigrant detainees, who have been held in Massachusetts jails for over six months, will have the right to a bond hearing and freedom from jail while each of their individual deportation cases proceeds.
Mark Reid, a 49-year-old who emigrated from Jamaica when he was 13, was a legal permanent resident in Connecticut when he was sentenced to jail for possessing and selling drugs, among other charges. When he was granted parole in November 2012, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office immediately detained him and ultimately sent him to the Greenfield jail to await deportation. The Franklin County jail, like many local prisons, for years has routinely housed federal prisoners for ICE and some other agencies. In Franklin County’s case the inmates are an important source of revenue for the local jail.
Reid — who argued that he should be given a bond hearing to be free from jail while he appeals the deportation order — sued Donelan, jail superintendent David Lanoie, other Massachusetts sheriffs and federal government officials last July.
U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor agreed with his argument, ruling last month in Springfield that Reid’s “prolonged detention without a bond hearing is unreasonable.”
Reid won a bond hearing on Feb. 3 and will be freed from the Greenfield jail as soon as he is able to raise $25,000, according to his attorneys at Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic.
Then, on Monday, Ponsor gave the go-ahead for the suit to expand to a class action case. Ponsor said the issue at debate is not whether any individual detainee is entitled to be released, but rather whether he or she should have the right to argue for that release.
The Yale-based immigrant rights clinic said Tuesday it plans to proceed immediately with the class action case. Staff from the clinic said they don’t know how many defendants will be involved, because detained immigrant data is not readily available, but that the case will include at least 40.
“I’m so glad to have gotten a bond hearing, but it’s wrong that (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) continues to deny this opportunity to others who can’t afford a good lawyer,” said Reid, in a statement issued by his attorneys.
Donelan and Lanoie were in Boston on Tuesday and unable to comment, said an employee in the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
And Allison Price — a spokeswoman from the U.S. Department of Justice, which is representing Donelan and the other defendants in the case — declined to comment. She didn’t answer a follow-up request to clarify how often detained immigrants are sent to jails across the state and how much money these facilities receive for holding them.
Reid grew up in America, earned a GED and served in the U.S. Army Reserve for six years, according to the written ruling issued by Ponsor last month.
Between 1986 and 2010, Reid “amassed an extensive criminal history,” wrote Ponsor, which includes possession and sale of illegal drugs, third degree burglary, assault, interfering with an officer and driving with a suspended license.
He served two years of a 12-year sentence. On Nov. 13, 2012, he was granted parole and was then immediately detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has the right to detain and deport an immigrant who has committed a crime.
But Ponsor ruled last month that the government can only detain immigrants for a “reasonable” amount of time before they must grant bond hearings — which allows the individual a chance to argue for his or her freedom while the judicial process plays out.
Ponsor favors a six-month rule that has been used in other cases and wrote that Reid’s then-14-month stay in jail without a bond hearing had extended “well beyond” a reasonable period of time.
You can reach Chris Shores at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264