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Immigration

Legal Insight     updated  2014/01/24 13:02


Federal authorities would limit the use of shackles on immigrants who appear before immigration judges under a proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to avoid shackling immigrants at the San Francisco immigration court in many hearings. Immigrants will still be shackled at a type of brief, procedural hearing in which several detainees are addressed at the same time.

A federal judge in San Francisco was scheduled to consider Thursday whether to approve the settlement in the lawsuit filed in 2011 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and others.

ACLU attorney Julia Harumi Mass said the agreement applies only to the San Francisco court, which serves more than 2,000 immigrants a year who are in ICE custody at three county jails in Northern California.

The lawsuit says detainees at the San Francisco court wear metal restraints on their wrists, ankles and waists and that most are bused from jails several hours away, spending hours in shackles before, during and after their hearings.

Under the proposed settlement, detainees will not be restrained at bond or merits hearings unless they pose a safety threat or risk of escape. Except in limited circumstances, they will remain shackled at master calendar hearings, which are held for larger numbers of immigrants for brief, procedural issues like scheduling.

Immigration courts are staffed by judges working for the U.S. Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, not the judiciary. The judges decide whether immigrants can remain in the country.

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