Mark Reid walked out of jail Tuesday with three tasks ahead of him: Rebuild his life, fight deportation proceedings against him, and help make sure others aren’t held for over a year without a bond hearing, the way he was.
Reid, a New Havener and permanent legal resident of the U.S., was released Tuesday from Franklin County jail in Massachusetts after posting a $25,000 bond. He had been taken into custody by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in November 2012 and held for months without the possibility of being released on bond.
With the help of Yale law students, Reid finally had a bond hearing and raised the money to be released. On Tuesday a group of students drove up to Massachusetts and picked him up from jail.
What happened to Reid is illegal, his lawyers argue. Earlier this month, a federal judge granted a motion for them to sue ICE on behalf of not only Mark Reid but a whole class of people like him. The lawsuit could include dozens of plaintiffs, people whom ICE has locked up for over six months without holding bond hearings for their release.
Reid, who’s 49 and was born in Jamaica, will be the lead plaintiff on the case. He also faces another legal battle: to win an appeal of a deportation order against him. Yale law students are helping him with that, too.
In the meantime, Reid, who has a daughter and cousins in New Haven, is staying in a transition house, about to begin the task of rebuilding his life.
“I’m excellent,” he said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “In spite of the situation.”
An ICE spokesman said Tuesday that he will have a comment about the case available on Wednesday. On Wednesday afternoon, spokesman Daniel Modricker released this statement: “While we cannot comment on ongoing litigation, ICE is committed to smart, effective immigration enforcement that focuses first on convicted criminal aliens, and those apprehended at the border while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.”
Reid was free on Tuesday not just for the first time in 16 months, but for the first time in nearly five years. That’s because ICE picked him up just as he was being paroled from a drug sentence.
After serving three years on burglary and drug charges, he was granted parole, but ICE had issued a “detainer request,” part of a program designed to target immigrants who are a danger to public safety. Reid was transferred directly from state to federal custody, where he was held for over a year without being granted a bond hearing.
Reid is not a threat to public safety, argued Conchita Cruz, one the Yale law students working on his case. “Absolutely not, and that is why he was released on bond by an immigration judge.”
While Reid was convicted of selling drugs, his lawyers argue that he has turned his life around.
“I utilized my time to the best of my ability,” Reid said. “I went to college and earned a paralegal certification. ... I’m trying to move forward right now.”
Reid came from Jamaica to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident when he was 14 years old. For almost 30 years, he’s lived in New Haven. He served several years in the U.S. Army Reserve.
As a veteran, Reid said, “I took an oath to defend the Constitution. Throwing someone like me to the side is unheard of.”
Reid said he’s lived his life for years believing that, after his military service, he was an American citizen. To now face deportation is unbelievable, he said. “Emotionally, it’s indescribable,” he said. “It’s a lot of stress ... the sense that your not part of the United States.”
“It’s beyond unfair,” Reid said.