Judge Slaps ICE, Grants Class Action

Thomas MacMIllan PhotoSince he was taken into custody in November 2012 by immigration agents, New Havener Mark Reid has been fighting for his release. As of this week, dozens of other detainees can join his fight.

Reid, who’s 49, will be the lead plaintiff on a class action lawsuit brought by people held on immigration charges without a bond hearing for more than six months in Massachusetts. That includes immigrants picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Connecticut, who are all held in Massachusetts.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Michael Posnor granted a motion for the creation of a class of people who are, like Reid, being held by ICE without a bond hearing. The motion was filed by students at Yale Law School, who Tuesday held a press conference to discuss Posnor’s ruling.

It’s the first successful class-action motion of its kind in the country, according to Reid’s attorneys.

Tina Thomas (at right in photo), a law student working on the case, explained Reid’s situation:

Born in Jamaica in 1978, Reid came to the United States at age 14 as a lawful permanent resident. He later moved to New Haven and served several years in the U.S. Army Reserve. He fell into drug use and was arrested several times by police. In 2010, he was sentenced to prison on burglary and drug charges.

When the state released Reid from prison in November 2012, it handed him over directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who pursued deportation because of Reid’s felony convictions.

Reid was held in Massachusetts without a bond hearing for over a year, until the judge granted a habeas corpus petition. Reid’s bond was set at $25,000. He remains in custody in Massachusett’s Franklin County Jail while he tries to raise money for his release.

Meanwhile, the Yale law students filed a motion to create a class of people like Reid, who have been detained for over six months without a bond hearing, for the purposes of filing a class-action suit.

Thomas said the class could number in the hundreds, and at least dozens.

In granting the motion Monday, Judge Posnor also took a couple of swipes at the government, which he said has “remained steadfast to its dubious interpretation” of the law covering detention of immigrants. Despite “numerous court decisions,” the government continues to hold people for long periods without bond hearings.

Mike Wishnie, head of a law clinic working on Reid’s case, called it “appalling” that ICE continues to fight and lose habeas petitions time and again. A class action suit offers a more powerful tool to push back against ICE’s detention practices, rather than fighting cases one by one.

Wishnie said the class creation is the first of its kind in the country. It’s the first one to apply to an entire state.

Yale law students continue to defend Reid in the underlying immigration case against him. Thomas said Reid has “really changed his life around.” His home is in the United States and deportation is not a proportional punishment for his crimes, she said.

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