First Circuit Rules Against Government on Issue of Mandatory Detention in Immigration Case

In a very interesting case, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, in Saysana v. Gillen, ruled against the government in an immigration case centered around the denial of bond to detainee and the mandatory detention provision of 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c).  Here’s the introduction of the opinion, written by Judge Kenneth F. Ripple:

In 2007, Houng Saysana was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and held without bond. After agency proceedings in which bond was again denied, he filed this petition for habeas corpus in the district court, challenging the conclusion of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA” or “Board”) that he is subject to the mandatory detention provision in 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c). The district court concluded that the Board had misinterpreted the statute, and it granted the writ. The Government timely appealed. Because we conclude that the Government has adopted an interpretation contrary to the plain meaning of the statute, we affirm the judgment of the district court. We also hold, in the alternative, that, even if the statute were ambiguous, the position of the Government is not a reasonable one.

Further along, Judge Ripple writes the following:

We conclude that the meaning of the statute is clear on the issue before us; the statute contemplates mandatory detention following release from non-DHS custody for an offense specified in the statute, not merely any release from any non-DHS custody. We further conclude that, even if the statute were ambiguous, the interpretation of the Board is not reasonable. Accordingly, we must affirm the judgment of the district court.


One response to “First Circuit Rules Against Government on Issue of Mandatory Detention in Immigration Case

  1. I am one of the two named attorneys (and one of about half a dozen who worked on this case and aren’t named by the court) that briefed and argued Saysana. I represent him in the immigration court as well. The government has lost in every district court that has reviewed their interpretation of the mandatory detention provision of the immigration act (8 USC sec. 1236(c)). The First Circuit is the first Court of Appeals to review the issue. The Second Circuit has a pending case on the same issue (it has already been briefed, but no argued) and likely if the First went against the government, the Second will too. None the less, the government persists in pushing this interpretation of the law, to the detriment of many individual clients who then have to file habeas corpus actions in the District Courts to get a bond hearing. District Courts including Mass., M.D. PN., S.D. NY, NJ, Arizona and Southern District of TX (including a granting of class action status and injunction) have ruled against the government’s interpretation. And yet, David Martin, the Deputy General Counsel for DHS said to ACLU during a meeting “there’s so few people impacted, we won’t change the policy.” But if there are so few people, then why not change the policy nation-wide, especially when you keep losing in Federal Court? They just want to detain as many people as possible and all the change would do is get folks a bond hearing, an immigration judge still needs to make an individualized evaluation of the case. It’s crazy and people are suffering because of it and most of the people impacted end up winning their cases. One of the first two clients we had in these cases is now a United States Citizen. Crazy and yet at some point a few years earlier, they said he was so dangerous under the statute that he had to be detained without a bond hearing.

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