The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Oppose Grassley Amendment #53 to S. 744 to Expand Unnecessary Detention

Advocacy Letter - 05/20/13

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley

The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles Grassley, Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, we urge you to oppose Senator Grassley’s amendment #53 to S. 744. This amendment would allow nearly all categories of immigrants to be separated from their families and locked up in jail-like conditions, with no time limit or chance for a bond hearing, even if they had no criminal record, all because of their immigration status. It would allow detention of these immigrants for the entire duration of their immigration court cases, which could be months or even years.

Even once their cases are over, people who are stateless or who come from countries that do not accept deportees from the U.S. can be kept in detention indefinitely under Grassley amendment #53, possibly for their entire lives. The Supreme Court in Zadvydas v. Davis has said that indefinite detention of these individuals raises serious constitutional concerns.1

Regardless of immigration or citizenship status, America is not a country that locks people up and throws away the key. The use of excessive detention is already rampant, as the following examples illustrate:

Melida Ruiz, a 52-year-old grandmother, was detained for seven months at Monmouth County Jail in New Jersey before she was finally released after winning her immigration case. Ms. Ruiz won her case by showing that she needed to stay to care for her U.S. citizen mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, her 17- and 11-year-old daughters, and her 5-year-old granddaughter. But because of her immigration status, Ms. Ruiz was separated from her family for seven months.

Victoria (a pseudonym) is a domestic violence survivor from Mexico. She was detained for nearly two years, while her immigration case was pending, before she was given a bond hearing. Thanks to the bond hearing and the possibility of monitoring as an alternative to detention, Victoria is now home with her 9-year-old U.S. citizen daughter.

Under Grassley amendment #53, Victoria might still be in detention, two and a half years after she was detained. The amendment would deprive immigrant detainees like Victoria of the right to an individual bond hearing, so they would not have the chance to challenge their detention or even see a judge at all until possibly months after they were taken away from their families and locked up in a jail or jail-like facility. Lower courts have held that prolonged detention without a bond hearing is likely unconstitutional. 2

Senator Grassley’s amendment also removes immigration judges’ authority to choose alternatives to detention, like monitoring and weekly check-ins, which are much less costly and allow people like Victoria to remain in their homes with their families during their immigration case. Grassley amendment #53 is not necessary to protect public safety. As Justice Scalia noted in Clark v. Martinez, truly dangerous individuals – whether immigrants or citizens – can already be detained under existing law. 3 The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 authorizes the detention of noncitizens who present a danger to national security and cannot be removed.4

For these reasons, we urge you to oppose Grassley amendment #53. If you have any questions, please contact Rob Randhava, Senior Counsel, at (202) 466-6058 or randhava@civilrights.org.


Wade Henderson, President and CEO

Nancy Zirkin, Executive Vice President


1 533 U.S. 678 (2001).

2 See, e.g., Diop v. ICE/Homeland Security, 656 F.3d 221 (3d Cir. 2011); Ly v. Hansen, 351 F.3d 263 (6th Cir. 2003); Rodriguez v. Robbins, __ F.3d __, 2013 WL 1607706 (9th Cir. 2013); Diouf v. Napolitano, 634 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2011); Casas-Castrillon v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 535 F.3d 942 (9th Cir. 2008); Tijani v. Willis, 430 F.3d 1241 (9th Cir. 2005).

3 Clark v. Martinez, 543 U.S. 371, 386 n.8 (2005).

4 See 8 U.S.C. § 1226A.

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