Federal District Court Condemns Government’s Prolonged Detention

Federal District Court Condemns Government’s Prolonged Detention of Immigrants, Ordering a Bond Hearing for a Pennsylvania Man Who Has Been Detained for Over Twenty-Six Months

May 25, 2012

HARRISBURG, PA – A Federal Court strongly criticized the Department of Homeland Security’s prolonged detention of immigrants in removal proceedings. In a decision that came twenty-six months after Robert Bautista was first detained by immigration authorities for having committed a minor criminal offense nearly ten years ago, the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania held that Bautista’s indefinite detention has been so unreasonable that his constitutional right to due process had been egregiously violated.

Bautista, an Easton, Pennsylvania resident and former owner of a lucrative transmission business was convicted in 2003 for violating New York’s Attempted Arson statute. He was charged after officers sited him standing next to his car, while carrying a portable gas tank. While Bautista served his entire probationary period, immigration authorities, in 2009, detained him at Kennedy Airport in New York, following a brief trip abroad. Bautista, a twenty-five year Lawful Permanent Resident, a husband and a father of three children was released, but was ordered to appear to the Philadelphia International Airport for further inspection. In March of 2010, Bautista voluntarily appeared at the airport and has been in immigration custody ever since. Authorities advised him to not bring an attorney.

“For over two years, we have been fighting for Mr. Bautista’s life in the United States and for his release,” said Raymond Lahoud, Bautista’s attorney and a member of the Immigration Law and Deportation Defense Firm Baurkot & Baurkot. “Finally, justice has been served because a Judge with commonsense has ruled in favor of a man who made mistakes long ago, yet had rebuilt his life at the time he was detained,” said Lahoud. Lahoud noted that, since Respondent’s detention, his family home and business have been lost and his wife and children have been forced to secure government assistance to help make ends meet.

The Court held that Bautista’s prolonged detention was unnecessary and unreasonable. Further, the Court ruled that the Government’s argument that Bautista is a threat to society is anything shy of “skeptical,” particularly in light of the fact that it took authorities years to commence proceedings against him: “Bautista’s detention, today nearing twenty-six months, has exceeded by an order of magnitude even the tentative [constitutional] guidelines set by the Supreme Court.” The Court also dismissed the Government’s argument that Bautista was owed no rights, because he was returning from a trip abroad and had “technically” not entered the United States, even though he was detained in American immigration prisons and was a longtime Permanent Resident. The Court sternly opposed Bautista’s continued detention of Bautista, holding that “due process has long been overdue to Bautista.”

Lahoud noted that the decision went as far as declaring detention beyond seven months as being unconstitutional. “The Court condemned immigration’s detention practices, which will certainly effect thousands of immigrants facing deportation across the country,” said Lahoud.

Bautista was ordered removed in 2010. He appealed the Immigration Court’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. After oral arguments before the Board, Bautista’s appeal was dismissed. Bautista’s attorneys then appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, who recently ordered oral arguments to determine if Bautista is actually a deportable alien. The Third Circuit case is pending.

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