RICHMOND (CBS SF) – Lawyers for two Bay Area asylum seekers who’ve been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than six months say the Department of Homeland Security has determined their clients have a reasonable fear of persecution and torture if deported.
However, a spokesperson for ICE said that due to privacy protections associated with asylum applications that claim couldn’t be confirmed.
Esteban Aleman Gonzalez and Jose Gutierrez Sanchez have been in custody at the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility in Richmond since the fall of 2017, but their attorneys say that based on the determination by asylum officers, federal officials do not have the authority to deport them.
A series of legal entities are representing the plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Law Offices of Matthew H. Green in Arizona, Centro Legal de la Raza and Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale.
Officials with those firms said the federal government has declined to allow bond hearings for Aleman Gonzalez and Gutierrez Sanchez – a necessary step in securing their release.
“They are simply asking for the opportunity to show a judge that they should not be detained while they pursue their case,” Centro Legal de la Raza senior staff attorney Alison Pennington said in a statement. “What the government is doing to them and to so many others should shock the conscience.”
Pennington did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the legal grounds for her clients’ claims, or the risks her clients face should they be deported.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in February that immigrants who can be detained for deportation proceedings can be held in custody indefinitely while their cases are resolved.
That decision countered a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision from 2013 that asylum seekers – as well as undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents who’ve been convicted of a crime but have served their sentences – are entitled to a bond hearing every six months to evaluate whether the individual in question is a flight risk or a danger to public safety.
Attorneys for Aleman Gonzalez and Gutierrez Sanchez, however, say the recent Supreme Court ruling dealt with a different group of immigrants detained under different laws and that federal law requires a bond hearing for their clients as a matter of due process.
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