COURT GIVES FINAL APPROVAL TO SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT CHALLENGING THE SHACKLING OF IMMIGRANTS IN COURT

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Candice Francis / Communications Director, LCCR / 415.543.9697 x216 / cfrancis@lccr.com

SAN FRANCISCO – The final approval hearing for Uelian de Abadia-Peixoto, et al. vs. United States Department of Homeland Security, et al., challenging the shackling of immigrants in immigration court, was held today by the Federal Court in San Francisco. At the hearing, the Court approved the settlement. Finding that it was fair and reasonable, the Court adopted the terms of the parties’ agreement, making it effective and enforceable.

The settlement reached in this class action lawsuit between immigration authorities and immigrants who are held in custody during their civil immigration proceedings in San Francisco was announced in January. Final approval of the settlement from the Court now brings a formal end to the federal government’s practice of forcing detained immigrants to go through their civil immigration hearings – often involving life-or-death matters – in handcuffs, leg irons, and chains.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC), Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (Lawyers’ Committee), and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR) filed the case* in 2011 against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Executive Office for Immigration Review on behalf of adult immigration detainees who, prior to the litigation, had been unnecessarily and painfully shackled at the waist, wrists, and ankles in every hearing before the immigration court, regardless of individual circumstances.

“Bringing final closure to this matter gives us all a sigh of relief knowing that people will no longer be subject to unnecessary physical and emotional pain as a result of being shackled when appearing in court. The practice was not only arbitrary and dehumanizing, but also undeniably unconstitutional,” stated Paul R. Chavez, Senior Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator with the Lawyers’ Committee.

Under the settlement, individuals appearing for bond or merits hearings will no longer be shackled absent an emergency situation. Only those appearing for mass hearings, known as “master calendar” hearings, on the court’s detained docket will have to wear restraints. Even in these hearings, individuals will be given the opportunity to request that their restraints be removed or at least reduced if they are suffering from a physical, psychological, or medical condition that would prevent the application of restraints in a safe and humane manner.

The settlement applies to all current and future adult immigration detainees who have or will have proceedings in San Francisco’s immigration court, which serves over 2,000 immigration detainees a year.

“In addition to securing fairer hearings for detained immigrants in northern California, we expect U.S. immigration officials will now think twice before shackling immigration detainees for their court hearings elsewhere in the country,” stated Julia Harumi Mass, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.

“We are pleased that the government ultimately agreed to limit the inhumane policy and practice of shackling all detained immigrants appearing for bond or merits hearings in San Francisco. But it doesn’t stop here – we will continue to monitor the implementation of the settlement agreement to ensure full government compliance,” said Catherine Moreno, Partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

* Legal documents for Uelian de Abadia-Peixoto, et al. vs. United States Department of Homeland Security, et al. can be found at http://bit.ly/1mGVCkU.