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Class Challenges ICE Use of Ankle Bracelets

DALLAS (CN) - In a federal class action, "noncitizen Americans" say the Dallas Field Office of Immigration Customs and Enforcement and a private "case management" contractor violate civil rights by putting ankle bracelet monitors on people in immigration proceedings.

Six named plaintiffs sued three top officials of ICE's Dallas Field Office, and BI, Inc., which "develops, implements and coordinated case management and individual service plans under a contract with ICE," according to the complaint.

Lead plaintiff Angel Hernandez challenges the practice of putting ankle monitors on "noncitizen Americans" who are released on their own recognizance while immigration proceedings are pending against them.

"The problem is that there is no consistency, or category that is currently used to guide ICE in deciding when to use these devices," the complaint states. "They are humiliating to wear, require a two to three hour a day charge, and are a clear restraint on liberty against individuals whose rights have already been adjudicated."

The 37-page complaint defines noncitizen Americans as people who have been detained or processed by ICE's Dallas Field Office who have been released on their own recognizance, have been in the country for at least 5 years, have no criminal record, are not a flight risk, are no threat to society, have strong ties to the community and have family who depend on them.

"The use of ankle monitors has become a way to incarcerate petitioners without due process of law in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," the complaint states. "The use of the monitors on qualified NCAs [noncitizen Americans] is also cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment."

The class claims the practice deprives them of substantive and procedural due process guarantees under the 14th Amendment and liberty interests under the Fifth and 14th Amendments.

They say the agency's resources would be better used on aliens subject to mandatory detention by law.

"Field office directors should not expend detention resources on aliens who are known to be suffering from serious physical or mental illness, or who are disabled, elderly, pregnant, or nursing, or demonstrate that they are primary caretakers for children or an infirmed person, or whose detention is otherwise not in the public interest," the complaint states. "To detain aliens in those categories who are not subject to mandatory detention, ICE officers or special agents must obtain approval from the field office director."

The plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedures Act. They are represented by Arturo Rodriguez with the Isenberg Center for Immigration Equality in Dallas.

High-ranking field and regional officers in ICE have tremendous discretion: they may raise or cancel bonds, raise bonds even after they are paid, determine the customary bond for a region by fiat, and determine and change policies on detention. Thus, undocumented immigrants detained in one region may all be thrown in jail to await proceedings, while those arrested down the road may be released on their own recognizance, with orders to appear in court at a time uncertain.

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