SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The Department of Homeland Security will no longer shackle people who appear before immigration judges in San Francisco under most scenarios, and never will chain detainees to one another, as part of a class action settlement.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg preliminarily approved the settlement to a lawsuit the ACLU filed in 2011 for lead plaintiff Uelian de Abadia-Peixoto. The class claimed that detainees appearing before the San Francisco Immigration Court were "shackled at their wrists, waists, and ankles without regard to whether they pose any risk of disruption, violence, or flight."
The ACLU claimed that the "blanket shackling of immigration detainees" without individual reviews for the need of restraints is unconstitutional.
Detainees, including the elderly and disabled people, could spend up to 10 hours in shackles before, during and after court appearances.
Under the settlement, which was approved Jan. 23 and applies only to the San Francisco Immigration Court, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer restrain detainees at most hearings.
Without "narrowly defined emergency situations," detainees will not be restrained during their bond hearing and trials on the merits. ICE also agreed not to chain detainees to one another other under any circumstances.
Detainees will continue to be shackled in full restraints during master calendar hearings, which are generally brief and involve large groups of immigrants in the courtroom. However, detainees can request accommodations for physical, psychological or medical conditions.
The settlement "represents a sea change from defendants' challenged policy and practice, under which all detainees were fully shackled during the entirety of their bond and merits hearings - which in some instances extend over the course of several days - despite what plaintiffs alleged to be shackles' painful interference with detainees' ability to participate in their own proceedings," the ACLU said in its unopposed motion in support of the settlement.
The settlement is expected to affect more than 6,000 immigration detainees in the next 3 years.
The class was represented by Catherine Moreno with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, of Palo Alto; by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and by the ACLU of Northern California, both of San Francisco.
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