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Habeas Corpus: Fighting prolonged immigration detention

When someone loses their case in immigration court and receives a deportation order, they are detained until the government is able to deport them. When the government cannot follow through and deport the person in question, they can detain that person for prolonged, indefinite periods of time ranging from months to years. In detention, they are isolated from their community and loved ones, they cannot work so their family are often pushed into poverty, and they have no sense of when they will be released. An attorney can file a habeas corpus petition in federal court if their client has been detained for six (6) months or more with no sign of when they will be deported or released.

Immigration detention centers see people in a range of migration journeys, from those who just crossed a border seeking asylum to those who have been through many months in immigration court only to lose their case and be ordered removed. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often will hold people in their custody for months as they arrange to deport people to a country of origin.

There are many reasons ICE might delay deportations:

  • The country of origin as a policy refuses to provide passports or travel documents to ICE in instances of deportations
  • The U.S. has an arrangement with the country of origin that only specific nationals can receive travel documents or passports
  • No state records exist for the person

If ICE does not deport someone in their custody within six (6) months after a deportation order, a client can demand custody review, and if deportation is not reasonably foreseeable, the client can be released. (Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001))

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