ACLU client Gilberto Pereira Brito with his wife and three children after his release from ICE detention. Photo courtesy of the Pereira Brito family.

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that an ACLU lawsuit challenging the government’s practice of denying due process to detained immigrants can move forward as a class action. The ruling extends the impact of the lawsuit to hundreds of immigrants detained in Massachusetts or otherwise receiving a bond hearing in the Boston immigration court.

In June, the ACLU of Massachusetts and the ACLU of New Hampshire filed the lawsuit on behalf of immigrants who were jailed due to flawed detention hearings in which the detainee was required to bear the burden of proof. Under the U.S. Constitution, the government cannot take away any person’s liberty without showing that is necessary to do so. During immigration proceedings, however, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely holds people in jail for long periods of time without being required to make such a showing. Instead, immigrants are jailed until they can prove that they should not be detained by proving that they are not a danger and not a flight risk.

“People are being jailed and separated from their families and livelihoods simply because they cannot prove a negative,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The government’s unconstitutional approach to detention has real, painful consequences for families in Massachusetts and beyond. By granting this class certification, the Court ensures that families will stay together and that people will not be deprived of freedom without due process.”

The new ruling extends the lawsuit beyond the three named plaintiffs, who have since been released from detention and reunited with their families. Chief Judge Patti B. Saris of U.S. District Court in Boston certified two classes including current and future detainees, which could extend the impact to potentially thousands of people. The ACLU has argued that without class-wide relief, the government will continue to deny fundamental due process to immigrants detained in Massachusetts or otherwise receiving a bond hearing in the Boston immigration court. 

Learn about the case