Court Rules Against Detainers Blocking Immigrants’ Bail

A federal appeals court has said that judges cannot prevent the granting of bail to immigrants involved in legal proceedings because they are undocumented and face deportation before the start of trials. The three-judge appellate panel made the ruling last week, in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. It sets a legal standard, which now applies to all criminal immigrant cases across Oklahoma, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, and Colorado.

The Bail Reform Act means that judges must decide whether immigrants should be detained before trial on an individual basis, with various factors needing consideration. But, according to the 10th Circuit, involuntary deportation cannot be one of these factors.

The particular in the case being ruled on concerned whether a defendant could be seen as a flight risk because a detainer had been lodged on them by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which requests that ICE is contacted by the US Marshals Service before the release of a criminal immigrant. The Kansas City immigration lawyer on the case, Michael Sharma-Crawford, says that blanket analysis of individuals is unacceptable and that the character of the defendant should be the factor under examination.

Federal prosecutors had argued that criminal immigrants could escape punishment if released and then deported before trial. The argument held little sway with the appellate judges, who referred to an earlier decision that resolving ‘turf battles’ between executive branches is not the job of a federal judge.

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