Shackles limit at immigration court

US flagFederal authorities are to start limiting the use of shackles on immigrants that appear in immigration courts under the terms of a proposed settlement for a class action lawsuit.  The agreement to stop shackling immigrants in many hearings at the San Francisco immigration court was made by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A San Francisco federal judge was scheduled to consider yesterday whether or not to approve the lawsuit settlement that was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California, along with others, back in 2011.  Julia Harumi Mass, an attorney for the ACLU, says that the agreement would only apply to the court in San Francisco, which sees over 2,000 immigrants that are in ICE custody at Northern California’s three county jails pass through its doors every year.

The lawsuit states that detainees at the San Francisco court are forced to wear metal restraints on their ankles, waists and wrists, and that the great majority of them have to spend hours in shackles prior to, during and after the immigration hearings as they are bused in from jails that are several hours away.  The settlement would mean that detainees would not have to be restrained at merits or bond hearings unless there is a risk of escape or they pose a safety threat.

“Putting them in shackles is so contrary to fundamental American values of justice and fairness,” Mass points out.  ICE refused to be drawn into making a comment about the proposed settlement.