The court decision granting undocumented detainees access to a bail hearing puts an end to the abnormal concept of indefinitely detaining immigrants.
Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. recently found that all immigrants detained for six months in the California Central District with pending deportation cases have the right to a hearing--with all the protections of the case--to determine bail.
The ruling, which came from a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), brings attention to one of the gloomiest and costliest aspects of the immigration system. Estimates show that in 2011, 429,000 immigrants were detained at a cost of almost $2 billion.
The inhumane policy of indefinite detention is good business for the private prison industry, which is currently salivating at the prospect of having more detainees thanks to the immigration reform passed by the Senate.
The decision eliminates the legal limbo in which thousands of undocumented detainees find themselves, by imposing rules that apply to another category of prisoners but not to them. For example, it says that immigration judges must consider options like ankle monitors.
Unfortunately, the ruling has limited geographic scope, but the warehousing of undocumented immigrants is a national problem with too many extra judicial interests involved.
There are politicians who believe that having larger numbers of undocumented detainees will lead to increased security. Also, the prison industry lobbies for more detainees and more federal funding. The losers in this system are the detainees, the taxpayers and the values of our society, which find years-long detentions of individuals without rights or protections repugnant.