Immigrant Granted Hearing after Five and Half Years Detention

Sunday, July 19, 2009

After five and a half years of waiting in immigration detention, Jamaican-born immigrant Errol Barrington Scarlett has finally been granted a bond hearing by a federal judge in Buffalo, New York. The defendants, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), must convince the judges at the hearing that Scarlett poses considerable danger or flight risk that justifies his detention. The long-awaited hearing has come after years of “rubberstamp” custody reviews that have only prolonged the legal wrangling…as well as Scarlett’s detention.

Scarlett arrived in the United States as a legal immigrant in 1976 and had been living in the United States for almost 30 years before his detention. However, in 1999 he was convicted on a charge of cocaine possession. He served three years and ten months in a New York State prison for that offense. A year and a half after his release, he was taken into custody by a deportation unit in Manhattan. The ACLU and New York Civil Liberties Union lawyers representing Scarlett argue that ICE seeks to deport him based on “a non-violent decade-old drug possession offense for which he has already served his sentence.” After being bounced around among several detention center facilities, Scarlett filed a writ of habeas corpus in Buffalo last year.
His lawyers argue that his detention is not authorized under the law, referencing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Demore v. Kim. In that case, the judges upheld mandatory detention, but specified that detention had a definite termination point and “in the majority of cases it lasts less than 90 days.” Scarlett’s attorneys contend that extended detention without a hearing is unconstitutional.
-Jacquelyn Lickness
After 5-Year Detention, Immigrant Gets Hearing (by Jonathan Perlow, Courthouse News Service)


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