The New York Civil Liberties Union and Bronx Defenders filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the New York City ICE field office to challenge their practice of jailing virtually all the thousands of people they have arrested over the last three years.

The NYCLU uncovered the practice as the result of a FOIA request it submitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). After being forced to sue ICE in federal court for denying the request, the NYCLU obtained data revealing that starting in 2017, ICE’s New York field office has all but eliminated bond or release for people awaiting immigration hearings.

Since 2013, ICE has used a computer program known as the Risk Classification Assessment Tool to decide whether someone should be released. ICE feeds information about a person into the system, and an algorithm provides a recommendation: detention or release on bond. ICE documents show that ICE manipulated the computer program to get rid of the release option. The program now automatically recommends that all immigrants be detained.

From 2013 to June 2017, approximately 47 percent of people deemed to be low risk by the government were granted release. From June 2017 to September 2019, that figure plummeted to three percent.

The people detained in New York City facilities are entitled to due process and a hearing to determine whether they are eligible for release while their removal proceedings are pending. The lawsuit aims to restore this process and end ICE’s manipulation of the legal process.


Amy Belsher, Robert Hodgson, Christopher Dunn, Megan Sallomi; Bronx Defenders attorneys include Thomas Scott-Railton, Niji Jain, Jenn Rolnick Borchetta

Date filed

February 28, 2020


United States District Court for the Southern District of New York



Case number