BUFFALO – A federal court yesterday halted unconstitutional practices in bond hearings at the Buffalo and Batavia immigration courts that had resulted in the jailing of hundreds of people.

The preliminary injunction in Onosamba-Ohindo v. Barr, a class action lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and Equal Justice Under Law, shifts to the government the burden to prove that a detained person is a danger to society or poses a risk of flight. The ruling also requires immigration judges to consider alternatives to detention and, if setting bond, an individual’s ability to pay.

Though the court, based on a jurisdictional issue, dismissed the claim that two immigration judges have categorically denied bond, it did so without prejudice to re-assert the claim at a later time. Nonetheless, all immigration judges will be required to provide the same procedural protections for individuals detained at Batavia.

The following statement is attributable to NYCLU Staff Attorney, Megan Sallomi:

“With this ruling, immigrants who are detained will now have a chance at a fair bond hearing and a meaningful shot at release. Like every other system of detention in this country, the government will have to adequately justify its decision to detain someone before a judge, who will hold them to their burden and consider whether other alternatives to detention will adequately serve the public’s interests. The rates of release on bond at the Batavia facility have been among the lowest in the country, but this ruling ensures that everyone held at Batavia will now have a fair day in court.”