Salt Lake City joins 20 cities in brief to Supreme Court on prolonged detention of immigrants by federal government

Today, Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced that Salt Lake City joined 20 cities and counties across the nation, in an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to uphold important constitutional protections for immigrants held in prolonged mandatory immigration detention by the federal government.

The brief, authored by the County of Santa Clara, California and joined by a diverse group of local governments, was filed in Jennings v. Rodriguez. The brief supports the argument that individuals in immigration detention awaiting deportation proceedings should not be held, often for months or years at a time, with no opportunity to be considered for release. The Supreme Court is reviewing a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that immigrants in prolonged mandatory detention must be given a bond hearing every six months where an immigration judge can consider whether they can safely be released based on their individual facts and circumstances.

 “This type of prolonged detention puts jobs at risk, creates obstacles to education, and generally hurts families living in our community, ” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “Our nation is bound by principals enshrined in our Constitution, and any time individuals living in our community are not afforded those rights, Salt Lake City will take an interest.”

Counties and cities involved in the amicus brief argue that immigrants held in mandatory detention must be given the same basic constitutional protections granted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government to every person who is arrested for a crime. These basic rights include a hearing where a judge can consider each individual for release based on his or her risk of flight and risk to public safety. When immigrants are not given the right to a bond hearing, many who could safely be released remain stuck in federal immigration detention facilities for months or years, costing billions in taxpayer dollars annually.

“In Utah, those accused of crimes receive individualized hearings to consider whether they may be released, yet certain groups of immigrants – including those with no criminal record and those entering the country to seek asylum – can be held indefinitely without ever receiving an individualized hearing for consideration of their release,” said Margaret Plan, City Attorney. “The City has an interest in laws and policies that protect due process rights and allow for individualized consideration for release.   

The amicus brief argues that holding immigrants in mandatory detention without bond hearings also harms their children and families, many of whom are U.S. citizens or lawful residents. Detention of an immigrant parent deprives families of the parent’s income and associated health benefits, and may lead to loss of housing and food insecurity. Children of detained parents often fall behind in school and suffer from psychological problems. 

The cities and counties filing the brief provide critical services to their local residents, and face increased and costly demands for social services when parents are detained, including foster care, health and mental health care, housing assistance, other public assistance, and law enforcement involvement.

The cities and counties that joined the County of Santa Clara in the filing include the County of Alameda, California; the City of Austin, Texas; the City of Baltimore, Maryland; the Town of Carrboro, North Carolina; the Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; the City of Chicago, Illinois; the City of Cincinnati, Ohio; the City and County of Denver, Colorado; the District of Columbia; King County, Washington; the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota; the City of Oakland, California; the City of Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; the City and County of San Francisco, California; the City of San Jose, California; the County of San Mateo, California; the City of Seattle, Washington; and the City of Tucson, Arizona.