[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights [advocacy website] filed suit [complaint, PDF; press release] Monday challenging the practice of shackling immigration [JURIST news archive] detainees in court. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website], claims that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [advocacy website] are violating the detainees’ constitutional rights by requiring that all detainees be shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles for court appearances, rather than making an individual case-by-case determination. According to the complaint:
Defendants’ policy and practice of shackling all detained immigrants for immigration court proceedings causes detainees to suffer physical and emotional pain, is dehumanizing, and undermines the dignity of court proceedings. It also hinders detainees’ ability to communicate with their attorneys. … Freedom from physical restraint has always been recognized as a fundamental constitutional right, requiring due process before it can be infringed.
The suit was filed by four individuals on behalf of a class of people who are or will be detained for their immigration proceedings in San Francisco. The ACLU-NC expects the case to have national implications.
The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled in 2005 that it is unconstitutional [JURIST report] to force capital murder defendants to appear before juries in shackles. The majority said that viewing a prisoner in shackles would be too damaging to the jury’s perception of the defendant. ICE and DHS have previously faced criticism for their treatment of immigration detainees. In March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [official website] reported that US immigration enforcement agencies are overly reliant on a flawed detention system [JURIST report]. The report expresses concern over increased use of detention by the US government, citing a doubling in detention of non-citizens by ICE. It criticized the US government for viewing detention as a necessity and not as an exception in its enforcement.