Denver has joined an amicus brief in support of immigrants’ rights to not be detained indefinitely

Denver is one of 20 cities that have joined an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case dealing with the rights of immigrants held in detention.
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Denver is one of 20 cities that have joined an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case dealing with the rights of immigrants held in detention.

The case, Jennings v. Rodriguez, involves several legal questions, including whether immigrants held for deportation proceedings are entitled to bond hearings every six months and whether they should be released if they don't pose a threat to the community and are not a flight risk -- basically the same standard as other people accused but not convicted of crimes.

In the United States, immigrants are sometimes held for months or even years before their cases are determined.

Alejandro Rodriguez, the plaintiff, filed a class-action lawsuit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. At every turn, the courts have sided with Rodriguez against the government, but the federal government kept appealing. Now it's before the Supreme Court. The case was argued back in November, but amicus briefs were still being accepted until Friday.

“This is about what is best for the residents of Denver,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. "We must take a stand for our people -- immigrants or not -- and protect their rights. Denver has a history of being a city of opportunity for everyone and we believe that each individual who enters into the system be provided due process of law.”

The amicus brief argues that immigrants held in detention should have the same basic constitutional protections as other people accused of crimes. Those include a hearing before a judge where each person's individual history and flight risk will be taken into consideration when deciding whether they should stay in detention or be released until their court date.

Keeping immigrants in detention unnecessarily costs taxpayers money and has a huge impact on their families, the brief said. When parents are detained, cities and counties end up on the hook for social services and assistance for their children, who are often U.S. citizens. Those children also suffer psychological trauma that has lasting impacts.

“The City and County of Denver views Jennings v. Rodriguez as a bellwether case and one that will be crucial in defining the rights of immigrants and refugees in the United States for years to come,” City Attorney Kristin Bronson said in a statement. “Denver is proud to be among the cities that are leading the way in protecting the legal rights of our people."

Santa Clara County in California is the lead on the amicus brief. The other cities and counties include: Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Seattle, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; Tucson, Arizona; Carrboro, North Carolina; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Alameda and San Mateo counties in California and King County in Washington.

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