Federal immigration authorities detained thousands of people each month in Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center and Stewart Detention Center, even though many of these individuals were found eligible for release. Hundreds remained in detention because immigration officials refused to set an affordable bond. The SPLC and its allies sued the Trump administration to stop the practice that left many people languishing in detention for months while their cases were pending, for no other reason than they were too poor to pay the bond.
The federal lawsuit explains how the practice violates their right to due process and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act. Many of the individuals found eligible for release were charged with violations of civil immigration law and are detained pending deportation proceedings. This practice of wealth-based detention is not only unconstitutional, but it significantly hinders a person’s ability to defend their case and support their family.
The lawsuit describes how after a traffic accident, plaintiff Jose Torres-Soto was transported to the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. He was locked up there for five months before a court hearing.
During his hearing, the immigration judge refused to set his bond at lower than $18,000, and did not explain why it was so high or inquire about whether Torres-Soto, a father of four, who had been working overtime as a manufacturing company machine operator to make ends meet, could pay.