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Singh v. Sabol

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 4, 2015

MARY SABOL, et al., Respondents.

Kane, Judge.


Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

The case of Gurpreet Singh presents us with a recurring legal dilemma, a dilemma which now plays out upon what is a rapidly shifting legal terrain. The petitioner, a permanent resident alien and a citizen and national of India, was convicted in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, in 2013 of state drug charges. As a consequence of this conviction, on April 17, 2014, Singh was arrested, placed by immigration officials in removal proceedings, and has been detained pursuant to a mandatory detention statute, 8 U.S.C. §1226(c), for the past 14 months while these immigration proceedings have progressed.

Currently, the status of these proceedings is that on May 15, 2015, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ruled against Singh, finding that he is subject to removal from the United States. Singh has appealed this BIA decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and in connection with that appeal has filed a motion for a stay of his removal. That appeal, and motion, remain pending before the court of appeals. Thus, these proceedings are on-going, and there is no reasonably foreseeable conclusion to this litigation on the merits of Singh’s removal. Yet, while this merits litigation continues without a predictable or foreseeable outcome, Singh remains held without any bail consideration for more than a year.

With the passage of more than one year in immigration detention, the petitioner has come before this court renewing his petition for writ of habeas corpus[1], seeking an individualized bail consideration. We have afforded the parties a full opportunity to address the legal issues presented by this petition, and on June 3, 2015, conducted a hearing in this matter, where the parties were invited to advance legal arguments, and make factual presentations or proffers regarding what they considered relevant to this bail determination.

Having conducted these proceedings, and fully developed the record, for the reasons set forth below, we conclude that in these circumstances basic considerations of due process now require that Singh receive prompt, individualized bail consideration, at a hearing where the government bears the burden of proving that Singh’s continued detention is necessary to fulfill “ ‘the statute's purposes of ensuring that an alien attends removal proceedings and that his release will not pose a danger to the community.’ ” Chavez-Alvarez v. Warden York Cnty. Prison, 783 F.3d 469, 475 (3d Cir. 2015). Accordingly, through this opinion and order we prescribe the process by which Singh will receive this bail consideration from an Immigration Judge, while we retain the authority to conduct our own individualized bail consideration, if necessary, as part of this court’s federal habeas corpus jurisdiction.

II. Discussion

A. The Legal Terrain Governing Bail Determinations in Immigration Detention Cases

One of the statutory and constitutional duties conferred upon this court is the responsibility to address federal habeas corpus petitions filed by immigration detainees who challenge their immigration detention as unconstitutionally excessive. Over the past several years, case law in this field has evolved significantly, providing far greater clarity to the courts regarding the benchmarks they should apply when discharging this important responsibility, a duty rooted in our constitution.

Most recently, in Chavez-Alvarez v. Warden York Cnty. Prison, 783 F.3d 469 (3d Cir. 2015), the court of appeals has provided us with an analytical paradigm to apply when assessing these immigration excessive detention claims. As the court explained in outlining the legal terrain in this field:

Before 1996, significant numbers of aliens convicted of serious crimes were taking advantage of their release on bond as an opportunity to flee, avoid removal, and commit more crimes. Demore v. Kim, 538 U.S. 510, 518–19, 123 S.Ct. 1708, 155 L.Ed.2d 724 (2003). Congress fixed this problem by enacting section 1226(c), expanding the range of serious crimes for which the Government was required to detain convicted aliens. Notably, section 1226(c) does not give the Attorney General any authority to release these aliens on bond. Id. at 521, 123 S.Ct. 1708. The Supreme Court left no doubt that the Government's authority under section 1226(c) to detain aliens without an opportunity for bond complies with the Constitution. Id. at 531, 123 S.Ct. 1708. However, as we discuss below, we read Demore as also recognizing that there are limits to this power. Diop, 656 F.3d 221; Leslie v. Attorney Gen. of the United States, 678 F.3d 265 (3d Cir.2012). When the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law in Demore, it also gave us insight into how, from a due process perspective, section 1226(c)'s allowance of detention without bail worked. The court reiterated the fundamental idea that aliens are protected by constitutional due process. Demore, 538 U.S. at 523, 123 S.Ct. 1708 (citing Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 306, 113 S.Ct. 1439, 123 L.Ed.2d 1 (1993)). But, it put the alien's issue in perspective, saying “ ‘[i]n the exercise of its broad power over naturalization and immigration, Congress regularly makes rules that would be unacceptable if applied to citizens.’ ” Id. at 521, 123 S.Ct. 1708 (quoting Mathews v. Diaz, 426 U.S. 67, 79–80, 96 S.Ct. 1883, 48 L.Ed.2d 478 (1976)). The court went on to say that applying “ ‘reasonable presumptions and generic rules' ” to groups of aliens-for purposes of due process-can be consistent with the idea that aliens can be treated differently. Id. at 526, 123 S.Ct. 1708 (quoting Flores, 507 U.S. at 313, 113 S.Ct. 1439); see also Carlson v. Landon, 342 U.S. 524, 72 S.Ct. 525, 96 L.Ed. 547 (1952). The court, in essence, concluded that Congress lawfully required the Attorney General to make presumptions of flight and dangerousness about the alien solely because he belonged to the group of aliens convicted of the types of crimes defined in section 1226(c).

Chavez-Alvarez v. Warden York Cnty. Prison, 783 F.3d 469, 472 73 (3d Cir. 2015).

Thus, the court in Chavez-Alvarez recognized that Demore held that mandatory detention of certain criminal aliens pending removal proceedings does not, by itself, offend due process. However, the Demore Court based this ruling upon its understanding of the short, fixed and finite term of any detention prior to removal which typically should not exceed 6 months. Thus, while Demore addressed the due process issues that arise from the fact that, for certain criminal aliens, detention pending removal is mandatory, it is also clear that courts still have an ...

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