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Gonzalez-Espinoza v. York County Prison

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 7, 2017

YORK COUNTY PRISON, et al., Respondents.

          MANNION, D.J.


          KAROLINE MEHALCHICK United States Magistrate Judge

         On April 12, 2017, the Court received and filed the instant counseled petition for a writ of habeas corpus submitted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on behalf of Petitioner Miguel Gonzalez-Espinoza, a native of Mexico. (Doc. 1). At the time of filing his petition, Gonzalez-Espinoza was being detained in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) at York County Prison, located in York County, Pennsylvania. For the reasons stated herein, it is recommended that the petition be granted insofar as Gonzalez-Espinoza seeks an individualized bond hearing before an immigration judge.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         Gonzalez-Espinoza, a native of Mexico, first entered the United States in 1985, when he was three years old. He married his wife, a United States citizen, on August 24, 2007, and became a lawful permanent resident of the United States on August 1, 2011. (Doc. 4-1 at 3, 6). On March 24, 2016, Gonzalez-Espinoza was convicted of possession of a control substance in the Court of Common Plea of Berks County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and sentenced to sixty days of imprisonment and six months of probation. (Doc. 1 at ¶13; Doc. 4-1 at 3, 6). On October 21, 2016, immigration officials issued a Notice to Appear charging Gonzalez-Espinoza as removable from the United States pursuant to Section 237(a)(2)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). (Doc. 4-1 at 3, 6). Gonzalez-Espinoza was taken into custody by immigration officials the same day. (Doc. 1; Doc. 4-1 at 6, 10). On November 3, 2016, the immigration judge ordered “no action” concerning Gonzalez-Espinosa's request for change in custody status under 8 C.F.R. § 236.1(c). (Doc. 4-1 at 12).

         On February 28, 2017, an immigration judge denied Gonzalez-Espinoza's applications for asylum and withholding of removal, and granted his application for voluntary departure upon posting of bond until March 30, 2017. (Doc. 4-1 at 13). Gonzalez-Espinoza appealed the immigration judge's decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”). (Doc. 4-1 at 15). On April 3, 2017, Gonzalez-Espinoza filed a motion for a bond hearing with the immigration court in York, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 4-1 at 23). On April 5, 2017, the immigration judge denied Gonzalez-Espinoza's request for change in custody status pursuant to § 236(c). (Doc. 4-1 at 28).

         In the instant habeas petition, Gonzalez-Espinoza challenges the constitutionality of his prolonged detention without a bond hearing. (Doc. 1). Pre-removal detention is authorized under 8 U.S.C. § 1226. Section 1226(c)(1) requires that “[t]he Attorney General shall take into custody any alien who--(B) is deportable by reason of having committed any offense covered in section … 1227(a)(2)…(B) … of this title . . . .” (emphasis added).

         The parties agree that Gonzalez-Espinoza is subject to detention pursuant to § 1226(c). (Doc. 1; Doc. 4). Given the length of Gonzalez-Espinoza's detention without a discretionary bond hearing (nearly eight months), and given Respondent's willingness to coordinate the scheduling of a bond hearing before an immigration judge as expeditiously as possible, the Court finds that Gonzalez-Espinoza should be afforded an individualized bond hearing before an immigration judge.

         Recent decisions rendered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have defined the contours of the constitutional protection against excessive prolonged detention pending removal proceedings. See Chavez-Alvarez v. Warden York Ctny. Prison, 783 F.3d 469, 475 (3d Cir. 2015); Diop v. ICE/Homeland Sec., 656 F.3d 221, 233 (3d Cir. 2011). In Chavez-Alvarez, the Third Circuit examined the history of § 1226(c) and noted that mandatory detention does not ipso facto violate due process:

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, (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. . . .
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. However, as we discuss below, we read Demore as also recognizing that there are limits to this power. Diop, 656 F.3d at 221.

         The Third Circuit recognizes that one limit to the mandatory detention power under § 1226(c) is that “the statute authorizes only mandatory detention that is reasonable in length.” Diop, 656 F.3d at 235. Furthermore, “it is possible that a detention may be unreasonable even though the Government has handled the removal case in a reasonable way.” Chavez-Alvarez, 783 F.3d at 475. Specifically, the Third Circuit in Chavez-Alvarezheld that in cases where a petitioner brings a good-faith challenge to his or her removal from the United States:

[B]eginning sometime after the six-month timeframe considered by Demore, and certainly by the time [a petitioner] had been detained for one year, the burdens to [the petitioner]'s liberties outweigh[ ] any justification for using presumptions to detain him without bond to further the goals of the statute. We conclude that the underlying goals of the statute would not have been, and will not now be undermined by requiring the ...

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