The ACLU of Colorado and Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) worked together to stop the unjustified detention of persons entering a downtown federal building. The Rogers Federal Building houses a number of federal agencies, including the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the court that hears pending immigration cases. Refugees, people seeking asylum, people seeking to adjust their immigration status, and others with open immigration cases routinely attend hearings at the building, along with family members, witnesses and attorneys.
In the winter of 2007, the Federal Protective Services (“FPS”), the agency responsible for security at the federal building, began stopping and detaining everyone entering the building who did not have a photo I.D., or whose photo I.D. didn’t meet FPS’s unknown, unpublished standards.
After stopping persons attempting to attend their immigration hearing, FPS detained them while searching a computer database to look for any outstanding warrants. The ACLU and AILA received complaints that the detentions often prevented people from getting to their court hearing on time.
This had disastrous consequences for at least one man, who was still being detained by FPS (for a database check that cleared him) while the immigration judge ordered him deported, thus preventing him from ever getting his day in court.
Many people attending immigration hearings, and refugees and asylees in particular, often do not have photo identification or state-issued photo identification, even though they may have lawful immigration status or be granted lawful immigration status at the end of their immigration proceedings.
In a letter to FPS officials, the ACLU of Colorado and AILA stated that, “many perfectly law-abiding foreign-born citizens, persons with legal status, and asylum applicants and others seeking legal status through pending immigration cases may be unable to obtain the required photo identification either as a legal or practical matter. There are no legitimate grounds for suspecting that a lack of photo identification has any relation to criminal activity.”
The ACLU and AILA argued that detaining persons who entered the building without the “appropriate” photo identification for the purpose of running warrant checks violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures, as well as the due process rights of those with pending immigration cases. Shortly after receiving the letter, FPS announced that it was discontinuing the practice.
Mark Silverstein , ACLU of Colorado Legal Director
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