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Federal Judge Orders U.S. to Reform Immigration Bond in Ruling on ACLU Lawsuit

(Los Angeles, CA) – A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction ordering U.S. officials to implement substantial reforms in its system for setting bail bonds to ensure that immigrants are not detained merely based on their poverty.

The ruling, issued late Thursday by Judge Jesus G. Bernal of U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, orders the federal government to comply with constitutional requirements similar to those used in criminal cases when it sets bail bonds for immigrants. Specifically, the ruling requires that when setting a bond, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and immigration judges must consider the detainee’s financial ability to pay a bond, limit it to amount needed to ensure that the detainee will return to court, and consider alternatives to bail, such as supervised release.

“This important ruling recognizes that no person, regardless of immigration status, should be locked up merely because he or she is poor, and will help to put an end to the government’s unnecessary detention of immigrants who present no risk to the community,” said Michael Kaufman, the Sullivan & Cromwell Access to Justice staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal).

The ruling comes in response to Hernandez v. Lynch, a lawsuit filed in April by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the national ACLU, and pro bono attorneys from Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP on behalf of detainees in Southern California who languished in immigration jails, in some cases for years, because they could not afford the exorbitant bond amounts routinely set by ICE and immigration judges.

Among the plaintiffs named in the suit is Cesar Matias, 37, a native of Honduras who is seeking asylum. He spent more than four years locked up in a Santa Ana immigration jail because he lacked the money to post a $3,000 bond. Like Matias, dozens, if not hundreds, of immigrants in Southern California remain detained, without hope of release, solely because they are too poor to post bond.

“The Court’s ruling reaffirms that all people in this country—citizens and immigrants alike—are entitled to due process and equal protection of the laws, said Michael Tan, staff attorney of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Those rights are what make America great, and the ACLU is here to fight for them.”

In the ruling, Judge Bernal also denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case and granted Plaintiff’s motion for class certification. The certified class includes noncitizens in the Central District who have had a bond set by an ICE official or an immigration judge, but remain detained—a group that can number more than 100 people on any given day.

“By granting certification of a class, Judge Bernal’s ruling recognizes that global reforms are necessary to safeguard the constitutional rights of thousands of immigrants who, absent reform, will remain locked up and separated from their families solely because they are too poor to pay their bonds,” said Doug Smith, a litigation attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in Los Angeles. “The certification ruling also recognizes that bail bonds for immigration detainees should be determined under fair and consistent standards for all.”

READ THE RULING: http://www.aclusocal.org/cases/hernandez-v-lynch/preliminary-injunction/?

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ACLU: Charlotte Police Must Release All Footage of Keith Lamont Scott Shooting; Disclosed Videos Raise Many Questions

CHARLOTTE – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina joins those calling on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) to publicly release all body and dash camera footage, as well as audio dispatch recordings, of the events surrounding the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old man with a traumatic brain injury, who, according to the Guardian’s database The Counted, was the 194th Black person killed by U.S. police this year.

On Saturday, the department released portions of body and dash camera footage showing the moments immediately before and after police shot and killed Mr. Scott. But the department has not released all the video footage of the moments leading up to and following the encounter, leaving many questions still unanswered.

The ACLU stands in solidarity with Charlotte Uprising and others who are demonstrating in Charlotte, and we join them in demanding reforms in the wake of Mr. Scott's killing.

Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, released the following statement:

“The videos released this weekend raise a host of questions about why police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, and whether, in doing so, the officers involved violated state or federal law, in addition to failing to follow the department’s own rules regarding the use of deadly force, de-escalation, when to wear and activate body cameras, and more.

“In the interest of full transparency, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police must stop releasing information to the public on a piecemeal basis and disclose all remaining body and dash camera footage, as well as audio of dispatch recordings, of the moments before and after Mr. Scott was killed. The public and Mr. Scott’s family deserve to see and hear all available information about whether something was in his hand and why a man who was suspected of no crime, other than the newly disclosed accusation that he possessed a minor amount of marijuana, is now dead.”

On the use of force:

“Although we don’t yet have statistics on the number of people with disabilities killed by U.S. police, Mr. Scott certainly was not the first. The videos we have seen so far of his last moments raise serious questions about why officers were so quick to use deadly force rather than any number of other tactics that could have de-escalated their encounter with a man who lived with a mental disability. In several videos, Mr. Scott’s wife can be heard telling officers that Mr. Scott has a ‘T.B.I.’ (traumatic brain injury) and had just taken his medicine.

“In 2015, the Charlotte City Council unanimously passed a civil liberties resolution that included directives for how officers should interact with members of the public, including those with disabilities, and how to de-escalate potentially violent situations. The available information suggests that the officers who encountered Mr. Scott did not abide by those directives, and calls into question whether the Charlotte Police Department has adequately trained any of its officers to respond effectively to such situations.”

On officer use of body cameras:

“We also have questions about why the officer who killed Mr. Scott was not wearing a body camera, as CMPD’s own policy states that ‘recordings shall occur prior to or in anticipation of an arrest’ and also apply to ‘suspicious vehicles or persons.’

“Missing audio at the beginning of the video from the officer who was wearing a body camera indicates that the officer in question did not turn on his camera when the department’s policy required him to do so. Because officers were engaging a person who they claimed was suspicious, and reportedly even left the scene temporarily to outfit themselves with additional gear, body cameras should have been turned on earlier so there would be full audio and visual accounts of what happened.

“Last year, Chief Putney announced plans to phase out dash cameras, citing their cost and the implementation of officer worn body cameras. The fact that a dash camera – and not a body camera – seems to have captured the clearest vantage of Mr. Scott’s shooting shows that dash cameras remain vitally important and the department must retain them.

“CMPD must release whatever audio and video footage remains of the shooting of Mr. Scott now. The department must not simply run out the clock on the new law that will block the public from seeing body camera footage without a court order. CMPD should do the right thing and release all the footage.”

Background

As of October 1, a new North Carolina law, HB 972, will prevent law enforcement agencies from releasing body camera footage in the public interest without a court order. Under the law, which the ACLU has opposed, people captured on video by body cameras would also be barred from having a copy of the footage unless they successfully obtained a court order.

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ACLU of Oklahoma Calls for Criminal Charges Against Tulsa Police Officers in Murder of Terence Crutcher

OKLAHOMA CITY — In response to the release of two videos depicting the murder of Terence Crutcher (seen here via The Tulsa World website), an unarmed Black Tulsan whose car had broken down, and the launch of DOJ and state investigations, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma released the following statements:

Statement from Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director:

“A Tulsa Police officer murdered Terence Crutcher in cold blood. Each of the officers present were complicit in the unconscionable, reprehensible, and disgusting killing of this unarmed, defenseless man, by allowing him to bleed to death on the street rather than attempting any immediate medical aid or attention. These Tulsa Police Department officers have made it abundantly clear how little regard they have for Tulsa’s communities of color. By shooting a defenseless Black man and then shirking their legal and moral obligation to render aid as he lay dying in the street, these TPD officers clearly could not care less about whether the Black citizens they are sworn to protect live or die.

“We call today on law enforcement officers and law enforcement agencies around the state and around the nation to condemn the murderous actions of the Tulsa Police Department. In a world where our government continues to prove how little regard it has for the lives and the dignity of Black Americans, to remain silent is to be complicit. It is well past time for the good men and women who serve their communities faithfully to speak out, and condemn this murder of a defenseless Black man.”

Statement from Brady Henderson, ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director:

“These videos prove that the Tulsa Police Department’s initial claim that Terence Crutcher was refusing to put his hands in the air was a boldfaced lie, as were TPD’s statements about his transport and death at a local hospital. The videos are clear—Terence had his hands in the air, and posed no threat to those present—right up until one of the officers gunned him down, and then her four companions watched him bleed to death in the street, making no attempt to render aid.

“As Terence’s family and community plead for peaceful protests and level heads, today’s promise of an independent federal investigation perhaps will bring some hope for peaceful resolution to a community that has been brutally betrayed by the people sworn to protect it. If this killing is investigated competently and fairly, I believe we will see murder or manslaughter charges against the shooter, and hopefully accessory charges against the officers who treated Terence Crutcher like a piece of meat rather than a human being. Their actions were immoral, reprehensible, and outright criminal. Putting Terence’s killer and her companions behind bars won’t bring Terrence back, but it is a necessary part of repairing the broken bond between police and communities of color, a rift that continues to claim lives.”

For information about the ACLU of Oklahoma, go to:

http://acluok.org/

This statement is available here:

http://acluok.org/2016/09/aclu-of-oklahoma-calls-for-criminal-charges-against-tpd-officers-in-murder-of-terence-crutcher/

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