Lawyers Sue Federal Authorities over Shackling Detained Immigrants

Civil rights attorneys in San Francisco have sued federal authorities demanding an end to the alleged practice of shackling all adult detainees–including the elderly and disabled–during immigration court proceedings. The class-action lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, contends that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security are violating the constitutional rights of detainees by failing to make case-by-case determinations of the need for shackling. According to ACLU attorney Julia Harumi Mass, “physical restraints are meant for those who pose significant risk to themselves or others.

There’s a big difference between Hannibal Lecter and your neighbor’s nanny.” The use of shackles can cause tremendous pain and even damage to a person, especially if that person has a delicate condition. Among the plaintiffs in question is a 35-year-old Brazilian asylum applicant who has been a domestic violence survivor that has plastic and steel plates in her knees, legs, feet, back, and head due to previous injuries. The lawsuit contends that despite having no history of violence or of being disruptive in court or in custody she has had to wear ankle and wrist restraints with a belly chain during proceedings, aggravating her medical condition and stirring trauma of past abuse. Even though Plaintiffs attorneys have focused the lawsuit on San Francisco, they said that evidence suggested similar across-the-board shackling occurs in other immigration jurisdictions, including Boston, New York , Baltimore and Chicago. The suit seeks case-by-case review for detainees in San Francisco, but plaintiffs said they hope to influence the practice nationwide. What is being proposed will surely dignify the detention process while making it less traumatic and painful for detainees. As such, we hope this change is effected and implemented nationwide.

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