Press Release

Cooley + ACLU Help Free 27 Teens After Wrongful Arrests

Class action lawsuit assists targets of unsubstantiated gang affiliation charges
January 25, 2018

Palo Alto – January 25, 2018 – Twenty-seven teenagers were recently freed after a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government to continue to detain them without providing prompt hearings. This successful result is part of the ongoing class action lawsuit Saravia v. Sessions, which Cooley and the ACLU filed in August.

“When these teenagers were given a chance to dispute the charges against them, it became crystal clear that the government’s accusations weren’t backed up by evidence,” said Cooley partner Martin Schenker. “These kids have been jailed for months with no opportunity to challenge their wrongful arrests, and their families have been heartsick. We’re so glad to see them back home with their loved ones.”

Saravia was filed against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for using unsubstantiated claims of gang affiliation to illegally detain teenagers in jail-like facilities thousands of miles from their homes. The lead plaintiff represents a broader class of immigrant children and their families.

The suit charges ORR with accepting ICE’s unsubstantiated gang allegations and placing children in severely restrictive conditions, even though the government had previously released the youth to the custody of their parents. Class members were transported to distant detention facilities without notice to their parents or lawyers and were not afforded a chance to challenge the charges against them.

Many Saravia class members live and go to school on Long Island, but were jailed far from home in detention facilities in California, Texas, Washington state and Virginia. They typically came to the US alone after fleeing violence in Central America. Most are now back home with family members in New York while their applications for visas or asylum are pending.

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