Press Release

Cooley Helps Secure Appellate Court Victory for Wrongfully Arrested Teens

Ninth Circuit says US must justify detention
October 2, 2018

Palo Alto – October 2, 2018 – The Ninth Circuit affirmed a ruling that freed immigrant teenagers who were arrested by the US government and separated from their families based on unsubstantiated gang affiliation charges. This successful result is part of the class action lawsuit Saravia v. Sessions, filed by Cooley, the American Civil Liberties Union and Holly S. Cooper, co-director of the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic, on behalf of the teenagers.

In an opinion on Monday, the court upheld a preliminary injunction requiring the government to give the teenagers notice of the reasons for their arrests, access to the evidence being offered against them and a prompt hearing in front of a judge, in which the government would have the burden to justify their detention.

“We’re thrilled by today’s decision, which reaffirms that these teenagers are entitled to due process and the right to defend themselves against meritless accusations,” said Cooley partner Martin Schenker.

The class action lawsuit was filed in August 2017 against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). 

Many of the teenagers came to the US alone after fleeing violence in Central America. They were released by ORR to relatives while their immigration proceedings were pending, but were rearrested by ICE based on unsubstantiated gang affiliation claims, turned over to ORR and held by ORR in jail-like detention facilities for months without a hearing, according to the lawsuit.

Following the November preliminary injunction, hearings were held for all teenagers who are members of the nationwide class and, in nearly every case, the teenagers were released from custody because the government could not provide satisfactory evidence of gang affiliation. 

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