A federal judge has ordered the government to hold a bond hearing for a man whom U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement detained at the privately-run Aurora facility for more than 32 months while his appeal was pending.
U.S. District Court Judge Christine M. Arguello directed that Billa Singh be brought before an immigration judge, where the government must demonstrate he is a flight risk or a danger to the community to justify his continued detention.
"Mr. Singh’s detention to date has lasted approximately four years, including approximately 32 months since his most recent custody redetermination hearing in October 2018," she wrote in a June 4 order. "Respondents cite no authority that it is constitutionally permissible to detain someone for such a lengthy duration without due process, and district courts have found much shorter periods of detention to be unreasonable."
The U.S. Attorney's Office subsequently informed the court on Thursday that the scheduled bond hearing had been postponed at Singh's request because his family hired an attorney the day prior to the hearing.
The federal government contended that Singh was a native of India and a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 2008. He had a criminal record, and it was after his 2015 assault conviction and release from prison two years later that ICE took custody of him. ICE transferred him to the Aurora facility run by the GEO Group in June 2018 while he appealed his deportation, legally known as removal.
The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit put a hold on Singh's deportation in December 2020 while it considered the case.
"Mr. Singh’s detention will have been futile if he is released, loses in the Ninth Circuit, and then fails to appear for his removal," the government argued in defense of his continued confinement after Singh filed a court petition in March 2021. "The government has a strong interest in detention for this limited time for the Ninth Circuit to issue its decision so that if a final order of removal is entered, Mr. Singh can be successfully removed."
Arguello determined that because Singh had a conviction for an aggravated felony, the law did not entitle him to a bond hearing. However, the question was whether Singh's detention length had become so unreasonable that it infringed on the constitutional right to due process.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 affirmed that the government could detain someone during removal proceedings, statistics at the time showed that 85% of detention cases like Singh's were completed in an average time of 47 days, with the remainder taking approximately four months with appeals. According to the California-based nonprofit Freedom for Immigrants, 70% of people in immigration detention are held for one month or less, although the average duration increased during the Trump administration.
Singh's detention fell far outside those parameters. The judge found "nothing in the record before the Court to indicate Mr. Singh’s detention will not last for several more months or even longer," and that following due process would require a bond hearing.
The case is Singh v. Garland.