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The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Law School’s Center for New Americans, and Dorsey & Whitney filed a class action lawsuit challenging the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) practice of continuing to detain immigrants for months, even after an immigration judge has ruled they cannot be deported to their home countries. The petition argues this practice is unconstitutional.

Rushinga Muzaliwa is a petitioner in the case who is currently in ICE custody. He has filed a habeas corpus action and seeks to represent the larger group of immigrants like him who would face persecution or torture if deported, but whom ICE nonetheless continues to detain at county jails across Minnesota. The petition seeks to represent any future ICE detainees facing similar violations of their constitutional rights.

“The arbitrary detention of our clients violates their fundamental constitutional right to liberty,” said Becky Cassler, a third-year law student the University of Minnesota Law School. “The ICE office in Minnesota has been unlawfully detaining similarly situated people for years.”

ICE detains and seeks to deport many noncitizens each year. Those who fear persecution if deported to their home country can ask an immigration judge to block deportation by applying for Withholding of Removal or protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). An immigration judge can only grant these forms of relief where the immigrant proves he or she most likely will be persecuted or tortured at home. If the petitioner is granted deportation protection, ICE’s own written policies say he or she should be released immediately, except in rare instances where deportation is possible to a third country, such as where the immigrant has dual citizenship in two foreign countries. However, the ICE office in Minnesota continues to jail these immigrants for months after an immigration judge blocks their deportation, and routinely does so when there is no expectation of deportation to any country. The lawsuit explains the typical period of unjustified detention is 90 days.

“ICE has continued this practice for too long because the immigrants they detain are mostly indigent,” said Kirsten Schubert, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney. “As individuals they simply don’t have the resources to sue ICE in a federal court, so we’re coming together as volunteers to vindicate their rights as a group.”

The class action habeas argues that continuing to hold immigrants after an immigration judge grants Withholding of Removal or CAT protection violates the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court precedent, and decisions from this District Court, as well as national ICE policy.

“The government is spending millions of dollars locking up people whose detentions serve no purpose,” said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU-MN. “This practice is unnecessary and violates the constitutional rights of the immigrants being held.”

The ACLU-MN, the Center for New Americans, and Dorsey are asking that all immigrants currently in this situation be immediately released and that in the future no immigrant be held for an additional 90 days when there is no likelihood that the immigrant can be deported.

About University of Minnesota Law School’s Center for New Americans
The University of Minnesota Law School’s Center for New Americans is the first clinical program of its kind, designed in formal partnership with several of Minnesota’s preeminent law firms—Faegre Baker Daniels, Robins Kaplan, and Dorsey & Whitney—and three leading nonprofit immigration legal service providers—The Advocates for Human Rights, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. Founded with generous support from the Robina Foundation, the Center is home to three integrated immigration clinics and an outreach program that offers law students unparalleled educational opportunities in public service to noncitizens.

About American Civil Liberties Union
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the civil liberties of all Minnesotans.

About Dorsey & Whitney
Clients have relied on Dorsey since 1912 as a valued business partner. With locations across the United States and in Canada, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, Dorsey provides an integrated, proactive approach to its clients’ legal and business needs. Dorsey represents a number of the world’s most successful companies from a wide range of industries, including leaders in the banking, energy, food and agribusiness, health care, mining and natural resources, and public-private project development sectors, as well as major non-profit and government entities.