By Gregory B. Hladky
2:52 PM EDT, October 24, 2013
A Connecticut man named Clayton Richard Gordon is being illegal held by U.S. immigration authorities who have put him in jail without the chance to make bond, according to a federal judge.
Gordon is a legal immigrant to the U.S. who came here from Jamaica when he was six. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents picked him up in June because he had an old drug conviction on his record. Gordon has been held in "mandatory detention" since then, has been ordered to leave the country, and has been denied the opportunity to post bond while his case is being appealed.
The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal action on behalf of Gordon and other people picked up and held under what the ACLU contends is an illegal mandatory detention policy.
Gordon has now been held in prison far longer on the immigration issue than he was for that drug charge. In 2008, he spent one day in jail and then completed three years probation.
U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor has now ruled in favor of Gordon, and ordered that he at least be given the right to a bond hearing.
Here's the full news release from the Massachusetts ACLU:
BOSTON -- United States District Judge Michael A. Ponsor has ruled that ACLU of Massachusetts client Clayton Richard Gordon has been unlawfully subjected to "mandatory" immigration detention, and must be given the opportunity to seek release on bond.
The ruling comes as part of a class action lawsuit filed on August 8, 2013, by the ACLU of Massachusetts, the national ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, the Political Asylum / Immigration Representation Project, and Lutheran Social Services. The lawsuit challenges the government's interpretation of the mandatory immigration detention provision, 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c). In this case, as well as a similar one filed in Washington state, the ACLU argues that the government improperly applies mandatory, no-bond detention to noncitizens who are detained from their communities months or years after their release from criminal custody for certain statutory predicate offenses.
"Mr. Gordon is a perfect example of the drastic consequences of the government's interpretation of the mandatory immigration detention provision. The government subjects people to detention without the possibility of bond even when they have for years been in the community and leading constructive lives that actually make them strong candidates for release," said Adriana Lafaille, an Equal Justice Works legal fellow at the ACLU of Massachusetts, whose fellowship is sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP.
Mr. Gordon is a 30-year lawful permanent resident and former United States service-member who came to the United States when he was six years old. He has been held in "mandatory" immigration detention since June of this year, based on a 2008 drug offense for which he served less than a day in jail. After 2008, Mr. Gordon and his fiancée had a son and bought a house in Bloomfield, Conn. Mr. Gordon ran his own contracting business, and earlier this year he began a volunteer project to renovate an existing building into a halfway house for single mothers coming out of incarceration. But, due to Mr. Gordon's detention, that project has been put on hold.
Immigration officials identified Mr. Gordon as removable and then detained him on the morning of June 20, 2013, just after he left for work. Immigration authorities then denied Mr. Gordon the opportunity to be considered for release on bond, finding that he was subject to "mandatory" immigration detention.
Judge Ponsor's ruling means that Mr. Gordon will have the opportunity to have an immigration judge consider whether there is good reason to detain him during his immigration proceedings. If released, Mr. Gordon will be able to return home to his fiancée and three-year-old son while he continues fighting his immigration case.
"The government's interpretation causes months or years of needless and harmful family separation, locks up longtime lawful permanent residents of the United States without any opportunity to seek release, and results in the unnecessary expenditure of millions of tax dollars," said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project in New York.
Briefing on class certification has been stayed while Judge Ponsor considered the merits of Mr. Gordon's legal arguments. The ACLU of Massachusetts will now continue to seek relief for other similarly situated detainees.
For a copy of Judge Ponsor's order, go to:
For more information about this case and the other related class-action lawsuit, go to: