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The New York Civil Liberties Union has joined forces with The Bronx Defenders and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law to file a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that immigrant New Yorkers, including those here legally, held in immigration detention are waiting months on average before they can see a judge.

According to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of an immigrant who has been locked up in Orange County, the median wait time for immigration detainees to see a judge at the immigration court in Lower Manhattan has ballooned from 11 days in 2014 to 80 days this year.

The delays have been exacerbated by stepped-up immigration enforcement, the plaintiff’s counsel alleges, which is creating a bottleneck in the courts.

“People arrested by ICE and detained in criminal jails in New York and New Jersey are detained for months, simply waiting for a first hearing before a judge who can determine whether or not they should even be locked up,” said Jessica Kulig, a Cardozo Law student, for the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic in a news release.

Spokespersons for U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement and and the Executive Office for Immigration Review declined to comment on the suit, citing pending litigation.

The plaintiff alleges that ICE arrests more than 1,000 people in the New York City area annually.

The suit states that, according to government data, 72 percent of detainees are languishing in jail for more than two months before they are brought before an immigration judge; 40 percent of detainees are eventually released on bond.

They also allege that the immigration dragnet has swept up legal residents—about 30 percent of detainees are green card holders, the suit states.

The suit is the second that the NYCLU filed against federal immigration authorities this month: it has also filed a proposed class action suit alleging that a required background check for immigrants is causing their children to be locked up in government custody for weeks and sometimes months.


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