Immigration Clinic Wins Argument for Release of Detainee

Ross Militello with client's mother at the bond hearing in immigration court.

Miami Law Immigration Clinic students Ian Shaw, Lindsay Adkin, and Ross Militello petitioned for and won the release of a Haitian woman who had been held in immigration detention for over a year. In granting the students’ petition, U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga ordered the client eligible for a bond hearing. The bond hearing was held in immigration court and the judge ordered the client released.

“The case was especially challenging because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has not yet ruled on the legal challenge we raised,” said third-year law student Shaw, who worked on the case over the summer.

Under immigration law, certain immigrants are held without bond while their cases are pending. The Immigration Clinic students challenged this mandatory detention provision, arguing that prolonged detention without bond violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of due process.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has filed an appeal to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Second-year student Adkin and third-year Militello wrote the response to the federal government’s opposition to the petition. “When the petition was granted, I was excited to see that our constitutional argument had resonated with the judge but quickly realized that we still had another hurdle,” said Adkin. “Our client was not released from detention until a successful bond hearing. The real victory only came when our client was released in time to be with her family for the holidays.”

“I am thrilled for the client and proud to have had the opportunity to work on stopping indefinite pre-removal order detention,” said Militello, who represented the client in immigration court for the bond hearing in late December.

“To our knowledge, this is the first case in Florida in which a district court judge has ruled that the detention statute must be read in line with the U.S. Constitution to limit detention to a reasonable period of time,” said Rebecca Sharpless, Director of the Immigration Clinic. “I’m impressed with how effectively our students were able brief the issues in this case. I look forward to working with students to defend the district court’s opinion on appeal.”

The Immigration Clinic is part of Miami Law’s Clinical Program in which second and third year students represent clients and work on advocacy projects. Applications are now being accepted for enrollment in a clinic over the summer or next year (fall and spring). The online application is available on the Clinical Program’s website.