The NYU Law Immigrant Rights Clinic recently won a habeas petition on behalf Patrick Monestime, a longtime lawful permanent resident from Haiti who had been detained for eight months without a bond hearing pending his removal proceedings. Monestime, who has lived in the United States since he was nine years old, is facing deportation to Haiti for two misdemeanor convictions, and had been detained since August 2009. Judge William H. Pauley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted Monestime's petition and ordered the government to hold an individualized bond hearing. After a series of negotiations with the government, Monestime was released on bond on June 2.

The federal court decision, which appears to be the first addressing the government's application of mandatory detention to Haitians pending removal proceedings after the government announced that it would halt deportations to Haiti due to the earthquake earlier this year, holds that the government's interpretation of the law raised several serious constitutional concerns and was contrary to the statute. In particular, the court observed that Monestime faced a likelihood of indefinite detention and has already been held longer than the five-to-six month period deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in prior detention cases. In addition, the court held that Monestime was not picked up by immigration authorities when released from the offenses the government alleged made him removable as per the mandatory detention statute.

The decision builds in part off prior litigation by the Immigrant Rights Clinic in Garcia v. Shanahan, which successfully challenged other aspects of the government's statutory interpretation of the mandatory detention law. The Garcia litigation has involved the work of several NYU Law students and alumni, including Anjali Bhargava '09, Jorge Castillo '10, Sarah Deri-Oshiro '09, Kate Evans '09, Meredith Fortin '10, under the supervision of clinic leaders Alina Das '05, who represented Monestime, and Professor Nancy Morawetz '81. Rachel Goodman '10 and Isaac Wheeler '03 worked on the amicus briefing in the Garcia litigation as well.

Posted June 15, 2010