Adriana Lafaille

  • Hosted by American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Service location Boston, Massachusetts
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2012
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Adriana worked to protect the rights of noncitizens in detention. In particular, she challenged the government’s use of “mandatory” detention, by which certain noncitizens are held during their immigration proceedings without any individualized determination that such detention is justified.

“In our society liberty is the norm, and detention…without trial is the carefully limited exception.” In so writing, our Supreme Court was not expressing an ideal, but a principle of constitutional law, that civil detention must be carefully limited to legitimate purposes and accompanied by sufficient procedural protections. Today, more than 200,000 immigrants are detained pending action on their immigration cases, many without so much as the opportunity to have a neutral decision-maker consider whether their detention is warranted.
Under the government’s view, mandatory detention applies to any noncitizen in removal proceedings who has committed particular crimes—often minor—regardless of whether the crime occurred many years in the past and the noncitizen has since reestablished himself as a productive member of society, and regardless of how long removal proceedings last. Mandatory detention affects even those who are long-term lawful permanent residents with a good chance ultimately to prevail in their challenges to removal.

By preventing the release of noncitizens who pose no flight risk or danger, the government’s overbroad interpretation of the mandatory detention provision separates families and hinders many noncitizens’ ability to obtain legal counsel and prevail in their immigration case.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Adriana:

  • Filed, briefed, and argued Gordon v. Johnson, a successful class action challenge to the government’s overbroad interpretation of the mandatory detention provision. The plaintiffs’ victory in this case rendered dozens of noncitizens immediately eligible for bond hearings, and resulted in the release of four plaintiffs and many more class members
  • Filed a successful individual habeas petition on behalf of a noncitizen who was unlawfully subjected to mandatory immigration detention
  • Filed a successful amicus brief on behalf of a noncitizen found to be unlawfully subjected to mandatory immigration detention
  • Worked on other challenges to the government’s detention and enforcement practices

Next Steps

Adriana has continued her work at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts to use litigation and advocacy to protect the rights of immigrants in the United States.

Media

Asylum-Seekers Argue To Stay In Mass.; Trump Administration Wants Them To Wait In Mexico03:45 Play

When we deny immigrant youth the stability and opportunity that they need to succeed, we are depriving not only them but also ourselves of all that they have to offer.

Adriana Lafaille /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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