Federal Judge Orders Major Changes to Bond Hearings in Boston Immigration Court: Burden of Proof Now on the Government

According to reporting from WBUR, a federal judge has determined that the procedural rules that put the burden of proof on undocumented immigrants in a bond hearing are unconstitutional. In an important win for immigrant rights, the decision from Judge Patti Saris will change the way bond hearings are handled in our region. Here, our Boston immigration lawyer explains this decision and its implications for undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts. 

Case Analysis: Bond Hearings in Boston Immigration Courts

An Undocumented Immigrant Was Arrested By ICE

One of the class representatives, in this case, is a Brazilian national named Gilberto Pereira Brito. In March of 2019, he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at his home in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Approximately one month later, Mr. Pereira Brito had a bond hearing in a Boston immigration court. A bond hearing is a legal proceeding in which a defendant appears in front of a court and requests their release from custody while their case is still pending. 

Despite Evidence, He Could Not Meet Burden of Proof to Get Bond

At the bond hearing, Mr. Pereira Brito was required to prove that he was neither a danger to the public or a flight risk. In an effort to do so, Mr. Pereira Brito made several points. First, he noted that he lives with his three children, all of whom are American citizens. Next, he noted that his wife is disabled and that he is the exclusive financial provider for his family. Finally, he pointed to the fact that he had already voluntarily disclosed where he was living to the government in an effort to get permanent status through his spouse. 

However, despite all of this evidence, the immigration judge decided against offering him bond. According to the judge, Mr. Pereira Brito failed to meet the burden of proof—meaning he did not present sufficient evidence showing that he is not a danger or a flight risk. This case presented an illustrative example of how difficult it is for an undocumented immigrant to prove that they are not a flight risk. 

Decision: Burden of Proof Must Be On the Government

After reviewing the case, Judge Patti Saris determined that Mr. Pereira Brito and the other similarly situated plaintiffs had a valid claim. The government’s standards violated their constitutional rights. As of December 13th, 2019, the burden of proof in these types of bond hearings will now be on the federal government. It is the government that needs to prove that an undocumented immigrant is a danger or a flight risk—otherwise, they should be granted bond. This is an important win for immigrant rights in Massachusetts.  

Call Our Boston Immigration Attorney for Immediate Assistance

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our Massachusetts immigration law attorneys are experienced, compassionate advocates for clients. If you need legal guidance, we are here to help. You deserve personalized, attentive representation from a top-rated attorney. Call us today for a completely confidential consultation. With an office in Boston, we serve clients throughout the region, including Waltham, Brookline, Framingham, Newton, and Cambridge. Call (617) 722-0005.


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