Full Court To Examine Measure Banning Bail For Some Undocumented Immigrants

January 03, 2014

A federal appeals court will hear new arguments about whether Arizona voters can legally ban bail for some people charged with crimes who are not in the United States legally. Under a measure approved by a 3-1 margin in 2006, bail is not available to undocumented immigrants charged with serious felonies, if there is strong evidence of the person’s guilt. The measure was upheld last year on a 2-1 vote of a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel.

Now, the full court wants to look at the issue. Cecelia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union said she hopes to convince the judges the measure is unconstitutional.

“It does away with individualized determinations about people's flight risk, turns the presumption of innocence on its head in essence, and holds people in jail even though they might be found not to pose a flight risk by a court," Wang said.

 Wang said there is no reason to presume someone who has been in the U.S. for years, has a family here and is working, will flee just because they are charged with a minor felony. She said that proves the real object of the measure is to punish people for being in the country illegally. 

Attorney Tim Casey, who is representing Maricopa County, said the measure serves a legitimate purpose in ensuring people charged with felonies remain in the country until trial. Court arguments will be heard in March.