ICE Settlement Secures Right to Consideration of Release for All People Despite Manipulated Algorithm

By Tommy Nguyen

NEW YORK, NY – Finalized Friday and approved by the Southern District of New York, the 2020 class-action lawsuit Valesaca v. Decker has reached a settlement that secures the right to a fair release assessment for all the people arrested and indefinitely incarcerated by ICE due to the defective algorithm.

Valesaca v. Decker is the class-action lawsuit filed by The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and Bronx Defenders against the ICE field office in New York, challenging its practice of incarcerating virtually thousands of people over the last three years for alleged immigration offenses.

It was found, according to the pleadings, that the Risk Classification Assessment Tool, a tool that ICE has deployed since 2013 to decide whether a person should be released, has been manipulated so that it loses the ability to recommend anyone’s release.

The number of people who had been granted release by the government before June 2017 plummeted from 47 percent to four percent the following two years.

The ruling issued by a federal judge in 2020 ordered that ICE must rescind their de facto “No-Release Policy” and that the class members who are in ICE detention must be promptly evaluated for release.

During the COVID pandemic, this issue posed a serious threat to the health of the people detained within the ICE facilities whose population didn’t seem to decrease, the lawsuit asserted.

“ICE’s No-Release Policy has directly contributed to the crowded conditions that put thousands in danger of the coronavirus in ICE facilities,” Bobby Hodgson, staff attorney at the NYCLU.

ICE’s policy was perceived to not only be illegal but also demonstrate their inability to properly handle the growing pandemic within their facilities, underscoring the injustice of ICE being allowed to detain just anyone they pleased, the suit noted.

Immigration advocates argued besides the inhumane conditions of incarceration, the policy has separated people from their loved ones and forced them to fight their cases by themselves behind bars, denying their “fair chance at release.”

“Beyond the devastating physical and mental health outcomes,” said Amy Belsher, senior staff attorney at the NYCLU, adding, “those detained are separated from their families and face immense difficulties defending their right to remain in the United States from behind bars.”

Under the new settlement, ICE is required to consider release in every case, taking into account special vulnerabilities such as disabilities, as well as personal financial circumstances when setting bond amounts.

ICE officers must undergo training per the terms of the settlement agreement. They are now required to “complete documentation reflecting their assessment of each individual”, along with advising them of their rights.

Counsel in the case includes Amy Belsher, Bobby Hodgson, Christopher Dunn, Guadalupe Victoria Aguirre, Terry Ding, Claire Molholm, and Lourdes Chavez of the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Niji Jain, Jenn Rolnick Borchetta, and Kshithij Shrinath of The Bronx Defenders.

About The Author

Tommy is a sophomore majoring in Economics and minoring in Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He is an international student from Vietnam and fueled with the frustration agaisnt flawed justice system that lets down the minority. He is aspired to become a criminal justice attorney and will hopefully attend law school in 2025.

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