A Sidley pro bono team, working together with the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), recently achieved a settlement in a case challenging the blanket denial of parole to asylum seekers detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, New York. The settlement secures protections won earlier in the case, which was originally brought in 2017, and requires that asylum seekers be: notified of the availability of parole in a language they understand; given a parole interview with an immigration officer; provided an explanation for their parole decision; and informed they can seek reconsideration if parole is initially denied.
“Sidley proudly supports the fair and just treatment of asylum seekers and believes this important class settlement helps ensure those detained in federal immigration custody have a full and fair opportunity to obtain parole while awaiting the outcomes of their immigration proceedings,” said Michael D. Mann, a partner in Sidley’s White Collar: Government Litigation and Investigations practice and member of the firm’s pro bono team. “Our lawyers’ tireless work on this important case reflects our long-standing tradition of, and commitment to, pro bono service, and, we hope, has contributed to creating a more humane immigration system in the United States.”
Parole is often the only way for asylum seekers who present themselves at a U.S. border or airport to get out of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention, because the government takes the position that they are not eligible to have a bond set by an immigration judge. In rulings on this case, the court has recognized the severe physical and psychological harms of prolonged detention.
“I fled Cuba where I was a political prisoner and came to America seeking freedom,” said class representative Johan Barrios Ramos. “I was shocked when I got here and asked for asylum but was instead put in jail. I am so happy that this settlement will ensure that there are limits on ICE’s authority to detain people like me and other asylum seekers in the future.”
Sidley’s Political Asylum and Immigrants’ Rights Project provides pro bono legal services to asylum-seeking immigrants and refugees fleeing persecution abroad, as well as addressing many other immigration matters. In 2020, the firm dedicated more than 16,000 hours toward helping our immigrant clients achieve justice.
In addition to counsel from NYCLU and IRAP, the Sidley team comprised Heidi Levine, Michael Mann, Jim Arden, Amanda Blau, Sarah Goodfield, Alyssa Hasbrouck, Andrew Kunsak, Vincent Margiotta, Allen Thigpen, and former associate Teri Peeples, as well as paralegal Ron Eugenio, project assistant Jenna Ellis, and former project assistant Kadijah Sutton.