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Victory: October 2015: Victory in Pro Bono Habeas Petition

October 2015

The firm recently obtained a writ of habeas corpus for our pro bono client, Adalgisa Rivas, who had been imprisoned by DHS for months and could have remained in prison for years had she not been granted relief. Ms. Rivas immigrated to the United States in her teens and has lived in the country legally for over 30 years. She has three children and two grandchildren who are United States citizens. In early 2015, Ms. Rivas applied for citizenship herself, but was instead imprisoned by ICE and placed in line for lengthy deportation proceedings. Her detention was premised on a federal statute that calls for mandatory detention of certain ex-criminal aliens “when . . . released” from custody. While Ms. Rivas had previously been convicted of a nonviolent felony, the incident took place over 15 years prior, and she had never been imprisoned in her life. If given an opportunity to be heard, her record would have reflected virtually no risk of flight nor threat of harm to her community. Nonetheless, the government refused Ms. Rivas the opportunity for an individualized bond hearing because its position was that her detention was mandatory as a matter of law rather than discretionary.

The firm filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to request that the Court compel the government to grant Ms. Rivas the opportunity for release on bond. With the Southern District deeply fractured on how to interpret the mandatory detention statute, Quinn Emanuel prepared briefing for an uphill battle on multiple grounds ranging from plain language statutory interpretation to substantive due process. At the same time, the firm negotiated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and requested that it consider Ms. Rivas’ particular circumstances in view of the constantly evolving case law in the District. Before oral argument was required, the firm convinced the U.S. Attorney’s Office to not contest its petition and to grant Ms. Rivas an expedited bond hearing— the ideal conclusion given the time-sensitive nature of the relief our client required. As a result of the firm’s efforts and the invaluable support of the Legal Aid Society, Ms. Rivas had her bond hearing and has been released from custody while she fights the deportation proceedings