A federal judge ruled earlier this month that Mark Reid, a New Haven Army Reserve veteran held in an immigration jail for more than a year, be freed on bond while he fights deportation to his native Jamaica.
Reid will be released from a Massachusetts jail if he raises the $25,000 bond and meets certain conditions, according to the ruling by Judge Philip Verrillo of the U.S. Immigration Court in Hartford.
Reid, who served in the Reserve for six years, faces deportation based on four drug convictions for which he has served prison terms. Reid is among a growing number of noncitizen veterans who are being deported for crimes for which they served time years earlier, according to veterans’ advocates. Legal noncitizens have served in the U.S. military throughout history.
“I’m so glad to have gotten a bond hearing,” said Reid, in a statement released by the Yale Law School clinic, which is representing him. “But,” he added,” it’s wrong that ICE continues to deny this opportunity to others who can’t afford a good lawyer.”
His lawyers from the Yale Law School Worker and Immigration Rights Advocacy Clinic contend that Reid, 49, has already been punished for his crimes, and should not be deported. Reid learned that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were deporting him while he was serving a prison sentence for a drug conviction in a Brooklyn, CT jail. In November 2012, he was moved to an immigration detention jail in Massachusetts.
Reid is indigent and doesn’t have the $25,000 for his bond, according to Mary Yanik, a Yale Law school student working on his case. She said his family as well as the Rev. Joshua Pawelek, a Unitarian minister in Manchester, and the Yale law clinic, are working to raise the money.
If the money is raised, Reid would be released to the Continuum of Care residential program in New Haven and would be subject to conditions including: not committing a crime or associating with criminals; undergoing a mental health and addiction evaluation and any recommended course of treatment; electronic monitoring via an ankle bracelet; meetings with an immigration officer by phone and in person; remaining in Connecticut, except with state permission.
Reid, in an interview from jail last fall with C-HIT, said that he moved to the U.S. as a teenager without a criminal record. He said that he wasn’t “making excuses for bad choices” he made, but pointed out that his criminal offenses were all nonviolent.
He said deportation would be “overkill,” adding “the punishment is worse than the crime.” He said he hasn’t been to Jamaica in more than 30 years and has no family or friends there. “I wouldn’t have a life,” he said.
In a related case, Judge Michael Ponsor ruled Monday to certify a class of all immigration detainees held six months or longer in Massachusetts. This ruling allows these detainees to challenge their no-bond detentions. The ruling is a result of a class action lawsuit filed by Yale lawyers on behalf of Reid and other long-time detainees.
Conchita Cruz, a Yale law student working on Reid’s case, said Reid learned when he was in immigration detention that there were others like him who were being held for long periods of time without bond hearings and without money to pay lawyers. That prompted the Yale law clinic to initiate the class action suit, she said. Yale is representing Reid pro bono.
A statement released by Yale Law School noted that “federal courts across the country have rejected ICE arguments that it may detain certain immigrants indefinitely. A series of court orders have required the agency to demonstrate that the people it detains are dangerous. But those rulings have granted relief only to individuals, leaving those without the resources to sue in federal court languishing in detention for months or years.”
Lunar Mai, a law student working on the Reid case, called the immigration agency’s interpretation of detention laws “harsh and unlawful.” She expressed hope that the Obama administration would “abandon its illegal and inhumane practices.”