Appeals Court to Hear Undocumented Immigrant Bail Case

Jan 3, 2014

A federal appeals court has agreed to hear new arguments about whether undocumented immigrants charged with serious crimes can make bail. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports.

The Arizona border wall near Nogales.

Proposition 100, approved in 2006 by a 3-1 margin, says bail is unavailable to those charged with serious felonies if they are in this country illegally and if there is strong evidence the person is guilty of the offense charged. On a 2-1 margin a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the measure last year. But now the full court wants to look at the issue. Cecilia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union said she hopes to convince the judges it 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.

She said there is no reason to presume that someone who has been in the country for years, has a family here and is working will flee just because he or she is charged with a minor felony. Wang said that proves what's really behind the constitutional amendment is punishing people for being in this country illegally. But attorney Tim Casey, who is representing Maricopa County, said the measure serves a legitimate purpose in ensuring that those charged with felonies remain in this country until trial. The court will hear arguments in March.