Immigrants detained by authorities must be offered affordable bond for their release, a federal appeals court decided Monday.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said immigration judges should consider a non-citizen's ability to pay when setting a bond.
"The government's discretion to incarcerate non-citizens is always constrained by the requirements of due process," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the panel. "No person may be imprisoned merely on account of his poverty."
The decision upheld a district judge's ruling in a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of immigrants, including asylum seekers, arrested in Southern and Central California because of unauthorized entry to the U.S.
The immigrants were determined to be neither dangerous nor enough of a flight risk to make them ineligible for bonds, the 9th Circuit noted.
But they remained in detention, sometimes for years, because they could not afford to pay the bond amounts set by immigration officials.
Monday's ruling upheld a preliminary injunction requiring immigration officials to consider both an immigrant's financial ability and alternative forms of release, such as the use of ankle monitors.
The decision requires the government to hold new bond hearings within 45 days for those who are detained and to consult with the immigrants' lawyers about establishing new guidelines for release.