On Thursday, a 3-judge panel of the First Circuit affirmed the New Hampshire District Court’s 2019 decision in Hernandez Lara v. Lyons et al., holding that the government must bear the burden of proof in justifying the detention of a noncriminal noncitizen.
Sheehan Phinney represented plaintiff Ana Ruth Hernandez Lara, an asylum seeker from El Salvador who came to the United Stated to escape gang violence, on a pro bono basis. Ms. Hernandez Lara was detained and denied bond after she was required to bear the burden of proving that she was neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. Despite presenting significant evidence, because Ms. Hernandez Lara was unable to prove this negative, she was imprisoned for ten months.
Sheehan Phinney, along with co-counsel, the ACLU of New Hampshire, challenged the constitutionality of requiring a detained immigrant to bear the burden of proof at a bond hearing. The District Court adopted Sheehan Phinney’s argument, holding that the Constitution requires that the government must prove dangerousness or flight risk in order to justify continued detention. At a new bond hearing, with the burden of proof properly applied, the government was unable to prove either dangerousness or flight risk, and Ms. Hernandez Lara was released.
In a split 2-1 decision, the First Circuit agreed with the District Court that the Constitution requires that the burden of proof be on the government in order to justify continued detention.
The Court’s decision extends beyond just this case and will have significant implications in thousands of immigration bond proceedings.
Read the full decision here.
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