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Reinis G. v. Rodriguez

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 22, 2019

REINIS G., Petitioner,




         Petitioner, Reinis G., [1] is an immigration detainee, held at the Elizabeth Detention Facility, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. For the following reasons, the habeas petition will be granted insofar as petitioner will be granted a bond hearing.


         Petitioner, a native and citizen of Latvia, entered the United States as a lawful permanent resident in October 2000. In February 2011, petitioner pleaded guilty to distributing, dispensing, or possessing a controlled dangerous substance in a school zone under New Jersey Statutes Annotated ("N.J.S.A.") § 2C:35-7, and he was sentenced to two years of probation. On June 9, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ("ICE") arrested petitioner, and he has remained in immigration custody since that time.

         Petitioner was charged as being deportable on two bases: (a) under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), for having committed an aggravated felony, and (b) under § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), for having committed a controlled-substances offense. Consequently, he was detained under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c). Petitioner explains that he sought to pursue cancellation of removal, relief which a prior conviction for an aggravated felony would typically bar. He alleges that the presiding immigration judge initially seemed receptive, but ultimately determined that his prior conviction constituted an aggravated felony. On June 7, 2018, the immigration judge ordered petitioner's removal, and petitioner's appeal of this decision is, apparently, still pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals. That administrative appeal, and potentially a further appeal to the Court of Appeals, would be the procedure for correction of any legal error as to the petitioner's deportable status.

         Petitioner has now filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus. (DE 1.) He makes two primary arguments as to why his detention is improper, or improperly prolonged. First, he contends that he cannot be detained under § 1226(c) as it requires ICE to take persons into custody immediately when they are released from criminal custody, whereas he was never criminally incarcerated. (Id. at 6-7.) Petitioner also alleges that he cannot be detained under § 1226(c) because, pursuant to Third Circuit precedent, his conviction is not an aggravated felony under immigration law. (Id. at 7.) Petitioner also alleges that his detention without a bond hearing under § 1226(c) has become unduly prolonged. (Id.)

         I ordered the government to file an answer in response to the petition. (DE 2.) I also ordered the government to notify the Court within seven days of petitioner's release from custody, "as well as any change in the basis for petitioner's immigration detention." (Id.)

         The government filed an answer opposing the petition on behalf of respondent Orlando Rodriguez, the warden of the Elizabeth Detention Facility. (DE 4.) It argues that mandatory detention under § 1226(c) has been upheld by the Supreme Court and that as-applied challenges to that section are appropriate only in extraordinary cases of prolonged detention. (See Id. at 5-20.) It includes no response to petitioner's arguments that he is not properly detained under § 1226(c) in the first place.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, a district court may exercise jurisdiction over a habeas petition when the petitioner is in custody and alleges that this custody violates the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c); Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490 (1989). A petitioner may seek § 2241 relief only in the district in which he is in custody. United States v. Figiieroa, 349 Fed.Appx. 727, 730 (3d Cir. 2009). This Court has jurisdiction over petitioner's claims as he is detained within this district and alleges that his custody violates the Due Process Clause of Fifth Amendment.

         Under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c)(1), certain non-citizens with criminal convictions are subject to mandatory detention while removal proceedings are pending. See Jennings, 138 S.Ct. at 846-47. That subsection reads as follows:

(1) Custody
The Attorney General shall take into custody any ...

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