The state of New York has paid illegal immigrant Cecil Harvey $145,000 after a federal judge ruled that his civil rights had been violated prior to his deportation.  

Harvey, 55, a former Brooklyn resident with three prior arrests, sued the state of New York after he was detained at Rikers Island, following a 2003 charge for public intoxication and drug possession.  

According to federal law, local law enforcement can detain a suspected illegal immigrant before turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) … for 48 hours.  Harvey was kept at Rikers Island for 35 days before he was turned over to ICE.  

He then spent three years in ICE custody before being released only to get arrested again via a warrant issued for missing a court appearance that had scheduled during his initial detainment.  Following this arrest, Harvey spent another three months at Rikers Island.  He was eventually transferred to an ICE detention center in Alabama before being deported to his native Barbados in 2007.

Initially representing himself in a civil lawsuit, Harvey was ultimately backed by the New York University Law School Immigrant Rights Clinic.

According to a press release from the clinic, Harvey alleged that due to his unlawful imprisonment, he suffered aggravation of a medical condition, was separated from his family, and was unable to appear in his immigration case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (which is what ultimately led to his deportation).
“We took the case because it related to a systemic problem at Rikers. For years we had heard about Rikers not releasing people who were subject to detainers within the required 48-hour period,” Nancy Morawetz, professor of clinical law at the Clinic and one of Harvey’s legal council, said in the release. “We were impressed with Mr. Harvey's perseverance in challenging this practice without a lawyer. We sought to obtain compensation for him for the many months of unlawful detention he suffered as a result of Riker's actions.”

Troubles with immigration law (and, consequently, advocacy groups) aren’t limited to New York.  Just last week, Arizona passed a law that allows police to force person they find suspicious to produce alien registration documents, inciting public outcry from the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association and Amnesty International USA.    

The bill has been supported by Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform, Voices of the People USA, Tea Party Patriots Live and Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.

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