US judge orders quicker bond hearings for asylum seekers

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SEATTLE — A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. government to give quicker bond hearings to immigrants caught on the border who pass initial asylum screenings.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle granted a preliminary injunction and found the immigration courts should conduct the bond hearings within seven days if immigrants request one.

She also said it’s up to the U.S. government to prove why the immigrants shouldn’t be released.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project challenging delays in bond hearings for detained asylum seekers.

Matt Adams, the group’s legal director, said the decision could help thousands of detainees in facilities across the United States.

Some, he said, have waited weeks for bond hearings after they were interviewed by an asylum officer who determined they were afraid to return to their countries.

“We just have clients who sometimes wait for weeks and sometime wait for two months for a bond hearing,” he said.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the decision.

The decision is set to take effect in 30 days. The government can accept the order or appeal, Adams said.

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