Our Voices

Protecting Immigrants’ Constitutional Right to Freedom from Arbitrary Detention

Immigrants have a constitutional right to be free from arbitrary detention according to a new federal court ruling secured by the RFK Human Rights U.S. Advocacy and Litigation team. Staff attorney Sarah Decker represents Mr. Yvesni Cenesca, a man from Haiti fighting deportation while locked up for the past 3 years in an immigration detention center. While in detention, Cenesca was assaulted by a guard with such ferocity that he was left in a wheelchair. After the government refused to provide him medical care for his injuries, he protested by starting a hunger strike. He was then locked in solitary confinement in retaliation for advocating for his rights. Decker argued before a federal court that Cenesca’s prolonged and abusive detention should be reviewed by an immigration judge with the power to order his release. The federal court agreed.

“[T]he onerous circumstances of . . . detention, including repeated placement in solitary confinement, . . . is . . . unreasonable and unconstitutional,” the court wrote in its July 2023 decision.

Decker noted that Cenesca’s story is “yet another example” of why we must end ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) detention. She called the decision one that “further supports the fact that solitary confinement is a form of torture that ICE has weaponized to target and punished detained immigrants – particularly Black immigrants – who dare to stand up for their rights.”