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The Great Writ: Challenging Illegal Immigration Detention Through Habeas Corpus

By Zoey Jones and Andrea Saenz

Teenagers arrested on their 18th birthdays and taken to adult immigration jails. Long-time permanent residents returning from family visits abroad only to find themselves detained by immigration based on old criminal convictions. Asylum seekers who present themselves for inspection at the border and are found to have a credible fear of persecution. Individuals placed in removal proceedings who are actually United States citizens. These are just a few examples of the diverse group of individuals often subjected to prolonged confinement in immigration detention and whose imprisonment can and should be challenged through the filing of a petition for habeas corpus.

In the criminal defense context, petitions for writs of habeas corpus can be used to challenge clients’ state criminal convictions under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and their federal convictions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Attorneys can also use the more general habeas statute, 8 U.S.C. § 2241, to challenge any federal custody that is “in viol

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