Hunger Strike

Upholding Immigrant Rights: The Pivotal Case Against DHS in the New York Federal Court

In a landmark decision that resonates with the values of justice and human rights, a New York federal judge recently took a bold stand against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This ruling, stemming from a lawsuit alleging retaliation against immigrant detainees for participating in a hunger strike, signifies a crucial moment in the ongoing battle for immigrant rights and justice.

The Case at the Core

The lawsuit, filed by immigrant detainees, accused DHS and ICE of violating their rights by transferring them as punishment for a hunger strike. This action was a protest against alleged abuse, racist mistreatment, and neglect by jail officials. The federal judge, U.S. District Judge Vincent L. Briccetti, refuted the government's argument that the court lacked jurisdiction, emphasizing that the Immigration and Nationality Act doesn't grant DHS the discretion to transfer immigrants in such a manner.

Breaking Down the Judge's Ruling

Judge Briccetti's decision is pivotal for several reasons:

Jurisdiction and Sovereign Immunity: The court asserted its jurisdiction, dismissing claims of sovereign immunity by the government. This opens the door for judicial scrutiny of DHS and ICE actions.

Allegations of Abuse and Retaliation: The detainees detailed their transfer away from their children and attorneys as a direct consequence of their protest. The judge found reasonable grounds to infer federal involvement or negligence in preventing such retaliation.

Contractual Obligations and ICE's Role: Highlighting the contractual relationship between ICE and the Orange County Jail, Judge Briccetti noted that ICE likely had the authority to prevent the alleged retaliatory actions.

The Human Impact

This case is not just about legal technicalities; it's about real people. One of the plaintiffs, Denny Molina Cantor poignantly expressed the emotional and psychological toll of being transferred far from family as a retaliation for standing up for basic rights.

Implications for Immigration Law and Policy

The ruling challenges the apparent impunity with which DHS and ICE have acted, suggesting that local jails should not be leveraged to expand ICE's detention capacity. It underscores the necessity for transparent and accountable immigration practices.

Legal Representation and Advocacy

The detainees' legal team, comprising attorneys from The Bronx Defenders, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation, hailed the decision as a significant advancement in holding ICE accountable for detainee abuse.


This case is a testament to the importance of judicial oversight in immigration matters and the power of legal advocacy to defend the most vulnerable's rights. As immigration attorneys, we stand committed to ensuring that justice prevails in similar cases and that immigrants' rights are upheld with the utmost respect and dignity.


This blog post is based on the article "DHS Loses Bid To Shake Hunger Strike Retaliation Case" by Hailey Konnath, Law360, published on January 10, 2024.

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