ACLU of Georgia

Torres-Soto v. Barr

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Georgia, and Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s cash bail system that discriminates against people held in Georgia immigration prisons based on their financial status.

The federal government detains thousands of people each month, including asylum seekers, lawful permanent residents, and victims of human trafficking, in Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center and Stewart Detention Center.

Many of these individuals — charged with violations of civil immigration law and detained pending deportation proceeds — have been found eligible for release, but are currently detained solely because they lack the financial resources to buy a bond for their freedom, in violation of their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Plaintiff Jose Torres-Soto is one of them. Following a traffic accident in December, the husband and father of four, including three U.S. citizen children, was transported to the Irwin County Detention Center, where he sat for five months before receiving a court hearing on May 2. 

During the hearing, the immigration judge refused to set bond lower than $18,000, but did not explain why bond was set so high or ask if Torres-Soto, who had been working overtime as a manufacturing company machine operator to make ends meet, could pay it. 

Federal immigration officials have determined that certain individuals can be safely released on cash bond. Yet, federal officials refuse to take into account an individual’s ability to pay when they set bond, and as a result, many individuals languish in harsh prison facilities for months while their case is pending. 

The case, Torres-Soto v. Barr, was filed in the U.S. Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Defendants are U.S. Attorney General William Barr, officials from the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Irwin County Detention Center.

The lawsuit seeks to end the government’s unlawful practice of jailing people solely because they don’t have the money to post bond and buy their freedom.




Date filed

June 6, 2019



  • ACLU Foundation Immigrants’ Rights Project

  • ACLU Foundation of Georgia, Inc.

  • Southern Poverty Law Center