Editor’s Note — This story was originally published on December 22, 2015. It has been updated with the latest.
(CNN) — A federal jury has ruled in favor of 12 immigrants who were held in immigration detention centers, awarding the plaintiffs $17 million in damages.
“This is a tremendous victory for the plaintiffs and all those detained, and it shows what can happen when we all come together to fight for our rights,” said Kathleen Green, the attorney representing the immigrants, in a statement Monday.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, the immigrants were released from detention for one week in 2011 “without any reason or justification.” They were returned to detention for three to four months when they presented no threat to public safety or national security.
The majority of the money the plaintiffs will receive will go to the roughly 700 people who were detained for three months or longer in 2011, and the rest will be distributed to two other groups, the Center said. The ruling will also require the government to comply with the plaintiffs’ rights when resettling asylum seekers in the United States.
The 12 plaintiffs are Chinese nationals who are citizens of Hong Kong, Taipei and China.
The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) was one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case, which was filed by three NILC lawyers in federal court in Sacramento, California.
A spokesperson for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement Monday the agency would appeal the ruling.
“This group of individuals was granted deferred removal under federal immigration law in November 2007 by U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that relief is subject to annual review, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“The individuals in this case were granted deferred action status in November 2011 by an immigration judge and deportation was stayed pending further action. They were notified by US Immigration authorities in February 2012 that their deferred action status was ending in July 2012, and that they were being transferred to detention. Two of the persons were released from detention under a court order … as soon as they identified reliable counsel. The remaining eight individuals were denied their habeas corpus petitions in June 2012, and were released from immigration detention in the summer of 2012.”
The lawsuit began in 2012, after the NILC started receiving dozens of calls from people in detention, the organization said. The attorneys requested information from the government about the cases of individuals in detention.
“With clear and convincing evidence of irreparable harm, NILC and its attorneys were awarded over $17 million by a federal jury in a protracted lawsuit filed in 2012,” NILC said in a statement.
“The decision sends a clear message to the federal government about how it must abide by the law and Constitution, while protecting American citizens and immigrants detained inside of U.S. immigration facilities.”