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ACLU Takes ICE Field Offices to Court for Illegal Detention of Asylum Seekers

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), together with other groups, has filed a federal lawsuit against five U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field offices for detaining asylum seekers without cause.Foreigners seeking asylum in the United States are procedurally required to submit themselves to initial “credible fear” exams to determine the legitimacy of their reasons for attempting to enter the country. According to the ACLU, all the asylum seekers in question, who now serve as plaintiffs to the case, had passed their exams but are nonetheless being kept in detention.

In the suit, the ACLU notes that the asylum seekers in question have ready and able sponsors in the U.S.willing to provide housing. Despite this fact, they claim the federal government insisted on detaining them instead of granting them access into the country.

The ICE field offices named in the suit include Detroit, El Paso (which covers West Texas and New Mexico), Los Angeles, Newark, and Philadelphia. The ACLU alleges that more than 1,000asylum seekers have been unjustly detained by these offices since the beginning of the Trump administration. And according to Borderland Immigration Council, an El Paso-based “coalition consisting of local immigration attorneys and advocacy groups,” the success of the case may mean relief for at least 2,000 more asylum seekers detained in El Paso and Sierra Blanca.

The plaintiffs have a variety reasons for leaving their home country. Some faced political persecution, including a Haitian ethics teacher, a Venezuelan national who was beaten and threatened by an armed group for opposing the Venezuelan government, and a Cuban who escaped his country’s communist regime.

Others needed to escape organized crime, including multiple plaintiffs running away from Salvadoran gang violence and a number of Mexicans fleeing cartel violence. And then there are those fleeing for more personal reasons, including a Honduran national persecuted because of his sexual orientation.

The plaintiffs are represented by Human Rights First, the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, and Covington & Burling LLP, a law firm based in Washington, DC.

Michael Tan, an attorney with the Immigrants’ Rights Project, argues that this is all part of the Trump administration’s plan to make life miserable for asylum seekers, forcing them to give up and return to their home countries, even at the risk of torture and death. He adds that the administration is using indefinite detention as a weapon to scare would-be asylum seekers—a strategy that is both cruel and unconstitutional.

Asked to comment on the lawsuit, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

If you, or a loved one, need assistance on your asylum application, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney DaniellaLyttle.

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