ACLU-NH to Court: Hold U.S. Attorney General in Contempt for ICE Violations

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Gilles Bissonnette, ACLU-NH legal director

ACLU of New Hampshire asks federal court to hold U.S. Attorney General and other officials in contempt after ICE violates court orders

Court’s orders barred deportation during review of immigration appeal 

Alarming number of cases shows illegal deportations are not rare 

CONCORD, N.H. – The ACLU of New Hampshire yesterday filed a brief on behalf of a man who was illegally deported by ICE after the court ordered him to remain in the United States during his immigration appeal.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston—the circuit just below the U.S. Supreme Court—had issued orders on August 30, 2019 and September 11, 2019 temporarily halting the man’s deportation so his appeal could proceed, but ICE violated the orders and deported him on September 13, 2019. 

The brief filed before the First Circuit asks the court to hold the government in contempt for this egregious violation.

“No one is above the law, and when the court issues an order, we are all bound to uphold it—especially the United States government,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director at the ACLU of New Hampshire.

“No human being should be sent by the United States to a country where they will be tortured or persecuted before they ever have an opportunity to challenge their removal. The federal government should to be held in contempt of court and fined every day until our client is returned so he can continue litigating his case.”

Preliminary affidavits from immigration lawyers around the country show at least eight of these wrongful deportation cases from the past year alone, indicating that this is not a one-off or rare circumstance.

In three cases, the person was illegally removed from the country despite the law prohibiting their deportation. In five cases, lawyers learned their clients were about to be illegally deported, and made successful attempts to keep them in the United States.

SangYeob Kim, immigration staff attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “The growing trend of illegal deportations is deeply troubling. We cannot, as a matter of principle, let any defiance of a court order go without consequence—particularly in a case like this where someone may be persecuted or tortured if deported. To ensure that such illegal deportation does not happen again in the future, we ask the court to hold the U.S. government in contempt.”

In this case, José Daniel Guerra-Castañeda was detained after being put on an Interpol Red Notice for crimes allegedly committed in El Salvador.

However, he disputes the charges  and believes that he will be tortured if he goes back.  He simply wishes to have the ability to argue before the First Circuit why he should be able to remain in the country and why he will be tortured if removed.

 However, the government’s violation has prevented him from being able to argue to the First Circuit why he should be able to stay in the United States.  It is inherent in the country’s foundation—and proven through hundreds of years of court cases—that all people, organizations, and federal agencies must follow court orders, especially when those orders are necessary to give people the ability to seek relief in the courts.

The brief was submitted as a part of the New Hampshire Immigrants’ Rights Project, started in July 2018 by the ACLU of New Hampshire to address the need for increased legal aid for immigrants in the state. In addition to taking legal action, the Project conducts “Know Your Rights” and teaches other interested lawyers how to take on immigration cases.

The court documents can be found here.  

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