On April 3, 2020, the ACLU of New Hampshire filed an emergency federal lawsuit with Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic/Greater Boston Legal Services on behalf of a Guatemalan immigrant detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Strafford County Department of Corrections. In light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the ACLU-NH also filed a motion asking for immediate consideration by the court.

Pedro Gonzalez Guarcas, originally from Guatemala, came to the United States seeking asylum after the Guatemalan Civil War, in which his indigenous community was subject to violence, discrimination, and genocide by the government.  During the war, Gonzalez Guarcas’ family were leaders in protecting their Mayan community. Though his sister and brother were both granted asylum for the persecution they endured and would continue to endure if back in Guatemala, Gonzalez Guarcas was detained by ICE on February 28, 2020, and has remained in custody in Dover, New Hampshire. Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic/Greater Boston Legal Services is representing Gonzalez Guarcas for his asylum proceedings.

There is a heightened risk of serious harm to people in immigration detention from COVID-19, so we have asked the court to hear this case as soon as possible and to release Mr. Gonzalez Guarcas back to his family during this extraordinarily difficult time.  In addition to this case, we have also asked ICE to release detainees from Strafford County Department of Corrections, as public health experts have warned that failure to do so endangers the lives of everyone in the facility, including staff, and the broader community.

Days after this lawsuit was filed, ICE released Mr. Gonzalez Guarcas.



Gilles Bissonnette, ACLU-NH Legal Director, and SangYeob Kim, ACLU-NH Immigration Staff Attorney

Date filed

April 3, 2020


U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire


Joseph LaPlante



Case number