CONCORD, N.H. - The ACLU of New Hampshire announced today that 20 clients have rightfully been released from ICE custody in the six months since officially launching the New Hampshire Immigrants' Rights Project. Started on July 23, 2018, the Immigrants' Rights Project was created due to a rising need to protect the rights of detained immigrants. The program has strategically taken on impactful cases that affect the national immigration system, policy, and enforcement.
"We formed the New Hampshire Immigrants Rights’ Project after seeing that not every immigrant in the state was being treated fairly and constitutionally," said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. "Six months later, we have taken more than 20 cases, filed five federal lawsuits, trained other lawyers in immigration law, and heightened awareness of the rights immigrants have when they are stopped or detained."
Many of the cases taken on by the Immigrants' Rights Project have the goal of allowing clients to be released on bond, which is the non-criminal version of bail. All too frequently, immigrants facing deportation proceedings are held behind bars, which not only affects the ability to fight their case, but is unnecessary when they are neither a danger nor a flight risk.
These types of cases require an unusually quick turnaround for legal work, with paperwork needing to be urgently filed within days or weeks due to the fast-paced nature of the immigration process. For bond cases, once a client is released, they are free to continue their case--whether it be for asylum, an adjustment of status due to marriage, or other, without being in jail.
"As we started to see an increase in immigration-related issues here in New Hampshire, it became clear we needed to take action and work on meaningful cases that help ensure the immigration system is applied fairly and equally," said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director at the ACLU of New Hampshire. "Through public outreach efforts on know-your-rights trainings, collaborating with other legal professionals on immigration work, and directly helping clients that have nowhere else to turn, the New Hampshire Immigrants’ Rights Project has just begun to unpack one box of this complicated system—and we’re just getting started."
“I began my work in immigration law after witnessing the injustices happening to good people, families, and individuals within the immigration system," said SangYeob Kim, Immigration Legal Fellow at the ACLU of New Hampshire. "The New Hampshire Immigrants’ Rights Project is taking these injustices head-on, working to not only provide people with legal representation, but to leave the immigration system a better place than we found it."
Some previous cases include:
- The Northwood Police Department unlawfully arrested a man that they suspected was in the United States illegally based on his race--but he resides in the U.S. lawfully. The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit, which followed a similar lawsuit against the Town of Exeter also filed by the ACLU.
- A Cuban immigrant who became a permanent resident while in ICE custody, yet was still held by ICE for five days. The ACLU filed a lawsuit, and he was released 24 hours later.
- A Somalian immigrant, living lawfully in the U.S. since 1996, was detained for nine months in ICE custody following a change in national immigration enforcement policy. He was convicted of possession of an East African plant 16 years ago, served one year of probation, and had been living peacefully ever since. He was released on bond with the help of the ACLU and is fighting his deportation case.
Not all cases are able to be made public due to attorney-client privilege.