Media Contact

Ari Schechter,

June 17, 2020

  ACLU-NH client had been given only 2 weeks before being forced to represent herself  

CONCORD, N.H. – In a Monday ruling, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that a woman being detained by ICE at Strafford County Department of Corrections was required to have adequate time to seek counsel in order to fight her immigration case. Through her time fighting her case, Ana Ruth Hernandez Lara was ultimately required to represent herself after only being given 14 days—in a state she had never lived in or knew anyone in, and despite trying persistently—to find a lawyer. Before this successful appeal granted by the First Circuit, the lack of counsel had caused her to be ordered to be removed to the country.

SangYeob Kim, immigration staff attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “This victory ensures that moving forward, immigrants detained by ICE will have adequate time to find a lawyer to fight their case. This is critical to the life, safety, and wellbeing of ICE detainees, who often have complex cases that deserve to be argued by counsel. With Strafford County Dept. of Corrections holding ICE detainees for a large portion of the northeast, many people are transferred to New Hampshire and struggle to find a lawyer within a week, particularly when there are no pro bono legal service providers in state—all while they are behind bars.”

The federal judge, writing for the panel, wrote in the decision: “For the IJ on the day of Hernandez's merits hearing -- the most critical stage of the proceeding -- to cut off Hernandez's access to an attorney whom she had just retained after much effort makes no sense…The statutory right to counsel is a fundamental procedural protection worthy of particular vigilance.”

Ana Ruth Hernandez Lara will now be able to fight her immigration case, with counsel.