Media Contact

Ariana Schechter,

April 13, 2020

ACLU-NH had filed emergency federal lawsuit on April 3 asking for immediate hearing due to COVID-19

CONCORD, N.H. —  The ACLU of New Hampshire’s client, Pedro Gonzalez Guarcas, was released from ICE detention at Strafford County Department of Corrections last Friday afternoon after an emergency lawsuit requested an immediate hearing on the basis of COVID-19. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of New Hampshire and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic/Greater Boston Legal Services.

“There is a heightened risk of serious harm to people in immigration detention from COVID-19, and Mr. Gonzalez Guarcas can now be with his family during these extraordinarily difficult times,” said SangYeob Kim, immigration staff attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire. “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.”

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 had remained in custody in Dover, New Hampshire. Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic/Greater Boston Legal Services is representing Gonzalez Guarcas for his asylum proceedings.

Civil Rights in a Pandemic

Viruses like COVID-19 do not distinguish between economic, immigration, or incarceration status—and so all people must be protected. The ACLU of New Hampshire is urging jails and prisons in the Granite State to release people where possible, and is asking ICE to halt immigration enforcement operations and release detainees currently at Strafford County Department of Corrections.

Directly after New Hampshire was placed under a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, the ACLU of New Hampshire released recommendations that government officials and other decision makers must consider to achieve a fair and effective response to COVID-19.