El Paso, TX--Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, along with the ACLU of Texas and the national ACLU Immigrants Rights Project, filed a Habeas petition demanding the release of Lenin Hernandez Argujo, a twenty-two year old fleeing extortion and death threats by gang members in El Salvador. Hernandez sought asylum at a port of entry in El Paso, TX on or around May 27, 2016 and has been imprisoned by immigration authorities for more than two years--nearly a tenth of his life. Throughout this time, Hernandez has never received the basic due process of a bond hearing before a neutral decision maker at which he could contest his imprisonment. The ACLU’s petition contends that Mr. Hernandez’s prolonged and unjustified detention violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“Locking away this young man for years on end without cause is illegal, cruel, and unjust ,” said ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love. “Seeking asylum is not a crime, and Mr. Hernandez does not pose any risk to our community, yet the government has kept him behind bars for almost a tenth of his life. We demand that ICE immediately parole Mr. Hernandez and end his unjustified and undeserved detention.”
Hernandez left El Salvador after gang members threatened to kill him and his family after he refused to join their ranks. In return for sparing his life, the gang demanded a monthly payment. Unable to pay and in fear for his life, Hernandez fled to the United States in 2016 and presented himself to immigration authorities in El Paso seeking asylum. After more than a year in immigration detention, Hernandez applied for parole, but the El Paso ICE Field Office denied his request, even though he had established his identity, identified a sponsor with whom he could live, and shown that he poses no flight risk or danger to the community. To date, the immigration authorities have failed to provide any legitimate justification or government interest for his continued and prolonged detention.
“Unfortunately, our client’s story is not unique, “ said Love. “The U.S. government has a policy of detaining asylum seekers in the hopes that the misery of prolonged and arbitrary detention will deter others from seeking safety in the United States. This inhumane and xenophobic policy is a stain on the character of our nation and should end immediately.”
Mr. Hernandez is currently one of the plaintiffs in Damus v. Nielson, the ACLU class action lawsuit challenging the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers.
Mr. Hernandez is represented by David Hausman and Michael Tan of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, Edgar Saldivar of the ACLU of Texas, Kristin Greer Love of the ACLU of New Mexico, and Carlos Spector of the Law Offices of Carlos Spector in El Paso, TX