CHAPARRAL, NM - Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed Petitions for Writ of Habeas Corpus on behalf of two Eritrean men, Haben and Misanga,* who both fled unthinkable violence in their home country and sought asylum in the United States. The U.S. government has detained both men in prison-like conditions for over ten months as they have tried and failed to obtain travel papers for their removal. The ACLU of New Mexico has demanded the release of both men, claiming that their prolonged detention is illegal under the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Zadvydas v. Davis, which found that detention beyond six months is unreasonable when removal is not reasonably foreseeable.
“These men have been held for nearly a year beyond their original orders of removal,” said ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love. “This kind of indefinite detention is inhumane and illegal. We cannot continue to unjustly hold people in prison like conditions for months and years at a time simply because the government can’t get their paperwork together.”
Haben and Misanga presented themselves at a U.S. port of entry and asked for asylum in late August of 2017, and asylum officers determined that both possessed credible fear that they would suffer violence if they returned to Eritrea, whose regime has been unfavorably compared to that of North Korea in its levels of repression and brutality. Despite clearing this first hurdle to seeking asylum, they found it difficult to obtain adequate language interpretation services and immigration counsel. Consequently, both men’s asylum applications were denied and they were ordered removed.
Though Haben and Misanga were born in Eritrea, both men are stateless, meaning no country in the world recognizes them as citizens. For ten months, as the government has attempted and failed to deport them, both men have been held in the Otero County Processing Center, in Chaparral, NM without bond hearing, in violation of the Supreme Court’s Zadvydas decision. During that time, Misanga has been diagnosed with a heart condition that did not exist prior to his detention.
“Our clients have cooperated at every step with immigration authorities,” said Love. “They have done nothing wrong, pose no risk to public safety, and deserve to breathe the free air while the government continues a removal process that could drag on indefinitely.”