MILAN, NM - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and the National Immigrant Justice Center filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus demanding the release of Nicole Garcia Aguilar, a Honduran national who fled unspeakable violence and persecution and remains locked in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody six months after an immigration judge granted her asylum protection. Her unlawful detention, as ICE seeks to appeal her asylum grant, violates ICE’s own policies and Fifth Amendment protections against indefinite detention.
“It is beyond cruel that ICE continues to detain a woman upon whom an immigration judge has already conferred asylum status,” said ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love. “Continuing to hold an asylee who has already suffered so greatly serves no purpose other than to inflict misery. We demand that ICE end her prolonged and illegal detention immediately.”
Ms. Garcia Aguilar fled Honduras a in April 2018 after suffering violence and persecution because of her identity as a transgender woman. In Honduras, Ms. Garcia Aguilar survived rape, attempted murder, death threats, and police threats and abuse. In one of her final interactions with local police, officers told her that the violence against her was “because of the ways she is” and would not “stop until she’s dead.”
A federal immigration judge granted Ms. Garcia Aguilar asylum in October 2018. However, ICE has refused to release her from detention.
During her nearly year-long detention at Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, ICE officials have placed Garcia Aguilar in solitary confinement for more than three months, where her physical and mental health deteriorated. ICE is currently holding her in dangerous and inappropriate conditions, housing her in a unit among the male general population.
“Not only is ICE detaining our client illegally, they are doing so in conditions that are harmful and dangerous,” said NIJC Staff Attorney Tania Linares Garcia. “Ms. Garcia Aguilar has lost a third of her body weight in ICE custody and been traumatized by prolonged solitary confinement. ICE should stop wasting taxpayer dollars and inflicting pointless suffering by continuing to detain a person who has already been granted asylum.”
The ACLU of New Mexico and NIJC allege that Garcia Aguilar’s prolonged detention is in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and demands that ICE immediately release her from custody or at minimum she receive an immediate bond hearing before a judge.