LAFAYETTE, La. (CN) — A Honduran national whose entire family has been threatened with death if they return to their country is entitled to a bond hearing before he is deported, his attorneys claim in a federal lawsuit.
Daniel Acosta Sarmiento is being held in jail without bond while he waits for his claim for humanitarian immigration relief from deportation to be heard.
In a 14-page complaint filed Oct. 11 in the Western District of Louisiana, his lawyers argue their client's detention violates federal law.
Acosta Sarmiento claims his entire family is being persecuted in Honduras and threatened with death if they return.
In June an asylum officer interviewed Acosta Sarmiento and "found his fear of persecution in Honduras to be reasonable," the lawsuit says.
While Acosta Sarmiento's fate is being decided, he is entitled to bond, the lawsuit says, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has denied him bond and the immigration judge found he had no jurisdiction over matter because Acosta Sarmiento had previously been deported, in 2008.
He returned to New Orleans the same year, to be with his American-citizen wife and two children, the lawsuit says.
Acosta Sarmiento's attorneys argue the government's contention the statute authorizes prolonged, no-bond detention is erroneous and inconsistent with what the statute actually says
"Every federal circuit court that has considered the question has rejected the government's interpretation," the lawsuit says.
Acosta Sarmiento is a long-time Louisiana resident and has lived with his wife and their two kids in a New Orleans suburb since 2004, the lawsuit says.
On May 17, 2016, Acosta Sarmiento was "abruptly seized" by ICE and placed in detention in Pine Prairie Correctional Center, a more than three-hour drive from his family home.
Acosta Sarmiento will be deported if his request for humanitarian relief is not granted.
In Honduras, the lawsuit says, his family faces imminent danger from another family that has already shot two of Acosta Sarmiento's brothers, killing one of them, and who will try to kill Acosta Sarmiento too.
"To deport Mr. Acosta Sarmiento would be to condemn him to probable death, which makes his removal unlawful under U.S. and international law," the lawsuit says.
By federal act, noncitizens in deportation proceedings are generally eligible for release on bond, "pending a decision on whether or not the alien is to be removed from the United States," the lawsuit says.
A limited exception to that rule exists, for noncitizens who have committed certain crimes, including crimes involving moral turpitude, crimes relating to a controlled substance, or an aggravated felony, among others.
None of these apply in Acosta Sarmiento's case because he has not been violent or violated any laws, his lawyers say.
"The lawsuit would break new ground in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — states covered by the federal Fifth Circuit court, where the case could end up if appealed," a press release filed Tuesday by New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice said. "The lawsuit seeks to make new precedent on the right to a bond hearing for previously deported immigrants seeking humanitarian relief. While the federal appellate court in the Second Circuit unanimously ruled that immigrants in [Acosta Sarmiento's] situation should be entitled to bond hearings, that court only has jurisdiction over Connecticut, New York, and Vermont."
The release said bonds are generally much higher and harder to access in the immigration context. A person in Acosta Sarmiento's situation who faced criminal charges rather than immigration charges would "almost certainly be granted bond," his attorneys said.
Also, unlike criminal defendants, immigration detainees are not entitled to state-appointed lawyers, his attorneys say.
The lawsuit was filed by Mary Yanik and J.J. Rosenbaum of New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, and by William Quigley of Loyola University College of Law.
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