Lawsuit Seeks Release of Gay Man From ICE Detention

In 2017, 64 percent of "at large" undocumented immigrants arrested by the ICE field office in Philadelphia had no criminal convictions. Photo Credit: USDHS

Andrea Sears

Public News Service

PHILADELPHIA – A habeas petition has been filed in federal district court seeking the release of a gay Mexican immigrant being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention in York Prison.

In January Jose Nuñez Martinez and his husband, a U.S. citizen, were attending what they thought was a routine marriage interview at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Philadelphia. According to Miguel Andrade, an organizer with Juntos – an immigrants’ rights organization – ICE agents burst in and arrested Nuñez Martinez, and he has been held in detention ever since despite being cleared by USCIS.

“They approved their marriage petition,” says Andrade. “They also believe he has a credible asylum petition because of his sexuality. He fears retaliation for going back home. There is no valid reason for him to still be in detention.”

He says ICE claims Nuñez Martinez is a flight risk and poses a threat to society. The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, says his detention is unlawful and seeks his release.

The Trump administration claims that its deportation program is taking dangerous criminals out of the country. But Andrade says recent ICE raids in Philadelphia netted about 50 people, some with past minor offenses such as traffic tickets and some with ongoing criminal cases.

“So right now Immigration is actually interfering with the right to due process of all of these individuals and violating people’s constitutional rights left and right,” says Andrade.

He says although undocumented, Nuñez Martinez had lived a peaceful and productive life in this country for almost 17 years.

Andrade adds that, along with the lawsuit, advocates are hoping to rally public support for the call for Nuñez Martinez to be released from detention.

“We’re hoping that he’ll be able to be free sometime soon and continue his immigration case on the outside alongside his husband,” says Andrade.