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ICE Releases Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality Clients Living with HIV

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May 1, 2020
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 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) late yesterday released two asylum seekers living with HIV who were detained at an ICE detention facility in eastern Texas, less than one week after Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality, along with co-counsel Vinson & Elkins, submitted a letter demanding their release. The men were severely persecuted in Cuba because of their political activism and sexual orientation and had been detained in the U.S. since October 2019.

In their letters, the legal advocates pointed to a court order filed last week in the U. S. District Court for the Central District of California that requires ICE to re-evaluate whether people with certain risk factors, including people living with HIV, should be released from ICE detention to prevent the risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19.

“We are thrilled that Iván and Ramón can pursue their asylum claims without the fear of unnecessary and inevitable exposure to the coronavirus in ICE detention facilities,“ Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Puneet Cheema said. “There are too many people who continue to be detained in detention centers, prisons and jails, who are not being given sufficient means and ability to protect themselves. These facilities have a responsibility to release as many people as they can, and keep those in their custody safe.”

“We are relieved that Iván and Ramón don’t have to spend one more day in the dangerous conditions of ICE detention, terrified of contracting COVID-19,” said Bridget Crawford, Legal Director for Immigration Equality. “We are happy they are now safe and free, but lament the fact they were not released months ago. ICE has a moral obligation to free other asylum seekers like Iván and Ramón. They can and should release every single one of them today.”

The clients in this matter are identified by pseudonyms as Iván and Ramón to protect their identities. They are seeking humanitarian relief in the United States and are at risk of retaliation at the hands of their persecutors or by ICE and facility staff. Both Iván and Ramón came to the United States seeking asylum from persecution due to their sexual orientation, political opinion and HIV status. They had been detained at the IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility in South Livingston, TX.

Working on the case are Puneet Cheema, Avatara Smith-Carrington and Tara Borelli for Lambda Legal and Bridget Crawford for Immigration Equality, along with Thomas S. Leatherbury, Kent Piacenti, Lindsey Pryor, and Jeremy Gonzalez with Vinson & Elkins LLP.