Local advocates help free trans women from ICE custody

  • Camila Rodriguez, who is a volunteer for the ACLU's Immigrant Protection Project, takes a call from a client in the law office of Bill Newman, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 7/30/2018 9:49:57 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Immigrant Protection Project of Western Massachusetts has succeeded in helping to free 14 Central American transgender asylum seekers from detention in New Mexico.

However, six asylum seekers whom the project is working to free still remain in custody in a facility in Cibola County.

“The number of people freed from ICE custody is significant, and the value of vindicating the fundamental principles of due process and equal protection is inestimable,” said Bill Newman, director of the western Massachusetts office of the ACLU, in a release.

The Immigration Protection Project is an initiative of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

The asylum seekers, who come from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras; all presented themselves to authorities at the southern U.S. border. All of them are trans women.

“They just walked to the port of entry,” said Javier Luengo-Garrido, coordinator of the Immigrant Protection Project.

All 20 of the women established they have a fear of persecution in their home countries through credible fear interviews before their detention.

The project worked with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project and the Innovation Law Lab to secure the freedom of the women. The project gathered 18 lawyers and two law students, assigning one to each of the detainees to work on their cases and prepare their full parole packages. All packages were then reviewed by Megan Kludt, of the law firm Curran & Berger LLP.

“She’s incredible,” Luengo-Garrido said of Kludt.

The parole petitions were then uploaded onto the Inovation Law Lab and then filed by Allegra Love of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project. Love then kept pressure on the ground on Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Luengo-Garrido said he got word of the release of the women on Thursday. He also said that new documentation in the cases of the six women still detained will be presented by the end of the week.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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