NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — An Afghan man who has been detained for five months since he tried to enter the United States on a special visa for people who helped the U.S. military should be released or at least be given a hearing to determine whether his detention is justified, his lawyers have argued to a federal judge.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey announced Tuesday night that it has asked the U.S. District Court to immediately release the 25-year-old man or order that he receive a bond hearing. He wasn't identified in court filings because of the safety issues.
The man was detained at Newark Liberty International Airport on March 13. Subsequently, government lawyers argued he voluntarily withdrew his application for admission to the U.S. in an interview with a Customs and Border Protection officer at the airport.
The ACLU says he worked for five years in dining services for the U.S. Armed Forces and U.S. Embassy, and his service to the U.S. military puts his life at risk in Afghanistan. But the government said in a court filing the man has "explicitly stated that he has no fear of returning to Afghanistan."
Attorney Farrin Anello, noting that the man speaks limited English, said Wednesday that an asylum officer later interviewed him with an interpreter and determined he has a "credible fear" of persecution in Afghanistan based upon his work for the Americans. She said special immigrant visas are only granted to those who face an "ongoing danger."
Federal Judge Jose Linares in Newark cleared the way for his deportation, ruling that he was unlikely to succeed in his case against the government because his visa was already revoked. But the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March temporarily blocked Linares' decision.
An immigration judge last week ruled that he would not hold a bond hearing and that the deportation case against the man would proceed. The man's next immigration hearing is set for Sept. 6.
The ACLU argues the man was held without a lawyer for over 24 hours and the application withdrawal was involuntary because of the language barrier.
"Our client has been jailed for the past five months in a country that promised to welcome him. It's an egregious violation of our Constitution," ACLU-NJ Deputy Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero said. "At the very least, he is entitled to a bond hearing after his prolonged detention. But for his rights to be honored, the government needs to release him."