UPDATE 5/21/2018: Chief Judge Patti B. Saris affirmed that Samuel Pensamiento’s due process rights were violated when he was held for three months without the government ever having to prove that his detention was necessary. Read the statement here.

The ACLU of Massachusetts filed a petition for habeas corpus on behalf of Samuel Pensamiento, a Massachusetts man who was detained in early 2018 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In its lawsuit, the ACLU – together with law firm Foley Hoag LLP – is urging the federal court to remedy a recent and disturbing ICE practice that prevents people in immigration detention from attending state court proceedings.

The petition was filed on behalf of Samuel Pensamiento, a Massachusetts man who was detained at the Chelsea District Court after attending a hearing on misdemeanor charges of leaving the scene of an accident in January 2018. Although he was due back in Court on March 5, 2018, ICE and the Plymouth County officials who are detaining Pensamiento on behalf of ICE prevented Pensamiento from attending court. The lawsuit asks the federal court to order state and federal officials to transport Pensamiento to his next court appearance, where he is likely to be found in default if he does not appear.

In 2013, Pensamiento fled to the United States to escape persecution in Guatemala. With strong community ties – including a U.S. citizen wife who is expecting a child in May, lawful employment, and Massachusetts driver’s license – Pensamiento was following the process to apply for lawful permanent residency before his detention.

Pensamiento’s open criminal charges, which he has not been permitted to address, have a significant impact on his immigration proceedings. His marriage petition has been put on hold, and ICE is seeking his removal to Guatemala. Pensamiento was denied bond on the basis of the charged conduct, and – if he is removed from the United States without having the chance to resolve his charges – he is likely to be prevented from ever coming back, even though he has never been convicted of a crime and is eligible to seek to immigrate to the United States through his U.S. citizen wife.

Beyond separating Mr. Pensamiento from his family and his community, ICE is also interfering with his constitutional rights to due process and barring state courts from doing their job to provide access to justice for all Massachusetts residents.


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Adriana Lafaille and Matthew Segal (ACLU of Massachusetts); Anthony Mirenda, Daniel L. McFadden, and Aaron Lang (Foley Hoag LLP)