The ACLU of Massachusetts and law firm Ropes & Gray on Monday filed a petition for habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to block the detention without due process of Sreynuon Lunn, a man who has been unlawfully arrested and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The petition, filed against U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE, and Suffolk County, Massachusetts, asserts that while Mr. Lunn’s removal from the United States has been ordered, federal agencies have been unable to find a country willing to issue him travel documents. Yesterday’s filing asserts that for several months DHS has detained Mr. Lunn in violation of his Fifth Amendment right to due process.
Mr. Lunn was born in a Thai refugee camp to Cambodian parents who were fleeing the Khmer Rouge, and who brought him to the U.S. as a seven-month-old refugee in 1985. He has otherwise never lived in Cambodia and he has raised two children in the U.S. who are U.S. citizens and are still living in the United States.
Nevertheless, DHS – in attempting to deport Mr. Lunn – has designated Cambodia as his country of origin, while the government of Cambodia has, for nine years, denied that Mr. Lunn is a Cambodian citizen.
“Immigration detention is not supposed to be punishment. If the government cannot deport Mr. Lunn, it has to let him go,” said Matthew Segal, legal director at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “In fact, Mr. Lunn’s current and three prior detentions demonstrate a pattern of unlawful and unconstitutional detention by the federal government,”
In general, a non-citizen who has been ordered to be removed from the United States is detained during a 90-day removal period, and can be held longer only if they are deemed a “risk to the community” or are unlikely to comply with the order of removal – neither of which apply to Mr. Lunn.
“Mr. Lunn has been detained for up to a total of 13 months in Suffolk County – far longer than permissible under the U.S. constitution and laws,” said Kim Nemirow, partner at Ropes & Gray, who is leading a team pro bono. “It’s unlawful to keep him in limbo.”
This week’s legal action builds upon the ACLU of Massachusetts’ commitment – highlighted by the Freedom Agenda, a package of legislative priorities that seeks to address new federal threats to civil rights and liberties – to resist the worst excesses of the Trump Administration.