346 days of immigration detention was unjust
St. Paul, Minn. (Aug. 8, 2017) — After years of being in jeopardy of deportation and spending a total of 484 days in jail, Sameth Nhean has finally been released from custody by a federal judge.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and his immigration attorney, Danielle Robinson Briand, have been fighting for his release. Samethn Nhean is a part of the group often called “The Minnesota Eight”, a group of Cambodian men in the U.S. whose families have been fighting their deportation orders.
“For the past seven years I have lived with the threat of being ripped from my family at any time. Living with that fear, and spending the last year away from my family have caused so much stress and strain on me and my family,” Nhean said. “We were all forced to put our futures on hold. The way I was treated by the U.S. government should not happen to anyone. I just want to work and live with family in peace, the same as anyone else.”
Nhean was brought from Cambodia to the United States as a young child and resided as a lawful permanent resident his entire life. As an adult, Nhean served 90 days in jail in 2002, but lived safely and peacefully in the community until August 2010, when he was arrested, thrown into jail, and ordered to be deported. ICE let him go in 2011 after 138 days in custody when they admitted they could not remove him to Cambodia or Thailand.
ICE arrested him again in August 2016, claiming once more that they were about to remove him, but all they did was haul him around from one jail to another. The ACLU filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which would force ICE to justify the continued detention of Nhean, with the federal court in St. Paul in January 2017.
“Prolonged detention, like Sameth’s, is unfortunately all too common. Not only is it traumatic for everyone involved, but it makes basic access to justice even harder,” stated Briand, an attorney of Nhean. “I am overjoyed at his release, and relieved he can finally be reunited with his family.”
Yesterday, Aug. 8, a federal judge ordered Nhean’s release after Nhean won an immigration court hearing on July 19, 2017. At 5:15 p.m. he was finally reunited with his wife and three children after being in jail for the past 346 days. Adding that his prior jailing, he was held for a total of 484 days.
“There was never any reason to hold Nhean in jail at all,” said John Gordon, interim legal director of the ACLU-MN. “It was a waste of taxpayer money and, far more important, a waste of 484 days of his life. He had followed all the immigration rules. He had followed all the court’s rules. ICE’s treatment of Mr. Nhean showed no concern for public safety or law enforcement or the welfare of his U.S. citizen family members, including his wife, his children, and his father.”