ACLU of Connecticut Wins Release Of Illegally Detained Immigrants

July 14, 2003 12:00 am

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HARTFORD, CT-The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut today welcomed the release of two immigrant men who were being held here by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE, formerly the INS) for extensive periods of time. The ACLU said it will file additional petitions challenging the government’s detention of others.

With the assistance of three legal interns, the ACLU of Connecticut filed a lawsuit seeking the release of Lanh Vo, formerly of Vietnam, and Oleg Ashmarov, a native of Russia who grew up in Latvia. Both men are permanent residents of the United States who entered the country as refugees.

“”We were excited to bring an end to Mr. Ashmarov’s long, illegal detention and to work with the BICE to ensure that Mr. Vo was released promptly,”” said Lee Rowland, a legal intern with the ACLU of Connecticut who is a second year student at Harvard Law School. “”No one should be trapped in jail facing life imprisonment because the government does not review cases properly.””

According to court documents filed by the ACLU, Vo and Ashmarov were arrested and convicted of crimes while in the U.S. and ordered removed. Both men completed their court-ordered sentences, but were detained by the INS because their former countries refused to repatriate them. Ashmarov languished in INS custody for more than two years, even though the crimes he was convicted had only involved a 45-day sentence.

“”Jailing people whose home countries won’t take them back is cruel to the immigrants and a waste of society’s resources,”” said intern Lindsay Kim, a second year student at the University of Connecticut School of Law. The CCLU interns are currently working on petitions for at least two other detainees to ensure that they do not suffer illegal detentions like Ashmarov.

The ACLU’s cases relied on the ruling of a 2001 Supreme Court case, Zadvydas v. Davis, which held that BICE has no right to hold non-citizens who cannot be removed for more than six months unless they present a clear national security risk. For more information on that ruling, go to /node/14645

The immigration agency released Ashmarov on July 3, settling the lawsuit, and in a positive development, released Vo the same day. Vo’s release after 15 months fell within the timelines dictated by the Supreme Court in Zadvydas, the ACLU said.

Oleg Ashmarov has since relocated to Florida to live with friends. Lanh Vo, a long-term U.S. resident and a boat refugee who fled Vietnam in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, has returned to his adopted hometown of New Britain. Both men are subject to supervision by the BICE.

The three law student interns — Kim , Rowland and Josh Nassi – were supervised by Philip Tegeler, Legal Director of the ACLU of Connecticut, and North Haven immigration attorney Michael Boyle.

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