Petition alleges unlawful detention; Asylum seeker from Guinea faces obstacles - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Petition alleges unlawful detention; Asylum seeker from Guinea faces obstacles

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Posted: Sunday, December 1, 2019 9:45 pm

An asylum seeker from Guinea who is currently detained in Port Isabel filed a petition in a federal court on Wednesday alleging that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held him for over two years without granting any access to a custody hearing.

Documents filed by attorneys with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid claimed that MBD - not his real name - “has never received an individualized hearing before a neutral arbiter to determine whether his detention was even necessary.”

According to court records, MBD, 30, fled his home in mid-October 2015 after he was imprisoned and tortured for participating in a peaceful demonstration on behalf of a political candidate in Conakry, Guinea.

The document stated that the torture inside the small cell where MBD was held with 10 other people was so severe that one of the men died in prison. MBD, who was given electrical shocks, was forced to hand over the phone number of an uncle, who then “negotiated” his release from the cell.

MBD immediately fled to Sierra Leone upon his release from the prison in the early morning hours of October 2015, according to the petition.

One year later, upon receiving notice from his uncle that Guinean government officials were searching for him, MBD obtained a tourist visa in Brazil and fled to Sao Paolo, where he remained for two months.

According to the petition, MBD slept in a state-run shelter in Sao Paolo and was unable to find work. He fled to the United States after he was attacked by a group of individuals who stole his Guinean passport.

The man arrived at the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge on Aug. 4, 2017, where he requested asylum with a separate Guinean I.D. card.

MBD was detained for one day and was then transferred to the Port Isabel Detention Center, where he has remained in ICE custody ever since.

The asylum seeker is not currently entitled to a custody hearing before an immigration judge as neither U.S. immigration courts or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) have jurisdiction over custody re-determinations for “arriving aliens” as a result of current regulations.

Attorneys wrote that the only recourse available to MBD would be through a grant of parole issued by ICE, as guided by the Morton Directive.

Issued in 2009, the policy instructs the agency to grant parole to any asylum seeker who meets a set of guidelines, including the ability to establish his or her identity and does not present a flight risk or danger to the community.

Counsel alleged that MBD was never interviewed for parole eligibility, in violation of this policy.

According to the petition, MBD was handed a document titled “Parole Advisal and Scheduling Notification” on Aug. 21, 2017 indicating that he would have a parole interview scheduled for 3 p.m. that day.

Attorneys argued that this hearing never took place, prompting MBD to request parole through his attorneys that December. The man provided a letter from a sponsor in San Benito, as well as a birth certificate to support his request.

MBD and his counsel allegedly never received a response from ICE officials.

Meanwhile, MBD’s asylum proceedings continued. Following a Nov. 7, 2017 merits hearing with Immigration Judge Robert L. Powell in which he was not represented by attorneys, the judge denied his asylum application.

MBD appealed the decision with the BIA, which in April 2018 reversed the decision and granted continued proceedings. However, attorneys said that Powell refused to hold a new hearing and denied the asylum request that May.

The second denial prompted MBD to appeal with the BIA once again, this time with the assistance of attorneys. The board granted further proceedings for a second time.

Immigration Judge Frank T. Pimentel held a hearing in MBD’s case in February 2019 and subsequently denied the man’s claim for asylum. Attorneys appealed the case for a third time with the BIA, which affirmed Pimentel’s ruling and dismissed MBD’s appeal.

The decision pushed attorneys to file a petition for judicial review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in August of this year, which included a request for a stay of removal on the behalf of MBD.

They wrote that on Oct. 24, the government “indicated its non-opposition” to the stay of removal and granted the request on Nov. 14.

The case was ordered remanded to the BIA on Monday, where attorneys have filed a motion asking the board to properly review MBD’s asylum claim under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Attorneys have asked the federal court in Brownsville to order the immediate release of MBD or to schedule a custody hearing within 5 days of the respondents’ return from the holiday.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com

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