Five months after a Mexican immigrant married to a US citizen was detained while applying for citizenship in Philadelphia, supporters are still fighting for his release, and they are now joining forces with the ACLU.
Supporters of Jose “Ivan” Noe Nuñez Martinez, 37, held a news conference to announce a “call-in” seeking his release, as the ACLU’s Pennsylvania chapter filed a petition to get him legal asylum to protect him from persecution for his sexuality back home.
“No human being should be torn apart from their loved ones in this manner,” Paul Frame, Nuñez Martinez’s husband, said in a statement. “The fact that ICE still is detaining him is absolutely ridiculous.”
Nuñez Martinez was detained on Jan. 31 for a 2010 deportation order after he went to a Philly customs office to apply for citizenship.
Frame, the ACLU and activists with Latino community organizations Juntos and Galaei held a news conference on Monday at the William Way LGBT Community Center in the Gayborhood to announce the lawsuit and renew calls for the release of Nuñez Martinez.
Nuñez Martinez immigrated to the US in 2001 out of fear for his life after a gay friend was killed near his hometown in Michoacán, Mexico, supporters said. He has no criminal record in the U.S. besides citizenship-related issues, and has worked and paid taxes while living in the U.S., the ACLU wrote in its habeas corpus petition.
“Ivan has an ongoing fear for his safety in Mexico due to his sexual orientation, and he thought he would be safer here in the U.S.,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director ACLU-Pa., in a statement. “His detention is cruel and unjust, and it discourages people who have a legal path to staying here from pursuing it.”
As activists rallied to free Nuñez Martinez, the Philadelphia office of Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported 49 arrests during a weeklong raid in the Philadelphia area from May 14-20. They said 17 of those arrested had criminal convictions, and 14 had been previously arrested by Philly authorities but released despite ICE detainers, in accordance with Philadelphia’s controversial “sanctuary city” policies.
“ICE does not conduct sweeps, checkpoints or raids that target aliens indiscriminately,” ICE said in its press release. “This operation targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens, gang members and individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who re-entered the country after being deported and immigration fugitives ordered deported by federal immigration judges.” ICE said they evaluate cases like Nuñez Martinez’s on a “case by case basis.”