Release Ansly Damus, and Cut Detroit ICE’s Budget

Director Adducci Is Wasting Our Tax Dollars In Cruel and Un-American Ways

There is a reason that the expected release today of Haitian asylum-seeker Ansly Damus, who has been held in a Geauga County, Ohio jail for more than two years, is national news. (UPDATE: Damus was released on November 30, 2018.)

Image Credit: ACLU of Ohio

Ansly won his asylum case — twice — before a judge. He has no criminal record. Yet, the U.S. government continued to keep Ansly locked up in a windowless jail cell, hoping he would give up on his case as the government continues to draw it out on appeal.

The ACLU sued to stop the government’s practice of using prolonged detention to convince immigrants to give up on their cases, and a federal judge sided with them in July. Yet Ansly remained in jail, until things came to a head this week in U.S. District Court and the Detroit Field Office could no longer ignore the writing on the wall.

Ansly is expected to be released to his sponsors, Gary Benjamin and Melody Hart, a Cleveland Heights couple that has battled this case alongside Ansly since he was transferred to the Geauga County Jail, before 5pm tonight. This will be the first time Ansly steps into an American community since he came to the U.S. and requested asylum at a port of entry. And that community is ready to welcome him with open arms.

The government’s treatment of Ansly is cruel, but unfortunately not unusual. The Detroit Field Office, with jurisdiction over Michigan and Ohio, has been the instigator of some of the most egregious and un-American immigration enforcement decisions of the Trump Administration.

Lead by Field Office Director Rebecca Adducci, Detroit ICE simply refuses to give up on the possibility of deporting someone, even when multiple judges disagree with them and most reasonable people would say it’s time to move on.

Just ten days ago, Adducci and her minions sustained another outright loss in court, when U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith ordered ICE to release detainees from Iraq who had been held in immigration jail since 2017.

The ACLU of Michigan explained that the court’s decision is “the latest development in Hamama v. Adducci, a nationwide class action filed in June 2017 on behalf of hundreds of Iraqi nationals, who were arrested throughout the country without warning and threatened with immediate deportation. Many came to the U.S. as children and have lived and worked in the U.S. for decades. They now face persecution, torture, or even death in Iraq because of their religion, ethnicity, or the fact that they are Americanized. Approximately 120 Iraqis remain detained.” The operation originated out of the Detroit Field Office.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith wrote: “The law is clear that the Federal Government cannot indefinitely detain foreign nationals while it seeks to repatriate them, when there is no significant likelihood of repatriation in the reasonably foreseeable future.”

He also blasted the Government, meaning Detroit officials like Adducci, for “failing to comply with court orders, submitting demonstrably false declarations of Government officials, and otherwise violating its litigation obligations — all of which impels this Court to impose sanctions.”

I have been drawing attention to the cruelty of decisions made by Rebecca Adducci and the Detroit Field Office for years. As I wrote in Medium in September, “These examples are confirmed by the statistics Adducci has been racking up. Her field office has more than doubled the number of people with no criminal record being deported.”

Because of the excellent lawyers at the ACLU, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, and the private firms engaged in zealous representation and litigation, Adducci is not getting away with everything. Yet she is still succeeding in destroying many good people’s lives.

Opposing her in court is critical, but not nearly enough. Congress must cut her budget — dramatically — so that the Detroit Field Office finally has to focus on real, common sense priorities. They are using our tax dollars, after all.

Adducci may think she’s in charge, but she’s no match to our nation’s best lawyers and the good people of Ohio and Michigan willing to step up for immigrants and refugees.

Director, Ohio Immigrant Alliance. Daughter, sister, Mom, wine drinker, proud NE Ohioan! Lifetime #immigration advocate. Views are my own, unless you agree!

Director, Ohio Immigrant Alliance. Daughter, sister, Mom, wine drinker, proud NE Ohioan! Lifetime #immigration advocate. Views are my own, unless you agree!