The ACLU of New Hampshire says a Guatemalan man seeking release from federal immigration detention due to concerns of contracting COVID-19 in jail has been released, after the group filed an emergency federal lawsuit on his behalf seeking an expedited hearing.

Pedro Gonzalez Guarcas was being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at Strafford County Department of Corrections. According to court documents, Gonzalez Guarcas came to the United States seeking asylum after the Guatemalan Civil War where his people were subject to “violence, discrimination, and genocide by the government,” officials with the ACLU of NH said in a news release.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of New Hampshire and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic/Greater Boston Legal Services.

“There is a heightened risk of serious harm to people in immigration detention from COVID-19, and Mr. Gonzalez Guarcas can now be with his family during these extraordinarily difficult times,” said SangYeob Kim, immigration staff attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire.

“In addition to this case, we have also asked ICE to release detainees from Strafford County Department of Corrections, as public health experts have warned that failure to do so endangers the lives of everyone in the facility, including staff, and the broader community.”

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