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ACLU Files Federal Suit Against Exeter Police, Claims Man Unlawfully Held Before Transferred to ICE

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The ACLU of New Hampshire filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Exeter Police Department.

The suit alleges that officers arrested a man based on his suspected immigration status.  

Bashar Awawdeh is a Jordanian immigrant who married an American woman earlier this year. The case claims that Awawdeh, who speaks English and Arabic, helped officers translate statements of a convenience store co-worker who was suspected of simple assault.

After assisting the officers, police reports show Awawdeh told officers his visa had expired and was then held until ICE could arrive.

Gilles Bissonnette is legal director for ACLU of New Hampshire. He says the officers' actions here violated his client's Fourth Amendment rights.

"We believe that this is something that's occurring throughout New Hampshire, where local police departments are engaging in unlawful immigration enforcement," Bissonnette said.

"As courts have repeatedly held, state and local law enforcement officers do not have the legal authority to stop, detain, search, or arrest any individual based solely on the officers' suspicion that the individual is an undocumented immigrant," the ACLU provided in a statement to the press.

The ACLU also sent letters to the Salem and Danbury police departments, alleging unlawful detention of immigrants.

The Exeter Police Department said the suit is being reviewed by legal counsel.

“The Exeter Police Department  and its dedicated police officers are committed to protecting the legal rights afforded by the United States and State of New Hampshire, while also enforcing all laws in a fair, impartial, and lawful manner,” Exeter Police Chief William Shupe said in a written statement.

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