A federal judge ruled in Concord Tuesday that a man held in immigration custody in New Hampshire for more than eight months will get a hearing.
Abdigani Faisal Hussein is a Somali national who came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1996. His lawyers say he has three daughters who are American citizens.
Hussein was detained because of a 16-year-old conviction involving khat, a mild stimulant chewed or brewed in tea by many Somalis. For more than a decade after being sentenced to one year of probation, Hussein was allowed to live and work in the U.S. if he consented to occasional check-ins with immigration officials and other requirements.
But that changed in March of this year, when he was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Up until now been Hussein had been denied what's called a bond hearing, which would allow his attorneys to argue it's safe for him to challenge deportation outside of detention.
"This is a big win to provide an individualized bond hearing for a detained immigrant who is from Maine but is currently detained in Dover, New Hampshire," said SangYeob Kim, immigration legal fellow with the ACLU and one of the attorneys representing Hussein.
During the hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante said it was a difficult matter to rule on. “We don’t hear much about immigration in this court,” Laplante said.
Kim, who’s part of a team of lawyers with the the ACLU’s newly formed Immigrants’ Rights Project in New Hampshire, said there are other detained immigrants in the state who fall into a similar situation involving indefinite detention.
“One of our objectives for the project is to allow detained immigrants to have individualized bond hearings to show that [these] immigrants are not a danger to the community for a flight risk,” Kim said.
Twain Braden, another attorney representing Hussein, said the issue of indefinite detention is a “ripe issue nationally,” pointing to a similar case making its way through the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think what we’re also seeing with these sorts of things is when you had a regime change that was suddenly anti-immigrant, you had the government suddenly -- and when I say the government I mean ICE -- not doing what it believed was the right thing but doing what it believed it could get away with,” Braden said.
As part of Judge Laplante’s ruling, Hussein will get a bond hearing later this month.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said there would be no comment at this time, citing pending litigation.