N.H. ACLU Wins Release of Detained Congolese Man Seeking Asylum

Dec 21, 2018

A Congolese man detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dover was released Thursday after spending a month in jail.

Bienfait says he left the Democratic Republic of Congo to seek asylum in Canada, after his son was kidnapped and his family received multiple threats from local militia. NHPR is only using his first name because he fears retaliation in his country of origin.

Bienfait was denied his request for asylum at the Canadian border because he entered the U.S. first. Under what's called the Safe Third Country Agreement, he was told he should apply in the U.S.

But when he was sent back to the U.S., Bienfait was arrested by ICE.

Bienfait says his wife is still hiding in Congo and urging him to continue because it's still unsafe there. Attorney SangYeob Kim says his client will apply for asylum in the U.S. and hopes to be reunited with his family, but that could take years.

"They believe in Bienfait,” Kim says. “Regardless of the outcome they believe that he's going to do what he needs to do to fight his case."

Kim says the ACLU of New Hampshire's Immigrants' Rights Project has worked to get 17 people released from detention since the summer.  Afterwards, they help people find community support and legal aid.