PHILADELPHIA – Lawyers for a 37-year-old Mexican man who was taken into custody during a mandatory marriage interview at immigration offices in Philadelphia said Tuesday his detention is unlawful.
Jose "Ivan" Noe Nuñez Martinez and his U.S.-citizen husband Paul Frame visited U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Jan. 31 to petition for Nuñez Martinez to gain legal status. Instead, ICE officers arrested Nuñez Martinez, who had a previous order of removal.
Frame fought back tears as he spoke about visiting his husband twice a week at York County Prison in Pennsylvania.
"Some days are good. Some days are not good," Frame said at a news conference Tuesday.
On May 22, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm DLA Piper LLP filed a habeas corpus petition in federal district court saying he has a right to a bond hearing.
"There's simply no justification for why his detention is necessary. It's only harming him and his husband," said Golnaz Fakhimi of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
Nuñez Martinez says he fled Mexico in 2001 after the murder of a friend who was also gay. He says he fears persecution because of his sexuality and is petitioning for asylum, with a hearing scheduled for August. In the meantime, attorneys say his prolonged detention is unlawful and he is neither a security threat nor a flight risk.
"This is an exemplary case of a man who is being detained with really absolutely no reason," said Audrey L. Allen, his immigration counsel.
Nuñez Martinez has lived in the United States for almost two decades. He and Frame married in 2016, after nearly two years of dating. Before he was detained, he worked at an auto body repair shop. He has no criminal charges or convictions, according to his attorneys' complaint.
"Not to have Ivan out in our communities makes me angry because I know how much he can contribute," said Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia.
ICE officials said they do not comment on pending litigation but confirmed Nuñez Martinez was in their custody for immigration proceedings.
"All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States," they said.