New Hampshire Police Sued over Immigration Policy

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a civil lawsuit on Tuesday (September 25), against a city in New Hampshire. It was for the alleged detention of a Jordanian immigrant for immigration violations after he had assisted authorities to catch a suspect in a different case.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in Concord, saying that Essex police officers arrested 25-year-old Bashar Awawdeh, who is married to a US citizen, believing him to be an undocumented immigrant, but without suspicion he had committed a crime, they had no legal basis for the arrest, stating that immigration status alone does not make him a criminal. Awawdeh was given over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which detained him for 26 days before releasing him on bond. He is now fighting to avoid deportation from the US due to overstaying a US visa.

The ACLU highlights the continuing controversy within New Hampshire police departments over their responsibility to aid the federal government’s attempts to curb both legal and illegal immigration. Local and state police have joined forces with agents from Customs and Border Protection to operate an ever-growing number of checkpoints.

The co-counsel on the case, Gilles Bissonette, who is also the legal director of the ACLU in New Hampshire, says that police department detaining people for no reason other than their legal status creates an environment where such people are afraid to report crimes and call for help.