Washington, DC – PAAIA and a coalition of Iranian American organizations have come together to campaign for the release of Dr. Sirous Asgari from Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. Dr. Asgari is currently unjustly detained in a civil immigration detention center in Louisiana, which has put his health at serious risk amidst the likelihood of COVID-19 exposure. Read the coalition’s statement below:
We, the undersigned organizations, call on Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) to immediately release Dr. Sirous Asgari to the care of his family, as he is unjustly detained in a civil immigration detention center in Louisiana and his detainment has placed his health at serious risk. In addition to litigation underway on his behalf – as part of a group of medically vulnerable individuals – we also urge the community and Congressional representatives to advocate for his prompt release.
The circumstances leading to, and surrounding, Dr. Asgari’s ongoing detention are shocking. Dr. Asgari has deep ties to the United States (U.S.), as he completed his engineering Ph.D. in 1997 at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, and his two children live in the U.S. Dr. Asgari had lawfully secured a visa in 2017 to visit his children in the U.S. but, upon deplaning, he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) based on unsubstantiated charges of theft of trade secrets which resulted in a lengthy two-year trial. Despite being fully exonerated of all federal charges in November 2019, Dr. Asgari was taken into ICE custody, ostensibly because the U.S. had not properly stamped his original visa on entry – even though the charges triggering the visa revocation had been dismissed. He has been unjustly detained ever since.
We are deeply distressed that Dr. Asgari continues to be indefinitely detained despite being exonerated from all charges that have devastated him and his family for the past two years. We are even more alarmed of his continued detention during this unprecedented public health crisis. Dr. Asgari is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to suffering from a chronic lung condition that leaves him vulnerable to pneumonia and other infections, as well as hypertensions. While detained by ICE, he has suffered from influenza and pneumonia.
The crowded and unsanitary conditions in civil immigration detention centers are nothing short of horrendous. ICE has failed to follow urgent public health guidelines as, among other things, (1) there appear to be no social distancing guidelines or practices in the overcrowded facilities; (2) the detention facilities are not cleaned regularly, including the bathrooms and sleeping areas; and (3) detainees struggle to stay clean and without access to laundry for extended periods of time. These conditions put Dr. Asgari at serious risk of illness and death, especially given that there are now two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the building in which he is held.
Dr. Asgari is a part of an emergency lawsuit being litigated on behalf of 17 medically vulnerable people being held at immigration detention centers, who are all severely at risk for contracting COVID-19 and face life threatening circumstances. ICE has violated the due process rights of Dr. Asgari and lacks a constitutionally sufficient purpose for continued detention of such medically vulnerable detainees.
This lawsuit comes on the heels of several public health experts warning Congress of ICE’s failures in endangering the lives of all detainees, and the population at large, as well as several lawsuits filed across the country demanding release of vulnerable individuals as ICE fails to fulfill its constitutional obligations.
We hereby urge ICE to immediately release Dr. Asgari and end this unlawful detention that was triggered by charges of which he has been fully exonerated. We ask the respected members of Congress to stand for the values of the U.S. Constitution by advocating for the release of Dr. Asgari.
Iranian American Bar Association (IABA)
National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)”
April 13, 2020